Being a natural pessimist and mean-spirited lover of things just NOT working out for the best, there’s little more appealing than a good movie vision of a dystopian future. Here are movies set in future states of the world where things pretty much suck. Yeah!

Blade Runner
Perhaps the best and most fully-realized dystopian future movie, this movie’s setting accounts for at least half of its content, a brilliantly-concentrated meditation on what it means to be alive making up the other half. In a future L.A. drowning in smog, everyone with the money to do so has abandoned Earth, leaving only the scum. Blade Runner Deckard must hunt down four robots who want to know why they can’t live longer, given that they are so superior to humans. I don’t usually make such pronouncements, but if you don’t worship this movie, you are suffering from mental illness.

Children of Men
One of the most potent visions of a horrible future, if only because it seems not just plausible, but a natural outgrowth of world events today, this movie concerns a society in which people have inexplicably lost the ability to reproduce. There’s a plot about rescuing a mysteriously pregnant woman, but the real content is just the vision of the future, what it has wrought on mankind’s psyche, and the incredible technique that brings it all to life.

Idiotocracy
What was intended as a wry satirical comedy is actually more notable for the realistic and fully-formed vision of a future Earth it presents. The world has run down due to lack of money to fix anything, and lack of intelligence on society’s part to do anything about it anyway. Uncommented-upon images such as a downed jet left to rot in the spot where it fell from the sky—a massive Costco—help paint a picture of a future world that is uncomfortably funny because it seems so very plausible. Makes a great double-feature with Children of Men, as they both have very similar visions of where we’re going.

Logan’s Run
One of the most fun dystopian future movies, this movie takes place in a domed city where no one is allowed to live past 30. Michael York plays a Sandman, part of a police unit who hunt down those who try to escape their fate, until he is aged prematurely and becomes a runner himself. Cheesy effects, mall interiors [I’m serious, it was shot in a mall], amusing action and lots of fun futuristic ideas [Instant plastic surgery! Holographic catalogs of prostitutes!] make this movie a total blast.

Tank Girl
Lori Petty plays a tough ass-kicker in a lesbian SM relationship with Naomi Watts in a future in which the earth’s water has dried up due to a comet impact. The tone of this movie is light and the whole thing is very disarmingly funny, but there are a few good elements [like the dust shower] that showcase an underlying seriousness to the film’s sci-fi vision, but mostly this is about Petty’s Tank Girl and just how very awesome she is. And she so is.

Cherry 2000
In the near future, man has developed lifelike robots to serve as sex dolls for those who purchase them, and sex with real people has become a nightmare of rights and agreements negotiated by lawyers. Sam’s robot wife, a Cherry 2000, shorts out, so he has to hire bounty hunter Melanie Griffith to help him get another model. I wonder if they’ll fall in love and he’ll learn to appreciate real women?

Equilibrium
Emotion has been outlawed in this entry from Kurt Wimmer, who went on to make Ultraviolet. Christian Bale plays a member of an elite police force who engages in a bizarre form of gunfighting where he just stands still and thus everyone misses him, a useful skill when he goes off his meds and starts feeling, well, feelings. Nothing more than feelings. This has enough interesting material up front that it would have been most effective as a trilogy, but what ends up happening is that all the interesting stuff gets dropped for the last half as we just struggle to wrap everything up.

Zardoz
In a distant future there are Brutals and there are the Eternals and there’s Sean Connery, who is transported inside of the Eternal’s gated community of the future, where his presence causes all sorts of mayhem and madness. Did I mention that Connery spends the entire movie in a bright red Speedo-diaper-thing? And that a giant floating stone head that intones “The penis is evil” is involved? Stupendously silly the first time you watch it, but much more provocative and kind of cool the second time.

The Apple
In this hard-hitting MUSICAL vision of 1994 as envisioned in 1980, society has been taken over by nefarious music labels who insist that the public listen to what it dictates and wear stickers on their faces. Alfie and Bibi, a sort of Adam and Eve-style couple, only want to share their shiny happy folk music with the people, but trouble occurs when the nefarious Mr. Boogalow tries to draw them into a Satanic contract, which causes a split-up of the group and Bibi to be seduced by the sex and drugs of fame while Alfie stays home and composes crappy folk songs until the Jesus figure shows up in his gold Cadillac. No shit.

Rollerball
James Caan and John Beck are the big stars of rollerball, a sort of football-meets-soccer-on-roller-skates game that, we discover, is meant to vent the aggressions of society and remind people of the futility of individual effort. When Caan is asked to retire because he’s becoming bigger than the game, he digs deeper into a society that no longer has books, shoots trees for fun, and has buffed any kind of rough edge off of its psychology.

Aeon Flux
There’s a whole class of dystopian future movies that seem to exist for no other reason than that dystopian futures are so, like, totally rad and stuff, and this is one of them. Throw in some shit about totalitarianism and how government control is like so uber-wrong, and there you go. No need to really think through all the implications. In the foreground here is a massively misplaced Charlize Theron on some inane mission in a cheesily misguided future. Not even fun.

Ultraviolet
Another terrible movie that uses a future totalitarian state for no other reason than it’s sort of awesome, this movie features Milla Janovich as an ass-kicking sorta-vampire called upon to kill large armies of extras with her radical fighting skills. There’s some other kind of plot, but I can’t remember what it was except that it was really, really stupid. And nonsensical and boring. At least Milla is game, but that’s not enough to make this worth watching.

The Island
Ewan MacGregor and Scarlett Johanssen discover that they’re clones of people out in a separate world they didn’t even know existed, and furthermore they exist only to be harvested for organs should anything happen to their “originals.” This serves as the excuse for a lot of chases and special effects and bombast and weariness and boredom in the classic MichaelBay style.

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