The Best Dystopian Movies of All Time, Ranked
You want the red pill? Or blue pill?
Okay, first of all, I’m going to define the kind of dystopia I’m going to be talking about here. Because sometimes when people talk about dystopia (in MY humble definition of dystopia), they’re actually talking about post-apocalyptic stuff. Or just a really crappy society. I count Mad Max or Children of Men as apocalyptic. Whereas, The Giver, that’s dystopic.
For this list, I’m focusing on societies striving for Utopia in some way, with some percentage believing they’ve achieved it. And to achieve it, the society must be using totalitarian means of control. And, as such, when freedoms are ripped away, and we’re achieving somebody’s version of perfection, it won’t be everyone’s. Therefore, this society has become a perverted utopia—a dystopia, if you will. Like, I think Midsommar is actually a dystopian movie, just on a smaller scale.
We on the same page? Or do I have to make a visit? And explain what I mean. And by explain, I mean rip away your family and friends and murder them for your thoughtcrimes. Huh? HUH? Okay. Now, that you believe exactly what I believe and are HAPPY to do so, let’s get to the best dystopic films, ranked from worst to best (but they’re all pretty good, don’t you worry).
I’m sure I’ve missed tons. But if you tell me so, in the comments, that I missed anything, that my list isn’t PERFECT, I’ll get you fired from your job. These are the best dystopian movies of all time, ranked.
A new technology, using people who can predict the future, wipes out crime by arresting criminals BEFORE they commit one.
Why it could be utopia: No crime! Yay!
Why it’s dystopia: Free will, man. You can’t say for sure someone will do something bad—people can always change their minds or make a different choice. Also—all the eye stuff in this is gross.
A society where, to prevent over-population and disperse resources in abundance (bread and circuses bay-by), everyone is killed on their 30th birthday.
Why it could be utopia: It’s all fun, all the time. No one has to work and all of your needs are met. Everyone is hot and young and ready to party.
Why it’s dystopia: There’s life after 30 people! Also, you know, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Also, murder is “wrong,” etc. etc.
In an underground, post-apocalyptic society, survivors wait to go to the last paradise on Earth.
Why it could be utopia: Sure, the world ended, but these people are saved and are about to go to a beautiful island paradise!! And while they wait, everything is super chill—there’s no anger, or war, all their needs are met, and citizens just do leisure activities.
Why it’s dystopia: There was no apocalypse, these people are clones, and they’re used to harvest organs and stuff. Not as nice as Hawaii, not at all.
In a highly technologically advanced society, a game is thrown every year in which children fight to the death for entertainment —as a reminder not to do any uprising or funny business.
Why it could be utopia: For those in the capital, it is! Abundance of food, alcohol, fashion, pleasure—it’s the best!
Why it’s a dystopia: I shouldn’t have to go further than “children fight to the death,” but I like you, so I’ll add: The only way the Capital is a “Utopia” is because most of the population is forced into labor and poverty. And even in the capital itself, money doesn’t buy happiness. And watching kids murder each other doesn’t buy it either, which you’d think it would, who doesn’t love kids murdering each other, but alas.
In a world where a type of robot, called a replicant, can take over tasks humans don’t want to do, one man hunts down the replicants who escape.
Why it could be utopia: Imagine having human-like labor who look like people but aren’t! Exploitation here we come (look, it’s not MY Utopia).
Why it’s dystopia: What makes someone human? When does someone get a soul? For the replicants, it’s not so fun. The gotta lot of electric sheep dreams to get to.
A man stuck in a boring life ends up thrust into adventure, due to a bureaucratic mistake.
How it could be utopia: Admittedly, it’s a little hard to find the utopic aspect of this society, as it’s highly absurd. Plastic surgery has gotten really…advanced, so that could be…good(?). Of course, for the rich, they live a life of endless consumerism, pleasure, and luxury (I mean, I’m not sure that’s different than what life is right now. OH NO. That’s the point!). There’s also no ambiguity in this society.
Why it’s dystopia: Too much paperwork. Also, torture. But mostly, it’s the paperwork thing.
A man learns that he lives in a simulated reality, in a world that has been taken over by machines, and must break free.
Why it could be a utopia: I struggled as to whether to put this film on the list. On the one hand, it’s the machines that are benefitting from this arrangement, so is it more apocalyptic? However, compared to knowing your body is in some goo being harvested by machines, the simulation is the illusion of utopia, in some ways, even if it’s still an imperfect society.
Why it’s dystopia: It’s no good to use humans as an energy source for your computer. Bad machines, BAD.
Never Let Me Go
A group of friends grow up together in a boarding school and come to terms with their purpose in life.
Why it could be a utopia: There is far less sickness in the world! People always have organs ready for transplant and lifespans are far longer!
Why it’s dystopia: Because clones are raised only for the purpose of saving “real” humans’ lives. And our protagonists happen to be clones. Oof.
After the world becomes too cold to survive, the last group of humans live on a gigantic train with very specific class systems—until the last car, the poorest, decides to fight back.
Why it could be utopia: Like anywhere, I suppose, if you were rich, this looks fun. There are ten miles of cars with incredible luxury and diverse landscapes. I want to go to there!
Why it’s dystopia: If some of the people in your society are eating bugs and human babies, you gotta re-examine a few things.
In a society where you can engineer the perfect human, from birth, a “regular” human tries to fool the system to get his dream job.
Why it could be utopia: You know how everyone will be suited for something before hiring and people can always be born talented and healthy and attractive!
Why it’s dystopia: Genetics aren’t everything, and in a society where they use your genetic makeup to determine your life, it will never go well.
(featured image: Lionsgate)
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