15 Great Dystopian Movies to Watch Anytime

Posted on July 10, 2019

by April S

Don’t get me wrong, feel-good movies are great when you’re in the mood for something light. But what about when you’re in the mood for a dystopian flick with an imaginary future society that’s utterly frightening? Like the human race being enslaved by intelligent machines, environmental destruction, pandemics, government control or the zombie apocalypse – sounds uplifting doesn’t it?

Believe it or not, dystopian themed movies have been popular for some time now. And if you’re not a fan, you may be asking yourself – why? Dystopian stories actually have a lot going for them. They include interesting storylines, complex characters and their thought-provoking nature really feeds the imagination. And even with the dark themes, dystopian stories tend to circle back to humanism. The idea that most human beings are interested in the ultimate good is a common theme. Good triumphs over evil and we’re all going to be okay – that’s the takeaway – it’s what makes this genre so compelling and keeps audiences coming back for more.

Dystopian-Themed Movies

elysium movie starring matt damon

Directed by Neill Blomkamp

Starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster

Rated R

In the year 2154 two groups of people remain; the extremely wealthy who reside on an immaculate man-made space station named Elysium, and the rest, who occupy an overpopulated, destroyed Earth. Max decides to embark on a mission that could bring equality to the opposed worlds.

dark city movie

Directed by Alex Proyas

Starring Rufus Sewell, Keifer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly and William Hurt

Rated R

When John Murdoch wakes with no memory at the scene of a grisly murder, he soon finds himself hunted by the police, a woman claiming to be his wife, and a mysterious group of pale men.

never let me go movie

Directed by Mark Romanek

Starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley

Rated R

Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are best friends who grow up together at an English boarding school with a chilling secret. When they learn the shocking truth that they are genetically engineered clones raised to be organ donors, they embrace their fleeting chance to live and love.

minority report movie

Based upon the short story by Philip K. Dick.

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Starring Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton

Rated PG-13

Washington, D.C. has been murder-free thanks to astounding technology which identifies killers before they commit their crimes. But when the chief of the Pre-crime unit is himself accused of a future murder, he has just 36 hours to discover who sets him up.

blade runner movie

Based on the novel Do androids dream of electric sheep? by Philip K. Dick.

Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young and Edward James Olmos

Rated R

Los Angeles, 2019: Rick Deckard of the LAPD’s Blade Runner unit prowls the steel & microchip jungle of the 21st century. His job is to track down and eliminate assumed humanoids known as ‘replicants.’ Replicants were declared illegal after a bloody mutiny on an Off-World Colony, and are to be terminated upon detection. He wants to get out of the force, but is drawn back in when 6 “skin jobs,” the slang for replicants, hijack a ship back to Earth. The city that Deckard must search for his prey is a huge, sprawling, bleak vision of the future.

alphaville movie

Written and Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Starring Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina and Akim Tamiroff

Not Rated

Secret agent Lemmy Caution travels to another galaxy and finds himself in a computer-run society which is dedicated to technology and outlaws emotion.

The Matrix movie

Written and Directed by the Wachowski brothers

Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving

Rated R

Neo (Reeves) – mild-mannered software author by day, feared hacker by night – is recruited into a cell of cyber-rebels, led by Morpheus and the warrior Trinity. They have made a fundamental discovery about the world: It does not exist. It is only a seedy utopia where humanity is preserved, protected, and endlessly recycled by a mega-computer. Cypher turns traitorous for access to comforts unmatched by the drab post-apocalyptic real world, while Agent Smith dismisses humans as “a plague”–for which non-organic life is “the cure.”

the lobster movie

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux and John C. Reilly

Rated R

In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obligated to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.

Hunger Games DVD Cover

Based on the novel by Suzanne Collins

Directed by Gary Ross

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland

Rated PG-13

Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger games. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers in her younger sister’s place and must rely upon her sharp instincts when she’s pitted against highly trained Tributes who have prepared their entire lives. She must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

city of ember movie

Directed by Gil Kenan

Starring David Ryall, Harry Treadaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Murray, B.J. Hogg and Toby Jones

For centuries, the residents of the underground City of Ember have flourished in an amazing world of glittering lights and quiet contentment. But when the City’s massive power generator begins to fail, the streetlamps fade – along with the hopes of the townspeople. Now it will be up to two courageous teenagers to follow a trail of clues left by the ancient builders to find the way out of Ember before their world is plunged into complete darkness.

metropolis movie

Directed by Fritz Lang

Starring Brigitte Helm, Fritz Rasp, Gustav Froelich and Theodor Loos

Not rated

Perhaps the most famous and influential of all silent films. Metropolis takes place in 2026, when the populace is divided between workers who must live in the dark underground and the rich who enjoy a futuristic city of splendor. The tense balance of these two societies is realized through images that are among the most famous of the 20th century, many of which presage such sci-fi landmarks as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner. Lavish and spectacular, with elaborate sets and modern science fiction style, Metropolis stands today as the crowning achievement of the German silent cinema.

the congress movie

Directed by Ari Folman

Starring Robin Wright, Paul Giamatti, Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Danny Huston

Not rated

More than two decades after catapulting to stardom with The Princess Bride, an aging actress (Robin Wright, playing a version of herself) decides to take her final job: preserving her digital likeness for a future Hollywood.

1984 movie

13. 1984

Based on the classic novel by George Orwell

Directed by Michael Radford

Starring John Hurt, Richard Burton and Suzanna Hamilton

The classic George Orwell story set in a world where absolute conformity in action, word and thought including loyalty to Big Brother is demanded. In 1984, the world is divided into three vast states, whose inhabitants are dominated by all powerful governments. Winston, a worker, starts an illegal love affair with Julia, and becomes the target of a brain-washing campaign to force him to conform.

young ones movie 1

Written and Directed by Jake Paltrow

Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning

Rated R

In a post-apocalyptic future when water has become the world’s most precious resource, those hardened few left alive must do whatever it takes to survive. Done with fighting off raiders to protect what little he has, Ernest Holm (Michael Shannon) makes a play to bring a water pipeline to his family’s land… but when betrayal comes from those closest to him, it sets off a vicious chain cycle of greed, murder and revenge.

synchronicity movie

Directed by Jacob Gentry

Starring A.J. Bowen, Brianne Davis, Michael Ironside, Chad McKnight and Scott Poythress

Rated R

A mind-bending sci-fi thriller in the tradition of Dark City and Blade Runner, about a brilliant physicist who has uncovered the secret of time travel, and a ruthless corporate tycoon that will stop at nothing to steal it. To protect his discovery, he must travel back in time, but in the process, he endangers his own existence and the very fabric of reality.

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