100 Greatest Dystopias

(NEW August 2019) A genre invented out of 19th century fears has continued to warn and captivate people across the world for centuries. Usually (but not always!) set in a sci-fi future, some have turned out to be eerily prescient predictions of how the world can go very, very wrong. You can see a list of sources used to compile the list here.

 
 
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#1) Blade Runner

(1982 - dir. Ridley Scott)

The line between human and machine is blurred in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic. Is Rick Deckard a replicant or not? How much does it matter?
READ: Is Deckard a Replicant? The history of Blade Runner's most enduring mystery by Tristram Fane Saunders at The Telegraph

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#2) Metropolis

(1927 - dir. Fritz Lang)

The silent classic was the apogee of German Expressionism and a major influence on the look and feel of all dystopian films that came after.
READ: Metropolis: A Proto-Fascist Anti-Utopia at The Metropolis Times

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#3) Stalker

(1979 - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky)

This meditative tome is unlike anything else on the list. Stalker is set in a supernatural “zone” that reminds more than a few of Chernobyl.
READ: Stalker: Meaning and Making by Mark Le Fanu for The Criterion Collection

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#4) A Clockwork Orange

(1971 - dir. Stanley Kubrick)

Set in a version of the near-future, A Clockwork Orange follows the story of a young man and his gang who terrorizes England. It explores ideas of free will, male violence and what it really means to be human.
READ: Stanley Kubrick and Male Violence at The Metropolis Times

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#5) The Matrix

(1999 - dir. The Wachowskis)

When Neo learns the world is not as he believes, he exits a virtual reality controlled by computers and is thrown into a hopeless battle for freedom. Easily the best action movie on the list.
READ: A Movie Like The Matrix Might Never Happen Again by David Sims for The Atlantic

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#6) Children of Men

(2006 - dir. Alfonso Cuarón)

When humans lose their ability to reproduce the world falls apart and a young woman’s pregnancy is a miracle. The Christian themes and that long tracking shot are the most-remembered parts of the film — the highest-ranking from the 21st Century on the list.
READ: Why Children of Men has never been as shocking as it is now by Nicholas Barber for BBC

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#7) Minority Report

(2002 - dir. Steven Spielberg)

The 2002 film about surveillance and civil liberties was released as the U.S. was debating the issues itself in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
READ: Patriot Acts, PreCrime and ‘Minority Report’ by Bilge Ebiri for Rolling Stone

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#8) Brazil

(1985 - dir. Terry Gilliam)

The bizarre bureaucratic world of Brazil seems like a mishmash of themes from Kafka. It begins when an innocent man is abducted due to typo — and it gets worse from there.
READ: Duct Soup: The Daffy, Dystopian Design Nightmare of Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’ by Tim Pelan for Cinephilia & Beyond

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#9) Gattaca

(1997 - dir. Andrew Niccol)

Human genetic engineering has divided the world into two types: the perfect “valids” and the rest of us. What happens when one of us tries to become one of them?
READ: ‘Gattaca,’ The Dystopian Science Fiction Film Whose Time Has Come by Patrick Lee for Outtake

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#10) Soylent Green

(1973 - dir. Richard Fleischer)

This environmental dystopia features a world where overpopulation and pollution have put an enormous strain on the earth’s natural resources. Hard to imagine, right?
READ: Soylent Green: If Only… at The Metropolis Times

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#11) THX 1138

(1971 - dir. George Lucas)

George Lucas’ first feature is a dystopia grab bag whose greatest strength is in the costuming and design. It’s easy to see hints of Star Wars in the black and white.
READ: THX 1138 at The Metropolis Times

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#12) Fahrenheit 451

(1966 - dir. François Truffaut)

The stylist 60’s French film is the by far the best adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel about book burning to date.
READ: Fahrenheit 451: Freedom from Books at The Metropolis Times

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#13) Nineteen Eighty-Four

(1984 - dir. Michael Radford)

The film helped influenced the way generations of schoolchildren imaging George Orwell’s classic - the most well-known dystopian novel.

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#14) V for Vendetta

(2005 - dir. James McTeigue)

Released as the American public was starting to sour on George W. Bush, it warns of the surveillance society, forced patriotism and Islamophobia that has only gotten worse since.

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#15) Akira

(1988 - dir. Katsuhiro Otomo)

Akira was one of the first major anime features to be widely distributed in the U.S., making it a cult classic that has influenced generations of filmmakers and nerds.
READ: Akira at The Metropolis Times

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#16) Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

(1981 - dir. George Miller)

Post-apocalyptic, anarchic Australia provides a backdrop to one of the most rip-roaring action movies ever made.

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#17) The Trial

(1962 - dir. Orson Welles)

Orson Welles's adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Trial calls into question the possibility of utopias in general.
READ: The Post-Utopian Trial at The Metropolis Times

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#18) WALL-E

(2008 - dir. Andrew Stanton)

Perhaps Pixar’s best film, it tells the story of a robot left behind on a polluted earth. Its wonderful, family-friendly story is also a warning of what we humans are doing to ourselves.

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#19) La Jetée

(1962 - dir. Chris Marker)

Powerfully moving and uniquely made, the film offers time travel as humanity’s only possible escape from the horrors of World War III.
READ: Problems with Fictional Time Travel at The Metropolis Times

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#20) Dark City

(1998 - dir. Alex Proyas)

Beautifully haunting, Alex Proyas’s dark sci-fi noir has become a classic.

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#21) Logan’s Run

(1976 - dir. Michael Anderson)

The human population now lives in a small group of cities, and everyone is ritually executed when they reach a certain age. The sets and costumes are the pinnacle of cheesy 70s sci-fi.
READ: Logan’s Run at The Metropolis Times

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#22) A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

(2001 - dir. Steven Spielberg)

Kubrick’s ideas with the Spielberg treatment — and it really shows.

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#23) 12 Monkeys

(1995 - dir. Terry Gilliam)

The wonderfully fun and haunting time travel sci-fi was inspired by La Jetée.

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#24) Idiocracy

(2006 - dir. Mike Judge)

A rare film that has grown more relevant over time. It tells the story of a democracy doomed by the diminishing intelligence of voters. “It’s got electrolytes!”

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#25) Snowpiercer

(2013 - dir. Joon-ho Bong)

A failed attempt to reverse climate change has left humanity with just one last hope - a train circling round the world.

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#26) They Live

(1988 - dir. John Carpenter)

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#27) Battle Royale

(2000 - dir. Kinji Fukasaku)

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#28) The City of Lost Children

(1995 - dir. Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

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#29) RoboCop

(1987 - dir. Paul Verhoeven)

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#30) Alphaville

(1965 - dir. Jean-Luc Godard)

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#31) The Empire Strikes Back

(1980 - dir. Irwin Kershner)

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#32) Planet of the Apes

(1968 - dir. Franklin J. Schaffner)

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#33) Sleeper

(1973 - dir. Woody Allen)

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#34) Ghost in the Shell

(1995 - dir. Mamoru Oshii)

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#35) The Running Man

(1987 - dir. Paul Michael Glaser)

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#36) The Great Dictator

(1940 - dir. Charles Chaplin)

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#37) Death Race 2000

(1975 - dir. Paul Bartel)

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#38) Total Recall

(1990 - dir. Paul Verhoeven)

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#39) A Scanner Darkly

(2006 - dir. Richard Linklater)

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#40) The Omega Man

(1971 - dir. Boris Sagal

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#41) Demolition Man

(1993 - dir. Marco Brambilla)

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#42) Rollerball

(1975 - dir. Norman Jewison)

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#43) The Hunger Games

(2012 - dir. Gary Ross)

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#44) Metropolis

(2001 - dir. Rintaro)

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#45) District 9

(2009 - dir. Neil Blomkamp)

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#46) The Lobster

(2015 - dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)

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#47) The Truman Show

(1998 - dir. Peter Weir)

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#48) The Terminator

(1984 - dir. James Cameron)

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#49) The Stepford Wives

(1975 - dir. Bryan Forbes)

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#50) The Handmaid’s Tale

(1990 - dir. Volker Schlöndorff)

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#51) Lord of the Flies

(1963 - dir. Peter Brook)

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#52) Red Dawn

(1984 - dir. John Milius)

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#53) Animal Farm

(1954 - dir. Joy Batchelor and John Halas)

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#54) Heavy Weights

(1995 - dir. Steven Brill)

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#55) Mad Max: Fury Road

(2015 - dir. George Miller)

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#56) Interstellar

(2014 - dir. Christopher Nolan)

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#57) Blade Runner 2049

(2017 - dir. Denis Villeneuve)

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#58) 28 Days Later…

(2002 - dir. Danny Boyle)

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#59) Zootopia

(2016 - dir. Bryron Howard, Rich Moore)

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#60) Serenity

(2005 - dir. Joss Whedon)

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#61) Equilibrium

(2002 - dir. Kurt Wimmer)

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#62) Eraserhead

(1977 - dir. David Lynch)

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#63) Escape from New York

(1981 - dir. John Carpenter)

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#64) Watchmen

(2009 - dir. Zack Snyder)

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#65) Delicatessen

(1991 - dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro)

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#66) Mad Max

(1979 - dir. George Miller)

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#67) Dredd

(2012 - dir. Pete Travis)

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#68) X-Men: Days of Future Past

(2014 - dir. Bryan Singer)

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#69) Starship Troopers

(1997 - dir. Paul Verhoeven)

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#70) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

(2014 - dir. Matt Reeves)

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#71) Cloud Atlas

(2012 - dir. Tom Tykwer, The Wachowskis)

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#72) War for the Planet of the Apes

(2017 - dir. Matt Reeves)

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#73) Isle of Dogs

(2018 - dir. Wes Anderson)

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#74) The Time Machine

(1960 - dir. George Pal)

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#75) Never Let Me Go

(2010 - dir. Mark Romanek)

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#76) I Am Legend

(2007 - dir. Francis Lawrence)

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#77) Fantastic Planet

(1973 - dir. René Laloux)

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#78) Strange Days

(1995 - dir. Kathryn Bigelow)

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#79) Silent Running

(1972 - dir. Douglas Trumbull)

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#80) Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

(1985 - dir. George Miller, George Oglivie)

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#81) Things to Come

(1936 - dir. William Cameron Menzies)

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#82) On the Beach

(1959 - dir. Stanley Kramer)

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#83) The Matrix Reloaded

(2003 - dir. The Wachowskis)

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#84) I, Robot

(2004 - dir. Alex Proyas)

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#85) 28 Weeks Later

(2007 - dir. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo)

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#86) RoboCop 2

(1900 - dir. Irvin Kershner)

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#87) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

(2013 - dir. Francis Lawrence)

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#88) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

(2016 - dir. Gareth Edwards)

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#89) eXinstenZ

(1999 - dir. David Cronenberg)

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#90) Sorry to Bother You

(2018 - dir. Boots Riley)

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#91) Ready Player One

(2018 - dir. Steven Spielberg)

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#92) Gabriel Over the White House

(1933 - dir. Gregory La Cava)

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#93) 1984

(1956 - dir. Thomas Anderson)

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#94) The Prisoner

(1967 - various directors)

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#95) Colossus: The Forbin Project

(1970 - dir. Joseph Sargent)

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#96) Enemy of the State

(1998 - dir. Tony Scott)

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#97) Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

(2000 - dir. Yoshiaki Kawajiri)

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#98) Eyeborgs

(2009 - dir. Richard Clabaugh)

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#99) Oblivion

(2013 - dir. Joseph Kosinski)

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#100) Vampire Hunter D

(1985 - dir. Toyoo Ashida)


LIST NOTES:

Films from Each Decade:
1920s: 1
1930s: 2
1940s: 1
1950s: 3
1960s: 8
1970s: 15
1980s: 14
1990s: 17
2000s: 20
2010s: 19

Oldest Film: 1927, Metropolis
Newest Film: 2018, Sorry to Bother You

Year with the most represented films:
5, 1995 (12 Monkeys, The City of Lost Children, Ghost in the Shell, Heavy Weights, Strange Days)

Directors with Multiple Films Listed:
4, George Miller (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Mad Max: Fury Road, Mad Max, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome)
3, Steven Spielberg (Minority Report, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Ready Player One)
3, Paul Verhoeven (RoboCop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers)
3, The Wachowskis (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas, The Matrix Reloaded)
2, Michael Anderson (Logan’s Run, 1984)
2, John Carpenter (They Live, Escape from New York)
2, Terry Gilliam (Brazil, 12 Monkeys)
2, Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back, RoboCop 2)
2, Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire)
2, Alex Proyas (Dark City, I, Robot)
2, Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, War for the Planet of the Apes)