The 10 best dystopian films to help us predict the future
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The 10 best dystopian films to help us predict the future

Dystopia is the opposite of utopia. While the latter is an imagined state created as a blueprint for an ideal society with minimal crime, violence and poverty; dystopia is the society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic. With the year nearing towards its end, we can’t help but be curious about our own future — the question remains: are we heading towards a utopian beginning or an ultimate dystopian finale to conclude it all?

We’ve often wondered about what it’d be to live in the future. Is it really going to be like the one depicted in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner? Maybe the coming times will be similar to that of Snowpiercer’s prediction: taking place aboard the Snowpiercer train as it travels a globe-spanning track, carrying the last remnants of humanity after a failed attempt at climate engineering to stop global warming has created a new Snowball Earth.

What awaits us cannot surely be said with certainty now. That said, there have been tons of movies which have drawn up what lies ahead in ways that can help us predict the future. In Netflix, there are countless films and television series which do a commendable job in doing the same.

We searched for the best ten dystopian films on Netflix to help us predict the future.

Ten best dystopian films on Netflix:

10. 2012 (Roland Emmerich – 2009)

Even though it predicted the end of the world way back in 2012 — which clearly didn’t work out well, Roland Emmerich’s disaster movie starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, and  Chiwetel Ejiofor follows geologist Adrian Helmsley (Ejiofor), who discovers the Earth’s crust is becoming unstable after a massive solar flare caused by an alignment of the planets, and novelist Jackson Curtis (Cusack) as he attempts to bring his family to safety as the world is destroyed by a series of extreme natural disasters caused by this.

The film refers to Mayanism and the 2012 phenomenon in its portrayal of cataclysmic events. With strong performances from the leads and natural disasters taking place in full throttle, 2012 makes for an entertaining watch seeing the whole world end.

9. Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg – 2018)

Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One takes place in 2045 when much of humanity uses the virtual reality software OASIS to escape the desolation of the real world. Orphaned teenager Wade Watts (Sheridan) finds clues to a hidden game that promises OASIS’s ownership to the winner, and he and four allies try to complete it before a corporation run by businessman Nolan Sorrento (Mendelsohn) can do so.

Based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel of the same name, the film received praise for its staggering visuals and brisk pacing. It was noted to have significant differences from the book, with some critics saying the film’s plot was an improvement over the source material. It also received nominations at the 91st Academy Awards, 24th Critics’ Choice Awards, and 72nd British Academy Film Awards, all for visual effects.

8. Passengers (Morten Tyldum – 2016)

Partially based on the 1950s EC Comics story 50 Girls 50, the film stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, with Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne in supporting roles. It depicts two people who are awakened ninety years too early from an induced hibernation on a spaceship, transporting thousands of passengers, travelling to a colony on a planet in a star system 125 light-years from Earth.

With the interesting premise and driven performances from both the leads, Passengers brings up interesting questions about life, death, and the meaning of existence. The film received two nominations for Best Original Score and Best Production Design at the 89th Academy Awards.

7. Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho – 2013)

One of the best contemporary films about class discrimination, Snowpiercer is driven by an overarching metaphor/microcosm for both the present and the future. All of the performances are great, as well as the direction, cinematography, and editing being superb. It is the kind of important that young adults should watch and learn from.

The director sheds light on shooting the train sequences: “So that was the challenge, that was the excitement, to shoot inside a train for the entire movie, and I felt like yeah, I am going to make the best train movie ever and had all this anticipation. But right before the shoot started, I got really scared. Just the idea of shooting in a narrow and long moving space, something that’s living with the light and tunnels was very excited initially.”

6. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve – 2016)

Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi Arrival, based on the 1998 short story ‘Story of Your Life’ by Ted Chiang, stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker. The film follows a linguist enlisted by the United States Army to discover how to communicate with extraterrestrial aliens who have arrived on Earth before tensions lead to war.

Villeneuve’s direction and its exploration of communication with extraterrestrial intelligence were praised and it received eight nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Adapted Screenplay, and won for Best Sound Editing.

5. V for Vendetta (James McTeigue – 2005)

Written by the Wachowski’s, the James McTeigue directed V for Vendetta is based on the 1988 DC/Vertigo Comics limited series of the same name by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Set in an alternative future where a Nordic supremacist and neo-fascist totalitarian regime has subjugated the United Kingdom, the film centres on V (played by Hugo Weaving), an anarchist and masked freedom fighter who attempts to ignite a revolution through elaborate terrorist acts, while Natalie Portman plays Evey, a young, working-class woman caught up in V’s mission and Stephen Rea portrays a detective leading a desperate quest to stop V.

It has been seen by many political groups as an allegory of oppression by government; anarchists have used it to promote their beliefs. David Lloyd stated: “The Guy Fawkes mask has now become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny – and I’m happy with people using it, it seems unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way.”

4. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón – 2006)

Children of Men takes place in 2027 when two decades of human infertility have left society on the brink of collapse. Asylum seekers seek sanctuary in the United Kingdom, where they are subjected to detention and refoulement by the government. Owen plays civil servant Theo Faron, who must help refugee Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) escape the chaos. The film also stars Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Pam Ferris, and Charlie Hunnam.

It was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. It was also nominated for three BAFTA Awards, winning Best Cinematography and Best Production Design, and for three Saturn Awards, winning Best Science Fiction Film. In 2016 it was voted 13th among 100 films considered the best of the 21st century by 117 film critics from around the world.

3. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick – 1971)

Stanley Kubrick’s radioactively outrageous thesis on violence, A Clockwork Orange was based on Anthony Burgess’ 1962 novel of the same name. The plot follows Alex, a psychopathic delinquent, who is imprisoned for murder and rape. To reduce his sentence, he volunteers for an experimental therapy conducted by the government, but it goes askew.

The film is considered a landmark in the relaxation of control on violence in the cinema. A Clockwork Orange remains an influential work in cinema and other media. The film is frequently referenced in popular culture, which Adam Chandler of The Atlantic attributes to Kubrick’s “genre-less” directing techniques that brought novel innovation in filming, music, and production that had not been seen at the time of the film’s original release.

2. Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve – 2017)

Villeneuve’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner, the film stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, with Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto among others, with Ford and Edward James Olmos reprising their roles from the original. Gosling plays K, a Nexus-9 replicant “blade runner” who uncovers a secret that threatens to destabilize society and the course of civilisation.

It was nominated for and won several accolades, receiving five nominations at the 90th Academy Awards, winning Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects. It also received eight nominations at the 71st British Academy Film Awards, including Best Director, and won Best Cinematography and Best Special Visual Effects.

The question of whether Deckard is a human or a replicant has been an ongoing controversy since the original release of Blade Runner. Ridley Scott has stated that Deckard was a replicant, however, others, including Harrison Ford, disagree, and feel preserving the ambiguity of Deckard’s status important to the film. Blade Runner 2049 draws no conclusion to this debate.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick – 1968)

Stanley Kubrick’s magnum opus, 2001: A Space Odyssey, even now – an astounding fifty years after its original theatrical release – continues to be among the most influential and defining films in the entire history of cinema. It stands as a colossal testament to that of the sheer genius of Kubrick, who with this film completely changed the landscape of the prevailing film-art.

Based on the screenplay that was written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey followed a voyage to Jupiter with the sentient computer HAL after the discovery of an alien monolith affecting human evolution. Dealing with themes concurring with existentialism, human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence, and the possibility of extraterrestrial life; it received diverse critical responses, ranging from those who saw it as darkly apocalyptic to those who saw it as an optimistic reappraisal of the hopes of humanity.

A sublime exhibition of cinematic brilliance; it brings a seriousness and transcendence to the visuals. During a 1968 interview with Playboy, Kubrick said of his film: “How much would we appreciate La Gioconda today if Leonardo had written at the bottom of the canvas: ‘This lady is smiling slightly because she has rotten teeth’ — or ‘because she’s hiding a secret from her lover’? It would shut off the viewer’s appreciation and shackle him to a reality other than his own. I don’t want that to happen to 2001.”

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Arkadeep Mitra

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