A good movie will draw you into the world it has created and make you feel part of it. So much so, that there’s a chance you’ll leave the theater after with a bit of an adrenaline rush. Maybe the latest Bond flick has you feeling like you can be the next 007. Maybe an over-the-top car chase has you pressing on the gas pedal and drifting like a pro. Maybe the story of a talented musician has you thinking you could pick up a guitar and strum a perfect rhythm.
Most of the time we’re left with wanting more. We want something similar, yet new at the same time. We don’t want to watch the same film again, we want to watch something that pairs nicely.
Here at ScreenAge Wasteland, we’ve selected six films that you should watch during quarantine if you want to see what a dystopian take on our world looks like.
Prophecies of Nostradamus
After studying and interpreting the prophecies of Nostradamus, Professor Nishiyama (Tetsurô Tanba) realizes the end of the world is at hand. Dismissed as a crack pot, nobody listens to him until it’s far too late. Prophecies of Nostradamus (alternatively titled Nostradamus 1999) is what happens when a madman mixes together the the end is nigh’ fears of a Christian propaganda film and the structure of an Atomic bomb PSA with a healthy dose of WTF. For every realistic thing they depict: looters fighting over supplies, people dying of radiation poisoning, pets being hunted for food, there’s at least one equally crazy scene that pushes believability to the breaking point: giant mutated animals, cannibalistic mutants and deformed humanoids. Since it was banned upon release, it’s a bit of a rarity but if you can track down a copy, you’ll be in for a treat. Just make sure you watch the unedited Japanese version because the American version is an unwatchable bastardization.
– Sailor Monsoon
The Maze Runner
I feel that most dystopian movies are either about a world post-war or a world post-deadly virus. The Maze Runner series focuses on the latter with the world’s population seemingly diminished following a massive solar flare. The story follows an amnesiac Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), who finds himself trapped in the middle of a maze alongside a group of other boys. Their goal is to try and get out of the ever-changing maze which is filled with dangers and closes at night. I won’t spoil the ending, so instead I’ll mention that the cast ensemble is definitely one of the highlights. The friendships developed on-screen (and off) really make you invested in the characters and their fight for escape and answers to why they are trapped in the maze. I also recommend reading the book series if YA is your thing.
– Marmaduke Karlston
I make allowances for small budget genre movies. A filmmaker on a limited budget has to work harder to build the world they envision than filmmakers with huge budgets. It doesn’t always work out, but I find that I can look past the obvious flaws because of the effort put in to realize the director’s vision. Limited budgets also restrict the scope of the world the filmmaker can depict, allowing the audience to fill in the blanks with their imagination. And without all the whiz-bang special effects found in big budget productions, the focus often ends up on the characters – where it should be.
Code 46, a dystopian science fiction love story set in a near-future shaped by rampant cloning and climate change, was made for roughly 7.5 million dollars. It manages to present a future Earth that is both familiar and alien, and it achieves this by shooting in existing locations. There’s no CGI, no elaborate futuristic sets, no lasers, no huge set pieces. It’s a bizarre love story set in a disconcertingly believable future. What it lacks in spectacle, it more than makes up for in great performances and impressive world building. Code 46, like other thoughtful sci-fi, sticks with you long after the credits roll.
– Billy Dhalgren
Is it possible for a film to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination and then be completely forgotten? Because I feel like that’s what has happened with District 9 … and it’s a damn shame. Through a mix of found footage filming, fresh faces, razor sharp editing, and unapologetic storytelling, 2009 gave us not just another installment in the dystopian flick wave but a social commentary as timely as any of this era. And it’s pretty much all killer no filler with a sub-two-hour runtime. Perhaps what cuts the most is how incredibly re-watchable this one has become through the years.
Seeing it in cinemas, it’s easy to grasp the weight of it all. A true mustached everyman in Johannesburg finds himself on a Campbell-esque hero’s journey gone terribly wrong as the cerebral-action-thriller paints for us an unfiltered take on refugees, equality, and government enforced socio-economic status. The concept of art holding up a mirror to society is overt with this one. Yet, with Peter Jackson’s creative influence and Neil Blomkamp’s keen eye, District 9 delivers one of the top-to-bottom finest sci-fi experiences, from a purely visual and visceral standpoint, the 21st Century has to offer. The weight is a hefty one to carry, but it’s one we don’t mind shouldering in the slightest.
Imagine Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner meets George Miller’s Mad Max saga. I dig District 9 because it checks all my boxes–it challenges me to think, to assess things I may or may not hold to be true, and it accomplishes the feat through grade-A filmmaking and incredible entertainment value. The Prawns just want to go home, y’all, and we simply won’t let them.
– Mitch Roush
No, not PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds or Fortnite – we’re talking the original Battle Royale, the classic Japanese take on William Goldman’s Lord of the Flies, the prototype “kids battle each other for the ‘good’ of a nation” film that’s probably most associated with The Hunger Games. In the aftermath of an economic collapse the youth of Japan rebel and reject school and authority. In response, the nation passes the BR Act, forcing youths to fight to the death on a remote island. Dissent is not tolerated and participation is enforced by use of explosive collars. Controversial at the time – mostly for its portrayal of extreme violence by and to young people – it was difficult to see in the US for years. Alternately ultra-violet and maudlin, Battle Royale is still a must-see. Look for a fantastic performance by Takeshi Kitano as a former teacher with a secret (and a gun).
As an aside, when I first saw Battle Royale I’d only seen Kitano in Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, the US dubbed version of Takeshi’s Castle – and it was a shock to see him in a dramatic role. Now it’s MXC that seems out of place! (“Right you are, Ken.”)
– Bob Cram
District 13 is a Parisian ghetto that the government has essentially shut off from the rest of the city, due to an inability to control the residents that live there. The entire area houses 2 million people and is surrounded by a high wall topped with barb wire, making sure it is completely segregated from the rest of society. This obviously means there is no proper education, utilities or policing within the walls either. While the story is a decent tale of dystopian hardship, the real selling point here is the breathtaking action that doesn’t involve any wirework or CGI. Instead, the actors show off remarkable parkour skills in set pieces are up there with the most satisfying I’ve ever seen.
– Lee McCutcheon
What dystopian movies have you recently watched?