Top 5… Bleak future films

Hunger Games is out and my review will be arriving on Wednesday. To coincide with this I thought I would do a top 5 list of films about set in a bleak future.

For a film to qualify it must be set in the future (or at least relative to the story being told) which means The Terminator films are out as they are actually set mainly in the present day. It also needs to be a pretty dismal place so a film like A Clockwork Orange I will not consider because the future is not portrayed as a too bad a place. Finally, it must be set on Earth, so no fictional worlds or space based films. So, without further ado, here we go…

5) Twelve Monkeys

I find Terry Gilliam films polarising and I can either love them or hate them. I have never understood the appeal behind his famous dystopian film Brazil but I am a great fan of his remake of La Jetée starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt. In the future most of the population has been wiped out be a virus and mankind has found a way to send people back in time to try and find out what happened and avert the disaster.

Bruce Willis plays the convict who gets sent back in time to investigate a group called Twelve Monkeys whose logos are everywhere in the wastelands of the future. Unfortunately, Willis is locked up in an asylum when he arrives in the past and as he questions his own sanity we start to question what is real and what isn’t.

There’s nothing quite like the first viewing of this film but it has survived the years well and is still as fantastic today as it was on first release.

4) V for Vendetta

I really didn’t like V for Vendetta when it first came out. It seemed like a cheap rip-off of 1984 and didn’t do anything for me. I finally watched it again a number of years later and finally got it. In the future, England is ruled by a fascist dictator (played by John Hurt) who controls the country by killing anyone who doesn’t fit (homosexuals, criminals, etc).

Our guide through this bleak landscape is Natalie Portman who gets caught up in the plans of the mysterious V who (wearing the infamous mask now being used by the Anonymous hacker group) plans to take back the country by force.

The action is good but the political force behind this film is really what drives it along. Powerful, telling and a little disturbing.

3) Logan’s Run

The planet is a wasteland and the remnants of society live in a domed city where, to keep the population levels under control, are “renewed” (read killed) at the age of 30. To infiltrate a rebel group who shelter people who should be renewed, one sandman called Logan (read policeman of the future) agrees to pretend to be 30 and run in order to flush them out. Along the way he meets Jessica (the stunning Jenny Agutter) and they decide to keep running.

If you can get past the cheesy 70’s feel to this film this is actually a really fantastic sci-fi film that holds up very well 40 years on.

2) Children of Men

Alfonso Cuarón had already managed to elevate the Harry Potter films to a brilliant new level with The Prisoner of Azkaban and followed it up with an absolutely stunning film. In the future mankind has stopped having babies. When we join the story, there are reports on the news of the youngest person alive on the planet being killed at the age of 18 with the populace looking on in despair. Humans are staring their extinction in the face.

Clive Owen plays an ex-revolutionary who is called upon to help transport a pregnant woman, the first in 18 years, to a safe location and away from a number of groups who want to capture her and study her and her baby.

The story alone is brilliant but the amazing cinematography and directing elevate this to an even higher level. The final battle sequence is a phenominal 6 minute long take but even more amazing than that is a sequence in a car that runs at 4 minutes where the camera sweeps around and around beautifully and has to be seen to really appreciate it.

1) The Matrix

There was only really one contender for the top spot of this list though. The Wachowski brothers made history when they created their ultimate dystopian film where mankind has been transformed into batteries for machines and live in a constant dream-like state in the Matrix.

Keanu Reeves plays a hacker called Neo who knows something is not right with the world and with the help of Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus he breaks free and into the “real world”. From here he can re-enter the Matrix and bend the rules to fight like nothing you had seen before (and endlessly mimicked since) and move fast enough to dodge bullets.

Not only is this the number one bleak future film but it is also one of, if not the, best sci-fi and action films ever made. There are some sequences in this film that beggar belief and the last 30 minutes of the film are one long heart-pounding feast for the eyes. Near-perfection.

Honourable Mentions

  • The Warriors – Gangs rule the streets in this interesting view of New York in the future.
  • 9 – Strange rag dolls are the only thing left after the apocalypse in this beautiful animated film.
  • AI: Artificial Intelligence – A little over long a boring in places but definitely a film to make you think
  • Blade Runner – Not so much a bleak future as much just a smoggy, dark and wet one. Still fantastic though.
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  1. I loved Children of Men, although I think it has a dreadful title that put me off watching it for years.

    I’d also add The Road to your list.

  2. | - pingback on Monday 9th April 2012 at 06:14

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