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9 Dystopian Movies That Take You on a Wild Ride to the Future

Take the engine with these gripping films about sci-fi societies and ruined worlds.

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  • Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company

Have you ever noticed how it feels so good sometimes to listen to 'depressing' music when you’re feeling down? You’ll pick yourself up eventually, sure, but before that happens, it’s nice to cuddle up in a protective heap of blankets, put on headphones, and let yourself stroll around wallow-town for a bit. 

In the same way, it can be strangely cathartic to watch films depicting dystopias, given the chaos and unrest of 2020, You know … dystopias like the one we’re currently living in. 

In the mood to explore worst-case-scenarios? Here are a few great dystopian movies to add to your watchlist.

RELATED: 12 Lesser-Known Dystopian Series You Haven't Read But Should 

12 Monkeys (1995)

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  • Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

Bruce Willis stars as a time traveling do-gooder attempting to stop the release of a deadly virus that wipes out most of humanity, sending any survivors underground. 

Finding it difficult to explain the dangers at foot, Willis’ character, James Cole, is sent to a mental hospital where he meets wild-eyed free-thinker, Jeffrey Goines, played by Brad Pitt. 

This hits pretty close to home in the age of coronavirus, deadly viruses and underground bunkers and all.

RELATED: 15 Great Time Travel Movies Worth Being Present For 

Blade Runner (1982)

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In the once-future of 2019, synthetic humans called replicants are being manufactured by the Tyrell Corporation for cheap labor within space colonies. 

A few of the replicants, led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), get fed up and find their way back to Earth, where Rick Deckard (Harrision Ford) is enlisted to chase after them. 

In 2017, a sequel called Blade Runner 2049 was released starring Ryan Gosling as a fancy new Nexus-9 replicant working in the Los Angeles Police Department. Harrison Ford makes a cameo in the film, returning to the role he made famous in the original.

RELATED: Ten of the Boldest and Best Cyberpunk Movies 

Dark City (1998)

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  • Photo Credit: New Line Cinema

Set in a lawless city where the sun never seems to rise, Rufus Sewell stars as John Murdoch, a man with the power of psychokinesis, which allows him to alter time. 

Able to keep himself aware and awake, when the rest of the city cannot, Murdoch finds that a group of evil-doers called 'the Strangers' shut down the city’s consciousness at midnight every night, in order to switch around the identities and memories of everyone to better suit the Strangers' needs.

RELATED: 14 Iconic 90s Sci-Fi Movies 

The Purge (2013)

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Many sequels have been released following the original Purge film, but they’re not nearly as effective as the first. 

This one introduces 'purge night,' as experienced by the Sandin family (Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane, Max Burkholder). Set in an all-too-near 2022, America has passed a law stating that any and all crimes, including rape and murder, are legal within a 12-hour period. 

The law is intended to 'purge' citizens of their less than savory desires and impulses, leaving those who don’t wish to participate, like the Sandins, sitting ducks for one night out of each year.

RELATED: 8 Chilling Sci-Fi Horror Movies 

Waterworld (1995)

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Waterworld stars Kevin Costner and is set in a distant future after the melting of the polar ice caps has caused the world to become almost completely submerged in water. 

Costner plays a character referred to only as 'The Mariner,' who sails around trading precious dirt for other things he needs. He also has gills and webbed feet for some reason, which is a fun, and useful, twist. 

Dennis Hopper co-stars as Deacon, the leader of a gang of pirates called the Smokers. Deacon is searching for a young girl rumored to have a map to Dryland tattooed on her back.

RELATED: 9 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels That Celebrate and Honor Rebellion 

Snowpiercer (2013)

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  • Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company

Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Snowpiercer features a star-studded cast led by Chris Evans. Octavia Spencer, and Tilda Swinton. 

The story centers around a catastrophic global warming event that sends the earth into another ice age. All that’s left of humanity lives on a train called the Snowpiercer, that goes around and around on a never-ending circular track. 

The train is segregated in such a way that those in the back of the train live in dismal conditions, and perform manual labor in exchange for food bars made out of bugs. The people in the front of the train enjoy massive feasts, and live in the highest of luxury. Oddly, this seems all very realistic and true to form.

In 2020, the movie was adapted as a TV series starring Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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In 2015, the Mad Max franchise was given new life with the release of Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Tom Hardy as Max and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa. 

The new film follows a gang of take-no-shit women who escape the rule of the tyrant Immortan Joe in search of a legendary lush land known as the Green Place. 

RELATED: 5 Geek Reboots That Are Better Than the Originals 

Tank Girl (1995)

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  • Photo Credit: Trilogy Entertainment Group

Based on a series of comics originally published in Deadline magazine, Tank Girl stars Lori Petty as the reluctant titular heroine. Naomi Watts plays her sidekick Jet Girl, and Ice-T is a talking kangaroo named T-Saint. 

Primarily set in a dystopian desert wasteland, the story centers around Tank Girl and Jet Girl fighting the evil forces behind the Water & Power (W&P) corporation, who have put themselves in charge of the world’s water supply.

The Matrix (1995)

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Ahead of its time in terms of action sequences and special effects, The Matrix stars Keanu Reeves as a burnt out computer programmer named Thomas Anderson. 

When he comes into contact with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), he's forced to wrap his mind around the fact that reality as he knew it is actually a construct. Thomas Anderson learns that the world he sees is just a narrative used to keep people in line so that outside forces can manipulate a new reality however they see fit. Doesn’t seem so crazy now, does it?

RELATED: 8 Super-Cool Movies Like Terminator 

Featured still from "Snowpiercer" via The Weinstein Company