I’m a big believer in the dystopian genre representing a society in which we can avoid. (Everything else between is post-apocalyptic). It’s becoming incredibly difficult to find lists of dystopian entertainment true to this definition without seeing the same old things. Believe me, I’ve looked. Unless you want incredibly heavy topics to weigh your thoughts down for weeks, or zombies left, right and centre, the lists are few and far between. So with this in mind, I compiled my own list in the book, TV and cinema categories, and will continue to add to them as I discover more.
Childhood’s End — Arthur C. Clarke
Clarke’s biggest seller is a science fiction tale about the pitfalls of utopia. Greeted by a benevolent alien dictator, Clarke delves into the human psyche to see what makes us tick. In the book, a utopia is bestowed upon the human race, but there’s a catch: “the stars are not for man” and never ask important questions. Will boredom end in cataclysmic tragedy or is there such thing as triumph in transcendence post an apocalyptic destruction?
This is an easy dystopian or anti-utopian read, even for the more fussy of us readers.
The Death of Grass — John Christopher
Published in 1956, The Death of Grass is an easy but somewhat brutal read about the psychology of survival. Following a 3 day journey of the main protagonist John Custance, along with his family, this psychological thriller will have you questioning your own ethics.
The nature of the story isn’t so far-fetched either, and is arguably with as much foresight as Orwell and as frightening as Stephen King.
1984 — George Orwell
If you claim to be a dystopian fan and have yet to read this literary feat, then stop claiming.
The book that coined the term “Big Brother is Watching” is essentially a guide to what is fast becoming reality. Orwell saw the writing on the wall through his time with the Imperial Forces and his journalism, and knew better than to keep it to himself.
Ahh, not the rats!
The Wool Trilogy — Hugh Howey
Three books of sheer thriller in a small confined space in a time ahead of ours. I read “Shift” in one night—all 565 pages. The others in the trilogy are equally impressive.
This series has it all: from 3-dimensional characters to the landscapes and dystopian plot. Men are evil brutes, politicians are far worse; their schemes, cruel. Humanity is flawed and weak. What can only happen next is anyone’s guess.
Red Dawn – both the original and the remake.
In the original, Patrick Swayze leads the fight against the Russian invasion on American soil. In the 2012 remake, starring Chris Hemsworth, they’re fighting the North Koreans. Either way, the Wolverines kick foreign ass in a patriotic, yet sometimes gut wrenching fight for freedom. These movies remind us of the fine line between reality and the dystopian world, and have us questioning our own beliefs.
How I Live Now
This Oscar nominated movie depicts yet another nuclear war, however the backdrop is young love. Get the tissues out—this one’s a tear jerker, too. As you shake your head at the suffering and misery one can cause the other, and you’re reminded of the Nazi atrocities of the past, you’ll mutter the word “no” in utter disbelief more than once as this dystopian tragedy unfolds.
But maybe there’s also hope . . .
This movie depicts a hauntingly real outlook on AI and the effects it has on society and the middle classes. One single mother is faced with a gruelling choice to aid her family’s survival.
A truly dystopian movie, where “getting older is [simply] not an option.”
What feels like something taken from the pages of Stephen King’s The Dome, Between offers more insight into youth’s desperation when all those above the age of 22 die from a mysterious virus. The kids can’t leave their small town due to quarantine restrictions, and eventually the world forgets their existence.
But not all’s as it seems as the scientists swoop down on this dystopian experiment.
Gamer has received many a negative review since its release in 2009, and leaves me scratching my head as to why. The fast-paced movie warns of the dangers inherent to AI technology, and the addiction to gaming. This avoidable society is perhaps closer than we think with Musk’s labs currently designing chips for our thumbs and heads.
Although the script could’ve done with some fleshing out, the movie is still worthy of dystopian fans.
On The Beach
From memory, this was presented as a 2-part miniseries in Australia—but I could be wrong.
This depiction represents a very real life in the event of a nuclear attack in the Northern Hemisphere, and what it could look like for those in the Southern Hemisphere. With all nations destroyed, the Aussies have no choice but to sit back, contemplate life and wait for the nuclear cloud to come. Mass suicide, psychological terror and utter disbelief will leave you shaking your head at the very thought of parents euthanising their children—a very realistic movie/miniseries from my childhood that influenced my writing career and perhaps even my life.
This is the ultimate avoidable dystopia.
The Walking Dead – Yes. Really!
The unlikely candidate.
The Walking Dead evolved into a Dystopian series somewhere around the third season with the arrival of the Governor. From here on in no longer do we worry about zombies, but rather man has become the bigger threat. We’ve gone through the crash of the zombie apocalypse, and now the real brutality begins. The zombie goes to the background, barely a mention but a lingering threat, as the post-apocalyptic mess turns into a dystopian society of savagery, literal cannibalism and survival of the fittest.
And then there is Negan . . .
You don’t get any more dystopian than that.