1. BATTLE ROYALE (2000).
In the future, the Japanese government has captured a class of ninth-grade students, forcing them to kill one another under the revolutionary Battle Royale Act, a piece of legislation aimed at cleaning up the country by alleviating misbehaving, uncontrollable children. With the tagline of the film being Could You Kill Your Best Friend?, what unfolds is 2 hours of sheer mayhem, chaos, brutality, and true friendship. A must-see for any cinephile.
2. DARK CITY (1998).
Dark City centres upon a man struggling with the memories of his past, one of which is a wife he cannot remember, in a hellish world with no sun and run by unknown beings with telekinetic powers. Their mission is to seek the souls of humans. This is a film I stumbled across when going through a phase of seeking out decent dystopian cinema. Despite being put off by the idea of Richard O’Brien leading the evil contingent, I had liked Alex Proyas’ other work (The Crow, iRobot) and decided to give it a go. What a decision I had made. Proyas has made a nightmarish world like no other.
3. TWELVE MONKEYS (1995).
In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet. Here we have proof again that Brad Pitt really is an exceptional character actor. As well as Terry Gilliam’s usual, wacky portrayal of a dystopian future, Pitt’s performance is truly disturbed and unforgettable.
4. DELICATESSEN (1991).
A surreal, post-apocalyptic dark comedy about the landlord of an apartment building who occasionally prepares a delicacy for his bizarre, eccentric tenants. With Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s idiosyncratic, character-based film style, this will definitely not disappoint. Having now seen all of Jeunet’s work, I’m used to the weirdness; if this is your first experience of his bizarre mind, you may be rather surprised, but pleasantly.
5. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981).
In 1997, when the US President crashes into Manhattan, which is now a giant maximum-security prison, a convicted criminal (Snake Plissken) is sent in to rescue him. Here we have the cult-classic partnership of John Carpenter and Kurt Russell doing its worst — kicking ass and taking names.
6. ALPHAVILLE (1965).
A secret agent is sent to the distant space city of Alphaville; here he must find a missing person and liberate the city from its tyrannical ruler. First of all, people should make a conscious effort to see any film by Jean-Luc Godard anyway — that’s a given. Secondly, how could I say no to watching a film about a city in which the word ‘why’ has been banished? Logic and reason dictate all decisions in Alphaville and, therefore, ‘why’ is no longer in use — ‘because’ is, though. Godard might actually be a genius.
7. CHILDREN OF MEN (2006).
In 2027, in a frenzied world where women have somehow become infertile, a former activist agrees to aid in the transportation of a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary out at sea. I’m not the biggest Clive Owen fan and had had relatively little experience of Alfonso Cuaron films, except for Y Tu Mama Tambien, but people had been suggesting this film to me for a while. It definitely didn’t disappoint — and I think it’s that the storyline is so strong (imagining a world wherein infertility is prevalent, but then one pregnant girl is discovered).
8. BRAZIL (1985).
A bureaucrat in a retro future tries to correct an administrative error, consequently finding himself an enemy of the state. What else can I say other than Terry Gilliam being a maniacal genius. Being the second of two Gilliam works on this list, Brazil is definitive proof that he might actually be seeing the world in a different way from the rest of us, except maybe Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Here we have 1984 meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, with a rather large pinch of sheer absurdity. A masterpiece.
9. EQUILIBRIUM (2002).
In a fascist future where all forms of feeling, emotion and abstraction are illegal, a man (Christian Bale) in charge of enforcing the law rises to overthrow the regime. I had a friend who had recommended this to me for years, and yet I had dropped it to the bottom of my to-watch list; what an idiot I was. This is exactly what a dystopian film should be: a man stands up to a system, a system that has banished freethinking.
10. THE MATRIX (1999).
A computer hacker learns from mysterious folk about the true nature of the reality in which he lives and his role in the war against its controllers. Quite simply, I consider The Matrix to be one of the best films ever made. The storyline has you philosophically thinking; the graphics and fight sequences are state of the art, and the casting of both good and evil is superlative. I would struggle to find anyone who disagrees.