16 Best Dystopian Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors

This film really satisfied my craving for an original thriller, despite the fact that I spent most of it thinking about how Logan Marshall-Green looks like a budget Tom Hardy.

He plays a guy whose wife is killed during a violent mugging that also leaves him paralyzed in the aftermath. When a billionaire approaches him with an Artificial Intelligence solution that would "upgrade" his body, he has a chance to take vengeance.

This is Robocop meets Ex Machina meets Blade Runner. It's original, low-budget without feeling low-budget, and honestly just so thrilling. It gives the genre of sci-fi a much needed upgrade.

Genre: Action, Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Abby Craden, Arthur Angel, Benedict Hardie, Betty Gabriel, Christopher Kirby, Clayton Jacobson, Douglas Embry, Emily Havea, Harrison Gilbertson, James Ao, Kai Bradley, Kenny Low, Liam Howarth, Linda Cropper, Logan Marshall-Green, Melanie Vallejo, Michael M. Foster, Ming-Zhu Hii, Puven Pather, Renah Gallagher, Ri-Jie Kwok, Richard Anastasios, Richard Cawthorne, Rosco Campbell, Sachin Joab, Simon Maiden, Steve Danielsen, Yuki Nagashima, Zia Kelly

Director: Leigh Whannell

Rating: R

, 1985

In the movie Brazil, our hero Sam Lowery (Jonathan Pryce) lives in a dystopian world that relies on the cold productivity grind of machines. He’s in a constant battle between the high-level dominating powers that be and the low-level beatdown scums of society. Saving him from complete misery is a recurring dream he has of a beautiful woman. There, nothing else matters but love, which fills his draining soul and makes his life seem worthwhile. 

The way director Terry Gilliam handles a serious matter in such a comedic way is fantastic, and the amount of thought and effort he puts into creating every single bit of existence in this film is mind-boggling. With Brazil, he succeeds in establishing his own style, making a mark for himself in an age when plenty of auteurs compete for mere recognition.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Ann Way, Barbara Hicks, Bill Wallis, Bob Hoskins, Brian Miller, Bryan Pringle, Charles McKeown, David Gant, Derek Deadman, Derrick O'Connor, Don Henderson, Gorden Kaye, Harold Innocent, Howard Lew Lewis, Ian Holm, Ian Richardson, Jack Purvis, James Coyle, Jim Broadbent, John Flanagan, John Grillo, John Pierce Jones, Jonathan Pryce, Katherine Helmond, Kathryn Pogson, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Myrtle Devenish, Nigel Planer, Oscar Quitak, Patrick Connor, Peter Vaughan, Ralph Nossek, Ray Cooper, Robert De Niro, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Sheila Reid, Simon Jones, Terence Bayler, Terry Gilliam

Director: Terry Gilliam

Rating: R

The key to what makes this apocalyptic thriller from Mr Robot and Homecoming showrunner Sam Esmail so unnerving is how resolute it is about not taking place in an alternate timeline. Making references to memorable events in recent history and namechecking real brands and cultural touchstones (like Tesla and Friends), Leave the World Behind is uncannily familiar — which, when combined with the film’s meticulous crafting of tension, makes it all the more unsettling.

Though taking place amidst an ambiguous national emergency, the film is largely set in one house — a claustrophobic setting that puts the characters’ self-conceits and prejudices under a microscope and forces them to confront their own impotence in an analog world. If it all sounds a bit “we live in a society,” be assured that Leave the World Behind cleverly manages to avoid the pitfalls of seeming like a bad Black Mirror ripoff by sidestepping expectations and deploying all the atmospheric tools in its arsenal. Withholding key plot and character information to increase our own paranoia means the movie always runs the risk of disappointment when explanations are finally given, but its focus on the human drama and its well-set-up ending ultimately eclipse any niggling frustrations.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alexis Rae Forlenza, Charlie Evans, Ethan Hawke, Farrah Mackenzie, Josh Drennen, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Mahershala Ali, Myha'la, Myha'la Herrold, Orli Gottesman, Sam Esmail, Vanessa Aspillaga

Director: Sam Esmail

Rating: R

A unique movie about a near-future society obsessed with couples; viewing couples as the norm, as opposed to single people who are viewed as unproductive and undesirable. In that way, the film shows David (Colin Farrell), a newly single person who is transferred to the Hotel, a place where single people have just 45 days to find a suitable mate, and if they fail, they would be transformed into animals of their choice. While the film’s original premise may not be everyone’s cup of tea, The Lobster will prove a goldmine for people who are into a Kafkaesque, absurdist mentality, or anyone looking for an idea-driven experience.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Aggeliki Papoulia, Angeliki Papoulia, Anthony Dougall, Ariane Labed, Ashley Jensen, Ben Whishaw, Colin Farrell, Degnan Geraghty, Emma O'Shea, Ewen MacIntosh, Garry Mountaine, Jacqueline Abrahams, Jessica Barden, John C. Reilly, Laoise Murphy, Léa Seydoux, Michael Smiley, Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Rosanna Hoult, Sean Duggan

Director: Giorgos Lanthimos, Yorgos Lanthimos

Rating: R

, 2017

Director Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer) does something quite amazing with the $50 million budget Netflix gave him: he makes a simplistic movie. But man, is it good. Okja tells the story of a “super pig” experiment that sends genetically modified pigs to top farmers around the world. In Korea, a farmer’s granddaughter forms a special relationship with one of these super pigs (Okja). When the company who originally ran the experiment want their pig back (performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Tilda Swinton) – the two find an ally in an animal advocacy group led by Jay (Paul Dano). This is a straightforward movie, but nevertheless it is entertaining and full of thought-provoking themes and performances from an excellent cast.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Actor: Adam Auslander, Ahn Seo-hyun, Ahn Seong-bong, Amber Snow, An Seo Hyun, Andreas Fronk, Ann Evans, Barbara Wallace, Bettina Skye, Boyd Ferguson, Byun Hee-bong, Byun Heebong, Carl Montoya, Cho Wan-ki, Choi Hee-seo, Choi Woo-shik, Colm Hill, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Daniel Henshall, David Bloom, Devon Bostick, Eha Urbsalu, Erik De Boer, Faith Logan, Giancarlo Esposito, Han Yi-jin, J. C. Williams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamar Greene, Kathryn Kirkpatrick, Kim Chul-moo, Kim Moon-hak, Kim Woo-hyeon, Kristoffe Brodeur, Kwak Jin-seok, Kyul Hwi, Lee Bong-ryeon, Lee Jung-eun, Lena Avgust, Lily Collins, Luis Javier, Lynn Marocola, Martin Lo Rimorin, Michael D. Joseph, Michael Mitton, Milo Shandel, Myles Humphus, Nancy Amelia Bell, Niall Cunningham, Park Jeong-gi, Park Ji-hoon, Park Keun-rok, Paul Dano, Pavla Tan, Phillip Garcia, Rebecca Husain, Rickland Powell, Seo-Hyun Ahn, Shirley Henderson, Steven Garr, Steven Yeun, Tilda Swinton, Waris Ahluwalia, Woo Shik Choi, Yoon Je Moon, Yoon Kyung-ho

Director: Bong Joon-ho, Joon-ho Bong

Rating: TV-MA

From the brilliant minds of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Jano comes a utopian vision for the ages. After having worked together before on the short sci-fi film The Bunker of the Last Gunshots, the duo-turned-longtime-collaborators pick it up a notch in one of the best dark comedies to come out in the 90s. 

In Delicatessen, Jeunet and Jano disguise the wretchedness of modern society in a post-apocalyptic world where food is the global currency, given how scarce it’s become. We follow Louison (Dominique Pinon), an everyday man who falls in love despite all the hubbub and squalor surrounding him. But nothing comes in the way of love, and instead of discovering a salve, he encounters a snag, one that pulls him deeper into society’s most complex ethical dilemmas. 

Many films have already been made about inequality and hierarchies, but none have been quite as darkly funny and unapologetic as Delicatessen.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Actor: Anne-Marie Pisani, Chick Ortega, Dominique Pinon, Dominique Zardi, Eric Averlant, Howard Vernon, Jacques Mathou, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Jean-François Perrier, Jean-Luc Caron, Karin Viard, Marc Caro, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Maurice Lamy, Nikky Smedley, Patrick Paroux, Rufus, Silvie Laguna, Ticky Holgado

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro

Rating: R

Snowpiercer is an under-the-rader post-apocalyptic thriller that offers the grittiness that many times only Asian cinema may achieve. South Korean director Joon-ho Bong forces audiences to forget that Chris Evans was ever a Marvel superhero, as he leads a revolt of his fellow “low-class” citizens against the self-appointed gentry in a train that contains all remaining members of the planet. With immersive environments and a layered script, this film melds together social commentary and moral discourse in a visually arresting and vastly entertaining package.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction

Actor: Adnan Haskovic, Alison Pill, Chris Evans, Clark Middleton, Dana Green, Ed Harris, Emma Levie, Ewen Bremner, Go A-sung, Go Ah-sung, Griffin Seymour, Jamie Bell, Jim High, John Hurt, Joseph Bertót, Kendrick Roger Ong, Kenny Doughty, Ko A-sung, Ko Asung, Luke Pasqualino, Luna Sophia Bar-Cohen, Magda Weigertová, Marcanthonee Reis, Octavia Spencer, Parry Shen, Paul Lazar, Peter Hallin, Robert Russell, Sean Connor Renwick, Seisuke Tsukahara, Song Kang-ho, Stephen Park, Steve Park, Tilda Swinton, Tomáš Dianiška, Tómas Lemarquis, Tyler John Williams, Vlad Ivanov

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Rating: R

A dark and sophisticated slow-burning drama, Never Let Me Go is adapted from the highly acclaimed novel of the same name by Japanese-born British author Kazuo Ishiguro. It stars Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield as boarding school raised teenagers eager to explore the outside world when they learn a secret that will threaten their very existence. Anything more is a spoiler, watch it.

Genre: Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Amy Lennox, Andrea Riseborough, Andrew Garfield, Anna Maria Everett, Carey Mulligan, Charles Cork, Charlie Rowe, Charlotte Rampling, Chidi Chickwe, Damien Thomas, David Sterne, Domhnall Gleeson, Ella Purnell, Hannah Sharp, Huggy Leaver, Isobel Meikle-Small, Izzy Meikle-Small, John Gillespie, Kate Bowes Renna, Kate Sissons, Keira Knightley, Lydia Wilson, Monica Dolan, Nathalie Richard, Sally Hawkins

Director: Mark Romanek

Rating: R

This incredibly creative and unique movie is set in a fictional small town in the Brazilian Backcountry. It has a realistic first half but things quickly get crazy.

Even in that realistic half, you can clearly tell that something is off about the town of Bacurau. An accident involving a truck carrying coffins turns into an impromptu coffin shop. A dam was built to divert water from people. The village doctor seems to be the least sane person in the village. It’s all wrong.

Bacurau is funny, it’s politically charged, it’s thrilling, and it’s sweet, all at once. It’s that one in a thousand weird movies that actually works, and will inevitably become a classic.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Western

Actor: Alli Willow, Antonio Saboia, Bárbara Colen, Bárbara Colen, Buda Lira, Chris Doubek, Clébia Sousa, Danny Barbosa, Edilson Silva, Eduarda Samara, Ingrid Trigueiro, James Turpin, Jamila Facury, Jonny Mars, Julia Marie Peterson, Karine Teles, Lia de Itamaracá, Luciana Souza, Rubens Santos, Silvero Pereira, Sônia Braga, Suzy Lopes, Thardelly Lima, Thomás Aquino, Thomas Aquino, Udo Kier, Valmir do Côco, Wilson Rabelo, Zoraide Coleto

Director: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Kleber Mendonça Filho

Rating: 0

The Platform is the closest thing to Parasite released so far. This interesting Spanish movie is about 90% a science-fiction drama and 10% a horror movie. It’s an allegory set in a future where prisoners live in vertical cells, and each cell has to wait for the cell above it to eat to get food. Depending on the floor where prisoners wake up, they might not get any food at all. This creates for disturbing situations that are hard to see as not representative of our modern societies.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alexandra Masangkay, Algis Arlauskas, Antonia San Juan, Chema Trujillo, Emilio Buale, Gorka Zufiaurre, Iván Massagué, Ivan Massagué, Mario Pardo, Miren Gaztañaga, Miriam Martín, Txubio Fernández de Jáuregui, Zihara Llana, Zorion Eguileor

Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia

Rating: TV-MA

I loved this movie. It starts a bit weird but gets so good. In a parallel world where human frequencies determine luck, love, and destiny, Zak, a young college student, must overcome science in order to love Marie, who emits a different frequency than his own. In an attempt to make their love a reality, Zak experiments on the laws of nature, putting in danger the cosmic equilibrium of fate and everything he holds dear. This unique and experimental drama blends science fiction and romance to create a futuristic tale where love, science, and fate collide.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Daniel Fraser, David Barnaby, David Broughton-Davies, Dylan Llewellyn, Eleanor Wyld, Georgina Minter-Brown, Joanna Hole, Lily Laight, Owen Pugh, Ria Carroll, Timothy Block

Director: Darren Paul Fisher

Rating: Not Rated

Ethan Hawke, Uma Therman and Jude Law star in this film, set in the not-so-distant future, where humans are genetically engineered to be as close to perfect as possible. Any child who is conceived in the traditional fashion is labeled inferior and is discriminated against by the rest of society. The movie follows the life of Hawke's character who, although looked down upon and considered genetically inadequate, attempts to break free from the tethers his peers have placed on him to pursue his lifelong dream of traveling to outer-space.

Genre: Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alan Arkin, Blair Underwood, Carlton Benbry, Chad Christ, Cynthia Martells, Dean Norris, Elias Koteas, Elizabeth Dennehy, Ernest Borgnine, Ethan Hawke, Gabrielle Reece, George Marshall Ruge, Gore Vidal, Greg Sestero, Jayne Brook, Jude Law, Ken Marino, Lindsey Ginter, Loren Dean, Mason Gamble, Maya Rudolph, Russell Milton, Ryan Dorin, Steve Bessen, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Tony Shalhoub, Uma Thurman, Una Damon, Vincent Nielson, William Lee Scott, Xander Berkeley

Director: Andrew Niccol

Rating: PG-13