Are you sad-watching “The Handmaid’s Tale”? Has the adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, about a future in which women’s rights have been eliminated, reminded you the world is terrible right now? Are you ready for more dystopias? Good. Because there’s plenty more where that came from.
Tales of grim futures are all over your TV; head to Netflix for “Black Mirror” or to HBO GO for both “The Leftovers” and “Westworld.” They’ve also been a fixture of movies since the medium’s birth. Once you’re done with the latest “Handmaid’s Tale” episode, stream any of these:
‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1’ (Hulu)
Only the third “Hunger Games” exists right now as part of a streaming subscription package, meaning there’s few glimpses of the downtrodden districts of Panem, lorded over by a totalitarian regime that has a thing for clothes you’d see in an old Cyndi Lauper video. But the last two films are almost disarmingly activist-friendly: Thanks to a bestselling YA franchise, Hollywood brankrolled a film about the grit and the grind of being a freedom-fighting revolutionary.
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‘V for Vendetta’ (Netflix)
You can blame the resurgence of Guy Fawkes masks at protests on this adaptation of Alan Moore’s grim comic book, which depicts the fight against a fascist police state none-too-kind towards homosexuals, immigrants, Muslims and other “undesirables.” Moore set his comics in 1997, while the film, made in 2005, bumps it up to the 2020s. That sounds about right.
‘Escape from New York’ (Netflix)
New York was a rough place in the ’80s. It made sense that the people of 1981 thought the NYC of 1997 would only be worse. And so, in John Carpenter’s futuristic classic, Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken descends into a Manhattan that’s been walled-off into a giant prison, where criminals hang in the New York Public Library or set up base inside Grand Central Station. Of course, the opposite happened: New York bounced back, and now it’s a gated community for the obscenely wealthy, who’ve turned midtown in a sea of empty luxury apartments they own but never visit.
It’s the near-future (seen from 1987), and Detroit is even more crime-ridden than before. Who will save it? Corporations! One of them has plans to raze its run-down neighborhoods and build a high-end utopia known as “Delta City.” They even buy up the police, its human officers to be replaced by killer robots. Meanwhile, the cash-strapped populace is sedated by unhelpful news, stupid advertisements preying on their violent urges and need for expensive material goods, and a TV show that’s literally a bunch of scantily clad women and an ugly guy who says, “I’d buy that for a dollar!” Luckily, our own future looks nothing like this.
‘Death Race 2000’ (Amazon Prime)
Before “The Purge,” there was “Death Race 2000.” Made in 1975, Paul Bartel’s campy, ultra-violent satire predicted the collapse of the United States in 1979. Set 21 years later, it finds a longtime totalitarian regime that’s learned how to keep the people in check: by satiating their blood lust with an annual cross-country race. The souped-up cars do more than drive fast — drivers also gain points by mowing over unlucky pedestrians. Witness Sylvester Stallone, one year before “Rocky,” looking angry and disgruntled as the main baddie.
‘The Running Man’ (Hulu, Amazon Prime)
You could watch “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (also on Hulu), or you could go with a far less reputable slab of Ah-nuld-starring future shock. Chintzy and silly where “T2” is cutting-edge and propulsive, this 1987 number looks a lot better now. It’s even set in 2017, when the worldwide economy has collapsed and the U.S. has turned into a totalitarian police state. And as in “Death Race 2000,” the masses love ultraviolent entertainment in which people are brutally murdered. That’s how bad things have gotten: the goddamned “Running Man” now seems prophetic.
‘Metropolis’ (Netflix, Amazon Prime)
The mother of all movie dystopias, Fritz Lang’s 1927 eyesore is still one of the coolest, with its literally skyscraping tall buildings, workers toiling under the surface of the earth and, of course, its nefarious, iconic robot. In the early days of MTV, Giorgio Moroder released a re-cut, “hipper” version for the kids those days, complete with songs by Freddie Mercury, Pat Benatar and Loverboy. As if the original wasn’t dazzling enough.
‘Ghost in the Shell’ (Hulu)
Hopefully Hollywood’s recent bastardization of the beloved Japanese original hasn’t ruined the brand. Because the first “Ghost in the Shell” movie, from 1995, is incredible. Short on plot but long on thought, the original anime, adapted from Masamune Shirow’s manga, follows a counter-cyberterrorist team in a future where humanity has embraced robotics, and at a cost. Feel free to groove on the trippy visuals, which are as rich as its musings on existence, on the soul, and on the singularity that might still be near. (The sequel, “Innocence,” is even better and even more philosophical, but you’ll have to pay for a rental on Amazon.)
‘The Lobster’ (Amazon Prime)
Colin Farrell plays a man with a big problem: His wife just dumped him. But in this world, he doesn’t just become a middle-aged moper. Instead, he’s immediately carted off to a country getaway, stocked with untold other single people, where he’ll have 45 days to find a new mate. If he fails, he’ll be surgically turned into an animal (of his choice, at least, which is nice). It’s the kind of dystopia that looks very much like our own world, and which allows one to brood (and also chuckle) at our socially-ingrained notion that we’re only happy when we’re coupled — or when we’re alone.
‘District B13’ (Amazon Prime)
The French action film that first brought parkour to the movies is also a lacerating and insightful dystopian satire. Released in 2004 (and later remade, not very well, as “Brick Mansions,” with Paul Walker), it depicts a future Paris in which the neighborhood deemed the most crime-filled (or at least the most packed with immigrants) has been sealed-off, “Escape from New York”-style. When a super-cop (David Belle) is tasked with busting in and defusing a bomb that will ignite the entire City of Lights, it’s an excuse for some incredible parkour action — and some worthy digs at corruption and prejudice that goes all the way to the top of government. This probably plays even better in the age of Marion Le Pen than it did 13 years ago.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge