(This series is a challenge for all film nerds. I call out the film genre and five favorites, and then you tell me what I missed. Let’s see see if we can come up with a definitive catalog. Ready?)
Genre Blast: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic Movies
How bad can it get? Pretty bad, judging from these visions in a genre that saw little action before the 1970s but took off like a doomsday rocket this century. Because it’s the future and unknown, these storytellers imagine the worst and then take it two steps further.
The criteria for this genre are that of a society in collapse due to a failure to resolve issues with which we are confronted today. The future must be dark, dirty, morally bankrupt and steeped in hopelessness for all except a few holdouts who are the protagonists.
My top five, in no particular order.
Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller), 2015
Miller resurrects his series that he had put to bed for 30 years with enough style and visual audacity to make Fury Road one of the best films of the decade. Eschewing fashionable CGI in all but a few instances, he relies instead on matte painting and jaw-dropping stunts to continue his high-octane chase fable.
Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron), 2006
Infertility, pandemics and an immigration crisis amidst the collapse of civilization form the background of this desperate tale of escape. Cuaron also gives us a single-shot car ambush that is to die for. Cheery stuff…and most effective.
A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick), 1971
Droogs, ultraviolence and the “old in-out” set to the strains of “lovely, lovely Ludwig van”. Alex is a prick and a rapist, and a product of his environment. Kubrick pushes the envelope brilliantly as he maneuvers his point of view to – can it be – justice that benefits the sociopath? It’s a kick in the “yarbles”, for sure, as well as a cinematic landmark.
Brazil (Terry Gilliam), 1985
Gilliam’s hallucinogenic retro-realistic view of totalitarianism features terrorism, torture and…facelifts? It’s also quite funny and influences from Orwell to Chaplin abound. Go for the longer, bleaker original version, not the shortened one insisted upon by the studio that wanted a “happier” ending.
Snowpiercer (Bong Joon Ho), 2013
Humanity commits the ultimate faux pas and ruins the environment, wiping out all but a few souls on a self-sufficient train that circles the globe continuously. The problem is, everything that was wrong with the world outside has been duplicated inside. Brilliant sets, pacing and performances, especially by Ed Harris, John Hurt, Chris Evans and the always-enchanting Tilda Swinton. “Be a shoe”
Those are five of my favorite nightmares. What dark visions transported you?