Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Long live Dystopia

I meant to get back sooner than this to the list of the Top 50 Dystopian Movies of All Time as chosen by the folks at Snarkerati. The fact that I own (or at least have seen) more than half of these flicks probably says much about me. Like most good science fiction, a dystopian movie succeeds because it says something about the "real" world in which we live - speculating on where our current trends may take us if we don't watch out.

The interesting thing is almost all of these movies show the struggle of one individual against the grain of a society where conformity is very important - usually because the conformity is enforced by a brutal government. (Wait - is "brutal government" one of those phrases from the Department of Redundancy Department?) (And isn't it interesting how many dystopias portray a world where the individual is unimportant? Of course that's the opposite of utopia!)

Sometimes the individual wins a victory, large or small, and sometimes the film does not have a very happy ending - but it's the struggle that counts, the moment when the individual breaks loose and says, to quote from a great dystopian work that is not a movie, "I am not a number - I am a free man!"

For the record - somewhere in my piles of DVDs and VHSs I believe I will find 14 of these flicks for sure (#1 Metropolis (1927), #3 Brazil, #5 Blade Runner, #9 Minority Report, #14 Twelve Monkeys, #15 Serenity [YAYYYYY!], #22 Planet of the Apes (1968), #23 V for Vendetta, #25 Gattaca, #26 Fahrenheit 451, #27 On the Beach, #29 Total Recall, #31 War of the Worlds (1953), #44 Strange Days) and maybe more ... I have seen and (in most cases) loved a majority of them, and I have loaded up the Netflix queue with the missing films. The ones you may be most surprised I've never seen would be the Mad Max movies - everyone has seen those by now, wouldn't you think?

I'm going to sound like the proverbial broken record - this list really, really ought to include The Lives of Others, the incredible 2006 German film I've written about here and here. Maybe because it's set in the reality of the past, in 1984 East Germany, it didn't qualify under Snarkerati's definition of a dystopian film. But if you enjoy the movies on this list, you gotta, gotta see The Lives of Others.

INSTANT UPDATE: I just noticed the update where they mention their definition of dystopia: "An imaginary place or state in which the condition of life is extremely bad, as from deprivation, oppression, or terror." (my emphasis) That does exclude The Lives of Others. Just thought of one glaring omission (at least in my humble opinion): Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the original 1956 film with Kevin McCarthy, natch. That would go into my top 10 dystopian movies, I think - maybe the top 5!

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