The funny thing about science-fiction is that it is not really supposed to be true. But historically speaking, the sci-fi genre has been the most eye-opening and thought-provoking in terms of societal satire. The issues presented in the listed films from the 20th and 21st centuries bring to light what could happen to the planet—and to ourselves—if continue to follow what should have merely been a script.
1. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)
Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto
The Japanese are masters at sci-fi madness, and Tetsuo jam packs some of the craziest examples into one 67 minute film. The movie is about the “metal fetishist” and his pursuit for the “salaryman,” who has been infected with a bizarre disease that is turning him into scrap metal. That is the premise of this movie: becoming so dependent on technology that humankind fuses with it. There are a lot of explosions and battles, but above the insanity of Tetsuo is the fear that humans could very well become machine.
If you loved the first, don’t forget to check out Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992).
2. Blade Runner (1982)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Based off the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by the mastermind Phillip K. Dick, this neo-noir science-fiction movie boasts some serious details, plot, and acting. The year is 2019. L.A. has been transformed into a cyberpunk society of neon lights and flying vehicles. Androids who behave just like humans walk around amongst the human population. Even humans keep cybernetic animals as pets since most life has died off from disease or starvation. Deckard (Harrison Ford) is called into Tyrell Corporation to investigate the case of disappearing androids who are searching for freedom and longer lives.
The pieces of Blade Runner that has captured audiences is both the musical scores and the melodramatics of the landscape. It also asks the question: What does it mean to be human?
3. Naked Lunch (1991)
Directed by David Cronenberg
Not a movie for the faint of heart. The book by William Burrough’s is hailed for its look into drug usage (heroin and others), sex, and a dystopic society. Even the director didn’t know if he would succeed in making the movie, and said it would be banned everywhere for its
content. The viewer follows the Exterminator who gets high on insecticide after being injected by his wife. The Exterminator soon finds himself carted off to jail, where he’s interrogated by a massive…bug. Naked Lunch is bizarre, mind-numbing at times, and thoroughly intense.
4. Westworld (1973)
Directed by Michael Crichton
Welcome to Westworld, a theme park that brings visitors back to the past entertainments of coliseum brawls, jousting, and Wild West gun-slinging. Of course, all the actors are robots who seen develop a mind of their own and go on a killing spree. One robot in particular takes the Terminator approach, never stopping its hunt regardless of what the heroes do to hinder its advance. Though the movie’s plot is simplistic, the details aren’t. The emotionless faces of the androids, the Western background, and the infinite layers of obscurity are insane.
5. Mr. Nobody (2009)
Directed by Jaco Van Dormael
Jared Leto stars as the 118 year old Nemo, who lives in the year 2092, when all disease has been erased. Although the premise seems simple, it’s not. Nemo brings the viewer through the decisions he’s made in the past, some bad and some even worse. You soon realize that some memories are not true, and that the plot thickens because of this. The main warning of the movie is to not overindulge in decisions. Overthinking, overcomplicating, and not understanding the concept of ‘enough’ are revealed through Nemo’s deep-rooted regret.
6. Stalker (1979)
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Anyone who’s seen a Tarkovsky film knows they are obscure, weird, and symbolic. Stalker is eerie. The film is about a world that remains after nuclear fallout. People are protected from the wasteland by an area called The Zone. A writer and scientist are guided into The Zone by mutants. Though they are in search of something called The Room, where all worldly desires are brought to fruition, the quest to reach it is grim.
Stalker will shake you to the core with its depiction of post-apocalyptic lands and human greed.
7. Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
Directed by Francois Truffault
Based off the incredible book by the same name, written by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 takes place in a dystopian setting where people have been dumbed down and more or less brainwashed to obey the government. How? The government placed a ban on books.
Guy Montag, the protagonist, picks up a book instead of burning it (which is his job), and he begins to doubt everything that he knew as the truth. Montag actually begins stealing books instead of burning them. He hides them in his house, but his wife reports him to the authorities.
People in the world of Bradbury’s creation are generally mindless sheep, and the movie reflects that in the setting and acting.
8. Soylent Green (1973)
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Soylent Green is set in 2022. The world is eclipsed by the shadow of suffering brought on by overpopulation, food insecurity, and a rancor-stricken environment—all thanks to greenhouse gases and human detachment. Because real food is hard to come by, the Soylent Corporation supplies people with the daily rations of nutrient dense “Soylent Green.” Due to recent murders, Detective Frank Thorn (Charles Heston) is assigned to the investigation. He begins to uncover some startling conspiracies about the Soylent Corporation, murders and disappearances, and what really goes into the making of humanity’s primary food source.
Yes, the setting is not up to par with modern embellishments, but the story puts into perspective what could happen should climate change progress.
9. Children of Men (2006)
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
P.D. James wrote the novel, Children of Men, and Cuaron breathed life into the words. You might know the director for his movie, Gravity. Let me tell you that Children of Men is much darker and much more unsettling.
In 2027, civilization is on the brink of collapse, because humans can no longer procreate. Most of the cities are in ruin, and the environment has been devastated. The United Kingdom remains the last true sanctuary on Earth. When you ignore the presence of the totalitarian government, of course. Life continues on as normally as possible until one woman, Kee, gets pregnant. Thus does it become a race for not only her survival, but the survival of mankind. Theo Faron (Clive Owen) decides to be her protector as they travel through the bedlam unfolding around them.
Strife, famine, and the bleakness of the world when life begins to fade is portrayed stunningly.
10. Metropolis (1927)
Directed by Fritz Lang
I know what you’re thinking: How can a film from the ‘20s be any good when compared to modern technology? That’s the beauty of it! Metropolis depicts our world now. The main goal of the movie was to show the sad differences between the middle class, working themselves to death, and the upper-class sipping champagne in their skyscraper-castles. Freder, the movie’s hero and son of the city’s ruler, decides to speak out against the corruption when he experiences the despair of the lower-class lifestyle for himself. A robot is soon constructed to announce the teachings of a Mediator. It is the robot who, oddly enough, becomes the symbol of revolution and advancement in this dystopian film.
Metropolis is actually the most expensive film produced ever. The studio actually went bankrupt upon its release. Various versions have filtered throughout the world for years. In 2010, a nearly full-length version aired in Berlin, Germany. Metropolis was also the first movie to be added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. Maybe we should take a hint from that and start a revolution now…