Everyone agrees that 2016 was a truly dismal year. A vicious election cycle, senseless outbursts of violence, the deaths of cultural icons and a gorilla... yeah, 2016 seriously blows. And according to most movies about the future, it’s not going to get any better. If you weren't depressed enough about the Year of Sh*t (the Chinese zodiac's official designation), consider all the dystopian futures nicer than 2016.
Dystopian futures are all the rage in science fiction: everyone loves bleak depictions of a world that could be. But the way things are now, how much worse could it really get? Dystopian movies are successful because they play on the collective fear that the world isn't going to get better. The future is where hope lives, the place where dreams come to fruition. These post-apocalyptic pieces of cinema force you to confront the fact that things rarely work out the way you want them to.
However, given the state of American society in 2016, viewers have to take stock. What if these potential timelines represent the best-case scenario? All of the films on this list postulate a way of living that appear grim, but in reality may be preferable to life in contemporary America. America has finally arrived, the way Germany did in 1933 - there's a lot of dystopian scifi preferable to life in the US.
If you can think of other movies with dark futures you'd rather live in than America in 2016 and the nightmare that may be be 2017, let the world know in the comments.
One of the most popular young-adult film series ever made, The Hunger Games presents a society many would regard as dystopic. But really, Panem has a lot going for it. Built from the ashes of North America after an undefined cataclysm, the state is a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit. After rebuilding society from presumably nothing, the people in this universe created a utopia. Granted, only a small percentage of the population gets to experience material comfort, but that's pretty impressive.
As for the rest of society, people enjoy things that seem impossible today. The unemployment rate is 0%, or close enough that it doesn't matter. Everyone has a clear, established job in their district, working toward the common good of the people. How many recent college grads today can say the same?
The Capitol also seems committed to clean energy. Most of Panem's major cities look to be powered almost solely by hydro-electrics. While they still have a coal mine open in District 13, that's probably just to combat unemployment. Given the natural beauty of the mountains and hollers and the abundance of game in that district, they may have even found a sustainable way to mine coal.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, everyone in Panem seems way more attractive than what you might consider average. Protagonist Katniss has been malnourished and neglected for 16 years and still looks like Jennifer freakin' Lawrence. You won't see a single morbidly obese person, even in the Capitol. Citizens seem to age gracefully from muscle-bound youths to regal Donald Sutherlands. They must be doing something right.
I Am Legend spends a lot of time showing us how completely alone Will Smith's Dr. Robert Neville is. He's in an empty brownstone in an empty city, his faithful and well-trained dog as his only companion. That sounds infinitely better than living in America circa the end of 2016.
The environment is bouncing back; flora has taken over New York City and apparently created a solid enough ecosystem to support some very large fauna (lions, gazelle, etc.). That means Dr. Neville shouldn't feel any guilt as he drives a slew of sweet gas-powered cars as fast as he wants through the deserted streets. Oh, and he can shoot high-powered firearms wherever he wants, whenever he wants. Try doing that without the police arresting you in this land of the free.
Incidentally, the re-engineered measles virus that started the apocalypse was meant to cure cancer. Not to be crass, but the virus did its job. No one has cancer in the future, and a lot of the genetic predisposition for cancer is probably going to be bred out of mankind. Combined with the fact that there's no more waiting in line and this future seems spectacular.
No one wants to live in a world full of stupid people. No one wants to live in a world plagued by famine. No one wants to get handjobs at Starbucks. Okay, maybe some people wanna get handjobs at Starbucks, but they're gross. The point is, Idiocracy is very few people's idea of a good future for humanity. Those people are wrong. You should all want to live there right now.
After hero Average Joe wakes up from suspended animation in the year 2505, he's shocked by America. Society has devolved into a feeding frenzy of veritable nitwits, slaves to consumerism driven solely by base human desires. The thing the movie doesn't recognize, however, is how far these people have come.
No one in the film is racist. The President of the United States is a huge, muscular, aggressive black man who rides around in an open air motorcade. He has open-invitation house parties on the White House lawn and no one tries to assassinate him. Can you imagine President Obama doing such a thing?
They also seem to have moved past sexism. The Attorney General is a woman, and people listen to and respect her. There have only been two female Attorney Generals in US history, and both of their terms were mired by sexism and questions of whether a woman could do the job. We should be so lucky to live in a world with Idiocracy's tolerance.
Perhaps most importantly, people in this world know they're stupid. When Joe is arrested, he's given an IQ test. He scores so highly he's brought to the White House to serve as an advisor to the President. After he solves the food shortage crisis, he gets elected president. Can you imagine an America in which people actively want the most intelligent people lead it? How many problems could have been avoided by not electing people you want to have a beer with?
Humanity has abandoned Earth, leaving it in the care of robot custodians. Well, custodian, singular, by the time of the Wall-E's events. While this existence may seem like, to borrow an image from the movie, a mountain of garbage, you barely have to scratch the surface to see the wonders of mankind's future.
Despite the pitiable state in which we first see humans (corpulent and immobile), there are some amazing advancements in 2805. All children of every race is given free and comprehensive education by robot tutors. Mankind seems to have mastered the art of eternal food production; even in the deep reaches of space, they have enough food to keep their citizenry alive for 700 years.
Also, people seem legitimately committed to environmental sustainability. According to the end, the majority of the human race has abandoned comfort and stability in order to save Earth and provide natural beauty for future generations. And it works. The hope of that happening seems elusive in 2016.
#35 on The Best Movies for Tweens