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We're not living in a full-scale dystopia (yet), but things look bleak. Here's all the dystopian movies that look better than 2020 right now.

All the dystopian movies that look better than 2020 right now

We’re not living in a full-scale dystopia (yet), but things look bleak. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said large gatherings might be banned until the next year, while scientists have found COVID-19 could make a resurgence and keep coming back well into 2021.

So, on a scale from living in a Disney cartoon to being trapped in Game of Thrones, we’re somewhere in the middle: like living in a network TV edit of Fight Club, where life is miserable and spoiled white men are ruining everything, but most of the graphic language and violence is sanitized for a wider studio audience. 

With that in mind, we need to come up with a scale to establish how bad things are. Things are not ideal, but they haven’t gone full-scale hellscape yet. For instance, nobody wants to hang out on that train from Snowpiercer. Below are the dystopian movies and programs that would arguably be better to be trapped in than our current reality. Let us know below whether you agree, or if there are more depressing dystopias to choose from!

The Walking Dead

Can you imagine a world where the worst thing to deal with involves beheading the occasional slow walker? That is honestly the dream for city dwellers; slow walkers taking up the sidewalk are the third most common source of irritation among those in municipalities, after train delays and falling air conditioners. 

AMC’s The Walking Dead started out strong, but the tight narrative storytelling of the first season fell away to reveal a bloated, rotting carcass that will amble along aimlessly until the network finally puts it out of its misery with an axe to the (metaphorical) head. 

From a COVID-19 perspective, the world of The Walking Dead looks delightful. Lots of wide-open space to move around in (with no 6-foot rules to follow), and the characters must have found an untouched Costco warehouse to settle down next to, because issues like toilet paper are never mentioned.

Plus, there must be some skillshare courses going on, because everyone knows how to use a katana. We would trade our dark, toilet-paper-less apartments for empty Georgia landscapes with other survivors dressed in apocalypse-chic khakis in a minute.

The Matrix

Neo (Keanu Reeves) was an idiot. This moron traded his cushy office job (with benefits! Health care benefits! He probably had a 401k too. God, he was a fool) and fun side-gig as a hacker to emerge from a human prison covered in goo to spend the rest of his life eating weird oatmeal mush and running from murderous robots.

Anyone sane would stay in the Matrix. Admittedly, the world is a barren wasteland full of misery and torment, but the Matrix is fun and entertaining and permanently stuck in the 90s. It is the equivalent of hanging out on MySpace during this current pandemic. 


Divergent really broke down social groups in a way that made sense: there are evil nerds, biker gangs, do-gooder Mary Sues, and others.

The film opens with Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) unsure of her position in life as a part of the do-gooder Mary Sue faction, and thrilled at the opportunity to join Dauntless; a social group that combines Black Rebel Motorcycle Club groupies with CrossFit. In doing so, Beatrice gains some new friends, cool tattoos, and a rebellion that looks to her as its figurehead. 

While the film is set in the wreckage of Chicago, it doesn’t feel that dystopian. 

Besides the vague threat from the evil nerds who wanted to control all of the other groups, did Divergent really sound that bad? What was the actual threat from Erudite? Were they going to make all of the other social groups read more? Take a coding course? Considering those in Dauntless spent all day running after a moving train like some kind of North-Side Parkour, maybe Erudite were onto something with the mind control.

Black Mirror

BBC’s Black Mirror is an anthology program that dares to ask the question: what if technology. . . could it be bad?

Not since The Terminator has society addressed the possibility that technology might be a Pandora’s box of man’s hubris. There is the occasional light-hearted episode, but for the most part, Black Mirror episodes focus on how people are at their worst when they can hide behind a screen. 

Still, the high-tech dystopia of Black Mirror feels less depressing than this current global health scare. The program has stressed that people are generally awful monsters devoid of feeling or guilt, but if you already know that, then there won’t be any surprises in the Black Mirror universe.

The Purge

The Purge, like all good horror movies, is almost more fun to think about than to watch. In 2022, Purge night dictates that for 12 hours, all crime would be legal, without any repercussions or judgement. 

Murder, kidnapping, property damage, terrorism, hacking, public jaywalking: it’s all legal. The story focuses almost exclusively on the actions of the Sandin family as they take in a stranger (Edwin Hodge) and are forced out of their blind acceptance of totalitarianism, but the world of the dystopia is so specific that it almost seems enticing.

If all crime is legal for 12 years, why waste your time on murder? This would be the perfect time to hack into loan agencies and eliminate all student debt, or call out squatters rights and move into unoccupied mansions to take up residence. 

If you can survive the night, The Purge would be preferable to COVID-19. If.

Maze Runner

We’ve noticed a trend compiling this list: cardio appears to be a running theme in every dystopian society, as if the people telling these stories are suggesting running is a fate worse than death.

Under this new pandemic, we would welcome the opportunity to hang out in a grass-covered glade and run around a maze all day, with only the occasional threat from techno-organic monsters.

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