A Definitive Ranking of Dystopian Universes

None of these are particularly inhabitable, but some are definitely better than others.
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None of these are particularly inhabitable, but some are definitely better than others.
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The dystopian film genre is ideal for commenting on society’s ills, warning of potential future collapse, and, as we imagine is the case for the plethora of young adult dystopias, reminding teens that their lives are comparatively not that bad.

The most recent iteration is Divergent: Insurgent(starring Shailene Woodley), the science fiction movie based on the young adult trilogy. Inspired by its release, we selected fifteen dystopian universes and ranked them based on their quality of life, from the future hellscapes we’d least like to live in to slightly more tolerable hellscapes we'd be okay inhabiting. Either way, we’re suddenly more grateful for our life here on present-day Earth.

15. Logan’s Run, 1976

It’s all hedonism, fun, and games until you’re 30 when you have to die. Call us crazy, but we’d like at least another 30 years of fun.

14. Minority Report, 2002

The universe itself is not that terrible, but we’d have to interact with Tom Cruise constantly, so it’s pushed near the back of our list.

13. Planet of the Apes, 1968

We’d rather not have to answer to sentient, cruel simian overlords.



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12. Soylent Green, 1973

It’s 2022 and New York is a garbage city because of industrialization. This is less a dystopian future and more of a glimpse of what could actually happen if climate change continues at its current rate. Too real.

11. The Running Man, 1987

The totalitarian government has gained control by forcing the population to watch reality TV constantly. It’s chilling.

10. The Hunger Games, 2012

We don’t want to live in a world where they pit children in fights against each other, regardless of how whimsical the costumes are.

9. The Purge, 2013

Everything is perfectly fine, except for one night of the year that goes to total shit? We can’t live with that kind of stress.

8. V for Vendetta, 2005

The government is seriously oppressive here, but there are some valiant freedom fighters looking out for the people. (And one of them just happens to be Natalie Portman.)

7. Divergent, 2014

There are five factions of society you can choose to adhere to, and issues only arise when you uncover the sinister plot that’s planning to ruin it all. We didn’t see anything.

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6. I Am Legend, 2007

As a colleague described it: “What’s the one where I get to be alone a lot?” If anything, we’re envious of Will Smith’s peace and quiet.

5. The Matrix, 1999

Once you get out of the Matrix, things are relatively chill day-to-day. So chill that the population is able to host a sensual dance party and borderline orgy in the second installment.

4. Sleeper, 1973

It was made by Woody Allen and is therefore a comedy that never gets too dark. Plus, it was the ‘70s. Free love for all.

3. Blade Runner, 1982

Blade Runner is the most cinematically beautiful of these films, and the neo-noir landscape is enough to make us want to inhabit Los Angeles. Also, it’s set in 2019 so we are very, very close.

2. Mad Max, 1979

This is Australian series features what is arguably the most badass dystopia. By the third installment, we’re fighting like gladiators; this summer’s reboot is rife with supermodels. To the Thunderdome!



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1. Elysium, 2013

Set in 2154, most of the Earth’s population is living in abject poverty. But the rich and powerful get to live in a gorgeous, high-tech space habitat in the Earth’s orbit. We’re willing to take our chances.