It’s almost the weekend, and that means you should book in another Gizmodo movie night. This week, find a shelter to unpack your temporary overnight camp in, sit down with that trusty rifle, and learn about the world that was — these are the best dystopian TV shows and post-apocalyptic movies streaming online right now.
We’ve re-jigged our existing Netflix Movie Night series, and brought in Australia’s other popular subscription video on demand services — Stan and Presto — to give you a broader selection of movies and TV shows to enjoy. On all three services, you can watch from your tablet or smartphone, on your PC or laptop, through your Smart TV, or through a media streaming dongle like the Google Chromecast, although specifics can vary. Stan costs a flat $10 per month, Netflix can cost from $9 to $15 per month, and Presto is $10 to $15 depending which package you choose.
Not what you’re after? Check out some other Gizmodo Movie Night suggestions:
There are plenty of other dystopian movies and TV shows not on this list that you should check out, too: start with Blade Runner, Gattaca, Children Of Men and Soylent Green…
Edge Of Tomorrow shows us a future that’s really messed up. Based on a 2004 Japanese novel called All You Need Is Kill, EoT (also known as Live. Die. Repeat) is a sci-fi flick set in an apocalyptic world invaded by otherworldly aliens that have some mysterious and inexplicable control over the dimension of time. When they land at Verdun, scene of such horrific conflict during World War I, it isn’t pretty, and humanity looks doomed. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are stellar in their respective roles, too. Watch it now on Stan.
Stan: An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race. His skills increase as he faces the same brutal combat scenarios, and his union with a Special Forces warrior gets him closer and closer to defeating the enemy.
In The Flesh is a quiet, contemplative, look at what might happen if people, once dead, returned to life. And those people had an urge to eat flesh A veritable zombie apocalypse would be inevitable, but what if the government got the outbreak under control, and then brought some humanity back to the zombies? Friends, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters — imagine if you’d let someone go for good, and then they returned to a world and to a life that had become used to living without them. Watch it now on Stan.
Stan: Welcome to the world after ‘The Rising’, the Zombie apocalypse. For the first time, there is a cure for zombiism, or as it’s known by the new politically correct term — PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome).
I Am Legend is a modern retelling of the mid-1950s short story of the same name by American writer Richard Matheson. In it, a lone scientist lives in a Los Angeles that barely resembles its current form — years after a man-made viral outbreak, originally intended to cure cancer, mutates the entire population and turns them into hostile, nocturnal, vampiric beasts. The movie, mostly respectful of the book’s themes, has a bit of the ol’ Will Smith charm in a world that’s completely wrecked and besieged by a completely new breed of human. Watch it now on Stan.
Stan: Vampires created by a man-made plague surround a lone survivor as he searches for a cure.
The Hunger Games trilogy has captivated audiences since its cinematic release, and with good reason — the world the series presents is utterly dystopic and alien, with such a totalitarian state in the Capitol in charge of the 12 districts of Panem in the ruins of North America, after a brutal civil war. As punishment for the uprising, every year one boy and one girl from each of the districts are selected to compete in a fight-to-the-death Hunger Games, televised as entertainment for the distanced and dispassionate denizens of the Capitol. Watch it now on Stan.
Stan: Part twisted entertainment, part government intimidation tactic, the Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which “Tributes” must fight with one another until one survivor remains.
The Matrix is just about as classic as dystopian fiction gets; a world that isn’t actually the world we think it is, a computer simulation entirely controlled by machines using humans as a source of energy. When a desperate band of outsiders break free from the system, their rebellion catches the attention of the intelligent machines in control. One person within the Matrix catches their attention — and his battle against the machines, with his newfound allies, may lead to the simulation’s destruction. Watch it now on Stan.
Stan: A computer hacker discovers his world is actually a computer simulation created by an evil cyber intelligence.
Watchmen is one of those must-watch films in the dystopian genre; it’s a feature based on a comic book series, written at the end of the 1980s Cold War by Alan Moore — the same mind behind V For Vendetta. In it, an alternate future where a band of crime-fighting “Watchmen” have allowed the US to win the Vietnam War and the Soviet Union to seize Afghanistan. In a future where superheroes exist — but are reviled for their actions — Watchmen is a combination of political intrigue and personal conflict. Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: Prohibited from using their powers in a parallel Earth in 1985, a band of superheroes unites to defend themselves when one of their own is murdered.
The 100 is a surprisingly high-concept TV series, where in a post-apocalyptic future where the Earth has been ravaged by nuclear war. The 12 space stations floating above the planet banded together into the Ark, in which 2400 people live a meagre existence. 100 juvenile prisoners, considered expendable by the command structure of the Ark, are jettisoned onto the now green Earth to see if survival on the planet is possible. When they land, they find a world completely unlike their previous spacebound existence. Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: A century after Earth was devastated by a nuclear apocalypse, 100 space station residents are sent to the planet to determine whether it’s habitable.
Dredd is probably the most horrendous of all the dystopias in this list, because it shows a future not too distant from the world we live in now. In the world of Dredd, the majority of the planet is a post-apocalyptic wasteland but the majority of humans live in the sprawling, massively over-crowded Mega-City One. Order is kept by the Judges, a group of law enforcers that dole out punishment according to hyper-strict laws. In a 200-storey apartment block slum, a drug lord doles out Slo-Mo, an incredibly addictive substance. Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: In a catastrophic future, the remaining population is crowded into megacities, where all-powerful and ultraviolent cops are hunting for terrorists.
Falling Skies is a classic alien invasion story, with a global attack over the course of days that wipes out 90 per cent of the planet’s population and destroys all major cities and world capitals. When survivors from Boston try to escape and form a resistance to the alien threat, they find themselves hopelessly outnumbered and outmatched; their only hope is the remaining tendrils of the military that exist and the knowledge of their compatriots — including Tom Mason, a military history college professor searching for his son. Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: A professor uses his knowledge of military history to strike back against aliens who have devastated Earth, killed his wife and kidnapped his son.
Battle Royale is The Hunger Games before The Hunger Games was big; in Japan, it was big even on its own — it was actually one of the 10 highest-grossing films in the year of its release. Forced by the government to battle to the death on a deserted island, a class of schoolchildren must do anything that they can to survive. It’s brutal, gory, bloody and confronting. (It’s also really long.) And, going on the trend of other movies in this list today,, you shouldn’t be at all surprised that it’s based on a manga of the same name, either. Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: The Japanese government introduces a system whereby randomly chosen schoolchildren are taken to an island and forced to fight each other to the death.
Sunshine is a freaky film. It’s freaky not just because of the upsetting future — where the Sun is dying, and there’s only one possibility of saving it by delivering a nuclear device right into its heart — but also because of the horrible, horrible, gruesome things that go on to the crew as they go about their mission. The enormity of a mission where the fate of our entire solar system is at stake is hard to even comprehend; imagine if you were the guys tasked with saving the whole world. Settle in with some popcorn and try not to jump. Watch it now on Presto.
Presto: It is the year 2057, the Sun is dying and mankind faces extinction. Earth’s last hope lies with a crew whose mission it is to deliver a nuclear device designed to reignite the fading sun.. But disaster strikes everywhere in this superb blend of doomsday thriller and thoughtful sci-fi starring Rose Byrne.
The Walking Dead is one of the biggest and most popular TV shows in the world right now, and there’s a very good reason for that — the world that it creates, a world where a pandemic of zombies rising from the dead utterly destroys any chance of survival that humanity has, is completely unsettling. Especially in the later seasons of the show, the world is bleak and swarms of the undead drift from plain to plain on the hunt for any remaining survivors. Watch, on the edge of your seat, as a precious few struggle to stay alive. Watch it now on Presto.
Presto: After waking from a coma in an abandoned hospital, police officer Rick Grimes finds the world he knew gone – ravaged by a zombie epidemic of apocalyptic proportions. Nearby, on the outskirts of Atlanta, a small encampment struggles to survive as ‘the dead’ stalk them at every turn.
I, Robot explores some more niche and subtle concepts of dystopia. The idea of corporate greed is central to the film — that Jobsian, Fordian idea of “a robot in every household” — and the idea of a future world where robots are ubiquitous but supposedly entirely safe and controlled by the overarching Three Laws is problematic at best. When one robot stands out — with emotions, and with dreams — the entire system is challenged. That system, too, is not tolerant of any disruptions to what it perceives to be correct. Mayhem ensues. Watch it now on Presto.
Presto: In 2035 technology and robots are a trusted part of life. When that trust is broken only one man sees the real danger ahead: Will Smith, a technophobic cop out to stop robots from ruling the world.
Divergent is an action-packed adventure thriller, with the central theme of humanity being divided into distinct groups based upon their personal traits and virtues. When one group, the Divergents, is targeted in a conspiracy to wipe them out, one individual must use her unique powers and skills to prevent an atrocity from occurring. In a world where humanity is segregated by something we now see as so innate, the concept of difference might become a bad thing. What does that say about the world we live in today, and where it might go? Watch it now on Presto.
Presto: In a world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues, a Divergent, who is told will never fit in, discovers a conspiracy by a faction leader to destroy all Divergents.
Starship Troopers is an action-adventure film, based on a slightly more intellectual book by sci-fi luminary Robert Heinlein. In it, a militaristic spacefaring Federation encounters an entirely alien race of Arachnids that turn upon the humans and wage a war of ceaseless attacks upon Earth. Remember what the world wars were like? Imagine that, but with an entire planet and entire civilisation fighting to survive. This dystopia is a right-wing totalitarian nightmare. Watch it now on Presto.
Presto: In this sci-fi adventure, fire-spitting, brain-sucking bugs attack Earth and wipe Buenos Aires off the map. Four troopers come to the rescue by travelling to a distant galaxy for the final showdown.
Disclosure: Stan is a 50/50 joint venture between Nine Entertainment and Fairfax Media. Allure Media, the company which publishes Gizmodo Australia, is also owned by Fairfax.