The Best Dystopian Films of 2014

From horse-riding, talking apes to frozen worlds where people occupy deadly trains, this year was packed with movies about futures where the world doesn't end up as perfect as we all hope it does. Whether it be that Earth was taken over by aliens or robot sentinels, or that the government either collapsed or dictated, dystopian films offer moviegoers a look inside a future that we've never seen before, and outcomes that may someday, if possible, fall upon us if we're not careful. In honor of all the great and daring dystopian films of the year, adapted from either young-adult novels or the crazy minds of screenwriters, here's my ranking of the best dystopian films of the year:  

1. Interstellar- From the great mind of Christopher Nolan, who has dabbled in both the mind-bending and the super-heroic in his film career, Interstellar may not be exactly what you think of when you think of a dystopian film; however, it certainly can be considered a part of the genre. Telling of a future on Earth where crops are limiting, and the Dust Bowl is rolling in for another round, this film shows one of the more realistic futures that us humans may encounter in our coming days. With some already limited crops at our disposal, as well as a growing climate change every year, Earth may likely become like this in the future, where we might be forced to revive the space-travel programs of NASA, and fly off to an unknown land. Either way, Interstellar wins it for me as the one of the best dystopian films of this year.

2. The Rover- A hidden gem among the blockbuster science-fiction films of 2014, The Rover comes at a close second on the list, as it proved that a small film with an even smaller cast can deliver powerful performances, along with great visuals. Spinning a somewhat dry tale of a drifter (Guy Pearce) who travels across a desolate and dangerous Australian landscape in search of revenge, The Rover was one of the most interesting films I've seen this year, with a barren yet suspenseful plot of one man's determination to get back the one thing that matters to him in a world full of greed and corruption. While it may have not been the most spectacular, visually enticing film out there, it had a certain down-to-earth feeling that made it all the more scary and gritty.

3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes- Missing out on doing a review for this film, I decided to add it to this list, as it does apply to the subject pretty well. Continuing the plot that the last film set up, with the genetically enhanced simians, led by Caesar, taking over the forests surrounding San Francisco, Dawn picks up ten years later, with the apes living in a thriving colony, and the humans living in a dark and desolate San Francisco, plagued by a deadly simian flu. Dragging on through scenes of ape life in the woods, human survivors trekking into enemy territory, and some dreary speeches by Gary Oldman's character, Dawn may take a while to pick up and get to the real action, but it still remains to have some of the best visual effects (Thanks to Andy Serkis) as well as a decent build-up to future Planet of the Apes films.

4. X-Men: Days of Future Past- Surprisingly not in the top three on my list, the latest installment in the X-Men franchise delivers a great tale of superheroes fighting for their future, but fails to bring an dynamic plot to the screen. While it was probably the most fun and exciting film this year, the epic capacity of converging the two casts and storylines together into one doesn't amount to much if the film is rushed and doesn't make a whole lot of sense in the end. Even though its dystopian future was a main subject in the film, I don't think the film delivered the best that it could have. Hopefully, the next film in 2016 can bring even more futuristic excitement, with a more in-depth plot to follow.  

5. Snowpiercer- Another fun-filled action film with a dystopian focus was Snowpiercer, once again a film I saw late in the year. With one of the craziest, most outlandish dystopian plots, telling of survivors of an ice age starving their days away on a high-speed bullet drain, this film was a suspenseful thrill-ride of a film that didn't crave the blockbuster spotlight that much. With somewhat dry yet interesting characters, from the boastful dictator Mason (Tilda Swinton) to the complex front-runner Curtis (Chris Evans), Snowpiercer was a promising dive into an odd post-apocalyptic world, full of icy dangers and creepy train passengers.

6. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1- Probably one of the most-anticipated of the dystopian films this year, Mockingjay Part 1 was, in the end, sort of a let-down. Sufficiently building up to the final film in the teen-fiction franchise of rebellious kids and dictating governments, this film definitely escalated the excitement, but overall failed in delivering a true beginning-middle-end plot. Dragging on through Katniss' (Jennifer Lawrence) numerous propaganda speeches, as well as small but meaningful glimpses at the coming retaliation, Mockingjay isn't the most exciting film in the franchise, but still works well enough to get fans ready for next November.

7. The Giver- Probably one of the most avoided of the dystopian films this year, The Giver was, to my surprise, better than I thought it'd be. Based on the 1993 novel, the film brings us to a world controlled by conformity and contentment, where a young and gifted teen must break the barrier of the linear society. As I watched the film, there were only mere minutes that passed before I realized that this film was almost a carbon-copy of another dystopian film this year: Divergent. Based around a teen, this time a male, who is put into an elite group of individuals and must break free of the constraints of a dictating society, The Giver most definitely felt very similar to the other teen novel, aside from minor plot points. In the end, The Giver felt a lot more entertaining, surprisingly, than Divergent, even with a dreary plot and not the best acting.

8. Divergent- With the Hunger Games films taking in most of the young adult audiences with a great female lead and intriguing plots of teens hunting teens, there's left little space for some popular novels to get their own great film adaptations. One example is Divergent, the story of Tris Prior's (Shailene Woodley) journey to discover what she is capable of in a world divided by skill levels, or factions. While the book series was a bestseller in the young adult genre, the film lacked in plot and interesting characters, mostly due to a dry performance on Woodley's part. Either way, this film unfortunately made it to the bottom of my list, with it struggling to provide enough intensity and thrill to keep me interested.

Thus concludes my list of the top dystopian films of the year. Whether it was the biggest success or flop in the young-adult book-to-screen adaptations, or just a dabble in the art of desolate envisionings of the future, 2014 was packed with both fantastic and flawed films of this popular genre. A favorite genre of mine, along with science fiction and suspense films, dystopian films offer moviegoers a peek into a future that we may not expect to occur, but may surely occur if we aren't careful. And, while mutant-hunting sentinels are probably not in our future, or talking apes for that matter, these filmmakers aspire to bring fans great spectacles and amazing plots to accompany their unique visions for the unknown years ahead.     

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