The 7 Greatest Dystopian Sequels Of All Time

Friday, November 15 by
I've caught 'Catching Fire' fever. Please call my doctor.  

It’s common to refer to a “Hollywood ending” when people discuss the conclusion of a story that leaves the audiences or the characters feeling all warm and fuzzy. And that makes sense. Films more often than not are engineered to leave their viewers with a sense of satisfaction, knowing that things are going to be okay.

However, some of the most iconic films in Hollywood take things in the other direction, showing just how bad things have gotten for society and people in general. These films often end how they begin, or, if they’re feeling generous, with a kernel of hope that things will get better. But before the film takes you to that ending, it’s not uncommon to see the story continued in a sequel, dwelling on life in a dystopia. They may not give you the warm and fuzzies, but they often make for compelling viewing, so in anticipation of the Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire, hitting theaters November 22nd, we’re going to stroll through some of the best dystopian sequels of all time.

7. Mad Max Beyond Thunder Dome

Tina Turner with a giant blonde Mohawk? Tina Turner with a giant blonde Mohawk.

Mad Max served as Mel Gibson’s debut to worldwide audiences, showing a total mess of civilization where order was maintained, and often destroyed, by vicious gangs who ruled through terror. As mentioned in the introduction, things didn’t get markedly better by the end of the first film, and two sequels continued the story, five years later (in the film’s timeline) with The Road Warrior, and eight year’s after that one with Beyond Thunderdome.

Beyond Thunderdome pits Mad Max with, and sometimes against Aunty Entity, the lord of Bartertown (a dystopia if ever there was one), and serves to examine the Thunderdome, a gladiator arena which pits the poor survivors against one another.

It’s worth it just for the motorcycles, and, of course, Tina Turner’s hair.

6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

“There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.” That’s the quote that guides both the first and second installments of this sci-fi epic. In Terminator 2, we get more back story on how things became so terrible.

In short, we learn we can all blame Miles Dyson, the architect behind SkyNet. We only see glimpses of the future dystopia, but with the cyborg foot crushing the skulls, and the nuclear holocaust that wipes out LA, it’s more than enough to entrench this film in a list such as this.

5. Battle Royale II: Requiem

Many old people might think that a world in which young people are forced to kill each other as a tool of discipline would be an idyllic place, but old people are mean, and their opinion’s don’t count. So we can classify Battles Royale I and II as dystopian.

The director of the original began work on the sequel, but died of prostate cancer early in filming. In a heartening story, his son, who wrote both screenplays, took over the direction and dedicated the film to his father.

The first film pitted students against each other in a death match. This time around, they still have the fun exploding metal collars, but are also sought upon by the Wild Seven, a terrorist collective comprised of former Battle Royale winners.

4. Escape from L.A.

Dystopian films generally go one of two ways: They serve as super-serious, borderline cautionary tales, or they go for the camp value. Children of Men and Blade Runner would be the former, and Idiocracy and Planet of the Apes would be the latter.

So would Escape from LA.

16 years after he escaped from New York, Snake Plissken (How serious can your film be when you’re central character is named Snake Plissken?) must now escape from LA.

In the future year 2000, an earthquake turns LA into an island, and a new morality-driven president sends any non-conforming Americans to be confined there. Snake is such a man, but he is sent in to rescue the president’s kidnapped daughter.

3. The Matrix Reloaded

The second was better than the third, but not as good as the original. Reloaded takes the world established in the original and turns Neo into more of a hero than perhaps audiences wanted. Further, it was about 10 years ago now, but it’s important to remember the insane amount of hype that surrounded this film. Expectations weren’t quite met with the albino twins, freeway chases, and a guy with a LOT of keys.

However, the characters and production design are the stars of the film here, so much was forgiven as Neo schmoozes with the architect and the key guy, and fights a bunch of himself.

2. Catching Fire

I can’t put it at #1 because it doesn’t come out till Friday, but with expectations so high, and with a cast including the juggernaut beauty and charm that is Jennifer Lawrence, this one will slide into the silver medal position on anticipation alone. While most dystopian films trade in grit and despair, this one offers an equally bleak setting, but peppers it with hope and vivid imagery. It’s no surprise given the film’s YA lit pedigree, but regardless, the divergence works incredibly well, offering a compelling story to match a rich setting.

“May the odds….etc, yada yada.”

1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Dystopian prequels count. And in this surprisingly engaging and enjoyable film, we see how those damn dirty apes came to be. While most of it takes place in the regular ole’ present (Non-dystopian? Utopian?), we get surprised towards the end, with all the film’s heart, that the apes do, in fact, rise up and put the people of earth in quite the pickle.

It sets the stage for perhaps the most iconic and campy dystopia ever presented on film, and consequently gets the number one spot.

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