If modern cinema has taught us one thing, it's this: the future looks grim. Instead of the bright world of something like Star Trek, where we have amazing technology and a bunch of intergalactic friends to mingle with, most modern movies feature a dystopian setting, with nothing but bleakness in sight.
In fact, the themes of most of these films is simple: survival. Characters in these movies must figure out how to remain alive from day to day, a task that isn't often simple.
In just the past few years, movies with dystopian settings have become big-budget affairs, displaying our new obsession with futures that just don't look that good.
So how harsh are some of these worlds? And would we have any hope of surviving in them? We break it all down for you below:
Living conditions: Modern world, but with more crime-fighting robots
Biggest threat: Crime
How to survive: Stay out of the way of gangs that rule the city
Chappie takes place in a slightly futuristic version of Johannesburg, South Africa. In the film, crime is at a record high, resulting in the government investing in attack robots. These robots replace the police force, meaning that they don't have any sort of human-like skills to make judgment calls. These robots do such a good job, though, that other countries start placing orders for something similar. Of course, a scientist wants to give these robots AI so that they can think more like humans.
The world of Chappie is similar to our own, but with attack robots dealing with crime. As long as those robots do their jobs effectively, maybe this world wouldn't be such a bad one to live in.
Of course, humans being what they are, they wanted to improve upon those robots until they were smarter than us: who's to say that such a robot would not decide to attack all humans, instead of just criminals, if it felt threatened?
The Divergent Series
Living conditions: Post-apocalyptic ruins of Chicago where your faction dictates living conditions
Biggest threat: Being Divergent—aka not belonging to any of the five factions—results in being hunted down
How to survive: Follow the faction, and if divergent, hide it from all
The Divergent movies take place in a futuristic version of Chicago. However, this version of Chicago has a giant fence surrounding it with Lake Michigan now more like a swamp. Much of the city is also in ruins, although a "patchwork" of newer buildings have risen up to take their place. Insurgent (2015) was the first in the series, with Allegiant set for 2016 and the final installment, Ascendant, due out in 2017.
The government is led by an Abnegation Council that allows representatives of factions to speak, but not to vote. Each faction handles a particular role in the city, such as the Dauntless, which deals with security. The city has five distinct factions, which act sort of like class systems. However, there are certain people, Divergents, who don't fit into any of these groups. Divergents often get hunted down because others believe that they are dangerous.
When it comes to food in this version of Chicago, genetically engineered is the only thing available. There's no such thing as organic produce, so people eat what they have to.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Living conditions: Harsh desert world with little food, water and gasoline
Biggest threat: The War Boys, biker gangs, one-armed femme fatales and other groups run by tyrannical warlords
How to survive: Have a sweet ride and some reliable weapons
Mad Max: Fury Road happens in the wastelands of what's left of the world after a nuclear apocalypse. Civilization has completely collapsed, and all people can hope to do in this new desert world is survive.
Survival isn't easy, though, and as is often the case in the Mad Max universe, only the insane manage to live to see another day. There are, however, two rebels who could bring order back to the world, Max and Furiosa. But obviously, their path to saving the world isn't easy.
"We end up in that world and we go back to a more medieval place," said Fury Road director George Miller to Coming Soon. "It's a medieval Dark Age. Really, you've gone back to a much simpler world where the rules are simpler. It's much more elemental. Survival is key."
The Giver (2014)
Living conditions: Idyllic, but with very few emotions
Biggest threat: Memories and emotions
How to survive: Don't challenge the status quo and keep emotions to self
In the film The Giver, society has reorganized itself into communities after a great calamity referred to as "The Ruin." All memories of the past are held by one person in each community, who uses these memories to advise communities on how to handle their day-to-day affairs. These communities seem utopian at first, because there is no pain, no war and no fear.
When the main character, Jonas, receives some of these memories, he realizes that things aren't always as they seem.
In The Giver, society frowns upon emotions, although Jonas learns about them through the memories he received. Also, families aren't necessarily related by blood: the community determines who belongs in any particular family unit. When new children are born, they leave their mothers and fathers immediately and get distributed to the appropriate family units, which must have both a boy and a girl.
The Maze Runner (2014)
Living conditions: World ravaged by plague, but The Glade is a utopia with plenty of food, water and other resources
Biggest threat: Wondering what's outside The Glade
How to survive: Avoid the maze
In The Maze Runner, a devastating epidemic spreads throughout the world and kills millions and millions of people. However, there's a place called The Glade that actually serves as a sort of utopia: the weather is always perfect and there's plenty of food. Living there seems idealistic: The Glade is a large green meadow surrounded by giant walls. Around that is a vast maze with walls of ivy.
However, The Glade is actually a construct of a group of scientists who grab orphan boys who survived the plague and drop them in the middle of this gigantic experiment to test them. Those who can escape the maze (with its own special kinds of terrors) are the best and brightest that humanity has to offer.
Of course, the boys being boys, all make plans to escape The Glade, but those that do find themselves disappointed at the outcome: outside, the world is nothing more than a devastated wasteland.
Living conditions: Utopian for the wealthy on Elysium, but hunger and sickness run rampant for the poor on Earth
Biggest threat: Disease
How to survive: Find a way into Elysium
Elysium takes place on an Earth abandoned by many of its people after pollution and overpopulation took a heavy toll on the planet. The poor that remained behind (because they couldn't afford to leave) face starvation and death and have little access to medical care and technology. Their only goal is survival, and that isn't easy on what's left of Earth.
However, those who can afford it live on Elysium, a nice utopian-like space habitat with advanced technology, including medical bays that can cure any disease, reverse aging and even regenerate new body parts.
Of course, the two separate classes feud, especially since those on Earth need the medical care that's readily available on Elysium. The film begins with a group of illegal immigrants from Earth seeking refuge on Elysium, but they get turned away.
The film ends with everyone, including the poor on Earth, becoming citizens of Elysium.
The Hunger Games Series
Living conditions: Swanky for those living in Capital City, but the rest of Panem faces famine and starvation
Biggest threat: Starvation for most, death for those participating in The Hunger Games
How to survive: Do not rebel against Capital City, abide by the rules, win The Hunger Games
Welcome to Panem, the ruins of what once was North America. Save for the shining beacon and idealistic Capital City, where rich people spend their day entertaining themselves and dressing in over-the-top fancy clothes, the rest of Panem is poor and struggling to survive. If that wasn't enough, each district of Panem must give up a young man or woman every year, chosen by lottery, to participate in The Hunger Games, which brings honor, fame, food and supplies to the district that wins. The first installment was The Hunger Games in 2012, with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in 2013 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I in 2014. Due out Nov. 20 is the final installment, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part II.
The Hunger Games, though, is a brutal event: the young men and women chosen to participate must fight to the death until only one person remains. They are forced to do this in a giant arena, where a computer program throws all sorts of random dangerous things their way.
So why the brutality? The Hunger Games acts as a punishment, and reminder, of a past rebellion against Capital City.
Living conditions: With Earth undergoing a new ice age, the last of humanity is stuck on a perpetually moving train
Biggest threat: Sickness, starvation, the abduction of small children
How to survive: Obey orders and don't question the social order
Snowpiercer takes place in a world where scientists tried to counteract global warming, but failed. Instead, they created an ice age that pretty much killed everyone on the planet. Oops. Fortunately, someone created a massive train that perpetually moves across the globe, and that's the only habitable place left on Earth.
Of course, this is a dystopian film, so the train separates its denizens by classes. The front cars belong to the wealthy and those deemed worthy of its extravagant excesses. There, people go to spas and have lavish meals.
The back of the train holds the poor and the working class: those expected to help keep the train running. These people live in squalor and only get to eat disgusting gelatinous protein bars. They often see abuse at the hands of those who oversee them.
The film, though, follows a revolt by the poor as they make a dangerous and deadly journey to the front cars.