In "The Hunger Games," the future of North America (called Panem) is grim. For proof, look no further than the titular televised battle to the death that the Capitol puts on for sport. Teens killing teens? Hilarious!
The shocking thing is that the post-apocalyptic future Katniss Everdeen inhabits is far from the bleakest or most bizarre dystopia in movie history. The following 15 movies teach us one basic truth: Be afraid, very afraid of the future -- particularly genetic mutations, man-made viruses, and nuclear holocausts.
1. '12 Monkeys' (1995)
Setting: 2035 America
Why the Future Sucks: Forty years after a man-made virus has wiped out 99 percent of the population, humans have escaped Earth's uninhabitable surface by living in locked underground chambers. Scientists figure out a way to send a convicted criminal (Bruce Willis) to the past to stop the disease, but with a set-up like that, what could go right? After his mission turns haywire, he discovers the truth behind the epidemic but can't prevent history from repeating itself and dooming humanity for a second time.
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2. 'Blade Runner' (1982)
Setting: 2019 Los Angeles
Why the Future Sucks: It always rains. Angelenos speak a bizarre pidgin that suggests geopolitical cataclysm. And a powerful corporation rules the world with such impunity that it has created a race of robot slaves to mine distant moons, while secretly populating Earth with robots programmed to think they're human. Although L.A. is still habitable (though wet), and the world enjoys flying cars, the real future nightmare comes from the corporation's power to cause humans to doubt their own humanity.
3. 'The Book of Eli' (2010)
Setting: Post-apocalyptic America
Why the Future Sucks: Following a nuclear holocaust, bandits and warlords control the distribution of scarce food and water. Without protection from men, women face rape or attack. Most are illiterate thugs, except for Denzel Washington's Eli. A kickass loner unaffiliated with any of the roving gangs that menace him, Eli sets off to deliver his (and likely the last available) copy of the Bible to California, where he hopes some part of pre-war culture has survived.
4. 'Children of Men' (2006)
Setting: 2027 England
Why the Future Sucks: Humanity is in chaos after two decades of inexplicable, worldwide infertility. The United Kingdom clings to order with a xenophobic police state that rounds up, detains and deports anyone who isn't British while battling violent pro-immigrant terrorists. On the bright side, a West African refugee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) is mysteriously pregnant; but if a cynical bureaucrat (Clive Owen) can't ferry her to safety, the end of humanity seems inevitable.
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5. 'Gattaca' (1997)
Setting: Near future, America
Why the Future Sucks: In the future, the elites are no longer conceived; they're selected according to their parents' best traits. These outstanding genetic specimens are the "valids," while babies created the old-fashioned way (with the attendant genetic failings) are the "invalids." Because eugenics restricts the opportunities available to invalids such as Vincent (Ethan Hawke), he impersonates a wheelchair-bound valid (Jude Law) to fulfill his dream of becoming an astronaut. Vincent’s love of a genetically superior woman (Uma Thurman), however, and his own DNA, nearly foil his plans.
6. 'I Am Legend' (2007)
Setting: 2012, New York City
Why the Future Sucks: Hooray, there's a cure for cancer!! Oops, the vaccine kills or zombifies everyone who's taken it. As the last man in New York and one of the last humans on the planet, virologist Lt. Colonel Robert Neville (Will Smith) watches reruns on TV, works out (look at his abs), goes big-game hunting in the ruins of Manhattan with his dog, and desperately tries to find a cure for the disease that's destroyed almost all of humanity.
7. 'Idiocracy' (2006)
Setting: 2505 America
Why the Future Sucks: An Army librarian (Luke Wilson) of average intelligence and a prostitute (Maya Rudolph) are selected for a suspended animation experiment in 2005 and awaken 500 years in the future. While they don’t wake to any killer diseases or nuclear wastelands, the future in Mike Judge's comedy is hilariously awful. The average IQ has plummeted, creating a society of consumer-obsessed fools lacking basis problem-solving skills, surrounded by material goods and mountains of garbage. Wilson emerges as literally the smartest person alive.
8. 'In Time' (2011)
Setting: 2161 America
Why the Future Sucks: A genetic mutation allows humans to age only until 25, at which point your "time" begins to run out. After 25, humans have a year to live, unless they can earn or borrow the new currency: time. When the timer hits zero, you fizzle out and die instantly. While there's something intriguing (and we'll admit, sexy) about everyone looking 25 no matter how old they really are, it's still a system where the rich live longer and the poor toil for every second.
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9. 'The Island' (2005)
Setting: Near future, America
Why the Future Sucks: Clones live in isolation until they're needed by their "originals" in the real world. Imagine you're Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor), a clueless clone with that future. You're unhappy with your highly managed schedule and strictly controlled life when you discover that "winning the lottery" in your universe is really code for being killed or having your organs harvested. That's bound to ruin anyone's life – not to mention the other you.
10. 'Mad Max' (1979)
Setting: Future Australia
Why the Future Sucks: Dystopian life Down Under is just as bad as it is in the States or Great Britain -- well, except for the fact that you might catch a glimpse of a young, leather-clad Mel Gibson. You can trace the vengeful Gibson stereotype to this precise moment in history. As a police officer whose wife, baby and best friend are killed by a nefarious motorcycle gang, Gibson's Max becomes an unhinged antihero ready to do anything in the Australian wastelands to bring down perpetrators.
11. 'The Planet of the Apes' (1968)
Why the Future Sucks: After astronauts crash-land on a strange planet, they discover that the rulers are highly evolved apes who speak and act like humans, while humans are mute, primitive creatures who do little more than wear animal skins. Astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston) struggles mightily to free himself from his damn dirty ape overloads and return to his home planet, but when he spies the ruins of the Statue of Liberty in the sand, it's clear that he's actually traveled in time to a simian-controlled Earth.
12. 'The Road' (2009)
Setting: The near future, America
Why the Future Sucks: Based on author Cormac McCarthy's bestselling novel, this depiction of the future might be the grimmest on the list. An unspecified catastrophe kills most of the animal and plant life on Earth, and those who are left behind resort to widespread murder and cannibalism to survive. Armed with only a handgun and two bullets, an unnamed father (Viggo Mortensen) and his tween son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) try to find a sanctuary while scrounging for food and evading roaming gangs of murderous cannibals.
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13. 'Soylent Green' (1973)
Setting: 2022, New York City
Why the Future Sucks: As the movie's poster advertised, in the year 2022, "people are still the same, they'll do anything to get what they need," and what they need is more food produced by the Soylent Corporation. After the company introduces new food source Soylent Green, which contains "high energy plankton," the supply runs out, causing food riots in the overpopulated, over-polluted streets of New York. As it turns out, the secret ingredient in the Soylent Green wafer isn't plankton, but people.
14. 'V for Vendetta' (2005)
Setting: Near future, United Kingdom
Why The Future Sucks: Once again a nuclear disaster has decimated the Earth but left the United Kingdom relatively intact, although controlled by the totalitarian Norsefire government. As with all fascist societies, those aligned with the ruling party can do as they please (like try to rape innocent women walking around past curfew). The only source of dissent is led by a masked freedom fighter who blows up government buildings and his terrorized acolyte (Natalie Portman).
15. 'WALL-E' (2008)
Why the Future Sucks: In the distant future, we've accumulated so much trash, courtesy of the Buy n Large corporation, that Earth becomes uninhabitable. The only beings who remain are WALL-E, a robotic trash compacter who's oblivious to the futility of his programming, and his cockroach pal, Hal. Meanwhile, what remains of the human race -- rendered immobile by obesity and complacency -- travels on a spaceship and through the virtual world that tries to replace the planet they've thrown out.