In the year 4000...
December 5, 2010 1:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for good movies set in the future, especially the far future. Dystopian, post-apocalyptic or neither. Actually, especially neither, but no magic. I'm looking for interesting speculations on what happens by the year 2XXX, or 10,000, or whenever.
posted by BungaDunga to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Sunshine is not set gazillions of years in the future, but might fit your criteria.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:39 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: gwint: I'll have a look at those, thanks!

I liked Sunshine, but I don't think it's quite what I'm looking for. It's more of a thriller that has no particular reliance on when it's set... that is, it could be tomorrow, if the sun actually went out we probably have the tech right now to pull off that mission (ignoring the "payload" part).

I should probably narrow things down a bit. I'm looking for something like The Chrysalids, After London or Mortal Engines (three of my favorite books). The Chrysalids and Mortal Engines both have dystopian qualities but not to the exclusion of all else.
posted by BungaDunga at 1:53 PM on December 5, 2010

Children of Men is only a few years into the future, but it's a fantastic dystopian movie. The premise is that the entire population of humanity has become sterile, the youngest person in the world is 18, and everything is falling apart. And then there is one woman who becomes pregnant.
posted by Caravantea at 1:55 PM on December 5, 2010

A.I. begins in the near future, hurtling further and further into the future as it goes along, with some pretty splendid set design as it goes.

Minority Report was another solid example of Spielberg commanding a near-future "look," and arguably the computer interface in this movie has come to influence real life GUIs.

Femme Fatale is a non-scifi movie where the first third or so is contemporary and the last two-thirds takes place "seven years later." I remember De Palma talking about the challenges of shooting something meant to be in the very, very near future.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:56 PM on December 5, 2010

The Bed-Sitting Room envisions the post-apocalyptic future as a pathetic, Beckettsian landscape.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:58 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by J. Wilson at 2:02 PM on December 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

The Time Machine by HG Wells has a few movie versions (the 1960 one being far superior to the newer 2002 one)
posted by Captain_Science at 2:08 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by Gungho at 2:15 PM on December 5, 2010

There are a lot of movies set in the future, but here are a few that made a significant effort at world-building:

V for Vendetta (2038): Societal collapse, USA in anarchy, Britain is a dictatorship

Minority Report (2054): Computer-controlled maglev highways, personalized holographic advertising, omnipresent surveillance

The Second Renaissance (2080s?): More a short film than a movie; theocratic society, man-machine conflict, apocalyptic ending

A.I. (2101): Overpopulation, flooded coastal cities, androids everywhere

The Fifth Element (2263): Sprawling megacities, zany media, floating cruise ships on other planets

Anything from the Dune series (10,000+)
posted by Rhaomi at 2:35 PM on December 5, 2010 [6 favorites]

One could probably concoct a massive list out of this question. One might try subcategories within the genre. I can think of several:
1) Time Traveller/Person who falls asleep and wakes up in a different time period (examples: Time Machine, Demolition Man)
2) Anarchic dystopia (death of our technological world) (examples: Mad Max series, Escape from New York series, Children of Men)
3) Authoritarian dystopia (absolute fulfillment of our technological world) (examples: Minority Report, Gattica)
4) Race/Class parable (oftentimes framed within the Time Traveller narrative) (examples Planet of the Apes series, Time Machine [the novel; I haven't seen the most recent film version], Avatar)
5) Man vs. Machine (examples: Terminator series, 2001: A Space Odyssey)
6) Eye-candy (Although it's hard to find examples of popular movies that have little or no underlying message and are predominantly intended as pleasure, here's an attempt, recognizing that these movies do have underlying messages, but which is perhaps somewhat incidental to the visual parade: Star Wars prequels, Avatar)
posted by outlandishmarxist at 2:35 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Rhaomi's list is very good, btw.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 2:35 PM on December 5, 2010

Would books do, or does it have to be movies?

Would not terribly futuristic but the addition of one new technology that changes everything help you?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:37 PM on December 5, 2010

If you don't mind subtitles, 2046 may be just what you're looking for.

If you want a laugh (painfully) then try Idiocracy
posted by Mchelly at 2:59 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Code 46. Totally underrated near-future SF movie.
posted by adamrice at 3:25 PM on December 5, 2010

Response by poster: Would books do, or does it have to be movies?

Would not terribly futuristic but the addition of one new technology that changes everything help you?

For immediate purposes, movies, but on reflection I would appreciate any book recommendations too. And yes, I would imagine that sort of technological speculation would be helpful.
posted by BungaDunga at 3:35 PM on December 5, 2010

Logan's Run is dystopic (is that a word?) but otherwise fits the bill.
posted by ian1977 at 3:44 PM on December 5, 2010

On preview...if books are legit too then Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon conjectures billions of years into the future. It's from a 1930s perspective.
posted by ian1977 at 3:49 PM on December 5, 2010

Oh! and Zardoz
posted by ian1977 at 3:50 PM on December 5, 2010

Sorry, I kinda posted in a rush. Here's that list again with some video to better convey the atmosphere of each movie:

V for Vendetta - A Glenn-Beck-esque expository newscast that establishes the setting.

Minority Report scene with 3D ads

The Second Renaissance: Part I - the first half of the film (less than ten minutes), which contains most of the future-society stuff.

A.I. - An underground "flesh fair" destroys robots to entertain anti-android crowds

The Fifth Element - a flying car chase scene through New York

Children of Men is really good at this kind of thing, btw, but it's premised on a very unlikely scenario (sudden worldwide infertility) that weakens it as a vision of a plausible future. It's also similar to Vendetta in a lot of ways (social collapse, British dictatorship, etc.).

As long as you're allowing for books, one of the best I've seen is Robert Charles Wilson's Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, which posits a latter-day America that has regressed to a Victorian/medieval state after the world ran out of oil. As Wikipedia describes it:
In 2172 the United States of America has become a neo-Victorian oligarchy, with the introduction of feudal indenture, a rigid class-hierarchy, property-based representation in the federal United States Senate, presidential hereditary succession, the abolition of the Supreme Court of the United States and the "Dominion of Jesus Christ" (premised on fundamentalist Christianity and organizationally based at Colorado Springs). With the evacuation of Washington DC due to an unspecified cataclysm, Manhattan, New York has become the national capital. The United States has also annexed most of Canada and comprises sixty states, but is fighting German-controlled Mitteleuropa ("the Dutch") in the contested territory of Labrador. Climate change and peak oil have caused technological reversion, exacerbated by the Dominion's repressive social policies.
The story, which concerns the rise of a science-minded political leader, is pretty good, but the world-building is almost depressingly realistic, especially considering how plausible that kind of future is.

On the other end of the spectrum, Accelerando by Mefi's own Charles Stross is an optimistic story that describes how a near-future society evolves over the decades into a posthuman utopia of the stars. It's free to read on his site.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:55 PM on December 5, 2010

You ever f*ck a mutant?
posted by trinigirl at 4:29 PM on December 5, 2010

David Marusek's Counting Heads is a novel set in 2134 where nanotechnology, clones and AIs have become the norm. It's a dystopia and utopia all in one.
posted by rabbitsnake at 4:43 PM on December 5, 2010

posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:37 PM on December 5, 2010

District 9
posted by Carol Anne at 6:44 PM on December 5, 2010

Dune (Frank Herbert; a David Lynch Movie, a SciFi channel mini) is set about in about 10,000, but may be further in the future (calander differences from CE).

There's Bladerunner set in 2019. Like Arthur C. Clarke's 2001/2010/&c, it's a little optimistic about offworld colonization and genetic engineering, but the film takes place in LA.

Waterworld is sometime in the future where the ice caps had melted (although if they did, the salt in the ocean water would be diluted such that it would be potable, and there would be a lot more "dry land" than depicted). See also The Postman.

Demolition Man is several decades in the future, where Taco Bell had won the Fast Food wars and people use the Three Seashells instead of toilet paper. See also Judge Dredd.

There's a lot of anime out there about a near-ish future with all kinds of robots and cyborgs and exoskeletons and space travel and stuff. There's a French animated movie Immortel (Ad Vitam) set in 2095 New York City. Close-ish to 5th Element and more "extraterrestrials" than "magic," really.

Or are you trying to find films that try to "realistically" try to predict the future? There's Idiocracy.
posted by porpoise at 7:14 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bicentennial Man
posted by sandra_s at 7:48 PM on December 5, 2010

Lots of good movie suggestions but if you are willing to check out books I would not go past the Culture books by Iain M. Banks.

Probably the most comprehensive effort to imagine a future in book form. The scope and depth of his vision is amazing; he gives you glimpses of the day-to-day lives of individuals right through to emcompassing the history and workings of whole civilisations. Brilliant (and I've only read four of them!).
posted by micklaw at 9:05 PM on December 5, 2010

There aren't many movies that tackle "deep future" very well - a time so distant, society and culture have evolved to the point where they are only vaguely recognizable. Logan's Run is one, as is Lynch's Dune, and for pure eyecandy, the Fifth Element - just ignore the plot, and enjoy the cityscape.

Lang's Metropolis probably fills the bill, as do the various versions of H.G. Well's Time Machine that deal with Morlocks and Eloii.

As you may have noticed, most of these are based on excellent source material - only Lang is working from an original vision. Things that far ahead are tough to conceptualize, and usually beyond the powers of a film-maker (see: Zardoz).
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:49 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pandorum was set in far future, after Earth failed. The mutants and what not was fairly b-grade, and straight forward. But I found myself often thinking about the bigger story. I would also have loved to watch a movie that started exactly where Pandorum stops.
posted by lundman at 10:05 PM on December 5, 2010

Moon (2009) would be perfect for you -- it's a slow, thoughtful movie which explores the intersection between people and technology. The year isn't specified (unless I missed it), but the technology level and certain implied social changes definitely put it in the "future movie" category. Incredible acting by Sam Rockwell in this, also; just don't go digging too deep before you see it, as it's a much better movie if you haven't been spoiled, and the trailers give away too much.

I almost hesitate to recommend Equilibrium after that one, but it's still a fun future-dystopian action film... it's about a society which has outlawed war by outlawing emotions, a la Prozac meets Fahrenheit 451. If nothing else, you'll enjoy the ridiculously awesome fight choreography.
posted by vorfeed at 11:50 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just remembered - Miyazaki's early work with Studio Ghibli dealt with post-apocalyptic deep future.

Nausica and the Valley of the Wind definitely fills the bill, being 1000 years in the future from an apocalyptic nuclear war, and Castle in the Sky is set long after the fall of a civilization capable of building flying cities. There is a magical element to both, but it's strongly hinted that it's the faint remnants of massively advanced technology, a'la Clarke.

Both films are excellent, and while Nausica was based on a manga series of the same name, Castle in the Sky is an original work.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:11 AM on December 6, 2010

All Books I'm afraid:

Sister Alice - Robert Reed - I've only read part of this in Analog, but it's about as far future as one could ask.

Kiln People - David Brin - a new technology that allows people to map their minds onto golems - cheap short-lived constructs, sometimes with special abilities built into them - and then upload the experiences of those constructs back into their own minds at the end of the day. Needless to say, this changes the order of things.

Marooned in Realtime, A Fire Upon the Deep
- Vernor Vinge - Marooned is a murder mystery, well, two mysteries really since in addition to the murder there's the question of where did the human race go? It's where Vinge seriously plays with the notion of a technological singularity. (Get Across Realtime as Marooned will sort of spoil the prequel.)

Fire is more like your classic space opera with a galaxy wide multi-species civilization that keeps in touch via a wicked satire of usenet.

I'll add more as I think of them.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:17 AM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the suggestions! I actually got to see Moon in theater, and I quite agree- not something to be spoiled. And it definitely fits the category, though I hadn't thought of it. And Gattaca, which of course fits perfectly and I also hadn't thought of despite having seen and enjoyed it.

Metafilter: a pathetic, Beckettsian landscape.
Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and post-apocalyptic Britain? Must. watch.

Also, I loved Children of Men- well, the original book, anyway. I've held off watching the movie for that reason, even though everything I've heard suggests it's good.

Anyway, thanks- very helpful indeed!
posted by BungaDunga at 11:21 AM on December 6, 2010

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