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The 5 Best Dystopian Films Set in London

by Eve Andrews
Dystopian Films Set in London

The dystopian genre has seen astronomical growth in popularity within recent decades, with worldwide classics such as Fahrenheit 451, Black Mirror, and The Handmaid’s Tale – just to name a few. Throughout history, Britain has been among the largest hubs for dystopia inspired creators, ourselves included! In our comic, Daughters Of Albion, we offer our own interpretation of what a dystopian London could look like. For now, though, here is a small handful of some favourite dystopian films set in London, from more recent incarnations to the classics that helped launch the genre into the mainstream!

1) V For Vendetta (2006)

Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore, V For Vendetta tells the futuristic tale of a mysterious, masked freedom fighter known as V, who claps back against an oppressive, totalitarian Britain using tactics resembling that of the infamous Guy Fawkes. In a mission to bring down the government, a young girl named Evey finds herself being dragged into the seemingly nefarious schemes of a curiously cryptic man known as V. Quick to become a modern classic, V For Vendetta is a gripping depiction of a dystopian London. It’s set in a futuristic timeline that’s packed full of pleasing historical parallels. With its stellar cast, epic cinematography, and beautifully lyrical script, this one is a definite must watch!

2) A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Set in a gloomy incarnation of London based dystopia, A Clockwork Orange is the firsthand account of Alex, a juvenile delinquent responsible for an array of disturbingly aberrant crimes. After being imprisoned, he undergoes a state-sponsored rehabilitation program in an effort to cure him of suspected psychopathy. However, things don’t go entirely as planned, with this new breed of therapy, the Ludovico’s Technique soon going awry. Based on the 1962 novel by Anthony Burgess, Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation of A Clockwork Orange was considered so intense that it was actually banned in the United Kingdom for the fear of the damage it could do to the British psyche. Nevertheless, despite facing a continued onslaught of controversies and censorship, A Clockwork Orange went on to become a dystopian classic and is now revered as one of Kubrick’s great masterpieces.

3) High Rise (2015)

A telling tale of social uprising, High Rise follows the story of Robert Laing, a recently divorced doctor who moves to a high rise tower on the outskirts of London, in which the residents’ living quarters are divided up by class. The wealthy citizens enjoy the city views and penthouses, while the lower classes are confined to the ground floors. With tensions growing between the tower’s residents, Robert Laing finds himself situated in the middle of the tower, sandwiched right between the two. Based on J. G. Ballard’s 1975 novel of the same name, directed by Ben Wheatly and starring Tom Hiddleston, High Rise is an intense social commentary on the prevalent problem of British classicism.

4) Brazil (1985)

Lost in a never-ending loop of low-level bureaucracy, Sam Lowry escapes the monotony of life via a series of dreams in which he envisions himself as a romantic hero, coming to liberate a beautiful damsel in distress. However, his two realities come crashing violently together when he unexpectedly runs into the woman of his daydreams, after becoming inadvertently caught in the crossfire of a complex case that has led to a grave miscarriage of justice and possible death. In a deep web of deceit, mistaken identity, and a dash of good intentions, Brazil depicts the worryingly relatable world of mindless bureaucracy in a hypothetical landscape of London that, at times, can seem worryingly close to reality.

5) Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

Let’s round this off with what might be the most famous depiction of dystopia of them all, not only in London but worldwide: Nineteen Eighty-Four. Based on the novel by George Orwell of the same name, Orwell’s vision of a dystopian London has become so definitive that the phrase ‘Orwellian’ was later coined as a basic description for a typically dystopian world, particularly in reference to totalitarianism. In a world dictated by an omniscient presence known as ‘Big Brother’, Winston Smith commits the dangerous crime of falling in love in a society where thoughts are policed and feelings are a punishable offence. A truly terrifying depiction of London, this adaptation truly captures the foreboding atmosphere of Orwell’s stark warning against English socialism.

What’s your favourite depiction of dystopia? Is there one we missed that you think should be on the list? Let us know in the comments below!

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