In the new sci-fi film Elysium, only a lucky few humans live on the perfect, Kubrickian space station of the title; the rest of mankind is forced to survive in a polluted, overpopulated Earth. Director Neill Blomkamp revisits the class issues of his first film, District 9 and updates it with nods to previous sci-fi films where humanity is split into the Haves and the Have Nots.
While the reasons for the vast chasm between the classes are varied in so many dystopian visions of the future, the production design is often strikingly similar, with inner-city ghetto or post-apocalyptic conditions for the poor and sleek, inhumanly antiseptic habitats for the rich straight out of Architectural Digest.
In one of the most influential of all science fiction films, director Fritz Lang imagines an Art Deco city where the elite live in palatial high-rises while the masses slave in underground factories to provide them with power. An enduring treatise on class differences, delivered with the height of Expressionistic style.
Max (Woody Allen) is cryogenically frozen against his will and wakes up 200 years in the future, where a war is raging between the spoiled socialites like Luna (Diane Keaton) who are waited on by robots, and the ragged band of rebels seeking to take down the dictator. After Max kidnaps Luna, she's soon eating raw meat with the other rebels.
Most remembered for its shocking revelation of what the food product of the title is made from, this futuristic mystery begins with the murder of a wealthy industrialist who lived in a style the huddled masses could only dream of.
One way to prevent horrible overcrowding in the future: Kill everyone when they hit 30! Everyone lives short but blissfully hedonistic lives inside a sealed dome. When Logan (Michael York) decides not to self-terminate, he makes his escape to the real world outside.
While we never see the "off-world colonies" the citizens of noirish future Los Angeles keep hearing about, it's clear they're a better than the grim existence on Earth. Technology has brought great advances, like creating androids that are indistinguishable from humans, but even human life doesn't have much value in this world.
In this bleak, Kafka-esque film by Terry Gilliam, the rich go out to lunch, shop and get plastic surgery while the downtrodden are subject to sudden and inexplicable torture and incarceration. One man (Jonathan Pryce) daydreams he's a samurai-like savior to a damsel in distress and those enslaved by tyranny.
In this stylish urban landscape, the people are also designed, thanks to eugenics. Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) is one of the "invalids," a child born by natural methods. He can't achieve his dreams unless he can pass as a "valid," so he buys the identity of a rich man. He's able to enter their world, but any stray hair caught in the constant DNA sweeps could reveal him as an impostor.
Resident Evil films
Once the masses become zombies, thanks to the evil Umbrella Corporation, the world goes to hell. Some of the uninfected manage to survive, but while humanity is fighting for its existence in the most brutal, desperate conditions, the corrupt Umbrella Corp execs (some of them mutated themselves) thrive in ultra-secure, state-of-the-art fortresses.
In a future where everyone interacts via remotely controlled androids, their real selves stay at home, sadly neglected. When FBI agent (Bruce Willis) is called on to investigate a murder, he ends up venturing into the anti-technology zone where he's forced to interact without his surrogate self for the first time.
The rich get to live forever because time, not money, is the ultimate commodity. After they turn 25, the poor are always hustling, often with literally only a day to live. Will (Justin Timberlake) is gifted with an unlimited amount of time that puts him in the crosshairs of the powerful elite.
The Hunger Games
After a failed rebellion, the 12 poverty-stricken districts must send two teenagers to compete each year in the "Hunger Games," a brutal fight to the death. It all takes place in the Capitol, where the residents live in decadent luxury, reveling in their over-the-top fashions and the morbid, Gladiator-like spectacle.
This odd spin on Romeo and Juliet isn't set in the future but in a different universe, where two worlds have opposing gravity: The people from Up Top have it all, while the people Down Below send all their resources to those above, while they scrape by in dreary poverty.
After a catastrophic attack, much of the earth is destroyed and the rest uninhabitable thanks to radiation. Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough seem to be the last people on the planet in their elegant, ultra-modern pod high above the earth's surface.