A Scanner Darkly (2006) vs. The Postman (1997)
The year: 2013
The similarities: Scary ruling entities that govern by fear
The differences: Basically everything else. Pick your poison: Drug-fueled, technologically advanced Orwellian nightmare or bleak, desolate post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Our pick: We’d rather just keep living in the actual 2013, which has elements of both.
The Running Man (1987) vs. Blade Runner (1982)
The year: 2019
The similarities: Bleak cityscapes; metal, metal everywhere; the constant threat of danger
The differences: One takes place in a totalitarian police state where crowds are placated by game shows in which criminals must fight to the death, while the other is just overrun by hominid ”replicants.” Also, only Blade Runner has flying cars.
Our pick: Blade Runner, no doubt. Did we mention the flying cars?
Soylent Green (1973) vs. The Purge (2013)
The year: 2022
The similarities: Societies not very different from our own, besides governments that have found…unique ways to deal with their hungry populations
The differences: In The Purge, they hold a yearly 12-hour event in which all crime becomes legal. In Soylent Green…well…you know.
Our pick: Soylent, assuming everyone there takes Charlton Heston’s warnings seriously.
Pacific Rim (2013) vs. Repo Men (2010)
The year: 2025
The similarities: High-tech contraptions that meld intimately with human biology; dark color schemes; most social interaction comes in the form of fighting
The differences: Society’s in a bad state in both films, but for vastly divergent reasons. In Pacific Rim, the threat is external (read: giant alien monsters), while in Repo Men, it’s internal (a conglomerate called The Union, which peddles artificial organs and sends thugs after those who can’t pay up).
Our pick: Jude Law is tough to resist, but those enormous monster-fighting robots are tougher.
Metropolis (1927) vs. Children of Men (2006)
The year: 2027
The similarities: Class-based societies with rigid divisions between haves and have-nots, which are on the brink of falling into utter chaos; bleak cityscapes; a thing for religious allegories
The differences: Robot-based, mostly. There aren’t any androids in Children. And while the elite live lives of joyous hedonism in Metropolis, nobody’s that happy in the latter movie — thanks to a mysterious infertility pandemic.
Our pick: Metropolis, as long as we’d be rich.
I, Robot (2004) vs. 12 Monkeys (1995)
The year: 2035
The similarities: Surprisingly, almost none. Erm…both are home to movie stars?
The differences: A cataclysmic event has forced humanity to retreat underground in 12 Monkeys; they have time travel, but no robots. A high-tech society has evolved aboveground in I, Robot; they have robots (duh), but no time travel.
Our pick: I, Robot. Our vitamin D deficiencies are bad enough as it is.
Avatar (2009) vs. Elysium (2013)
The year: 2154
The similarities: Earth’s resources are severely depleted; head-shaving is fashionable; there’s lots of fancy space technology; award-winning ladies (Sigourney Weaver, Jodie Foster) are in charge
The differences: We don’t really know what life on Earth is like in Avatar, since it takes place on the planet Pandora. But in Elysium, our home world has become a squalid, disease-ridden hole.
Our pick: We’ll take our chances on Avatar‘s unseen Earth.
Sleeper (1973) vs. In Time (2011)
The year: 2173/2169
The similarities: Both societies will make you laugh
The differences: Sleeper — a Woody Allen slapstick comedy filled with clones, robots, gigantic bananas, and a sex device called the orgasmatron — induces giggles on purpose. As for In Time, a deathly earnest film in which time literally equals money (and there are neither robots nor orgasmatrons)? Yeah, not so much.
Our pick: Sleeper, but mostly because we want to hang out with Future Diane Keaton.
Waterworld (1995) vs. Idiocracy (2006)
The year: 2500/2505
The similarities: Gasp-inducing landscapes; grim realities caused by present-day foolishness
The differences: In Idiocracy, an accident of breeding led to the titular dystopia (the argument: Stupid people have more kids than smart people). Society still functions, but just barely, and culture has deteriorated drastically; the most recent Oscar winner for Best Picture was a 90-minute movie just called Ass. Waterworld, by contrast, takes place in an ocean-saturated world where the ice caps melted long ago; organized society has largely disappeared, though the discovery of ”Dryland” could change that.
Our pick: In Idiocracy, we’d live like kings. KINGS! Unless we’re vastly overestimating our own intelligence.
After Earth (2013) vs. Battlefield Earth (2000)
The year: 3000/early 31st century
The similarities: Cataclysmic events that have brought around the end of human society as we know it; wicked aliens who intend to exterminate the human race; Thetans, probably
The differences: Battlefield Earth, which takes place 1,000 years after a brutal alien invasion, is explicitly based on a novel by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. After Earth, which takes place on a new world called Nova Prime and a wild, overgrown, abandoned Earth, isn’t — though some commentators have called it a ”love letter to Scientology” all the same. Also, the accents are goofier in After Earth.
Our pick: After Earth, accents and all; at least nobody’d call us man-animals there.