I Am Legend (2007)
A crazy biophage has decimated the people of New York City (and, we’re led to believe, the rest of the country), leaving Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith) alone on Manhattan Island with nothing but his search for a cure, his dog, and twisted, homicidal, light-phobic mutant survivors to keep him company.
Setting: In 20th century. 8:49 p.m.
Technology and bureaucracy have run amok in the ultimate Orwellian satire, where life’s particularly crappy — and, well, short, if your name happens to be Buttle.
12 Monkeys (1995)
Survivors of a viral plague must live under Philadelphia because scientists spend all their energy sending an amorous Bruce Willis back in time. Um, hello? How about a cure?
The classes are at war. Rioting masses burn an exotic-dancing robot at the stake. Everyday existence sucks. But at least the surrounding real estate is breathtakingly beautiful.
The Matrix (1999)
Setting: Circa 2199
Since the real world is all about living in skeevy hovercrafts, dressing in dingy potato sacks, and eating bowls of goop, no wonder folks opt to spend their time in a latexy virtual universe.
If you grew up in a neo-Tokyo beset by vicious cycle-punk gangs and an out-of-control military-industrial complex, you’d become a psychokinetic mutant and blow up the world, too. Or maybe not.
Setting: Many years from now
A few years from now, all clothing is white and everybody’s bald. Tough times for you and me, maybe, but smooth sailing for Tom Wolfe and Gordon from Sesame Street.
Dark City (1998)
Setting: In a not-so-far-off future
Imagine the worst Jägermeister hangover on record. Except Jennifer Connelly’s there, too. So maybe it’s not so bad.
Setting: In a distant time, in another world
Forget about how the film’s setting — on another planet in another time — looks a lot like ’60s Paris. Somebody just please get that hoarse narrator dude a Ricola!
Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
Setting: Sometime after the 20th century
You say: Nobody reads, they just stare blankly at their TVs and take drugs. And we say: Are you sure we’re talking about the future here?
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
Setting: in the late 3900s
In the New York subway of the 40th century, the No. 7 local still doesn’t stop at your station — and, whoa, look at the size of those post-apocalyptic rats!
DEATH RACE 2000 (1975)
Yes, this movie was remade into a sleek action extravaganza in 2008, but you have to love the original, pulpy, low-tech version, about a futuristic cross-country demo derby whose drivers get extra points for mowing down pedestrians. The late David Carradine is typically grim as the champ Frankenstein, while the then-unknown Sylvester Stallone is lean and hungry as his challenger.
Back to the Future II (1989)
Setting: in the near future
Deleted scene: Genetically inferior Ethan Hawke impersonates Jude Law to become an astronaut — but just winds up getting insulted by Chris Rock at the Oscars.