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6 Movies like Metropolis: Dystopian Visions of a Dehumanised Future

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Jonny_Sweet_itcher_contributorOver 20 years before George Orwell defined our nightmarish vision of a dystopian tomorrow, Fritz Lang had already foreseen how technology and tyranny could go hand in hand. For more foreboding prophecies, check out ‘Modern Times’, ‘Alphaville’ or any of these other movies like ‘Metropolis’. ~ Jonny Sweet

The Machinations of Tyranny

The digital revolution is well and truly upon us, and if anyone was in any doubt as to how far away a mechanised future is, the fleet of robotic workers being engineered in China should spell things out more clearly.

Thankfully, we haven’t quite reached the oppressive state of ‘Metropolis’ as yet (at least, not in this country), though many people slogging away at their 9-5 jobs may beg to differ.

If the onscreen depiction of a lot far worse than our own offered a weird escapism from today’s increasingly cyber-centric and work-orientated world, then there are plenty more cinematic dystopias to get your teeth into. Don’t take my word for it – check out the shortlist of suggestions below and then feel free to augment it with some of your own in the comments box at the bottom.


Movies Similar to ‘Metropolis’…

‘Modern Times’ (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)

The influence ‘Metropolis’ had on Chaplin when penning ‘Modern Times’ is plain for all to see. Ever the jester, Chaplin replaces Lang’s frantic Freder with his lovable Tramp character who bungles his way from one oppressive situation to the next.

For recommendations on other movies similar to Chaplin’s masterpiece, check out this list (none of which are, but several of which could have been, repeated here).

Similarity Match: 80%
Coming hot on the heels of ‘Metropolis’, ‘Modern Times’ was most certainly inspired by Lang’s masterpiece – though it tries to deal with the drudgery of the depressing subject matter through comedy and slapstick.

‘Dark City’ (Alex Proyas, 1998)

Somewhat overshadowed by the far more bombastic and successful ‘Matrix’ franchise which would begin the year after, ‘Dark City’ explores similar themes of assimilated reality and manipulative overlords.

The basic plot follows a man suffering from total amnesia who tries to piece his life reality back together, all the while being pursued by a band of secretive and sinister agents.

Even acclaimed critic Roger Ebert enthused about the imagination of the film and likened it to Frang’s work: “‘Dark City’ by Alex Proyas is a great visionary achievement, a film so original and exciting, it stirred my imagination like ‘Metropolis’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’”

Similarity Match: 70%
‘Dark City’ takes the image of a despotic ruling class from ‘Metropolis’ and exaggerates it to depict the overlords as parasitical aliens.

‘Alphaville’ (Jean-Luc Goddard, 1965)

The dimly lit backdrops and sterilised interiors of Alphaville are reminiscent of Metropolis’ polished and ruthless efficiency – indeed, parallels can be drawn between the architecture and sets of several of the films on this list.

In this neo-noir tale, an archetypal rogue detective vows to destroy the tyrannical machine which has enslaved society, along with its nefarious creator.

Similarity Match: 70%
‘Alphaville’ transplants the same ideas of dehumanisation and exploitation so prevalent in ‘Metropolis’ to a French setting and introduces an American trope – the hard-boiled detective.

‘THX 1138’ (George Lucas, 1971)

Forget ‘Star Wars’, George Lucas was a master filmmaker long before Luke Skywalker was tussling with his papa or embarking on morally questionable affairs.

Though ‘American Graffiti’ gets the major of his pre-Force acclaim, ‘THX 1138’ is a brilliant imagining of a dystopian future society controlled by drugs, sex and dehumanisation (much like Aldous Huxley’s fantastic ‘Brave New World’).

Similarity Match: 65%
Though they take place in different settings and use different means to enforce compliance, the societies of ‘THX 1138’ and ‘Metropolis’ place a similarly low priority on human life and happiness.

‘Blade Runner’ (Ridley Scott, 1982)

Bioengineering beings carrying out some of the world’s more mundane tasks might seem like a great idea in theory, but what happens when these “replicants” become so lifelike that they wish to live beyond their allotted time? Harrison Ford happens, that’s what.

As the eponymous Blade Runner, Ford must track down four of the more bothersome scallywags before they get their grubby mitts on the precious elixir that could keep them alive longer.

Don’t forget to also have a look at these other films like ‘Blade Runner’.

Similarity Match: 65%
Both ‘Metropolis’ and ‘Blade Runner’ imagine a hellish dystopia of the future, but while the former is an expressionist critique of society, the latter is more of a noir science fiction rollercoaster.


If You Like ‘Metropolis’, You Will Like…

Though the above suggestions vary in location, era and storyline, they all offer a bleak glimpse into a potential future, often featuring dangerously advanced technological developments.

The following recommendation is not necessarily characterised by prophetic doom-and-gloomery, but rather by its indictment of the savagery of man and society in their current forms.

‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ (Robert Wise, 1951)

Imagine if aliens came to Earth and witnessed humanity waging wars on itself? Governments and individuals maiming, killing, bazookaing and generally being horrible to their fellow man? What on Earth would they think?

‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ might just have the answer.

‘Metropolis’ and ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ are both commentaries on the immorality, corruption and senseless propensity to violence of mankind – but the latter imagines the whole scenario through the eyes of an extra-terrestrial.


You Shall Not Be Silenced!

Much like the plight of the common man and the exploited worker extolled in these films, your opinion deserves – no, demands – a voice!

Give it one by listing your own favourite films like ‘Metropolis’ or other pieces of anti-establishment propaganda from the silver screen below.

I′m Jonny, an English Literature graduate who decided careers and mortgages were too mundane, and travelling, film, music and books were much more enticing. I have recently made a very comfortable nest for myself in Santiago de Chile, and on itcher Mag where I regularly contribute eloquent waffle on all manner of media.
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