There’s something particularly horrifying about watching a dystopian TV series or film. Instead of the blood-soaked, monster-filled fear fest of a classic horror movie, the dystopia is much subtler in its terror: and that’s exactly what makes them so scary.
The opposite of utopia, dystopia is simply a fictional state or society in which things are going wrong. The term itself encompasses a bunch of different scenarios, from a state wrought by extreme injustice at the hands of an evil totalitarian government to a world destroyed by an apocalyptic event. But no matter what’s going on at the heart of the dystopia, the crux of the issue at hand is the same: things are going downhill. Fast.
While some may prefer to steer clear of dystopia after the (rather dystopic) events of the last year, others might feel like now is the perfect time to dive into a world even more horrific and terrifying than the one we’re in. And if that’s you, we’ve got you covered.
Keep reading to check out our pick of the best dystopian TV shows to watch now, from the horror of The Handmaid’s Tale to the chilling, post-apocalyptic vibes of The Rain.
Y: The Last Man
An adaptation of the hugely popular comic book series of the same name, Y: The Last Man imagines a future in which every mammal with a Y chromosome perish in a sudden and mysterious outbreak. That is, except one man – Yorick Brown – and his pet monkey, Ampersand.
The eight-part series follows Yorick and a group of survivors as they struggle to survive and restore the world that was lost.
Season 1 of Y: The Last Man is currently airing weekly on Disney+
The Handmaid’s Tale
The show, which is set in a near-future United States which has been taken over by a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship called Gilead, follows the story of June (Elisabeth Moss), a woman who has been forced to become a ‘handmaid’ and bear children for the Gilead elite.
Seasons 1-3 of The Handmaid’s Tale are available to stream for free on All4. Season 4 is currently airing weekly on Channel 4 on Sundays at 9 pm.
Each episode of Black Mirror taps into a collective unease or anxiety we as a society share in the modern world.
Charlie Brooker’s futuristic series has tackled everything from the trappings of social media to the dangers of artificial intelligence across its five seasons. If you like dark and twisted, you’ll love this.
Seasons 1-5 of Black Mirror are available to stream on Netflix.
The second season of this Netflix original series may have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn’t mean its first season isn’t worth a watch.
The Society follows a group of teenagers who, after returning home from a school trip, find that everyone else from their town has disappeared without a trace, and that there’s no way of getting out of the town, either. Left to their own devices, the teenagers attempt to build their own society – but things don’t go according to plan.
Season 1 of The Society is available to stream on Netflix.
If you’re a fan of sci-fi and dystopia, you’ll love the futuristic vibes of HBO’s Westworld.
Based on the concept of an exclusive theme park that allows visitors to “live without limits” alongside lifelike robots called hosts, Westworld explores what happens when people believe their actions have no consequences. As you can expect, it gets dark. Quick.
Seasons 1-3 of Westworld are available to stream on NOW.
3% is a Brazilian-language drama exclusive to Netflix, set in a post-apocalyptic future where a group of young people are selected to join a privileged “offshore” society separate from the impoverished “inland” group.
But there’s a catch: to pass into the 3%, they must face a test of extremely difficult challenges, some of which will put their lives at risk.
Seasons 1-4 of 3% are available to stream on Netflix.
The Rain is a Danish-language drama that follows the story of two siblings – Simone (Alba August) and Rasmus (Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen) – as they navigate a world devastated by a deadly virus that lives in the rain.
Emerging from a bunker six years after the rain first fell, the pair are left to navigate a world transformed by the disaster.
Seasons 1-3 of The Rain are available to stream on Netflix.
Years And Years
This BBC drama, which follows the story of one central family, spans over 15 years as the world around them rapidly destabilises.
Although Years And Years was released before the coronavirus pandemic, the subjects it explores remain extremely close to the bone, picking on topics, stories and ideas we see in the world today and predicting where we might be headed.
Season 1 of Years And Years is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.
Brave New World
This chilling adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World aired on Sky at the end of last year. It follows the story of Bernard Marx (Harry Lloyd) and Lenina Crowe (Jessica Brown Findlay), two citizens of New London who have only ever known life with a rigid social order, a culture of instant gratification and a happiness-producing drug called Soma, which they’re trained and conditioned to take.
However, when curiosity gets the better of them, they decide to venture to the ‘Savage Lands’, where people live outside the rules and industrialisation of society. And it’s not long before they find themselves in the midst of some serious trouble.
Season 1 of Brave New World is available to watch on NOW.
While The Wilds isn’t dystopic in the traditional sense – there’s no crumbling civilization or totalitarian state to deal with – it has many of the elements you’d expect from a classic dystopia, which is probably why it’s been described as “part survival drama, part dystopic slumber party”.
It follows the story of a group of young women who find themselves stranded on a desert island after a disastrous plane crash. There’s just one twist – the girls did not end up on the island by accident.
Season 1 of The Wilds is available to watch on Amazon Prime.
This dystopian thriller from Oscar award-winning director Bong Joon Ho (aka, the man behind Parasite) is as fast-paced and drama-filled as you can get.
Set seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland, the show follows the lives of the only surviving humans on earth – those onboard the 1001 car-long super-train, Snowpiercer, which circles the globe on an endless loop.
Inside, the remaining humans have been divided into strict classes, with the rich living luxurious lives upfront while the poor “tailies” are left in squalor at the back. In Snowpiercer, we find out what happens when those at the bottom decide enough is enough.
Seasons 1-2 of Snowpiercer are available to watch on Netflix.
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As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.
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