Fill yourself with existential dread with this selection of stand-out dystopian TV shows.
There’s a unique kind of horror which comes from watching a gripping dystopian TV series or film. Instead of the blood-splashed, 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 a fictional state or society in which things are going wrong: whether it’s extreme injustice at the hands of a totalitarian state, or societal breakdown as a result of climate change, most people will be suffering. Some worlds may be post-apocalyptic or futuristic, but the core of the issue is the same: it’s all going downhill.
It’s no secret why dystopia is such a popular genre nowadays. With the climate crisis threatening the future of the planet, and abortion bans becoming commonplace in states across the US, the prospect of dystopia has become more real and frightening than ever.
Dystopian TV series and films are (obviously) not an easy watch – they’re a stark reminder of the darkest depths of humanity – but that’s probably what makes them so popular. Just like with true crime, we’re attracted to the extremes of darkness for often inexplicable reasons: it’s gripping, dramatic and downright addictive.
So, without further ado, here’s our pick of the best dystopian films and TV shows out there at the moment. Just don’t blame us when you lose some of your faith in humanity.
The best dystopian TV shows
The Handmaid’s Tale
The HBO adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a must-watch for any budding dystopian fan. Based in a futuristic, highly-religious United States in which fertile women are stripped of their rights and forced to bear children for the families of the elite, The Handmaid’s Tale follows one woman called June (Elisabeth Moss) as she fights to survive. You can read Stylist’s take on The Handmaid’s Tale here.
All three seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale are now available to buy on Amazon.
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 social media to artificial intelligence across its five seasons. You can read Stylist’s take on Black Mirror here.
All five seasons of Black Mirror are now available to stream on Netflix.
Netflix’s original series The Society is such a gripping watch that we struggled to look away. The series follows a group of teenagers who find themselves transported to an identical version of their New Hampshire town, except for the fact their parents are nowhere to be seen. It’s a Lord of the Flies-esque drama for the 21st century – with a supernatural twist. You can read Stylist’s take on The Society here.
The first season of The Society is now available to stream on Netflix.
Westworld portrays a future in which a futuristic amusement park allows visitors to live out their wildest fantasies through artificial intelligence, exploring what happens when life has no consequences. You can read Stylist’s take on Westworld here.
The first two seasons of Westworld are now available to buy on Amazon.
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.
All three seasons of 3% are now available to stream on Netflix.
The Rain is a Danish-language drama which follows the story of two siblings 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 must navigate a world which has been completely transformed by disaster.
The first two seasons of The Rain are now available to stream on Netflix.
Years And Years
Years And Years aired recently on the BBC, but if you didn’t catch it, here’s a quick summary. The drama, which follows the story of one central family, spans over 15 years as the world around them rapidly destabilises. This one’s extremely close to the bone, picking on topics, stories and ideas we see in the world today and predicting where we might be headed. You can read Stylist’s take on Years And Years here.
The first season of Years And Years is now available to buy on Amazon.