Like the gray clouds that often hang over London, the genre of dystopian fiction permeates the atmosphere of British film. British cinema is able to devise all manner of bad futures, including environmental disasters, dictatorial governments, nuclear horror—you name it. And since the rest of the world understands how bad things can get when they happen in major cities, these movies tend to focus on London for ground zero of misery. Now we’ve covered five London dystopian films before, so if you’re ready to read about five more terrible possibilities that are totally fictional, then read on and indulge yourself with the films below.
No Blade of Grass
The 1970s saw a global interest in environmentalism first take root, and films began to reflect how terrible things could get if we didn’t clean up our act. In the 1970 film, No Blade of Grass, massive pollution has created a virus that kills off all the grass in the world. No grass means no cows and no hamburgers (among other vital foodstuffs) so at the start of the movie sees massive food riots in London that cause the protagonists to flee the city. Naturally, the escape scene means we get plenty of views of London landmarks, including Nelson’s Column, the National Gallery, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
After a future war has devastated British society, the survivors get together in mobile cities called “Traction Cities” and fight it out with each other for the remaining natural resources. Naturally, London is one of these Traction Cities as well, but far from being the hero it is instead the villain, attempting to absorb the populations and resources of other cities to make itself larger and more powerful. Major landmarks don’t show up in this one, but London is not so much a location as a character itself in the film.
Peering into the future (well, the 1970s) of what would become our celebrity-obsessed culture, Privilege is a 1967 film where pop star Steven Shorter is so famous that he gets used for everything from advertising dog food to convincing young people to conform to an increasingly authoritarian government. The film splits its settings between the character’s native Birmingham and London, featuring several locations from the latter such as Portland House and Stag Place. For added authenticity, Shorter is played by real-life pop star Paul Jones. Ultimately, Shorter finds ways to start rebelling against his handlers and both society’s and the government’s expectations of him, though at a great cost.
Reign of Fire
Here be dragons. In the early 21st Century, expansion of the London Underground awakens the first of many slumbering dragons that proceed to rain destruction down on the city and society as we know it. While most of the movie takes place in the countryside and other ruined parts of the UK, the final confrontation against the largest dragon in the UK takes place in London. Naturally, this means lots of shots of destroyed London landmarks, including the Palace of Westminster and Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben). Interestingly, the bulk of the film takes place in 2020, so the fact that dragons have yet to appear is probably a good sign that we’ll make it out of this year after all.
In a world where fears of class warfare stalk the corners of the internet’s conspiracy theory boards, High-Rise is a 2015 film starring Tom Hiddleston that features an apartment building where the floors are divided by one’s socioeconomic status. For unknown reasons, resources start to become scarce and conflict breaks out amongst the building’s residents, leading to a collapse of this microcosm of society. While mostly filmed in Northern Ireland, we don’t see much outside of the building but are informed that its setting is London. It also, interestingly enough, takes place in the 1970s and is pretty critical of thatcher’s policies, so it could be seen as an alternate history dystopia.