5. Starship Troopers (1997)
Starting off our list is Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers. Based on the novel by Robert Heinlein, this sci-fi action flick tells the story of a conflict between mankind and a species of insect known as the Arachnids.
Set in the distant future, not only has earth begun to colonize new planets, but it has developed into a military society as well. However, soon the human race’s very existence is threatened and now this seemingly normal way of life is put to the test.
Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the film is the chilling performance by Michael Ironside as Lt. Jean Rasczak. His almost sermon-like lectures in the classroom and cold hearted actions on the battlefield are perfect representations of what happens when the concept of survival of the fittest is engrained into the population’s psyche.
Starship Troopers visually alludes to both Why We Fight, a series of documentary films commissioned by the United States government during World War II, and Triumph of the Will (1935), which chronicled the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremburg and was attended by over 700,000 supporters.
4. They Live (1988)
Based on Ray Nelson’s short story “Eight O’clock in the Morning”, They Live, written for the screen and directed by John Carpenter, imagines a world where the ruling class is actually aliens who are using Earth as their Third World.
A nameless drifter, played by the late Roddy Piper, travels to Los Angeles to find work, but instead finds himself in an extra-ordinary situation when he discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see through the human disguises of those controlling society.
This secret society of aliens with skull-like faces maintain their power by creating a consumer like society for the inhabitants of Earth, and using subliminal messaging in the media. However, this cannot go on forever, as the Earth’s resources will soon become depleted.
While depending heavily on it’s obnoxiously over the top action, They Live alludes to the literary works of H.P. Lovecraft and acts as a comedic commentary on the Ronald Reagan years and ’80s Yuppie-ism.
3. District 9 (2009)
Directed by Neil Blomkamp and based on his short film Alive in Joburg, District 9 begins in an alternate version of 1982 when a substantial population of extraterrestrials is discovered in South Africa and the government confines them to a refugee camp appropriately named District 9.
Twenty-five years later, the aliens, who are derogatorily referred to as “prawns”, clash with the surrounding natives and the South African government hires a private military company to relocate the insect-like race.
Having been born in Johannesburg, South Africa, the film’s director was inspired by the events of District Six in Cape Town, South Africa, where over 60,000 inhabitants were forcibly removed in the 1970’s by the apartheid regime.
It is important to note that the word “prawn” is a common name for a species of king cricket in Southern Africa. Being that the film deals with themes such as xenophobia and social segregation, this term is very fitting given the history of this region in the world.
2. Waterworld (1995)
Directed by Kevin Reynolds and written by Peter Rader and David Twohy, this post-apocalyptic film envisions a world where the polar ice caps have melted and the ocean level has risen, thus flooding the earth’s surface. However, some still cling to the notion that somewhere out there, dry land awaits.
Kevin Costner stars as an unnamed drifter who must protect a young girl, who may hold the key to dry land, from an army of bandits known as “smokers”. Their main headquarters is the remains of the Exxon Valdez, the oil tanker responsible for spilling hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil in Alaska on March 24th, 1989.
The smoker’s leader, played by the late Dennis Hooper, also has a portrait of the ship’s captain, Joseph Hazelwood, in his office; which is perceived as almost God-like. There is also a strong anti-tobacco sentiment as a delicacy among the villains is packs of cigarettes.
While not embracing them, the film rather accepts the concepts of both global warming, or rather climate change, and the theory of evolution, as our protagonist has evolved in order to fit the needs of the world around him. He has grown webbed feet, which enhance his swimming abilities, and gills, which enable him to breath underwater. The fact that our main character is shunned from society suggests that there are others like him.
1. Robocop (1987)
Finishing off our list is another sci-fi classic by none other than Paul Verhoeven. Written by Edward Neumeirer and Michael Miner, Robocop depicts a dystopian future version of Detroit where criminals run rabid.
With the police department on the verge of striking, the city turns to Omni Consumer Products, a mega corporation who aims to solve crime problem, but also to clear out Detroit’s worst areas in order to make room for Delta City, a city-state cut off from the rest of the United States. OCP’s solution is to replace regular police officers with a human cyborg.
When officer Alex Murphy, played by Peter Weller, is killed in the line of duty, he becomes a prime candidate for the position. During his war on crime, Murphy finds himself hot on the trail of his killers, but surprisingly traces them back to the corporation that gave him a second chance.
Aside from having resurrection elements, one of Robocop‘s themes is gentrification; a type of urban planning that raises the share of wealthier residents, and thus increases the property value. In the film, this is done through the privatization of the police force and other government programs by a corporate entity that may not have the best interest of the society at heart.
Robocop’s two sequels, written by Frank Miller, follow an epidemic caused by a new designer drug called “Nuke” plaguing the streets of Detroit and eventual class warfare between the city’s police force and OCP’s private army. A remake of the original cult classic was also released in 2014.