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Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself.
—O'Brien, Nineteen Eighty-Four
A Dystopia (Ancient Greek for "bad place"), also called a Negative Utopia, is a Speculative Fiction setting that comments on our own society and that a majority of us would fear to live in. The trick to creating a Dystopia is to take a social issue and turn it Up to Eleven. Better yet, do it with several issues, or perhaps all of them.
A dystopia is a social commentary literally in the background, as is a utopian setting. The two settings share a problem in sometimes being a little too one-note. The author is thinking "capitalism sucks!", for instance, and everything wrong with the world turns out be clearly the fault of nasty Corrupt Corporate Executives and their nasty, greedy megacorporations. Conversely, it could be "governments suck!" and the corporations are the last line of defense against the evil, totalitarian bureaucrats. The author could believe that Love Hurts, and thus there is No Sex Allowed and feeling Emotions is a punishable offense. Whichever, it is just one note.
The better dystopias seem to be about how a multitude of things have gone wrong, and now here we are, surviving with as much grace as possible. It is also a practice in literature to create a dystopia through the Deconstruction of an earlier creator's Utopia, showing how horrible it is to live in one. Another use is to serve as a Big Bad for The Hero and his friends to revolt against; these are more likely to be toppled, or at least escaped from, than others.
Some dystopias have its citizens living out dehumanized and often fearful lives, feeling the government's eyes upon them at every waking moment and afraid to step out of line for even a moment lest they be brutalized by the police or worse, taken away by the Secret Police. Other dystopias have the people as happy as any utopian world, but through Government Drug Enforcement, The Evils of Free Will or Happiness in Slavery. Some dystopias are Empires With A Dark Secret, with those who find out about the secret often being Released to Elsewhere. Some are Bread and Circuses worlds where a minority of people are brutally repressed; any number of traits can mark out that minority (such as, say, reading books). And some Dystopias are such only for the law-breakers. One man's Utopia can easily be another man's Dystopia, and so on.
May have Peace and Love Incorporated and Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul, and frequently have an Ascetic Aesthetic towards buildings. Compare with Author Tract, After the End, Just Before the End, Villain World, and Cyberpunk. Contrast with Utopia and Mary Suetopia, the latter often an unintentional Dystopia created by the author.
See Dystopia Is Hard and You Fail Economics Forever for one reason why certain Dystopias could not exist in reality (true oppression, especially of the Big Brother variety, is really expensive), and how people in general are resistant to the creation of a society that they believe is against their general well-being. For when someone is actually pursuing this type of society as an end in itself, see Dystopia Justifies the Means.
Anime and Manga
- Runessa's homeworld in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, as revealed in StrikerS Sound Stage X. Living in a land of nationalism, racism, and pointless wars, there was a severe lack of food and daily necessities, but there were plenty of weapons to go around. Runessa mentioned that, for as long as she remembered, she had always slept with guns on her side, and she had always thought that she was going to live there for the rest of her life until she was shot and an NGO rescued her. So war-torn was her land, that even during the Jail Scaglietti incident, she considered Mid-childa to be an unbelievably peaceful place.
- Death Note: At the height of Light's power in the second half of the series, we see that the world has become a dark shadow of its earlier self. Crime is way down, but when all it takes for someone to die is a name, a face and a criminal record (possibly even if it's fake), everyone lives in terror.
- The Blame universe certainly qualifies, with emphasis on Abara and Biomega. Blame! itself is more of a terrifyingly vast cyberpunk. Biomega is probably the best example, with a tremendously powerful Mega Corp trying to spread a virus over the decayed planet while the few survivors try not to get caught up in collateral damage from android fights. And then It Gets Worse. Much, much worse.
- Battle Royale is set in a Japan where their solution for teen delinquency is to have them fight in a battle to the death.
- Vandread is set in a universe where men and women literally come from different planets, and they are at war with each other. Later episodes reveal that this is not normal.
- Watchmen to the extreme. More or less subverted in the end, when there is finally world peace, though there are millions dead and one of the world's largest cities is destroyed. Even the peace brought about is suggested to be quite fragile, suggesting that it was all for nothing.
- Lots of comic book miniseries, many of them set in alternate versions of past history where the presence of superheroes have altered society as we know it, such as The Golden Age and The American Way.
- Subverted in Transmetropolitan. The future setting appears at first to be a filthy, crowded, cruel dystopia. As the story progresses, though, it becomes clear that they're dealing with essentially the same issues we deal with today, just with the volume turned up by technology and increased population. Furthermore, some of the modern world's problems have been defeated; pollution has ceased to be an issue for example, though in Spider's childhood it apparently still was a severe threat. The subversion is further driven home by the protagonist's ultimately optimistic nature. There's even a Christmas special where he explicitly states that things tend to be better in the future.
- The Mega Cities in Judge Dredd, due to being a Satire on zero-tolerance policing. And nearly all of the habitable land outside them is a wasteland, peppered with radioactive areas and populated by mutants—the result of a series of nuclear wars. So the whole of Judge Dredd's world qualifies.
- The world of Strontium Dog is not quite so horrible as Judge Dredd, but it's still pretty nasty. In the aftermath of a nuclear war, mutants are a victimised underclass and big tycoons casually commit genocide in the name of profit.
- Latveria, the country ruled by Doctor Doom, perennial Arch Enemy to the Fantastic Four. Latveria is a virtual paradise, with no disease, No Poverty, and almost no crime...and no freedom, since Doctor Doom rules the place as king and tyrant and makes all the decisions. For anyone who steps out of line, the "Disintegration Chamber" is accessible by the throne room, via Trap Door.
- Annoyingly, a lot of forget or ignore that second half when talking about how great Doctor Doom is.
- In Nil: A Land Beyond Belief" the land of Nil has outlawed hope, and the only crime is to believe.
- The world of Birthday Gift series (aka Erenisch-verse) is a colorful dystopia with a compulsory enslavement law for women.
- V for Vendetta is set in a post apocalyptic Britain ruled by one political party. The titular V is a freedom fighter aiming to bring the Party down and replace it with... nothing.
- Sin City is one of the few non-futuristic versions of a dystopia. Crime is everywhere, the government and the police are corrupt, and you never know when you might become a snack for a cannibal serial killer.
- Apokolips is a hellish Greco-Roman style, technologically advanced alien world ruled with an iron fist by the tyrannical God-Emperor Darkseid, who is a literal God of Evil and has placed himself at the centre of a global and compulsory Religion of Evil that revolves around the perpetual worship of him, mainly in the form of mass forced labour whose sole task is to endlessly build monuments to him the old fashioned way (ie. by hand, with a few basic tools, with whips to keep you in line). As mentioned the planet is technologically advanced, and this system is thus designed not simply for Darkseid to glorify himself but also to completely break the spirits of the populace. It works, and even though he treats them horribly nearly everyone on the planet would give their life for him, even if they hate him. To make matters even worse, Apokolips is locked in a millenia-old Cold War with its sister planet New Genesis, because Darkseid is an imperialistic warmongeror with the ultimate ambition of taking over the entire universe and remaking it in his image...and he has the means to do it. His fondest desire is to eradicate free will and make every living thing everywhere a mindless, miserable automaton who will live and die at his command. And this is only beginning to describe why Apokolips is perhaps the single most horrible place in the DC Universe.
- Played with in With Strings Attached. The Baravadans (at least the skahs) feel that they're living in a dystopia and pine for the monster- and combat-filled world of 25+ years ago. They rarely do anything useful, choosing to sit around and wait for something to happen, or to go off chasing the faintest rumors of monsters. Many of them are so bored that they end up killing themselves, and they've long since quit breeding. But Baravada itself is otherwise incredibly pleasant and safe, filled with magic and freedom. The four much prefer Baravada as is.
- George Lucas' 1971 film THX 1138 takes place in an antiseptic future that seems to have combined the most self-destructive tendencies of both socialism and capitalism. Religion is illegal except for worship of the Almighty State, and the residents all work for the government, in one capacity or another, and are expected to inform on their neighbors for crimes such as computer hacking or refusing to take their medication; at the same time, though, they are encouraged to work long hours, make money, and buy as much material property as they can. (We see THX himself buying a red thing at a store that sells nothing but different-colored things; he takes it home and throws it down the garbage disposal, which is what you're apparently supposed to do with them.)
- Soylent Green. Massive population growth combined with deforestation means that there isn't enough food or housing, and human life has very little value. Rioters are literally scooped into large trucks and taken away, never to be seen again. The plot of the movie revolves around finding where exactly they go...
- Meet the Robinsons: Parodied in the world as run by bowler hats.
- Remarkably, in Woody Allen's film Sleeper, he uses the setting of a future dystopia to pay homage to the style of old silent comedies.
- Brazil by Terry Gilliam. A future world so consumed by bureaucracy that a simple typo on a single form can destroy a man's life. Criminal suspects are made to pay for their own interrogation and torture, and asked to confess before it ruins their credit rating.
- Equilibrium features a future where human emotion has been outlawed in an effort to stop another disastrous war from coming to pass. Emotion is kept in check by a drug called Prozium, anything inducive of emotion is destroyed (books, movies, music, art and even cute little dogs), and "sense offenders" who refuse to take the drug are terminated with extreme prejudice by the Sweepers and the Grammaton Clerics.
- Logan's Run: You are killed when you turn thirty.
- The Matrix: A dystopia brought about by Humans Are Bastards, leading to the Robot War.
- The world of Repo! The Genetic Opera is ruled by a corporation that has had murder sanctioned by law, who rose to power on a pile of harvested organs. It is exactly as icky as it sounds.
- Idiocracy was presented as a dystopia based on the extreme dumbing down of America. However, it also included extreme cases of mass consumerism and product placement (brought to you by Carl's Jr.). And apparently Mike Judge had an axe to grind about celebrities being elected into office (Wrestler, turned porn star, turned president).
- RoboCop is your classic cyberpunkish dystopia. It's essentially everything wrong with 1980's America taken Up to Eleven.
- The Island starts as a pretty straightforward one, it's later subverted in that the real world is not dystopic at all.
- The film adaptation of Aeon Flux. A plague has killed almost all humanity until Trevor Goodchild saves the world with his cure. What no one knows is that the cure causes sterility and DNA has been cloned to give the impression that the population is regrowing. No new human being has been born in 400 years, until Aeon's sister gets pregnant for real so the higher ups kill her so cloning can continue and making them immortal.
- Children of Men. No one has been born in 18 years.
- Back to The Future Part II: Biff Tannen created an alternate version of 1985 when he gave the Gray's Sports Almanac to his younger self in 1955. As a result, he became "the luckiest man on Earth" by betting on everything from horse racing to boxing and always winning due to the answers in the almanac. He founded Biffco, a company that dealt with toxic waste reclamation. He bought out police departments, and even altered the state of international history, by prolonging the Vietnam War and getting Richard Nixon elected to his fifth term. As a result, Hill Valley, now heavily polluted and known as "Hell Valley", had been reduced to rubble, where biker gangs and criminals made their home.
- Pleasantville. The main character, David, watched the show on TV and always saw it as a utopia. When he and his sister end up getting sucked into the TV, though, things aren't as great as they appeared. The place starts out as a nostalgic and pretty view of the 1950's, but later on the uglier side of the decade (like sexual repression and racial discrimination) start to rear their ugly heads.
- San Angeles in Demolition Man is a pristine city full of pleasant, polite people. Beneath it is repression so hard that some people would rather live underground. Word of God also says the people of San Angeles wear robes as protection from UV rays caused by ozone depletion.
- The Double Dragon movie is set in a post giant earthquake LA where crime is so rampant that police don't patrol at night.
- The Purge is set in a future America ruled by "The New Founding Fathers" whose solution to crime is... to legalize it for only twelve hours every year.
- Ultraviolet (film) is set in a world ravaged by a plague that kills those infected but also gives them super powers. The Knight Templar health organization ruling the world has given up on finding a cure and just kills anyone even suspected of infection.
- The world of Priest (2011 film) is run by an all powerful Church Militant so bloated and complacent that it ignores the vampire threat.
- Effectively universally-recognized "canon" dystopian literature:
- We. Free love has gone rampant.
- Brave New World. Everyone is expected to be content with their place in society.
- 1984. A one party government controls everything, even your thoughts.
- The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is a debatable example. Though the story is fictional, the setting and problems with the world were very deliberately based on the real life situation for the working poor in early twentieth-century Chicago. So much so that it inspired the creation of new laws (albeit laws around food safety rather than worker protection).
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, the novel which inspired Blade Runner. Nominally, the film is an adaptation.
- Minority Report, also by Dick, is set in a world where the police can predict your actions, and convict you of murder simply for thinking it, even if involuntarily. The film version goes a step further in that retinal scanners track every movement of every citizen, ads call people by name by reading their identity, and mechanical spiders are used to conduct unwarranted searches, eliminating any semblance of privacy.
- Bend Sinister, a book by Vladimir Nabokov in which a fictitious East European country is taken over by the Ekwilist Party of the Average Man, who want to end conflict by equalizing all personality attributes and making everyone the "average man." In reality, all they succeed in doing is ruining the lives of the country's inhabitants, murdering the family of the country's only internationally renowned figure, the philosopher Adam Krug, and driving him insane.
- The Gateway by Frederik Pohl. An ultra-capitalist society where everything has price but nothing has value... in space.
- Chung Kuo, a series by David Wingrove where 36 billion people live in domed cities run by a Chinese oligarchy
- Watership Down: Efrafa. Both a classic ruled-by-dictator-with-a-fist-of-iron dystopia and also a rabbit warren!
- Earlier in the story is Cowslip's warren. On the surface it appears to be a rabbit Utopia, with no predators in sight and plentiful food, leaving the inhabitants time to become quite cultured, but there's a reason its Fandom Nickname is the Warren of Shining Wires.
- Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, with an America where all books are banned. In the end, there is a bit of twisted hope, as all the cities get blown apart, leaving the chance for those who have kept the literary tradition to rebuild. Also made into a movie.
- Lois Lowry's The Giver, a rare dystopian novel for kids, with a society that has gotten rid of pain and conflict through "The Sameness."
- In Myst: The Book of D'Ni, the survivors of the fallen Utopia D'Ni discover Terahnee, which appears to be everything D'Ni was and more, but it is not what it appears. While D'Ni's Utopia was built on semi-magical technology, Terahnee is built on slavery. In fact, slavery of the same people the D'Ni survivors intermarried with. Time to run!
- Danish author Dennis Jürgensen wrote a book titled Dystopia, which hits all the main points, and offers an interesting solution... two youths from a dystopia where the 'social issues' are xenophobia, intolerance and mistrust, are thrown into a Fish Out of Water situation in another world, literally named 'Dystopia', where the issue is apathy and defeatism. Can two different, and equally flawed, attitudes cancel each others out? Maybe so. Good luck finding a translation of that book, tho...
- This Perfect Day by Ira Levin depicts a communist technocratic dystopia controlled by a computer. In fact at the end it is revealed that the computer is controlled by a programmer elite.
- Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Everything is rationed by the theocratic government - including women.
- More precisely, the fertile women; the environment's a mess.
- The People's Republic of Haven from the Honor Harrington series practically defines this trope.
- The world of Jennifer Government is an ultra-capitalist Dystopia, where everything is for sale if you have enough money. Also, at one point, the antagonist John Nike reads an old sci-fi novel The Merchants in Space, and dismisses the classic notion of a big government dystopia, and is disappointed when the book turns out to be a satire of capitalism.
- Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron, a short story focusing on the problem of government forcing equality by any means possible. The beautiful must wear hideous masks, the strong and agile carry sacks of iron on their backs... So it goes.
- In the world Uglies is set in, anyone over sixteen is given an operation that leaves their faces and bodies flawless... and their minds empty.
- The Hunger Games trilogy also qualifies with a government that creates a Kill'Em All reality TV show just to let everyone know that you do not want to mess with them.
- Oddly approached in The Cure by Sonia Levittin. The near-future society depicted does not allow sex, art, inventiveness, and most forms of emotion, and like Harrison Bergeron, differences between individuals are stamped out as best as possible. The main character is musically inclined, so the leaders of the society consider having him Released to Elsewhere—but as a last-ditch effort they put him through a simulation of the Middle Ages, attempting to show him why they fashioned their society as an opposite to that time period. (It sort of works--the main character decides both societies are horrible and there must be a way to Take a Third Option.)
- The late Octavia Butler's books Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are this. They are America in the 2020's and 2030's respectively(the books were written in the 90's). People are sold into slavery by the police, given dog collar-like things, and every city is a Wretched Hive.
- Kornbluth's The Marching Morons has similar themes to the film Idiocracy, above. Subverted in that the super-intelligent aristocracy are the ones slaving away, to keep the vast mentally-challenged majority from killing themselves out of sheer incompetence.
- Kornbluth produced some other memorably nasty dystopias. The two worst are probably the militarized, back-stabbing Denv with its endless, pointless nuclear war against Ellay, and the sadistic Merdeka cult, whose ideas of parenting include "child-flogging benches" and cheerful nursery rhymes such as
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water
- Ayn Rand's novella Anthem follows the awakening and rebellion of the main character in a collectivist dystopia where individual identity is suppressed, and all citizens are taught to consider themselves interchangeable and replaceable parts in a great machine. On top of that, the government has mandated cultural and technological stasis at a pre-Industrial Revolution level.
- The villains of Atlas Shrugged are aiming to create an effectively dystopian America, but the country collapses on them because they lack both charisma and competence. Towards the end, one of the villains insinuates that the decimation of children and the elderly might be in order to prevent starvation for the rest of the people.
- The 1907 novel The Lord of the World by Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson shows Western civilization as having turned into a socialist, technologically-advanced society that persecutes those still clinging to religion and individualism, and attempts to stamp out Christianity once and for all. This is brought to a head with the arising of the Anti-Christ...
- Utopia For The Devil : James Parkes' 2010 novella focuses on a utopia where society is controlled and regulated by a system known as Eden, due to The Evils of Free Will. The protagonist, Leon, exists outside of Eden and challenges the society.
- Matched: Allie Condie's novel takes place in The Society, where nearly all decisions, some as major as who you marry, where you work and when you die, and others more minor such as what you wear and eat, are decided for you.
- Yawning Heights by Alexander Zinoviev is an exaggerated picture of the Soviet society with names and key words (like "Khruschev" or "party") replaced with caricature substitutes in Bland-Name Product style (like "Boar" and "fratry"). Black Comedy with Fictional Document fragments containing scientific analysis in very plain words including his view on pop science—he was a professor, specialist in Mathematical Logic.
- The short story Sam Hall is about a dystopian society where everything about everyone is recorded in a massive national database. One clerk creates a fake file about a fictional dissident named Sam Hall (named after an angry drinking song) into the database as a joke, who escapes all police searches due to the fact that he doesn't actually exist. The nation eventually tears itself apart trying to track down a nonexistent criminal.
- In The Acts of Caine it's one half of the setting. The other half is Dark Fantasy.
- Midnight World trilogy by Alexander Yang.
- The Delirium Series by Lauren Oliver is set in a future America where love is considered a disease and every citizen has to be "cured" via brain surgery at eighteen.
- The Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: The world seems similar enough to the world in Real Life, with people going about their lives. However, there are indications that the world in this series is actually a Dystopia. The courts are unable to deliver justice, because the balance of power leans too heavily towards the defense attorneys, and the prosecutors are lucky if the defendant does not get Off on a Technicality, let alone win a single case. Also, the prosecutors need proof before they charge someone, but strangely, there never seems to be proof to find. On the plus side, if a character gets in legal trouble, s/he can call up a defense attorney and be assured that s/he is perfectly safe. The President of the United States has three men with gold shields at his disposal. These three men have carte blanche, can break laws with impunity, answer only to POTUS, and if they come for you, well, you better pray that they don't kill you! In Las Vegas, the casinos have more security than Homeland Security can ever hope to get! Also, the casinos are monitored by men who will have you beaten up or thrown in jail if you prove to be a threat to the casinos. When you put these details together, you get a picture of a country that is more fascist than democratic. Yikes!
- Divergent involves citizens of future Chicago being sorted into factions. Those who fail the initiation or leave are trapped in the slums, and anybody who is considered Divergent is hunted down for threatening the system.
- The online short story ILU-486 takes place in a world where conservative Christian views on birth control and abortion have become law, and follows the women that need medical assistance and the outlaw doctors that provide it. Chillingly, all the oppressive laws (apart from the return of gibbets) are based on actual submitted legislation from American politicians.
- In Poul Anderson's "A World Called Maanerek", the Hegemony is out to force all mankind in unity, to hold loyalty only to the Cadre. They choose their mates, who are allowed contact seldom, and all children are raised in creches. Your life position is choosen when you are bred for it, and entails burning out parts of your mind if you are lowly enough. When ships sent out to find more humans to bring them into the fold, they will freely, when problems mount too high, take over part of a planet and let the men run wild with Cold-Blooded Torture and rape to release their aggressions.
- The continents of Westeros and Essos in A Song of Ice and Fire and it's TV adaptation Game of Thrones are dystopic in that both places run the same way, no matter what their peoples believe.
- Westeros believes it has a more free society because it has no slavery but the serfs who toil the land have even less rights than a slave, no thanks to Tywin Lannister.
- Essos hates Westeros' classist noble families yet they have their own local political dynasties. They just don't look down on its working class origins.
- Westeros believes it is more enlightened and not giving to the superstition and magic of the East, yet the majority of its population is ignorant of the most basic knowledge because of the council of maesters well-intentioned monopoly on learning.
Live Action TV
- The first season of Viper takes place in a dystopian tech noir setting. The day after tomorrow, society benefits from advanced communication technology and medical achievements such as fully artificial heart transplants. However, this comes at the cost of being constantly terrorized by the organized techno-mafia that closely runs the city behind the scenes. The police are often as corrupt as the criminals they're supposedly trying to stop, forcing the lead character to take the vigilante path in the hope of restoring the city to a brighter state. Throw in the fact the local government may rob you of your own thoughts and memories if they decide they have a better use for you, and you start to see how bleak it really is.
- Blakes Seven. A Space Opera in which Earth is run by fascists, where the (few) good guys are criminals.
- Max Headroom.
- The Alternate Universe in the Red Dwarf episode "Back to Reality".
- The Alphaverse in Charlie Jade, a corrupt megacorp-dominated plutocracy where chip implants are mandatory, people are divided into castes, justice is an illusion, and pollution and depletion of natural resources are so ridiculously high that the dominant megacorp plans to use its trans-universe link to steal water from a utopian parallel Earth.
- The Mirror Universe in Star Trek is a dystopia and its own trope. Various different takes on Trek's particular mirror universe fiddle with the extent of its dystopian nature. One novel posited that it was a relatively recent thing, caused by the Enterprise-E crew not wiping Zefram Cochrane's memories before they left the past, thus causing humanity to venture into space paranoid about the threat of the Borg. Another posited that the society had simply always been more cruel and ruthless, as proved by things such as Achilles refusing to return the body of the king's son (one of his few acts of mercy) in The Iliad. Deep Space Nine seemed to have a take on it closer to just making everyone in the mirror universe a Jerkass.
- Several alternate universes and/or timelines seen in Stargate SG-1 featuring the breakdown of society, the defeat/near defeat of Earth by its enemies, etc.
- Many alternate universes in Sliders.
- Two episodes of Dollhouse are set in the year 2019 after the show's technology had been used to transfer the rich into younger bodies permanently. The situation snowballed until the city is a war zone, some people going insane and others getting kidnapped for their bodies. Morale of the story is advanced technology will be abused by the privileged.
- Kamen Rider Decade has Diend's World, which is essentially the Missing Ace movie split off from Blade and combined with Decade to make an original story with Diend as the protagonist. On the outside, the world seems to have elements of Utopia with everyone helping eachother out and being nice, but that is subverted later when it turns out that they have to be nice or else a monster comes out, grabs them, then brainwashes them to be nice. It also sucks for Riders because the brainwashed people will attack any and all riders. Tsukasa even tells the ruler of the world, Jashin 14, that he made a hellhole, not a paradise. And even when Jashin 14 is destroyed, someone declares that he will be the next Jashin and leaves.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer has the episode The Wish in season three, in which Willow and Xander are vampires. The Master has taken control of Sunnydale and Angel is Willow's (and arguably Xander's) sex slave.
- The Twilight Zone is full of these. Notable examples include "The Obsolete Man" (everyone working for The State must be ruthless) and "Eye of the Beholder" (everyone must look alike).
- Rush's 2112 is in part a concept album based on Anthem by Ayn Rand. Although individual identity is not as suppressed as it is in the book, technology, and especially music, is outlawed. The main character discovers a guitar and learns to play; and when he bring it back to share with the rest of the world, the ruling elite arrest him and smash his guitar. He reacts by committing suicide in despair.
- Also Red Barchetta from the album Moving Pictures based on the story A Nice Morning Drive, written by Richard Foster (itself a kind of dystopia-by-over-watchfulness). The song is about a young man driving a car in a world where cars and/or driving is outlawed.
- David Bowie's Diamond Dogs was originally intended to be a rock-opera based on George Orwell's 1984; but he was unable to license the rights from the Orwell estate. Elements of 1984 are clearly present in the work.
- Outside is the first volume in what was intended to be a trilogy set in a Cyberpunk dystopia, where murder has become an underground art form. The other two albums in the trilogy, Contamination and Afrikaan, never materialized; and the project appears to have been dropped.
- A number of other artists have done songs and albums based on 1984; most notably Rick Wakeman, Supertramp, Genesis founder Anthony Phillips, Muse, and Megadeth.
- Dystopian themes occur regularly in later albums from Pink Floyd, most notably Animals (inspired by Orwell's Animal Farm) and The Wall; as well as Roger Waters' solo work Radio Kaos and Amused To Death.
- Kilroy Was Here by progressive rock band Styx tells the story of a young rock musician in a future fascist dystopia, where music is outlawed on the order of a powerful right-wing religious group.
- The Protomen are an indie rock band whose main act is a dystopian rock opera based on the Mega Man series.
- Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails, is about a dystopian future where the far right has taken over America and the "Bureau of Morality" has eroded civil liberties and generally act as a Culture Police against any form of expression, particularly music, that dissents against the powers that be.
- Tubeway Army, the project of noted electronica pioneer Gary Numan, produced a semi-concept album Replicas; the theme of which was humans living in a society dominated by androids and machines. It draws heavily from the writings of Phillip K. Dick, particularly Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep.
- The entire schtick of sludge-metal band Dystopia.
- "Brave New World" by Iron Maiden is based on the Aldous Huxley book of the same name.
- Oingo Boingo's Perfect System depicts a totalitarian socity ruled by a Big Brother figure.
- A number of other songs off of the album Only a Lad (which Perfect System is from) fit into such a setting as well in addition to pointing out potentially dystopian elements of modern life.
- Radiohead's OK Computer, while not having an explicitly dystopian story, does incorporate dystopian themes.
- Frank Zappa's Joes Garage is a rock opera set in a semi-religious dystopia where music and sex are soon to be illegal, and all illegal activities are punished pre-emptively. The story is narrated by "The Central Scrutinizer", a McCarthy-like observer who is charged with detecting and punishing actions which will be crimes in the future.
- Del tha Funkee Homosapien's Deltron 3030 concept album deals with the titular character's struggles to survive in a future that may have outlawed music, that has strict, bullet-enforced curfews, and is described via references to Neuromnancer and Akira.
- The Who's song 905 (which was originally intended for a full Rock Opera by bassist John Entwistle) and the aborted Lifehouse album (which would be released decades later by Pete Townshend)
- "Control" by MDFMK. And it's not Twenty Minutes Into the Future. Not even one.
- "Dystopia" by Iced Earth.
- Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl is a game where teenage kids take down a tyrant in a dystopian future world. There's even a step of play called "Dystopia Creation," where you group-create the world that you're playing in.
- The Warhammer 40000 universe is one gigantic Dystopia/Cosmic Horror world, born from the sheer, horrific build-up of intolerance, hatred, repression, religious fanaticism, cruelty, hedonism, decadence, greed, and just about every other vice you could possibly imagine, over the span of millennia. Quite possibly the worst component, however, is simply neglect. The fact that many of said vices have physical form, are sentient, and actively working towards the eventual destruction of everything probably doesn't help. Nothing is ever going to get better there.
- Not to mention there's a faction of Well Intentioned Extremists who are considered to be naive because of that belief. Given the setting, there's probably a kernel of truth to that.
- Of course, like so many other tropes, 40k plays with the Dystopia trope: Some worlds are utter shitholes where trillions of people live in perpetual misery and poverty and/or is under perpetual attack from said manifestations of vices and just about every other alien force in the galaxy, while others are fairly pleasant and safe places to live. The big problem is that there's a lot more of the former type of world in 40k than the latter.
- Not to mention there's a faction of Well Intentioned Extremists who are considered to be naive because of that belief. Given the setting, there's probably a kernel of truth to that.
- Paranoia is an RPG set After the End, in Alpha Complex, an underground city. The Complex is ruled by Friend Computer, a supercomputer whose databases were corrupted following a disaster that wiped out human civilization.
The Computer is quite insane and utterly paranoid, and rules with an iron fist, society being organized in a hierarchy of security clearances based on the colors of the rainbow and supported by swarms of robots, omnipresent surveillance and an endless bureaucracy. Players are Red-level Troubleshooters, whose job is to find trouble and shoot it, and whose main targets are traitors, Communists and other members of secret societies, as well as unregistered mutants and Commie Mutant Traitors.
This is complicated by the fact that every human in Alpha Complex has some kind of mutant power, and is also a member of one of the secret societies, making pretty much everyone a Commie Mutant Traitor. The game provides you with six backup clones, as you WILL be found out and terminated. Or terminated by accident. Or for the hell of it. Did we mention that the entire thing is Played for Laughs?
- Feng Shui : The 2056 juncture of the Tabletop Game is equal parts Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. The Buro government monitors its citizens constantly, same-race relationships are frowned upon at best as "racist" and punished at worst, guns and kung fu are outlawed, it's a crime to be unhappy, all TV (except for advertising) is pay-per-view, you can't get ahead unless you work for the Buro, and the only thing worse than falling into the Public Order (2056's brutal police) machine is letting the Bureau of Happiness and Productivity get hold of you -- Mind Rape is the absolute kindest term for what these guys do to people. And that's not even mentioning the CDCA (the group responsible for arcanowave technology and the Abominations) and the creepifying horrors that they get up to.
- Shadowrun. One of the most famous cyberpunk RPGs set in a Dystopia, one that is played to the hilt just as described at the top of the page. Corporations are huge, often quite literally evil, and all of them employ multiple packs of criminals to do their dirty work. Racism has been given up, but only because people are such assholes that they'd rather focus on Fantastic Racism. Heck, there's even this one bit from the fourth edition core book, talking about the availability of medical treatment, which cites privatized health care as one of the causes of dystopia (oddly enough, using the criticisms usually leveled at socialized/universal healthcare):
"Thanks to privatized healthcare, most people are forced to throw themselves and their ailments on the not-so-tender mercies of an overstressed public healthcare system. Spirits help you if you?re seriously sick or hurt and have to deal with a public hospital: most of them mean well, but they?re notoriously understaffed, awash in red tape, and generally a nightmare to navigate."
- And that's if you're a legal citizen with a proper SIN. For everyone else...
- Genius: The Transgression features a couple of them in the form of Bardos:
- Tsoka, a dreary, grey empire built from the conceptions of fascism taking over the world. Ironically, it's actually one of the safer Bardos-the Party that runs the place treats Geniuses with the proper papers as foreign dignitaries. Often uses as a recruitment ground for Beholden, who are all too happy to become slaves to the Genius if it means getting the hell out of there.
- The Seattle of Tomorrow, a Zeerust vision of an Atomist utopia. As the game points out repeatedly, Atomists frequently have absolutely no clue how people work.
- The universe of BattleTech is rocked by never-ending conflict because the rules laid down by the Ares Conventions effectively makes war legal.
- The series Half-Life 2 features several levels of Dystopia: Alien Invasion (a result of New Technology Is Evil), also featuring a variation on the No Sex Allowed rule: No More Children.
- Bioshock features a Randian utopia Gone Horribly Wrong. The sequel goes to the opposite extreme, showing a collectivist dystopia.
- Deus Ex and its sequel. The United States' economy is failing and is rampant with La Résistance forces, Europe is under a dictatorship-like rule thanks to MJ12 having enough power to work in the open, the majority of food that you find is either artificial or candy bars that mention they are made from "recycled material". All of this is happening while a pandemic is bringing the human race to its knees.
- Iron Storm is made of this trope. World War One has been dragging on for a horrifying 50 years and has become a Forever War. Everything is saturated with industrial grimness and in general decay. The global economy has become dominated by greedy and ignorant MegaCorps and completely dependent on keeping the war running. As if that wasn't bad enough, humans in general have become militaristic Crazy Survivalists. There's an opressive new Eurasian empire, which is ruled by a completely insane quasi-religous zealot, who claims to be the new Genghis Khan. And if you think the supposed good guy countries of the setting are any better, think again : They're pretty much militaristic jingoists and crumbling democracies masquerading as brave saviours of civilization. Seriously, it's as if someone did a Spiritual Licensee shooter game adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four...
- The Metal Gear Solid series tends to feature a dystopia Twenty Minutes Into the Future with each release. In Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots, the dystopia is driven mainly by the mass appeal of private military services, the use of warfare as a means of economic stimulus and the growth in the application of nano-machine technology (the game's Applied Phlebotinum).
- Shaun White Skateboarding, as unlikely as it may sound, is all based around how the 'Minstry' has taken control of the people, forcing them to conform to a bland unemotional state and being constantly monitored. The only way to save the city is to skate around it, as which point colours start to appear and suddenly people no longer want to wear a tie.
- Oni definitely uses this trope. The first social issue is the environment. The environment is polluted like you would not believe. The government not only does nothing to address it, apart from using Atmospheric Processors to make the cities livable, but it brands anyone who tries to bring it up as enemies of the state and will crush attempts to reveal it. The second social issue is the development of science and technology. The government keeps an eye on scientists and carefully checks to make sure any technology developed is approvable (in other words, will not threaten it). They use the Technological Crimes Task Force as a Secret Police force to enforce this.
- The Crapsack World of Blaz Blue is this thanks to NOL. They're also pretty justified in that, following the 'Playing With' page of this trope straight and justified.
- The second Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games provide an example of this, when you go to a future where Time has stopped, and all of the Pokemon are slaves to Dialga
- The Command and Conquer Tiberian Series touches on things like environmental destruction, government corruption and religious fanaticism as well as the threat of a One World Order united under a single extremist philosophy.
- Earth 2150 is fought over by three superpowers and they are still fighting despite the planet's destruction.
- Industrial warfare goes haywire in Total Annihilation.
- Remus is an attempt to imagine what one of these would be like for people who still remember freedom.
- Ad Astra Per Aspera posits how a successful impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 lead to a galaxy ruled by three 1984-style dictatorships in the 28th century.
- Future 1999 is a Deconstruction of dystopia in works. Since no rebellion can challenge the dystopian society, no plot happens.
- Futurama combines tropes from both Dystopia and Utopia to good effect. It balances out to being more or less like the modern world but weirder.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Gaang arrives in the 'Promised City' Ba Sing Se, the supposed last 'free' place from the Fire Nation after 100 years of war, only to find out that it's "just a bunch of walls and rules", which surpresses its inhabitants more effeciently than the Fire Nation ever could (to the point of brainwashing everyone who dares to mention that there's a century-long war going on in the whole world outside the walls).
- Thats not to say Fire Nation itself is not a particularly pleasant place to live, though, and unlike Ba Sing Se it actively suppresses its people rather than letting them live normal lives so long as they don't piss the leaders off. Even their colonies seem to be better and more open places, as simple things like dancing are effectively outlawed on the Fire Nation mainland, and their don't seem to be any of the celebrations or festivals seen in the first series either. History has been rewritten to paint the Fire Nation as victims rather than imperialistic aggressors (such as they heroically defeating the Air Nomad army, when they were all pacifist monks), school students make a daily pledge of allegiance to Fire Lord Ozai, and Fire Nation villages are starved and poisoned by their own armed forces who don't see a problem with setting up a highly pollutant weapons factory next door.
- The American Sonic Sat AM show definitely counts. For those who haven't heard of it, it features an alternate version of the Sonic universe where Sonic is a member of a resistance force who rebels against the oppressive rule of Robotnik, who has already taken over the world and turns anyone who does not willingly submit to him into robotic slaves.
- ↑ Infrared and Ultraviolet are represented by black and white, respectively. Rumors of a Gamma Clearance are treason.