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Ever since Thomas More coined the term “utopia” in 1516, in order to name an imaginary island community in his treatise, it became associated with every literary attempt at envisioning a society which is profoundly different in one or more aspects from our own. However, given the fact that More imagined his Utopia as a generally favorable place to live, the term itself became associated with desirable communities, especially governments (and modes of governing). The Simpsons mock this overkill by showing a fictional trailer for a film featuring a terminator-like postman on a horse, after which Homer delivers a long litany of every movie set in a dystopian future that came out in the past few years. To be perfectly honest, dystopia does not necessarily equate an undesirable future, but a futuristic setting is rather a deliberate choice by authors who use it to highlight a terrible destination for mankind in case it stays on a path that it’s on now. In other words, to create a dystopia is way of issuing a warning about existing or impending dangers.
Mankind’s often too blind faith in technology is another source of anxiety and probably the main reason why most of these works are set in a technologically advanced society that is, despite its advances, anything but happy or healthy. If we assume that different times bring different hardships, we realize the possibility that dystopia from the 21st century feeds from new fears, on top of some of the old ones: rampant consumerism, rising inequality, police surveillance, climate change.
Another reason to differentiate between 20th and 21st century dystopian film, is the advent of CGI which opens up seemingly endless new possibilities for directors. Earth 2077: Scavengers, the alien invaders, have inflicted so much damage to human settlements, that people are forced to relocate to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. The two are among a handful of remaining people on Earth, all of whom supposedly serve the same purpose. The discovery of the exact same woman in a crashed spacecraft will call into question everything Jack knows about his task, the world, the enemy, and even himself. Praised for its originality, but criticized for severe plot holes and cliches, Oblivion is mostly interesting for its attempts at creating an allegorical story, and being based on the idea of questioning the society and the status quo.
Although the success of The Hunger Games franchise is undisputed, the concept of teens forced to participate in gladiator-like combat wasn’t its original contribution. In a very near future, Japan’s economy is at a dismal state, which caused an increase in violent crimes performed by youths. Unlike the Hunger Games series, Battle Royale finds it unnecessary to develop the story, and make the plot and characters believable, which results more in a violent, exploitative film than clever satire.
Some viewers and comic book lovers will remember an earlier adaptation of 2000 AD’s Judge Dredd, starring Sylvester Stallone. Law enforcement is now in the hands of Judges, who combine the holy trinity of judicial functions: judge, jury, and executioner. A particularly violent execution of three drug dealers brings Dredd and Anderson to Peach Trees (an ironic euphemism given the setting), a housing tower, and pits them against Ma-Ma, a ruthless drug kingpin (Lena Headey). Quite possibly the only movie that can be qualified as a dystopian comedy, Idiocracy is the brain child of Mike Judge, a versatile author behind famous animated series Beavis and Butthead, and King of the Hill, films like Office Space, as well as the currently running series Silicon Valley. A comical plot twist leads to the experiment being neglected, and ultimately forgotten about, and our protagonists left in stasis for half a millennium. Much like Dredd, Snowpiercer follows the trend of many recent dystopian films which are essentially action movies with a dystopian background, thus making them easier to attract viewers. Snowpiercer takes place in a new ice age accidentally brought about by people, as a result of a failed experiment to subvert the trend of global warming. The allegory that the film reaches for deals with unfair wealth distribution, as the population on the train is sharply divided between the rich in the front and the poor in the tail. Worst crap of 21st century so far : Snowpiercer, Dredd, Elysium, V for Vendetta, Children of Men. The popularity in recent years of war films such as Lone Survivor and American Sniper have demonstrated a resurgence of the war film genre. The reversal of fortunes for war films comes from these recent films and their injection of national pride and heroism that are largely absent from previous films. While still exploring some of these concepts of war surrounding American-involved combat in the 21st century, war films began to reinvigorate some of the sentiments similarly generated by films produced about World War II.
Although a diversity of thematic elements and narrative scope have been largely missing from those films produced about modern war in the 21st century, war films are again relevant through their revelations in a new kind of combat action unrealized in the wars of the past. More impressive firepower, and greater technology to include unmanned aerial drones, and night-vision bring war films to the forefront of the action genre if not contributing to the discourse of war. Zero Dark Thirty is perhaps best described or classified as a political thriller, or even better still as a spy thriller as it follows Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, and her years-long hunt of Osama Bin Laden.
As Maya’s search that has lasted longer than a decade comes to a conclusion and the Navy SEAL team moves stealthily on the compound hiding Bin Laden, repeated images are seen through night vision goggles. Even though night vision has appeared in several war films before the 21st century – Courage Under Fire (Edward Zwick, 1996) and G.I.
Night vision imagery alone is not particularly significant, but Kathryn Bigelow proved with The Hurt Locker (as discussed below) that films could be made about modern war where heroes are made of the soldiers that fight in a time when war is largely unpopular while also complicating both individual and geopolitical motives for going to war.
This film suggests that these first person documentations are more important for those that do not participate in combat. Hank, also a veteran of war, demonstrates the changing attitudes about war as well as he uncovers the changes in actual warfare, to include soldiers’ ability to document what’s going on around them in real time. Although actual combat is largely absent in this film as Mike’s experiences are revealed in the videos sparsely spaced over the time of the film.

More importantly is how these images also expose the indifference of society to those traumas. Although audiences can be made uncomfortable by this film’s ability to turn the lens of criticism on the audience and its lack of involvement in supporting physically and emotionally scarred soldiers returning home.
This film could be viewed as a remake of sorts of Casualties of War (1989) because of the strong similarities between the two films’ plots.
Salazar, played by Izzy Diaz, is an aspiring filmmaker hoping to submit his video diary as part of his application to the USC Film Program. With a disjunctive narrative that tasks the viewer to fill in the gaps between recordings, the film lacks catharsis as it ends unconvincingly with a video of an emotional confession of one of the other soldiers involved. An incredibly ambitious undertaking by Junger and Hetherington to document the actions of an Army platoon over the course of an entire year on the ground in Afghanistan in what is described as “the deadliest valley in Afghanistan.” The film takes its title from the name of an outpost where 2nd Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team spends their year in a fight for control of the Korengal Valley.
Restrepo is also the name of a soldier of this unit who was killed in action and is memorialized by the outpost’s naming. Because the war in Afghanistan still raged at the film’s release, Restrepo presents modern war to its viewers in perhaps the most current, unadulterated way possible without actually experiencing combat.
Continuing in the vein of documentary, Nick Broomfield lends his experience in the tradition – Soldier Girls of 1981, Kurt and Courtney of 1998, and Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer of 2003 – to create another factually based fiction fit for this list. Cast in the lead role for this film is ex-marine Elliot Ruiz – the youngest Marine in country at the time of his real world deployment to Iraq at 17 years old. The documentary technique and other efforts towards realism weight the suggestion of the film that the officers in command of today’s military are more responsible for soldiers’ actions, such as those in this film, than the soldiers themselves.
I don?t really find Black Hawk Down patriotic, after all it shows an utter failure by the american military, and doesn?t ever, in opinion at least, portray anyone as heroes, but simply men in a kill or be killed situation. You do realize this is an article is about Modern Warfare movies of the 21st century right?
These are not war movies, these films are about friggin USA attacking countries and killing ppl for oil. He does not even mention films from years before, which altogether amount to a whopping number.
In the 20th century, these dangers were fascism, dictatorships, technocracy, bureaucracy, eugenics – those are the reasons why Huxley wrote Brave New World, Orwell his 1984, or Bradbury his Fahrenheit 451. At this point, a long-time reader of ToC will have remembered an already existing list of dystopian films. The pair operates from a towering structure beyond the clouds, as the Earth’s surface is said to be radioactive. In an attempt to subvert this trend, the government, being a brutal, militaristic dictatorship, issues an act which enables them to annually select a group of teenagers, isolate them on an island, and force them to fight each other to the death. Much more successful than its predecessor, Travis’s Dredd is another solid example of modern dystopia’s exploitative side: using violent pulp fiction to tell cautionary tales about society. The rest of the American Continent being a toxic wasteland, the entire population settled in a gigantic conurbation spanning from Boston to Washington D.C.
Dredd (Karl Urban) is one such judge, a veteran at that, paired with a rookie with psychic abilities, Judge Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby).
Despite being essentially an action film, Dredd has elements of satire in its depiction of post-atomic United States as a violent society where police brutality is a moot point. As the author’s pedigree would suggest, Idiocracy fuses social commentary with fart jokes and manages to elicit many laughs. Human loss reached extreme levels after the incident, and the remaining lucky few (around a 1000, actually) have occupied a single globe-trotting train powered by a perpetual motion engine. A revolution ensues under the leadership of Curtis (Chris Evans), who is mentored by Gilliam (John Hurt), and with the assistance of the expert who designed the train’s security features, Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho).
Most of these movies are utter crap, dumb comic book like storylines, full of horrible cliches, no real depth what so ever.
Zero Theorem is not a horrible movie either, colours, Christopher Waltz and subtext was incredible.
Few films were made in the years between Operation Desert Storm and the present, similar to war film production in the years during and after Vietnam. Films often failed to peak the interest, because they focused either on the atrocities of American soldiers like those exposed at Abu Ghraib, or on the futility of fighting wars against enemies with no apparent fear of death on their own soil.
Inspired by this renewed vigor, the following list of ten films represents the best that the genre has offered in the 21st century. It is, however, made significant to the subject of 21st century warfare because of the involvement of the Navy SEAL team and the siege sequence that concludes the film. The night vision imagery and sequences of precise, quiet combat has become the most iconic staple of the war film genre in the 21st century.
Jane (Ridley Scott, 1997) – visuals in night vision were popularized by video games like the Call of Duty franchise, then used in Act of Valor (Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, 2012) as a possible recruiting tool.
It is the persistent contribution of Bigelow that grants this film an entry here as one of the ten best war films of the 21st century.
In part, this is because the consciousness of Americans and the global community was at its peak regarding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Hank Deerfield, played by Tommy Lee Jones, discovers the horrible details of his son, Michael’s, deployment to Iraq through a series of scrambled videos taken by Michael in Iraq. While the videos are revealing to Hank about his son’s traumatic experiences, their place in the narrative structure are also telling about how first-hand accounts can expose soldiers’ experiences at war otherwise unknown to those unexposed to wartime. The shocking images focus the attention of the film to the horrors of war mostly specific to modern warfare of the 21st century.
Unlike any time before in American history soldiers are returning home to a level of indifference that is alarming considering some of the imagery and soldier experiences contained in this film.
It is this unusual trait that make In the Valley of Elah essential to this list of 21st century films about 21st century war.
Like In the Valley of Elah, this film explores soldiers’ ability to record war in real time taking its perspective from an Army Private, Angel Salazar’s, video camera. What the camera records forms De Palma’s recreation of true events – Casualties of War was also based on real events from the Vietnam War.
In the contrived ending sequences this film necessitates its own existence and its inclusion in this list by providing a mirror to society at the time the film was produced – lacking real answers about the theater of war and begging for closure. Hetherington and Junger bring combat action to the screen in a visceral way that never achieved before. For the bold risks taken by the film’s creators, who put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of documenting something relevant but largely unseen, and the broad scope of this uninhibited look at this brave group of soldiers, Restrepo is a must see. Ruiz’s character, Corporal Ramirez, appears before the camera early on in improvised scenes, along with other soldiers to describe the monotony filled with danger that is the nature of a deployment to Iraq. While Broomfield’s utilization of documentary technique and style are important to this film’s inclusion to this list, it is more important to consider this film for a list such as this, because of its pointed critique at the leadership that guides today’s American military. When the casualties numbers pop up at the end, that is a direct stab at the american millitary, showing that yes 19 americans died, but at the cost of over a 1000 somalians; that is not patriotism, that is a direct critique.
Therefore, the purpose of this one is to outline tropes and cliches of dystopian fiction today, as opposed to dystopia in general. Below is a list of most interesting and most accomplished films with a dystopian setting in the last 15 years, The Hunger Games series not included, being famous enough and needing no additional mention. Tom Cruise’s Jack Harper maintains drones that keep these generators safe from alien attacks, and he works alongside Vika (Andrea Riseborough), who serves as a communication officer.
However, Jack also has flashbacks from New York which he has seen only on postcards, and which feature a woman he doesn’t remember (Olga Kyrilenko).
Its unprecedented population density generates an unprecedented crime rate, which is why the judicial system was… simplified to say the least.
These “qualities” are exactly what gets him selected for a top-secret suspended animation experiment, along with Rita (Maya Rudolph), a prostitute.
Their advance toward the front sections of the train is an allegorical journey through a class system.
Mad Max re-defined what crap means – it must be single most retarded quasi-animation ever made. Watchable ones are only AI, Cloud Atlas, A Scanner Darkly, The Road, – rest is horrible. Public outcry or indifference serves as the most satisfying explanation of why these films are so sparsely produced, and so poorly received both critically and commercially. Unlike previous conflicts, soldiers in the 21st century have unrestricted and unencumbered access to photography and video equipment to document their experiences. Both films tell stories of rape and murder controversially orchestrated by American soldiers.
With the nearly immediate availability of images in the new millennium the fever of the gunfights and combat patrols shown in this film bring combat to the audience in the now.
Tim Hetherington was later killed in Libya while attempting to document similar hostilities.
Nothing is so important to the film as the use of participants of real world events in cameos or roles small and large in the filming. The removal of scripting in these moments lends some credence to the factual nature of the film and further complicates American involvement in Iraq and the effect that involvement has on soldiers. It has no perspective, it’s overly patriotic, doesn’t show the point of view of the Somalis (in this episode, 19 Americans were killed, while more than 1,000 Somalis perished, and yet the film shows them as invisible and disposable enemies, canon fodder for the Americans at best), and yet it ends up #1! In 2001, Francis Ford Coppola reedited it and reissued it in a 200-minute+ version he chose to call Apocalypse Now Redux.
It wasn’t shot in the 21st century, true enough, but this version was first released in the 21st century.
And while some might argue that a director’s cut is not a new movie, in the case of Apocalypse Now, it kind of was. The film took on a whole new resonance in its longer cut which made it an even greater masterpiece than the 155-minute 1979 version.

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