A gem of ‘90s dystopian science fiction, Gattaca arrived on the scene 18 years ago to both critical and audience acclaim. It’s not hard to see why this movie clicked with people— it’s a stylish, well-written, thought-provoking examination of a future society in which your social standing is predetermined at birth by your DNA. It also saw two young stars teaming up after coming off epochal films (for Ethan Hawke: Before Sunrise; for Uma Thurman: Pulp Fiction) that launched their careers (and marriage).
If you’re looking for more exciting, brainy, dystopian sci-fi to chew on, then look no further! Here are six movies we recommend:
The Top 6 movies like Gattaca:
1. Minority Report
First on our list, Steven Spielberg’s visionary sci-fi epic, Minority Report. Based on a short story written by 20th century science fiction titan Philip K. Dick, this one is full of cutting-edge, cerebral concepts, none more famous than “PreCrime”, an experimental police unit in a future America that stop murders from happening with the help of “Precogs”—a group of clairvoyant beings that predict when someone is about to commit murder. The film deals with themes of determinism vs. free will, the limits of government and technology in maintaining law and order, and the fine line between responsible action and authoritarianism.
This one will surely appeal to you if you found yourself tickled by the predetermination concept of Gattaca. Also, as far as stylized popcorn-friendly filmmaking goes, there’s really no one better than Spielberg, who together with action-movie king Tom Cruise, deliver a thrilling, futuristic neo-noir with a brilliant, imaginative twist.
Next up, our second entry from 2002, Kurt Wimmer’s sci-fi action flick Equilibrium. Despite a lackluster theatrical run, this movie has since garnered a cult following for both its polished, minimalistic dystopian aesthetic and its groundbreaking use of a hybrid form of martial-arts and shoot-‘em-up fight choreography, “gun kata”.
If you identified with the premise in Gattaca of an individual who ends up having to fight the controlling powers-that-be in a totalitarian society, then this one is right up your alley. Borrowing elements from such seminal works of dystopian fiction as 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451, and mixing in a healthy dose of the grandiose action set-pieces of The Matrix, this film delivers on its unique premise with style to spare.
3. I, Robot
For our third entry, we have I, Robot, a slick, well-oiled yet highly volatile machine of a movie, much like the robots in the movie itself. Loosely based on legendary science fiction writer Isaac Asimov’s novel of the same name, the film gets the most out of its dystopian concept when supremely advanced helper A.I. robots seek to take over mankind.
Despite lacking some of the psychological nuances and complexity of ideas that is inherent to Gattaca, this is a very well-crafted, eye-pleasing, action-packed sci-fi romp. What it lacks in narrative depth it more than makes up for in magnificent set-pieces, quick-witted humor, and a remarkably charismatic Will Smith performance.
4. The Island
For our next entry, we have Michael Bay’s big-budget dystopian extravaganza, The Island. Despite being a prime example of Bay’s “go-big-or-go-home” filmmaking mantra, this one has a sturdy dystopian concept which balances out the explosions and CGI with an engaging plot and not-so-far-fetched premise about human bodies being unwittingly cloned and harvested so their organs and other features can be used by wealthy overlords.
Here, we have a movie that is similar to Gattaca in its world-building and themes of eugenics and inequality leading to exploitation and oppression of lower classes. If you like your sci-fi with both brains and brawn, this one is for you.
5. Children of Men
Up there for one of the best movies of the 2000’s, next up is Mexican auteur Alfronso Cuarón’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece, Children of Men. The film stands out for its eerily prescient and startlingly realistic exploration of the direction mankind seems to be heading towards. What separates this one from other Hollywood dystopian films is the roughly-hewn, contemporary quality of its world; the aesthetic is far from the glossy, polished, inhuman futurism we are used to seeing in dystopian sci-fi. Instead, it evokes an eroding world in poverty and on the brink of collapse, oppressed by a militaristic police state.
If the dual-concept of population-control and authoritarianism fascinated you in Gattaca, then this is the movie for you. As a major bonus, it happens to be one of the most inspired, gritty, and rewarding movies of its kind, with an eeriness (involving a fictional pandemic) that feels all the more relevant considering the events of this year.
Last, but not least, we have Duncan Jones’ sensational directorial debut, the mind-bending low-budget sci-fi thriller, Moon. This movie recalls the claustrophobic feel of the second-half section of 2001: A Space Odyssey expanded into a feature-length film, as Kevin Spacey’s voice for A.I. companion to Sam Rockwell shares the indifferent, monotonous delivery of HAL 9000. What sets this film apart is its tightly-constructed script which explores issues of identity, cloning, and futuristic exploitation in a completely unique manner.
Like Gattaca, the film is concerned with the fluidity of identity when it comes to A.I., and how future, technologically advanced societies may render individuality completely obsolete in order to breed a more identical, docile capitalist subject. If these themes speak to you, then don’t hesitate on this one.