4 Reasons Why Dystopia is More Popular Than Ever

4 Reasons Why Dystopia is More Popular Than Ever

Do you like Dystopian books and movies? I hope so or you may be in the wrong place…

Dystopian fiction is not new although the recent surge of popularity because of movies such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, Ready Player One, Mortal Engines and The Maze Runner makes it feel fresh.

Dystopia vs. Utopia

Let’s start with the definitions. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines dystopia as “An imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives.”

Different from dystopia, Merriam-Webster defines utopia as “a place of ideal perfection, especially with laws, government, and social conditions.”

Although utopia sounds better than dystopia, they share similar characteristics; neither is optimal.

The First Dystopian Novel

According to Rare Book Digest, Yevgeni Zamyatin wrote the first dystopian novel ‘We’ in 1920. E.P. Dutton of New York  published it in English in 1924.

Wikipedia identifies the first book as Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift written in 1726. Either way, dystopia has been around for a while and shows no signs of ending.

How I Discovered Dystopia

My introduction to dystopia began in the late seventies from books and short stories written by Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. Then movies like Logan’s Run (1976), The Time Machine (1978), Planet of the Apes (the 1960s) and A Clockwork Orange (1971) captivated me because those worlds were so unique; the complete opposite of mine. They opened my imagination to countless possibilities. The worlds they created were so much more interesting than actual life.

An Outsider Watching the Sun Set

Image created in Canva

Why is Dystopia so Popular?

The answer may be that dystopian fiction draws in readers (and movie watchers) for many reasons.

Reason One: They defy beliefs.

Take the X-Men, for instance. We know that people don’t have powers like the X-Men but that doesn’t stop us for wishing that we were telekinetic like Jean Grey aka Phoenix. We wouldn’t want the pain of Wolverine’s retractable claws, but in a fight for our lives, they would be handy..

Reason Two: They send a message.

Dystopia can provide a warning of what life could be like if things don’t change by providing a social message. What would the world be like if there were a nuclear disaster; if we ruined the environment? Would we board a train with 1001 cars and circle the earth like Snowpiercer? Or live in underground bunkers like my story Underground when facing extinction.

Reason Three: They investigate the loss of control

Governmental, Religious, Technological, and Individual control are common dystopian themes. Could the government send children to fight to the death like the Hunger Games? Would people kill for The Book of Eli to gain religious control? What if they plugged us into technology like The Matrix or The Feed, unable to break free? What about the decline of individualism and the rise of the collective like Brave New World where there is no privacy, family or monogamy?

Reason Four: They make you think.

The stories are thought-provoking. We wonder if someday we will fight for petroleum like the Road Warrior or burn books like Fahrenheit 451 or become handmaids like the Handmaid’s Tale.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
― George Orwell, 1984

Why I Write Dystopian Fiction

I write Dystopian stories because at their core they are survival stories. I love the ‘us against them’ message they present.

Dystopian stories usually involve tough choices characters make to survive; when the decisions aren’t black and white, but gray. Characters determine their resilience by learning how much they can take before they break.

The bonds characters make and the loyalty they have to each other while they suffer hardships and fight for freedom is fascinating. How characters can go from despair to hope and never quit fighting, no matter how bad the odds get stacked against them.

Hollow Edge Book Cover on a Park Bench

Top Ten Dystopian Books

Here is a list of the top ten dystopian books from Goodreads Best Dystopian Fiction of all Time.

  1. The Hunger Games
  2. 1984
  3. Divergent
  4. Catching Fire (Hunger Games 2)
  5. Brave New World
  6. Fahrenheit 451
  7. Mockingjay (Hunger Games 3)
  8. Animal Farm
  9. The Giver
  10. The Handmaids Tale

Click here to read the rest of the 397 books on the list.

Top Ten Dystopian Movies

The following is the top ten movies from IMBD’s list of the Top 100 Dystopian Movies as:

  1. Resident Evil
  2. Resident Evil: Apocalypse
  3. Total Recall
  4. Divergent
  5. X-Men Days of Future Past
  6. Resident Evil: Extinction
  7. The Road Warrior
  8. Intersteller
  9. Starship Troopers
  10. Insurgent (Divergent)

Click here to see the rest of the list.

The ranking of these lists while detailed are subjective, and I don’t necessarily agree with the order. Although I have read all the books, some movies on the list were surprising. Are the Resident Evil movies dystopia? I’ve never watched them but I will now.

Final Thoughts

The interest in dystopian fiction sometimes called apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic fiction shows no signs of slowing down. Even if it wasn’t popular, I would still read and watch. What are your thoughts on dystopia? Let me know in the comments.


Until next time



Feature image by Michael Gaida from Pixabay.