In honor of today’s wide release of the unfairly maligned Divergent, I thought it would be fun to list five sci-fi dystopian films that few have seen and/or aren’t treated with the respect they deserve. Let’s take a look at some of these underrated sci-fi classics with well-defined dystopic landscapes.
A Scanner Darkly (2006)
You can’t go wrong adapting a Philip K. Dick novel, but that didn’t stop Richard Linklater from turning A Scanner Darkly into a sensory experience for the ages. Reusing his rotoscope technique from Waking Life to make his actors come alive despite their animated forms, Linklater managed to extract the single best performance of Keanu Reeves’ career. As an undercover detective, Keanu’s natural stoicism fits this role, yet when the drugs overtake him he’s back to his “hang-loose” stoner days from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Linklater also reminded audiences of the compelling kookiness of Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson, who are so memorable in their roles as shifty yet hilarious drug addicts. A Scanner Darkly is a cautionary tale that shows instead of lectures; it allows us to experience both the fleeting happiness that comes when using hallucinogens and its aftereffects. We quickly learn that such brief ecstasy isn’t worth the price of losing one’s mind to substances that control instead of liberate. Linklater takes us on a roller coaster ride filled with wonder and visual bedazzlement, but even the flashiness can’t outdo the film’s superb ensemble work.