5 Must Watch Dystopian Franchises on HBO Max!

In a world where dystopian futures and alternate realities captivate our imagination, Max offers a treasure trove of cinematic experiences that transport viewers to thrilling and thought-provoking worlds.

Whether you’re a seasoned enthusiast of the genre or a newcomer looking to delve into the realms of dystopia, these five franchises available on Max promise to deliver an unforgettable cinematic experience that challenges, entertains, and leaves a lasting impact on viewers. So grab your popcorn, settle in, and immerse yourself in the dystopian wonders that await you.

The Matrix

Rotten Tomatoes: 85% | IMDb: 8.7/10 | MetaCritic: 73/100

The complete Matrix franchise is a groundbreaking series of films that redefined the sci-fi genre. This franchise takes viewers on a mind-bending journey through a dystopian reality where humanity is enslaved by machines. Each installment of the franchise weaves together a tapestry of themes that delve into the nature of reality, freedom, and the power of choice in a world dominated by artificial intelligence.

The Matrix (1999) is the first film which introduces us to a world where humans unknowingly live in a simulated reality called the Matrix, created by machines to subdue and control them. Neo, a computer hacker, discovers the truth and joins a group of rebels led by Morpheus to fight against the oppressive system. As Neo grapples with his identity as “The One,” the film explores themes of awakening, self-discovery, and the quest for liberation from a dystopian regime. The final chapter of the original trilogy sees Neo embarking on a journey to the Machine City to broker a truce between humans and machines in a last-ditch effort to end the war. As the conflict reaches its climax, themes of sacrifice, redemption, and the interconnectedness of all beings come to the forefront, culminating in a powerful exploration of the human spirit’s resilience in the face of overwhelming adversity.

The Matrix excels in intertwining universal themes with dystopian elements that resonate with audiences worldwide. The films explore totalitarian control exerted by machines over humanity, reflecting fears of surveillance, manipulation, and loss of individual agency in a technologically advanced society. They probe the nature of reality, identity, and the quest for truth in a world where appearances can be deceiving and perceptions can be manipulated. The exploration of technology, control, and the human condition in a dystopian future resonates with contemporary concerns about the impact of artificial intelligence.

The Matrix franchise revolutionized the sci-fi genre with its mind-bending storytelling and groundbreaking visual effects. It’s a must-watch for anyone who loves a mix of action, philosophy, and dystopian themes. The series not only entertains with its action-packed sequences but also challenges viewers to question the nature of reality and existence.

Rotten Tomatoes: 82% | IMDb: 8/10 | MetaCritic: 83/100

The Avatar franchise, created by James Cameron, follows the story of Jake Sully, a paraplegic Marine who becomes involved in a conflict between human forces and the indigenous Na’vi people on the alien world of Pandora. The movies explore themes of environmentalism, imperialism, and the clash of cultures, emphasizing the importance of preserving nature and respecting indigenous traditions. The universal theme of the Avatar franchise revolves around the consequences of human greed and exploitation, the need for harmony between different cultures and nature, and the struggle against oppressive forces that seek to dominate and destroy for their own gain.

Avatar: The Way of Water is the sequel to the original Avatar movie directed by James Cameron. The film features a star-studded cast including Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, and Kate Winslet. The movie explores new adventures on Pandora and introduces audiences to the water tribe. Avatar: The Way of Water broke box office records and set the stage for the future Avatar movies. Here’s a breakdown of the upcoming Avatar movies:

Avatar 3 is scheduled for release on December 19, 2025 and it will continue the story on Pandora, focusing on the Na’vi heroes encountering a fire Na’vi tribe known as the Ash People. The fourth movie in the series is set to premiere on December 21, 2029, and will feature a time jump while exploring the significance of the water tribe. The fifth and final movie in the series is slated for release on December 19, 2031.

The Avatar franchise portrays a dystopian world where humans exploit the natural resources of Pandora without regard for the environment or the native species, leading to irreversible ecological damage and conflict.

Mad Max: Fury Road
Rotten Tomatoes: 87% | IMDb: 8.1 /10| MetaCritic: 90/100

The Mad Max franchise is a series of post-apocalyptic action films created by director George Miller. The franchise began with the release of Mad Max in 1979, followed by sequels like Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), and the most recent installment, Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

The dystopian nature of the Mad Max franchise is evident in the desolate landscapes, lawless societies, and brutal violence that characterize the world depicted in the films. The scarcity of resources, the breakdown of social structures, and the constant struggle for survival all contribute to the dystopian atmosphere of the franchise. What sets the Mad Max franchise apart as a compelling dystopian series is its rich world-building, complex characters, intense action sequences, and thought-provoking themes. The films not only provide exhilarating entertainment but also offer deeper insights into human nature, society, and the consequences of unchecked power. Overall, the Mad Max franchise stands out as a testament to the enduring appeal of dystopian storytelling, combining adrenaline-pumping action with deeper philosophical themes to create a truly unforgettable cinematic experience.

The central theme of the Mad Max franchise revolves around the collapse of civilization in a dystopian world where resources are scarce, society has broken down, and individuals are forced to fend for themselves in a lawless and chaotic environment. The films explore themes of survival, redemption, vengeance, and the struggle for power in a world where the strong prey on the weak. Each movie in the franchise contributes to this universal theme in its own way. In the original Mad Max, we see the transformation of Max Rockatansky from a police officer upholding the law to a vengeful survivor seeking justice in a world that has lost all sense of order. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior further delves into the concept of survival in a harsh world as Max becomes a reluctant hero helping a group of survivors in their struggle against a brutal gang.

Unfortunately the lates film Mad Max: Fury Road is the only one not currently available on Max.

Rotten Tomatoes: 90% | IMDb: 8/10| MetaCritic: 74/100

The Dune franchise is a widely acclaimed science fiction saga that began with the 1965 novel of the same name by Frank Herbert. It has expanded into a series of books and adaptations in film, television, and other media. The franchise is known for its complex universe, intricate politics, religious themes, environmental concerns, and epic storytelling.

Dune is set in the far future, where a feudal interstellar society is ruled by noble houses that owe allegiance to the Padishah Emperor. The story focuses on the desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune, the only source of the most valuable substance in the universe, “the spice” melange. The spice extends life, enhances mental abilities, and is vital for space travel, making control of Arrakis a coveted and dangerous endeavor. The narrative primarily follows the journey of Paul Atreides, heir to House Atreides, as his family is thrust into a political and military conflict over Arrakis. Through betrayal and struggle, Paul rises to become the leader of the native Fremen people and takes on the mantle of a messianic figure known as Muad’Dib. The overarching themes of the saga include the rise and fall of dynasties, ecological issues, the intersection of politics and religion, and the question of destiny versus free will.

The first adaptation of Herbert’s novel was a commercial and critical disappointment upon release, although it has since gained a cult following. The film attempts to condense the complex story of the book, focusing on Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan) and his family’s move to Arrakis, the betrayal by the Harkonnens, and Paul’s rise to power among the Fremen. It introduces the universe’s themes but struggled with pacing and coherence, partly due to studio interference and cuts.

Dune (2021) – Directed by Denis Villeneuve was met with critical acclaim for its visual storytelling, world-building, and faithful adaptation of the source material. It covers roughly the first half of the first book, ending with Paul and his mother, Lady Jessica, finding refuge with the Fremen. The universal themes of ecological struggle, the hero’s journey, and the complex interplay of power are presented with a grandeur that befits Herbert’s vision. The universal theme of the Dune franchise revolves around the interplay of power, ecology, religion, and individual destiny. It questions the nature of leadership and messianic figures, the impact of human actions on the environment, and the dangerous allure of prescient power. Dune can be considered a dystopia due to its depiction of a future where societal advancement has led to new forms of oppression and conflict. The feudal system, the struggle for a vital resource, the disparity between the wealthy ruling classes and the oppressed. The Dune movies, especially Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 adaptation, succeed in bringing the dystopian aspects of Herbert’s universe to life through impressive visuals, sound design, and storytelling. They induce reflection on our current trajectory as a society and the potential consequences of our choices, which is a hallmark of good dystopian fiction.

R.T: 76% | IMDb: 6.5/10| MetaCritic: 62/100

The Godzilla franchise is one of the most iconic and enduring film series in cinematic history, spanning several decades and encompassing numerous films, TV shows, and other media. Created by the Japanese film studio Toho, Godzilla, also known as Gojira in Japan, made its first appearance in the 1954 film Godzilla. Since then, Godzilla has become a cultural icon and has appeared in over 30 films produced by Toho, as well as in various American adaptations.

The core theme of the Godzilla franchise revolves around the destructive power of nuclear weapons, environmental concerns, and the consequences of humanity’s hubris. Each movie in the franchise explores these themes in different ways, often reflecting the socio-political context of the time in which they were made.

The original film that started it all, Godzilla is a dark and somber reflection on the horrors of nuclear warfare. Godzilla is depicted as a metaphor for the destructive power of nuclear weapons, with the monster’s rampage through Tokyo serving as a stark reminder of the consequences of humanity’s actions. This American adaptation of the Godzilla franchise continues to explore themes of environmental destruction and humanity’s impact on the planet. The film portrays a world on the brink of collapse due to the emergence of various titans, including Godzilla, who are awakened by humanity’s disregard for the natural world.

This Japanese film offers a modern reinterpretation of the original Godzilla story, focusing on the bureaucratic and governmental response to a new Godzilla threat. The film critiques the inefficiency and red tape of government institutions in the face of a rapidly evolving crisis, highlighting the failures of leadership in times of disaster.

The dystopian elements of the Godzilla franchise are evident in the apocalyptic scenarios depicted in many of the films, where cities are destroyed, populations are displaced, and the world is forever changed by the presence of these giant monsters. The films often explore the darker aspects of human nature, including greed, hubris, and the tendency towards self-destruction. Despite the bleak themes and dystopian settings, the Godzilla franchise remains beloved by fans around the world for its compelling storytelling, memorable characters, and spectacular monster battles. The enduring popularity of Godzilla speaks to the universal themes it addresses and its ability to resonate with audiences through its powerful imagery and thought-provoking messages.

While not every Godzilla film is currently available, a decent amount including the latest ones are!

As fans of dystopian movies seek out thrilling and thought-provoking narratives, Max stands out as a go-to platform for a diverse selection of films that explore dark and speculative futures.

About the Author

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Christopher Rivera

Christopher Rivera is a passionate filmmaker dedicated to mastering the art of storytelling. He is striving to become a world-class storyteller, writer and filmmaker.