Anarchism and science fiction: I

I, Robot (2004, dir. Alex Proyas)

Taken at face value, this is a reasonably thoughtful film about robot consciousness and will, only claiming to be "suggested by" the classic short story collection by Isaac Asimov, though it uses the names of some of Asimov's characters, and the famous three laws of robotics are strongly featured.


Libertarian Movies says the film has "a very libertarian message", and "libertarians will find the underlying ideas especially satisfying."

Idiocracy (2006, dir. Mike Judge)

Satire in which two people take part in an experiment in suspended animation, only to wake up 500 years later in a vacuous dystopia where commercialism and anti-intellectualism have run rampant, and society is devoid of any sense of justice or human rights.


Ilana Mercer describes this film as "my all-time favorite social commentary", and a "stroke of genius. She, like a good number of commentators, has seen the parallel with America in 2016/17. Mike Judge himself is on record as saying "I'm no prophet. I was off by 490 years." [Stein]


Recommended on two of Reddit's anarchism threads (1, 2).


Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown, eds: Octavia's Brood (2015)

Anthology of short stories exploring the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change, inspired by the writings of Octavia E. Butler, and published by AK Press, in collaboration with the Institute for Anarchist Studies. [IAS, AK Press, Imarisha, Hudson]


The book was the subject of a session at the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair on 25 April 2015. The Summer 2015 issue of Fifth Estate (vol. 50 No.2, #394) includes an interview with adrienne maree brown, entitled 'All Organizing is Science Fiction.'

In the Dust of the Stars (Im Staub der Sterne, 1976, dir. Gottfried Kolditz)

A spaceship responds to a mayday call from a distant planet, and on arrival finds an apparently contented hedonistic society, then discovers that in fact the mayday was sent by the enslaved indigenous population. The slaves revolt.


Listed as utopia/dystopia at Anarchism and film.

In Time (2011, dir. Andrew Niccol)

Dystopian Bonnie and Clyde story, set in a future where ageing is engineered to stop at 25, with longer life only available by the purchase of time, as the only meaningful currency.


The Anarchism sub-Reddit discussions on top films advocating anti-capitalism, and movies containing anarchism, both have recommendations for this film: in the former, one poster says it is "surprisingly one of the most anti-capitalist films I've ever seen!", while in the latter one says "I got a socialist vibe from it not even halfway through", another commenting on its obvious political message.

Independence Day (1996, dir. Roland Emmerich)

Invasion by hostile aliens is successfully defeated.


In a Guardian article forwarded to the Anarchy-SF mailing list in 2004, J.G. Ballard suggested that films such as this might be a warning to non-Americans, that "the greatest danger is that Americans will believe their own myths." Mark Bould's 2005 Socialist Review article, also forwarded to the Anarchy-SF list, rightly identified the film as another reworking of The War of the Worlds, but "In Wells's novel the Martians are killed by bacteria. In Independence Day Will Smith gets to 'kick ET's butt'. The gulf could not be wider."

The Intelligence Explosion: How to Stop a Robot from Turning Evil (2017, dir. Dan Susman)

Witty five-minute short on a possible singularity scenario. Linked to from the Facebook Anarchism and Science Fiction forum in February 2017.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, dir. Don Siegel)

Alien plant spores have fallen to earth and grown into large seed pods, each one capable of duplicating a human. As each pod reaches full development, it assimilates the appearance and persona of each sleeping person placed near it, but the replicas are without emotion.


Red Planets calls the film "A satire on mechanical reproduction, commodification, alienation and McCarthyism", which about wraps up the allegorical interpretations—according to SFE, this is possibly the most discussed B-movie in the history of US film—but there is evidence that its creators had no allegorical intent.


Recommended, though regarded as "politically ambiguous", on Reddit's thread on movie recommendations containing Anarchy.


Ishikawa Sanshiro: Japan Fifty Years From Now (Go-jū Nen ato no Nihon) (1946)

An anarchist vision of utopia, in which "The Japan of the year 1996 embodies qualities of Ishikawa's anarchist philosophy he developed all his life. Ishikawa casts himself as the character of an old man (120 years-old!) discussing how anarchist revolution had been achieved in Japan so many years ago." (Schnick)


"He imagined Japanese society organized on a co-operative basis (with Proudhonist mutual exchange banks) to enable each individual to live a life of artistic creation. His celebration of nudity reflected Carpenter's influence, but the idea of retaining the Japanese emperor as the symbol of communal affection was his very own." (Peter Marshall: 527)


Described by Cohn (228) as an anarchist utopia.


The 2014 Bottled Wasp Pocket Diary describes Ishikawa as an anarcho-syndicalist theorist, but Schnick suggests he was rather more than that:


Ishikawa believed in a much better world and hoped that in telling and living his ideal lifestyle, society could move towards this better world. In this we find Ishikawa's most significant accomplishment: his practice and ideology were consonant—he lived as he wished others to live. (p47)

Island of Lost Souls (1932, dir. Erle C. Kenton)

Vintage horror, based on H.G. Wells's The Island of Dr Moreau, but disliked by him. Mad scientist carries out vivisection trying to transform animals into human form. They turn on him, after he breaks the law he'd imposed on them.


One of the Wells adaptations regarded as "pretty good", in Mark Bould's 2005 Socialist Review article 'Science Fiction: The Shape of Things to Come', which was copied to the Anarchy-SF mailing list. In Bould's Red Planets filmography he lists this as the best film adaptation of Moreau, commenting that it "draws out colonialism's hysterical sadism."


Gary Ives: 'This is BioMorph' (2017)

Short short about cyborgs, published in Fifth Estate #398, Summer 2017.


Text in blue means I haven't personally read the item concerned, so can't vouch for the reliability of the information. See my hotlist, for items particularly recommended by me.

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This page was last revised on 2017-11-27.

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