The Widening Gyre: The Top Five Movies Where Things Fall Apart.

Because I have friends in England, lived there for a time, and am generally an Anglophile, I’ve been pretty much glued to the news coverage of the riots currently rocking the U.K. I’ve been sickened and saddened by what I’ve seen. And I’ve been hoping and praying for a quick end to the violence.

There’s been plenty of talk about the end times of late, what with all the economic uncertainty and instability across the globe. So that got me to thinking: What movies best capture that sense of unease? What movies most vividly create the sort of fin-de-siecle wasteland where the final showdown between good and evil takes place?

Here’s my picks for the Top Five Movies Where Things Fall Apart. Feel free to share your picks in the comments section.

1. A Clockwork Orange (1971).
This almost seems like a cliche. But I saw this at a film festival at Yale University when I was still quite young and impressionable. And, for my money, no one has ever quite captured that post-apocalyptic mood quite like Kubrick did in this flick. And I don’t care what you say, even after all these years, Malcolm McDowell still exudes an air of menace that forces me back in my seat.

2. Akira (1988).
I have lost count of the times that me and my buddies from freshman year in college watched this Japanese import on a well-worn and well-loved VHS tape. We had the lines memorized and would recite them to each other the way some film geeks recite lines from “Star Wars” or “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” at each other.

3. Mad Max (1979).
More fast cars. More ultraviolence. Anyone else besides me ever notice that the future is rarely a Utopia? I still remember being shocked by the fact that the filmmakers felt it necessary to dub in American English for guys who were already speaking English in the U.S. release. And … sigh … we didn’t know then what we know now about Mel Gibson.

4. Robocop (1987).
Not long ago, I was watching a documentary on the History Channel and was shocked to find that star Peter Weller is an adjunct history professor at Syracuse University. Wonder how many times the kids have gotten him to say, in his best monotone, “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me?

5. Red Dawn (1984).
Wolverriiiiinneessssss!!!!
If you were a teenager in the 1980s, as I was, there was absolutely no way to avoid this cheesetastic movie about a bunch of high school kids-turned-resistance fighters. Looking back, it’s easy to laugh at the corny dialogue and easier still to cringe at the clearly jingoistic overtones. But at the time, when Americans were still genuinely afraid of nuclear annihilation either at the hands of the Soviets or through a mistake by our civilian leaders, this movie captured the unease of the time.

5. Deep Impact (1998).
A truly awful movie. And it’s only included here because this was the only film I’ve ever seen where I was rooting for the comet to destroy the Earth. That way, the movie would be over and I could go home.

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