Metropolis (1927)

“The mediator between head and hands must be the heart.”

Illustrator: Stevie Lacher

In a vision of the future far ahead of its time, Fritz Lang’s 1927 science fiction epic, Metropolis, presents a dystopian future ruled by a wealthy elite who have turned a blind eye to the toiling masses in favor of gardens of vain pleasures and a fetishistic reverence for high technology.

The story follows the parallel adventures of the master of Metropolis, Joh, and his naïve son Freder. From his headquarters, Joh hears of a possible workers’ rebellion. He consults the scientist Rotwang, who, because he hates Joh, completes and activates his “maschinenmensch,” a gynoid modelled after one of the more level-headed workers, Maria. He sends it forth to sow discord and ultimately destroy the infrastructure that supports all of Metropolis. Meanwhile, Freder follows the real Maria disguised as a worker in the Heart of Metropolis to learn of their struggles. He seeks to become a mediator between the elite “head” and the industrial “hands.”

In its time, Metropolis was met with mixed reviews, and failed financially, but its revolutionary techniques, style, and tone have continued to influence dystopias in film and television, garnering acclaim as one of the great works of science fiction. A restoration of the film was released in 2010, including scenes found on recently-discovered 16mm negatives of the original. To any fan of science fiction, Metropolis is a must-see film, both as a dramatic tale of social inequality and as one of the most influential pieces of film in the history of dystopian fiction.