Philip K. Dick published more than forty novels and over one hundred short stories, a truly impressive output that only a few other authors have surpassed. Unfortunately, a prolific output does not translate to money in the bank. Dick toiled away in obscurity for most of his career, barely making a living. He also struggled with mental illness for his whole life, a struggle that proved destructive to both himself and those around him. The paranoia and instability of his characters was art imitating life, as he often dreamed up wild conspiracy theories and went through a total of five marriages in his life time, none of which lasted more than ten years.
Only by the end of his life in the early 1980s did he start receiving proper recognition when filmmakers started adapting his works to the big screen. Over the past forty years, his output has been used for numerous Hollywood films and television productions. Some of these adaptations stay faithful to the original, while others use the idea as a springboard for a different story. Regardless of how close they stay to the source material, they are all evidence of how important, influential, and ahead of the curb his writing was.
As a celebration of Philip K. Dick's genius, the following ten entries will shine a light on the best adaptations of his work. This won't only point out films, but television series as well. There is quite a lot to choose from, and the last few entries on the list don't just represent the greatest adaptations of his work, but some of the greatest films of all time, period.
One shouldn't expect a cerebral story from John Woo, the director classic action flicks like Hard Boiled and The Killer, but one can always expect impressive set pieces. The Hong Kong filmmaker uses the concept of a company that erases the memories of its employees after finishing their work as a jumping-off point for a Hollywood action flick.
It's a decent time, but doesn't come anywhere near the two aforementioned films, or even Face/Off. It also doesn't do much more with the idea itself than making it an excuse to see things go boom.
Next is based on the short story The Golden Man, but bears few similarities beyond the idea of a man who can see slightly into the future.
Philip K. Dick's short story deals with human evolution and considers the protagonist a mutant. Next removes all of this subtext and simply presents the character as a dude with a neat ability.
8 The Adjustment Bureau
This thriller starring Matt Damon took inspiration from Adjustment Team. The characters and scenarios are entirely different, but they both play with the idea of an omnipotent organization controlling the natural order of things. In the film, the bureau is presented as a little friendlier, where the short story sees them as cold, enigmatic, and threatening.
Screamers deals with an army of robots on a mining planet that have the ability to replicate without the help of humans. The original work from Dick, Second Variety, is set in the aftermath of a nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Union, but it makes sense for the 1995 film to change settings since the Cold War had recently ended. Despite the change in location, both stories deal with paranoia concerning who is and isn't human.
6 Man In The High Castle
The classic novel is so haunting because of its grounded depiction of an alternate history where the Axis powers won World War II. Most people who would not face direct persecution from the Nazis would have surrendered and continued living relatively normal lives, turning a blind eye to those who would be targeted.
The show puts more focus on an American resistance, which is nice and hopeful, but not in line with the original novel. To its credit, the show is still extremely dour. The two recent Wolfenstein games present a more gripping alternate history for those looking for more in the genre.
5 Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams
This amazon series gave fans a lot to chew on and also adapted more obscure works from his catalog. The episodic nature ensures that no one gets bored of any particular story. Unfortunately, because the episodes are about an hour long, none of them get the chance to flesh out characters and ideas the way a feature film could.
4 Minority Report
The film adaptation of Minority Report sticks rather close to the source material. Three mutants are able to predict future crimes and arrest the culprit before the crime transpires.
When a police officer is accused of murder, he goes on the run to clear his name, ultimately revealing the flaws in such a system. The ending varies slightly, but the messages in both are the same.
3 A Scanner Darkly
This novel details an eerily accurate depiction of the United State's self-proclaimed war on drugs. It's not an altruistic endeavor to deter crime and help addicts, but a means of making money and proliferating the prison system. Richard Linkletter's adaption follows the novel almost to a t, utilizing rotoscoping to convey the main character's descent into addiction and madness.
2 Total Recall
No one can mix smart film making and copious amounts of gore quite like Paul Verhoeven. Total Recall is fun and brutally violent but also makes the viewer question whether or not what happened really transpired in the film. It may resemble very little of its source material, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, but it is a great film in its own right.
1 Blade Runner
Blade Runner flopped upon release, but slowly grew a cult-following and got a re-edited definitive cut in the early 2000s. Even in its flawed original form, the genius of the set design and performances shine through.
More than thirty years later, Blade Runner 2049 hit theaters to continue the story in a stunning fashion. The sequel garnered almost universal critical praise but made little money at the box office.