The Man in the High Castle book cover

The early eighties were remarkable, to me anyhow. Not only did my fascination with science fiction grind into high gear, but there was an explosion of new and modern genre films that hit the scene at around that time, many having been influenced by film makers from a bygone era, and more importantly, by novels penned by hardcore science fiction authors just decade earlier.

So, there I was, in the school library, looking for a book that was adapted into a movie I had just seen. Instead of finding the weirdly titled ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, I ended up with a paperback with an even less appealing name. ‘The Man in the High Castle’. The one with the Max Ernst’s ‘The Petrified Forest” cover.

I didn’t even know alternate reality books existed, yet the way the author dealt with the characters as they inhabited a post world war society where the axis powers reigned supreme, prove to me this was a writer worth investing in.

With his little background details, such as as American workers having poorer eye sight than their Germanic overlords, or the grand suggestion that our world could be as fake as the one presented on the novel, Dick basically striped away the veneer that masked my view of reality. That is his amazing talent. After setting off on a mission to read all his books and short stories, It didn’t surprise me, that decades later, this author’s work would become one of the biggest properties for film and TV adaptation.

The Good.

The Man in the High Castle  Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller | 1h | TV Series (2015–2019) 8.1
Writers: Frank SpotnitzStars: Alexa Davalos, Luke Kleintank, Rufus SewellSummary: What would it be like if the Allied Powers had lost WWII, and Japan and Germany ruled the United States? Written by Amazon Studios

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Apart from a few superficial changed, such as the book swapped for a film, this television series, Season 1 anyway, is spot on. Highly recommend.


Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Action, Drama, Mystery | 2h 44min | 6 October 2017 (Bulgaria) 8.0
Director: Denis VilleneuveWriters: Hampton Fancher, Michael GreenStars: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de ArmasSummary: Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos. K's discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years. Written by Warner Bros. Pictures

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Both films are as important to watch for any true sci-fi aficionado. Rare that a sequel does justice to the original.

Blade Runner (1982) Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller | 1h 57min | 25 June 1982 (USA) 8.1
Director: Ridley ScottWriters: Hampton Fancher, David Webb PeoplesStars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean YoungSummary: In the 21st century, a corporation develops human clones to be used as slaves in colonies outside the Earth, identified as replicants. In 2019, a former police officer is hired to hunt down a fugitive group of clones living undercover in Los Angeles. Written by MadMovieManiac

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Minority Report (2002) Action, Crime, Mystery | 2h 25min | 21 June 2002 (USA) 7.6
Director: Steven SpielbergWriters: Philip K. Dick, Scott FrankStars: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha MortonSummary: In the year 2054 A.D. crime is virtually eliminated from Washington D.C. thanks to an elite law enforcing squad "Precrime". They use three gifted humans (called "Pre-Cogs") with special powers to see into the future and predict crimes beforehand. John Anderton heads Precrime and believes the system's flawlessness steadfastly. However one day the Pre-Cogs predict that Anderton will commit a murder himself in the next 36 hours. Worse, Anderton doesn't even know the victim. He decides to get to the mystery's core by finding out the 'minority report' which means the prediction of the female Pre-Cog Agatha that "might" tell a different story and prove Anderton innocent. Written by Soumitra

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Again, with a talented director such as Spielberg, this a true PKD experience.


A Scanner Darkly (2006) Animation, Crime, Drama | 1h 40min | 28 July 2006 (USA) 7.1
Director: Richard LinklaterWriters: Philip K. Dick, Richard LinklaterStars: Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr.Summary: In a totalitarian society in a near future, the undercover detective Bob Arctor is working with a small time group of drug users trying to reach the big distributors of a brain-damaging drug called Substance D. His assignment is promoted by the recovery center New Path Corporation, and when Bob begins to lose his own identity and have schizophrenic behavior, he is submitted to tests to check his mental conditions. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Great visuals, great cast, and a commitment to the story that’s ingenious and refreshing.


Total Recall (1990) Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller | 1h 53min | 1 June 1990 (USA) 7.5
Director: Paul VerhoevenWriters: Philip K. Dick, Ronald ShusettStars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Michael IronsideSummary: Douglas Quaid is haunted by a recurring dream about a journey to Mars. He hopes to find out more about this dream and buys a holiday at Rekall Inc. where they sell implanted memories. But something goes wrong with the memory implantation and he remembers being a secret agent fighting against the evil Mars administrator Cohaagen. Now the story really begins and it's a rollercoaster ride until the massive end of the movie. Written by Harald Mayr <marvin@bike.augusta.de>

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Standard eighties fare, can’t go wrong.


The Not So Bad.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011) Romance, Sci-Fi, Thriller | 1h 46min | 4 March 2011 (Bulgaria) 7.0
Director: George NolfiWriters: George Nolfi, Philip K. DickStars: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Lisa ThoresonSummary: Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us? A man glimpses the future Fate has planned for him and realizes he wants something else. To get it, he must pursue across, under and through the streets of modern-day New York the only woman he's ever loved. On the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, ambitious politician David Norris (Matt Damon) meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt), a woman like none he's ever known. But just as he realizes he's falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself, the men of The Adjustment Bureau, who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together. In the face of overwhelming odds, he must either let her go and accept a predetermined path... or risk everything to defy Fate and be with her. Written by Universal Pictures

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The film looks exactly as I visualised it when I first read the short story. For fans, it’s worth sitting through this romantic caper.


Paycheck (2003) Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi | 1h 59min | 25 December 2003 (USA) 6.3
Director: John WooWriters: Philip K. Dick, Dean GeorgarisStars: Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma ThurmanSummary: Michael Jennings is a reverse engineer and what he does is technical jobs for certain companies and as soon as he is done, his memory of the work he has done is wiped out. Now the longest he has been contracted is 2 months. But now billionaire, James Rethrick offers him a job that would last 2 years, maybe 3, and he promises that he will probably earn 8 figures. Michael agrees. Before beginning he turns in all of his personal effects. And when the job is done, his memory is erased and he learns he made over 90 million dollars over the three years. When he goes to claim it and his personal effects, he discovers that prior to the erasure of his memory he waived his rights to the money he earned and that the items that were given to him were not the ones he gave when he began. Later he is arrested by the FBI who say that he committed some act of treason and murder. It's while he is in custody that he escapes using some the items that he was given. He later meets with a friend who gives ... Written by rcs0411@yahoo.com

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It captures enough of the PKD mindset to pass, but the direction is very very pedestrian. At least it’s got Uma Thurman in it.


Impostor (2001) Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi | 1h 35min | 4 January 2002 (USA) 6.2
Director: Gary FlederWriters: Philip K. Dick, Scott RosenbergStars: Shane Brolly, Vincent D'Onofrio, Gary SiniseSummary: Originally a 30 minute portion for an anthology film, Impostor was retooled into a full length feature film. Based on the Philip K. Dick short story of the same name, it follows the lead character Spencer Olham's quest to regain his identity after being suspected as an alien android, in an future Earth at war with aliens that use the androids as bombs to destroy their enemies homeworlds. Written by Hyperpup

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This movie fails to hit the mark because it seems incomplete and under developed. It was a short film that got stretched out into a feature so maybe that’s the problem. Still, it captures the essence of the story it’s based on.

Screamers (1995) Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller | 1h 48min | 26 January 1996 (USA) 6.4
Director: Christian DuguayWriters: Philip K. Dick, Dan O'BannonStars: Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis, Jennifer RubinSummary: (SIRIUS 6B, Year 2078) On a distant mining planet ravaged by a decade of war, scientists have created the perfect weapon: a blade-wielding, self-replicating race of killing devices known as Screamers designed for one purpose only -- to hunt down and destroy all enemy life forms But man's greatest weapon has continued to evolve without any human guidance, and now it has devised a new mission: to obliterate all life. Col. Hendricksson (Peter Weller) is commander of a handful of Alliance soldiers still alive on Sirius 6B. Betrayed by his own political leaders and disgusted by the atrocities of this never-ending war, Hendricksson decides he must negotiate a separate peace with the New Economic Bloc's decimated forces. But to do so, he will have to cross a treacherous wasteland where the deadliest threat comes from the very weapons he helped to create. Written by Nicolas LeBlanc <ei952859@uqac.uquebec.ca>

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This movie comes very close to the original short story, Second Variety. Despite the nonthreatening screamers and the cheap effects, there are still some good moments from the source material.


The Just Plain Ugly.

Next (2007) Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller | 1h 36min | 27 April 2007 (USA) 6.2
Director: Lee TamahoriWriters: Gary Goldman, Jonathan HensleighStars: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica BielSummary: Possessing the extraordinary ability to see precisely two minutes into the future, the low-profile Las Vegas stage magician, Cris Johnson, has managed to keep his unusual skill under the radar. However, Johnson's rare talent has caught the attention of the tough counter-terrorism FBI agent, Callie Ferris, who intends to use the illusionist's unfailing charisma to thwart the murderous plans of a ruthless group of Russian terrorists. Now, a stolen nuclear device threatens to level California, as Cris' beautiful girlfriend, Liz, is being used by the criminals to gain added leverage. Can Cris save both the hostage and the city of Los Angeles with his peculiar gift? Written by Nick Riganas

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This is a ‘loose’ adaptation. If they stuck to the original story, they could have had a hit.


Radio Free Albemuth (2010) Drama, Sci-Fi | 1h 51min | 27 June 2014 (USA) 5.7
Director: John Alan SimonWriters: John Alan Simon, Philip K. DickStars: Shea Whigham, Jonathan Scarfe, Michael RothhaarSummary: Berkeley record store clerk Nick Brady (Jonathan Scarfe) begins to experience strange visions from an entity he calls VALIS that cause him to uproot his family and move to Los Angeles where he becomes a successful music company executive. With the help of best friend, science fiction writer Philip K. Dick himself (Shea Whigam) and a mysterious woman named Silvia (Alanis Morissette), Nick finds himself drawn into a dangerous political-mystical conspiracy of cosmic proportions. The story is set in an alternate reality America circa 1985 under the authoritarian control of President Fremont, a Nixon-like clone (Scott Wilson). Written by Radio Free LLC

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It’s funny, as soon as some corporation buys the entire estate, the quality just drops. TV minus standard fare.


Screamers: The Hunting (2009) Action, Horror, Sci-Fi | 1h 35min | Video January 2009 4.7
Director: Sheldon WilsonWriters: Philip K. Dick, Tom BerryStars: Gina Holden, Jana Pallaske, Lance HenriksenSummary: A group of humans arrive on Sirius 6-B to investigate an SOS signal sent out from the planet, which has been supposedly deserted since the destruction of the man-made weapons known as "screamers." Once the squad arrives, they find a group of human survivors eking out an existence in an old military outpost, but more important, they discover that the threat of the screamers has become even more insidious, now that they're able to morph into human form. Written by Anonymous

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B standard video fare, giving the brand a bad name.


Honorable mentions

Total Recall (2012) Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi | 1h 58min | 10 August 2012 (Bulgaria) 6.3
Director: Len WisemanWriters: Kurt Wimmer, Mark BombackStars: Colin Farrell, Bokeem Woodbine, Bryan CranstonSummary: Originally adapted by director Paul Verhoeven in 1990, author Philip K. Dick's classic Sci-Fi short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale returns to the big screen in this remake starring Colin Farrell, Bryan Cranston, and Kate Beckinsale, and directed by Underworld's Len Wiseman. The planet has been decimated by nuclear war in the late 21st century, leaving only two nations -- the United Federation of Britain and the Colony. Douglas Quaid (Farrell) is a factory worker with a stable job and a loving wife (Beckinsale), but upon learning that a company named Rekall could grant him the memory of the ultimate espionage adventure, he decides that a virtual vacation is better than no vacation at all. But in the midst of having the new memories implanted, something goes haywire. Still strapped to the chair as the system breaks down, he's branded a spy as the authorities close in, and quickly flees for his life. Later, Quaid discovers that he has a secret identity, and he joins forces ...

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Even though PKD wasn’t credited, it still has its roots in the original story.

Total Recall 2070  Action, Sci-Fi | 44min | TV Series (1999) 7.0
Writers: Art MonterastelliStars: Michael Easton, Karl Pruner, Cynthia PrestonSummary: In a dark, multi-cultural mega-city on Earth in 2070, David Hume, a smart dedicated human and Ian Farve, an advanced android of mysterious origins, are two detectives of Citizens Protection Bureau (CPB) who investigate crimes related to rogue or self-aware androids, advanced cyber technologies espionage and illegal genetic experiments conducted by a few powerful companies who literally rule the world.

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Minority Report  Action, Crime, Drama | 42min | TV Series (2015) 5.9
Writers: Max BorensteinStars: Meagan Good, Stark Sands, Nick ZanoSummary: 10 years after the end of Precrime in Washington DC one of the three PreCogs attempts to lead on a normal life while still suffering from visions of the future. Will they be able to hold it together or mentally breakdown and give up?

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Naechureol siti (2003) Action, Drama, Sci-Fi | 1h 54min | 5 September 2003 (South Korea) 5.7
Director: Byung-chun MinWriters: Jae-rim Han, Byung-chun MinStars: Ji-Tae Yoo, Jae-un Lee, Rin SeoSummary: In the year 2080, the world is connected by a massive computer network. Combiners have developed a process that allows them to merge the souls of human and machine/cyborg, wreaking havoc in a deeply divided society. This movie shares traits with other films like Blade Runner and Ghost in the shell. A visually impressive piece, with a strong emphasis on relationships. Genre - Sci-Fi, Dystopian. Written by Makai

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Confessions d'un Barjo (1992) Comedy, Drama, Romance | 1h 25min | 13 May 1992 (France) 5.8
Director: Jérôme BoivinWriters: Jacques AudiardStars: Richard Bohringer, Anne Brochet, Hippolyte GirardotSummary: The narrator, "Barjo" (nutcase, crap artist), is an obsessive simpleton, given to filling his notebook with verbatim dialog, observed trivia, and oddball speculation on human behavior and the end of the world. When his house burns, he moves in with his twin sister, Fanfan -- an impulsive, quixotic egoist -- and her husband, Charles, the Aluminum King. Charles becomes the focus of the film, as his wife and brother-in-law bewilder him. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Proini peripolos (1987) Drama, Sci-Fi | 1h 48min | 8 October 1987 (Greece) 7.0
Director: Nikos NikolaidisWriters: Raymond Chandler, Philip K. DickStars: Michele Valley, Takis Spyridakis, Liana HatziSummary: A woman is walking alone through an abandoned city. She approaches the forbidden zone and tries to pass through. Everywhere the Morning Patrol and deceptive traps are watching. The city itself is alive but uncontrolled. Computer voices warn non-existing inhabitants to leave the city. The communication system works... cinemas show films... classic faces of a past era flash across TV screens. She is confronted by one of the few survivors guarding the city. They will come close to each other ; they will try to recall the past. Together they unravel their tangled memory - threads of this catastrophe and decide to penetrate the zone together ; They are linked by the bonds of violence and death since no other behaviour is possible in this kind of world. Is there an end? Is there hope and any future since no person that was allowed through ever returned to tell us whether the freedom of the sea exists. The fugitives encounter increasing dangers... A story of love in this unbearable world... ... Written by <nniko@ath.forthnet.gr>

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If you still can’t get enough, there are numerous shorts to track down.