Things to Come: The City Imagined on Film
February 11–April 5
Co-presented with the National Building Museum

Expanding upon themes explored in the exhibition "Unbuilt Washington," currently on display at the National Building Museum through May 28, the films in this series provide ambitious futuristic views of city life and urban design.

Fritz Lang's 1927 German masterpiece METROPOLIS set the design vocabulary for all science fiction/fantasy films to follow. America's answer to Lang's dystopian vision was — not surprisingly — a comedy musical, JUST IMAGINE (1930). See both of these pioneering science fiction films, along with the engineering-inspired TRANSATLANTIC TUNNEL (1935) and THINGS TO COME (1936), based on author H. G. Wells' pointed response to METROPOLIS. Later films such as THE TRIAL (1962), PLAY TIME (1967), THX 1138 (1971), LOGAN'S RUN (1976), BRAZIL (1985) and GATTACA (1997), reflected changing concerns about the modern world. Explore them all in Things to Come: The City Imagined on Film.

Save big with the Pick Six card!

Planning to check out multiple films in the City Imagined series? The Pick Six card is valid for SIX admissions to any regularly-priced screening(s) in the City Imagined series (METROPOLIS w/ live accompaniment not eligible.) Present your card at the box office to redeem tickets. Tickets may be redeemed singly or in any combination. No refunds. Admission subject to seating and availability. Box office opens 30 minutes before the first film of the day.

Click here to purchase the Pick Six card for just $50 — that's a savings of $19!


Songwriting team DeSylva, Brown and Henderson concocted this futuristic musical, set within a high-flying New York of 1980. The city is a wonderland of towering buildings, personal airplanes and rockets — and people are only known by their serial numbers in this goofball fantasy starring vaudeville comedian El Brendel. Production designer Stephen Goosson's city of the future was created by means of a vast miniature model set of art deco skyscrapers and multi-story bridges, large enough to fill an empty dirigible hangar on the outskirts of Hollywood.

DIR David Butler; SCR/PROD Buddy G. DeSylva, Lew Brown, Ray Henderson. US, 1930, b&w, 109 min. NOT RATED


Sat, Feb 11, 2:45


Maurice Elvey's adaptation of the 1913 bestseller "Der Tunnel" was the fourth film inspired by the German novel. The premise that a transatlantic tunnel between England and the US could facilitate world peace may seem unusual today, but the video phones, big-screen TVs and streamlined cars on view certainly are not. These and other technologies are incorporated into the film with a remarkable sense of realism, unique for a 1930s sci-fi melodrama. The high price paid, both personally and professionally, by engineer Richard Dix as he struggles to complete the tunnel shapes the film's stripped-down narrative.

DIR Maurice Elvey; SCR L. du Garde Peach, Curt Siodmak, from the novel by Bernhard Kellermann; PROD Michael Balcon. UK, 1935, b&w, 94 min. NOT RATED


Sun, Feb 19, 4:00


William Cameron Menzies' background as an art director shines through in this stylized tale of Everytown, as the city evolves over 100 years. H. G. Wells despised Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS (1927) and wanted the adaptation of his own book "The Shape of Things to Come" to stand apart. The resulting film's politics were certainly different, but the striking visuals created by Menzies and artist/art director Vincent Korda were equally impressive and influential — particularly the hyper-vertical, modernist Everytown of 2036.

DIR William Cameron Menzies; SCR H. G. Wells, from his novel; PROD Alexander Korda. UK, 1936, b&w, 100 min. NOT RATED


Mon, Feb 20, 4:00

With Live Musical Accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra!
85th Anniversary!

"One of the most celebrated movies in cinema history...For the first time, Lang's vision...which has influenced contemporary films like BLADE RUNNER and STAR WARS, seems complete." – The New York Times

Incorporating more than 25 minutes of recently discovered footage, the 2010 restoration of METROPOLIS is the definitive edition of Fritz Lang's science fiction masterpiece. Like puzzle pieces, these scenes and subplots, long thought lost, help to complete the picture of the dizzyingly intricate plot. In a fabulous city of the future, penthouse-dwelling capitalist bureaucrats hold sway over a subterranean working class, but a prophet from the masses foresees the coming of a new world order. Inspired by New York's skyscrapers, the production design exaggerates verticality, using modernist architecture to reinforce the extreme separation of the classes.

DIR/SCR Fritz Lang; SCR Thea von Harbou, from her novel; PROD Erich Pommer. Germany, 1927, b&w, 148 min. Silent with English intertitles and live accompaniment. NOT RATED

Restoration carried out by Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden, jointly with Deutsche Kinemathek — Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Berlin, in cooperation with Museo del Cine Pablo C. Ducrós Hicken, Buenos Aires

No passes accepted.
Pick Six card may not be used for this show.

Fri, Feb 24, 7:30

Tickets $20/$18 AFI Members


Terry Gilliam's magnificently imaginative vision of a totalitarian future is both funny and shocking in its absurdist view of life under a shadowy but painfully inept Big Brother. Jonathan Pryce is the everyman trapped by bureaucracy; Robert De Niro is a former paper-pusher gone renegade, living not so much off the grid as in it, relying on his expertise in air conditioning to navigate the film's world of airduct-based interconnectedness. Gilliam and Tom Stoppard received an Oscar nomination for their script, as did art directors Norman Garwood and Maggie Gray for their powerful, proto-steampunk design work.

DIR/SCR Terry Gilliam; SCR Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown; PROD Arnon Milchan. UK, 1985, color, 142 min. RATED R


Sat, Feb 25, 9:45; Tue, Feb 28, 9:00; Wed, Feb 29, 7:00--just added!; Thu, Mar 1, 9:15


Jacques Tati's gloriously choreographed, nearly wordless comedies about confusion in the age of technology reached their creative apex with this film. For this monumental achievement, a nearly three-year-long, bank-breaking production, Tati again thrust the endearingly clumsy, resolutely old-fashioned Monsieur Hulot (played by Tati himself), along with a host of other lost souls, into a bafflingly modernist Paris. With every inch of its superwide frame crammed with hilarity and inventiveness, it is a lasting testament to a modern age tiptoeing on the edge of oblivion. – Courtesy of The Criterion Collection

DIR/SCR Jacques Tati; SCR Jacques Lagrange; PROD Bernard Maurice. France/Italy, 1967, color, 120 min. NOT RATED


Sat, Mar 3, 1:20; Sun, Mar 4, 1:00


Orson Welles renders Franz Kafka's unfinished novel into a satisfying cinematic whole, adding a bookended parable that finds the fractured fairy tale within. Anthony Perkins is a man accused of a crime but never told what it is. He is subjected to ever-more-surreal episodes of harassment, via temptresses Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider and Elsa Martinelli, and Welles' blustery "Advocate." The disorienting production design blends modern architecture and ancient urban remains, combining Brutalist buildings in Zagreb, Croatia, and the deserted Gare d'Orsay train station (later Musée d'Orsay) in Paris to remarkable effect.

DIR/SCR Orson Welles, from the novel by Franz Kafka; PROD Alexander Salkind. France/Italy/West Germany, 1962, b&w, 118 min. NOT RATED


Sat, Mar 10, 1:00

15th Anniversary!

Andrew Niccol's sleek neo-noir thriller depicts a "not-too-distant future" in which genetic engineering determines social rank. Ethan Hawke is a lowly genetic "in-valid," due to his natural-born status. Seeking to improve his lot in life, he swaps identities with embittered "valid" Jude Law and gets his dream job at Gattaca Aerospace Corporation, where he begins a romance with co-worker Uma Thurman. But a murder investigation at the company threatens to expose him as an imposter — or worse. The company headquarters is the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin County Civic Center which also figured prominently in George Lucas' THX 1138.

DIR/SCR Andrew Niccol; PROD Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher. US, 1997, color, 106 min. RATED PG-13


Sat, Mar 17, 9:45; Sun, Mar 18, 9:45

THX 1138

George Lucas' bold first feature, set in a 25th century dystopia beneath the earth's surface, received a complete digital restoration in 2004. Robert Duvall plays the title role, a human who inadvertently defies anti-sex laws by falling in love with his roommate after she tampers with his government-administered medication. Shades of Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS, George Orwell's "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" resonate throughout.

DIR/SCR George Lucas; SCR Walter Murch; PROD Larry Sturhahn. US, 1971, color, 88 min. RATED R


Sun, Mar 18, 1:00; Mon, Mar 19, 9:30


Michael Anderson's cult classic introduces a hedonistic domed city where residents devote themselves to the pursuit of pleasure, but must pay a high price at age 30, when they are terminated in a public ritual of "renewal." Fear of this fate leads two individuals to become "runners" as they search for answers beyond the domed city's walls — where they find a vine-covered Washington, DC. Shot in Texas, many iconic locations are featured, including the now-demolished Apparel Mart at Dallas Market Center (built in 1964) and Philip Johnson's Fort Worth Water Gardens.

DIR Michael Anderson; SCR David Zelag Goodman, from the novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson; PROD Saul David. US, 1976, color, 119 min. RATED PG


Sat, Mar 31, 3:00; Sun, Apr 1, 9:45; Wed, Apr 4, 9:15; Thu, Apr 5, 9:20

View the trailer