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30 Philip K Dick Stories That Should Be Movies

The Preserving Machine

The Story: The high-minded (and excellently named) Doc Labyrinth, fretting over the coming of a possible apocalypse (understandably, given he’s living in a Philip K Dick story), orders a machine to be built that will preserve his beloved classical music by transforming various compositions into animals. However, the process of evolution means they don’t stay very beautiful for long…no, we’re not making this up!

Directed By:
We’ll have John Lasseter take this one on as a Pixar animated-comedy, with little musical beetles serving to question the virtue of survival over aesthetics.

Paul Giamatti will play Doc Labyrinth, with a collection of assorted A-listers lending their voices to the animals.

Key Scene: The Doc is dismayed when the dog, Beethoven (eh? Geddit? Eh?), brings the broken body of Schubert the duck back to the house between his jaws.


The Story: The first short-story Dick ever sold is told from the point of view of Boris, a dog who confuses his owner’s trash cans as stores of food. Naturally, when the bin men turn up, Boris is outraged, and starts yapping his head off. However, since all his master can hear is “ROOG, ROOG, ROOG!”, he merely interprets Boris’ howls as over-excitement. Boris ends up fairly distressed by proceedings, as indeed he might.

Directed By:
Lasseter again. This could be the animated short that precedes Pixar’s main feature. Granted, its not as cheery as their usual fare…

Starring: Nice old Hugh Grant can voice the owner, whilst Jason Flemyng and Dexter Fletcher play the dastardly bin-men.

Key Scene: The final scene, where Boris stands bemused, uncertain of whether the bond between man and beast (or indeed, any two creatures) can ever be fully bridged. Understand all that kiddies?

War Veteran

The Story: An old man arrives on Earth, claiming to have travelled back in time from a future in which Earth has suffered a crushing defeat in battle with Martian and Venusian colonies. Somewhat inexplicably, people actually begin to listen to him. What they don’t know however, is that the old boy wants them to believe they are destined to lose said war. Why? Because he’s a replicant…

Directed By: Ridley Scott is currently in the midst of rebooting his other major sci-fi film, so why not take on this forerunner to Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep (That’s Blade Runner , for those who weren’t concentrating)?

Starring: Presumably he can’t be too creepy if people are happy to take him at his word, so we’ll plump for Alan Arkin as the mysterious War Veteran. Although the temptation is to go for Rutger Hauer again!

Key Scene: The moment when the government official (Matt Damon) charged with dealing with Arkin, realises that all is not as it seems. Gaaah, it was a trick!

Beyond Lies The Wub

The Story: Intrepid spaceman Petersen buys a vast pig-like creature called a “wub” whilst visiting Mars. Bringing it aboard his spacecraft, he gets an earful from commanding officer Franco, who’s not best pleased about the extra weight. Things are complicated still further when the wub proves itself a creature of great intelligence, with telepathic powers. However, Franco is terrified rather than impressed, and decides the best course of action is to kill and eat the magical creature. Big mistake Franco, as eating the wub allows it to possess your body…

Directed By: With a bit of tweaking this could be a pretty effective bodysnatchers-style horror. Perhaps the crew could bring back the wub (which self-replenishes) as a new food-source to solve Earth’s hunger, only to find people acting strangely after consuming the strange meat…we’ll have The Crazies director Breck Eisner at the helm for this one.

Starring: Thomas Jane plays Petersen, the space explorer who discovers the wub, but who holds serious misgivings about its use as a source of food. Stanley Tucci co-stars as the slippery corporate bigwig of the company who distributes the wub meat.

Key Scene: The first sign that things have gone awry, when some of the earliest wub consumers start behaving very violently…

The Crawlers

The Story: Nice and simple this one. A radiation lab sets up shop next to a small town in backwoods America. All seems fine at first, until the next generation of townsfolk begin to emerge with mutant deformities. Over time, there aren’t any normal people left, only mutants. Any passing travellers would do well to stay clear…

Directed By: We’d like this made in the style of a good old-fashioned B-movie, and Tremors director Ron Underwood has got previous in this field. He also did Mighty Joe Young, but the less said about that the better…

Starring: Woody Harrelson and Josh Holloway play a pair of bickering truckers who find themselves forced to fight for their lives when they run out of gas just outside the city limits.

Key Scene: The pair make their way through the town, only to find it deserted at midday. They don’t like the sun, these mutants, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t watching…

Pay For The Printer

The Story: In a post-apocalyptic future, war-weakened Earthlings have come to depend upon an alien race known as the Biltongs to survive. The Biltongs have the power to replicate items identically, but when they begin to die out, mankind must learn to rebuild society by himself. That’s about it in terms of the subject, so it’d need fleshing out a bit, perhaps with a conflict between the blue-collar types who seek to rebuild Earth themselves, and the diplomats who would rather appease the Biltongs, who are now exploiting Earth’s dependence on them.

Directed By: Perennial rabble-rouser Oliver Stone might have a good time with this one.

Who better to lead our worker’s revolt than Brad Pitt? As we saw in Fight Club , he has people in the palm of his hand when he cranks up the rhetoric…

Key Scene:
Sick of being rendered useless by those Pesky Biltongs, Brad leads a gang of like-minded thinkers back to his pre-war construction yard to start relearning their trade…


The Story: Right, bear with us here…Ubik is set in an alternative future in which technology has advanced to such a stage that people can pop back and forth to the moon, and citizens with psychic powers are commonplace. Death is no longer the final frontier, with the deceased kept in a state of “half-life” which allows them limited consciousness.

Our hero, Joe Chip, works for a company that employs people who can block psychic powers, and he and his team are hired to clear a lunar facility of telepathic troublemakers. However, upon arrival, it becomes clear a trap has been set by a rival company, and in a pre-planned explosion, one of the team is killed. Or is he the only one not to be killed? Needless to say Chip and co. are as baffled as you probably are reading this…

Directed By:
Apparently Michel Gondry is already planning an adaptation. Little wonder, as this mind-bending plotline sounds right up his street.

Starring: We’d like to see George Clooney shedding his usual poise as the rumpled and increasingly desperate Joe Chip.

Key Scene: The first sighting of the mysterious Ubik product, which appears to be advertised wherever Chip goes, post-explosion. What can it mean?

The Variable Man

The Story: We’re in the future again, and Earth is at war with Proxima Centauri. After a seemingly endless arms race, Earth has developed a weapon that the Centaurians will be unable to withstand. Trouble is, they can’t get it to work. Meanwhile, some time-travel tinkering by Earth’s (highly-advanced) scientists brings Thomas Cole into the picture. Cole hails from pre-war times and (conveniently) has a gift for fixing things, but isn’t best pleased at his temporal displacement and refuses to help sort out the faulty weapon. The authorities are not impressed, and Cole soon finds himself on the run…

Directed By:
This is the sort of heart-pounding thriller that Tony Scott would have a ball with.

Starring: Will Smith’s upstanding-citizen-turns-total-badass routine would make for a great Thomas Cole.

Key Scene:
Cole breaks out of the scientists’ lab and goes on the run through an Earth he can barely recognise…

Second Variety

The Story: The UN has been locked in a nuclear war with the Soviet Union for years, and the US government has been forced to flee to the moon, where production has begun on a new robot army. Within six years these robots have defeated the Soviets, but typically, they’ve got a bit big for their boots and have started self-replicating that. Not only that, but they’ve figured out how to impersonate humans. Shit.

Directed By: This has actually already been adapted once, in the form of low-budget Canadian offering Screamers , but that was naff, so we want it done properly now. Guillermo Del Toro is our pick to helm this new robot horror.

Starring: Why should every action hero be played by Sam Worthington or Shia Laboeuf? We’ll have Javier Bardem as the super-soldier charged with infiltrating the robots’ production centre and shutting it down.

Key Scene: Sam Worthington appears as Javier’s second in command, only to meet a grisly end when a robot catches him unawares…

A World Of Talent

The Story: The scene is set on one of Earth’s satellite colonies, where humans with mutant abilities rule the roost. Our hero Curtis is a pre-cognitive (remember them from Minority Report ?) who discovers the existence of “anti-psis”, humans capable of nullifying the powers of their mutant counterparts. Recognising the potential of these anti-psi’s to temper the over-reaching powers of the mutants, Curtis tries to reveal their existence to the “normal” human government, only to find out a corps of heavy-duty psi’s are on to him…

Directed By: Spielberg did such a bang-up job on Minority Report, we don’t see why he shouldn’t repeat the trick here.

Starring: James McAvoy would make a good Curtis. He’s got the whole “earnest but vulnerable” thing down pat.

Key Scene: The point at which McAvoy realises his life is at threat. He’s going to need to go on the run if wants to save himself and avert a mutant-human war!