This movie came out around 2000 and was created for one of the cable networks (and never in the theaters). I think it was on the original Sci-Fi Channel or maybe the USA Network, but really not sure.

It's about a 1950's American-style utopian world. The main character, if I remember correctly, worked at a car dealership. I recall him looking like Jon Hamm, Adrian Pasdar, or Scott Bakula, but I may be way off there (and I didn't see the movie in their filmographies). He drives his nice car home, and the whole town is beautiful, as are its people and white picket fence style homes.

He suddenly starts seeing weird things. For example, instead of people driving cars, they're actually riding rickety bicycles. The manicured, paved streets are actually dirt roads. Houses are, in reality, tiny shacks. Instead of people's clothes being immaculately maintained, everyone's really wearing filthy rags. And instead of delicious food, they're eating something that looks like rotten garbage. Something is making everyone believe they live in a beautiful, perfect society, but it's mind manipulation that's almost on the scale of the movie "The Matrix."

He befriends a pretty lady, and together they travel outside their town and try to find answers. They even meet an outside militarized government, whose officials are interested in understanding and helping him. This other city's infrastructure appears to be state-of-the-art and well funded. The officials all have nice uniforms. However, their environment is also under the same influence that's making everyone see things differently than what they really are. The main character somehow sees through this illusion too, and realizes this fake prosperity is affecting others outside his home town--maybe the entire world!

The movie ends with

the man and woman eventually running into some elderly maintenance man in a forested area. The maintenance man's job is to service a machine that alters everyone's perception of reality.

I posted about this a couple of years ago on another site, and somebody took a guess that it was "The Prisoner" but unfortunately that's not it. I didn't really explain it well the first time, so hopefully this is clearer.


1 Answer 1


You're describing "Virtual Nightmare", a 2000 made-for-TV scifi movie from Australia.

The film opens in a goofy and wholly anachronistic 1950s setting with muscle cars, Patsy Cline/Beach Boys music, sushi restaurants and flatscreen TVs. The virtual reality environment is projected by means of a glowing green script which the main character starts to see overlying his normal vision.

After breaking out of the "utopia" version, he's inducted into a secret society of people who claim to be able to see the real world, a filthy and horrific hell-world. This, however isn't any more real and proves to simply be another layer of control.

The film ultimately ends with the protagonist (and his sexy librarian friend) seeing through to the final layer, a drab dystopia in the desert with boxes for props and trees in the distance. They meet the "sys-op", an elderly man in charge of controlling the machine which is responsible for tricking the users into seeing the various illusory worlds.

From TCM :

"Dale Hunter, a junior advertising executive on the fast track, begins to experience visions that the bucolic reality he lives in is a monumental scam. Seeking help from the local librarian, Wendy, a self-professed misfit, the two discover that the world they think they inhabit is actually a projection of a machine, the Direct Broadcast Virtual Reality. Designed to keep the populace happy and peaceful after a purported nuclear and chemical holocaust has decimated the Earth, the pair confront Andrew Blake, who controls the machine. When Dale and Wendy attempt to destroy the DBVR and restore the world to its natural state, they make an astounding and terrifying discovery."

  • 4
    Thank you so much Richard! The search is finally over.
    – Nes Fel
    Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 22:14
  • Although it doesn't seem to be acknowledged in the movie, the plot is pretty obviously inspired by Stanislaw Lem's novel The Futurological Congress.
    – Ross Smith
    Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 23:28
  • @RossSmith - Another more recent remake. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Congress_(2013_film), although I personally agree with the TCM reviewer who pointed out that it was released suspiciously quickly after the Matrix came out...
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 23:31

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