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YMMV / Judge Dredd

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For the Karl Urban movie, see Dredd.

Entire franchise

    The comic series 

The Comic:

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Due to how the comic is written, the characterization of Dredd tends to vary wildly. In more serious stories he's an extremely strict but ultimately fair and dedicated law enforcer who wants to protect Mega-City 1 and its inhabitants. In the stories focused more on black comedy, as well as some of the longer fiction such as the Democracy storyline, he comes off as a deliberate Jerkass who goes out of his way to make the citizens life a living hell. In the early stories, Pat Mills considered him a straight up hero, whereas John Wagner went with Anti-Hero at best and Villain Protagonist at worst. Alan Grant wanted to make him irredeemably evil by killing Chopper for illegal surfing before John Wagner put the kibosh on that.
    • It's also possible to believe Judge Dredd went through Character Development unlike a lot of comic book characters suffering from Status Quo Is God. Judge Dredd started as a far more idealistic and unambiguously heroic (if ridiculously strict) character around the events of "The Cursed Earth" only to become far more dark as well as menacing due to the events of "The Apocalypse War" that turned him into an executioner of hundreds of millions. This characterization would continue through the "Letter from a Democrat" and "America" storylines. That Judge Dredd was far more brutal as well as apathetic to the citizenry due to the inhumanity he'd seen as well as dished out. He then suffered a Heel Realization due to the events of "Letter to Judge Dredd" and only returned when the existential threat of Judge Death appeared. He is now far more suspicious of fascism and even liberal by Judge standards, opposing fascists like Judge Smiley. Out of universe, this would be justified by John Wagner developing the world and refining the character behind the scenes to deal with the politics of the day.
    • Bennett Beeny gets this from some fans. Many see him as The Woobie with an Unrequited Love that he was ultimately unable to stay hold of. Other see him as an Entitled to Have You Jerkass who ultimately takes the body of the woman he supposedly love to assuage his guilt and impregnates it without her prior consent before giving the child to a group said woman loathed. This being Judge Dredd, it's entirely possible both positions are right. It's worth noting that this also applies in universe; Public opinion of Benny is that he's creepy for transplanting his brain into America's body and having a child using said body, yet his daughter tells Dredd that despite all that is said about him, he was a good man who would never willingly hurt another.
  • Anvilicious: Dreadnoughts: Breaking Ground is all about how there's a Misaimed Fandom to anyone who thinks that the Police Brutality, police state, fascism, and cruelty of the Judges system would ever be worth living under.
  • Awesome Music: His "unofficial" theme song, "I Am the Law" by Anthrax. It's "unofficial" in the sense that it wasn't commissioned as such by then-owner of 2000 AD Fleetway Comics, but both fans and creators recognize the song as Dredd's song, period.
  • Catharsis Factor: Judge Anderson managing to wipe Judge Death from her mind in A Dream of Death after having tormented her for so many years.
  • Creator's Pet: PJ Maybe. A psychopathic, child genius serial killer who never matured. His signature tool was SLD-88, a mind control drug that was incurable, undetectable, and used almost exclusively by him. He constantly outsmarted everyone around him in increasingly implausible ways, even becoming the mayor of Mega-City One and working closely with the Judges, undetected, while still carrying out his habitual murders. When he was finally gunned down by Dredd decades after his first appearance, parts of fandom rejoiced while other parts were trying to figure out how he'd fooled the Judges THIS time.
  • Dork Age:
    • For the most part, Garth Ennis' run on the strip wasn't all that well received. Ennis himself feels that his own reverence for the character meant he didn't take the piss like in a lot of his other work.
    • However the follow up run by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar is almost universally despised and considered the strips absolute nadir to the extent that even 2000AD's official history Thrill power overload had nothing good to say about it.
    • It's usually accepted the Dork Age began to come to an end with John Wagner's return to the Prog with "Wilderlands" in 1994, and that it ended completely with is his full time return later in the year and the publication of the classic "The Pit" in 1995.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Judge Death repeatedly proved to be the comic's most popular villain, to the point where fans complained that he wasn't the Big Bad in the film Dredd.
    • Public Defender 314's habit of hilariously calling his pauses for emphasis and other actions have endeared him to the fans.
  • Growing the Beard: "The Cursed Earth" is the story where the world really comes together, and was the first of the epic stories that lasted about half a year.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • One villain in an early story (from 1977) destroys the World Trade Center.
    • Muzak Killer: Live!, written in 1993 has a scene where an Expy of Richey Edwards, one of the infamous "27 Club" commits suicide through his own stupidity. Fast forward two years and the Real Life Edwards disappeared and was later presumed dead.
    • The comic's satire of zero tolerance policing with a future police force that shoots first, asks questions never has become a lot less absurd with the increase of militarization of police forces in the United States and police shooting controversies.
    • The Sons Of Booth attempting to organise an insurrection in Mega City One can be seen as a parallel to the events in the US Capitol in January 2021 where a group of Right Wing Militia Fanatics stormed the place in support of Donald Trump, resulting in five deaths.
    • In “I Hate Christmas” from Prog 150, a African refugee stows away on the exterior wing of a shuttle. Unlike the Kabul teen who died after doing something similar to escape the Taliban in August 2021, the man survives, suffers hypothermia…and is immediately sent back by Dredd.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • The Democracy Now quote at the top of the page seems a lot less like a convincing argument since Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, rescued a woman from a mugging that he happened upon while cycling pastnote . It seems an elected representative can work just fine.
    • Judge Janus' first name? Judy.
    • The Justice Department's Chief of Science? Judge Nye.
    • Justice Department's ban on smoking in public areas, barring designated Smokatoriums, is strangely prophetic of the smoking bans that arose around the European Union in the noughties.
    • During "The Cursed Earth" mega-epic, Dredd faces a T-Rex that was cloned using reptile eggs and recovered dinosaur DNA for the purposes of a theme park. Of course, this makes Apu's rant to Principal Skinner about Plagiarism even funnier. Double points for the fact the story was written in 1978. Twelve years before Michael Crichton wrote the book version.
    • Simping seems a lot less unlikely thanks to the Creepy Clown Craze of 2016. The term itself also counts, as simping entered the public lexicon in 2020, though is in a different context.
    • The League Of Fatties protest marches are a lot more hilarious since the Fatties Against Fascism protested at Berkeley in 2017.
    • The Day the Law Died has a brief bit in which Cal declares all crime legal for 24 hours. Even better in that story also has Cal's government massacring citizens and assassinating Cal's opposition.
    • The name of one vigilante featured in the strips (2000ad #442)? Megaman.
  • Iron Woobie:
    • Nate Slaughterhouse. He is a Space Corps veteran who is wounded in the line of duty (Read: Loses most of his body, apart from his head and one shoulder) and is given a cybernetic body. He quits the Corps along with his wife and they take their son to the Big Meg. After some problems with local gangs, Nate's wife is kidnapped and her brain wiped and replaced with a slave module and his son is murdered. This causes him to snap and become a Vigilante Man, culminating in him attacking the local crime boss' hideout on the Canadian border in a Mini-Mecha.
    • Tweak, an alien Dredd rescues in the Cursed Earth. He's strong enough to eat rocks and diamonds and his race are more intelligent than humans, something he hides from them. His family is kidnapped and sold into slavery before they're put down by their human slavemasters. Tweak is just looking to give them a decent burial and fights alongside Dredd because Dredd stands up for him. He finally gets to go home when Dredd promises to keep the secret of his homeworld.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Chief Judge Thomas Silver ruthlessly crushed the Democracy movement, and made an appalling number of bad decisions that ended in Necropolis, a nightmare that cost the lives of 60 million people. Return of the King makes him rather pitiable when we see the sheer magnitude of the suffering he went through at the hands of Judge Death and his cohorts, who turned him into a zombie pet so they could torment and humiliate him indefinitely, constantly reminding him about what they were doing to his city.
    • Judge friggin' Fire actually managed to achieve this for a split second, who for the record is as much of a genocidal walking corpse as his brothers, who has actually burned alive hundreds of children in one day on the excuse of "noise pollution". In Dreams of Deadworld it's shown that he was in love/obsessed with a female Dark Judge who killed herself rather than submit to him. He just keeps staring at her skull for decades to relive the memory, constantly reiterating that as a Dark Judge he shouldn't have feelings anymore.
  • Love to Hate: The Dark Judges are evil inhuman monsters, and their leader Judge Death in particular is an unmitigatedly horrible sociopath. However, their over-the-top sadism, hammy-ness, and dark humor makes them very entertaining villains at the same time.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Yevgeny Borisenko is a veteran and survivor of the Apocalypse War who vowed revenge against Judge Dredd after witnessing the nuclear destruction of East Meg One and being permanently blinded in the process. Borisenko forms the terrorist cell the Fourth Faction, spending decades building up its ranks with devoted followers, infiltrating Mega-City One, and develop and release the Chaos Bug inside the mega-city through his carrier agents, all the while misdirecting the Justice Department to keep the Fourth Faction's plans concealed. Despite being captured in the Mongolian Free State, Borisenko arranges his own murder ahead of time to avoid being interrogated, and through stoking public distrust against the Judges to subvert quarantine measures, causes the plague to envelop and nearly wipe out the entire city and emerge utterly victorious over the formidable Judge Dredd himself.
    • The DC Comics incarnation of Chief Judge Fargo is the founder and the head of the New Justice System, which was created to bring "the perfect justice" to Mega City One after Fargo grows tired of the rampant corruption within it. Firing all the Judges to create chaos on the streets and leading to the Ministry of Fear to add fear to the population, Fargo implemented Justice Machines after two days, so that people would witness the difference between "Chaos" and "Order" and trust him. Failing to eliminate the President, due to his refusal to have Judge Dredd killed, Fargo got his plans back on track after Booth killed the President instead, outmaneuvering Dredd and putting him in suspended animation, before he became the only police power in the city. After Booth reduced the world to a Nuclear Wasteland and became a tyrant, Fargo has people accept his leadership and wages a war on Booth, eventually defeating him and taking full control of Mega City One. Completing his creation of the perfect justice system, Fargo became a legend, bringing justice to the city at last, being brought down only by his desire to make Dredd his successor and expectation for him to follow his plan.
  • Memetic Badass: Judge Dredd. When the Face of Fear kills anyone who gazes into it, Dredd is the only one it can't kill. Fear is not so resistant to the Fist of Dredd. Also, he once got an entire army to back down by simply appearing on a comm screen. Even amongst those with barely a casual knowledge of the comic knows of him as the living embodiment of the law.
  • Memetic Mutation: Dredd's Catchphrase "I am the law!", to the point that it occludes the fact to the general public that he's one of the more sensible Judges patrolling Mega-City One instead of a borderline psychotic lawman.
  • Misaimed Fandom: There are a lot of people who don't realise that the strip is a satire and think that the judge system is actually a good idea.
  • Never Live It Down: Due to the sheer memetic-ness of his dedication to THE LAW, it can be surprising to new readers to find that Dredd is actually one of the more sensible Judges. Judge Dredd is fairly unique among long-lived comic book characters in that he ages in real time and his personality gradually changes over the years as he increasingly questions his role. Despite this, fans still often portray him as being obsessed with THE LAW and arresting criminals. He doesn't even use that Catchphrase very much.
  • Too Bleak, Stopped Caring: Dreadnoughts: Breaking Ground induces this as it shows the disintegration of American democracy, civil rights, and due process in the face of the Judges system. Its protagonist, Judge Veranda Glover, is also a genuinely repulsive human being with all of Judge Dredd's flaws but lacking even his humanizing qualities.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Early issues showed Dredd punishing victims of crimes for 'incitement' because they flaunted wealth that tempted the criminals. That works as 1970s satire on heavy-handed law enforcement, but may rankle with readers who are leery of wealth redistribution.
    • The use of the Soviet Megacities as Omnicidal Maniac Dirty Communist stock villains was meant as satire even when they were initially presented as villains in the Eighties but has become cringe inducing to some readers, especially when Judge Dredd engages in mass genocide against East Meg One as retaliation.
  • Values Resonance: As stated in Harsher in Hindsight, the theme of police's relation with society became more relevant under controversy of Police Brutality and Police Shootings in US. This is more pronounced in Democracy storyline and other stories dealing with questioning on the limits of the Judge's power and the effectiveness of the Judge system.
  • The Woobie:
    • Many citizens fall into this category. Bennett Beeny stands out though. He spends his life pining for America Jara. When he finds her again, she's become a terrorist and later ends up being shot by a judge and winds up brain dead. He later transfers his consciousness to her body and has a daughter. There's a good reason America is considered one of the best stories. His suffering doesn't end there either, as America's body starts to reject his brain and he agrees to voluntary euthanasia. At least his hope that their daughter could reform the Justice Department from within by enrolling her at the Academy of Law after his death still lives on.
    • Jess, the psychic little girl from Deadworld. Sees her entire family get murdered by a gang of apocalyptic zombie-cops, but develops an odd friendship with the grizzled Fairfax and has some adorable moments with their motorbike AI and a group of muties.


     1995 film and adaptations 

The 1995 Movie:

  • Audience-Coloring Adaptation: The film had a very devastating impact in the US. While in Britain, Judge Dredd is an old warhorse of a comic that isn't going anywhere, the movie was the first exposure most Americans had to the franchise. As a result of this, it took north of two decades and another adaptation that went Truer to the Text (which still bombed in theaters, though was Vindicated by Cable) for Dredd to pick up any kind of real following in the US; it's only been very recently that the US has gotten unaltered printings of the UK Dredd comics as a result of this.
  • Awesome Music:
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Even though his role was pretty much a mindless robotic brute, Hammerstein is considered to be one of the better things about the film for his effects, badass voice and for being somewhat of a Colbert Bump for the ABC warriors.
  • Ham and Cheese: Sly and Armand Assante's performances. You can just tell they were having fun while filming. The actors playing the assorted thugs as well. Even Stallone admitted the movie was terribly hammy.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The plot revolving around Judge Dredd being falsely accused of a serious crime (in the film, murder) and getting prosecuted for it became this trope when Sylvester Stallone himself was falsely accused of sexual assault in 2017.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The unfinished Janus Project clones, with their blue skin and exposed hearts, look a lot like Tyrants.
  • Inferred Holocaust: The Council had already said so many Judges were murdered that even if they promoted cadets they wouldn't have enough to enforce laws effectively in the city, with the threat of city-wide disorder otherwise. It was this that convinced them to unlock the Janus files and clone new Judges rapidly. However, during the climactic fight the clone lab is destroyed, so presumably the technology is not available (at least right away). Yet the film ends with the impression everything's fine. Given the above and what they said, even Dredd may be hard-pressed to control the devastating riots that could wrack Mega City One in the coming months.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    Dredd: You-betrayed-the-LAW!
    Rico: "LOOOAAAWWW!"
    • Sylvester Stallone's delivery of "I AM THE LAW!"
    • As well as his infamous charge of "TAWANTY YEERSH!"
  • Misaimed Marketing: The movie had a range of action figures. The movie was toned down significantly from the ultra-violent and cynical comic, but was still hardly for kids. More bewildering was the fact that in order to bulk the range out, it included several decidedly kid-unfriendly characters from the comic who didn't appear in the film, including Judge Death, an Omnicidal Maniac whose favourite modus operandi consists of ripping people's beating hearts out of their chests and who murders kids for fun.
  • Narm: Any time Dredd or Rico have to say the word "law". Since the movie deals with the law, this happens quite often.
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: One interesting example in the SNES / Genesis / Mega Drive adaptation, which is more-faithful to the source material than the film was. (Also, Rob Schneider isn't in it.) It takes the unusual route of combining the events of the film with elements of the comic series: The first half loosely follows the hunt for Judge Rico. You can either kill punks or make them surrender and summon a flying machine to cart them off to jail. Each enemy requires a different method to make them submit, but you get a bonus for using a non-lethal method. The second half has Dredd fighting the Dark Judges, who are never mentioned in the film. They will sometimes possess the gangsters from earlier in the game, as evidenced by their flaming footprints. There's no taking them in quietly: once they're dead, you use a capture device to snag the soul of the Dark Judge before it can float away. The last level is a pretty-accurate depiction of Deadworld (see Planet Heck), a Mirror Universe where the Judges were transformed into unkillable zombies after exterminating all life on Earth. Your objective is to locate and kill the four Dark Judges using the same method as before. Fans of the book will recognize them right away, including Judge Fear who uses his trademark Nightmare Face attack to try and weaken Dredd.
  • The Scrappy: Fergie. The ones who didn't know about his comic book version hate him because he's played by Rob Schneider and he's a hindrance to Dredd. To those who know about his comic book version, the hatred is because he's Fergie In Name Only (and the aforementioned items do not help).
  • So Bad, It's Good: As... off-kilter as it is, it's fun to watch, taking into account Armand Assante's bombastic acting, the poor drama and the fact that no one can seem to say "law" properly.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously: Armand Assante looks like he's actually about to cry when he gets to the "That's your family! I'm your family! I'm the only family you ever HAD!" Entire careers are built on less sincere performances (especially notable since he actually manages to combine it with its supposed foil Ham and Cheese- that line comes almost right after "LAAAAWWWW!")
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Whatever else about this film, the sets are impressive and capture the look of Mega City One very well.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:
    • Chief Justice Fargo played by Max von Sydow, presumably in a case of Money, Dear Boy.
    • Ilsa Hayden played by Joan Chen?
    • Stallone as Dredd. He has the requisite chin, but with such a big-name star they simply couldn't afford to conceal his face the entire film.
    • Ian Dury?!
  • WTH, Costuming Department?: While the judge uniform is quite close to the comics, that codpiece drew plenty of criticism (Not to mention laughs).
  • Watch It for the Meme: Armand Assante and Sylvester Stallone both mangling the word "law" in the most hammy ways possible.