Cyberpunk films originated in the 1980s. They usually take place in a dystopian metropolis with sophisticated technology and societal disorder. Advanced AI, virtual reality, and cybernetically augmented characters and settings are common. The tales usually show a civilization where man and machine are blended and power relations between governments, companies, and people are constantly changing.
Cyberpunk films are noted for their distinctive visual aesthetic, complex characters, and thought-provoking themes about how technology affects humans and the ramifications of a quickly evolving society. Here are top 5 cyberpunk films that start a lifetime interest:
In the post-apocalyptic streets of Mega City One, a ruthless world where crime and corruption are commonplace, Judges patrol the city. These lawmen and women are appointed to be judge, jury and executioner, dispensing frontier style justice.
Dredd is a fictional character, a superhero created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra who first appeared in 2000 AD v1 #2 (March 1977). He is considered one of the most influential heroes in British comic book history, with his stories including many of the best in the genre.
Dredd has been a staple of the comic book world since his debut in 1977 and is regarded as one of the most grittier and darkest heroes in the genre. His popularity was also helped by the success of DC’s Judge Dredd series, which introduced the character to a younger audience in the US and brought new stories to fans.
2. Alita: Battle Angel
Based on a popular manga by Yukito Kishiro, this is the story of a brilliant cyber-doctor who discovers an abandoned cyborg in a scrapyard and rebuilds her into a new body. Alita (Rosa Salazar) has no memory of her past, but she is incredibly skilled in cyborg martial arts. This is a primewire movie that has a lot of action, CGI and world-building to offer. Director Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY) and producer James Cameron (AVATAR) are great at bringing this world to life.
Rosa Salazar’s performance in this movie is quite complex and has an amazing subtlety to it. Her movement and attitude shift slightly during the course of the film. It’s a testament to her acting and the CG work that went into bringing her character to life.
3. Strange Days
Despite its impressive technical acumen and a slew of impressive performances, director Kathryn Bigelow’s cyberpunk thriller Strange Days bombed at the box office and nearly derailed her career. However, it has since undergone critical reappraisal and is now considered a seminal film in the genre.
Starring Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett, the film follows ex-cop turned street hustler Lenny Nero (Fiennes) as he deals in illegal clips of memories recorded by a technology called SQUID. These memories are then sold to shady dealers in Los Angeles.
The movie also explores racial violence, police brutality and the perseverance of the human spirit. These themes aren’t always easy to take in, but Bigelow does a great job of keeping them relevant without compromising the film’s aesthetic.
4. A Scanner Darkly
Set in the near future, a plethora of citizens are addicted to drugs and constantly under surveillance. In order to keep the narcotics in check, police officers are outfitted with special “scramble suits” that allow them to shift their physical appearance.
When Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) gets hooked on a new drug called Substance D, he loses track of his identity. When his doctor tells him that the drugs are severing the hemispheres of his brain, he starts to forget who he is and where he lives.
Directed by Richard Linklater, A Scanner Darkly is a very interesting film that is hard to find nowadays. It’s a bit of an underrated gem and features Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and Winona Ryder among others. It’s very trippy and incredibly clever!
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The cyberpunk genre is a mix of gritty neo-noir, futuristic technology, and philosophical allegories. Its setting is usually an impoverished city that’s been ruled by a ruthless megacorporation.
The low-class citizens of this society may have access to scavenged tech, including cybernetic implants and artificial intelligence, but their social status is a constant threat to the corporation. It’s not uncommon to see an individual or group of rebellious hackers who rise up against their corporate oppressors.
This satirical action film is an absolute must-watch for any cyberpunk fan. Despite its cynical take on a futuristic police state, it’s also incredibly layered and thoughtful.