Cyberpunk Movies

by Karen Walch | Jul 19, 2022

On the off chance that you don’t remember the recommendations of cyberpunk books from last year, to refresh, cyberpunk as a genre can be summed up as “high tech, low life.” It typically deals with themes of an oppressive ruling class and the illegal things the lower class has to get up to in order to survive. There’s often a noir aesthetic to it, moody lighting, lots of rain, and bleak cityscapes. The technology is often its own character, often avoiding the sleek iPad-like newness of our own world and instead opting for a more jury-rigged, wires-everywhere style. These movies typify some of the best things about both the looks and the stories of the cyberpunk genre.

Akira
by Katsuhiro Ôtomo

One of the most stunning animated movies to ever be made. This movie excels in every way and is first and foremost a visual treat. Where other movies and studios shied away from night scenes, Akira dove in and created 50 new colors to use in their iconic neon-splashed nighttime neo-Tokyo. The story is also one that is almost endlessly rewatchable. It exists in a deeply fleshed-out alternate universe and you’ll notice something new every time you see the movie.

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Blade Runner
by Ridley Scott

In a decade of Harrison Ford starring in the births of new franchises, I am confident in saying that this one is my favorite. Based on a book I’ve recommended before (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick), this doesn’t follow the plot all that closely, but it captures the same, larger questions the work asks (such as “What does it mean to be human?”) very well. Bladerunner also portrays the quintessential cyberpunk aesthetic of a moody loner-detective working his way through a rainy, neon-lit metropolis perfectly.

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Bonus: watch the two disc set!

Ghost in the Shell
by Mamoru Oshii

This is another philosophical movie that’s also a treat for the eyes. What is a soul, what is it to be truly human, and who is hacking into people’s brains to control them? Major Kusanagi is a human mind in a fully cybernetic body navigating a criminal investigation and a personal one- is there any humanity left in her robotic body? If this sounds too much like a “think piece”, do not be dissuaded, this movie is full of action and a main plot that tracks well. The tech is fun and illustrated well, especially the beautifully drawn “thermoptics” that renders the user invisible.

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Bonus: stream the Video!

Minority Report     
by Steven Spielberg

While this movie is not a sequel to bladerunner nor does it take place in the same universe, it definitely still shares some of the same DNA. Heavy noir themes, a brooding detective that’s running out of time, and a conspiracy that threatens everything he knows. When a new piece of technology- precognitive ability- allows the police to predict and stop crime before it happens, crime plummets, but can the system make mistakes? Tom Cruise fights the institution he once served, autonomous robots, and the seedy underworld to unravel the answers. A really fun thriller.

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Bonus: watch the single disc set!

The Matrix
by Lana and Lilly Wachowski

This is likely the most popular mainstream cyberpunk movie, but its groundwork is laid on the shoulders of all the giants that came before, and if you watch all these movies, you’ll likely recognize similar themes both as a matter of visuals and world-building. Iconically, Keanu Reeves as Neo begins to fulfill what some call prophecy and others call a mathematical probability. The story spans two worlds- the computer simulation and the real post-apocalyptic world. Neo fights for survival and ultimately salvation in both of them.

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Bonus: watch the two disc set!

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