One of my favorite sub-genres is cyberpunk. If you aren’t familiar with it let me explain. Cyberpunk takes place in the future. Artificial intelligence and cybernetics are a common sight. Weirdly, the world seems to be in total chaos otherwise. Some apocalyptic event has taken place and left the landscape almost Mad Max looking. Humanity is packed into cities and the rest is like a wasteland. The Matrix would be a good representation of a movie that focuses on cyberpunk. The genre started with fiction in the 1960s and 70s. Early authors would have been Philip K Dick and William Gibson.
Some could argue that the very first cyberpunk movie was Metropolis, it isn’t featured in this list. This genre has sparked movies, music, and fashion, you can think of it as a cross between hacker culture and the punk subculture. Here are my Top Ten Cyberpunk Movies to give you a good introduction into the genre. Who knows, maybe you have seen quite a few of these and some may be your favorites, as well.
10. Cyborg. Let’s start with this gem. This movie came out in 1989 and featured the martial art talents of Jean Claude van Damme as the main character. True to every movie he has put out you will see overly acted facial expressions, long slow muscle flexing, and of course his signature full side splits. Who knew that the future would need these things to survive. In this movie van Damme plays the lead, Gibson Rickenbacker, who is called a Slinger. Slingers are guns for hire. He spends the better part of the movie chasing the villain, Fender Tremolo, and his gang of murderous thugs down the east coast while trying to ensure the safe passage of Pearl to Atlanta. Let the martial arts battles begin…FIGHT!!!
9. Nemesis. Nemesis was released in 1992. To definitely follow the recipe of cyberpunk over industrialized dystopian future, check. Cybernetic implants, check. Corporations in charge, check. Setting up for future sequels, BIG CHECK. This movie is set in the future where illegal androids are all over the place and our hero, Alex Raine (Olivier Gruner) is an assassin that works for the LAPD who is set to retire those illegal androids. There is a subplot of revenge that moves this story along, as well as a coming of morals that changes the hero’s mind about his allegiances. It has less fun martial arts fights than Cyborg but it makes up for it with a tad more plot development. Just a tad mind you.
The Gene Generation
8. Gene Generation. This movie is actually a sub genre of the sub genre cyberpunk, called bio punk. The basic premise of the movie is an assassin who battles DNA hackers, thus the creation of bio punk. Bai Ling stars in this movie and is what makes it worthwhile to watch. Her fighting scenes are epic and the work is truly a cyberpunk nightmare. Technology is everywhere but humanity is battling extreme conditions. Poor people are dying while the rich can afford to hack their DNA. Ling plays Michelle who only wants to get her and her brother, Jackie, out of the city. Originally, I saw this movie in the store and thought it looked somewhat entertaining. I never held out a lot of hope it would be amazing, but it was a sleeper. I enjoyed it a lot more than expected. It is slow in places and the acting is about what you would expect it to be form a low budget picture. It is still a fun getaway into cyberpunk.
7. Repo Men. 2010 brought us this movie, starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker. Like most cyberpunk themes, this too is set in the near future where corporations rule the world. If you own a house and can’t pay the bills, the bank takes it. If you own a car and can’t pay the bills, the lender can come take it. If you get a cybernetic implant and can’t pay the bills, who comes then? The Repo Men come to you and repossess the organ in question. Law plays Remy, a repo man who works for the Union with his best friend Jake, Whitaker. One day, something changes that forces Remy to question his job as a repo man and how he will continue. Talking about corporations running the near future, I am pretty sure that Volkswagen bought and paid for this movie. Everywhere you looked you could see the souped up Volkswagen Touareg. Talk about product placement. This movie does have some really good choreographed fight scenes and can definitely show the scariness of corporations running healthcare. Perfect movie to watch in late fall into winter where you can’t always get outside and enjoy nature.
6. Elysium. This movie was released in 2013 and had a pretty awesome cast complimenting the movie. The lead was Matt Damon. Also starred Jodie Foster, Alice Braga and Diego Luna (Rogue One). But these amazing actors really had a hard time saving it from the same kind of cyberpunk movie that seems to be spilled out of Hollywood. Yeah I give it a six because of the actors in it, the CGI is really good, and overall the story is compelling. You have the elite that have moved off work to a ring that orbits the earth. Here, disease and poverty have all been removed and it is a utopia called Elysium. The remaining people on Earth want to get there, but you have to have a pure genetic code to get in. What I really like about this movie is the social commentary. You see things like health care, immigration, and worker exploitation and how it affects those that are considered under the ruling class. It also discusses topics like overpopulation and its effects, as well as transhumanism. It is definitely a middle of the pact kind of movie for me and most of that has to do with it being directed by Neil Blomkamp. Crappie and District 9 really gave me a bad taste for his shooting style.
5. Johnny Mnemonic. While the Matrix doesn’t make an appearance in my list, Keanu Reeves does in this 1995 film set in a near future where the Japan Megacorporations own the world, Cybernetic implants are an essential part of life, and people who aren’t part of the megacorps live in whatever they can pull together. Our boy Johnny, played by Reeves, is a data courier. He has cybernetic implants in his head that allow him to store data in his own memory and can be retrieved once it is delivered. Johnny takes on a job that forces him to carry a data package that is larger than his storage and so vital to the future of humanity that assassins have been dispatched by the megacorps to collect him. If that isn’t reason enough to check out this flick, then watch it because Ice Cube is in it. At least he plays a human in this movie, unlike in Tank Girl.
4. Mute. I stumbled across Mute on Netflix while drinking a bottle of wine. It stars Alexander Skarsgard and Paul Rudd. That was enough to make me want to watch this movie. Skarsgard plays Leo, a man who became mute after an accident in his childhood. His mother, who is Amish, refused to allow him to have the needed surgery to correct the issue. He works in the bar of a strip club where his waitress girlfriend also works, Paul Rudd plays Cactus Bill who is an American Surgeon and runs a black market clinic. Cactus Bill is trying to get out of Berlin and suddenly his life becomes entangled with Leo. This movie kept me captivated the entire time. I guess I’m partial since I like both Skarsgard and Rudd. Being that it is a Netflix original, log in and watch it. You won’t be disappointed.
3. Gamer. Gamer is set in the near future where one man’s corporation has the largest impact on how we react with others socially. This movie stars Gerard Butler as Kable, part of the Slayers, convicts who are pitted against one another and if they survive 30 rounds they are given a pardon and allowed to return to society. Michael C Hall, from Dexter fame, plays Ken Castle who created an interactive world called Society where gamers can take control of real life people and act out scenarios, much like the Sims. Castle also created the game Slayers. Basically, Castle is the largest person funding private prisons and uses the players for his game. This movie is like Call of Duty meets real life war and shows us that technology definitely can be used for bad purposes and how bad privatized prisons are. If you like Gerard Butler, this is a cant miss in his repertoire.
Ready Player One
2. Ready Player One. So this movie was based on a book that was widely popular, so you can guess that means the movie wasn’t nearly as good. I cannot say, since I have not read it. What I do love about this movie is all of the 80s references, the video game feel, and how well the actors played their roles. It takes place in Columbus, Ohio, but its much larger than the present day city. In it, the only escape from the trappings of reality is the OASIS(Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation). OASIS is an online virtual world where you can be anyone you want and do almost anything you want, providing you have the money and gear to do so. It is VR to the Nth degree. Tye Sheridan plays Wade Watts who lives pretty much all the time in OASIS and stumbled across clues to a hidden game that promised the winner complete control over OASIS. Trust the fate of a massive simulation to the hands of any one person, what could go wrong. It is beautifully filmed and the story progresses nicely. You can find a million things that speak to you, in this movie.
Alita Battle Angel
1. Alita Battle Angel. At present, I have to say that this is my favorite of the cyberpunk genre. It even wins over the Bladerunner series for me and that says a lot. This movie is based on the 1990s manga Gunnm and the 1993 anime Battle Angel, both of which I still have not seen. James Cameron produced this movie and is known for some really good cinematic treasures. That was a good thing to have going into it. Without knowing the original work, I can’t speak to how accurate it is but I did find the move engaging and engrossing. This movie takes place in 2563 and revolves around a doctor who found parts of a cyborg and put them back together to take the place of his deceased daughter, Alita. This movie follows Alita as she is in a sense born and learning about her surroundings and who, ultimately, she is and her place in the world. Amazing CGI keeps this movie moving forward. My favorite part is the rollerball type battle arena. In a word it was cool. The story line is something all of us can feel some form of attachment to. If you have not seen this movie, stream it on a device near you.
Cyberpunk can be an amazing genre to read and watch. It has a little bit for everyone like scifi, heartfelt drama, engaging stories, and some pretty kick ass CGI. I hope some of these movies have sparked an interest for you to look into. Let me know if you do, I would like to hear your thoughts. If you have seen any of these already, what did you think. I hope you enjoyed my Top 10 Cyberpunk Movies