Since the John Carpenter film in 1981 Escape from New York, the cyberpunk aesthetic has supercharged the imagination of filmmakers trying to visualize the future. There are many fictional utopian futures – just like dystopian futures – but the cyberpunk style is a deeper combination of factors, weaving together the idea of “high-tech, low-life” stories with particularly desolate urban environments. Many authors and filmmakers of the 1980s laid the groundwork for what would become the cyberpunk genre, and today those visions have evolved into several visually stunning works of fiction.
Today, many cyberpunk-style movies are missing out or don’t stand out from the crowd, but the genre is saturated enough that some truly outstanding films are available to watch. Here are the best cyberpunk movies, ranked.
9 tron the legacy
tron the legacy is a sequel to the 1982 original tron, which featured a computer programmer entering and interacting with a virtual world. Like its predecessor, this film follows a cast of characters who enter a virtual world called The Grid, where they must stop a sentient program from invading the real world. Although its plot leaves much to be desired, both tron the films are notable for their incredibly lively visual imagery and thrilling sci-fi adventure aspects. tron the legacy is now something of a cult film, with a devoted following that has kept its memory strong years and years later. Additionally, a third tron the film is said to be going into production soon.
8 Alita: battle angel
Fans of sci-fi action movies will find a lot to like in Alita: battle angel, even if certain aspects of its scenario seem taken from source and predictable. With dazzling visual effects and a star-studded cast, the film is a triumph of the cyberpunk genre and manages to explore many of the body transformation themes associated with the genre. Adapted from a Manga by Yukito Kishiro, Alita: battle angel has a lot in common with Japanese anime adaptations as well as Western animated films.
7 Escape from New York
John Carpenter’s 1981 film became the inspiration for William Gibson’s novel neuromancer, and the two creators are considered the fathers of the cyberpunk genre. Ex-soldier Snake Plissken, played by Kurt Russell, is asked to infiltrate a dystopian Manhattan that’s been turned into a prison to save the president. Frequently hailed as one of the best escape films ever made, Escape from New York is a wild thrill ride of a movie that entertains at every turn, and its take on a dystopian hellscape would become the basis for countless cyberpunk films to come.
6 AI Artificial Intelligence
This 2001 film began as a short story by Brian Aldiss, which became a screenplay directed by Stanley Kubrick. After the director’s untimely death, it was finally made into a movie by the legendary Steven Spielberg. Focusing on a programmed robot child with the ability to love, AI Artificial Intelligence questions the concept of synthetic consciousness and the place of artificial intelligence in society. Set in a post-climate change world, it’s an often horrifying and heartbreaking look at a destitute future that struggles to recreate the essentially human elements of emotion and love.
5 The matrix
The Wachowski sisters’ 1999 hit film suggests that humanity is trapped in a simulated reality and used as a power source for evil robot beings. Sporting an iconic mono-vert aesthetic, incredible special effects, and visceral fight scenes, The matrix achieved legendary status as a story for good reason. The story of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss joining together in the force of overwhelming odds in this horrific bastardization of reality is a parable that remains relevant decades later.
4 Blade Runner 2049
The sequel to the most legendary cyberpunk film of all time is a worthy successor, modernizing its stunning visuals and thematic depth under the direction of acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve. Blade Runner 2049 follows K, a Blade Runner played by Ryan Gosling who uncovers a secret about the nature of replicants that threatens to upset the balance of civilization. It retains the slow, meditative approach that characterized Ridley Scott’s original film, while elevating its cyberpunk elements to rich new heights, thanks to inspired CGI and haunting sound design.
3 ghost in the shell
The conversation about this genre would be incomplete without mentioning the Japanese tradition of cyberpunk stories, which has its own rich history. Based on a manga of the same name, the 1995 ghost in the shell The film follows Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg security guard who tracks a mysterious hacker called the Puppet Master. The film explores themes of bodily transformation and identity in a world where cybernetic enhancements to the person are considered normal. Called one of the best animated films of all time, ghost in the shell would be a fundamental inspiration for The matrix and countless other cyberpunk stories.
Another Japanese film that made waves in the worlds of animation and cyberpunk, Akira is a story set in 2019 in a futuristic version of Tokyo built after World War III. The leader of a motorcycle gang is invigorated by a full-scale rebellion after his friend is given telekinetic powers following a motorcycle accident. Its visceral action scenes and sleek aesthetic have become iconic in the years since its release, and today, Akira is remembered as a seminal film of the cyberpunk genre.
1 blade runner
In 1982, Ridley Scott adapted a story by prolific science fiction author Phillip K. Dick. The adaptation, called blade runner, would go on to become one of the most beloved and acclaimed films ever made. The film follows Deckard, a cop assigned to hunt down a group of rogue replicants, synthetic human beings made for menial work in space colonies. Initially criticized for its slow pace and seemingly pedantic structure, these elements would later be reassessed by critics as the film’s greatest strengths. blade runner is a carefully constructed meditation on what makes us human in a world that has come to challenge the nature of humanity after the unbridled misuse of technology and scientific advancement.
Will Smith Reacts to Oscars Ban: ‘I Accept and Respect the Academy’s Decision’
About the Author