The 13 Best Cyberpunk Films
When I was in high school, a couple of decades ago, one of the major influences for my friends and I was the science fiction genre of cyberpunk. We ate that stuff up. The neon hued disutopias of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Pat Catigan loomed large over our teenage lives. So did the role playing games based in the same universes, Shadowrun, Dark Conspiracy and in particular Cyberpunk 202o from R. Talsorian Games. These dice and paper games sucked up much of our free time. Transporting us from the farmlands of Idaho, to the darkened violent streets of Night City or the dingy port of Chiba city with it’s sky the color of a television tuned to a dead channel.
As a film geek we wore out our VCR bootlegs watching a blade runner hunting down rampaging replicants in rain soaked Los Angeles. These films were grist for the mill for our imaginations and have played a major role on my development as a graphic designer. In that vein, here’s a list of my favorite films that I feel exude the cyberpunk ethos or aesthetic. Not all of the films are from my high school years, but each was a creator of or influenced by the mirror shaded rockerboys, netrunners or street samurai.
Incidentally it is interesting that lots of this film are either being remade or new sequels. I guess the people my age must have influence in Hollywood now, because I’d greenlight the same flicks.
13. The Terminator (1984)
Cyborgs, killer computers, guns and mega-corps, it embodies the rhythms of cyberpunk if not the rhymes.
12. The Crow (1994)
Not cyberpunk technologically, but in atmosphere it’s spot on. Criminals run amok in an decaying urban nightmare world? What’s more cyberpunk than than. RIP Brandon Lee, gone way too soon.
11. Metropolis (1927)
Fritz Lang’s masterpiece set the tone for all future disutopian science fiction pieces. Beautiful, I even loved the redit in 1984 with the pop soundtrack. Who can’t love Freddy Mercury’s Love Kills?
10. Dark City (1998)
A gaslighting psychological neo-noir film that like The Crow (both from director Alex Proyas) exudes the dark menace of the cruel cityscape.
9. Total Recall (1990)
A frenetic action adventure that has many themes of identity and evil corporations found in the best science fiction. Plus it’s a pretty funny flick.
8. RoboCop (1987)
Very influential and simply one of the greatest cyborgs ever.
7. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
A classic that is one of the ultimate cyberpunk flicks.
6. The Road Warrior (1981)
The godfather film of the wastelands of Steve Jackson’s Games Car Wars and the space between the sprawl.
5. The Matrix (1999)
Although I wasn’t as big a fan of this as many of my computer science friends, it is visually impressive.
4. Akira (1988)
Tetsuo! Kanada! This film blew my farmboy mind when I saw it.
3. Elysium (2013)
This recent film truly is the greatest embodiment of cyberpunk. It has everything except the net runners.
2. Tron (1982)
No film has ever visualized a digital hyper reality better, even if it’s a tad on the corny side.
1. Blade Runner (1982)
Really, is there any other choice for number 1? Roy Batty just turned one last week by the way… His tears in the rain speech still gives me goosebumps.