Cyberpunk

 

“I can carry nearly eighty gigs of data in my head.”

My choices for the ten best CyberPunk films:

  • Blade Runner
  • The Matrix
  • Soylent Green
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Brazil
  • Dark City
  • The Terminator
  • Total Recall
  • Strange Days
  • The Thirteenth Floor

 

What is CyberPunk? The term was originally used to describe a sub-genre of literary science fiction centered around the works of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. But here is a case where film came first, kind of. Before Gibson’s Neuromancer, Ridley Scott created the movie Blade Runner. It is Blade Runner, more than any novel or short story, that produced the bleak future streets, controlling corporations, and anti-heroes of CyberPunk. However, it’s not so easy to dismiss the literary side, as Blade Runner was inspired by Philip K. Dick’s ’60s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. While Dick’s works are not considered CyberPunk, he has had more influence on the sub-genre than anyone. In general, if a film is based on Dick’s work, it’s CyberPunk; but then the cinematic definition is broader than its literary cousin (which some make so narrow that nothing outside of the stories of Gibson and Sterling or written past 1988 fit), allowing for such things as true heroes.

So I’m back to: what is Cyberpunk? An easy definition is Film Noir in the near future. They do share the same cynical view, the same corrupt society and flawed protagonist. But I hate to define one genre on another that has such uncertain boundaries. Instead, I’ll define it as I did Film Noir, as a sub-genre that contains some of the following (the more the film has, the more it is CyberPunk):

  • Stories based on, or similar to, the writings of Philip K. Dick or William Gibson.
  • A flawed anti-hero, often a criminal, rebel, outcast, struggling to survive in a threatening environment.
  • A world filled with violent thugs, corrupt officials, and greedy, sociopathic, corporate executives.
  • A near future, oppressive society where power has shifted to multinational companies.
  • Computers and other pieces of technology that enter into every part of life, often with immersive inputs.
  • Complex, tech-oriented slang.
  • A cynical philosophy–life is filled with betrayal and defeat and you are trapped.

Blade Runner, Tron, Robocop, Total Recall, Ghost In The Shell, Johnny Mnemonic, Strange Days, and The Matrix are good representatives of the sub-genre.

For this review list, I’m including films that are CyberPunk, proto-CyberPunk (films that helped shape the sub-genre), and CyberPunk-related (films that fall outside the category, but exist because of it; this includes a large number of low-budget cyborg, action films):

Cyberpunk Reviews:

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Cyberpunk Films Sorted by Year:

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