‘Man maketh the Machine.’ This single phrase can ignite discussions, debates, and arguments that may end up lasting hours, and still leave some room for interpretation and deliberation. Cinema about the dichotomous yet somewhat interesting nature of the relationship between Humanity and Technology has proven fertile ground for filmmakers, with many choosing to foray into futuristic scenarios. Deeply imaginative, yet captivating for their portrayal of such a scenario, these films often tend to have underlying philosophical, moral and prophetic tones.
Regardless, the science-fiction genre, and this theme in particular have spawned and given us some truly surreal movie experiences. With that said, here is the list of some really good movies technology movies. You can watch some of these best technology movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
10. Videodrome (1983)
I stand at a loss of words trying to explain what or how this movie made me feel, but that can be said for most of David Cronenberg’s films. Perhaps the most bleak movie on this list, ‘Videodrome’ doesn’t have a ray of hope or a bright spot for humanity or for those looking for it, which is very unlike most of the movies on this list. The twisted narrative follows Max Renn, the CEO of a sleazy TV station who turns to broadcasting acts of extreme violence and sexual torture on his channel, under the show Videodrome, believing it to be ground breaking and profitable for his company. What follows is a bizarre sequence of events that lead to Max experiencing increasingly violent hallucinations caused by a tumor in his brain due to exposure to Videodrome. He realises Videodrome is more than just a show; it was the “socio-political battleground in which a war is being fought for control of the minds of the people of North America”, as told by one of the characters.
‘Videodrome’ is not very polite in depicting that human addiction to technology, television and means of media had gone too far. It instead delivers that message so overtly, it almost feels like a blow on the head. The twisted storyline and vision, violence that can be handful to some viewers and unsettling imagery might make it a difficult watch.
9. WALL·E (2008)
Disney–Pixar movies have a reputation of rendering such enduring characters on screen that even live action features sometimes fail to. ‘WALL-E’ is one such story of a trash compactor robot with little to no purpose on an abandoned Earth, infested with garbage and junk. The robot finds new purpose in protecting a seedling he discovers, the only form of life among the ruin, and in the process becomes an unlikely hero.
The movie, apart from being a stunning feat in animation and storytelling, touches themes such as the human affinity to consumerism and everything corporate, and how that eventually leads to utter neglect of the environment at our hands, also presenting a full blown vision of our surrender to technology and ultimate reliance in completing even menial tasks. The movie ends on a positive note though, with humanity realising its folly and working together towards a better future. Despite having very little dialogue, the movie boasts of some of the most emotional moments in an animated feature film.
8. Blade Runner (1982)
As far as movies about “humans engineering sentient beings turning on their creators” go, there is no beating Ridley Scott’s neo-noir–science-fiction amalgamation. The movie presents a bleak version of the future, with our protagonist surfing through flying cars, fire emitting towers and stunning, neon drenched streets. The story follows Rick Deckard, a blade runner charged with the responsibility of eliminating four rogue ‘replicants’ (genetically engineered beings with a fixed life span).
While the film’s visuals are a treat to watch, what makes the movie click are its complex themes and the protagonist’s moral ambiguity and questionable stand. While having creator and creation face off against each other, it makes the viewer question as to what essentially makes us ‘human’ and differentiates us from the machines, albeit in an ambivalent fashion and in a classic good vs evil twist. Roy Beatty’s “Tears in the Rain” monologue towards the end is so hauntingly beautiful yet so profound, it still gives me chills every time I see it.
7. Ex-Machina (2014)
As good a cinematic debut as any in recent times, Ex Machina is a stunning modern portrayal of the “humans engineering sentient beings turning on their creators” category of sci-fi films. The film follows Caleb Smith (Domnhall Gleeson) who is invited to the home and research facility of an eccentric, narcissistic CEO of a leading tech company, named Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Nathan reveals his creation to Caleb, an AI humanoid named Ava (Alicia Vikander), and enlists him to administer a Turing Test to her, to evaluate whether Ava displays true intelligence and emotions, transcending her artificial intelligence. During their short sessions while Caleb administers the Turing Test to her, Caleb begins falling for Ava and seemingly, she does too. During one of the power outages that Ava is later revealed to be capable of triggering, she informs Caleb that Nathan can’t be trusted. What follows is a suspenseful tale of one ups and dupes that ends in a shocking, jaw dropping climax, with Ava passing any and all tests Caleb was capable of administering, albeit in a somewhat heart breaking manner. Well shot and technically brilliant, ably supported by all actors, this is an excellent indie that warrants a watch.
6. Brazil (1985)
Working mostly as a satire on the bureaucracy and advocacy, while criticising mostly all aspects of our “plastic” existence, the best way to describe this film and its ongoing in one word is- whimsical. Terry Gilliam’s 1985 dystopian drama, starring Jonathan Pryce, centres on a man named Sam Lowry who lives in a fictional urban centre, controlled by a totalitarian regime with only a few principles in place to guide its functioning. Sam also repeatedly dreams of saving a damsel in distress, and falling in love with her, while being caught up in his moribund work life.
The film also contains multiple nods to the Orwellian vision for the future from his seminal literary work, ‘1984’. Much like ‘WALL·E’, the film mocks consumerism in our society and our reliance on technology for almost everything, assumed to take only worse proportions in the future. However, the film only uses these themes as setting, marginally touching on them and satirising, rather than as an actual plot point driving the narrative forward.
5. Terminator 1 & 2 (1984 and 1991)
One of the most successful action movie franchises of all time was kickstarted back in 1984 by James Cameron. The apex of “man vs machine” action films, the Terminator series is mostly fun fare to watch, but none of the sequels have been able to restore the former glory of the franchise and its popularity to when Cameron had the reins. The first film in the series follows Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the titular character, a cyborg assassin sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor, whose son John Connor leads the human resistance in the omniscient man vs. machines war in the future. The series truly came into its own with the second entry in the franchise, ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’, also directed by Cameron and surpassing the first in nearly all grounds. All the action, technical brilliance and ass kicking aside, there will never be a time when T-800 being lowered into the vat of molten steel will not leave me an emotional mess. MUST.NOT.CRY.
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4. Metropolis (1927)
Undoubtedly the toughest film to watch on this list. Not a lot of people may have seen this film; I myself stumbled upon it during one of my research projects on Weimar Cinema. This piece of German expressionism on film should be viewed, not just for being technologically and architecturally stunning for its time, which is nine decades, but because it’s an important film. Set in 2026, the film talks about the economic divide between society, and how machinery controls most of our lives in the future. There is even a “Heart Machine”, the core of all power in Metropolis, that explodes and kills the workers toiling in misery there, when the protagonist even envisions them being sacrificed to a machine like god.
Lacking any dialogue and extremely socialistic in its approach, many have also claimed it to be a piece of communist propaganda, but it deserves to be viewed for what it is; one of the earliest known efforts in the sci-fi genre, and a somewhat good film too.
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3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Close to half a century since it first released and I am yet to see a more authentic and eccentric piece of moviemaking. It would just be unfair to put Stanley Kubrick’s grand vision under one category, for it masterfully dabbles with themes like technology, evolution, existentialism, and even spirituality. I have to admit though, it was a tough watch for me, but one that completely blew me away in the end. The movie leaves you dumbfounded at its scale of execution and sheer genius of a vision. Apart from the numerous savvy gadgets and technological innovations on display here, there is much more to what the movie has to say about humanity’s relationship with technology.
The film depicts technology as what drives forward the evolutionary process. In that, the recurring monolith is to be taken as a technological intervention that leaps forward human advancement years, from the man-ape learning to weaponise the bone, to Floyd discovering the artefact on the moon’s surface confirming the presence of extra-terrestrial life beyond our own allowing inter planetary travel, to Bowman discovering the monolith in orbit around Jupiter to be shot forward in time, accessing a higher temporal dimension, and to finally attaining the form of the “star child”. Whew!
Among such complex ideas at play, the role of HAL-9000, the AI on board Discovery One, turning on its creators on account of “human error” and in the process, erring as any human would, seems the simplest one in comparison, albeit masterfully done.
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2. The Matrix (1999)
A revolution disguised as a movie. Since its release close to two decades ago, action and science fiction movies have never been the same. Highly original in its premise, ‘The Matrix’ follows Thomas Anderson or Neo (Keanu Reeves) as he discovers that the seemingly normal world he lived in is actually a shared simulation of human minds, and that the “real” world was a technological ruin ravaged by war between humans and sentient beings. Aided by Morpheus and his crew of rebels, Neo sets on a path to fulfill his destiny as “The One”, with his understanding of the Matrix allowing him to bend the laws of Physics in the simulated world, performing extraordinary feats in “Bullet Time”. An ingenious, classic for the ages by the Wachowskis.
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1. Her (2013)
A love story that’s heartfelt and smart in equal measure, Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’ is nothing short of an achievement in storytelling. Perhaps the most apt movie for this list, ‘Her’ talks of how a man literally engages in a relationship with technology. Theodore Twombly (a terrific Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely middle aged man living in future L.A, due for divorce, gets into a romantic relationship with his OS, who he decides to name Samantha. Theodore finds comfort in sharing his thoughts and feelings with Samantha, who retaliates in a way that leads to them bonding over conversations, as she is designed to adapt to the user. The bitter realisation that hits Theodore, of what he shared with Samantha not being as special as he thought, since literally thousands of people have access to the same OS with the same voice, breaks him, and is something almost all of us have faced at some point in our lives, making it all the more effective.
‘Her’ is, in my opinion, a melancholy reflection and examination of the way we handle our relationships, and problems of piercing, inner loneliness plaguing virtually every middle aged person today. The technology, although only a medium to examine that, is used to some great effect here and helps in compounding this narrative, thumping with raw emotion.
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