This was exactly my thought when tasked with writing about the best cyberpunk movies.
I was like what cyberpunk actually is. If the very first thought that came to your mind was the same, don’t you worry!
I won’t start the article without giving a bit of explanation into what cyberpunk films are about.
“High Tech”, “Low Life” could be the definition of Cyberpunk in short. But the best cyberpunk movies go way beyond that; to give us that ethically dubious, literary-critical, eccentric kind of cinematic experience.
Although the influence of the book Neuromancer has been great in this genre. It takes pieces from a variety of styles and genres of filmmaking.
From noir to sci-fi, cyberpunk now has multiple layers of influence. And can accommodate any theme that fights big corporations or capitalistic society, or oppressors of corporate kind.
To give it a more precise definition any movie theme that features the followings:
- Corporate oppression or corporatocracy
- Rebellion due to big wealth gap, and ultra-capitalistic society
- Isolation of the rich versus the poor
- Futuristic impoverished ambiance with a lot of reds, blues, and pinks
On a small note, movies like ex Machina or movies like a ghost in the shell won’t be featured in this piece even though they seem to have a solid fan base. The reason is subjective and an explanation won’t follow 😂😜
Cyberpunk Movies: Matrix
Director: Lana Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers), Lilly Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers)
Writers: Lana Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers), Lilly Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers)
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss
1999’s Matrix comes from now transgender Wachowski sisters. It is the movie that brought Keanu Reeves into the stardom he has held tight ever since. Plus, Laurence Fishbourne, Carrie Anne Moss are irreplaceable parts of the movie.
The movie’s plot is simple yet is full of figurative allegories to today’s world. It is about a guy who, after realizing the truth about his existence in the so-called Matrix now has to fight against this cyber-intelligence.
Many people don’t realize this. But Matrix is in fact one of the best cyberpunk movies rather than a simple sci-fi. Of course, it is fundamentally a sci-fi movie but with all the criteria and aspects of a cyberpunk movie.
Matrix is not a perfect movie. But it achieved more than what a few perfect movies ever could.
It just feels, sounds, and looks like a movie that is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago.
Filmed with incredible cinematography, designed with long leather jackets, sunglasses, and gravity-defying jumps. The Matrix is that movie, while not necessarily genre-defining, but one heck of a good addition that enriched the extremes which have never been reached before.
I remember watching this movie in my childhood with my brother and not really understanding what it meant. But still enjoying the cinematic experience. However, having watched it again in my twenties, I have really seen the movie.
As was mentioned, it isn’t by no means perfect. But it still is this movie that you can’t help but love. The cultural relevance and the originality take your breath away. Especially with the new thought movement claiming we are living in a simulation. It is incredible how this movie was able to feature that hot topic years before its trend in the scientific society.
Cyberpunk films: Blade Runner (The Final Cut)
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Hampton Fancher (screenplay), David Webb Peoples (screenplay) (as David Peoples)
Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young
Blade Runner 1982 is directed by Ridley Scott and written by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples & Philip K. Dick. Harrison Ford stars in this movie as Rick Deckard.
Rick Deckard has to look for four replicants and kill them. Replicants who stole a ship and returned to Earth to kill their creator.
This is not a movie for impatient people. From the first viewing, you are not going to understand it unless you watch it with all your attention and focus. This cyberpunk movie requires so much from the audience but at the same time gives as much in return.
Blade Runner is filled with eye-blinding cinematography, a meticulously detailed world, and witty, dramatic, poetic dialogue that even missing one scene sends you astray. And being lost in all this and missing that one scene is so easy, which makes it a movie worth watching more than once and one of the best cyberpunk movies of all time.
The pacing of the movie may seem a bit slow. Even that very praised dialogue may seem boring for the people who don’t appreciate a true cyberpunk movie. It is why this movie and the recent Blade Runner 2049 has more criticism than acclaim.
Many of the top cyberpunk movies of today’s cinema seem so much like the replicants of the cyberpunk genre than the originals. Blade Runner’s cultural influence has penetrated not only the sci-fi genre in general but the filmmaking itself.
It does have a few flaws here and there yet a movie that is easily a cinematic masterpiece. A flawed masterpiece it might be, but a cinematic masterpiece all the same.
There have been a number of movies like blade runner, but none with their success and influence.
Cyberpunk Anime Movies: Akira
Director: Katsuhiro Ôtomo
Writers: Katsuhiro Ôtomo (screenplay), Izô Hashimoto (screenplay)
Stars: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama
Talking about cinematic masterpieces Akira is one that takes its place there without any doubt. Katsuhiro Otomo directed the movie and wrote it with Hashimoto. The central point of this anime revolves around a biker turned psychic. And who now works to disclose a secret government experiment to save his friend.
Akira has a complicated plot. But in short, it can be summarized as the journey of a simple biker into exposing secret government experiments and corrupt politicians, gangs, etc. All to save his friend who adds the final twist in the movie.
Action-filled noir-ish, punk styled anime with an ambitious plot is a mix-mash of experiences with gorgeous graphics that you will be comparing every other anime to. Akira is not your Disney anime or Hollywood cyberpunk. It is as different as the two countries are. However, it will appeal to audiences of both countries and more.
The jam-packed gory and bloody action sequences drive its a bit incoherent plot complemented by hand-drawn animation. Akira is a one-of-a-kind anime achievement which is also one of the best cyberpunk movies in existence today.
If you are a fan of this anime, it is certain you have been hearing all kinds of gossip and talks about its remake and its details. It is no secret that Leo De Caprio has been holding the rights to the movie for quite some time and intends to do right by the fans.
Let us hope that Hollywood will not ruin this cinematic art piece turning it into a franchise just to make more money as it did with many others before.
Regardless of how the live-action movie comes out. Akira anime is going to stay as one of the most influential Japanese anime and the best of Cyberpunk anime movies.
Top Cyberpunk Movies: Metropolis
Director: Fritz Lang
Writers: Thea von Harbou (screenplay), Thea von Harbou (novel)
Stars: Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich
This silent film, Metropolis, was directed by Fritz Lang whose revolutionary concept is the reason Metropolis takes its spot in our top cyberpunk movies. Thea von Harbou wrote the script based on his own novel with the same name. Stars include people like Brigitte Helm, Afraid Abel, Gustav Frohlich.
Somewhat prophetic and highly influential movie’s central point is that we may advance into a point when the machines of our making will be consuming us to continue the ever-growing evolution.
In a futuristic utopian society where there is a big division between the working class and the elites. A youngster discovers its bleak underground dwellings. Then, he tries to help them and help the self-proclaimed prophet to mediate the things between the classes.
1927’s silent cyberpunk movie was lightyears ahead of its time. To call it cyberpunk, when the genre wasn’t even created, might seem a bit absurd. But to claim that the whole genre had so much to learn from is no understatement.
Dazzling and stunning visuals, a genius storytelling without a word spoken Metropolis is the truest expression of cinema. All those dystopian movies of the 20th century or even movies like Ex Machina have Metropolis to thank for opening the new world of possibilities when it comes to writing sci-fi at its best.
I pay attention to the message and the quality of the concept of the best futuristic movies more than the action or the highly developed characters. Because, after all, cyberpunk is not a drama or rom-com to be spending half of its run time developing characters.
Metropolis is unquestionably the best cyberpunk movie. Although It has a few flaws in its incoherent sub-plots or with under-developed characters, it is still one of the best cyberpunk movies.
Best Cyberpunk Movies: The Terminator
Director: James Cameron
Writers: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn
The Terminator 1984 directed and co-written by James Cameron stars Arnold Schwarznegger without whom the movie wouldn’t have had its notoriety today. Gale Anne Hurd’s writing makes this movie more of a tech-noir than cyberpunk.
However, the central point of the movie is what you would normally see in cyberpunk films. It is that popular high tech – low life aspect of the flick.
A brief summary of the movie follows a cyborg who is sent to kill a woman from the future. There is but another savior sent alongside whose mission is to protect the target woman.
I have no choice but to emphasize the over-used, extremely corny, somewhat outdated term of “I will be back”. In fact, this term would not have been so popular if it wasn’t for the wooden on-screen acting of Schwarzenegger.
However, I don’t feel like using the first part of this popular saying only the hardcore fans would understand.
Apart from the acting, The Terminator has one of the best directors attached to it, who has left his signatures all over. Huge explosions and surreal actions sequences, and the world ending concept all validating this very fact.
Virtuoso storytelling of a compelling story coupled with high-quality cinematography makes it a sci-fi classic. It can simply serve as proof of Camerons’ genius. This is a rare kind of cinematic rush that one keeps experiencing even long after you watched it. Not a thriller, per se, but thrills the crap of the audience.
Indeed, this is one of the best cyberpunk movies. But also one of the best of science fiction from Cameron’s repertoire, well, except for Avatar maybe.
Good Cyberpunk Movies: Alita Battle Angel
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Writers: James Cameron (screenplay by), Laeta Kalogridis (screenplay by)
Stars: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly
James Cameron adapted the screenplay with Laeta Kalogridis. Robert Rodriguez took on the job of directing Alita and featuring stars like Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly.
In a cyberpunk dystopia, Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds the body of cyborg Alita (Rosa Salazar) to repair and bring her a proper life. But she can’t remember anything from her past. So she sets on a quest to find out who she is and why she was left in the junkyard.
I remember coming out of the theater fully influenced by the big round eyes of Alita and her always optimistic character whose impact I might confuse with a crush. I dare say, I wasn’t alone in this regard. Since the movie is to be re-released as demanded by the Alita Army, the hardcore fans.
Alita by no means a flawless movie. In fact, it has a ton of it. However, things it does well, I mean like so well have no equals to this day. And also make it an extraordinary and one of the best cyberpunk movies.
The gorgeous, jaw-dropping visuals and the fight scenes alone make the fans fall overheads for the movie. Because you can easily see that the directors and producers tried their best to make the movie as appealing and as entertaining as possible.
The predictability is a huge issue as is its overused cliches like Hugo taking Alita up onto the building’s roof to talk about his future plans. That scene I must’ve seen in a dozen of other movies.
The absence of an ultimate antagonist is another one of those big issues. However, its unapologetic anime movie style and faithful adaptation of the manga steals your heart away.
It was like we went to see Alita and that is exactly what we have gotten.
Cyberpunk Movies: Minority Report
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Philip K. Dick (short story), Scott Frank (screenplay
Stars: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton
Minority Report is one of Spielberg’s best is written by Phillip K. Dick. It’s about a future officer who has been wrongly accused and now has to prove his innocence. Colin Farrel and Samantha Morton play important roles in this futuristic cyberpunk movie.
In the year 2054, there are three twins “pre-cogs” who can detect the crimes before they happen. One day they predict Tom Cruise’s character will become a murder. That puts the actions forward and gets the movie going.
Minority Report’s prescient world-building and the technology is more threatening now than when it was just new. Noir style, sci-fi movie that shows the world we might one day live in. You find it easy to believe not because its CGI is perfect. But also due to contemporary politics and world events.
Praise-worthy cinematography, thrilling cyberpunk that takes bits from Blade Runner, pieces from Spielbergs’ brilliance. Its photography and design mixed with excellent dialogue is the main ingredient of an incredible art piece.
Although the movie is too didactic in its teaching of morality and slows down near the end. It’s almost like Spielberg didn’t want to finish the movie at its peak but didn’t quite know how to perfect the ending. So, he just constructed one that would structurally fit the beginning.
Apart from those last 30 mins of the movie, every other part is perfectly constructed and built and shot. It is easily one of the best cyberpunk movies. The mere combination of Tom Cruise with Spielberg makes this movie worth watching.
Best Cyberpunk Movies:Looper
Director: Rian Johnson
Writers: Rian Johnson
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt
Layered, Looper is the best of 2012 from Rian Johnson, with outstanding performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt. However, Levitt steals the show here. The central point of the movie is Levitt’s character Joe who is a looper.
Looper is not just the name but the character the whole plot is based on. They are like assassins, except they only kill those from the future. At the start time of the movie, time-travel isn’t invented. But it is in the future, albeit illegal.
Mobs and criminals use time travel to murder their targets by sending it to Loopers in the past. The movie only really starts when Bruce Willis’ character who happens to be Joe from the future appears.
Despite the seemingly simple plot, the movie has layers to it. It is a multiple viewing worth clever movie with nuggets to explore each time one watches it. Neo-noir cyberpunk with a healthy dose of dark humor keeps you entertained. While excels at one more thing; it is what most of you already guessed, the action.
What else would one expect from a movie with Bruce Willis, right?
Complimenting the action sequences is its writing and dialogue. Despite its slip-ups in the narration which you would expect from a time travel movie. It is a thinking mans’ movie. It isn’t that it fries your brain and freezes but pinches it just enough to keep you on the ride.
Overall, with a healthy dose of humor and romance sprinkled into the mixture of action plots, Looper is definitely one of the best cyberpunk movies.
Its original concept is well-handled. Looper stands out as proof that when a concept is handled well and executed professionally, the movie becomes one of the best in its genre.
Best Futuristic Movies:12 Monkeys
Director: Terry Gilliam
Writers: Chris Marker (film La Jetée), David Webb Peoples (screenplay) (as David Peoples)
Stars: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt
Terry Gilliam’s directions are weird and idiosyncratic in their own way. 12 Monkeys is no exception. The screenplay comes from David Webb Peoples which is built on the legacy of Chris Marker’s “La Jetee”. The cast includes Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt.
A convict “James Cole” travels back in time to learn about the causes of the virus outbreak that took out 90% of the worlds’ population.
Peculiarly-chosen name for sci-fi thriller 12 monkeys offers a unique cinematic experience. Many don’t appreciate Gilliam’s direction, or cannot understand. For those people, this movie is going to seem like another one of those disfigured and disengaged movies with plot holes left all around.
Although the narration and the story falters a bit. It is something one should expect from a time-travel movie as I mentioned before. In order not to have any issues or problems, you have to have 20 other movies before it as Marvel did.
Bruce Willis brings his usual unauthentic feel to the character but it works perfectly in this movie, as his character spends most of his time disoriented between different time frames. Brad Pitt is different and puts up a good show here. It is vastly different from what you would normally see him be in.
The world-building is as dystopian and as cyberpunk as it gets. It isn’t classic noir, but it has the noir-ishness, blended with a bit of neo-futuristic thriller. The cyberpunk tone is definitely familiar but not in a sense that it is copied, but more to base it on this genre.
I would personally say, this is not a movie for everyone. It is a well-made movie across the board. The cinematography is exceptional, action sequences prevail in this genre, the acting is admirable.
All Movies Considered
As a result of this article, you have now learned what cyberpunk really was. Plus, 9 of the best cyberpunk movies that would deepen your understanding of the genre and movie making in general.
These Cyberpunk movies are nothing short of extraordinary flicks that offer an outrageously enjoyable time watching them.
Why, outrageously enjoyable? You say!
Because of the moral dilemma and the questions the genre asks.
It demands one more than just watch and forget the movie. While there are a lot of movies in this genre that leaves you no choice but to do just that.
The ones presented in this piece bring some heavy experiences you will carry for a long time.
I recommend you check out other related content on our site. And stay tuned more reviews and articles are coming soon.