Cyberpunk world and it’s aesthetics have been a love hate relationship for a lot of people but ended up into a cult following very soon. Computers and cutting-edge technology haven’t necessarily transformed human society for the better in cyberpunk, which is science fiction set in a dystopian future in which computers and cutting-edge technologies haven’t necessarily altered human society for the better.
Decadence, corruption, and conspiracies may be found everywhere. Crime elements, particularly hard-boiled detective characters, are frequently present and play an important role. It is also vital to have a thorough visual portrayal of ordinary life in the future, which will be defined by futuristic technologies, in order to achieve a genuine cyberpunk sense.
However, we confined ourselves to real-life films while compiling our list of the top 10 best cyberpunk films of all time, and we discovered that there are just a handful science fiction films that are truly pure cyberpunk are a must watch. But first lets talk about what actually is cyberpunk and what makes it’s aesthetic different.
The Birth of Cyberpunk
The roots of Cyberpunk can be traced back to literary figures like William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Neil Stevenson. Their goal was to breathe new life into traditional science fiction concepts. Interestingly, Philip K. Dix’s 1968 novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, a foundational piece that later became the cinematic masterpiece “Blade Runner”, predates the official terminology and is seen as proto-cyberpunk.
As the 80s dawned, the movement blossomed beyond books. The film industry saw the birth of iconic cyberpunk-influenced films, including “Blade Runner”, “Ghost in the Shell”, “Total Recall”, and “Robocop”.
Cyber and Punk: Unifying Themes
One might wonder: what makes these films intrinsically “cyberpunk”? Two elements can be identified: the “cyber” facet, represented by technological marvels, and the “punk” aspect, characterized by an anti-establishment attitude, often depicted in edgy, 80s underground fashion.
These settings are filled with omnipresent computers, ubiquitous internet, commonplace androids, and frequent cybernetic body augmentations. Humans drift in and out of cyberspace almost effortlessly. Yet, these futuristic upgrades don’t promise a better life. In many ways, they spell the contrary.
The Dark Side of a Technological Society
The cyberpunk narrative is a cautionary tale, warning of the potential threats posed by unchecked technology. From rampant cybercrime, overwhelming mass surveillance, rebellious AI, to volatile biotechnologies – these films spotlight the potential pitfalls of our reliance on advanced tech.
However, cyberpunk doesn’t just harp on technological threats. It delves into societal chaos. The dystopian universes in these tales aren’t dominated by authoritarian governments but by mega-corporations, exploiting the downtrodden and fostering instability. This new world order teeters on the edge of rebellion and revolution.
Heroes in a High-Tech Dystopia
In these settings, we find our cyberpunk heroes – outsiders, hackers, dissenters, or antiheroes. They are rebellious, subversive, and defiant. Characters like Motoko Kusanagi from “Ghost in the Shell” and Deckard from “Blade Runner” may begin as instruments of the establishment, but their true essence emerges when they challenge the system.
Akin to film noir’s hard-boiled detectives, these protagonists navigate gritty urban landscapes, illuminated by neon lights and dressed in future-forward fashion. It’s within these harsh confines that we witness a recurring theme of cyberpunk – empowerment. The marginalized harness technology to challenge their oppressors, turning the tools of control against those who wield them.
The Future, as Foreseen by Cyberpunk
Cyberpunk offers us more than just entertainment. It provides a mirror to our potential future – a blend of aspiration and warning. Whether we’re racing towards a dystopian reality akin to “Akira” or perhaps trapped in a matrix of our own making, cyberpunk assures us of one thing: resistance is not only possible; it’s inherent to our human spirit.
What actually is Cyberpunk Aesthetic?
Neon lights, skyscrapers, and dismal settings come to mind when you think about cyberpunk style. All of this is true, but cyberpunk is just so much more.
It’s a diverse cultural trend that spans across movies, fashion, and design, all stemming from a science fiction genre. Cyberpunk is sometimes referred to as “high tech low life,” or a world of advanced technology populated by those who cannot afford the comforts. The Cyberpunk aesthetic has gone up and down, like many design trends since it’s introduction, but has recently had a major rebirth across almost every age group. Now that you have a brief idea, lets talk about 10 Best Movies To Watch If You Like Cyberpunk Aesthetic.
1. Matrix (1999)
“The Matrix,” directed by Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski (formerly known as The Wachowski Brothers), is truly a post-apocalyptic end-of-time thriller. After all, mankind has been reduced to the status of robots that serve as a source of energy, and human civilization has been on the verge of extinction. However, the virtual world of the Matrix, in which Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), and Neo (Keanu Reeves) battle against Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) and his henchmen, is a genuine cyberpunk universe.
All scenes in the Matrix have a green hue to them, as if they were being viewed on a computer display. In the real world computer displays are more towards blue hue. Blue was also used sparingly in the Matrix, as the directors believed blue was a more realistic color. Regardless of, absurdly, blue being often the least-occurring color in nature and green being the most occurring one.
So “Matrix” is a truly science fiction movie, while the sequels “Matrix Reloaded” and “Matrix Revolutions” lean more towards end-of-the-world drama than science fiction.
2. Blade Runner (1982)
Known as the cyberpunk cult classic, Ridley Scott’s masterwork is the pinnacle of the cyberpunk genre. Few films have had such a profound impact on the science fiction genre as “Blade Runner,” which, with its excellent world building and future film atmosphere crafted with extraordinary attention to detail, has had a far-reaching impact on the genre.
It has also been credited as helping to elevate the movie to cult status by its epic blend of a hard-boiled detective tale with the motif of an unattainable love between Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) and Rachael (Sean Young), who is eventually pursued. This isn’t even taking into consideration the fantastic cast. However, “Blade Runner” had plenty of time to develop as a movie: when it was released in 1982.
Because it was released at the same time as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, this film struggled at the box office in 1982. The Thing 1982 was similarly doomed for the same reason. Although the visual design was praised, word of mouth regarding the film’s slow pace and depressing themes quickly led to a drop in attendance. Both films went on to become cult classics and gained critical acclaim.
3. Strange Days (1995)
This underappreciated cyberpunk masterpiece from filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow (who also did “Dangerous Surf,” “Zero Dark Thirty”) was a box-office dud when movie was released in theaters, despite the fact that it is one of the finest works of the 90s, but it shares this destiny with a number of other cult classics: Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) is a scruffy ex-police officer who earns his living as a drug dealer. Viewers may feel the experiences of people for themselves through the use of illegally recorded memories.
Because James Cameron was not a member of the editors union, he could not be acknowledged for his considerable editing work, notably on the final action sequences. He joined the group before the production of Titanic (1997), and he worked as an editor on the film.
Ecstatic sex, nerve-wracking chases, near-death experiences, and other extreme excursions are all attainable without any danger.
On New Year’s Eve in 1999, Lenny investigates the death of a prostitute friend who had given him an explosive memory disc. As a result, he finds himself in the devil’s kitchen on that fateful night.
4. Minority Report (2002)
There is no other movie that can compete with Steven Spielberg’s cyberpunk thriller, which is inspired on a short story by Philip K. Dick and features such intricate scene building. Some of the futuristic aspects have even become a reality 18 years after they were first imagined.
Janusz Kaminski, the film’s cinematographer, used bleach bypass look on the picture, thus skipping the bleaching of the silver halide crystals in order to achieve the desaturated silver tinged colors.
The movie takes place in 2054 in Washington, D.C., where a special police force known as “pre-crime” apprehends criminals using foreknowledge provided by three psychics known as “pre-cogs.” Tom Cruise plays John Anderton, the chief of the pre-crime police department. Samantha Morton plays the senior pre-cog Agatha, while Max von Sydow plays Anderton’s superior, Lamar Burgess. Colin Farrell plays Danny Witwer, a Department of Justice agent sent to study the procedure.
With their clairvoyant talents, these strange people can anticipate every murder that may take place. Because to the effective operations of his special squad, the killers are apprehended before they had a chance to perform their crimes. However, in a vision of the Pre-Cogs, Anderton himself is shown as a killer at some point.
5. Total Recall (1990)
Cult cyberpunk film based on the story of Philip K. Dick ‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale’: Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a construction worker who lives a calm life with his gorgeous wife Lori (Sharon Stone). Due to dreams about the neighboring planet Mars, he decided to use a memory implant to take a simulated journey to Mars. However, there is an error in the operation. Following that, nothing in Quaid’s life is the same as it was previously. He has questions about his identity. To discover who he truly is, he must go on a perilous expedition to Mars.
This was one of the last big Hollywood movies to use miniature effects instead of CGI on a large scale. It was also one of the first big Hollywood movies to incorporate photo-realistic CGI look (mostly for the scenes featuring the X-ray scanner).
The legendary classic directed by Paul Verhoeven is still worth watching today, but you can safely disregard the 2012 version starring Colin Farell.
6. RoboCop (1987)
Another milestone in science fiction: Paul Verhoeven’s pretty brutal action picture established new norms in a variety of genres. Even before Tim Burton’s 1989 film “Batman,” RoboCop was a fierce action hero who felt for the first time like a superhero. However, Verhoeven also conjures a compelling image of a not-too-distant dystopian future in this cult film, which elevates “RoboCop” to cyberpunk status. By the way, the 2014 remake was not a complete disaster (as was the remake of “Total Recall”), but it pales in comparison to the original.
Omni Consumer Products, a wicked business, receives a contract from the city government to privatize the police department in a violent, near-apocalyptic Detroit. The business manipulates street officer Alex Murphy into an armed cyborg ‘RoboCop’ for testings. RoboCop, on the other hand, turns against his masters when he learns of the company’s sinister objectives.
Because the RoboCop outfit was so hot and heavy, Peter Weller was losing 3 pounds every day due to dehydration. The gear was eventually fitted with an air conditioner.
7. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
The sequel to Denis Villeneuve’s cyberpunk classic film ‘ Blade Runner 2049’ was not a box office smash. It was identical as the original. However, among lovers of science fiction, particularly cyberpunk, “Blade Runner 2049” swiftly gained cult status.
30 years after the events of Blade Runner (1982), a new Blade Runner, L.A.P.D. Officer “K” (Ryan Gosling), discovers a long-buried truth that threatens to throw society into turmoil. K’s discovery sets him on a thirty-year search for Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former L.A.P.D. Blade Runner who has disappeared.
After being nominated thirteen times without winning, cinematographer Roger Deakins won his first Academy Award for Best Cinematography for this film.
8. EXistenZ (1999)
David Cronenberg’s masterful fusion of science fiction, action, and horror: Virtual reality games are fashionable in a future cyber society, and Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is the industry’s star. The leading game designer at Antenna Research has created an entirely new sort of technology that links to your own body via a bioport. When she is attacked at a presentation and her game is broken, she and her security Ted Pikul (Jude Law), who is unfamiliar with virtual reality games, must enter the game and restore it. The lines between game and reality grow increasingly blurred.
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9. Mute (2018)
Duncan Jones, director and screenwriter of “Mute,” crafts a fascinating and complex cyberpunk universe filled with neon lights and flying automobiles in “Mute”. This film is the first Netflix original film from the Germany.
Berlin. In forty years’ time. In a science-fiction Casablanca, a turbulent city of immigrants collides with the West. Leo Beiler (Skarsgard), a mute bartender, has only one purpose for being in this town, his partner and she’s vanished. However, when Leo’s investigation leads him deeper into the city’s underbelly, an eccentric pair of American doctors (headed by Rudd) appear to be the only recurrent clue, and Leo is unsure if they can help or who he should worry the most.
10. In Time (2011)
Underappreciated science fiction action with strong cyberpunk aesthetics: Will (Justin Timberlake) is a member of the lower class in a world. A world where time is the most valuable commodity. You stop ageing at 25, but there’s a catch: unless you pay your way out, you’re genetically programmed to live only one more year. The wealthy “earn” decades at a period (remaining at age 25), essentially immortalizing themselves, while the rest beg, borrow, or steal enough hours to get by. When a man from the other side of town is wrongfully accused of murder, he is forced to flee with a partner. The duo’s love becomes a formidable tool in their struggle against the system as they live minute by minute.
We hope you liked the list. Grab your popcorn and start watching them if you are a part of the cyberpunk movement. Our personal favorite will always be ‘The Matrix’. We have to evaluate and realize what the cinematic world looked like around the time of The Matrix’s premiere in order to understand its impact on filmmakers and cinema-goers who were first astonished by it.