How Hollywood sees computers, and related themes.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
HAL - computer as star.
"I became operational ...
in Urbana, Illinois, on January 12, 1997."
In 2001 we were not even close to having a computer like Hal
(also see 'AI: Artificial Intelligence'),
nor to having inter-planetary travel,
although the latter is conceivable.
- A for Andromeda (1961)
A for Andromeda was a BBC TV series,
based on an inventive plot by Fred Hoyle and John Elliot.
An alien civilisation, in Andromeda, attempts world domination through
a computer, the plans for which arrive in a radio message.
Cold-war tensions were high in 1961 and play a part in the story.
- Alita: Battle Angel (2009)
Alita is a female cyborg – organic brain, machine body –
in the 26th century Iron City.
- AntiTrust (2001)
Computer whiz starts work for Portland-based (that's quite near Seattle)
NURV corporation but eventually discovers that the
company has particularly ruthless business practices.
(Nothing at all to do with the Microsoft antitrust case.-)
- AI: Artificial Intelligence
David Swinton (Haley Joe Osment) is a robot boy programmed to love
his human "family" but when he becomes surplus to requirements
he is cast adrift and befriended (in an OK way) by
sex-robot Gigolo Joe (Jude Law).
It is dangerous for lost robots out there in the human world.
Dir: Steven Spielberg.
- The Bank (2001)
Jim Doyle (David Wenham) is a mathematics PhD
who discovers a way to predict the stock market.
The Bank's CEO, Simon O'Reilly (Anthony LaPaglia),
seeks to exploit Doyle's discovery.
The Mandelbrot set is used as an irrelevant motif, but
apart from that here is a good yarn with some nice twists.
Banks are not portrayed nicely in this film, and
it strikes a chord with the audience!
(An Australian movie.
In 2018 Australia held a Royal Commission into Banks and
financial institutions who did not come out of it well.)
- The Best Offer (2013)
A beautiful, clever crime mystery
starring Geoffrey Rush as Virgil Oldman,
principal of an art auction house, and possessed of many obsessions.
A clockwork automaton (android) features in the plot.
- Blade Runner (1982)
Set in November 2019, based on the book
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
by Philip K. Dick.
Film and book explore what it means to be human versus
a replicant (~humanoid/ android), without giving a definite answer.
Great book, great movie.
In 2019 we were
nowhere near making a lifelike robot or replicant
but flying cars might be coming soon.
Also see Metropolis.
- A sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (2017), answers some questions,
in particular what happened to Deckard and Rachel after 2019.
(Let's hope it doesn't become a "franchise".)
- Cherry 2000 (1987)
Set in the 21C, Sam Treadwell's (David Andrews) perfect android "companion"
fails, so he hires Edith 'E.' Johnson (Melanie Griffith) to help him
find a replacement in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, 'the Zone'.
- The Circle (2017)
Mae (Emma Watson) gets a job at the social media company,
'The Circle' –
secrets are lies, sharing is caring, privacy is theft.
But where are the
bot farms and trolls?
Based on the novel 'The Circle' (2013) by Dave Eggers.
- Clear and Present Danger (1994)
(database search, passwords)
- The Code (2014)
Internet reporter Ned Banks stumbles onto a story involving a death
and cover up in the Australian outback. His Asperger's brother Jesse
hacks some information implicating the Government, which goes into
very nasty damage control behaving just like the American Government
Shown on ABC TV, Sept.-Oct. 2014.
(A second series, Sept 2016, had a more tortured plot.)
- Conceiving Ada (1997)
Tilda Swinton as Ada Lovelace who wrote on
19thC mechanical computing engines and
may therefore, in a sense, have been the world's first computer programmer.
- Coppelia (1870)
A ballet, based on a tale by Hoffmann.
Doctor Coppelius builds a life-size mechanical doll
that causes all sorts of trouble.
- Cyberstalker (1995?)
- Demon Seed (1977)
Alex Harris' A.I., computer takes an unhealthy interest in
his wife Susan Harris played by Julie Christie.
Julie Christie first had a relationship with a computer in
'A for Andromeda' (1961).
- Desk Set (1957)
(Katharine Hepburn / Spencer Tracy, office computerisation)
- Disclosure (1994)
(email, sgi, virtual reality)
- Electric Dreams (1984)
(computer as "romantic" go-between)
- Enigma (2001)
Loosely(!) based around the World War II German coding machine,
the Polish resistance who smuggled one to England, and the boffins at
England, who with their computers broke the code.
Dir. Michael Apted.
(Also see The Imitation Game (2014).)
- Ex Machina (2015)
Ava (Alicia Vikander) is a robot –
beautiful but obviously a robot –
created by billionaire Nathan (Oscar Isaac).
Programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a competition and
the prize, it turns out, is to "Turing test" the AI.
Let's just say that Ava passes the test.
- F2F (Face to Face) (1995?)
- Final Fantasy X (2001)
Notable for a "cast" of computer-generated
"actors" that is very good, and very expensive,
but still obviously not real.
Makes an interesting comparison with 'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider' (2001)
which used real actors to play characters that originated from
a computer game.
- First Kid (1996)
The US president's only child, Luke Davenport,
(i.e., not Chelsea but there is a cameo by Bill Clinton)
learns a lot about life from his new good-guy bodyguard.
Later, Luke's earlier bodyguard, who carries a grudge
against him for being fired,
lures him out of the White House
by posing as someone else on the internet - the stranger danger.
There is excessive violence in the final show-down
for what is plainly supposed to be a kids' film.
- Ghost in the Shell (2017)
In the near future,
Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) is a cyborg agent
in anti-terrorism group 'section 9':
She has a human brain and mind (the ghost) in an artificial body,
the shell, made by Hanka Robotics.
There are also many lesser "enhancements" widely available to humans
as well as pure robots in the society.
There is a certain amount of questioning of identity.
Based on the Japanese manga 'Ghost in the Shell' by Masamune Shirow.
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009),
"Man som hatar kvinnor", men who hate women,
in the original Swedish.
Based on the first book of the popular Millennium Trilogy
by the late Stieg Larsson,
it follows journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), and
researcher/ computer hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace),
as they try to solve a supposed cold-case murder.
- The Girl Who Played with Fire
(2009, 'Flickan som lekte med elden'), and
- The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
(2009, 'Luftslottet som sprangdes'),
- based on the other books of the trilogy.
- Hackers (1995)
- Her (2013)
Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) falls for Samantha (Scarlett Johansson),
the voice of his copy of a new artifical intelligence operating system, OS1.
(In The Beta Test Initiation (2012),
an epsiode of The Big Bang Theory,
Raj Koothrappali develops a relationship
with his iPhone's Siri.)
- Hidden Figures (2016)
Based on the careers of three African-American women mathematicians –
Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson –
as human computers at NACA later NASA, but Hollywoodified.
'Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who
Helped Win the Space Race', 2016, pp.368,
isbn:006236359X, isbn13:978-0062363596, is more factual.
- Humans (2015)
"In a parallel present where the latest must-have gadget
for any busy family is a 'Synth' - a highly-developed
robotic servant that's so similar to a real human
it's transforming the way we live."
— Channel 4, UK & AMC, USA.
(Based on 'Real Humans' (2012) below.)
- Hogfather (2006)
Terry Pratchett's (1948-2015) Discworld novel, 'Hogfather' (1996),
was adapted for UK TV in 2006.
Apart from Death, Death's granddaughter Susan Sto Helit, and
many other interesting characters,
it features Hex the thinking machine at the Unseen University.
- I Robot (2004)
A Hollyveneered version of an Isaac Asimov story:
The 'US Robotics' main computer, Viki, decides that humanity needs
protecting from itself. Will Smith saves the day.
- The Imitation Game (2014)
Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch),
Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley),
the Enigma code, the Bombe,
during World War II.
Turing was briefly engaged to fellow cryptanalyst Joan Clarke.
(Also see Enigma (2001).)
- The IT Crowd (2006)
A UK comedy series about the IT Dept of Reynholm Industries,
"From the writer of Father Ted and Black Books..."
(UK Channel 4
as of 2006)
started showing on ABC TV (.au) 9pm Wed. 27 Sept 2006.
University Departments of Computer Science had been hoping for
a TV series to do for student numbers what Silent Witness
had done for Forensic Science, and Pathology, in UK Universities.
The IT Crowd is not that show, but it is funny.
- Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
Set in 2021, Keanu Reeves is J. M. (chip in brain!)
- Jurassic Park (1993)
- Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
A spin-off movie from the very successful computer/ video game
Lady Lara Croft - Anglina Jolie,
Manfred Powell - Iain Glen,
Lord Richard Croft - Jon Voight,
Alex West - Daniel Craig,
Bryce - Noah Taylor.
Bryce is a nerd who taps away at a laptop computer
controlling various implausible gadgets for Lara.
- The Lawnmower Man (1992)
Sequel: The Lawnmower Man II (1995)
- Love and Other Catastrophes (1996)
A warm and funny film set in and around the University of Melbourne.
There is a small computer connection:
A nerd offers to hack into the University administration system
to cancel Mia's huge library fines in return for certain "favours".
Frances O'Connor : Mia,
Alice Garner : Alice,
Radha Mitchell : Danni,
Matthew Dyktynski : Ari,
Matt Day : Michael,
Dir. = Emma-Kate Croghan.
- Mainframe (1995?)
- The Matrix (1999)
Computer hacker Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves)
is shown that reality is an elaborate computer simulation
controlled by machines for the purpose of subjugating the human race.
He joins a group of rebels to defeat the machines.
At the end, apparently after defeating the machines, it is left ambiguous
whether our hero will free the humans within or without the Matrix.
unfortunately growing silly.
- Also, The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and
- The Matrix Revolutions (2003),
- Men, Women and Children (2014)
"A group of high school teenagers and their parents attempt to navigate
the many ways the Internet has changed their relationships, their
communication, their self-image, and their love lives." — Paramount.
- Metropolis (1921)
Perhaps the first movie to feature an android –
female and beautiful, of course.
Set in 2026.
Dir. Fritz Lang.
Also see A for Andromeda,
and Blade Runner.
(Arguably gynoid ~ female,
android ~ male or neutral.)
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Nothing at all to do with computers, except
perhaps for a very tenuous connection between
- Must Love Dogs (2005)
Internet dating websites play a part in the plot.
(Diane Lane as Sarah Nolan, John Cusack as Jake.)
- The Net (1995)
(super-info-highway-bahn takeover conspiracy)
- On the Basis of Sex (2018)
Based on the early career of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The key case is in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals,
on behalf of Charles Moritz who has been denied a tax deduction (1970)
to pay for care for his aging mother because
he is a man who has never married!
If the relevant section is declared unconstitutional much may follow.
The court ultimately finds in Moritz's favour, unanimously.
The lawyer for the tax office is depicted arranging for a Pentagon
computer, possibly an IBM 360(?), to extract laws that touch on gender.
So they were all digitised by then.
Ruth B. Ginsburg: Felicity Jones.
Martin D. Ginsburg: Armie Hammer.
(There is also a documentary, 'RBG' (2018), about Ginsburg.)
- The Pelican Brief (1993)
(conspiracy search, database search, identity theft, laptops).
- Pi (1998)
π, a low-budget, b+w, science fiction film:
A nutty mathematical prodigy, Maximillian Cohen (Sean Gullette),
sees patterns everywhere and in particular (with the aid of a computer)
in the digits of π, patterns that may tell the secrets of
the stock exchange, God, whatever.
Dir: Darren Aronofsky.
- RBG (2108)
Documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg;
also see 'On the Basis of Sex' (2018).
(She died in 2020.)
- Real Humans (2012),
"Akta Manniskor", a Swedish SciFi TV series set in the near future,
about androids known as Hubots.
The more advanced models start to develop feelings and free will.
The setting, essentially today's suburbia with an absence
of flying cars and crumbling mega-cities, works well.
A nice touch is that some wives start to find Hubots
more congenial company than their husbands.
('Real humans' is the name of a political movement against the use of hubots.
Also see the UK version 'Humans' (2015) above.)
- Red Dwarf (1988-1999, 2009 ... misc. ...?)
A British SciFi comedy TV series set on the mining spaceship 'Red Dwarf'
where the crew has died except for
Dave Lister the last human alive who is accompanied by
Cat a humanoid life form evolved from a cat,
Arnold Rimmer a hologram of a late crew member,
Kryten a service mechanoid (robot) gradually corrupted by Lister, and
Holly the ship's often cranky computer.
- Robot and Frank (2012)
Frank, an ageing "ex" thief, is in serious decline.
Frank's son buys him a care robot
(with a strong resemblance to Honda's Asimo, 2000+).
After overcoming his initial dislike of it,
Frank embarks on a little corruption of the robot.
- Rosalie Goes Shopping (1989)
(electronic banking, fraud)
- Sleepless in Seattle
- Sneakers (1992)
(a chip exists that can crack any computer .... oh dear)
- Snowden (2016)
The story of whistleblower Edward Snowden and the
(Snowden, Joseph Gordon-Levitt; dir., Oliver Stone).
- The Social Dilemma (2020)
A Netflix "documentary-drama" about the dangers of social media
(facebook, google, twitter, ...).
- The Social Network (2010)
Based on the true story of
Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Sean Parker, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss,
the Facebook "social" website,
billions of dollars, and lawsuits.
- Star Wars (1977 - 2019)
The cast includes various robots and droids notably
(in all of the nine main movies) 'C-3PO' and 'R2-D2'.
- Superintelligence (2020)
An AI (voice of James Corden) ponders the fate of humanity and gives
the average Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy) three days
to convince it that humans are worth keeping.
A rom-com not a scifi, critics did not particularly like it.
(Not related to Nick Bostrum's book
'Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies', OUP, 2014,
- Terminator (1984)
Having achieved artificial consciousness in 1997 and
taken control of the earth,
the military computer network, Skynet, sends
a cyborg Terminator back in time from 2029 to the present (1984)
to kill Sarah Connor before she can bear the future leader of the
human resistance against the machines.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991),
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
which covers the machines' takeover,
Terminator Salvation (2009) and others.)
- Transcendence (2014)
Computer Scientist Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) works on A.I..
When he is fatally injured, fellow researchers,
who include his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall),
realise that the only chance of saving Will is to upload him.
- Tron (1982)
(video-games, c.f. V.R.)
- The Tunnel, ser.2 (2016)
A UK/FR adaption of Scandi-crime series 'The Bridge'.
In series 2, terrorists hack and crash a passenger plane
into the English channel.
- Untraceable (2008)
Based on a nasty idea: A killer posts details of his victims,
at first a kitty, later humans,
on the [www].
The more you click, the faster they die.
- Upgrade (2018)
A chip implant called 'STEM' can control a person's body,
reactivate it even if they were paralysed.
Dir Leigh Whannell (.au).
- Virtuosity (1995)
Denzel Washinton, Kelly Lynch and Russell Crowe.
(Australian) Russell Crowe hams it up as Sid 6.7 a character in
a computer game who escapes into the real world...
- WarGames (1983)
(Computer kid nearly starts WW III.)
- Westworld (1973)
In a theme park of three worlds populated with androids –
Western World, Medieval World, and (ancient-) Roman World –
customers can act out their fantasies but then
the androids begin to malfunction.
There was a sequel 'Futureworld' (1976).
The TV series 'Westworld' (2016) was based on a similar initial scenario
but here the robots develop self awareness.
- You've Got M@il (1998)
Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks discover true love,
again (see Sleepless in Seattle),
this time by Internet chat, in part.
(Check out the Internet (Cardiff) Movie Data-base, imdb.com).