Film Industry

Best Cyberpunk Movies: 10 Of Our Favourite Cyberpunk Films

Photograph of the blog post author, Dylan Easton

Dylan Easton

25.5.2021

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We know what you’re thinking. What on God’s green earth are cyberpunk movies? While it may sound like a genre dedicated to robots who dabble in The Sex Pistols, this certainly isn’t the case! Whether you know it or not, you will be familiar with this Sci-Fi sub-genre. Who knows, perhaps your film is in our list of best cyberpunks movies.

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In this article, we will run through what characterizes a Cyberpunk movie and count down our top 10 best Cyberpunk movies of all time. Be sure to stay until the very end to see our top pick!

What Are Cyberpunk Movies?

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The cyberpunk genre is typically characterized by dystopian futuristic environments, cybernetic implants, and posthumanism or dehumanization. Additionally, most good cyberpunk movies lean heavily on philosophical or psychological allegories.

A typical setting in the cyberpunk genre is an impoverished city where an evil corporation reigns and oppresses the average citizen. In spite of the physical and moral decay, the setting is illuminated by a lush colour palette with neon hues of pinks, blues or reds.

Typically, the premise of these movies includes a protagonist spurred into action by the loss of a loved one. They rise up against their corporate oppressors but are quickly swallowed by a complex conspiracy that meditates on the very nature of humanity. Sound familiar?

Top 10 Best Cyberpunk Movies

Now we have established what cyberpunk movies are, it is time to count down our top 10 picks.

Let’s dive in!

10. Elysium (2013)

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Neill Blomkamp impressed the world of cinema with the sci-fi thriller District 9. He provides once again with a dystopian cyberpunk future in Elysium.

This cyberpunk epic reflects the socio-economic disparity which we see in today’s world. Blomkamp explores these uncomfortable themes while depicting the exploitation of the poor to serve the elite. 

The year is 2154. Humanity is divided into two classifications; the ultra-rich and the ultra-poor. The former, affluent class live in a luxurious space station with their every need catered for while the latter scramble to survive on Earth with dwindling resources. 

Max (Matt Damon), augmented with cybernetic enhancements, decides to level the playing field and begins his quest to Elysium. However, he is caught in his tracks by a powerful government official who vows to maintain order, no matter the cost to human life.

9. Total Recall (1990)

total recall arnold schwarzenegger

The original Total Recall is a film that was a lukewarm success in its time. However, the film enjoyed a cult following after the ’90s. While it is typically considered a Sci-Fi movie, its plot elements sway towards cyberpunk. 

This film takes place in 2084, a place in which technology reigns supreme and interspace travel is considered the norm. Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has recurring dreams of Mars and a mysterious woman.

He then finds himself at the Rekall facility, a place that specializes in implanting false memories to the clients’ desires. Quaid’s procedure goes awry and his supposed real life isn’t actually his own.

This film is an absolute classic and a perfect example of Sci-Fi cyberpunk movies.

8. Ghost In The Shell (1995)

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Ghost in the Shell is one of the most highly regarded examples of cyberpunk and arguably one of the best cyberpunk anime movies. Cyberpunk aside, it is also considered to be simply one of the best animated features ever made. Period.

This landmark Japanese anime film is based on the manga of the same name, written by Masamune Shirow. The movie’s influence has spawned a vast franchise of series and movies, including a remake in 2017. Despite all these renditions and spin-offs, we think the original remains the best.

Ghost in the Shell is set in 2029 Japan, a technological future that can facilitate the exchange of body parts for cybernetic ones. Furthermore, the film depicts a world in which average citizens are neurally connected to the internet; with the addition of cyborgs who have integrated into society. 

Into this hypertechnical future steps a hacker known as The Puppet Master. Their unique abilities present a clear threat  to humanity as they raise questions about whether humanity is worth saving at all.

7. eXistenZ (1992)

existenz cyberpunk movie

eXistenZ is another 90s cyberpunk flick that is definitely worth the watch! We follow a game designer who takes the plunge into her latest virtual reality creation in order to repair some potential damages.

Her voyage through that virtual world will certainly not disappoint any Cronenberg fans looking for memorable moments of body horror wrapped around an introspective plot. 

6. The Fifth Element (1997)

the fifth element cyberpunk movie

There is a popular debate on whether or not The Fifth Element is more Sci-Fi with cyberpunk elements or if it can be called cyberpunk at all. This argument is mainly due to its approach to certain characters, locations and themes which lend themselves to a space opera rather than cyberpunk.

However, the film’s setting is in a distant future in the year 2263. In addition to this, the beginning scenes depict a futuristic New York City which can be considered cyberpunk. This is mainly because the city has become an enormous mass of high rises that reside above smog. 

With the addition of flying cars and robot bartenders, we think this film has enough evidence to be classified as cyberpunk. Plus, we love Luc Besson. 

The plot of the film concerns a random cab driver (Bruce Willis) who plays an important role in the search for a legendary cosmic weapon. There are a lot of recognizable faces in this film with some highly memorable performances from Gary Oldman and Chris Tucker. 

An absolutely sensational film with a brash colour palette dominated by the colour orange. Luc Besson’s sharp eye for cinematography does not go unnoticed in this larger-than-life spectacle. 

5. Watchmen (2009)

watchmen cover art cyberpunk movie

Despite largely being considered a typical superhero movie, Watchmen also shares sensibilities with cyberpunk movies. This is thanks to its lead character, the notorious antihero, Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley).

The film begins as essentially a typical detective story; after the murder of the Comedian. From there, the past and present collide in a mind-bending conspiracy.

With the combination of otherworldly visuals from Dr. Manhattan and the retrofuturism of the other costumed heroes. What do you end up with? A decidedly cyberpunk aesthetic a la Zack Snyder.

The film is based on the great Alan Moore’s original graphic which was published in 1986. This is precisely around the time of the popular and groundbreaking cyber noir movies like Terminator and Blade Runner.

Both the source material and the adaptation flaunt the same grit and cynicism, with a similar feeling of bleak dystopia just seconds around the corner…

4. Dredd (2012)

dredd karl urban cyberpunk movie

Few people expected much of Dredd considering how the ‘90s adaptation of the character turned out. However, this 2012 reboot proved to be one of the most compelling pieces of wide-release cyberpunk entertainment in years. 

Dredd includes some masterfully choreographed action sequences with a small scale story. The film’s story structure and highly stylized fight scenes are reminiscent of The Raid and Die Hard amongst some brilliant cyberpunk world-building. Few films better present the decay of humanity and moral values than Dredd.

Karl Urban is our unflinching hero against Lena Headey, the leader of a ruthless gang. Whilst playing judge, jury and executioner in Peach Trees, a rookie on examination is along for the ride. It is truly one of the top cyberpunk movies on Netflix at the moment, so be sure to check it out!

3. RoboCop (1987)

robocop cover art cyberpunk

RoboCop executes a brutal campaign against crime while coming to terms with the remaining remnants of his humanity from his past life. Central themes within the film include the nature of humanity, personal identity, corporate greed, corruption, and could be read as rebuke of the policies of Ronald Reagan.

RoboCop has been praised as both one of the best action movies ever made and a biting piece of social commentary. However, RoboCop somehow flies under the radar with regards to how excellent its cyberpunk style is developed. 

RoboCop has the cyberpunk genre flowing through its veins with roaming gangs and unchallenged mega corporations. This movie is astounding in effectively balancing the inevitable hopelessness of its world with a bleak sense of humor, which speaks loudly even as it is delivered with tongue in cheek.

2. The Matrix (1999)

matrix cover art neo cyberpunk movies

Woah. At the tail end of a decade obsessed with hackers, The Matrix came along and shattered all the general expectations of ‘hacker films’. The film combines tech fears, underground style, high-flying action sequences as well as cutting-edge special effects.

The Matrix’s cyberpunk philosophy and setting has stood the test of time. The Matrix seamlessly weaves Plato’s allegory of the cave with legendary fight scenes.

The action is so great, you’d be forgiven for forgetting the deeper meaning behind The Matrix’s philosophy. 

The Wachowskis, paired with Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving, is a recipe for some thoughtful, yet kickass storytelling. Also, the film has spawned countless parodies, which is testament to the influence it has had on popular culture. 

1. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

blade runner 2049 cover art cyberpunk

Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 are the quintessential cyberpunk movies that define the genre. Both films could easily be number one, but for the sake of this exercise, we will go with Denis Villeneuve’s revival of the series. 

Blade Runner 2049 is widely considered the apex of cyberpunk movies. Ridley Scott’s original helped define cyberpunk while Villeneuve’s installment modernises the franchise for today’s audience. He grants 2049 its quiet intensity and focuses it on practical settings, vehicles, and movie props.

The film’s aesthetic is absolutely stunning with a refreshing palette change to the original. The entire film is a visual marvel, thanks to Director of Photography Roger Deakins and production designer Dennis Gassner. Both of them received Oscar nods for the film, with Deakins taking home the award in his category.

The score features an expansive synth landscape soaked in reverb thanks to the Yamaha CS-80. The Blade Runner theme tune is, to synths, what Smoke On The Water is for guitar! It’s the song everybody wants to play since its atmospheric timbre transports you into a dystopian future. 

That Was Our List Of The Best Cyberpunk Movies

blade runner 2049 ryan gosling and ana de armas

Well there we have it! We hope you enjoyed our list of top 10 best cyberpunk movies. We’ve established what the cyberpunk genre is as well as what characterizes it. Additionally, we’ve looked at some golden oldies as well as some modern day classics that keep the genre alive. 

While we hope the future doesn’t turn out like these films, why not immerse yourselves in the moody dystopian world these great directors have created. A cyberpunk movie marathon would go down an absolute treat and you have plenty of places to start on this list!

Would you like to read more exciting film and movie content? Then head over to the Music Gateway blog – we have got you covered! There’s a range of articles for you to check out. For example, the Best End Of The World MoviesBest Business Movies and so much more! 

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