Top Ten Cyberpunk Movies (part three)

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The active members of The Pandora Society Facebook group have seen a lot of films and watched a lot of television, and here we continue the results of a recent poll in which they nominated and voted for their favorite Cyberpunk films and TV shows . . . today we present films six and five of our Top Ten countdown.

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6. Tron

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In 1982, the release of Disney’s Tron gave us a film of the likes that had never been seen before. Written and directed by Steven Lisberger, based on a story by Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird, the film draws inspiration from the early video games of the 70’s and 80’s and romanticizes an inner world of magic and circuitry. Bruce Boxleitner plays the title role of Tron, but the film’s protagonist is Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges, a computer programmer who is transported inside the software world of a mainframe computer. Predating the term cyberspace by two years, Tron presents “The Grid” which is the visual epitome of cyberspace.

Development of Tron began in 1976 when Lisberger became fascinated with the early video game Pong. He and producer Donald Kushner set up an animation studio to develop Tron with the intention of making it an animated film. Indeed, to promote the studio itself, Lisberger and his team created a 30-second animation featuring the first appearance of the eponymous character. Eventually, Lisberger decided to include live-action elements with both backlit and computer animation for the actual feature-length film.

Various film studios had rejected the storyboards for the film before the Walt Disney Studios agreed to finance and distribute Tron. There, backlit animation was finally combined with the computer animation and live action. Tron was released on July 9th, 1982 in 1,091 theaters in the United States. The film was a moderate success at the box office, but received positive reviews from critics who praised the groundbreaking visuals and acting.

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5. Max Headroom

Max Headroom PosterMax Headroom originally appeared in the British-made TV movie Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into The Future (see the very end of this article to watch the whole movie) which was broadcast in 1985. After its success, the titular character was spun off into a veejay in the British music video program, The Max Headroom Show, whose first episodes unusually featured no introductory title sequence or end credits. The spin-off show was an immediate cult hit, doubling Channel 4’s viewing figures for its slot. A second season was ordered in 1986, which broadened the original concept to include celebrity interviews and a studio audience, and was renamed to The Max Talking Headroom Show.

A further spin-off from the original film was the dramatic television series, Max Headroom, which was British produced, but broadcast in the United States, running for two seasons from 1987 to 1988. The first episode was presented in an extended edition to American audiences in 1986 on Cinemax.

Max Headroom is mostly known for this “American” version that was the TV series in which only three of the original cast members remained in their roles: Matt Frewer as Edison Carter and Max Headroom, Amanda Pays as Theora Jones, and W. Morgan Sheppard as Blank Reg. The series retains the grittiness of the original movie and with an American cast actually has a more global feel to the mega-corporations’ power and corruption. The narrative universe of Max Headroom has the definite feel of Blade Runner and one could easily imagine a cross over in characters between the two stories. The show added much to the genre, but perhaps its greatest contribution was the show’s tagline . . . 20 Minutes in the Future . . .  a great definition for Cyberpunk!

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Click here to start at the beginning of the Top Ten Cyberpunk Movies countdown, or here for films four and three of the countdown.

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Here, we present to you the full British-made TV movie Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into The Future

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