Top Ten Cyberpunk Movies (part two)

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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 eight and seven of our Top Ten countdown.

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8. Brazil


More dystopian than cyberpunk, Brazil is a British film directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Gilliam, Charles McKeown, and Tom Stoppard that came out in 1985. The film stars Jonathan Pryce and features Robert De Niro, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Bob Hoskins, and Ian Holm.

Brazil centers on Sam Lowry (Pryce), a man trying to find a woman who appears in his dreams while he is working in a mind-numbing job and living a life in a small apartment, set in a consumer-driven world in which there is an over-reliance on poorly maintained (and rather whimsical) machines. Brazil ’ s bureaucratic, totalitarian government is reminiscent of the government depicted in George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four, except that it has a buffoonish, slapstick quality and lacks a Big Brother figure.

As with any film by Terry Gilliam, the visual aspects of this movie are breathtaking, especially Sam’s dream sequences in which he is an armored knight with wings. Gilliam’s vision of this dark future employs a large degree of retro-futurism borrowing vehicles from the 1950’s, architecture from the 1920’s, fashions of the 1930’s, and computer interfaces that look like they were built in the 1940’s.

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7. Strange Days


Around the early 90’s a new zeitgeist emerged to reflect an anxiety over the millennium ending and much fear and romanticization was built around the year 1999, which is the setting for the 1995 film Strange Days. Co-written and produced by James Cameron, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and starring Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, and Juliette Lewis, the film was a commercial failure, earning only a fraction of its production cost in its domestic release. Despite this, the film was nominated for five Saturn Awards and saw Bigelow become the first woman to win the Saturn Award for Best Director.

“Jacking in” or “wire tripping” via a “SQUID,” (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device) is the main cyberpunk trope of this film where an illegal technology allows first person recording and playback of sight, sound, and feeling. Lenny Nero (Fiennes) is an ex-cop who deals in selling this black market equipment until a SQUID recording with dangerous evidence comes into his possession and the adventure begins.

Visually, Strange Days does an excellent job of capturing the dark and chaotic vision of the future that is Cyberpunk, the performances are decent, but the weakness of this film is the conclusion of the story which, after such a huge build up regarding the conspiracy that will be exposed by the recording on the disc, is rather anti-climatic. It is still a film still worth watching, but be prepared for a disappointing ending.

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

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