Have Your Say: What's Your Favorite Cyberpunk Movie?

Associate Editor, Features; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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Have Your Say: What's Your Favorite Cyberpunk Movie?
(Oh man, does this make me feel old...)

Yesterday 20 years ago, the video game Syndicate Wars was released by Peter Molyneux' studio Bullfrog, and from the moment I finished my first steps in its world I was smitten by it. In the game, you controlled a group of four cyborgs through a series of worldwide missions, stealing information, blowing up banks for money, brainwashing innocent bystanders, assassinating opponents, and occasionally flattening entire cities with massive explosions. Literally everything in Syndicate Wars turned out to be destructible if your weapons were strong enough. It was the kind of game in which you killed a super-strong enemy agent by blowing up the base of a skyscraper, making it collapse on top of him.

It can also rightfully be called my smooth preparation towards seeing Oshii Mamoru's Ghost in the Shell for the first time, as all cities in the game had billboard screens playing its trailer, arousing my interest in the title.

But that film wasn't the only thing openly being referenced in Syndicate Wars: British magazine 2000 AD got its fair share of love, and the entire game paid homage to everything cyberpunk, from William Gibson to James Cameron's The Terminator. Virtual reality, augmented reality, corporate domination, technology as virtue and curse, extreme violence, bionic enhancements, drugs, artificial intelligence, philosophical questions regarding identity, expendability, the individual versus the multitude... it was all there, in spades. In the game's design, in what it made you do to succeed, and (most amusingly) in the backstories behind most missions.

To this day, Syndicate Wars remains my most favorite video-game of all time, and all my love for cyberpunk can be traced back to it and its predecessor Syndicate.

So in praise of its 20th birthday, I dedicate this week's question to cyberpunk. What is your favorite cyberpunk movie and why?

Chime in, in the comments below, and HAVE YOUR SAY!

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  • Łukasz Grela

    I'm shocked noone mentioned what is probably the most intellectual and definitely the most psychedelic cyberpunk ever: Serial Experiments Lain! I know it's a tv series, not a movie per se, but it's such an unbelievably rich, multilayered and fascinating work that no conversation about cyberpunk on screen can be complete without it! For me no movie or series goes deeper into philosophical, metaphysical, even theological aspects of cyberpunk. I would go as far as to call it a "meta-cyberpunk", seeing as it can be seen as a discussion with gnostic metaphysics at the heart of cyberpunk genre (and at the heart of at least some currents of the transhuman thought). The ending openly goes against the vision of human body as nothing more than imperfect and pathetic "meat" and against vision of divinity as pure, inhuman, emotionless perfection. And that's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this series!

  • Ard Vijn

    GOOD ONE!!!

  • Jigvell

    The obvious ones: GitS, Akira, Blade Runner, Existenz
    I'm not sure if this counts as cyberpunk but Linklater's A Scanner Darkly

  • Ard Vijn

    That definitely counts!

  • Giles Linnear

    Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future ... and the spinoff TV series, struggle as it might to stay alive in the desert wasteland of '80s television, did a fine job of pursuing its themes. To think that I regarded it as relevant back then, but looking at the state of the world now...

  • jammamon

    Since you guys mentioned all the obvious ones, I would like to say that I have a soft spot for Johnny Mnemonic with Keanu Reeves, even though it was pure cheese.

  • Maximiliano Netlok

    NIRVANA by Gabriele Salvatore and Strange Days by Kathryn Bigelow

  • JP

    Electric Dragon 80.000 V

  • ThomasTr

    Top five: Blade Runner, Burst City, Videodrome, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, New Rose Hotel.

  • Elytron Frass

    Top 5:

    Tetsuo: the Iron Man / Blade Runner/ Videodrome /Akira/ GitS

  • David Smith

    Hardware

  • cjohnston

    Lovely Query this week.
    ~
    my personal top four:
    - Dredd / Automata / Snowpiercer / along with High-Rise. -
    (while these two might be farther of a stretch; a case COULD be made for The Anomaly and Predestination as well..).
    ---
    Props, Honorable Mention, to go along with a TON of Kudos to Blade Runner (though).

  • VIDEODROME / EXISTENZ / BLADE RUNNER /

  • bricriu .

    GiTS, Akira, Blade Runner, all too obvious...

    Maybe stretching the definition a bit but, uh, Videodrome?

  • Ard Vijn

    Not a bad stretching...

  • I prefer the punk over the cyber, so Tetsuo would be by number one. Eden Log would be a very interesting second.

    Best cyberpunk all-round would be Blame! It's the only one that I can think of that doesn't make you choose between an awesome cyber or punk aesthetic but embodies both.

  • Guy

    Blade Runner, of course

  • omnisemantic1

    "all cities in the game had billboard screens playing its trailer" - Hah, awesome! Never knew that!
    But as much as I love the original GITS movie, for me it's Kenji Kamiyama's S.A.C. series that defines where state of the art cyberpunk is currently at.
    Damn, I really, really want him to return to the genre with something new, even if it is a short film :(

  • jammamon

    Yeah, GitS-SAC was phenomenal!

  • Zetobelt

    You bring my memories back!
    Syndicate, what a great game!

  • Ard Vijn

    Oh man... my memories of SYNDICATE and SYNDICATE WARS are so cool, I sometimes wonder if they've been implanted.

  • Zetobelt

    Ha-ha. When I saw the above picture I thought "Mm, that image is eerie familiar". Next I read 'Syndicate', "Mm, Syndicate, syndicate, where did I heard that?". Then, after I'd downloaded the memory from my hard drive, "Ah, THAT syndicate!". :D

  • Ard Vijn

    I've downloaded it for my PS3 a while back (it was 1.99 or something...) and started replaying it. Though the controls take some getting used to, it's not a bad port!

  • Ard Vijn

    I of course love GHOST IN THE SHELL (it's basically my favorite film, period...), but think the possibilities of the cyberpunk genre are even better explored in Aleksa Gajić' fun animated film TECHNOTISE: EDIT & I.

  • rondertaker

    strange days. but there really are not enough... so many unexplored possibilities!

  • marshy00

    Just picked up a DVD of this the other day - really looking forward to revisiting it.

  • rustdog

    Richard Stanley's Hardware?

  • the hong Kong cavaliers

    Good one !

  • Ard Vijn

    Agreed!

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