Top 10 Cyberpunk Movies You Should Watch in 2022
Every day our world feels more Cyberpunk, with news about the Metaverse from what was previously known as Facebook, self-driving Tesla trucks, drones becoming an everyday household gadget, and Boston Dynamics robots preparing to take over the world.
It’s difficult to make sense of it all, but fortunately, with Cyberpunk media we can have a little help in that regard. You could of course go back to the classics, or watch your cyberpunk content religiously according to our recommended 3 eras of Cyberpunk in our beginner’s guide. But if you want to watch the best modern Cyberpunk movies, to help you make sense of what a metaverse would really look like (or shouldn’t look like), I’ve created a list of the Top 10 Cyberpunk Movies You Should Watch in 2022. This list goes in ascending order of importance, if you haven’t seen one of these movies yet, then maybe you should! So without further ado, let’s get right into it.
Elysium is the tale of a utopian society living on a ring orbiting earth, featuring Matt Damon as a lowly assembly line worker whose life is upended when he gets exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. This sets into motion a plot to overthrow the current state of power involving gangs, body augmentations, advanced medical bays, and much more. It’s a classic Cyberpunk tale that is woefully underappreciated, without much cultural impact but an excellent movie nonetheless, and thus merits being in our modern top 10.
9. Tron: Legacy (2010)
A sequel to the original Tron which was a groundbreaking film in its time but now would seem rather dated in comparison to today’s graphics, Tron: Legacy does an excellent job upgrading the story to today’s visual effects potential, while also continuing the Tron story. While the story isn’t anything groundbreaking and isn’t your average megacorporation tale (almost the entire film is set in virtual reality), what you really should see this movie for is its breathtaking visuals and music soundtrack. Directed by Joseph Kosinski, who did the equally visually stunning Sci-Fi flick Oblivion, Tron: Legacy would inspire a visual style for years to come, with its minimalist yet modern black and whites lined with neon blues and oranges, especially with the costume design which are incredible. I mean, just take a look at these images. Each one could be a poster in its own right.
As for the soundtrack, it was composed by none other than the authentically classic cyberpunk electro-duo Daft Punk, one of their last albums before they sadly disbanded in 2021. They even have a cameo in the film as themselves DJ-ing in a club scene.
8. Total Recall (2012)
Total Recall (2012) is a modernized remake of the classic Paul Verhoeven cyberpunk film with Arnold Schwarzenegger from 1990. Based on Philip K Dick’s short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, this modernization is directed by Len Wiseman and features Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, and Bryan Cranston. Although it failed to replicate the success of its predecessors and has in my opinion a bloated ending, it has beautiful visuals, a fast pace and some excellent action scenes. It also modernizes the classic story and gives us some ideas of what new tech in a modernized urban city might look like, such as hologram hand-phones and personal cars on rails.
7. Robocop (2014)
Another modernized remake of yet another classic Paul Verhoeven cyberpunk film from 1987, this version is directed by Jose Padilha with Joel Kinnaman (Altered Carbon) as the title character, with supporting actors Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, and Samuel L Jackson. Yet another remake that couldn’t replicate its original success, this film once again modernized the tale with a particular focus on the police force aspect and what future body augmentations and cyborg-ization could look like. It’s also a fun tale with great action scenes, although the plot may seem a little simple at times.
6. Alita: Battle Angel
Alita: Battle Angel is the live action remake of the 1993 Anime film, which was based on the manga Battle Angel Alita (Gunnm) from Yukito Kishiro. Directed by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, From Dusk Til Dawn) it stars Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, and Rosa Salazar as Alita. While the movie may not have as much immediate significance or warning for our modern-day society, the visuals, special effects, and brilliance of this imagined world are what makes this film great. They pack so many little fascinating things in the streets of Iron City.
Almost every single person is sporting a body augmentation of some sort: metal arm, metal leg, metal eye, everything with its own uses and often looking cobbled together–which it probably was. Iron City is where the poor live, underneath a floating rich city called Zalem. But unlike many of the typical Cyberpunk world set in constant rain with neon lights, many of the scenes in Iron City feature bright, harsh light, in addition to scenes set at night. The story follows cybernetic engineer Dr. Dyson Ido who finds Alita’s head (as a disembodied cyborg with an intact human brain) in a scrap heap, and is able to put her back together again, of sorts. With no memory of who she is, she tries to learn about her past as she also discovers a love for the brutal sport of Rollerball. Alita: Battle Angel is fast-paced, touching action story that is definitely a Cyberpunk must-see.
5. Upgrade (2018)
Upgrade is in the top 5 must-see Cyberpunk films of this top-10 list because of how close the technology is to what we have in present day, how recently it was done, how incredibly Cyberpunk it was and how fun and cool it was. It’s also probably flown under the radar for most, I mean it wasn’t a culture-shifting megahit, it was just a great sci-fi film. Directed by Leigh Whannell and starring Logan Marshall-Green (who looks like Tom Hardy but isn’t), Logan stars as Grey Trace, a technophobic auto mechanic who has a horrible accident which leaves him paralyzed. Set in a distant but not too distant future where society has self-driving cars (like Teslas, only cooler) and drones (again, like what we have, only cooler), the film does a good job showing what a future society might be like with technophobic people resisting the tech industry’s endless product delivery system.
It also has some casual super-cyberpunk scenes, like this one where people are lost in a VR world, disconnected from the real world, except they’re just there in the background and not at all important to the main story (Metaverse, Ready Player One anyone?). The other reason why I love this film so much is because the viewers can really relate to the main character. Logan Marshall-Green gives an amazing performance, especially when the chip he’s implanted with to help him regain mobility starts taking control of his body to give him action moves he wouldn’t normally otherwise have. The director then combines this insane situation with camera-twisting scenes and you have beautiful, incredibly novel action sequences that would give even the original Matrix a run for its money in terms of originality. Don’t believe me? Just watch the trailer.
Oh and keep an eye out for the henchman with a handgun. No, not that handgun. An actual gun. In his hand. If that’s not cyberpunk, nothing is.
4. Ghost in the Shell (2017)
No top 5 cyberpunk list would be complete without a Ghost in the Shell film, and if you’re talking modern films, then you have to include this 2017 live action adaptation of the classic. Starring Scarlett Johannsen of all people to play the role of the Major (her casting was somewhat controversial) as the cyborg investigative super soldier who investigates her past while trying to find the line between human and android. This film was directed by Rupert Sanders and mostly follows what happens in the original anime film, with some small differences. It has a great visual style and cinematography, and some great action scenes and special effects, but drew some criticism for not having a deeper story or character development. If you think of Cyberpunk, however, chances are the first thing that’ll come to mind is Ghost in the Shell or Blade Runner. Speaking of which…
3. Blade Runner 2049
Most people who know anything about Cyberpunk would say the genre all started from the combination of one book and one movie. That book was William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and the movie was Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. So it should come as no surprise that Blade Runner 2049 came in at the top 5, with spot #3. This movie has some of the most iconic, breathtaking visuals directed this time around by Denis Villeneuve (Dune, Arrival). Harrison Ford came back to reprise his iconic role of Rick Deckard, but the main character for this sequel is K, a replicant Blade Runner played by Ryan Gosling who has to uncover a mysterious secret that may threaten all civilization. This movie, along with most of Villeneuve’s films, is really one to see in the theaters. One of my favorite Cyberpunk visuals of all time is also in this film, where K is talking to a hologram AI companion, Joi (played by Ana de Armas). The pacing is a slow burn and the movie is a little long, but for those who liked the original Blade Runner and loves a good sci-fi mystery thriller, this is definitely a cyberpunk film you should watch for 2022.
2. Ready Player One
Some might be surprised that Ready Player One merited second place in this top 10 list of Cyberpunk films you should watch in 2022. Indeed, it might have been relegated to spot 5 or 6, if it weren’t for what happened on October 28th, 2021. Because on that day, Mark Zuckerberg announced his plans for the Metaverse (which was originally coined as a virtual reality world by Neal Stephenson in his Cyberpunk novel Snowcrash) and for Facebook to be rebranded as Meta.
What this meant was that Facebook then started firing and changing job descriptions, as thousands of their employees had to adapt to the change to start working towards Zuckerberg’s fantasy to become a reality. It wasn’t long before other businesses started to follow suit, wanting to be the early movers in investing in this new technology and the VR real estate that would exist in the metaverse. Governments around the world will have to decide how to regulate this new Metaverse, which (hopefully) means that they need to understand it. So how can they, and the general public, make sense of this VR world? Well, Ready Player One paints a pretty darn realistic picture of what it might look like, which is why it’s so high up on this list.
Ready Player One is the live action adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline. While both the movie and the book are definitely Cyberpunk, it’s more a fan love letter to video games and pop culture from the 1970s and 1980s. Directed by Steven Spielberg, if you can believe it, the story follows Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) who lives in a stack of motor homes in Ohio in a world where the majority of the population live their lives in a virtual reality called the Oasis.
Not only do people play games and socialize here, but they also go to school and shop here as well. When the creator of the Oasis dies, he begins a massive easter egg hunt in the Oasis with his will, declaring that whomever finds this hidden easter egg will gain the majority of shares and a huge amount of money. It’s a race against time as Wade teams up with four others against an evil corporation who wants the Oasis for themselves.
1. The Matrix Resurrections (and the Matrix Trilogy)
The Matrix trilogy was, in my opinion, some of the best cyberpunk content ever made. So it should be no surprise that the fourth installment made first place in this modern Cyberpunk list. While Matrix Resurrections is admittedly less of a “stereotypical cyberpunk” like total recall or blade runner, it brought modern issues and ideas, while also providing us with relevant questions for our modern day society. It also was incredibly controversial and divisive, with some people loving it, some people hating it, and very few in between.
Despite the fact that it’s objectively not perfect, everyone started talking about the return of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss to the franchise, and therefore it’s a must-see for any modern cyberpunk list. Having come out in December 2021, it’s also quite literally the latest Cyberpunk film to come out in theaters around the world.
Matrix Resurrections is the tale of Neo, AKA Thomas Anderson, who finds himself somehow alive but without memories of his previous life. Meanwhile, a team of humans in the real world discover Neo in the matrix after decades of fruitless searching, and attempt once again to bring him out of the matrix into the real world again. This leads to a perilous journey between neo, the humans, and the machines as a mysterious evil entity in the matrix tries to stop him from finding Trinity, and from leaving altogether.
Matrix Resurrections is also an incredibly meta movie, which is constantly referencing things that happened in the previous trilogy, as well as the trilogy itself (which in Matrix Resurrections is known as just a video game). As a result we can see scenes, toys, and even busts of characters from the previous trilogy in the movie itself. It results in a very funny, yet trippy, experience.
Top 10 Cyberpunk Movies You Should Watch in 2022:
- The Matrix Resurrections
- Ready Player One
- Blade Runner 2049
- Ghost in the Shell (2017)
- Alita: Battle Angel
- Total Recall
- Tron: Legacy
So that’s our top 10 list! What do you think of the list, and do you think there should be any movies included that we didn’t include, or any movies we included that shouldn’t have made the cut? Let us know in the comments below.
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