The subversive anthology series
Black Mirror takes a hard, sometimes dark, look at the unintended consequences technology has on our day-to-day lives. From upbeat episodes on transferred consciousness like "San Junipero" to questioning the nature and lives of artificial AI in "Hang The DJ", the show covers a full range of philosophical and practical questions. If you wish each episode could go on longer, you're (kinda) in luck — here are 21 movies to watch if you love Black Mirror.
If you're a fan of the test-run of augmented reality of "Playtest", you'd probably enjoy David Cronenberg's multi-layered alternate reality thriller
Existenz, which features organic gaming ports and sinister conspiracies. If the relationship between human and AI fascinates you, the ephemeral-to-physical transformation and the psychological weirdness of "Be Right Back" can be found in Ex Machina's protagonist, or the deep but disembodied relationship of Her. The ill-willed hackers of "Shut Up And Dance" have a direct parallel in found-footage murder-mystery The Den, or if you want a vintage-future throwback, check out early-internet paranoia flick The Net, starring American Sweetheart Sandra Bullock.
All of these films share the same goal as
Black Mirror — to posit a world that could be our own, one that might happen next week, in a few years, or might even be happening right now, and to take the results to an extreme conclusion. Lucky for us that doesn't just make incisive social commentary, it also makes for entertaining viewing.
The Matrix was a gleam in the Wachowskis' eyes, World On A Wire questioned how we can trust the reality of the perceived world, and did it with a lot more style and mod flair. This long-lost sci-fi masterpiece is now available streaming on Filmstruck. Click here to buy.
This story about a young programmer invited to a reclusive genius's home to test his latest invention's realism seems on the surface a cautionary tale about the dangers of artificial intelligence. Really, it's male hubris and ego that are the dangers, but unlike real life here they get their comeuppance.
This dense low budget, high-concept time travel movie rewards multiple viewings, but even if you catch it only once, the chilling consequences of two friends who accidentally create a working time machine are frighteningly clear.
Terry Gilliam's dystopian bureaucracy would be hilarious if it wasn't so terrifying... or is that the other way around? A world where technology is perpetually failing when it's not actively killing us, filled with people all too familiar if you've ever worked in an office.
Phillip K. Dick stories-turned-into-movies could entirely populate this list, but for now we'll go with the most fun one. From the director who brought you
Showgirls and Robocop comes this tale of implanted memories gone awry. Stream here.
In a future world where gene modification is an available option, a hierarchy evolves of the supposedly superior modified and the lesser normal-born. But in this tale of nature vs. nurture, the human spirit remains the determining factor in fate.
David Cronenberg's multi-layered dive into virtual reality, gaming, and perception intentionally blurs lines, and adds an organic element that's not for the squeamish.
If there's a running theme with AI films, it's that the more intelligent a creation is, the faster it'll turn on its stodgy creators. When Dr. Alex Harris shuts off superintelligent Proteus IV in response to its asking when it will be let out of its box, Proteus naturally responds by taking over the full home security system of Harris' home and impregnating his wife by force. Naturally.
OK, "magic sunglasses" aren't exactly technology we have to worry about, but in John Carpenter's film they're just an excuse to meditate on the media that surrounds us, who controls it, and what it might
really be doing to us. Stream here.
For a change of pace, this is an
adorable examination of human over-reliance on technology and the terrible consequences it could have. And unlike many films examining the same, Wall-E takes the time to show how things might start to be made right. Stream here.
A group of friends receive voicemails from the near future, hearing themselves dying horribly and dated the moment they're supposed to die. The friends race to find out what the mystery is behind the messages, but next time you let it go to voicemail, you might not want to listen.
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A ghost story where the real terror is the loneliness of eternity, this Japanese thriller was a smash hit (its U.S. remake was a deserved flop). Ghosts begin invading the world of the living through the internet in two parallel storylines that show both sides of the terror.
'Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch'
Wildly different from the other
Halloween films (with nary a trace of Mike Meyers to be seen), this film has a villainous corporation mixing cutting-edge technology with ancient magic (microchips with pieces of Stonehenge, for example) to bring about a new age of witchcraft. Stream here.
A film told almost entirely through a computer screen seems appropriate for a film about the pains and negative side of social media. A group of students are haunted, literally, by their cruel actions online.
Released about a year after internet connection became a widespread phenomenon in the U.S.,
The Net's paranoia and identity-erasure seemed over-the-top; now it's what happens if you click the wrong email link, or just have a major corporation get hacked without telling anyone until the media forces their hand. Stream here.
Another cautionary tale about what happens when you don't play nice on social media,
#Horror is a straight-up slasher where the killer could be among a group of rich, bored, tween girls at a sleepover. Somehow a sleepover with them seems the most terrifying. Stream here.
This pessimistic look at interacting with strangers via social media and the perils of webcamming specifically is all the more cruel as its main character was trying to prove the exact opposite with her thesis.
In a world where people claim technology isolates us, would the solution to letting us feel real connections be more technology? When professional letter-writer Theodore Twombly falls in love with his computer operating system Samantha, is that real love?
This gorgeous animated feature beat
Inception by years and on every level of execution. A psychologist test-runs a device that allows her to enter patients' dreams as a disguised alter-ego, Paprika. Corporate espionage is suspected when sessions go wrong, but as dreams and reality begin to merge, it's difficult to know what to believe. Stream here.
'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind'
If you could erase your unhappy memories, would you? What seems like a simple question with an obvious answer (why be miserable?) has sad repercussions for a couple who learn the hard way that if we can't learn from history, we're doomed (or lucky enough) to repeat it.
This might be the most unnerving film on the list, because it's a documentary. Following Edward Snowden's leaks from their beginning, the filmmakers become embroiled in the NSA scandal along with him. If you're not aware the extent to which your government's been spying on you, or still think of Snowden as a traitor, you need to watch this film.
Black Mirror and all these films attempt to get us to think more closely about how we interact with advances we take for granted. If nothing else, they might just have you staring at your phone next time you're about to head out, wondering if maybe, this time you should leave it at home. Stream here.