Progress in computers and software development has been stunning in the last few decades. How have computers and related technology been portrayed on the silver screen? If you check out the five movies below, you’ll find fascinating takes on computers and technology’s evolution throughout the years.
2001: A Space Odyssey – 1968
2001 wasn’t the first space travel film that had a disturbed computer. But the HAL 9000 that got a taste for murdering the crew is probably film history’s most famous artificial intelligence.
Stanley Kubrik had an interest in AI and computers but didn’t make them look so wonderful in this film or his classic Dr. Strangelove. But when David Bowman shuts down HAL, audiences worldwide back then felt a pang of sympathy for an inanimate object. It was a unique moment in film history and is one of the things that makes this film timeless.
WarGames – 1983
This well-known movie is somewhat of a remake of Kubrick’s black comedy, Dr. Strangelove, in its focus on nuclear war. WarGames made Matthew Broderick famous, where he played a high school computer nerd. He accidentally gets the ball rolling for World War III – oops! – after hacking into a federal government computer, thinking it was a video game.
Broderick’s character, David Lightman, is interested in a Global Thermonuclear War game and has a ball planning to destroy Las Vegas and Seattle. But he doesn’t know his actions could provoke the Soviet Union and the United States into a real war.
It was a massive success at the box office.
Electric Dreams – 1984
This isn’t a great film, but it’s interesting to watch how much technology has changed in 30+ years. Director Steve Barron had just made popular music videos for The King of Pop Michael Jackson and Tears for Fears. He went to the silver screen with this odd feature about a love triangle between a computer, his software developer owner Miles, and cellist Madeline.
It’s packed with 80s pop music and cheesy MTV-like film qualities, but it’s intriguing to watch today.
The Social Network – 2010
As Facebook and other social media sites became popular, friendships began to be made, counted, and conducted on the Internet. When director David Fincher made this film about March Zuckerberg founding Facebook, there was a feeling that everyone wanted to see it. Who didn’t love or hate the social media giant? Who wouldn’t want to hear the story of its creation?
The movie didn’t make Zuckerberg or his pals look so hot, but it is a compelling drama about a new era.
Catfish – 2010
The same year The Social Network came out, this documentary about the dangers of social media was released.
Catfish tells the story of Nev Schulman, a New York photographer who is mailed a painting of one of his pictures by a child art prodigy in Michigan. What starts as a Facebook communication turns into an Internet friendship with the girl’s entire family. It also involves a long-distance romance with the little girl’s older sister.
Contradictory truths are revealed, and the story that unfolds is such good fodder for a documentary that some believe the entire story is fake. After all, why are there cameras around from the start?
Whether Catfish is truth or fiction, it’s hard to stop watching. And, is a fascinating allegory about how people build their identities online in the 21st century.
These five films are definitely worth a watch if you want to see how computer technology has been portrayed in film over several decades. So check them out!