Modern technology moves forward at a scary pace. Just when you think you’ve settled, an upgrade challenges everything you’ve known, and you need to adjust again. That’s why it’s fun to revisit what astounded us just a few years ago or decades ago. Granted, the representation of technology in movies mostly focused on its potential danger. It also dealt with morality, ethics, what it means to be a human, and how it differs from a machine. Although subjective and guaranteed to expand in the imminent future, our list of the best technology movies is no different. But you’ll be surprised how much joy they provide, too.
1. The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix (1999) might be the most recognized among the technology movies. It stars Keanu Reeves as Thomas Anderson, programmer by day, a computer hacker named Neo by night. After he gets contacted by Morpheus, a fellow hacker, they must stay ahead of the government agents hunting them. The plot quickly develops into a fight between humans and machines. It proposes that our world is an illusion, a simulation to keep us obedient and docile while machines farm us for resources. Besides Artificial Reality, the movie also made concepts of “bullet-time” slow motion and wall-running popular.
2. 2001: A Space Oddysey (1968)
2001: A Space Oddysey (1968) is among the top technology movies that deals with inter-planetary travel through space and time, a year before we actually landed on the Moon. The movie, based on the book by Arthur C. Clarke, spawned a host of books in the following decades, based on correct predictions about future technology. For example, characters had access to cell phones, laptops, a great view of the space, even the first AI digital voice assistant named HAL 900. The movie even features a “rise of the machines” plot, with HAL 900 turning maniacal unexpectedly.
3. Avatar (2009)
Avatar (2009) is the highest-grossing movie of all time with over $2.8 billion worldwide. While the plot isn’t a masterpiece, the 3D rendering of the planet, Pandora, and its blue-skinned, 10-feet-tall inhabitants, an indigenous race named Na’Vi that rides on flying dragons, is outstanding. Additionally, the movie features consciousness replacement technology. It’s what allows the protagonist, Marine Jake Sully, who lost function of both legs, to use a fully-abled avatar body. The helicopters featured in the movie are also very high-tech and resemble today’s consumer drones.
4. The Terminator (1984)
The Terminator (1984) is one of the leading technology movies of the 1980s. It stars Terminator, a human-like cyborg assassin, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He travels back in time to protect John Connor, who will one day grow up to spearhead the revolt against the newer Terminator models. On the other side is the AI network, Skynet, that concludes human life must perish and sends the aforementioned Terminators to get the job done. The movie studies human-to-robot relationships, whether machines can feel empathy, and demonstrates our powerlessness against them.
5. Minority Report (2002)
Minority Report takes place in 2054 when police can predict major crimes before they occur, and dispatch an elite law enforcement squad, Precrime, to arrest the individuals. The squad’s leader, John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, has that special power and uses a 3D computer as a medium. It’s transparent, screenless, reacts to gestures, and projects holographs in mid-air, allowing instant control. The movie predicted one of the likely forms of real-life Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technologies. In contrast, crime prediction technology already keeps us safe.
6. Her (2013)
Her (2013) features a lonely writer, played by Joaquin Phoenix, who falls in love with Samantha, a digital voice assistant. She’s always available, supportive, sweet-talking, and invested in him. Their relationship deepens quickly, and she even suggests he find a real-life surrogate for her personality and emotions. Sadly, he learns the consequences of a relationship between a human and AI quickly. Samantha is talking to thousands of others worldwide in the same way. The movie wants to remind us how quickly we embrace artificial creations and exchange them with reality.
7. WarGames (1983)
After news about young North Korean hackers stealing millions from governments, the plot of WarGames (1983) doesn’t sound so unreal. In fact, it’s even more terrifying. Matthew Broderick plays David Lightman, a gifted teenager who believes he’s breaking into a game developer’s database to gain access to new game titles. Instead, he’s hacking into the military systems belonging to the United States government. What’s more, he starts the thermonuclear war at the press of a button and sends the U.S. into full panic mode. And all of that from a 1975 Imsai 8080 computer!
8. Westworld (1973)
Westworld (1973) is one of the greatest technology movies that analyzes what happens when robots have a legitimate reason to exterminate us. It takes place in an eponymous amusement set in the Wild West era, populated by human-like robots. For only $1000 per day, humans can live out their fantasies, and since robots can’t be killed and don’t feel pain, humans can commit unspeakable acts. Well, one day robots stage an uprising and begin killing visitors across the park. Unsurprisingly, humans are slow to react. Who would believe technology has gone awry and started fighting its creator?
9. Jurassic Park (1993)
Jurassic Park (1993) pushed the limits of movie production in 1993. The computer animation, CAD, CGI, and dinosaur models were off the charts amazing for the time. The movie is set around a dinosaur amusement park and shows reviving extinct species via genetic engineering is a terrible idea. In this case, things turn sour quickly when a disgruntled park programmer and corporate greed enter the picture. With defenses down, prehistoric creatures escape their containment and let loose. It goes to show how insignificant human technological and intellectual dominance is against brute strength, speed, and size.
10. The Social Network (2010)
The Social Network (2010) is a semi-historically accurate depiction of the 2006 founding of Facebook, based on Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaires (2009). The story doesn’t cover the invention of social media in detail, though. Instead, it shifts focus to feelings of friendship, loyalty, class, power, jealousy, and backstabbing. Two bonus reasons to watch it came in later years as well. The first was Edward Snowden’s groundbreaking surveillance revelations from 2013. The second is Mark Zuckerberg’s 2019/2020 testimonies before Congress about user privacy and Facebook’s data collection.