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All The Cyberpunk Movies on Netflix You’ve Gotta See

by Chad Sanders
Netflix

Are There Any Cyberpunk Movies on Netflix?

We’ll be the first to admit that it’s pretty “high tech, low life” to be streaming cyberpunk movies on your borrowed Netflix account. The streaming service has completely changed the way we absorb content. We’re able to watch most any genre of film or television . . . any time . . . on demand. Nothing has been the same after Netflix stepped into everyone’s homes. The service fundamentally changed the online media landscape. What could be more cyberpunk than that?

Thankfully, few genres have a steadier stable of film staples than Cyberpunk. Below are the best cyberpunk films Netflix has to offer.  Even with the changing parade of TV and movies that Netflix has, a few classics have been able to stay in steady rotation. One or two of these gems are even Netflix originals. We’ll do our best to keep this list up to date, but chances are these classics aren’t going anywhere.

Total Recall

Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is tired of the simple life. His construction job, drinking buddies and attractive wife (Sharon Stone) just don’t do it for him anymore. In search of an adventure, Quaid pays a visit to Rekall. Their business model is to implant memories into everyday people in order to give the experience of an exotic vacation without actually having to go anywhere. 

Quaid requests a spy mission to Mars. Something terrible happens at Rekall, as he begins to thrash about a “secret mission” before the memories are implanted. After he gets thrown out, he finds himself actually being pursued by futuristic G-men. It looks like Quaid may actually be a secret agent with repressed memories of his time on Mars.

Or is he? Could this all be happening, or could this just be his memory implants running amok?

To be honest, Total Recall is simply where it’s at when it comes to cyberpunk movies. Director Paul Verhoven delivers in this 1990 action thriller. It’s Peak Schwarzenegger. The movie has a lot of fun with plenty of explosions, retro sci-fi effects and truly trippy characters. One dude is a psychic mutant who lives in the stomach of another dude. It’s insane. And it has a woman with three breasts, so ya know, it’s got that going for it. Why watch any other movie?

Her

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is still struggling with his divorce. His social life took a nosedive. To help carry the load, he purchases a state of the art operating system to get organized and keep him company. It all works out a little too well. Theodore starts to fall for his OS, self proclaimed Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). The crazy thing is, Samantha is falling in love with Theodore.

Her is one of those movies that uses genre to tell an incredibly personal story. All of these movies have some sort of romantic component to it, but Her is about the relationship. The science handles the reigns over the subtext. It’s interesting to watch Samantha evolve. She composes music, joins a book club and discusses philosophy. You begin to wonder how far she can go if she wants. The problem is that Theodore’s emotions get wrapped up in her decisions.

What’s interesting about Her is that it is almost too sneaky. It’s cyberpunk, but not in your face about it. You’re not sure what year the movie takes place, but it’s not that far off. Even though director Spike Jonze wants you to believe the movie takes place in the not too distant future of Los Angeles, he uses modern day Shanghai as the backdrop. If reality is now and Blade Runner is the future, then Her is the middle part. We are witnessing the growth of a futuristic cyberpunk culture.

Mute

Leo (Alexander Skarsgård) is a fish out of water. Growing up Amish, he feels out of place in the cyberpunk future of Berlin. Being mute complicates any possibility of a social life, except for his girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh). When she goes missing, this simple man of the land must navigate a dangerous landscape of future tech, neon lights and hip new designer drugs. Throw in some gangsters and wacky yet menacing set of surgeons, and Mute is your cyberpunk choice for Netflix and chill.

Director Duncan Jones treats Mute as an exercise in cyberpunk. He updated the genre from 80s classics and 90s cult heroes for the modern day streaming viewer. Pick anything cyberpunk, and it is there. It’s the one Blade Runner offspring that might actually recognize Mute as one of its own.

What makes Mute different is the background of the main character. He’s from a society that out right rejects technology. He sustained an injury in his young life. Since his family only believed faith would heal him, he can’t speak. It’s like if someone dropped Old McDonald into Akira, but ya know, german.

District 9

Leaving Netflix October 31

Decades after their mothership makes an involuntary pit stop over Johannesburg, South Africa, surviving aliens deal with the backlash of being treated as second class citizens. Lone middle management drone Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley)  assists with the relocating of the depreciatively termed Prawns. The movie very quickly turns on its head when Wikus gets a faceful of goo and starts to turn into a Prawn himself.

Director Neill Blomkamp smashed onto the scene with District 9, echoing a new voice for contemporary sci-fi stories with a message. Sure, the movie is about aliens, but anyone with at least two eyes can tell you the movie is about apartheid. It’s not subtle, but at the same time not preachy. That’s dangerous in cinema. It’s important to have a message that you want to share, but if you mess up the execution of that message, people do not care. It almost doesn’t matter how important the message is. District 9 doesn’t have to worry about this.

For a big concept sci-fi movie, the budget was considerably low. Not a lot can get done with $30 million, unless you know what you are doing and how you are going to do it. Through this method, Blomkamp has continued to make fantastic movies circling cyberpunk themes and aesthetics ever since. 

Ex Machina

Leaving Netflix July 26

Loner Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) has the opportunity of a lifetime. His mysterious billionaire boss (Oscar Isaac) has created an artificial intelligent android symbolically named Ava (Alicia Vikander). He wants Caleb to confirm that the entity in question is actually intelligent and not just running a highly specific program. However, Caleb eventually starts to question both the billionaire’s and the bot’s motives.

The aesthetic of Ex Machina is simply cyberpunk, without filling the scene with too much information. Director Alex Garland gets away with it by setting the movie in an eccentric underground lair where everything is automated and bold colors stand out as much as the androids.

Ex Machina is a film that gives us the footsteps to a potential cyberpunk future. It’s not about flying cars and dystopian cityscapes, but it does question consciousness in an artificial being. It’s a lot like Her in that way. It’s a question we start to see more and more in everyday life. 

Also, there is a funky choreographed dance scene. Not a lot boogying, but enough to either calm you down or scare the hell out of you. It depends how interested you are in the movie at that point.

Snowpiercer

The entire world is a winter hellscape. The last of humanity is crammed together on an infinitely powered train perpetually moving along a global track. The classes are viciously and unevenly divided. The low classes in the back of the train begin to revolt. 

The first english language film by now acclaimed director Bong Joon Ho, Snowpiercer is one of the quintessential action movies of the early 21st century. Chris Evans delivers a powerful and conflicted performance, fighting to move up the train and never looking back. Cinematic sage John Hurt pulls off the job of, well, a sage. He guides the rebellion mentally and spiritually as their morale is tested every time they move up to the next car.  

It’s classic sci-fi here, but what makes Snowpiercer cyberpunk is how it blends the idea of dystopian society with the literal mechanics of the world. Having a futuristic prediction of society dependent on machines we built is inherently cyberpunk, with or without a neon product placement or a synthesizer score. 

Also, the action is just fantastic. Joon Ho has an eye for great scenes and the pacing doesn’t feel sped up or slowed down at any point. Like a well built train, it runs right on time.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Video gamer programmer Stefan (Fionn Whitehead) wants to make a big splash at his job. His genius idea is to turn a choose your own adventure book into a super popular video game for the 1980s market. Does the game workout or does he live through his own hell? Well, that’s kind of up to you isn’t it?

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch was the first interactive film from Netflix. When certain scenes arrive, the viewer chooses what the protagonist does next. The corresponding plot points are dependent on the viewer’s choices. 

This movie is incredibly cyberpunk, and not just because it’s got the trusty name of Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker behind it. It’s closer to what William Gibson envisioned in Neuromancer. The viewer becomes a part of the experience instead of just watching it. It’s a step in a long evolution of possible virtual reality gamescape. Throw in 1980s retro aesthetic, and it falls into more of a modern cyberpunk vibe. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch has all the goodies we learn to love from previous cyberpunk movies, but features enough nostalgic flair to keep the nerds coming back. 

Netflix has been a great awakening in how we watch movies. We have a library of classic films at our fingertips. Since sci-fi, and especially cyberpunk, make up a large arsenal of movies streaming on Netflix right now, it makes sense that these are the movies that you’ve gotta see.

Cloud Atlas

Perhaps one of the more complicated and beautiful stories told in modern cinema, the Cloud Atlas leaps from the pages of a 2004 novel of the same name written by David Mitchell.  

The brilliantly constructed film takes the viewer on a journey through the centuries as we witness the evolution of souls. We see a beautiful tapestry of connectivity that should make even the coldest heart warm with emotion. 

There aren’t a lot of movies that can boast two top-tier A List actors at the peak of their Hollywood powers, but Cloud Atlas somehow does. It was an independent film and partly financed by the German Government and two of its stars, Tom Hanks and Halle Berry. The movie tells six stories with the cast playing multiple characters in a non-linear narrative expanding a vast timeline. 

There’s this peaceful moment between Hanks’ Isaac Sachs and Berry’s Luisa Rey where they are standing on a balcony overlooking San Francisco Bay. Hanks makes a comment about past lives and connections. Very shortly after that, he starts off a letter to her stating “yesterday, my life was heading in one direction. Today it is headed in another”. As he writes it, you see all of his lives spooling out ahead and behind him. It’s an amazing and thoughtful moment.

A lot of times in movies, there are thoughts and ideas that are clearly the core concepts but sometimes get lost in the very popcorn nature of big cinema. A film like District 9 is talking to us about a refuge crisis around the world. A film like Goodfellas romanticizes the mobster lifestyle before bringing it all down around the viewers head to help destroy that child like notion that there was some inherent cool, rebellious nature to organized crime. Cloud Atlas manages to walk that tightrope in a way those other films can’t because of the unique structure of the film. It doesn’t have to tell you everything matters and we are all connected because it gets to show you.  

WarGames

Computer hacker David ( Matthew Broderick)  doesn’t play by the rules. Of course he doesn’t, he’s a classic 80s movie hacker! He types fast and knows the lingo! He bites off more than that he can chew by running a fun and innocent nuclear war simulation. Problem is that he hacked into a supercomputer for the US military designed to protect and counter-strike any and all nuclear threat. So you know, whoopsie daisy.

This was not only the first introduction of personal computers to the American cinema audience, but also introduced hacking to a lot of would-be and future cyberpunks. Sure, it seems cheesy by today’s standards, but WarGames is a nostalgia bomb waiting to go off.

It’s also great to watch a pre-Ferris Bueller era of Matthew Broderick. It’s almost meta-commentary. He couldn’t get away with hacking in WarGames, so Bueller had to be the king of getting away with everything. Round it out with Saturday Night Fever director John Badham and Brat Pack fan favorite Ally Sheedy and you got a classic cyberpunk film.

We know cyberpunk movies, so let us tell you what you’re missing. What’s timeless? What didn’t age so well? Share this article, and we’ll make the case for All The Netflix Movies You Gotta See. 

Did we miss something here? Is there a classic on Netflix that we didn’t catch?  Has something left syndication?  What are your favorite parts of these movies? Leave us a comment below, and we’ll try to update the article with your suggestions!

Hey, chum. These posts don't write themselves. If you wanna stay in the know, it's gotta be a two way street.*

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2 comments

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Brian o'Blivion May 4, 2020 - 7:01 pm

“what happened to monday?” is pretty good.
Ex machina too

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Beth Oatway July 26, 2020 - 12:42 am

Loved, loved, LOVED the movie “Mute”, thank you for that recommendation! I’ve been pining away for the release of Cyberpunk 2077 like everyone else for years, and I really appreciate unexpected tastes of it in unexpected places. Bravo!

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