• The 1980s saw the birth of cyberpunk movies like Blade Runner, showcasing the “high-tech, low life” essence of the subgenre.
  • Films like Tron and The Terminator offer deep looks into technology and humanity, making them iconic cyberpunk masterpieces.
  • Rewatching cyberpunk classics such as RoboCop and Videodrome unveils hidden societal critiques and thematic layers worth exploring.

The 1980s added some great movies to the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction, and 10 of them can be watched almost endlessly. Cyberpunk, not to be confused with neo-noir, is a very specific but not well-defined subgenre of science fiction. There are a few features almost every cyberpunk story has, such as anti-capitalist messaging, a grim, dystopian depiction of the near future, a focus on advanced technology, body horror, and a protagonist who challenges a corrupt system to tear it all down. Cyberpunk can be more or less summed up with a common phrase about the subgenre: “high-tech, low life.”

The 80s were a golden age of cyberpunk. The subgenre was either born or fully came into its own in that decade, depending on how cyberpunk is defined. It was a time when the absolute borders of sci-fi were being tested and the “punk” aspect of cyberpunk was constantly being pushed to its limits. Some of the most important – and best – movies in all science fiction come from the 80s cyberpunk scene, and many of them are well worth seeing over and over.


10 Cyberpunk Movie Masterpieces Every Sci-Fi Fan Needs To See

If you love cyberpunk sci-fi movies then you should make sure you check out these 10 masterpieces that may have passed you by.

10 Akira (1988)

Akira Has Had A Huge Influence On Both Animation & Cyberpunk

It’s impossible to talk about the highlights of cyberpunk, and often science fiction in general, without mentioning Akira. It’s a hugely important film that went on to influence both animation and science fiction for decades after its release. Because it’s an anime, Akira can be simultaneously breathtakingly beautiful and horrifyingly grotesque in a way that makes it a cyberpunk icon. It pushed the limits of sci-fi to the breaking point, and it transformed several different genres for the better.

Akira also dives into some of the most important themes in cyberpunk. It’s a mind-numbingly deep dive into the power of the human mind, the price of science going too far, human nature, and even metaphysics. There are layers upon layers to Akira, and it warrants several rewatches just to understand all the high-level concepts it explores. Even without the thought-provoking questions it raises, Akira deserves to be rewatched just for its stunning visuals and mastery of the body horror side of cyberpunk.

9 Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner Created The Cyberpunk Formula & Possibly The Entire Subgenre

No single movie has had as big of a stylistic effect on cyberpunk as Blade Runner did, and there’s a strong case that it started cyberpunk as it’s known today. From the smoggy, rainy streets of Los Angeles to the bright neon lights and sprawling, slowly rotting cityscape, every cyberpunk story since 1982 has been in some way influenced by Ridley Scott’s neo-noir classic. Blade Runner is what many people think of when they hear the word cyberpunk, and its importance to the subgenre can’t be overstated. The visuals alone make it endlessly rewatchable, even without considering the movie’s themes and brilliant writing.

Blade Runner is also the reason cyberpunk is so deeply intertwined with philosophical messages about what it means to be human. Through Batty and the other replicants, Blade Runner invites its audience to consider whether it is flesh or something else that makes a person more than a machine, to question what it means to be alive, to examine their own lives. Those questions don’t have objective answers, but they’re important to consider once in a while, and rewatching Blade Runner is the perfect way to bring them to mind, and the perfect way to watch a cyberpunk classic.

8 Brazil (1985)

If Blade Runner defined cyberpunk, Brazil redefined it. Brazil truly highlights the versatility the cyberpunk subgenre can offer. It still has the same bleak, existentially horrifying trademarks of cyberpunk, but it’s also whimsical, weird, deeply disturbing, visually impressive, extremely funny, and a dozen other contradictory things all at the same time. Brazil is quite possibly the most unique cyberpunk movie of the 80s, and almost certainly one of the best received, as it boasts a wildly impressive 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.

One of the things that makes Brazil a masterpiece of cyberpunk storytelling is how it tackles its dystopia. Sam is a cog in the massive bureaucratic machine, and it’s his humanity that drags him out of the depressing reality he lives in. Brazil also features some of the best worldbuilding in all cyberpunk, and every scene contributes to its absurd take on the future. It’s honestly difficult to explain Brazil in words, at least with any amount of concision, which is one of the biggest reasons it’s so worthy of being rewatched endlessly.

is not available to stream and is only available to rent or buy from various providers.

7 Escape From New York (1981)

Kurt Russell Plays The Perfect Cyberpunk Legend

A hallmark of the cyberpunk subgenre is a main character who acts as a societal outcast, yet works to dismantle a corrupt system by following their moral code. Perhaps the best example of that feature is Snake Plissken, Kurt Russell’s character in Escape From New York. An ex-special forces soldier turned criminal, Snake is the perfect dangerous outsider, and the perfect cyberpunk legend. That, coupled with the morally grey world of Escape From New York, makes for an endlessly watchable cyberpunk movie.

Part of what made Escape From New York so compelling was that Snake was guided by his moral code, but that code isn’t exactly perfect. He’s extremely loyal, but that also caused him to jeopardize peace talks between global superpowers. Snake’s strange sense of morality is exactly what cyberpunk is all about: he doesn’t fit the societal standard of what a good man should be, and he doesn’t care if the entire system burns because of it. He’s more committed to his friends than any power system. It’s a clear rejection of societal norms that puts the “punk” in cyberpunk.

6 RoboCop (1987)

RoboCop Is Cyberpunk Turned Up To The Maximum, & It Works Beautifully

It’s difficult to think of a more comprehensive and over-the-top example of cyberpunk than the original RoboCop. It took every part of the subgenre – body horror, societal critique, near futurism, transhumanism, and more – and turned it up until the dial fell off. While RoboCop may sometimes hit its viewers over the head with its societal critiques – made most notable by the fake news segments and advertisements sprinkled throughout its runtime – it still has something worth saying. From its depiction of a corporate-run police department to Murphy’s transformation into a cyborg, RoboCop is quintessential cyberpunk.

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One of the best parts of RoboCop is that it’s not just fun to rewatch at face value, each subsequent rewatch reveals something new about its plot or critiques. Much of the film’s commentary about its dystopian world is extremely overt, but there’s also quite a bit layered in more subtly. Those details often get missed on the first watch because there’s so much going on in each scene, and the more obvious messages drown them out. Rewatching RoboCop is like seeing the movie in a new light, which certainly contributed to its enduring legacy.

5 The Running Man (1987)

Schwarzenegger’s Over-The-Top Gladiator Movie Is Fun To Watch

Cyberpunk movies are dystopian by definition, but The Running Man took its dystopian setting to a new level. Everything about its near future setting, from the needlessly cruel show to the dangerously apathetic prison system, has something to say about society. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Ben Richards and his time spent trying to survive the gladiatorial game show have captured sci-fi fans’ attention for decades now, and it’s even inspired a Running Man remake starring Glen Powell.

Like all cyberpunk movies, The Running Man has quite a bit to say about society. It slightly breaks from the mold there, though, as The Running Man remains silly and fun even as it critiques the very reality television and gratuitious violence it depicts. That’s perhaps the best reason to rewatch The Running Man: it’s just fun to see. Schwarzenegger is great in it, the action pieces, while sometimes cheesy and low-budget, are entertaining nonetheless, and it’s a much lighter jaunt than cyberpunk fans are likely used to. It may not be the best Stephen King movie, but it’s worth rewatching.

4 Tron (1982)

Steven Lisberger’s Visionary Glimpse Into The Digital Future

Tron, at surface level, seems like a regular sci-fi movie. However, when looking deeper, it ticks most of the boxes to count as cyberpunk. It has the hallmarks of the subgenre, from anti-corporate themes to its focus on a social misfit tearing down a corrupt system, but where Tron really shines as a cyberpunk movie is in its use of technology. From the light cycles to the Master Control Program, there are so many parts of Tron that have become iconic in their own right. It even offers one of the most in-depth examinations of humans interfacing with technology ever put on film.

One of the best parts of cyberpunk is that by its very nature, it pushes the boundaries of what’s possible. That was precisely the case for Tron. It was one of the first instances of a movie extensively using CGI, and while it may not have aged perfectly, it was a massive leap forward for 1982. It’s also impressive just how much Tron got right about the future. From virtual intelligence to the way video games now work, Tron was a truly visionary film, and that vision has kept viewers coming back for more than 40 years. It will also continue to do so with Tron: Ares.

3 The Terminator (1984)

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator Is An Action-Packed Cyberpunk Thriller

The Terminator also deserves a spot on this list, as there are so many things about the film that make it a great cyberpunk story. Action is a central part of cyberpunk, and there’s a strong case to be made that The Terminator has some of the best action in the subgenre. It’s also one of Schwarzenegger’s best roles for a reason, and his portrayal of a stone-cold killing machine gives the movie the extra suspense and weight it needed to become iconic. Additionally, the original Terminator spawned one of the best and longest-running cyberpunk franchises ever, which is a gift to the subgenre.

The Terminator also offers so much rewatchability because it features a slightly odd brand of cyberpunk. Rather than dealing with a dark near future directly, most of The Terminator takes place in the 1980s. It still paints a grim picture of what’s in store for humanity, and the dangers of rapidly advancing technology, but in a way, The Terminator is one of the most hopeful cyberpunk movies ever made. The whole reason the T-800 was sent into the past in the first place is because John Connor eventually saves humanity. That change of pace made The Terminator distinct from other cyberpunk movies, and makes it worth rewatching.

2 Outland (1981)

Many Of The Roots Of Cyberpunk Can Be Seen In Sean Connery’s Outland

Outland may not be cyberpunk in the strictest terms, but it fits reasonably well into it. Outland‘s technology may not be as advanced as the typical cyberpunk movie, but it still hits the major plot beats of a cyberpunk classic. It focuses on Sean Connery’s Marshall William O’Neil as he fights back against a gang of drug smugglers on one of Jupiter’s moons. The sci-fi elements are self-explanatory, and the movie is dripping with messages about the near future and corporations. It’s dark and grim, and Outland has more than enough substance to warrant a few rewatches.

is not available to stream and is only available to rent or buy from various providers.

Even if Outland doesn’t fit perfectly into the cyberpunk subgenre, it’s had a massive and critical effect on it. There are so many sci-fi and cyberpunk movies that owe a huge debt to Outland. The bulging eye special effect in Total Recall, for example, was almost identical to the decompression scene in Outland. Several other cyberpunk films have focused on the concept of colonizing other planets and moons in the solar system, and Outland was one of the first to popularize that idea. Rewatching it is like seeing the individual pieces of cyberpunk come together on screen.

1 Videodrome (1983)

Videodrome Offers A Disturbing Examination Of Media, Technology, & The Human Body

Cyberpunk was never meant to be a comforting subgenre, but some of its movies focused more heavily on its horrifying aspects than others. Videodrome lands firmly on the side of being a disturbing look at a dark future, and it succeeds in its goal of unsettling its audience. One of the reasons Videodrome can be rewatched despite being so upsetting is that it presents so many unique questions, from interrogating the effects of mass media to examining the relationship between humanity and machines.

Videodrome still features some of the best body horror cyberpunk has to offer, though, but not to the same extent as films like Tetsuo: The Iron Man. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart, but there’s something about Videodrome‘s body horror that works extremely well as a vehicle to deliver its central messages and themes. It’s disturbing, but thematically poignant and well-executed, especially considering the thought-provoking mantra of “long live the new flesh.” It may not be a film that’s rewatched often, but Videodrome has been a mainstay of both the cyberpunk and science fiction genres for decades, and it certainly is worth rewatching.

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