As fast as we’ve been developing new technologies, we’ve been developing fears about how technologies take over our lives. It’s a topic that Black Mirror tackles with a unique and uncomfortably familiar sensibility.
Here are some titles to try if you’re looking for a dystopian sci-fi thriller fix that takes a bleak look at our relationship to technology and the Charlie Brooker-esque future that humanity seems to be hurtling toward.
10. Circle (2015)
You wake up in a dome with 49 other people. Every two minutes, someone is killed by a beam and pulled out of the room, but everyone in the room can control a vote toward who should die next. Directed by Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione, the film is an experiment that quickly devolves into an extreme look at how people place value on some lives over others and will easily subscribe to voting factions that will back those values.
Watch this movie if you like: “Hated in the Nation”
9. eXistenZ (1999)
A less-discussed Cronenberg film, eXistenZ gives us biotechnological gaming where people hook up to virtual reality through bio-ports in their spinal cord. Game designer Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) invites a focus group to playtest her newest game, “eXistenZ”, when an attack corrupts all but one copy of the game. Allegra and security guard Ted (Jude Law) navigate the real world and the virtual world of “eXistenZ” to evade bounty hunters to the point where reality is distorted and it’s unclear when and whether they are in-game. In true Cronenbergian style, the biotechnological elements come with a nice dose of body horror.
Watch this movie if you like: “Playtest”
8. THX 1138 (1971)
THX 1138 is George Lucas’s feature film debut, a dystopian sci-fi dealing with a tightly controlled society where emotions are suppressed with drugs and civilians are clad in identical clothing and made to endure demanding tasks. This may not seem like the most obviously referential title in this list, but Charlie Brooker cited THX 1138‘s as a main inspiration for the sets and atmosphere that were created for the Black Mirror episode “Fifteen Million Merits”.
Watch this movie if you like: “Fifteen Million Merits”
7. The Terminal Man (1974)
Harry Benson (George Segal) is a genius living with a strange form of epilepsy: he tends to become violent during his seizures. He elects to receipt an experimental surgery that implants electrodes in his brain that will detect oncoming seizures and give off electrical impulses to curb them. While the surgery seems a success at first, it misfires and Harry‘s brain becomes addicted to the impulses, and Harry becomes unpredictably violent. The Terminal Man is based on a novel by Michael Crichton (of Jurassic Park fame) and plot-wise bears a striking resemblance to “The Pain Addict” segment of Black Mirror‘s season four finale “Black Museum”.
Watch this movie if you like: “Black Museum”
6. Cam (2018)
In the early- and mid-2000s there was a spate of slashers and crime thrillers dealing with Internet popularity and consumption-driven violence, movies like Untraceable (2008), The Den (2013), and Smiley (2012). Cam (2018), directed by Daniel Goldhaber and written by former camgirl Isa Mazzei, is a take on the concept for today’s world, where identities are pirated and co-opted all the time to gain a wider audience on the Internet. Alice (Madeline Brewer) is a camgirl who is just finally climbing the ranks when a seeming doppelgänger begins posting live streams. While trying to uncover the source, Alice competes with her duplicate for viewership.
Watch this movie if you like: “Nosedive”
5. In the Gap (2017)
If you are short on time, then check out 11-minute Swedish short, In the Gap, written and directed by Albin Glassel. In the Gap is an exploration of a consciousness-uploading process in action, from the POV of the person being uploaded, and what the experience might be like if the process is not going well. A woman (Lo Kauppi) awakens in a strange server room, facing a door with a countdown timer above it. It’s clear that she is being uploaded to the server, but the connection isn’t stable.
Watch this movie if you like: “San Junipero”, “White Christmas”, “Black Museum”
4. Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)
Unlike the first Unfriended (2014), which had a supernatural bent, the newest installment, written and directed by Stephen Susco, is a stand-alone with only people as enemies. Matias O’Brien (Colin Woodell) picks up a laptop from a lost and found from a cybercafé. He begins to receive messages that connect him to the Dark Web, and the messengers begin to make escalating demands of Matias that he must take up or risk getting himself or his friends killed.
Watch this movie if you like: “Shut Up and Dance”
3. Final Cut (2004)
Alan Hakman (Robin Williams) is a professional cutter — in a world where everyone has the full memory of their lives recorded, Alan edits full lives down to palatable films for funeral memorials. He specializes in cutting out immoral and controversial memories and describes himself as a “sin-eater”. When he’s confronted about the potential sins of his latest client, Hakman is faced with moral choices around memory implants and the roles that they play in capturing us at our best…and at our worst.
Watch this movie if you like: “An Entire History of You”, “Crocodile”
2. Screamers (1995)
Directed by Christian Duguay and based on the Philip K. Dick short story “Second Variety”, Screamers is about a group of humans who visit a defunct mining planet that has been cleared out by Screamers (named for the shrieking sound they make as they attack), robots that are programmed to kill based on identifying bracelets. Just like the uncanny Boston Dynamics inspired robot dogs in “Metalhead”, screamers are military robots gone bad. Screamers come in a few forms, the best being a small robotic creature with a buzzsaw in its face that cruises around just under the ground’s surface like it belongs on the set of Tremors.
Watch this movie if you like: “Metalhead”
1. Antiviral (2012)
In the world of Antiviral, directed by Brandon Cronenberg, the world is obsessed with contracting pathogens that have infected their favourite celebrities. Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) works at clinic that harvests pathogens from sick celebrities and sells them, but on the side he incubates in-demand pathogens and sells them on the black market. He becomes in possession of a lethal virus that kills an especially popular celebrity (Sarah Gadon), spiraling him into a situation where fans want to watch him suffer because they were deprived the opportunity to watch their fave celeb die and his death from the same disease is the closest they can get.
Watch this movie if you like: “White Bear”
Black Mirror Season 5 hit Netflix on June 5th. What film do you recommend for Black Mirror fans? Share your recs on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. And for all your horror movie news, reviews, and interviews, keep lurking at Nightmare on Film Street.