With the way technology has been advancing, we’re probably closer to “The Terminator” scenario than we were back in 1984. What seemed far-fetched in the ‘80s now seems just a few clicks away. Despite the decades of movies that tried to warn us, we insist on building artificial technology with all kinds of capabilities, from auto-filling our emails to patrolling our streets to generating images and writing articles based on a command prompt. Maybe we need a reminder as to why we should be wary of AI, starting with this list's foreboding and prophetic films.
‘The Terminator’ (1984)
Besides “Tron,” which came out in 1982, “The Terminator” arguably initiated cinema’s preoccupation with sentient AI as we know it. This first installment of the record-setting franchise introduced us to “Skynet,” a computer system that, after becoming self-aware and perceiving the human race as an existential threat, decides to wipe out every living human.
The main and titular character is an AI robot manufactured by Skynet and sent back in time on a secret seismic mission. This main character is played by the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose career is famously defined by the franchise and who went on to star in several other movies of the same profile. After watching “The Terminator,” you might never look at ChatGPT the same.
The first movie is streaming on Max.
‘The Matrix’ (1999)
For most of the movie, Neo (Keanu Reeves) is trying to figure out what the “Matrix” is, and by the end, it’s still up for debate. Long story short, most of the humans in this movie are kept in a dormant state and trapped in a simulated reality by intelligent machines using their bodies as energy sources. A select few lead a resistance front and attempt to take on these deceitful machines — assuming they aren’t living in a simulation.
More than just an innovative storyline, “The Matrix” helped nurture a counterculture defined by its particular aesthetics and sharp cynicism. It’s the kind of franchise that seeps into the culture and becomes part of our lexicon: Talk of “the system” and blue versus red pills are traced back to scenes from “The Matrix.” And, of course, the series introduced the mainstream to Keanu Reeves.
All four movies of “The Matrix” franchise are available on Max.
‘I, Robot’ (2004)
Set in the year 2035, “I, Robot” imagines a near-future where humanoid robots service humanity and ostensibly keep us safe. But at least one of these machines seems to have gone off-script. It’s up to Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) to get to the bottom of a suspicious death, with the future of humankind and our freedom at stake.
“I, Robot” breathes new life into the detective genre. It’s also an epic battle between human and machine, incisively demonstrating that, even if a robot can think many times faster than us, our humanity is still the greatest and most valuable asset — at least as of this writing! This movie has become particularly prescient at a time when some jurisdictions in the U.S. are debuting security robots.
“I, Robot” and many other movies starring Will Smith are available on Hulu.
Set in a dystopian yet familiar universe in which our planet has become overrun by trash and our consumption habits, “WALL-E” features a tiny robot tasked with cleaning up after us. Somewhere along the way, this robot picks up a personality and embarks on a mission to save humanity.
Deeply moving and inspiring, “WALL-E” reminds us of the potential benefits and dangers of AI. After all, not all artificial intelligence in this movie is as endearing or charming — far from it, in fact.
This kid-friendly movie is available on Disney Plus.
This movie will have you regretting being human. Joaquin Phoenix plays a melancholic and mellow bachelor who falls in love with his AI virtual assistant — not very different from your typical Alexa. Like any good couple, they somehow make it work, despite their considerable difference, and the complications thrown in their direction will pull at your heartstrings.
Unlike many other movies of this genre, “Her” doesn’t take place in an apocalyptic landscape. Instead, this movie dwells on a different type of hell, one in which the human experience takes center stage alongside our turbulent feelings of loneliness, fear, love, and compassion.
“Her” is available to rent on Apple TV Plus.
‘Ex Machina’ (2014)
Terrifyingly set in our recognizable present, “Ex Machina” is another movie warning about the perils of AI and our human vulnerabilities. This movie features a stereotypical tech CEO living on a remote island. He welcomes an employee chosen to test whether the company’s latest humanoid robot can pass the Turing test and exhibit consciousness.
But in a tale as old as time, the employee eventually develops romantic feelings for Ava (Alicia Vikander), the robot he is to assess and with whom he spends a significant amount of time. The couple quickly builds a rapport that complicates the task at hand. However, not everything is what it seems, and a surprising reshuffling of characters and loyalties will have you feeling like a glitch in the system. Who says rom-com is dead?
“Ex Machina” can be found on Max and Amazon Prime Video.
You would think that after countless AI movies, the genre would be tried and done, but “M3GAN” proves there’s still some gas in the tank. This production tells the story of an AI machine programmed to be the ultimate support doll to a recently orphaned young girl. As you can imagine, the robot takes its job way too seriously, and soon enough, it starts going after those closest to the girl she’s supposed to protect.
Starring Amie Donald, Jenna Davis, and Allison Williams, “M3GAN” features new and established talent to revamp the horror movie. It’s a frightening watch, but some scenes will at least make you chuckle — and yes, we’re talking about those dance moves you’ve likely seen.
“M3GAN” is streaming on Peacock.