A good movie will draw you into the world it has created and make you feel part of it. So much so, that there’s a chance you’ll leave the theater after with a bit of an adrenaline rush. Maybe the latest Bond flick has you feeling like you can be the next 007. Maybe an over-the-top car chase has you pressing on the gas pedal and drifting like a pro. Maybe the story of a talented musician has you thinking you could pick up a guitar and strum a perfect rhythm.
Most of the time we’re left with wanting more. We want something similar, yet new at the same time. You don’t want to watch the same film again, you want to watch something that pairs nicely. Here at ScreenAge Wasteland, we’ve selected six films that you should watch after Blade Runner.
Here are the pairings.
Ex Machina | Lee McCutcheon
A much-discussed theme from Blade Runner is the blurred line between humanity and artificial intelligence. Ex Machina takes the same topic and looks at it from a different angle as we witness an in-depth Turing test – the test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. The plot follows Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a likable (and a little nerdy) employee of search engine company Blue Book. He wins an office contest for a week-long visit to the home of Blue Book CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac). That might not sound like anything to get excited about, but Nathan is considered a genius, idolized by the technology community. A Steve Jobs type character if you will. It also helps that he resides in a luxurious state of the art home, isolated deep within the beautiful countryside.
It soon becomes clear Caleb is there for more than a holiday as he is introduced to Ava (Alicia Vikander), Nathan’s latest attempt to create the perfect humanoid AI. The meat of the story lies in the daily interactions between Caleb and Ava, as he tries to work out whether or not she could pass as a ‘real’ human. As the narrative plays out with a number of twists and turns, it’s the three fantastic lead performances that will keep you gripped. Gleeson has just the right level of amiability to draw endearment, Isaacs an unhinged charismatic charm that keeps us guessing, and Vikander an alluring yet uncertain innocence.
Alex Garland really is one of the most exciting directors working today, and while he has done plenty of screenwriting in the past, the fact that Ex Machina was his directorial debut is extremely impressive.
Popeye | Sailor Monsoon
Blade Runner, like many masterpieces before it, wasn’t a hit critically or financially when it first came out. The film went through a long gestation period where it evolved from being a flop to a cult hit to eventually becoming a classic of cinema. Nerds who appreciate the technical aspects of film, loved it immediately but it took time for everyone else to get on board. Which is exactly what is happening with Robert Altman’s Popeye. Albeit extremely slowly.
While Blade Runner was a victim of poor timing (curse you E.T.!), Popeye was savagely attacked while it was still in production due to it going over budget and schedule. Much like Heaven’s Gate and The Lone Ranger, it was written off as a turkey before it was released; a reputation it still carries to this day. When people think Popeye, they think “expensive flop” instead of “unsung masterpiece that was unjustly buried due to bullshit circumstances” like they should. It deserves every ounce of love and admiration that Blade Runner deserves because it, too, created a living, breathing world that felt alive.
Sweethaven is just as brilliantly designed as the cyberpunk gritty metropolis of Ridley Scott’s magnum opus. The comically dilapidated fishing town looks as though it was ripped right out of a Fleischer cartoon. The streets run at odd angles, each punctuated with buildings that feel as though they’re built on top of each other or rather, holding each other together. It’s populated by characters that never feel like filler. There are no side characters in Popeye, each one of them has lives and personality that lives outside of the frame. Wolf Kroeger deserves as much credit for helping shape the look and feel of comic book movies as much as Lawrence G. Paull does for changing the look of sci-fi. In addition to its otherworldly production design, the film has a soundtrack as good as Vangelis’ score and the casting is equally as inspired. If boring ass Blade Runner can get a critical resurgence, Popeye should too, goddamn it. It does everything that film does equally as well. You shouldn’t chase Blade Runner with Popeye, you should retire Blade Runner and just watch Popeye instead.
Code 46 | Billy Dhalgren
One of the most common criticisms of cyberpunk is that the genre has not grown or evolved in the nearly 40 years since the term was coined to describe a strain of techno-dystopian science fiction. In a strange twist, the depressing setting of an ever-dark, wasted earth populated by downtrodden masses of people captured the imaginations of millions of science fiction fans and became a kind of totem for the nihilism that had settled over the west in the post-hippie late 1970s and early 1980s. The look of cyberpunk was so strong and compelling that the genre ultimately became more about its aesthetics than the themes that represented its foundation.
Code 46 drops the neon drenched punk aesthetic and replaces it with real-world locations to create a multi-cultural world that is at the same time both familiar and strange. That strange familiarity is mirrored in the love story that lies at the heart of the film between Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton’s characters.
Code 46 is odd. Unsettling. Some may find it disturbing. But it’s a film that deserves to be seen for its performances, its visual design, and for its contributions to the genre. If you’re looking for more Blade Runner that’s not literally Blade Runner, you can’t go wrong with this little film.
Strange Days | Vincent Kane
Strange Days is set in the last couple of days in the 20th century and follows ex-cop Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes), who gets by hocking discs containing other people’s memories for the sole purpose of living out fantasies of the virtual kind. Nero eventually receives a disc containing a murderer’s gruesome memories and finds himself seeking out the killer, diving deep into the underworld of this near-future L.A. Director Kathryn Bigelow follows a similar style as Blade Runner by blending science fiction and standard film noir conventions while offering a bleak outlook on a not too distant future.
Nero feels like what a 1990’s Deckard would be but with more of a junky and greasy flair. The movie explores themes of virtual voyeurism, rape, racism and the negative effects technology has on society. Rain-soaked streets with a smoky haze that drifts from trash-filled streets had an extra amount of menace to the means streets of Bigelow’s L.A. vision. They both gained cult followings for being criminally underrated after bombing at the box office. Only Strange Days flopped so hard it almost ruined Bigelow’s career when it was only able to make $8 million of its $42 million budget.
Under the Skin | Mitch Roush
For all its landmark achievements, Blade Runner was a testament to brilliant pacing and masterful use of vantage point. From the first frame we feel immersed in a science-fiction inspired reality but it feels … different. In that light, it’s quite possible the best modern day pairing is Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin.
As an exploration of humanity and primal faults, Glazer dares to take us on a subtly sinister tour through the lens of an alien succubus. Traveling alongside her as she discovers both herself and the lifeforms of which she targets. Through intentionally methodical pacing, and a true, captivating leading character, we slowly slip into the grotesque and unsettling realms of raw consumption. An experience that demands repeat viewings but only when you’ve the courage to venture back. Enveloping may not quite be the right word … perhaps more akin to a slow submersion into a scalding ocean. Either way, Scarlett Johansson’s career best performance champions a film that brushes with the keen sense of societal commentary genius. If nothing else, a self-discovery flick the likes of which we cannot un-see. Maybe that’s the point?
Robocop (1987) | Bob Cram
One’s a movie about a cop who hunts robots, another is a movie about a cop who IS a robot. Well, mostly.
Robocop shares a few touchstones with Blade Runner – a dystopian future, questions of identity and what it means to be human, the effect of memory on personality, free will vs determinism – but where Blade Runner addresses these things with subtlety (bordering on opaqueness at times), Robocop addresses them head-on while adding gore, 80’s corporate fascism, jabs at consumerism and pop culture (“I’ll buy that for a dollar!”) and plenty of cathartic ultra-violence.
Murphy (Peter Weller), a Detroit cop, is brutally murdered by a gang of thugs. His remains are used to create a new breed of law enforcement – the Robocop. While the project responsible for his creation is really only interested in programming the leftovers it becomes apparent that something is wrong with their creation. He may be remembering who he was.
Murphy’s memories – fleeting and disjointed – might as well be implanted like those of the replicants in Blade Runner. His wife, his kids – none of that is accessible to him anymore. They’re as gone as if they never really existed – all that’s left is their influence on who Murphy is, and who he wants to be.
Is Robocop Murphy? Or is he a machine that remembers being Murphy? Is that question too esoteric for you? Then don’t worry, this is a Paul Verhoeven film after all and there will be plenty of shootouts, explosions, huge killer robots and gore to distract you. Maybe you can ponder deeper questions after that guy gets liquefied across the hood of that car. So cool. So gross.
Those are our pairings; now it’s your turn. What do you think would pair nicely with Blade Runner?