Cyberpunk 2077 is still in a rocky state, but if you manage to overcome crashes, floating fingernails, T-posing NPCs and disappearing objects you’ll find a very intriguing game at its core. Throughout Cyberpunk‘s main story you’ll explore the strange, intertwined relationship between V and Johnny Silverhand as both vie for dominance in the same body. The plot raises questions of human consciousness, the nature of the soul and the painful dangers of tech integration waiting for us just over the horizon.
It’s a topic that’s often explored in sci-fi entertainment, dating back to the moral technology crises of the 80s and 90s to more hopeful tales in the early 2000s. There’s plenty of movies and TV shows to get stuck into if you dug the story behind Cyberpunk 2077.
Here’s a few recommendations to get you started.
Upgrade is an incredible film, and shares a lot of DNA with Cyberpunk 2077. In the retro-futuristic setting of the film, Grey Trace is a quadriplegic who turns to technology to regain his mobility. This comes in the form of STEM, a chip in his brain that controls his movements and heightens his strength, senses and capabilities.
Over the course of the film Grey discovers the true, sentient nature of STEM and what follows is a violent story of how technology can change us from the inside out. Of all the films on the list, this is the one that most closely resembles the plot of Cyberpunk, but to spell out why would spoil the excellent second half of the film. Definitely check this one out if you loved the Johnny/V dynamic.
Upgrade is streaming on Apple TV+.
Continuing in the same vein, Venom is another film that should be on your Cyberpunk 2077-inspired list. It’s got the same Johnny/V dynamic as Upgrade but it’s more excessive, more silly and more fun. To be clear: Venom is not a good film, but it is an extremely entertaining one. The bickering between Eddie Brock and Venom is gold-standard, and the action is just as ridiculous and over-the-top as it needs to be.
It’s a perfect popcorn flick, and great for any Cyberpunk 2077 fan.
Venom is available on DVD and Blu-ray in Australia.
Altered Carbon (2018 – 2020)
Unlike the other titles on this list, Altered Carbon is directly inspired by classic cyberpunk tales and the narrative of future ‘corpo’ dominance. In this dystopian tale, consciousness is a fluid matter. Like machines, humans can be transferred between vessels, but the class divide means only the richest can afford to live forever.
While Netflix wound up cancelling the show after its second season, the ideas and intrigue presented in the episodes we got are fascinating. Like Cyberpunk 2077, it explores deeper questions about human nature and how our memories become ‘us’.
Altered Carbon is streaming on Netflix.
John Wick (2014)
At this stage, everyone’s watched John Wick. If you haven’t watched John Wick, you probably should watch John Wick. Beyond sharing a Keanu Reeves between them, John Wick and Cyberpunk 2077 also share other similarities: they’re both tales of revenge, they both have stylish neon aesthetics and they’re both totally wicked, pulse-pounding action-adventures.
Reeves is fantastic in John Wick, and the action of the film is always intense, bloody and spectacular. If you’re in the mood for a thriller more than another sci-fi, put John Wick on your list.
I, Robot (2004)
I, Robot is an early 2000s cyberpunk adventure set in a future where robots have become loyal and reliable companions — until the AI program running them goes rogue and attempts to overthrow the human race. V shares a lot of similarities with protagonist Del Spooner, a detective and technophobe who needs to learn to live with robotics after a near-fatal accident.
Like others on the list, this film explores the nature of consciousness and whether AI can ever truly ‘feel’. While some of the concepts do feel dated, I, Robot mostly stands up in 2021. It’s certainly not what Isaac Asimov envisioned with his classic Robot novels, but it’s a fun and interesting sci-fi thriller all the same.
You can rent I, Robot on YouTube and other platforms, but it’s not currently available on streaming services.
Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
Johnny Mnemonic‘s plot will be familiar to anyone who’s finished Cyberpunk 2077’s story. Basically, it follows a courier in a cyberpunk future tasked with carrying a massive storage device in his brain that exceeds his memory capacity. If he doesn’t remove the chip in time, the memories will start to leak and he’ll suffer from NAS, a degenerative nerve disease. Also Keanu Reeves is there. So far, so Cyberpunk 2077.
Sadly the plot of Johnny Mnemonic is a bit more exciting than the film itself but it’s still worthwhile checking out, particularly if you’re into harder sci-fi and the existentialism of the early 90s.
Johnny Mnemonic is not currently available on streaming services.
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
While there’s been multiple anime spin-offs, TV shows and film adaptations set in the Ghost in the Shell universe, it’s the original 1995 film that holds up best. In the future of Ghost in the Shell humans have become closer to cyborgs, augmented by cybernetics and occupying new, mechanical forms. This creates a dystopian, posthuman and oppressive society.
Like Cyberpunk 2077, it questions the nature of augmentation and what pieces humans lose in the transition towards becoming more like machines. Unlike Cyberpunk 2077, it uses this story to explore deeper themes about gender identity and sexuality in a technology-driven world.
Ghost in the Shell is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Blade Runner (1982)
Blade Runner kicked off the modern cyberpunk genre with an incredible tale exploring the human psyche and how our relationships with machines may evolve into more meaningful connections. Corporate power, planned obsolescence and the strange nature of memory are just some of the themes it shares with Cyberpunk 2077, but the similarities run far deeper.
The film has inspired nearly every sci-fi and cyberpunk tale of the last three decades for good reason. It’s well-written, excellently moody and asks essential questions of our future technology. Any fan of the cyberpunk genre should make watching Blade Runner a priority.
Blade Runner is streaming on Netflix.
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