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It’s safe to say that — despite its box-office troubles — Blade Runner 2049 is making waves in the world of cinema. Visually stunning and filled to the brim with captivating sequences, Blade Runner 2049 is a pensive and finely-crafted film that stands apart from 2017’s other offerings. Indeed, many critics have highlighted that meditative movies aren't released in mainstream cinemas as much anymore.
As such, fans of Blade Runner 2049 may struggle to satisfy their cerebral, cyberpunk kicks with something similar in their local multiplexes. So if you need something to help pass the time until you see Blade Runner 2049 again, or if you simply want to "replicate" the same kind of stimulating, cinematic experience, then look no further than this handy list.
1. 'A.I. Artificial Intelligence' (2001)
Starring: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law & Frances O'Connor
Synopsis: In a world where “mecha” are commonplace, David (Osment) — a highly advanced robotic child — strives to become a real boy.
If you’re thinking that the above plot summary sounds a tad familiar, you’d be right to think so. A.I. is essentially Pinocchio but with robots, global warming and more emotional gut punches than you can shake a stick at. This is mainly thanks to Haley Joel Osment, who really brings the film to life with his endearing yet somewhat alien performance as David. However, with rejection, sex-robots (hello #JudeLaw) and impending global catastrophe on the scene, it’s clear that David isn’t going to get a happy ending very easily.
Indeed A.I. is a uniquely touching and bleak experience, thanks in part to director Steven Spielberg’s sensitivities, and the input of cinematic legend Stanley Kubrick shortly before his death. A.I. may be a movie that’s somewhat at odds with itself, but it’s a haunting story that really stays with you.
2. 'I, Robot' (2004)
Starring: Will Smith, Alan Tudyk & James Cromwell
Synopsis: In the year 2035, humanoid robots serve humanity, but when the head of America’s most prominent robotics company is found dead, the technophobic Detective Spooner (Smith) is drawn into a dangerous conspiracy.
Loosely based on several short stories by the pioneering science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, I, Robot is another great film to consider watching if you’ve recently seen the Blade Runner movies. Sure, the Chicago of 2035 is a lot sleeker than that of Blade Runner’s Los Angeles, and the film leans heavily into the d of action movie clichés that the latter two movies tend to avoid, but there’s still a lot to love here.
For one thing, #WillSmith still manages to be darn charismatic and watchable as he slouches around glowering at robots. Another plus is Alan Tudyk’s fabulous performance as the robot Sonny. And even among the CGI-shenanigans I, Robot still manages to pack in pretty poignant questions about man’s relationship with technology.
3. 'Cloud Atlas' (2012)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, & Jim Broadbent
Synopsis: Cloud Atlas tells several, decidedly different tales. In 1849, a young man makes an ocean voyage across the Pacific. In Korea circa 2144, a clone begins a revolution, and in 2012, an aged and bumbling publisher decides to escape from his nursing home. But what connects them all?
Unlike #BladeRunner, Cloud Atlas doesn’t feature many androids, yet the two properties are similar in that audiences seem to either love them or hate them. So why should Blade Runner fans consider watching it?
Well, the Wachowski’s and co-director Tom Twyker have crafted a brilliantly shot film that’s funny, thrilling, heartbreaking, and filled to the brim with heady preoccupations. Indeed, Cloud Atlas mainly deals with how our actions — compassionate or cruel — can define our descendants, and even our species, for generations to come. If that wasn’t enough for you, the film also has a unique range of entertaining performances from some of our favorite talents. Aside from some questionable make-up and prosthetics, you’re unlikely to see these stars in the same kind of roles ever again.
Did you fancy seeing #TomHanks as a cockney gangster? Or James D'Arcy in drag? Then this is the film for you.
4. 'Her' (2013)
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson & Amy Adams
Synopsis: Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) is a lonely greeting card-writer who embarks on a deep and complex relationship with Samantha (Johansson) — an intelligent computer operating system.
In an age where Amazon’s Alexa and Siri are becoming commonplace, the plot of Her is more and more prescient with every day that passes. That isn’t to say that Theodore Twombly’s world is as grim as Agent K and Deckard’s stomping ground, but it’s no less thought-provoking.
Spike Jonze’s script deftly juggles the many facets of the sci-fi and romantic drama genres so successfully that you’ll be picking over Her for days afterwards. And seriously, #ScarlettJohansson may not appear physically in the film, but her vocal performance is so expressive that she might as well be standing next to Joaquin Phoenix throughout Her's run-time.
5. 'Ex-Machina' (2015)
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac & Alicia Vikander
Synopsis: A young programmer (Gleeson) is selected to test a brand new, humanoid A.I. (Vikander), but when he suspects foul play from her creator (Isaac) tensions begin to rise.
Out of every film suggested on this list, it is probably Ex-Machina that shares the most DNA with Blade Runner 2049. Heck, it’s so concerned with the sentience of AI that it could probably serve as an early prequel to the first #HarissonFord vehicle if you so desired! Filled with beautifully moody shots and conflicted characters, Ex-Machina is uncomfortable, tense and very introspective. Without giving too much away, the way in which Nathan (#OscarIsaac) utilizes another character’s search histories to his own ends is slightly disturbing in itself. Ex-Machina is filled with these kinds of warnings about technology in the modern world, and how they dovetail with our older notions of artificial intelligence.
Gleeson, Isaac and Vikander are on fine form, and it’s clear why they are all in such demand after seeing them perform in Ex-Machina. Plus, what’s even more impressive is that this film is Alex Garland’s directorial debut! If you’re a fan of the actors, robots, or #scifi in general, this is definitely one to watch.
6. 'Arrival' (2016)
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner & Forest Whitaker
Synopsis: Alien spacecraft suddenly appear all over the globe, and linguist Louise Banks (Adams) leads a team of experts to try and communicate with the visitors before war is declared.
No, this one isn’t just included here because it’s directed by Blade Runner 2049’s Denis Villeneuve. Whilst yes, you can detect him flexing those same thematic and stylistic muscles here, Villeneuve still ensured that Arrival was one of the best films of 2016 in its own right by tackling some pretty mind-bending ideas.
Time, fate and relationships are put under scrutiny, but that doesn’t mean #Arrival is too dense to wrap your head around by any standard. Thanks to a brilliant and relatable performance from #AmyAdams (and the ever-underrated Jeremy Renner), we’re anchored throughout everything that occurs in this starkly staged but epic-feeling movie. Seriously, check this one out if you haven’t already.
As we can see from these six thought-provoking sci-fi films, Blade Runner 2049 joins a whole host of speculative cinematic experiences, each set in immersive and captivating worlds. So, if you're looking for a movie to mull-over one evening, then you need only consult the selections above!