Sometimes a scene stands out as a perfect example of something which is “so Cyberpunk”, whether it’s containing film continues that inclination or not. This is a list of the ones burned into our mind – have a read and offload your own favourites in the comments.
RoboCop (1987) – RoboCop is born.
Showing a robotic transformation isn’t particularly ground-breaking in scifi. What Paul Verhoeven does with RoboCop, however, is show a transformation from blown-to-pieces-and-legally-dead cop into crime-fighting cyborg from the subject’s own first-person perspective. The sound design here is particularly effective for immersing us in the scene.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – The dying computer
(Spoiler warning) One of the most disturbing deaths portrayed in a film has to be this one. A long, drawn-out sequence where a synthesised voice transitions from emotion to emotion in an attempt to prevent it’s human controller from completing his task (tearing out the inner circuitry of the mainframe).
Blade Runner (1982) – Industrial punks, Harrison’s silhouette + Tear drops in rain.
Obviously we’ve picked two scenes here, it’s Blade Runner! In the first we see two Industrial-punk men dressed in black in the corner of the frame as Deckard pursues a replicant target across the sprawling street-level of the films amazing dystopian city setting. (Spoiler warning) The second is one of the most powerful scenes in scifi film – Roy the “more human than human” artificial person comes to terms with the realisation that he has no more time left to live by saving the life of the man sent to “retire” him, and dropping chunky metaphors about memories and rain.
Strange Days (1995) – POV introductory sequence
Whilst the rest of the film falls short in the eyes of some hardcore Cyberpunk fans, the first-person POV opening sequence is a mind blowing introduction to the core technology of the story – the ability to record human experiences on a sensory level. And of course, the person recording himself is an armed criminal partaking in a drug-fuelled robbery/subsequent police chase.
Skyfall (2012) – Silhouettes fighting against neon
Whilst it is unlikely that Skyfall will be remembered as one of the best Bond films, there’s no doubt that it was visually one of the most beautiful. And our favourite scene? You guessed it – Bond gatecrashes an assassination set-up in China by creeping through a maze of neon-reflected glass to where the sniper is hiding, before the ensuing choreographed brawl which looks incredible lit from behind by the neon skyscrapers of Shanghai. Will it be revealed in the next film that Bond is actually a cyborg?
Terminator (1984) – Arnold gouges out his own eye.
Until this point in the film, the only proof we’ve seen that Arnold is really a robot covered with human flesh is that he isn’t dying when he gets shot. Showing him completely emotionless whilst digging his damaged eye out of it’s socket gets the message across though, and is one of the most effective scenes in the film.
Star Trek: First Contact (1996) – Reconnecting the Borg Queen
The Borg Queen’s upper torso (complete with dangling metal spinal column) is mechanically lowered onto the rest of her body and attached with skin-grips. Follow this on by Data’s first sensual skin-contact with afore-mentioned Borg queen, and we really are stacking up the Cyberpunk.
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983) – Vader’s real face revealed
Whilst not often cited for it’s Cyberpunk elements, Star Wars did introduce one of the best known cyborg characters in the history of scifi: Darth Vader. In this scene from the 3rd film, we finally see the face of the menace who is “more machine than man” as he takes a step towards redemption in the last moments of his life.
Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) – Full body transformation
A man who has a sordid obsession with inserting pieces of metal into his own flesh gradually transforms into a grotesque mecha-mutant, complete with girlfriend-slaughtering drill-penis. There’s Japanese Cyberpunk body horror for you. In the final scene of the film we see the protagonist, completely consumed by his obsession, setting out to conquer the world.
Videodrome (1983) – Entering the TV
Man and machine merge in one of the most bizarre scenes in the list (trust David Cronenberg to be behind this one). As his hallucination-driven obsessions progress, a television executive enters his TV set (head-first) whilst trying to find the source of an extreme torture channel which he has inadvertently picked up.