What’s scarier than artificial intelligence predicting a nation’s every move? One that’s become sentient and gone rogue. Over the years, numerous shows and movies were made to depict the end of humanity at the hands of AI. This isn’t the current reality, but it often seems plausible.
Of course, well-made movies can make people believe anything’s possible. Many that depict sentient AIs merely reflect on the fact that humans rely on technology too much; although the times are better than ever regarding tech advancement, predicting that artificial intelligence can turn against humans is a tale as old as time – which was well-depicted in each movie on this list.
A new and terrifying story about a killing doll coming to life, M3GAN is set to premiere in theaters in January. This is a fine way to start the year off, as horror movies seem to be undergoing a high-quality revival. M3GAN was co-written and produced by James Wan, and it stars the modern scream queen Allison Williams (Get Out, The Perfection).
M3GAN is an AI doll created to be a little girl’s companion and protector. However, her programming takes that literally, eliminating anything and everything that puts the girl in harm’s way. By the looks of it, this is going to be a James Wan classic – an intriguing story with great visuals and tons of jump scares.
‘Ex Machina’ (2014)
No one can convey the discomfort of technological advancement better than Alex Garland. He did it with DEVS, but before that show, he did it with Ex Machina. Oscar Isaac, Domnhall Gleeson, Sonoya Mizuno, and Alicia Vikander star in this tense and dark feature that’s almost certainly a modern cult classic.
Ex Machina is about a young programmer Caleb who gets selected to spend time in a reclusive scientist’s home (Isaac), testing the humanoid Ava (Vikander). Caleb discusses various topics with Ava, getting to know her and her intentions more. The secluded but beautiful home they spend time in sets the tone for the film – it’s a futuristic space with the most advanced tech, buried deep in nature. Garland’s idea of combining the two never ceases to amaze.
Maika Monroe has slowly built her career as a scream queen, and Tau is just one of the movies confirming that title for her. Tau tells the story of a scientist, played by Ed Skrein, who creates a futuristic smart home named Tau that can take any form of command. Monroe plays Julia, who gets kidnapped by the scientist and forced to survive the home’s conditions.
While the expectation was for Julia to help the scientist finish his experiment and perfect it, Tau has a different idea. For it, elimination is imminent and disobeying its commands results in instant (and usually violent) death. This exciting sci-fi thriller with horror elements is stressful, exciting, and packed with action sequences.
Alien, the cinema and sci-fi classic, was one of the original rogue AI scary stories – although that’s kind of a spoiler, sorry. However, most fans of the genre have likely already seen this legendary Ridley Scott feature and know what the story, starring Sigourney Weaver, is all about.
For those who haven’t watched the movie – a crew of astronauts on a commercial spaceship gets awakened by a transmission from space. As they go to investigate, they come across what appears to be alien life forms. Not to spoil this, but the evil robot is a major plot twist – and best left for newcomers to find out. This movie remains one of the all-time favorites, and there’s even a fantastically portrayed (and also rogue) AI in the latest sequel, Alien: Covenant.
‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)
Another early day evil AI depiction comes from none other than Stanley Kubrick. His 2001: A Space Odyssey was recently voted as the best movie of all time by various directors in a Sight and Sound poll. This choice wasn’t surprising – Odyssey is a visual masterpiece, with a story that was arguably way ahead of its time.
Astronauts travel to investigate an artifact in a ship equipped by the supercomputer HAL 9000. HAL has a human personality, and a knack for survival like most men, if not better. Besides there being a fascinating and somewhat terrifying story, the movie is an invitation to enjoy cinema in its purest. Symmetry, beauty and art come together and depict a fantastic story.
‘I, Robot’ (2004)
I, Robot is one of the most famous modern action movies depicting robots as potentially going rogue and developing a consciousness. The story, however, isn’t all that new – it was written by one of the fathers of science-fiction stories, the novelist Isaac Asimov. The story of I, Robot comes from Asimov’s Robot stories collection.
Will Smith stars as a technophobic detective investigating a murder; he suspects it was committed by a robot, although that’s impossible to everyone except him, since the robots in society are programmed to not cause harm. What’s shown throughout the feature is that the robots definitely have a secret, including a well-developed consciousness.
‘Blade Runner’ (1982)
Although the events of the original Blade Runner take place in 2019, the main character Deckard (Harrison Ford) lives in a much more dystopian future than what’s known today. Interestingly, this is the second Ridley Scott feature on the list; Scott was at the helm of some of the most beloved and underrated feature films.
For people that haven’t seen Blade Runner, the year is 2019, and Deckard is a ‘blade runner’ – an officer in charge of eliminating rogue robots called ‘replicants.’ He now must find four rogue replicants wreaking havoc and committing various crimes across Los Angeles. The rogue AIs are apparent and the reason for the plot, so no spoilers. Blade Runner was based on Philip K. Dick‘s story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”
‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’ (1970)
Supercomputers going rogue always seems like a possibility; even in 1970, this trope was explored and well-imagined. Colossus: The Forbin Project was based on a D.F. Jones novel, simply titled “Colossus.” The premise is simple – the US government feels that the supercomputer Colossus can be programmed to keep the country’s nuclear codes safe, so they do it.
However, after an extensive scan, Colossus discovers Guardian, a similar supercomputer to it, but operated by the Soviet Union. It insists on connecting with Guardian, manipulating and plotting unimaginable schemes against humanity. This is a slick and thought-provoking sci-fi feature that every fan of the genre should see.
Upgrade may not fully belong to the rogue AI category, but it shows what artificial intelligence can do. It is an underrated modern classic of sci-fi; Logan Marshall-Green plays the technophobe Grey, whose wife works for a famous tech company. He asks her to help him return a self-driving car one day, but the car malfunctions, and they get into an accident.
Grey’s wife dies, and he becomes quadriplegic; while being under his mother’s care, he gets the offer of a lifetime – to get an experimental high-tech chip implant that could give him back his bodily functions, and more. Grey becomes controlled by the AI chip in his head as the perfect blend of man and machine. The trope is based on revenge, but the story is original and highly entertaining.
The story most think of when rogue AIs are mention is none other than Westworld. Although the HBO series is famous (and canceled after four seasons), fans may not be aware it was based on the feature film of the same name. Westworld is about an amusement park called Delos, with robots as characters set in the Wild West, Ancient Rome, and the Medieval Ages.
In Delos, people can visit and act out any imaginations and ideas, so it’s a form of amusement park for the rich. The film stars Yul Brynner as the robot Gunslinger and James Brolin as the human visitor that the Gunslinger chases. Despite some flaws, Westworld is a highly influential sci-fi thriller and visually very beautiful.