I have a degree in ancient history and a passion for reading, cooking, DIY projects, tea, science fiction, and a myriad of other subjects.
What Is Cyberpunk?
Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction. It typically involves dystopian near-future settings combined with advanced technology and social activist themes. Cyberpunk works are usually dark in atmosphere with intellectual and philosophical content. Common mediums for cyberpunk works include novels and short stories, comic books, video games, and film.
Cyberpunk began in the United States in the 1980s with the works of authors like William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Bruce Bethke, and Pat Cadigan. American films like Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys, Terminator, and The Matrix soon followed. The theme was picked up almost immediately by Japanese artists such as Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira, first published in 1982) and Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell, first puclished 1989). Cyberpunk reached its peak in popularity in the 1990s and early 2000s, and gained a stronger worldwide following during that time.
While most sci-fi fans are familiar with the major American cyberpunk films, the genre's foreign masterpieces are often overlooked. Here's a list of the top 5 foreign cyberpunk movies you ought to check out.
NOTE: While there are a great many excellent foreign cyberpunk anime, I'm only going to address live-action films in this article.
And without further ado, here's the list!
Name of Film: Immortal
Director: Enki Bilal
Country of Origin: France
Language Spoken in Film: English
Space-traveling ancient Egyptian god Horus returns to Earth in 2095 in search of a mysterious alien girl, Jill. He takes over the body of a fugitive political rebel, Nikopol, to search for her. Meanwhile Jill becomes a subject of medical experiments due to her totally unique physiology.
The Immortal film is based on The Nikopol Trilogy series of comic books by Enki Bilal.
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Why you should see it: It was one of the first movies to be filmed entirely on a greenscreen background and one of the first to include both real actors and CGI animated characters. It looks a little goofy today, but the technology was cutting edge when it came out. Also, the soundtrack is great.
4. Code 46
Name of Film: Code 46
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Country of Origin: Great Britain
Language Spoken in Film: English
William Geld is an insurance fraud investigator in a near-future world where people are segregated based on genetics. As Geld investigates a case of forged passports, he falls in love with the forger, Maria Gonzalez, in a genetically forbidden romance.
Why you should see it: Code 46 is unique in that it is a cyberpunk drama, rather than a cyberpunk action flick. The plot deals with the social and interpersonal implications of advanced technology, and there's not a single gun battle or martial arts fight. Plus, it's an incredibly well-made and thoughtful film.
3. Natural City
Name of Film: Natural City (내츄럴 시티)
Director: Min Byeong-cheon
Country of Origin: South Korea
Language Spoken in Film: Korean
In 2080, cyborgs and AI are common. Best friends R and Noma are MPs who hunt down rogue cyborgs, but R has secretly fallen in love with his own cyborg, Ria, who is nearing her expiration date. He turns to black market science in an attempt to save her life, but ultimately has to choose between his love and the safety of the entire city.
Why you should see it: It is really, really cool-looking. It has forbidden romance and sweet cyborg fights.
Name of Film: Casshern (キャシャーン)
Rating: Not Rated
Director: Kazuaki Kiriya
Country of Origin: Japan
Language Spoken in Film: Japanese
In the late 21st century, young soldier, Tetsuya, joins the military to fight terrorists and dies in the service. As part of a failed experiment of his father, Dr. Azuma, Tetsuya is brought back to life, and a new race of "Neo-sapiens" is created. Most of the Neo-sapiens are exterminated immediately, but a few escape and attempt to conquer and subjugate humanity. As a side-effect of the experiment, Tetsuya shares their enhanced strength and intelligence and uses his new powers to fight them.
The Casshern film is based on the 1973 Casshan anime series.
Why you should see it: Actually, you should see it more than once. There are a lot of plot details you probably won't pick up on the first time around. The story is extremely detailed with a powerful antiwar message. Plus, robot battles. Seriously awesome robot battles.
Name of Film: Avalon (アヴァロン)
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Country of Origin: Japan (filmed in Poland with Polish actors)
Language Spoken in Film: Polish
In the dystopian near-future, the multiplayer simulation video game, Avalon, is illegal due to its risk of making players comatose. Ash is a pro player who is so skilled that she makes a living through the game. Once part of an elite team of players, Ash only plays solo after the group's disbandment. When she learns that her old team leader has become one of the game's casualties, she feels compelled to investigate.
Why you should see it: The cinematography is breathtaking, the music is stunning, and the plot is thought-provoking. This is one of the best cyberpunk films out there, period.
© 2013 Christy Kirwan
Robert Sacchi on January 23, 2016:
Thank you for telling us about these movies. They all seem to be very interesting films.
JanderVK on July 11, 2014:
You can add Technotise to the list. Great Serbian Cyberpunk animated film!
DATALOAD from Michigan on June 08, 2013:
These are great. I'm always looking for more in this genre. I usually read books to get my fix.
KrisL from S. Florida on March 08, 2013:
Thanks, I'm going to have to check one or two of these out. I'm more a reader than a watcher of SF genres, but these sound good. I just read _Tears in Rain_ by Rosa Montero, translated from Spanish, and it reminds me of some of these movies.
Voted up and useful shared with my followers.