Every year, new movies inspire audiences to think about the future of technology. From The Lawnmower Man (1992) to Ready Player One (2018), these films have either predicted technological advancements or dramatically captured them.
Here is a list of ten films that may be worth watching for those interested in learning about the cinematic history of virtual reality.
Movies about Virtual Reality
1. The Lawnmower Man
The Lawnmower Man (1992) is one of the first films about virtual reality (VR) and is based on a story by Stephen King. The film took place in 1992 when VR was called virtual reality. It follows the story of a young man named Jobe who lives in Florida with his mother and stepfather. While mowing the lawn one day, Jobe suffers an accident that gives him virtual reality powers, which his stepfather decides to use for evil.
2. Ready Player One
This movie is based on the 2011 novel Ready Player One. While some of the elements of the book are missing, enough of the story remains to make it a great film. The movie follows Wade Watts, who lives in a world where virtual reality has become an escape from reality. Wade and other people like him live in a digital world called Oasis. In Oasis, one form of entertainment has become more important than anything else: video game combat.
3. The Matrix
This sci-fi thriller is based on the idea that humans lead a false reality to distract them from their miserable lives. The main character, Neo, was born into this world and was pulled into an alternate reality called the Matrix. After not being able to reconcile his virtual reality experience with his actual life, he begins a journey that leads him to discover what is real.
4. Strange Days
This action thriller takes place in Los Angeles during the early 1990s when the rise of virtual reality led to new technological developments. The main character, Lenny Nero, has a VR device called a “squid” that allows him to experience someone else’s memory. In addition to recording these memories, Nero also sells them for profit. By 1995, virtual reality headsets were already available on the market, and some even included wireless technology.
The film eXistenZ (1999) is the last of three films by Canadian director David Cronenberg. The story follows Allegra Geller, an expert in virtual reality games, and Ted Pikul, a game designer. Together they test out eXistenZ, a VR game meant to be indistinguishable from reality. The film highlights the idea that technology is becoming more important than nature, which leads people to become disconnected from the world around them.
6. The Thirteenth Floor
Four years after The Thirteenth Floor was released in theatres, the movie was chosen as Netflix’s first original film for streaming online. The story follows a businessman who has lost his job and unsuccessfully tries to find a new one. He is discovered by scientists studying time travel as part of a government project that uses virtual reality to transport people into the future. The film was said to be “the first true full-blown, mainstream exploration of virtual reality,” and it’s become a cult classic since the 1990s.
This movie is based on the book Virtuosity (1993). It occurred in 1987 when VR had already been around for several years. The main character, Jackson Howard, is an expert in VR technology and creates an illegal VR game called Head Games. The game involves being shot at by a group of people who may be linked to the mafia, and Jackson is forced to fight against them.
8. World on a Wire
This 1973 film follows an unnamed executive who has his VR suit cut off during an accident. After becoming paralyzed, he must learn how to use a vibrating wheelchair and live in the real world due to his virtual reality experience. The movie’s storyline is based on Ivan Sutherland’s first demonstration of VR technology, inspired by Saint Exupéry’s book Star Flight.
This science-fiction film is based on the short story “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison. The main character, Robert Craighead, is an expert VR designer who has created three VR programs for the US government. One day he loses his mind and becomes obsessed with his version of VR. This program allows him to create a world where he can control everything and everyone in it, including his wife and children.
10. The Cell
The movie The Cell (2000) is based on the book The Cell by Stephen King. The main character, Alice Brennan, is a young woman who has been convicted of murder and is being held in a prison cell. She does not remember the incident because she usually wears an electronic box that blocks out all of her memories. There is also an interesting twist to this film’s plot: the main character’s cellmate says he can get her real memories back using virtual reality technology.
Virtual reality has become an important part of many people’s lives. The above movies have shown that virtual reality is unpredictable and can help us see what our future could look like from the perspective of a completely different person.