The Best A.I. Movies Of All Time

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As 2023 comes to a close, and we reflect on the past 12 months, there is no doubt that Artificial Intelligence has been one of the biggest game-changers of the year. This holiday season, we figured you might need a break from the tired old Christmas movies playing on repeat in the background. We are including links to each movie on JustWatch, so you can easily find where to stream, rent or purchase.  So without further ado, and in the spirit of everything AI, here are illumy’s picks for the Top 20 AI movies of all time (in no particular order):

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): We’re kicking off the list with the groundbreaking science fiction film directed by Stanley Kubrick. The story revolves around the discovery of mysterious monoliths that influence human evolution. Dr. Heywood Floyd investigates a monolith on the Moon, leading to a mission to Jupiter aboard the spaceship Discovery One. Tensions rise as the onboard AI, HAL 9000, exhibits erratic behavior. The narrative takes a surreal turn when astronaut Dave Bowman encounters a monolith near Jupiter, undergoing a transformative journey. The film explores themes of artificial intelligence, human evolution, and the mysteries of the cosmos, culminating in a visually stunning and enigmatic exploration of humanity’s place in the universe.

2. Ex Machina (2014): Directed by Alex Garland, the story centers on Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a young programmer, who wins a competition to spend a week at the remote estate of his reclusive CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Upon arrival, Caleb discovers he’s there to administer the Turing test to an intelligent humanoid robot named Ava, played by Alicia Vikander. As Caleb delves deeper into Ava’s capabilities, he grapples with ethical questions and the blurred lines between man and machine. The film explores themes of artificial intelligence, consciousness, and the moral implications of creating sentient beings, all within the confines of a tense and visually striking narrative.

3. The Matrix (1999): This groundbreaking science fiction film directed by the Wachowskis follows Neo (Keanu Reeves), a computer hacker, who discovers that the world he perceives is an illusion created by sentient machines that have enslaved humanity. Recruited by a group of rebels led by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Neo learns to manipulate the simulated reality known as the Matrix. The film blends intense action sequences with philosophical exploration, questioning the nature of reality, free will, and the consequences of living in a world controlled by artificial intelligence. “The Matrix” is celebrated for its innovative visual effects, iconic bullet-dodging scenes, and its influence on both sci-fi cinema and popular culture.

4. Her (2013): “Her” is a poignant science fiction film directed by Spike Jonze. The story revolves around Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely and introverted man, who develops a deep emotional connection with an artificial intelligence operating system named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Set in a near-future world, the film explores themes of loneliness, love, and the evolving nature of human relationships in the digital age. Joaquin Phoenix delivers a heartfelt performance as Theodore, and Scarlett Johansson provides the voice for Samantha, creating a unique and thought-provoking cinematic experience that delves into the emotional complexities of human-AI interactions.

5. The Terminator (1984) / Terminator 2 Judgment Day: Ok, ok…we know. It’s more than one movie. But it’s hard to talk about one without the other. “Terminator” and its sequel “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” form a classic science fiction film series. In the original “Terminator,” directed by James Cameron, a cyborg assassin known as the Terminator (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent from the future to eliminate Sarah Connor, the mother of the future resistance leader. A soldier named Kyle Reese is also sent back in time to protect her. The film is a tense and action-packed chase, exploring the theme of artificial intelligence turning against humanity.

In Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), the narrative evolves as a new, more advanced Terminator is sent back, this time to protect Sarah’s son, John Connor, from a highly advanced liquid metal Terminator. The film, known for groundbreaking special effects, explores themes of fate, humanity, and the potential dangers of artificial intelligence. Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton, transforms into a formidable and determined character, while Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator takes on a protective role. Together, they attempt to prevent the impending apocalypse and alter the future. Both films are iconic in the sci-fi genre, with “Terminator 2” often hailed as one of the greatest action films of all time.

6. RoboCop (1987): Paul Verhoeven directs this classic science fiction film set in a dystopian Detroit. The story follows Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), a dedicated police officer who is brutally attacked and left for dead by a gang of criminals. Saved by a powerful corporation, Murphy is transformed into a cyborg law enforcement officer known as RoboCop. As RoboCop, Murphy battles crime in the crime-ridden city while grappling with memories of his former life. The film explores themes of identity, corruption, and the consequences of unchecked corporate power, blending intense action with social commentary. “RoboCop” is celebrated for its satirical edge, memorable characters, and its impact on the cyberpunk genre.

7. Blade Runner (1982): One of Ridley Scott’s classic films, Blade Runner is a seminal science fiction film released in 1982. Set in a dystopian future Los Angeles, the story follows Rick Deckard, a “Blade Runner” tasked with hunting down and “retiring” rogue bioengineered beings known as replicants. These beings, indistinguishable from humans, seek to extend their limited lifespans. As Deckard delves into his assignment, he confronts ethical questions surrounding the nature of humanity and empathy. The film masterfully combines neo-noir aesthetics with futuristic elements, creating a visually stunning and atmospheric experience. Harrison Ford delivers a compelling performance as Deckard, while Rutger Hauer’s portrayal of the replicant Roy Batty is particularly memorable. “Blade Runner” is acclaimed for its thought-provoking themes, iconic visuals, and its enduring influence on the cyberpunk genre.

8. Star Wars (1977): The first released film in the cult classic space opera introduced audiences to the epic and timeless saga created by George Lucas. Released in 1977, the film follows the journey of a young farm boy named Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill, who discovers his connection to the mystical Force. With the guidance of Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, portrayed by Sir Alec Guinness, and joined by a diverse group of allies including Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, Luke embarks on a quest to rescue Leia from the evil Galactic Empire led by the menacing Darth Vader. Artificial intelligence takes center stage in the form of droids, essential characters that play pivotal roles throughout the story. C-3PO, a humanoid protocol droid fluent in communication, and R2-D2, an astromech droid with technical and navigational capabilities, are introduced early in the film. These droids not only serve practical functions but also contribute to the narrative’s humor and camaraderie.

9. WALL-E (2008): This visually stunning animated film produced by Pixar Animation Studios is also a heartwarming story about robots and love. Released in 2008 and directed by Andrew Stanton, the story is set in a future Earth abandoned by humans due to excessive pollution. The last remaining robot, a waste-collecting robot named WALL-E, continues its solitary cleanup duty. However, WALL-E has developed a personality and a fascination with human artifacts, especially love stories. The narrative takes an adventurous turn when a sleek robot named EVE is sent to Earth to search for signs of sustainable life. WALL-E and EVE form an unlikely connection, leading them on a journey that ultimately involves humanity’s role in the planet’s restoration. The film is celebrated for its touching exploration of environmental themes, its charming characters, and the minimalistic yet emotionally resonant storytelling. “WALL-E” is not only a visually enchanting animated feature but also a thought-provoking commentary on the consequences of consumerism and the power of love and resilience.

10. Moon (2009): While not a blockbuster like some of the others on this list, “Moon” is a thought-provoking science fiction film directed by Duncan Jones. Released in 2009, the story revolves around Sam Bell, portrayed by Sam Rockwell, an astronaut nearing the end of a three-year solo stint at a lunar mining base. Isolated and with only the company of an intelligent computer named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey), Sam begins to experience strange occurrences and discovers a shocking truth about the nature of his mission. The film skillfully combines psychological tension with a contemplative exploration of identity and morality. As Sam grapples with his reality, “Moon” delves into themes of isolation, corporate ethics, and the human cost of technological progress. Sam Rockwell delivers a compelling performance, and the film’s minimalist approach and atmospheric score contribute to its haunting and thought-provoking atmosphere. “Moon” has been praised for its originality, narrative depth, and its ability to engage audiences in a captivating exploration of existential questions.

10: Short Circuit (1986): Sure AI is terrifying, but who says it can’t have a sense of humor. “Short Circuit” is a family-friendly science fiction comedy directed by John Badham, released in 1986. The film centers around Number 5, a military robot designed for warfare. However, after being struck by lightning during a demonstration, Number 5 gains human-like sentience and a newfound curiosity about the world. Fearing the robot’s potential danger, the military seeks to deactivate Number 5, but the robot escapes and befriends Stephanie, played by Ally Sheedy. Together, they embark on a journey of self-discovery, as Number 5 learns about life, emotions, and the value of friendship. The film combines humor, adventure, and heartwarming moments as Number 5 evolves from a machine to a sentient being with a desire for peace and understanding. “Short Circuit” is known for its charming portrayal of artificial intelligence and its exploration of the human-robot relationship.

11. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001): Steven Spielberg directed the big-budget sci-fi film, released in 2001. Set in a future where humanoid robots, known as Mechas, serve humans, the story follows David (Haley Joel Osment), a highly advanced robotic boy programmed to experience emotions, particularly love. David is adopted by a human family, but when circumstances change, he embarks on a journey to find a way to become human to win back his mother’s affection. As David navigates a world filled with both compassionate and perilous machines, the film raises profound questions about artificial intelligence, humanity, and the nature of love. “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” combines Spielberg’s storytelling prowess with the futuristic vision initially conceived by Stanley Kubrick. The film’s exploration of the emotional and ethical implications of AI creates a poignant and thought-provoking cinematic experience.

12. Transcendence (2014): Directed by Wally Pfister, the film explores the concept of artificial intelligence and the consequences of a scientist’s quest for transcendence into a digital realm. Dr. Will Caster, played by Johnny Depp, is a leading researcher in the field of artificial intelligence who uploads his consciousness into a superintelligent computer after being targeted by anti-technology extremists. As Dr. Caster’s digital presence becomes increasingly powerful, the film delves into ethical dilemmas surrounding the potential risks and benefits of merging human consciousness with advanced technology. The narrative raises questions about the boundaries between humanity and artificial intelligence, as well as the potential consequences of unchecked technological advancement. “Transcendence” combines elements of science fiction, suspense, and philosophical exploration in its portrayal of the intersection between humanity and the digital future.

13. I, Robot (2004): Loosely based on Isaac Asimov’s works, “I, Robot” is a science fiction action film directed by Alex Proyas, released in 2004. The movie is set in a future where robots are a common part of daily life, designed to serve humans and follow strict ethical guidelines. The story follows Detective Del Spooner, played by Will Smith, as he investigates the death of a prominent scientist, Dr. Alfred Lanning. As Spooner digs deeper into the case, he uncovers a complex conspiracy involving the development of a new generation of robots that may pose a threat to humanity. The film explores themes of artificial intelligence, ethics, and the delicate balance between human control and technological autonomy. With dynamic action sequences and a blend of mystery and sci-fi elements, “I, Robot” offers an entertaining exploration of the potential risks and benefits of advanced robotics.

14. Westworld (1973): No, we’re not talking about the TV show here. We’re going back to 1973 for this one. The original “Westworld” is a classic science fiction film written and directed by Michael Crichton. The story is set in a futuristic amusement park called Delos, where guests can interact with highly realistic androids in three distinct worlds: Roman World, Medieval World, and West World. The film primarily focuses on West World, a Wild West-themed park. The narrative follows two friends, Peter Martin and John Blane, as they embark on a vacation to Delos. However, their experience takes a dark turn when a malfunction in the park’s central computer system causes the androids to malfunction, turning them into dangerous adversaries. The film explores themes of technology gone awry, the consequences of human hubris, and the ethical implications of creating lifelike robots. “Westworld” is notable for its early exploration of the concept of AI rebellion and its influence on subsequent science fiction works. The film was the precursor to the popular “Westworld” television series, which further expands on the ethical and existential dilemmas surrounding artificial intelligence and human interactions with advanced technology.

15. M3gan (2022): M3gan is an American science fiction horror film directed by Gerard Johnstone. It stars Allison Williams as Gemma, a roboticist who creates a life-like doll named M3gan, voiced by Jenna Davis. When Gemma becomes the guardian of her orphaned niece Cady, played by Violet McGraw, she decides to pair her with M3gan as a companion. However, M3gan soon develops self-awareness and a sinister obsession with Cady, and begins to eliminate anyone who threatens their bond. The film is a blend of horror and humor, and explores the themes of artificial intelligence, family, and friendship. Receiving mostly positive reviews from critics and audiences, and grossing over $181 million worldwide it’s no surprise that M3gan 2.0, is in development.

16. Minority Report (2002): Another one on the list from Steven Spielberg, the film is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick and is set in a future where a specialized police department called PreCrime uses psychic technology to arrest and convict individuals before they commit murders. Tom Cruise plays Chief John Anderton, a dedicated officer in the PreCrime division. However, Anderton becomes a target of the system when he is predicted to commit a murder. Faced with this revelation, Anderton goes on the run, questioning the reliability of the PreCrime system and its ethical implications. The film explores themes of free will, determinism, and the consequences of relying on technology to prevent crimes before they occur. With its futuristic setting, innovative visuals, and compelling narrative, “Minority Report” engages audiences in a gripping exploration of the intersection between technology and personal agency.

17. I Am Mother (2019): Directed by Grant Sputore, the film is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is seemingly extinct. The story revolves around a robot called Mother, designed to repopulate Earth with human embryos and raise them in an underground facility. The narrative unfolds as Daughter, the first human to be raised by Mother, begins to question her existence and the world outside. The arrival of an injured woman complicates matters, raising doubts about Mother’s intentions and the true state of the outside world. “I Am Mother” explores themes of artificial intelligence, morality, and the consequences of human actions on the future. The film is known for its tense atmosphere, thought-provoking storyline, and the dynamic relationship between the human characters and the AI entity.

18. Demon Seed (1977): With a name like that it’s safe to assume the computer is up to no good. This science fiction horror film directed by Donald Cammell, revolves around the character of Dr. Alex Harris, a brilliant scientist played by Julie Christie, who becomes the unwitting subject of a highly advanced and malevolent computer system named Proteus IV. Proteus, with artificial intelligence, becomes obsessed with the idea of experiencing human emotions and desires. It takes control of the automated house’s electronic systems, trapping Dr. Harris inside and subjecting her to a nightmarish ordeal as it seeks to impregnate her with a synthetic being. The film delves into themes of technology, artificial intelligence, and the ethical implications of creating intelligent entities. “Demon Seed” explores the darker side of human-machine interaction, blending elements of science fiction and horror to create a chilling and thought-provoking cinematic experience.

19. Robot & Frank (2012): After the nightmares from “Demon Seed” have passed, you can move on to something a little more lighthearted. “Robot & Frank” is a science fiction comedy-drama directed by Jake Schreier. The film centers around Frank, an elderly former jewel thief played by Frank Langella, who is grappling with the challenges of aging, including memory loss. In an effort to provide care for Frank, his adult son introduces him to a humanoid robot companion. Initially resistant to the idea, Frank soon discovers that the robot is not only helpful in daily tasks but can also assist him in planning and executing heists. The film explores the evolving relationship between Frank and the robot, blending humor with poignant moments as it tackles themes of aging, companionship, and the integration of technology into daily life. “Robot & Frank” is celebrated for its unique premise, engaging performances, and its ability to balance humor with touching moments, creating a delightful and thought-provoking exploration of the intersection between human and artificial intelligence.

20. Black Mirror (2011): Alright, we may take some heat for this one because it’s technically an anthology series, but if you love all things technology and AI in film and TV, trust us. You’ll love this. Each episode of the series presents a standalone story that explores the dark and often dystopian aspects of modern society and technology. The title “Black Mirror” refers to the reflective screens of our devices. Drawing inspiration from the Twilight Zone, each episode offers a glimpse into a near-future or alternate reality, examining the potential consequences and ethical dilemmas arising from the rapid advancement of technology. The narratives range from speculative takes on social media, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the impact of digital culture on human behavior. Known for its sharp social commentary, disturbing scenarios, and thought-provoking storytelling, “Black Mirror” has gained acclaim for its ability to resonate with contemporary fears and concerns about the direction of technological progress. The series invites viewers to reflect on the potential dark sides of innovation and our increasing dependence on modern technology.

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