5 movies starring computers

Homicidal. Amorous. Vengeful. Yearning. Cute. Anyone who says that computers aren't emotional hasn't seen these five films.

Computers are all over movies these days, from the ones behind the scenes that create gosh-wow special effects to the ones on screen that are the constant targets of ridiculously good-looking hackers. What's rare is finding movies where computers and programs--androids and robots don't count--are actually part of the cast. A computer hasn't won an Oscar yet, but with these five films you can at least imagine them asking, "What's my motivation?"

1. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

149893-ghost

The Ghost in the Shell title actually applies to three anime movies (and two TV series, as well as the manga and games they were all based on). They're all set on a near-future Earth where computer networks have infiltrated every aspect of life, and just about everyone has had some kind of cybernetic enhancement. That can mean a bionic arm, replacement eyes, communication jacks in the back of the neck, or a even a fully prosthetic body and cybernetic brain. (The title refers to the concept of a person's "ghost"--their soul, if you like--and their physical body.)

Ghost in the Shell follows the adventures of Section 9, a covert-operations unit that specializes in tech crimes, allowing the series to explore the many different social and political aspects of a fully technological society, as well as what it means to be human.

However, it's the 1995 movie (titled simply Ghost in the Shell) that has Section 9 trying to get a handle on a mysterious hacker called the Puppet Master--a hacker who turns out to be a computer program that has become self-aware and now wants to be recognized as a living being. The Puppet Master isn't exactly evil; it just wants to survive and evolve. Still, it's hard not to be creeped out by how the Puppet Master leaves a trail of human wreckage as it hacks people's memories in order to get its job done in the physical world.

Part police thriller, part romance, part philosophy debate, Ghost in the Shell has everything. And when you visit a world where people's brains can be hacked, it makes our malware troubles look pretty tame.

2. Tron (1982)

149893-Tron1

When Flynn has his video game ideas stolen from him and sees a successful multinational built from the profits, he relentlessly tries to find the evidence that will put things right. He sneaks into the company at night to access the mainframe, and ends up being zapped by an experimental digitizing laser that brings him into a surreal world on the other side of the computer screen.

In this world, computer programs are living beings, many of whom live under the oppression of the Master Control Program (MCP). Tired of his repeated hacking attempts, the MCP sentences Flynn to the Game Grid, hoping he'll be killed by the very games he created.

Because most of the movie takes place in the digital world, almost the entire cast consists of software on legs. Although security program Tron is the title character, props must be given to actor David Warner, who exudes enough evil to play all three of the movie's bad guys, including the MCP and his top enforcer, Sark. Another nod must go to the character Ram, an actuarial program turned hardened warrior who still gets chirpy when he talks about annuities.

If anything, Tron teaches you to have a little respect for your hard-working software. As Flynn says after a harrowing escape, "On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Emru Townsend

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?