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5 Films about AI to prepare you for a robot-driven future

BY Jamie Flook

18th May 2023 Film & TV

5 Films about AI to prepare you for a robot-driven future

AI is just now starting to go mainstream, but these classic films about AI have been exploring the future of artificial intelligence for decades

With the rise of online chatbots, this year has seen AI (artificial intelligence) enter mainstream consciousness like never before.

Some people think that AI could put writers out of work by producing books and screenplays, but others argue that the competition would motivate writers to continually improve and iron out any weaknesses, such as spelling mistaks [sic].

The medium of film played with the idea of AI for many decades now. Cinema has given us a broad spectrum of AI that is friendly, evil, funny and vulnerable.

Whatever your thoughts on the subject, artificial intelligence is probably here to stay so maybe now is the time to become acquainted with what the future may hold. A good way to do that might be to watch some of these cracking films featuring impactful AI.

Ex Machina

Still from Ex Machina, courtesy of Mongrel Media, Universal PicturesCourtesy of Mongrel Media. © Universal Pictures

In Latin, the phrase “Deus ex machina” means “God from the machine”. It remains to be seen whether AI could reach some sort of God-like status, but they’re probably already making jam doughnuts in a factory somewhere.

In Ex Machina, Domhnall Gleeson plays a computer programmer who is selected by the genius CEO (Oscar Isaac) of the company he works for, to take part in an experiment involving the Turing test with an impressive AI named Ava, convincingly played by Alicia Vikander.

"It remains to be seen whether AI could reach some sort of God-like status"

For those unfamiliar with the subject, the Turing test was created by computer scientist Alan Turing to ascertain when a machine has reached a level of intelligent thinking similar to that of humans.

It is an excellent film and the remote setting of the story in a luxury home with a very small cast lends a slightly unnerving feel to the story. A must-watch film about AI.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Still from Steven Spielberg's AI Artificial Intelligence, courtesy of amblinCourtesy of Amblin

No listicle on films featuring AI would be complete without Steven Spielberg’s 2001 feature starring Haley Joel Osment as a young AI boy with human-like feelings who is abandoned by his human mother.

As is so often the way, the questions posed by the story make the film way ahead of its time. What responsibility would humanity hold for an artificial intelligence that is advanced enough to actually experience feelings and emotional turmoil?

It is ironic that the film was released in 2001, given that it was a Stanley Kubrick project for many years. But he delayed making it, until eventually he handed the reigns over to Spielberg. Kubrick of course directed one of the most famous AI-related films of all time with 2001: A Space Odyssey.    


Still from Westworld, courtesy of HBOCredit: John-Johnson. Courtesy of HBO

These days the series is probably more famous, but the 1973 film is where the Westworld story really begins.

Written and directed by the legend that is Michael Crichton (the writer of the Jurassic Park novel the film was based on), Westworld is about a theme park where life-like robots turn bad. Real bad. Yul Brynner plays a murderous robotic gunslinger who turns his weapon on the resort’s guests.

In an interview with the magazine American Cinematographer, Crichton cited two American attractions as the inspiration for writing Westworld.

"It remains to be seen whether AI could reach some sort of God-like status"

Crichton visited the Kennedy Space Centre where he said he realised that the astronauts were being trained to be machines.

The other inspiration was his observation that one could visit Disneyland where a machine version of Abraham Lincoln would deliver the Gettysburg address every 15 minutes.

There are videos of the animatronic that Crichton was referring to on YouTube and it is pretty incredible, especially when you consider it was introduced in the 1960s.

Westworld is a pioneering film in some ways and as a sci-fi western, they don’t come much better.


Joaquin Phoenix in Her, courtesy of Warner BrothersCourtesy of Warner Brothers    

The basic premise of Her is that a man (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his computer’s AI operating system (Scarlett Johansson). It’s a bit more complex than that though and is as much a film about people as it is about AI.

Given that artificial intelligence is getting smarter in the real world, it will be interesting to see how people of the future reflect upon present-day attitudes to film depictions of AI. In the meantime, Her is really worth your time as an interesting film on the human need for connection.

Brian and Charles

Still from Brian and Charles, courtesy of Universal PicturesCourtesy of Universal Pictures

When an inventor in a Welsh village develops an AI being that looks like a mature professor who acts nothing like it, the result is quite possibly the funniest film of the decade so far.

Written by David Earl and Chris Hayward who both star as the titular characters, this is a film that is the perfect antidote to the apocalyptic threats surrounding modern life in the 21st century.

"If AI does take over the world, we could probably do a lot worse than having Charles Petrescu in charge"

When the AI Charles Petrescu becomes ever-more curious about the world around him, Brian faces the challenge of working out how best to help his friend in a world that has not seen sentient AI before.

If AI does take over the world, we could probably do a lot worse than having Charles Petrescu in charge. I mean we could even go back to having humans running the joint. Now there’s a scary thought.

Banner photo: Courtesy of Mongrel-Media. © Universal Pictures

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