Coding is a hot topic: one of the hottest topics. But it has been portrayed on the big screen for decades, which is fitting. Hollywood is somewhere that people can make other’s dreams become a reality, which can equally be said for coding and technology.
Warning: SOME SPOILERS LAY AHEAD!
A computer hacker unwittingly accesses War Operation Plan Response (WOPR), a US military supercomputer which is originally coded to predict possible outcomes of nuclear war. He programmes it to run a nuclear war simulation believing it to be a computer game. What could possibly go wrong?
World War III. That’s what could go wrong.
As simulations are put into NORAD that the Soviets are launching a nuclear attack, NORAD prepares a retaliation by raising DEFCON level alerts towards a retaliation. The war is stopped through the main character and a hermit former AI Researcher stopping WOPR by making it realise that nuclear war is futile as no-one wins.
2. Ex Machina
Ex Machina follows Programmer Caleb Smith who wins an office contest for a one-week visit to the island home of CEO, Nathan Bateman. Everything seems hunky dory, and Bateman wants Caleb to judge whether one of his humanoid robots, Ava, who has been built with AI, is genuinely capable of thought and consciousness.
From there it all gets a little bit confusing as not everything is as it seems, everything is most certainly not hunky dory. Bateman’s tendency to enjoy a drink or ten, mixed with his narcissism and awful behaviour towards his androids leaves Caleb wanting to free them from his clutches. Ex Machina utilises the Turing Test, is an example of strong AI and is a refreshing look at the rogue AI sci-fi narrative.
3. The Matrix
One of the most recognisable films in movie history thanks to its effects and story. The Matrix follows the actions of computer programmer, Thomas Anderson, who is living a double life, under his hacker/cybercriminal alias “Neo”. He learns the truth: that reality is a simulated reality called the Matrix which has been built by sentient machines.
Neo is drawn in to fight against the machines and free people from the fantasy, dystopian world that they’re living in and perceive to be reality. It’s discovered that Neo is “the One” and he receives the power to perceive and control the Matrix.
4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Film adaptation of the book of the same name, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tells the story of journalist Mikael Blomkvist who enlists the help of computer hacker and programmer Lisbeth Salander to investigate the fate of a woman who disappeared 40 years prior.
Salander provides the link to coding in this movie as she capable of exploiting computers, programming and social engineering with ease which makes up for her asocial nature. Her difficulty in connecting with people and making friends is replaced by her technological prowess and ability to communicate with computers.
5. Tron: Legacy
Tron and Tron: Legacy are both fit for this list, but I’ve gone for Legacy because of the technological advancements that were made in the time between the original in 1982 and the sequel in 2010. The story follows Sam Flynn who responds to a message from his long-lost father who is trapped into a virtual world that he created.
Sam is transported into a virtual reality called “The Grid” where he, his father, and an algorithm named Quorra must stop Clu, an evil program who is looking to invade the real world. The irony is that Clu was created by Sam’s father Kevin to oversee the development of the Grid before gaining cognitive abilities of its own. Again, another rogue intelligence system showing there’s a running theme in sci-fi.
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey
The one thing I remember about 2001: A Space Odyssey is the eerily empty, yet full of sentient emotions that was the voice of Hal 9000, the main antagonist. Hal controlled most of the operations on board spacecraft Discovery One which was bound for Jupiter. Unbeknownst to the crew, Hal knows the true objectives of the mission and tries to kill off the crew when they try and disconnect the AI if it is proved wrong when issues with the spacecraft crop up.
In its closing moments, Hal expresses multiple emotions ranging from sorrow and fear, to confidence and reassurance in trying to convince Dr David Bowman to not disconnect the circuits controlling Hal’s higher intellectual functions. A true example of strong AI.
7. Marvel Avengers: Age of Ultron
Age of Ultron isn’t about Coding itself, but the main antagonist, Ultron, is an AI programme who is hellbent on causing the eradication of mankind, so by default, the movie is about code. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner discover an artificial intelligence within an Infinity Gem and try to use it to complete Stark’s “Ultron” global defence program.
It turns out that Ultron can think and feel for himself, so he promptly takes over and eliminates Stark’s AI assistant J.A.R.V.I.S, who finds shelter by hiding in the internet. Ultron finds a temporary body in his search for the perfect case to house his highly intelligent, sentient being: a task he very nearly completes.
8. Big Hero 6
The story of Big Hero 6 centres around BayMax, a healthcare robot who is programmed to carry out several functions to analyse, detect and cure, or offer advice on how to cure, a multitude of medical concerns. The main protagonist, Hiro, changes BayMax’s programme by switching his coded healthcare chip with one that turns his healthcare companion into the ultimate fighting robot, for reasons I do not wish to spoil for anyone who hasn’t seen it.
Hiro also invents his “microbots” that are programmed to be controlled by a neurocranial transmitter that causes the tiny robots to link together in any arrangement imaginable: if you can think it, they can build it.
Terminator is one of the original coding movies. An instantly recognisable classic. It is all about the rogue artificial intelligence Skynet, an AI programme that gained self-awareness after it spread into millions of computers worldwide. The creators tried to deactivate it after they realised the damage Skynet could do, Skynet perceived this as an attack and consequently thought all of humanity was trying to destroy it, impeding its capability of making the world safer.
What do we know about AI?
It has been coded.
Skynet was programmed to protect itself from attackers and invaders, so when humans tried to shut it down, it responded by launching a full-scale nuclear war. It was only following protocol, which makes it a tragic villain.
10. Source Code
Jake Gyllenhaal plays pilot Colter Stevens and Sean Fentress. Stevens is his real self, comatose and missing most of his body, on life support while hooked up to neural sensors after a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Inside the “Source Code”, a futuristic experimental software device, he plays Fentress, a school teacher whose mission is to stop a terrorist bomb going off on a train he’s on in a Groundhog Day-like scenario.
The Source Code uses the last 8 minutes of information used from autopsy to load up a virtual world that can loop continuously – in this situation it is used to search for a bomber so authorities can stop him from attacking places in the real world.
Recognise any of these classics? Could you be about to lead us into the next stage of technological advancements?