The ten best sci-fi films about AI according to an expert: Wall-E, Her, The Imitation Game

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“Poses big questions about what it means to be human” … WALL-E

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Hollywood has a lot to answer for in shaping and often misinforming public discourse around artificial intelligence. In my work as an ethics fellow at The Alan Turing Institute – the UK’s national institute for data science and AI – I am often asked to address common misconceptions about AI. Countless blockbuster movies share the familiar plot line of AI developing its own superintelligence, making its own decisions and ultimately posing a threat to the future of humanity. In putting together this list, I have tried (but not entirely succeeded) to avoid these all-too-familiar, unrealistic narratives. I wish there were more movies showing AI not as a character, but rather as systems in the background that might influence plot lines while not being the central focus. That would be a far more realistic, though admittedly less dramatic, representation of AI. It may be unusual to have a list of movies about AI that tries not to include apocalyptic action adventures, but the films listed here explore the role of AI in society, our relationships with technology and bigger questions of what it means to be human.

After watching this movie as a kid, I desperately wanted my own robot (and was very disappointed when the robot I got for Christmas did little more than repeatedly bang into walls!). The robot in Short Circuit comes to life after being struck by lightning. I love that the spark of life comes from nature rather than engineering or coding. The robot learns about the world through ingesting TV shows and books, including encyclopaedias, in a manner not dissimilar to the training of today’s large language models.

Her (2013).

When Her came out, the idea that someone could fall in love with an AI still felt like a futuristic scenario. But in recent years, with a growing number of platforms offering online AI companions, it no longer seems so far-fetched – except that the relationship in this movie is reciprocal and the AI develops her own emotions. Her explores themes of intimacy and the impact that attachments to AI companions might have on human relationships.

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Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game

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Telling the story of Alan Turing – the namesake of the institute where I work – and the vital role he played in cracking the Enigma code during world war two, this movie is important not only in showing Turing’s breakthroughs during the early development of AI, but also in highlighting the brutal criminalisation and punishment that he was subjected to as a gay man. That this happened in relatively recent British history is something we should never forget or overlook. The Imitation Game provides a stark reminder of this, while also being a gripping drama with an excellent cast.

This is a beautifully crafted movie telling the story of a family whose robotic child has become unresponsive. It explores themes of grief and loss alongside the ethical dilemmas of emotional attachments to machines. With its slow pace and focus on human emotions, it is a much-needed antidote to action-packed blockbusters about AI.

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“Cleverly addresses surveillance capitalism” … Ron’s Gone Wrong

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I love finding good family movies about AI, and this one is well worth a watch, regardless of whether you have young people to join you! Teenagers in this film are fixated on their “B-bots” which mediate their friendships, but when the main character – a socially anxious boy – finally gets his first B-bot, he discovers that it is faulty. The movie cleverly addresses surveillance capitalism, the addictive nature of social media and the harm it can cause to young people, and manages to do so through a very fun storyline.

This one is wonderfully weird. Brian is a lonely, eccentric inventor who makes extraordinary contraptions out of spare parts in his old cowshed. His most marvellous creation is a robot called Charles, who has a mannequin’s head and a washing machine for a body. It may not be a realistic depiction of AI, but I love the low-tech feel of this movie. It’s quirky and sure to make you smile!

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David Earl as Brian and Chris Hayward as Charles in the “wonderfully weird” Brian and Charles

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When Frank’s son gives him a robot companion, he soon discovers it can be a helpful accomplice in committing crimes. Ultimately, Frank is faced with the dilemma of needing to delete the robot’s memory, providing a touching parallel to Frank losing his own memory through Alzheimer’s disease. In a light-hearted and gentle way, the movie examines the role of AI in companionship and care for older adults.

Ok, so one action-packed blockbuster has crept onto this list! I, Robot centres on the importance of setting rules for AI to follow and the extent to which we can predict and control how those rules might be interpreted. Though it strays far from the Isaac Asimov short-story collection it is named after, there is plenty in here that can be related to current developments and discussions around building safeguards into AI systems.

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Will Smith in I, Robot, which “strays far from the Isaac Asimov short-story collection it is named after”

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This is a fantastical and surreal adventure with wonderful characters. Themes of AI run throughout the movie. The search for the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything reminds me of many claims made about AI today, but just as the aliens in this film don’t know how to interpret the ultimate answer, I wonder if we would know what to do with such knowledge if AI somehow delivered it.

Quite possibly my all-time favourite movie! It has wonderful characters, beautiful imagery and an incredibly rich storyline. People living in space and sentient AI taking control might be familiar sci-fi narratives, but WALL-E also paints a devastating picture of people’s diminishing autonomy as AI, developed and controlled by big tech, is increasingly used to turn them into passive consumers – a scenario that feels all too plausible. WALL-E poses big questions about what it means to be human and what role we want technology to play in our lives. It really is all there, presented through the charm and gentle humour of a Disney Pixar movie.


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