Top 10 Artificial Intelligence Movies that Redefined the Field of Computer Science

How to choose a movie about AI that will shape your understanding of the field.

Andrii Torchylo
Data Scientist @ DataRoot Labs
03 Aug 2020
5 min read
Top 10 Artificial Intelligence Movies that Redefined the Field of Computer Science

Why should we watch films about artificial intelligence?

In the 21st century, movies serve as a main source of entertainment for the majority of the people. Considering the fast-paced world we live in, there is no surprise that people prefer watching a 90-minute movie over reading a 300-page book, which essentially contains the same amount of information. But what If I would say that those 90 minutes can not only be entertaining but also crucial for the beginning of your career in artificial intelligence.

AI in movies or "robots will destroy us"

The idea that robots will take over the human race was prevalent in the film industry for as long as the sci-fi genre exists. Because of the huge popularity of movies like Terminator and Robocop, for many people now, the term "Artificial Intelligence" associates with the deadly robots - the concept, which pretty much defined the main direction of the sci-fi genre. However, among those films, there are ones that not only deviated from the "deadly robots" idea but also revolutionized the field of Artificial Intelligence.

For example, inspired by Dicaprio’s famous quote “we need to go deeper” from Inception movie, the team of researches from Google revolutionalized the state of computer vision by creating a deep neural network, which was named after the movie.

Similarly, startups like Neuralink, Kami Computing, and Zuckerberg's J.A.R.V.I.S. were all motivated by movies' ideas. However, despite the clear benefit that movies about artificial intelligence bring to the research community, they are also an incredible source of inspiration for newcomers to the field.

Together with the DataRoot Labs team, we found the best 10 movies to watch if you are interested in artificial intelligence. Without further ado, here is our top-10:

1. Inception (2010)

Directed by Cristopher Nolan, Inception features famous actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page. Reaching incredible success by winning 4 Oscars and having an IMDb rating of 8.8/10, Inception proves to be one of the most successful films in the industry. The film also has its own Reddit thread.

Source IMDb

Inception is a movie that blurs the line between the dream and reality. The movie is about the group of trained agents, “extractors,” who use the innovative device for collaborative dreaming to steal important information from their targets' minds. Similarly to other Nolan's movies, Inception has a very complex and multilayer plot, which motivates people to watch this film over and over again.

However, with the recent development of devices that can scan brain activity like Neuralink, the crazy idea of seeing someone's dream is not that distant anymore. By using the data collected from such devices as a condition to Generative Adversarial Networks, it is possible to recreate what we see in the dream, which is an active area of research in DataRoot Labs.

2. Her (2013)

Directed by Spike Jonze, Her is perhaps one of the most nominated artificial intelligence movies. Awards for this movie include an Oscar for the best writing and original screenplay, Golden Globe, and 80 more wins at international cinematic competitions. The movie's cast includes Scarlet Johanson, who played the role of Samantha, and Joaquin Phoenix, who was the Theodore in the movie. The IMDb rating of this movie was 8.0/10.

Source IMDb

Her tells a story about a lonely writer Theodore who decides to purchase an artificially intelligent voice assistant. Being able to learn through experience and understand human emotions, voice assistant Samantha quickly gets closer with Theodore and they start a romantic relationship. Having fallen in love with a computer program, the protagonist feels tremendous joy and doubt.

And while many websites claim that we should not expect such technology to develop in the nearest future, a group of researches from Kami Computing has already made a huge leap forward in this field. By using state of the art NLP transformer models, they were able to create an AI chatbot that not only can understand the context of the conversation and emotional connotations but also speak with the voice of Scarlett Johansson, who voiced Samantha in the movie.

3. Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner (1982), the first movie from the franchise, is #171 in the Top Rated Movies by IMDb. The cast of the movie include iconic Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, and Sean Young, while Ridley Scott directed the movie. The film achieved 2 Oscars, 84 rating on Metascore, and 8.1/10 stars on IMDb. There is also an active thread on Reddit about this film.

Source IMDb

This dystopian science fiction movie is (subjectively) one of the best artificial intelligence movies of the past century. “Blade Runner” tells a story about Los Angeles of 2019, where a group of bio-engineered robots, replicas, escape their space colony and reveal a serious threat to humans, while a cop Rick Decard reluctantly agrees to kill them. Unlike in many movies about robots, replicas in “Blade Runner” are not immortal. Knowing that they can live only for 4 years, they explore the philosophical nature of mortality, while killing humans responsible for their creation.

This excellent movie switches the roles of robots and humans, exploring morality through the characters' actions. Especially intriguing is the fact that the authors of the movie were trying to show their vision of the future, which has already become our past. And even though we still do not have flying cars and fully intelligent robots like the ones we see in the movie, some of the advancements in bio-engineering made it possible to create synthetic body parts.

4. Westworld (2016)

Nominated for 4 golden globes and having an outstanding 8.7/10 rating on the IMDb website, Westworld is one of the most successful TV series of modern days. Written by Johnathan Nolan, Cristopher Nolan's brother, Westworld features Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, and Ed Harris in the main roles. Because of its huge popularity, Westworld even has its own Reddit thread.

Source IMDb

Westworld is an outstanding sci-fi movie with the western aftertaste. Created back in the 70s, Westworld remains one of the most prominent AI movies. The story revolves around the amusement park “for adults”, where humans’ desires are not bounded by any rules or norms and robots are serving to fulfill those fantasies. It was all until the virus intruded the code and robots turned into deadly machines, eager to take over. The 2016 adaptation of the movie into a TV series by HBO, opened a second breath for a story, as it goes deep in explaining how robots were developing consciousness and searching for justice.

The intriguing story of the Westworld demonstrates the realistic threat that AI bring alongside with amazing technology. Being closer to developing a fully AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) system, it is very important to consider investing in AI safety questions. The leading researchers from Stanford University and Google Research already consider these questions to be their main priority while building a safe AI future.

5. Ex Machina (2014)

Directed and written by Alex Garland, Ex Machina also won an Oscar for the Best Achievement in Visual Effects in 2016, alongside with other 71 wins and 156 nominations. The cast of the film included Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac. With an estimated investment of $15,000,000, Ex Machina achieved incredible graphics quality and visual effects, which made many people love this film.

Source IMDb

Ex Machina is the futuristic sci-fi thriller that tells one of the most vivid stories about AI development. Caleb Smith was just another programmer at the corporation until he wins an opportunity to spend a week in the mansion of his company’s CEO. Caleb is expected to conduct a Turing test for the Ava, a highly advanced AI developed by Caleb’s employer, but instead ends up tied in the questions of what makes him human.

Even though it might seem that Ex Machina tells a similar story to Westworld, the movie is actually closer to "Her," by focusing more on the personality of the robot. The film explores the questions of what is consciousness for Artificial Intelligence and how we need to encode morality in AI's actions - the questions that are very important in today's context. Although modern robotics are still far from generating flawless movements that we see in the movie, some of the modern advancements in Reinforcement Learning enabled us to simulate realistic motion in various settings.

6. I, Robot (2004)

"I, Robot" was directed by Alex Proyas, and Will Smith performed the main role of detective Del Spooner in the film. Having a relatively low rating (comparing to other movies on the list) of 7.1/10 on IMDb, "I, Robot" remains a very successful film nominated for Oscar.

Source IMDb

This film is the one that first comes to mind when talking about robots and artificial intelligence films. Similarly to Westworld, “I, Robot” explores the possible dangers that AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) brings to humanity. In the movie, homicide detective Del Spooner investigates the death of the prominent robotics engineer that may have been caused by a robot. Questioning the machine suspected for a murder, the detective says the most famous speech from the movie:

“Human beings have dreams. Even dogs have dreams, but not you, you are just a machine. An imitation of life. Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a... canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?”

Ironically, modern AI systems actually can do most of those things. For example, OpenAI’s neural net JukeBox can compose lyrics and music in various generous and artists style. Personally, I recommend checking out JukeBox’s 24/7 heavy metal stream on YouTube.

7. The Imitation Game (2014)

Directed by Morten Tyldym, The Imitation Game features Benedict Cumberbatch, Kiera Knightley, and Matthew Goode in the main roles. With the overall budget of $14,000,000, The Imitation Game reached incredible success winning an Oscar and 48 other awards. Fun fact: Mark Strong, who played Stewart Menzies in the movie, wears an authentic suit from 1940 to better suit his character.

Source IMDb

The movie is a historical drama about a British mathematician, Alan Turing, who attempts to decipher the German encoding machine Enigma. Together with the group of the best British crossword solvers, Alan makes the first computer ever to find a universal way of deciphering Enigma.

This awesome movie is a must-watch for two reasons. First, it shows the biographical history of Alan Turing, who is often regarded as a father of computer science. Secondly, the main character is played by Benedict Cumberbatch who is simply a superb actor. Even though this movie does not provide an insight into the future of AI, we included it on the list because it shows the first-ever application of machine learning in the history of mankind.

8. RoboCop (1987)

RoboCop was directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. The movie features Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O'Herlihy. Although not very popular today, the original RoboCop film was very successful achieving 2 Oscar nominations and collecting $53,424,681 from the Box Office. The movie also has its own Reddit thread.

Source IMDb

RoboCop is a classic in the realm of AI movies. The story takes us to the sinister streets of Detroit, dominated by crime. The police officer, Alex Murphy was terminally wounded, and a corporation Omni Consumer Products helps him to survive by turning into a cyborg, which now can change the city. Yet after learning the truth about his transformation, Murphy understands that it is not only street-crime that needs to be eradicated.

Being a cyborg in modern times is actually more realistic than one might think. With enormous progress in bio-engineering, nowadays it is relatively easy to acquire a robotic part of a body. Not to mention the neural implants revolution launched by Elon Musk. Even in Ukraine, robotics modifications are used in some companies such as DTEK, which utilizes exoskeleton from SuitX to help their miners and power engineers perform heavy work better.

9. 2001: A Space Odyssey (2018)

Directed and written by Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey features Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, and William Sylvester. Often regarded as "Unmatched accomplishment" by the critics, the movie has a stunning 8.3/10 rating on IMDb and Oscar for Best Effects. Also the movie is #90 in the Top Rated Movies list by IMDb.

Source IMDb

This 1968s science-fiction movie was one of the first to bring up the idea of AI to the cinematography. This all-time classic film tells a story of a space crew that discovered a mysterious monolith and an advanced artificial intelligence HAL 9000 that turns against them. In 2018 the movie was restored by Christopher Nolan and introduced at Cannes.

The idea of an AI like HAL 9000 working for humans in space is very common these days. In fact, the artificial intelligence plays a very important role in space engineering and data analysis. For example, NASA uses artificial intelligence for interpreting data from telescopes in order to detect exoplanets.

10. AlphaGo - The Movie (2017)

Directed by Greg Kohs with an original score by Academy Award nominee, Hauschka, AlphaGo chronicles a journey from the halls of Oxford, through the backstreets of Bordeaux, past the coding terminals of Google DeepMind in London, and ultimately, to the seven-day tournament in Seoul. As the drama unfolds, more questions emerge: What can artificial intelligence reveal about a 3000-year-old game? What can it teach us about humanity?

Unlike most films on this list, AlphaGo is not about futuristic sci-fi stuff that may or may not happen in the future. Instead, it is an incredible documentary about AI advancement that has already occurred in our reality. The story is about a team of researches from DeepMind, who found an algorithm that can play professionally Go - an ancient Chinese board game, which for a long time considered to be “too difficult to teach the machine to play.”

By using a dataset of the best Go players and Reinforcement Learning algorithm, researches were able to train the agent that could defeat the current world champion, Lee Sedol. This victory, often regarded by the press as a “computer’s domination over the human race,” was actually just the beginning of the story. Soon after the match, DeepMind released a new version of the program called AlphaZero, but this time the program did not pre-train on the collected datasets of professional Go players but instead learned completely by the self-play. This new approach eliminated human bias and eventually led to the state of the art in chess, shogi, and Go.

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Andrii Torchylo
Data Scientist @ DataRoot Labs
Andrii Torchylo is a Data Scientist at DataRoot Labs. Andrii works on the NLP-related tasks and contributes code to Kami Computing startup. From high school, Andrii was passionate about physics and astronomy and won several national-level olympiads. After finishing 10 grades of Ukrainian school, Andrii got accepted to Taft School, an American boarding school located in Watertown, CT. Before joining the team, Andrii took several courses at DataRoot University and worked as a summer intern in DataRoot Labs, where he developed his interest in the field of Machine Learning and AI. Besides, Andrii loves to play chess and run.
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