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The Terrors of the Computer: 90’s Technology-based Thriller Movies Holding Up

Movie concepts of technology in the near future and the products we have today.

These are movies that are based on what personal computing could be. Especially the internet. These were thrillers back in the 1990’s now they are more like a missing sub-genre of movies that are surprisingly forgettable. For fantasy movies, I am not going to analyze what the made-up technology is but the concept of what technology could have been. It’s almost like looking back and seeing all the movies that were cutting edge and innovative to see if it really holds a candle to today.

In the 1990s a lot of technology that we see today was just in its concept and developmental stage. This was a decade that developed the cellphone to be more mobile with saleable features like contact lists and games, the flash drive was invented, and more homes were being connected to the internet and their own personal computer. This was a new concept that was not seen before.

Notably, in film and graphic design history, the 1990s developed Photoshop (1990) and the majority of computer-based graphic design. And in the 1990s, internet culture and new technology were influencing the movie-going public.

These are the movies from the 1990s with technology that we somewhat have today.

Ghost in the Machine (1993)

online storage and the internet

Premise: A serial killer is hunting his last victim through cyberspace. And it’s only up to some hackers to stop him.
Reaction: This movie is very dated. With dial-up, a weird look of what virtual reality was going to look like all polygon and blocky and very weird perceptions of what internet connections and networks can really do. There is a part of the film where the antagonist attacks one of the characters with the heat from a microwave.

You Got Mail (1997)

online chat

Premise: Two bookstore business owners of opposing companies start a relationship from online chats.
Reaction: Chat rooms were on the rise and there were a lot of news specials about the risks and benefits of talking to strangers. This was supposedly a sweet movie with a lot of bitter contentions from events that happen to the characters in the movie. There are some cringe-y moments that happen in the movie that face-to-face conversations could have solved 20 minutes in the movie. It is a problem that most people have with today’s technology using social media like Facebook or Twitter, not seeing the other person’s face let alone knowing them.

The Net (1995)

the internet and cookies

Premise: A computer programmer stumbles upon an illicit program in a computer game that she was testing. She’s on the run away from the lethal people who are after her and the disk.
Reaction: I actually liked watching this when I was younger. This was not about the technology about what’s on an A: drive floppy disk that could only contain less than 300 megabytes of memory. The movie covers itself up by not explaining the movie.

Virtuosity (1995)

virtual reality machinery and 3D printing

Premise: After a villainous silicone video game character escapes, the top player must take him down.
Reaction: This is one of my favourite movies I have watched when I was a child. Surprisingly, I still find it to be still entertaining after all of these years. After watching Russell Crowe in one of his early movie roles you can watch him in anything. His character, Sid.6.7, is the more entertaining aspect of this movie. Also, the tech arm Denzel is given in this film is interesting. But the rest of the movie with fault logic on how biology and technology work, a terrible backstory about the villain but I like it.

Lawnmower Man (1992)

virtual reality machinery

Premise: An engineer develops a virtual reality machine that has an adverse effect on making people smarter. The engineer tests his machine with the local lawnmower man.
Reaction: This is once again a movie that is about virtual reality. There were a lot of movies from the 1990s that were about virtual reality. In the movie, Project Five was the video game that was being developed throughout the whole movie. The movie has a lot of polygon graphics that show what interacting with graphics could look like. But it also has a concept of what virtual reality equipment would look like.

Hackers (1995)


Premise: Hackers are blamed for making a computer virus that will capsize oil tankers. It is up to these hackers to stop the virus.
Reaction: The actual hacking in the movie is merely a concept from the 1990s that has been analyzed to death just like the fashion choices from the movie. But this is noticeably the first few times hacking and the consequences are seen. There are slightly better movies like War Games. They name the virus and gave quick descriptions of what a computer virus’ is and can do.

Congo (1995)

wireless internet access and wearable media

Premise: A team was testing a communications laser connected to their office and being in the middle of the Congo jungle and discovered a lost city. But it turns violent and they lost the location of the city. They need the help of an ape to relocate the city.
Reaction: At least the internet thing held up because a lot of the movie, in general, doesn’t. This movie is goofy. It has a lot of illogical movie logic that if it wasn’t entertaining you would find it bland and stupid. This was one of the first movies that featured how wireless internet access can look from a time when dial-up internet was the only way to connect to the web. It had an external device that had to be contacting a satellite to work. The other one is wearable media. The gorilla in the movie was wearing a device that translated sign language into speech. First, there are multiple translating devices out on the market right now. They are either stand-alone devices or apps on your smartphone already.

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