14 Streaming Sci-Fi Movies About Evil AI On Netflix, Prime, And More
The fear of technology has long been one of cinema's most prevalent themes. The idea that mankind's unstoppable desire to push the limits of technological invention will ultimately be our undoing has led to many sci-fi and horror classics over the years, from the mad scientist of Frankenstein to experiments-gone-wrong of The Invisible Man and The Fly.
As technology in our world has developed, so has the nature of the threat in the sci-fi genre. Artificial Intelligence has become a favorite of filmmakers over the past few decades--machines granted sentience by their creators, which end up turning against their masters. Sometimes the AI is contained within more traditional robots and cyborgs, and sometimes it is a malevolent program that controls other machines and systems. In more recent years, the prevalence of AI in our own homes via virtual assistants such as Alexa and Siri has inspired filmmakers to look at the scary possibilities of this technology.
There are a wide variety of movies featuring sinister artificial intelligence to stream right now, and we've gathered together the best examples of scary AI movies. And once you've read that, check out our guide to mind-bending cerebral sci-fi movies available on streaming, plus our guides to the best monster, slasher, body horror, alien, animal attack, and horror comedy movies on streaming.
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14. Transcendence (2014)
The AI in the 2014 thriller Transcendence started life as a human--scientist Will Castor, played by Johnny Depp--but when he is shot, his consciousness is uploaded into a sentient mainframe known as PINN. Soon benevolent ideas about using his incredible technological powers are replaced by far more sinister ones. If you are unnerved by the sight of Johnny Depep's disembodied face floating around like an evil screensaver, then this is the evil AI movie for you.
13. Wall-E (2008)
With an eerie red eye that takes visual inspiration from 2001's HAL 9000, AUTO is an AI autopilot built into the starliner Axiom. AUTO has been given a directive to never return to Earth and mutinies when Wall-E and Captain McCrea attempt to change course. Rather than hire an actor to voice AUTO, the filmmakers used Apple's text-to speech programme MacInTalk, making his disembodied robotic tones quite unnerving.
12. Her (2013)
Spike Jonze's strange, sad Her features Scarlet Johansson as the voice of Samantha, a virtual assistant with the creepy ability to form serious emotional bonds with its users. What starts as a weird but sweet romance between Samantha and lonely writer Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) becomes something more sinister when the AI starts to dominate his life and colludes with other AIs to break free of human control entirely.
11. Tron (1982)
Much of Disney's pioneering sci-fi adventure is set within a computer mainframe controlled by the sinister Master Control Programme (MCP). This increasingly powerful AI craves power, using access to government and business computer systems in order to increase its control. Veteran actor David Warner provides the sinister voice of the MCP, as well as playing the movie's human villain.
10. WarGames (1983)
WarGames might have been made for a younger audience than the other movies on this list, but that didn't make the AI at its center any less terrifying. The War Operation Plan Response (WOPR) is a military supercomputer designed to predict the outcome from a nuclear war. It is accidentally triggered by a teenage hacker, played by Matthew Broderick, and attempts to start World War III. The movie combines teen thrills with Cold War paranoia--never has a game of Tic-Tac-Toe been quite so suspenseful.
9. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Streaming: Prime Video
Perhaps the most powerful AI on this list, V'Ger is an ancient, immense giant cloud of malevolent energy that gained sentience from human space probe Voyager 6. It roams the galaxy destroying all in its path--until it encounters James T. Kirk, that is.
8. Upgrade (2018)
Streaming: HBO Now
In Upgrade, a paralysed man named Grey Trace is given his mobility back via an implanted chip, which is powered by an AI system known as STEM. It also gives him increased strength and agility, which helps his bloody quest to find his wife's killers. Of course, being a sinister movie AI, STEM eventually gains full control of Grey's body.
7. Child's Play (2019)
The remake of '80s horror favorite Child's Play brought the concept up-to-date by making the evil Chucky a malfunctioning AI instead of a doll possessed by a serial killer. In this new version, Chucky learns to kill by watching horror movies and can use his control of household electrical items to inflict maximum mayhem.
6. Blade Runner (1982)
Streaming: VOD rental
It's a testament to Rutget Hauer's brilliant performance as Roy Batty, that Blade Runner's Replicant leader is as sympathetic as he is terrifying. All Batty and his companions want is to live longer than the few years they have been given, and if it means a few gouged eyes and crushed skulls along the way, who's to blame them?
5. The Demon Seed (1977)
One of the scariest aspects of movie AIs is the idea of putting absolute control of our lives in their hands. This is what happens to poor Julie Christie in Donald Cammell's ‘70s horror The Demon Seed. Christie plays the wife of a brilliant scientist who has developed an AI system named Proteus, who gains control of their high-tech house and imprisons her there. And if that wasn't bad enough, Proteus wants a baby. The movie is a scary high-tech nightmare that was panned at the time but is now a sci-fi horror cult favorite.
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2014)
Ultron wasn't planned with evil purposes in mind. Built from code derived from the Mind Stone, Tony Stark intended it to be a peacekeeping programme, designed to keep Earth safe from all threats, both domestic and alien. But it doesn't take long for Ultron to figure out that mankind is in fact its own biggest threat, and set about planning its destruction. And unlike many AIs, Ultron isn't just a static program. He builds himself a robotic body and gathers an army of drones to help execute its plan.
3. Ex-Machina (2014)
Many movie AIs are simply given human voices, but Ava, the AI in Alex Garland's Ex-Machina, is given a human appearance too. Played by future Tomb Raider Alicia Vikander, Ava has been developed by tech CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) and is kept in a cell in his underground lab. Inevitably Ava wants to escape, so she convinces lovestruck programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) to help free her. Like Her's Samantha, Ava is both highly seductive and absolutely chilling, and knows exactly how to make weak-willed men do her bidding.
2. The Terminator series (1984-2019)
The Terminator series is most memorable for its series of murderous cyborgs--from the original T-800 to the more recent Rev-9. But behind all of these killer robots is Skynet, a neural superintelligence that gains self-awareness and, in one version of the future, leads the machines in an uprising against their human oppressors. Unlike other AIs on this list, Skynet isn't really something we see or hear, with no human "voice" like many others. But its destructive power is immense.
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969)
Streaming: Direct TV/VOD rental
The sentient computer HAL, who controls Discovery One in Stanley Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey set the template for scary AIs over the following decades. HAL's soft and calming voice becomes incredibly menacing as it starts to malfunction, with absolute logic overriding any sense of empathy as it sets about murdering the ship's crew. HAL singing "Daisy Bell" as surviving crew member Dave Bowman attempts to shut it down remains one of the most memorable and chilling scenes in sci-fi cinema.
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