Internet Hackers and Data-Traffickers in 90s Sci-Fi

The Three 90s Technophobe Movies That Were Onto Something…



Blade Runner: 2049 saw it’s release last week to rave reviews and box office success (although not as much as Warner Bros. perhaps would have wanted) bringing us a brand new glimpse into the world originally realised by Ridley Scott’s seminal 1982 work.


The best science fiction always finds a way of inspiring awe with fantastical vistas and creatures whilst offering us a new perspective on how our world works today. Both Scott and Villneuve’s Blade Runner films offer a thrilling ride through a worryingly familiar dystopian future that throws up questions about the threat of AI, automisation and human consciousness – however, there are arguably more pressing issues facing us today, namely the rise of the Information Age, Virtual Reality and Social Networks.


These new technologies have thrown the 21st Century into a state of flux, with the connected world always waiting with baited breath for the next groundbreaking innovation. Despite this constant stream of new ideas, it’s important to remember that many of the concerns that we are dealing with today were prefigured in films made in that dark grim decade that most of us know as the 90s.


These three movies opened the minds of Sci-Fi fans in the 90s and whilst not all of them will make many critics’ top 10 list, they nevertheless offered a portentous look at some of the sticky technological issues that face us today:


Hackers [1995]


Notably famed for the film that brought together stars Angelina Jolie (pre-Tomb Raider breakthrough) and Johnny Lee Miller, both on and off-set, this wacky cyberpunk thriller might have got a lot of things wrong about the way young people acted in the 90s (ie. disturbing hair cuts and excessive roller blading) but it nevertheless predicted the huge influence that hacker groups, such as Anonymous, would have on the world today.



In the last few year alone we’ve been treated to public displays of hacker powers in the shape of big political scandals such as the WikiLeaks affair to the salacious iCloud leaks of August 2014, showing us the real-world impact that disparate groups of tech-savvy individuals can have on all of us.


Johnny Mnemonic [1995]


Thousands of jobs were created during the late nineties, in response to the speculation as to the ways that the internet could be adapted to suit businesses. This dot-com bubble led to the emergence of a new class of work which was restricted exclusively to the use of a computer.



Although the bubble eventually burst somewhere during the early noughties, it still led to the creation of thousands of new roles offering a huge variety of tech-related services around the world; whether it’s server hosting in Silicon Valley, web design in India or Liverpool marketing services, these jobs can be carried out around the clock and around the world. As exciting as this sounds, there are still no current jobs that are analogous to Keanu Reeves’ data trafficker Johnny Mnemonic – who’s hunted through a dangerous sci-fi urban sprawl by genetically enhanced Yakuza assassins intent on cracking his brain for ‘hundreds of megabytes’ of precious info.


Existenz [1999]


David Cronenberg’s virtual reality thriller was unfairly overlooked upon it’s release, mostly due to it’s emphasis on lo-fi special effects and a bewildering plot. A re-watch of this curiously action-oriented film, however, reveals that the legendary auteur had his beady eye on more than just the technological advances of video games and virtual reality.



Hotshot games designer Allegra Geller (played by a seductive Jenifer Jason Leigh) is chased through both the virtual and real worlds by shady corporate types looking to stop the release of her next game – so far, so corporate-espionage thriller; it’s the intervention of obsessive fans that rings true for our world today. Never before have individuals’ lives been open to so much open criticism (or attack) and eXistenZ accurately predicted that these attacks would occur in both the real and virtual worlds, over the most trivial of things as a video game.