Since its debut on UK’s Channel 4 back in December of 2011, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror has gained the reputation of being one of the most thrilling and psychologically mind numbing shows around. The anthology series takes place in a not too far off future in the United Kingdom and makes use of different actors and premises each episode, bringing about frequent comparisons to the Twilight Zone.
Picked up by Netflix for its third and upcoming fourth seasons, the show has only grown in popularity, winning its first two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Television Movie and Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series earlier this year. One of the series’ first episodes, The Entire History of You, was even optioned by Robert Downey Jr. and Warner Bros. back in 2013 to make into a feature.
Part of the show’s recent success can be attributed to the type of subscribers which Netflix have attracted over the years: tech-savvy millennials with skeptical views of society and bleak enthusiasm for the future. While portraying the skepticism and bleakness of the world is what Charlie Brooker and his dark series are best known for, it is the contemporary nature of the series which stands most firm at the end of the day.
While the series takes place in the future, Brooker warns audience members that each episode is “about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy”. Each episode truly plays off our greatest fears and insecurities by combining ingenious premises with disturbing plot twists. The only problem with Black Mirror is there are only a limited number of episodes available each season, leaving the public hungry for more technologically induced anxiety.
For that reason, the following 15 films were chosen as those which could easily live within the Black Mirror universe. Some chosen for their similarities to previous episodes, others for their look and feel, each takes place in the future and prominently features various themes of technology and how we may one day find ourselves living as a result of that technological change.
15. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
If there’s any writer working in Hollywood today that could top Charlie Brooker in terms of sheer imagination and pure insanity, it’d have to be Charlie Kaufman. This 2004 Michel Gondry directed, Kaufman penned cult classic about a man (Jim Carrey) seeking to erase the memory of his relationship with a girl (Kate Winslet) won the 2004 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and serves as the starting point for this list.
The film revolves around Lacuna, Inc., a corporation which specializes in pinpointing and removing the memories of a former lover from the patient’s brain. Throughout the film, Carrey’s character, Joel, finds himself undergoing the treatment and experiences all of the heartache and pain that you would expect from a man losing all memory of a former lover.
A brilliantly creative depiction of the way our minds operate and handle the joy of love and pain of heartbreak, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind will rip your heart out in the same way The Entire History of You did in season 1 of Black Mirror. It’s a fevered dream of a film in every sense of the word.
14. Circle (2015)
What would you do if you were to wake up in a dark room surrounded by 49 other strangers? Worse, what if I told you that you’d have to collectively vote to kill someone every two minutes until there is only one person left standing?
2015’s Circle (not to be confused with The Circle starring Tom Hanks), is one of those rare films that takes place entirely in a single claustrophobic location. Drawing a great deal of inspiration from 12 Angry Men, this little-known sci-fi gem is completely comprised of unknown actors and will have you guessing the motives and background of each character throughout its entirety.
It’s a dark look at how humanity responds when faced with life or death circumstances and serves as an incredibly contemporary take on race, class, and gender. While not entirely focused on technological advancements gone awry, the film would fit well within Brooker’s universe for its bleak tone and moral questioning which will inevitably arise when a character is killed off.
13. Moon (2009)
Duncan Jones’ directorial debut, Moon, stands as a master class in minimalism. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, a man stationed on the moon to mine for a mineral which has solved the oil crisis back on Earth. Two weeks before he is scheduled to return home, Sam comes across a discovery that makes him question his true purpose on the moon.
At Moon’s heart is not the extravagant sci-fi spectacle that we’ve become so accustomed to in recent years, but rather a personal exploration of man through his immense isolation and loneliness. Fans of Black Mirror know these themes all too well, as they are practically the focus of each episode.
The small scale of this film and the feeling that this is just a small story in a larger universe are what ultimately land it on this list. Accompanied by a truly undervalued performance from Kevin Spacey as the voice of GERTY, Sam’s AI companion and only form of interaction on the moon, Moon is a fantastically intriguing piece of cinema.
While Charlie Brooker hasn’t yet traveled into space with his Black Mirror series, the trailer for season four suggests that USS Callister may well be his first trip.
12. Minority Report (2002)
The biggest budgeted film on this list but one that no doubt deserves a mention within the Black Mirror universe for its premise alone.
In this Steven Spielberg directed, Tom Cruise starring, blockbuster based on a short story by Philip K. Dick (AKA the greatest film pitch of the early 2000s), police have the ability to stop crimes before they occur using mutated humans who previsualize crimes through visions.
While that last bit sounds a bit fantastical for Charlie Brooker’s taste, its Spielberg’s ingenuity when it comes to creating advanced technological gadgets which lands it on the list. The balance of cool futuristic technology and premise of stopping crime before it has occurred is expertly mixed to create a sleek and bleak vision of the future where law enforcement falls in the middle of it all.
While not direct comparisons, Looper and Black Mirror’s own Hated in the Nation will draw some similarities for their murder mysteries and take on the future of crime stoppers.
11. The Purge (2013)
Some will be surprised to find The Purge mentioned on this list. It’s not a science fiction film and has little to do with technological advances in society. What it does have however, is a grim depiction of our future fit for the world of Black Mirror.
James DeMonaco’s 2013 horror film takes place in Los Angeles in the year 2022 and features Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones) fending off unwanted guests on the night of the annual Purge. Once a year for twelve hours, all crime is legal and all police and other emergency services are unresponsive. Due to the bloodshed inflicted on this annual outing, crime and unemployment drop to near infinitesimal levels.
One of things Black Mirror has done so well during its first three seasons is predict what might happen in the extremely near future. The Waldo Moment draws comparisons to Trump’s presidential campaign while Nosedive reminds us all of how Uber and social media may one day converge to dominate the way we live. The Purge, as absurd as it sounds, is depicted in such a way by DeMonaco and team that it makes us believe it could one day become the norm.
While the later entries in this series from Universal and Blumhouse are not quite as impressive, the first Purge is a must for anyone a fan of the more horror-centric episodes of Black Mirror, such as White Bear and Playtest.
10. Marjorie Prime (2017)
The most recent film to feature on this list, Marjorie Prime, is one which will immediately draw comparisons to a number of Brooker’s episodes. The story centers on a futuristic service which specializes in creating lifelike holographic projections of late family members. In the story, 86-year-old Marjorie (Lois Smith) creates a projection of her deceased husband Walter (John Hamm).
The film plays out almost exactly like a Black Mirror episode would, and is eerily similar to Be Right Back for both its use of bringing a deceased lover back to life through artificial intelligence and themes of identity and memory. As with Be Right Back, the film has you questioning whether or not a service of this nature would be beneficial or hazardous. Should we leave the memories of a loved one in the past or seek to revitalize them through technological advancement?
Hamm is in particularly inspiring form as the now younger version of Walter in what seems to be his best performance since Mad Men if not his appearance on Black Mirror’s White Christmas. For director Michael Almereyda, it’s his second score in a row, coming off 2015’s Experimenter, which stars Peter Sarsgaard and Winona Ryder.
9. Okja (2017)
While there was a possibility that Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer would feature on this list, it’s his latest film Okja which fits much neater within Charlie Brooker’s universe.
Okja tells the story of the Mirando Corporation, a company tasked with breeding superpigs to cure world hunger. As a competition, twenty-six pigs are sent to the best breeders from around the world who are given ten years to breed the largest and best tasting pig for a reward. The story picks up ten years later where a young South Korean girl cares for her now mammoth sized pig, Okja, and refuses to let the corporation take the pig away. Animal activists get involved, secrets about the corporation are revealed, and the whole thing becomes a huge mess.
Okja is without a doubt one of the most criminally underrated films of the year, possibly due to its exclusively on Netflix. The acting is terrific and just plain weird, with Tilda Swinton as Mirando’s CEO, Jake Gyllenhaal as the wacky spokesperson and zoologist, and Paul Dano as the head of the Animal Liberation Front.
Where it relates to Black Mirror is once again not in its use of technology, although that is a major theme of the story, but rather in its ingenuity and social commentary on the food industry and capitalism in relation to the environment. A truly progressive and contemporary piece of filmmaking, perfect for the Black Mirror universe.