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Some of the Best Movie Computers

With everything that has been going on in the world recently, many of us have been relying on our computers more and more. Obviously, I use mine for work, but since the middle of 2020 I have been using it for other things – online video games (hello Sea of Thieves), keeping in touch with friends and family via Zoom, playing Dungeons and Dragons using Zoom and DND Beyond, and more.

Obviously, you need a computer with a good graphics card but you also need to make sure you have got decent speeds from your broadband provider so don’t forget to do a regular Speedcheck to make sure things are working all fine and dandy.

All this has made me think about some of the computers we see in films. There are actually quite a few, from the cool computer interfaces in Star Wars to the AI that keeps Sam Rockwell company in Moon. Therefore, I thought I would run through some of my other favourites. As I put the list together (with the help of the Live for Films fans on Twitter and Facebook) I realised this could also be a list of best movie AIs but they are all basically computers at the end of the day.

Colossus – Colossus: The Forbin Project

“There is another system!”

Directed by Joseph Sargent, that stars Eric Braeden, Susan Clark, Gordon Pinsent, and William Schallert, this 1970 film is based upon the 1966 science fiction novel Colossus by Dennis Feltham Jones. Colossus is a computer put in charge of America’s defence system and once it is activated it becomes sentient. It realises that humanity is the main problem when it comes to wars so to bring peace to the world the computer basically takes control of everything.

It is a fantastic film, full of tension that builds throughout as the humans try numerous ways to get out of the control of Colossus and its Russian counterpart, Guardian.

J.A.R.V.I.S. – Iron Man, Avengers, etc

J.A.R.V.I.S. is the computer system that initially ran Tony Stark’s house and garage before expanding and becoming the AI of the Iron Man suit. It later merged with Ultron and through some Asgardian power and other bits and pieces, it evolved into Vision – who can now be seen in the wonderful WandaVision over on Disney+. All the way from Iron Man to WandaVision the computer has been voiced by Paul Bettany and it has been so good seeing the character develop until it became Vision. It is also refreshing to see a computer AI end up being on the side of the good guys.

MOTHER – Alien

MU-TH-UR 6000, aka MOTHER, was a 182 model 2.1 terabyte AI Mainframe that served as the computer mainframe for the Nostromo in Ridley Scott’s Alien. It was not as overtly evil as some of the other computers on the list and did not really have much of a personality, but I always loved the look of MOTHER’s interface room. Link in MOTHER with the orders that Ash had embedded in its systems, meant that Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo were fighting not just the Xenomorph, but the very ship that was meant to be keeping them safe.

WOPR – WarGames

“Would you like to play a game?”

When Matthew Broderick decides that playing a game is a good idea with the computer in 1983’s WarGames he does not realise the problems that will follow. Similar to Colossus, WOPR (War Operation Plan Response) is designed to aid the defence of America. The plan was for it to run various scenarios to see the best solutions to protect the country. However, as the computer does not understand the difference between reality and the simulations, there is the risk that “Global Thermonuclear War” could become a reality.

SKYNET – The Terminator

Just one year after WarGames we got to see WOPR 2.0 in the form of SKYNET in James Cameron’s The Terminator. Okay, we don’t actually see the computer in this one, but we discover it was responsible for the decimation of the human race and the construction of the Terminators to finish the job. Both the original film and Terminator 2 are absolutely fantastic (we try not to think of the other films) and once again it is a computer AI that becomes sentient and decides that the world would be a better place without any people around.

STEM – Upgrade

Leigh Whannell’s 2018 cyberpunk action thriller is a fantastic little movie that is well worth a watch if you have yet to see it. Logan Marshall-Green’s main character is in an accident that killed his wife and left him paralyzed. A STEM implant is put in his body and he regains some control over his limbs. Then STEM starts talking to him and says it can help track down the people who caused the accident. It also says it can take control of his body which leads to some brilliant, and gory, fight scenes. To say any more would spoil the fun.

HAL 9000 – 2001: A Space Odyssey

No list of movie computers would be complete without HAL 9000. Stanley Kubrick’s classic film brought us the AI, voiced by Douglas Rain, that ran the systems on the Discovery One spacecraft. This sentient computer then slowly goes insane as conflicting orders cause it to kill the astronauts on board. The calm delivery by Douglas Rain of the most innocuous of lines leads to some truly chilling moments. Tie that in with the excellent design of HAL’s red eye and a movie legend was born.

As I said at the beginning these are just a few of the various computers that have hit the silver screen. What are your favourites?


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