Since Friday, the hottest AI company in Silicon Valley has been caught in a death spiral — imploding like a dying star. That company, OpenAI, fascinated the world last year with the launch of its chatbot ChatGPT, even as the company itself became the avatar of a dire future predicted by AI doomers. “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” Stephen Hawking once said in a BBC interview — the kind of nightmare scenario that Hollywood movies have dramatized for years, and one which OpenAI was ostensibly working hard to avoid.
Until, that is, the company ripped itself apart following a boardroom coup, throwing its future into doubt and dramatically reorienting the AI landscape.
There will eventually be a captivating, The Social Network-style movie about what happened at OpenAI; of that, I’m certain. Not that we’re exactly lacking in the meantime for movies that explore the impact of AI on humanity. Three of my favorite movies that I think are among the smartest and well-made about the dark side of AI include director Spike Jonze’s Her from 2013; Alex Garland’s 2014 masterpiece Ex Machina; and Gareth Edwards’ The Creator, which was released in theaters earlier this year and is currently one of the top VOD movies of the week.
Jonze’s Her won a 2014 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and it’s easy to see why. Set in Los Angeles in the near future, Her follows the character of Theodore Twombly — a lonely, fragile man played by Joaquin Phoenix who’s still heartbroken after the end of a long relationship. He eventually strikes up a relationship with “Samantha,” an advanced operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson, and they two eventually fall into a strange and fascinating version of love.
The movie is filled with beautiful, poetic exchanges like this one between Theodore and Samantha, who says: “You know, I can feel the fear that you carry around and I wish there was… something I could do to help you let go of it because if you could, I don’t think you’d feel so alone anymore.” You’re beautiful, he responds.
“Thank you, Theodore.”
Ex Machina (2014)
In Garland’s chilling psychological thriller, another snapshot from a version of the not-too-distant future, the story takes viewers to the mountain retreat of an internet billionaire. From Apple’s summary of the movie: “A young man takes part in a strange experiment: Testing an artificial intelligence, housed in the body of a beautiful robot girl. But the experiment twists into a dark psychological battle — a love triangle, where loyalties are torn between man and machine.”
The Creator (2023)
Finally, the thing that excited me right away about this last title on our list of AI-themed movies is the fact that it has Edwards’ name attached to it.
Edwards previously directed the masterful Star Wars movie Rogue One which was released back in 2016, and its heartfelt story about rebels giving it all for a (seemingly) lost cause brought something fresh and original to the Star Wars franchise — while also setting up the near-perfect Disney+ series Andor. And who can forget that epic Darth Vader lightsaber battle aboard the ship at the end of the movie?
In Edwards’ new film The Creator, meanwhile, John David Washington plays an ex-special forces agent who’s grieving for his wife. A war has broken out between the human race and AI-controlled machines, and Washington’s character is recruited to hunt down “the creator,” the AI architect who’s developed a weapon that can end the war (as well as mankind).
The team of soldiers crosses enemy lines and ventures deep into AI-controlled territory, where they discover that the world-ending weapon they’ve been tasked with destroying is AI in the form of a young child.