The Best AI Horror Movies To Watch After ‘M3GAN’
We know how these stories end. But that doesn't mean they aren't fun.
“Artificial Intelligence gone wrong” is a mainstay of sci-fi at this point. But the trope also has a lot of horror potential, as seen most recently in M3GAN. The new movie from Blumhouse and the writer of Malignant stars Allison Williams and centers on an AI doll whose protective programming goes murderously haywire. The eponymous doll has already become a viral sensation for the film, which continues the ongoing conversation about AI. With that in mind, here are some of the best horror (and horror-adjacent) movies about AI and all their potential to help and harm.
Perhaps the most famous AI gone wrong in cinema (in that Skynet tends to get name-dropped more often than 2001‘s HAL), the first Terminator movie warned of the dangers of AI (especially in the military), interweaving it with the sci-fi dystopia, slasher, and action movie genres. While the other movies in the franchise might get into the difference between humans and AI a bit more, no other movie has made them quite as terrifying as the first Terminator. Even the dated special effects help to reinforce how off-putting the original Terminator was, and it can be jarring if you’re someone who was introduced to the series with the second film, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is a hero.
Upgrade is “AI gone wrong” meets “rampage of revenge” story: When Grey Trace is paralyzed and his wife is murdered, an experimental AI implant gives him the chance to seek vengeance. Only too late does he realize the cost of giving control of his body over to an AI. The ending is truly horrifying, and I really hope that the sequel TV series gets made eventually.
Child’s Play (2019)
While the remake of the classic slasher movie was met with mixed reactions, it did have some interesting things to say about the danger of smart technologies. When Chucky’s programming goes wrong, it’s not just a doll with a knife and a voodoo spell you’re dealing with, it’s a whole army of products from the same company, including everything from self-driving cars to drones and other “Buddi” dolls. What’s really funny is the friends-to-enemies dynamic between a child and his AI doll, which makes this movie as much a predecessor to M3GAN as a remake of Child’s Play.
I Am Mother (2019)
In a future where humanity has been mostly wiped out, a girl named Daughter lives in a bunker with her robot ‘Mother.’ But when a survivor of the apocalypse finds the bunker, Daughter is forced to confront the lie she’s been living and what it means for her future. Much like M3GAN, this movie is about the intersection of motherhood and technology. It’a also about how if we don’t keep sight of what’s really important, we risk losing everything.
2001: A Space Odyssey
HAL9000 is perhaps the most influential AI of all time; AUTO from WALL-E, GLaDOS from Portal, and even Ultron from the Avengers sequel all owe a debt to his chillingly calm and collected demeanor. Everything about HAL is iconic, from the reason for his antagonism (which some believe to be “AI gone horribly right”) to his general design and monotone voice. What’s most interesting is that he’s arguably a villain protagonist, as the film spends much more time with him than with the human astronauts who are presumably the intended protagonists.
The Alien franchise has played around with AI since the original 1979 movie, with science officer Ash essentially acting as an extension of the Company, willing to sacrifice the crew in favor of mission success and potential profit. While some of the later movies shift toward making androids more heroic or sympathetic, Prometheus and Alien: Covenant go in the complete opposite direction, making Michael Fassbender’s David into one of the most malevolent antagonists in the whole series.
While not a traditional horror movie, The Matrix’s body horror scenes are impressive (especially for a PG-13 movie), and the franchise is arguably the most well-known version of a character discovering the world they are living in is not real. It bolsters a sense of paranoia that stays with you and follows you back to the real world. If that’s not effective horror, I don’t know what is.
The Banana Splits (2019)
How does a Hanna-Barbera show get turned into a movie about killer animatronics? You can probably thank Five Nights at Freddy’s for that. Still, while not a great adaptation of the Banana Splits show, this movie manages to walk the tightrope between corny and creepy. It might not be the first movie to point out how uncanny animatronics are, but it’s definitely memorable for the practical gore and the surreal experience of seeing your childhood icons turned into killers.
Other movies featuring A.I. horror:
- Any Godzilla movie featuring Mecha-Godzilla
- De Lift (a Dutch film about a murderous AI elevator)
- Colossus: The Forbin Project
- Blood Machines
- Westworld (1973)—yes, there was a movie first
- Demon Seed
- Chopping Mall
- Resident Evil (2002)
- American Cyborg: Steel Warrior
- Universal Soldier
- Deadly Friend
What’s your favorite AI horror movie? Comment below!
(featured image: Orion Pictures)
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]