Artificial intelligence has been with us for decades -- just throw on a movie if you don't believe it.
Even though A.I. may feel like a newer phenomenon, the groundwork of these technologies was laid long ago. The English mathematician Alan Turing, considered by some as the father of modern computer science, started questioning machine intelligence in 1950. Those questions resulted in the Turing Test, which gauges a machine's capacity to give the impression of "thinking" like a human.
The concept of A.I. can feel nebulous, but it doesn't fall under just one umbrella. From smart assistants and robotics to self-driving cars, A.I. manifests in different forms...some more clear than others. Spoiler alert! Here are 10 movies in chronological order that can help you visualize A.I.:
1. Metropolis (1927)
German director Fritz Lang's classic Metropolis showcases one of the earliest depictions of A.I. in film, with the robot, Maria, transformed into the likeness of a woman. The movie takes place in an industrial city called Metropolis that is strikingly divided by class, where Robot Maria wreaks havoc across the city.
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Stanley Kubrick's 2001 is notable for its early depiction of A.I. and is yet another cautionary tale in which technology takes a turn for the worse. A handful of scientists are aboard a spacecraft headed to Jupiter where a supercomputer, HAL (IBM to the cynical), runs most of the spaceship's operations. After HAL makes a mistake and tries to attribute it to human error, the supercomputer fights back when those aboard the ship attempt to disconnect it.
3. Blade Runner (1982) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
The original Blade Runner (1982) featured Harrison Ford hunting down "replicants," or humanoids powered by A.I., which are almost indistinguishable from humans. In Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Ryan Gosling's character, Officer K, lives with an A.I. hologram, Joi. So at least we're getting along better with our bots.
4. The Terminator (1984)
The Terminator's plot focuses on a man-made artificial intelligence network referred to as Skynet -- despite Skynet being created for military purposes, the system ends up plotting to kill mankind. Arnold Schwarzenegger launched his acting career out of his role as the Terminator, a time-traveling cyborg killer that masquerades as a human. The film probes the question -- and consequences -- of what happens when robots start thinking for themselves.
5. The Matrix Series (1999-2021)
Keanu Reeves stars in this cult classic as Thomas Anderson/Neo, a computer programmer by day and hacker by night who uncovers the truth behind the simulation known as "the Matrix." The simulated reality is a product of artificially intelligent programs that enslaved the human race. Human beings are kept asleep in "pods," where they unwittingly participate in the simulated reality of the Matrix while their bodies are used to harvest energy.
6. I, Robot (2004)
This sci-fi flick starring Will Smith takes place in 2035 in a society where robots with human-like features serve humankind. An AI supercomputer, dubbed VIKI (which stands for Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence), is one to watch, especially once a programming bug goes awry. The defect in VIKI's programming leads the supercomputer to believe that the robots must take charge in order to protect mankind from itself.
7. WALL-E (2008)
Disney Pixar's WALL-E follows a robot of the same name whose main role is to compact garbage on a trash-ridden Earth. But after spending centuries alone, WALL-E evolves into a sentient piece of machinery who turns out to be very lonely. The movie takes place in 2805 and follows WALL-E and another robot, named Eve, who's job is to analyze if a planet is habitable for humans.
8. Tron Legacy (2010)
The Tron universe is filled to the brim with A.I. given that it takes place in a virtual world, known as "the Grid." The movie's protagonist, Sam, finds himself accidentally uploaded to the Grid, where he embarks on an adventure that leads him face-to-face with algorithms and computer programs. The Grid is protected by programs such as Tron, but corrupt A.I. programs surface as well throughout the virtual network.
9. Her (2013)
Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a professional letter writer going through a divorce. To help himself cope, Theodore picks up a new operating system with advanced A.I. features. He selects a female voice for the OS, naming the device Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), but it proves to have smart capabilities of its own. Or is it, her own? Theodore spends a lot of time talking with Samantha, eventually falling in love. The film traces their budding relationship and confronts the notion of sentience and A.I.
10. Ex-Machina (2014)
After winning a contest at his workplace, programmer Caleb Smith meets his company's CEO, Nathan Bateman. Nathan reveals to Caleb that he's created a robot with artificial intelligence capabilities. Caleb's task? Assess if the feminine humanoid robot, Ava, is able to show signs of intelligent human-like behavior: in other words, pass the Turing Test. Ava has a human-like face and physique, but her "limbs" are composed of metal and electrical wiring. It's later revealed that other characters aren't exactly human, either.