At the end of October, Andrew Niccol’s latest sci-fi flick, In Time is set to be released. While I can’t speak to the quality of the film itself just yet, the concept is brilliant, and as close as you can get to Philip K. Dick without actually adapting a Philip K. Dick novel. The movie stars Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, and Olivia Wilde, and it’s about a future where people stop aging at 25 and must work to buy themselves more time. When a young man finds himself with more time than he can imagine he must run from the corrupt police force to save his life. The Dickian echoes are obvious. The concept alone touches on four major themes of Phillip K. Dick’s work: Social control, false realities, the nature of God, and human versus machine.
There’s a sad irony to the fact that Philip K. Dick died impoverished, only months before the release of Blade Runner, which would make Dick one of the most popular and influential sci-fi writers of all time. Hollywood has capitalized on his work, from everything from Blade Runner to Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report Next, The Adjustment Bureau and even Paycheck. But even more important in the film world has been his influence: Some of the best movies of the last 25 years owe a huge debt to the works of Philip K. Dick, even if they didn’t adapt directly.
Indeed, the themes of Dick have been pervasive, from his tales of alternate realities to the idea of reality as an illusion to the implanted memories and commodified identities, and questions about what is human and what is real? Dick’s evil negative trinity of alienation, blurred reality, and despair has worked its way into many of he best sci-fi films of our age. Best still is that, in most of them, my favorite of Dick’s other major themes lives on in these futuristic societies: Kindness is our only hope.
Here are the 10 Best Philip K. Dick Movies that Aren’t Actually Philip K. Dick Movies.
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: A couple undergo a procedure to erase each other from their memories when their relationship turns sour, but it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with.
2. Memento: A man, suffering from short-term memory loss, uses notes and tattoos to hunt for the man he thinks killed his wife.
3. The Matrix: A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.
4. The Truman Show: An insurance salesman/adjuster discovers his entire life is actually a TV show.
5. Inception: In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job to date: Inception.
6. Dark City: A man struggles with memories of his past, including a wife he cannot remember, in a nightmarish world with no sun and run by beings with telekinetic powers who seek the souls of humans.
7. Donnie Darko: A troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a large bunny rabbit that manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, after narrowly escaping a bizarre accident.
8. Gattaca: A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one in order to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel.
9. Being John Malkovich: A puppeteer discovers a portal that leads literally into the head of the movie star, John Malkovich.
10. Nightmare on Elm Street: In the dreams of his victims, a spectral child murderer stalks the children of the members of the lynch mob that killed him.
Honorable Mentions: Vanilla Sky/Abre Los Ojos, eXistenZ, 12 Monkeys, Adaptation, Mulholland Drive, Pi and TiMer. Dishonorable Mentions: The Island.