10 Under-the-Radar Movies that Show the Power of Machine Learning

Sneha Jain 02 Jan, 2020
6 min read


I love the sci-fi movie genre. Futuristic scenarios, jaw-dropping visuals, a tight storyline knitting it all together – that’s a recipe for a box office hit. Anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s will be intimately familiar with the Terminator franchise.

And once I moved into the machine learning space, my appreciation and interest in these movies grew multifold! Machine learning in movies – that should a whole genre by itself, right?

What we once thought of as unrealistic scenarios are now playing out in the real world. Applications like automatic text generation, robots cooking and delivering food, sports franchises using machine learning to sign and trade players – this field transcends boundaries.

machine learning movies

And when there’s a story to be told – movies are never far behind!

Here, I present 10 movies about machine learning that typically fly under-the-radar of most movie-watchers (and data scientists). You will still recognize a couple of favorites (like Moneyball) but there are a few I’m sure you’ve missed. Add them to your to-watch list!

If you’re interested in understanding how studios use machine learning to create movies, estimate revenue, estimate the audiences’ reaction (among other things), I recommend watching the below video:

Let’s begin!


1. Blade Runner 2049

One of the most impactful and in-depth storylines in terms of the power of machine learning. The first Blade Runner, released in 1982, was a box-office bomb. It was a movie ahead of its time.

This sequel, Blade Runner 2049, is a movie ripe for today’s machine learning age. This is a detective sci-fi thriller where a detective hunts down and assassinates human-like androids built by the Tyrell Corporation for use in dangerous off-world colonization.

It beautifully shows the rising impact of technology on human society, existence and the very nature of humanity itself. The film’s power is chiefly derived through its stunning imagery of a dark futuristic cityscape and its philosophical themes.

A couple of things that caught my attention as a data scientist:

  • Ethics in AI: The movie reflects all the philosophical questions such as what labels should be assigned to replicants and what happens when artificial characters end up procreating
  • Strong AI: Artificial general intelligence (AGI), also known as Strong AI, is the ability of a machine to take human-like reasonable decision making
  • Natural Language Generation: The movie shows exceptionally advanced capabilities to understand voice commands


2. A.I. Artificial Intelligence

There’s a good chance you’ve seen this movie before. But if you haven’t – you should do so immediately!

It’s possible to feed algorithms and get a machine to work but is it possible for us to instill emotions into them? This field of thought has driven many debates and arguments globally (it’s still an oft-debated topic in tech circles).

The A.I. movie, directed by the great Steven Spielberg, presents the story of a robot boy who desires to nurture human emotions.

A few futuristic techniques that caught my eye while watching this movie:

  1. Emotional Intelligence: Along with making machines just ‘intelligent’, we are on our path to empower them with human-like emotions. Not much different than you and I. Perhaps it will be incredible to see this technology surface soon!
  2. Inclusive AI World: You can love a robot and robots can love you. With all the advanced Computer Vision, Natural Language Processing (NLP) and other Machine Learning techniques, this might soon be possible.


3. Bicentennial Man

Starring Robin Williams, this movie is a drama about how an artificial intelligence-powered life strives to become a human. The Cyborg is used as a butler for a rich family in the movie and as time progresses, it starts exploring its capabilities beyond just intelligence.

It starts connecting to the youngest member of the family in an emotional manner. In a story that spans two centuries, Andrew learns the intricacies of humanity, life, and love.

Here are a few observations from the film relevant to a data scientist:

  • Cognitive Era – the movie takes a leap into the ‘cognitive era’ with machines capable of thinking and taking decisions just like humans
  • Ethics in AI – We must really focus on what is coded into the machines. Their ability to co-relate is much advanced than us. To keep the health check of AI intact, it’s important to code the right ethics and cultural values into the machine

The intelligent machine in the movie has lived several generations – imagine the amount of knowledge it has gathered over time. How will we be able to live on par with this intelligence? A deep question that’s been on my mind since watching this movie.


4. Ex Machina

Taut, fascinating and simply intriguing. You will love this action-packed machine learning-based movie.

Ex Machina makes strong arguments for both sides of the machine learning equation.

This Sci-fi classic features a 24-year old coder who wins a chance to spend a week with a prodigy programmer, Nathan Issac. Nathan conducts an experiment to build the world’s first artificial intelligence system into the body of a beautiful girl robot – and then the suspense begins!

This movie triggered my thoughts on – can an advanced machine learning system develop a mind of its own and rival our humanity with something we still can’t see coming?


5. Morgan

This movie is guaranteed to give you goosebumps. Morgan took my breath-away innumerable times and if you like the action-horror genre, then you will be spell-bound by this movie.

Lee Weathers is a “risk-management specialist” for genetic-engineering company SynSect. She arrives at a site hosting its L-9 project, an artificial being with nanotechnology-infused synthetic DNA named Morgan. Morgan displays incredible capabilities of autonomous decision making and sophisticated emotional responses. It’s smarter than humans and keeps maturing with its responses.


A corporate risk-management consultant must decide whether or not to terminate an artificially created humanoid being.

— Sh. D. Adeh

This certainly brings up the case of autonomous vehicles. Think about it – if a self-driving vehicle crashes into a human – who’s responsible? The programmers or the vehicle? There’s no clear answer yet (despite multiple conferences and policies around this).


6. Automata

Automata talks about how the human race is edging out of the world and the machines are stepping in to take over. Sounds familiar? But wait till you watch the movie.

The movie starts with solar flares that make the earth surface radioactive, killing humans. The remaining humans who managed to survive build robots to help them rebuild what they lost.

Jacq works for a robot manufacturing company. As he works along with robots, he discovers that they start stealing and displaying unethical behavior. These robots also start influencing Jacq with philosophical talks and ultimately he gives them the nuclear-powered battery they need to build intersection robots. The climax? That’s incredibly powerful.


7. Transcendence

Oh, I love this movie. It touches on a lot of aspects, including AGI and the debate about ethics.

An artificial intelligence system, played by Johnny Depp, starts building an army of cyborg zombies (which are all modeled after himself). Creating a sentient machine does not go down well with his team. When extremists try to kill the doctor, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed. His wife and brother can only watch as Depp’s thirst for knowledge evolves to an omnipresent quest for power, and his loved ones soon realize that it may be impossible to stop him.

That’s certainly a strike against AGI, isn’t it?


8. Her

This movie showcases a tool closer to the next level of evolution. ‘Her’ refers to an incredible, intelligent and advanced operating system that is designed to keep your life on track.

This movie is a soft and heartwarming story about a programmer. As a data scientist, it is inspiring to witness such evolutions that are glorifying human life. Can a programmer fall in love with software? Well, you gotta figure this out!

Joaquin Pheonix provides another masterful performance in this movie that I’m sure will stand the test of time. A must-watch!


9. Moneyball

Moneyball is THE most influential story of the modern sports industry. It has spawned data-driven revolutions across sports, such as basketball, baseball (on which it is based), American football, and now even football and cricket.

Based on a true story, Moneyball tells the tale of Billy Bean. He is building Oakland A’s baseball team for the upcoming season. With less money in hand than his rivals, he resorts to relying on data to drive his decision-making process. What happens next is worth watching.

This is a mandatory watch for any sports fan, especially anyone interested in sports analytics. You’ll be trawling through the web looking for advanced sports analytics metrics before the movie finishes!


10. The Imitation Game

Another machine learning movie based on a true story.

The newly created British Intelligence agency MI6 recruits Cambridge mathematics alumnus Alan Turing to crack Nazi codes, including Enigma that cryptanalysts had thought unbreakable.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone involved in the machine learning profession. The Imitation Game aptly depicts the incredible power of mathematics, computer science, and logical thinking.

Alan Turing is a legend in the machine learning world (if you haven’t heard about him or his work, this is a good place to start).


What’s your Favorite Machine Learning Movie?

These movies just don’t seem outlandish anymore, do they? That’s a testament to the power of machine learning and how far we have come in such a short amount of time.

I would love to know about any interesting movies/ documentaries you loved watching from the lens of a data scientist? Share your favorite machine learning movies in the comments section below.

Sneha Jain 02 Jan, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions

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Responses From Readers


Gyan 02 Jan, 2020

An amazing collection. I have watched a few of the movies listed, would love to explore rest of the movies talked about. Thanks!!

Godson Chikelu
Godson Chikelu 02 Jan, 2020

I have watched most of the movies listed. I would say I like the tv show Person of Interest as my top AI show.

Marcel 02 Jan, 2020

I found the Lawmower Man pretty interesting. it's also about man combining with computers, but only... I won't spoil it, but it could happen :)

sriram 02 Jan, 2020

"I am mother" from Netflix is also to be considered. Do give it a try.

3DClayman 02 Jan, 2020

Thanks for the great list, I have a couple to add to my list of movies to watch. I have a few to add to the list, ** Colossus the Forbin project, The US builds a self aware supercomputer which attempts to eliminate humans. Great drama. Best of the old movies hard to find but worth it. This one probably started it all. I-Robot - Will Smith as a detective investigating a murder to see if a robot did it. Can a robot break the 3 rules of robotics? Wargames, Pentagon buys a supercomputer which must learn.- nerdy sci-fi with an Altair 8080 and accessories in Matthew Broderick's bedroom. Just for fun the BBC TV series - Red Dwarf - sarcastic comedy in most episodes from a million year old super computer with an IQ of 12,000, on a large spaceship with a cat that evolved into a human form, a disgusted hologram, a million year old human juvenile delinquent, a robot butler and lots of chicken vindaloo.