Skip Hulu's Class of '09, try these 9 AI thriller movies and TV shows instead
The latest TV series to premier on Hulu is Class of '09 and it hasn't received the most shining of reviews since being released on May 10. The show has a 6.2 rating on IMDb and 61% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes so far – not a disaster, but not setting the world on fire in the age of Peak TV.
Without giving too much away, Class of '09 spans three decades and is told across multiple timelines. It's about two FBI recruits called Tayo Miller (Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry) and Amy Poet (Kate Mara), who find that after the murder of their friend there’s external forces at play.
The series explores the influence of artificial intelligence (AI), which is a subject well covered in entertainment the world. You’ll likely have seen most of the big hitters from this genre (The Matrix, The Terminator, Blade Runner, etc) as the idea of sentient computers causing chaos is a premise that’s been troubling humans since computers were first invented.
Given that it's not looking like a huge hit, why not explore one our many recommendations for AI thrillers that are less well-known than the movies above, or have unfairly bad reputations. Here are nine AI thrillers we think you should be streaming instead, with many available on the best streaming services.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Any deep dive into AI on screen needs to start with A.I. Artificial Intelligence, a film that has divided audiences, but that we're here to tell you is good – and that most people will admit to shedding a tear over. Partially a Stanley Kubrick project – based on the 1969 short story Supertoys Last All Summer – but ultimately handled by Steven Spielberg, this is a much darker movie than you might expect.
Set in the 22nd Century, and inspired by the story of Pinocchio, David (Haley Joel Osmond) is a prototype Mecha child, a human-looking android, adopted by a family hurting after their sun falls deathly ill. When the son recovers, David turns out to be a fifth wheel in the household – but you can just put an intelligent seeming boy who loves you in the trash. Can you?
What follows is a heartstring-tugging quest for David to understand where he fits in, and it isn't a pretty journey… except for the times when it kind of is. The movies end is the part that's often derided, with Spielberg accused of making it sentimental… but it's not really, not when you pay close attention to what's actually happening.
Available to stream on Paramount Plus in the US and UK. It is available on Binge, Foxtel and Stan in Australia.
Spike Jonze’s movie is an eerily prescient look into the world of online dating, loneliness, and the attractiveness of an AI assistant that's designed to make you happy. Could a person fall in with what is essentially a bot? If you’re the depressed, divorcing Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) then the answer is yes.
His paramour is the digital dame, Samantha, a computer operating system who starts out as his personal assistant, but through an injection of new data becomes sexually and romantically involved with Theodore. But, as Theo might come to find out, AI lovers can also break your heart too.
Available to rent or buy only in the US and UK. Available to stream from Binge in Australia.
Alex Garland’s movie explores the Turing test – whether a machine can exhibit the correct behaviour to pass as a human – set in the hyper-rich one-percenter world of obnoxious search engine CEO, Nathan Bateman (no relation to Patrick, we think; played by Oscar Isaac).
Nathan’s colleague Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins the chance to stay at his boss’ incredible pad for a week, and ends up interacting with humanoid robots Ava (Alicia Vikander) and Kyoto (Sonoya Mizuno). Once again, the allure of a digital female proves too strong, and before you can say “control, alt, delete”, Caleb’s in love, and planning an escape and a new life with Ava. Is there a happy ending for this set of wires, CPU and RAM? You’ll have to watch and find out.
Available to stream on HBO Max in the US. Watch on Prime Video and Sky in the UK. In Australia, it's rent or buy only.
It’s the newest film of this canon, but an immensely popular and highly camp movie satire that feels like it's taking cues from Paul Verhoeven's movies, such as Robocop, as well as good-ol' Chucky, but with added AI. Roboticist Gemma (Allison Williams) creates M3GAN as the perfect walking, talking doll for her toy company – and decides to test the bot with helping to care for her recently orphaned niece, Cady.
But M3GAN’s love for Cady knows no bounds, and soon she’ll do anything to protect her, including killing anyone the android believes is upsetting her. M3GAN herself walks that great line between horror hero and villain. Resistance is futile: M3GAN and her dancing skills are eventually coming for you, too.
Available to stream on Peacock in the US. In the UK and Australia, it's rent or buy only.
“What if phones… but too much” is the famous joke accusation levelled at Black Mirror, but no one has explored the idea quite as thoroughly – or inventively – as Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones. While the black comedy series has covered a multitude of angles about good-technology-gone-bad since its inception, it’s all worth a watch.
The standout AI episodes are USS Callister (Jesse Plemons stars as a crazed video game boss involved with cloning employees), White Christmas (Jon Hamm on why we probably shouldn’t rely on virtual assistants) and Be Right Back, in which a woman uses dubious technology to bring her dead boyfriend back to life.
Available to stream on Netflix worldwide.
Director Alex Proyas mined Isaac Asimov’s short stories from the 1950s for this Will Smith thriller, setting the actor as a robot-hating detective working the streets of Chicago in 2035. Smith, as Det. Del Spooner, is called in for action when the co-founder of the firm US Robotics falls to his death.
His investigation points them in the direction of the android Sonny (Alan Tudyk) who has some incriminating evidence to offer. While the film was received with mixed criticism at the time, it’s worth revisiting now, almost 20 years later for a slice of retro futurism, and to realise that it's mostly a fun action adventure that actually engages pretty well with the meat of Asimov's work – particularly the flaws with his famous 'three laws'. Picking away at them was the whole point of his stories, after all.
Available to stream on Fubo in the US. It's also streaming on Disney Plus in the UK and Australia.
Person of Interest
While this might have slipped under your radar at the time, despite making it to five seasons, Person of Interest, which premiered on CBS in 2011, stealthily built up its reputation as one of the most innovative TV shows about crime, AI, and all the ethical issues that surround the two.
Michael Emerson plays Harold Finch, another tech supremo, who has invented The Machine, a super-AI system which allows the US Government to predict future crimes… but it turns out the authorities don't want to help people on the street with what the Machine can do. Finch pulls himself out of the situation, and brings onboard veteran John Reese (Jim Caviezel) as basically Batman in a two-piece suit to stop the crimes that the government ignores.
So far, so crime-procedural-with-a-dystopian-edge. It starts as pretty typical fare… but by the end of the fifth series, it's about two super-intelligent AIs warring with each other in secret for the freedom of the human race, and is utterly fantastic sci-fi.
Available to stream on Freevee in the US and UK. It's also streaming on 7Plus in Australia.