Okay, so you’ve seen the title and by title alone, no doubt this article is going to cause a stir. Okay… that we know, but let’s see how we go. The following list is by no means definitive, but here are my top five cyberpunk films, based upon story, audience response and, for the interest of you, my dear reader, how they influenced the cybergoth fashion movement. Grab your laser gun and hack module, because we’re about to get started…
#1 The Matrix
Aside from the explosions, the fights, the mechanoids, the one thing that’s going to remain in your mind’s eye after the visual orgasm that is The Matrix is going to be the fashion. Even years after it’s 1999 release, The Matrix’s influence on the cyberpunk and cybergoth subculture was immense, bringing a corporate chic to the fore while maintaining that industrial edge. We’re talking shades, boots, jet-black hair and, of course, the trench coat.
Men in trenchcoats (known as 'trenchers' in some circles) became stylish once again thanks to this fashionable film. Fortunately the Columbine tragedy, and the associated 'trench coat mafia' had little effect on this recognizable style.
Who could forget the ballet-like prescision of Neo dodgy bullets and firing off round after round in that enigmatic jacket that fluttered behind him like a post-Apocalyptic superhero cape.
#2 Tetsuo: The Iron Man
Warning: this film is very graphic and we decided to only choose a tamer example to display here. Check it out on DVD if you want to do it justice.
No, I am not refering to your favourite brand of instant-Ramen. Tetsuo was the 1989 surreal-cyberpunk masterpiece from Shinya Tsukamoto. The antagonist, known only at ‘the metal fetishist’ descends into a world of insanity when he discovers that metal is growing from his very skin and he is caught between a disturbing realm between man and technology.
Utilizing pieces of metal and piping, a la Tetsuo is seen frequently in the CG underground.
This incredible and macabre film, although produced before the cybergoth culture we know today, has had a tremendous influence on both it’s aesthetics and ethics. Cyber fashion that pushes the man-machinery idea has clearly taken influence from this amazing film and one only has to turn to the world of talented contemporary cybergoth make-up artists to see that this film turned many heads (and gears).
#3 Ghost in the Shell
While this entry covers the seminal 1995 anime, it does in a way incorporate the entire GITS franchise based around the intensely groundbreaking manga from Shirow Masamune. It’s difficult to pinpoint which Japanese manga is the most influential, but let this be representative of them all, as GITS marked a massive trend of cyberpunk stories that effected our conciousness, and likely the very cybergoth movement in the western world. AI, cyborgs, cybernetic entities—not to mention a dropdead gorgeous hottie of a protagonist, whose liberated, strong characteristics brought science-fiction out of the boy’s only club and into the girl’s world.
#4 The Crow
Okay, okay, I haven’t even started this one and I know already I’m going to cop a lot of flack for this one… but The Crow, which had a huge impact on wannabe goths everywhere, is an important film and needs to be mentioned. Fashion and aesthetics wise, The Crow combines decaying Victorian architecture and clothing with a decaying, industrialized neighborhood of steel mills and batteries. Cybergoth isn’t always about artificial intelligence and the future—it’s also about the decay of the present, and there wouldn’t be a culture to be involved in without this film.
#5 Dark City
While the above post may have steered things to a more trad-goth focus, this film is important in a different way. While Dark City was also directed by Australian genre-master Alex Proyas, Dark City turned to a different aesthetic, influenced heavily by 50s noir and art-deco stylings whilst retaining that gritty gothic feel. As cyber changes and moves towards a rave-style paradigm, it could be said that the emerging steampunk subculture steers goth into a both a past and future build around a post-modernist worldview. Femme fatales, jazz fusion, black and white tiles and cigarette smoke all get their familiar appearances but lurking beneath the surface is a longing for a simpler time, fused with the complexity of the future, an abstract apparition of fanciful creative thought.