Filmmakers love to explore memory problems—in the form of amnesia, dementia, manipulation, conflicting recollections of the past, you name it. And this thematic fascination isn’t limited to any one movie genre; it’s the one thing Overboard, Memento, and Rashomon all have in common.
But for our purposes today, we’re specifically looking at science fiction movies—so, sorry, fans of the Bourne movies, Shutter Island, Angel Heart, Spellbound, Desperately Seeking Susan, The Notebook, The Manchurian Candidate, and on and on. And while there are tons of sci-fi movies that use memory as a plot device, here are 12 of our favorites.
4. Blade Runner (and Blade Runner 2049)
Do memories count if you’re not actually human? Both Blade Runner movies (like Total Recall, inspired by Philip K. Dick) feature replicant characters who fervently believe their memories are real. In the original film, Rachael (Sean Young) doesn’t initially know that she’s not a real human, in large part because her recollections of her childhood are so vivid. In Blade Runner 2049, K (Ryan Gosling) is well aware that he’s a “skin job,” but begins to suspect he might be the sought-after child born to Rachael and Deckard (Harrison Ford) when he visits an orphanage and finds a small toy horse stashed exactly where he (seemingly) remembers leaving it. Both Blade Runners point out how important memories really are in constructing individual identities; it’s no wonder its characters are devastated when they realize their minds have been manipulated to believe things that aren’t authentic.
9. The Giver
A robust cast (Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgård, Katie Holmes, and there’s even a somewhat distracting Taylor Swift cameo) elevates Phillip Noyce’s adaptation of Lois Lowry’s dystopian novel. It’s about a society where the pursuit of order and perfection has come at the expense of emotions, free-thinking, and creative expression—basically, anything that might upset the status quo. A teenaged boy named Jonas (Brenton Thwaites, soon to be seen as Dick Grayson on Titans) is informed that his prescribed career will be taking over from Bridges’ character as “receiver” of the community’s collective memories. But once “the Giver” begins to pass on his knowledge, the kid realizes exactly what his life has been missing—not just the power of memory, but also things like fear, joy, love, and excitement—and he can’t suppress his urge to share what he’s learned with everyone else. (The Giver illustrates his awakening literally, shifting the movie’s palette from monochrome grey to lush and colorful.) Bridges is great as the gruff, weary teacher, and the story offers a familiar yet earnest cautionary tale about the perils of conformity—with suppressed memories representing the greatest loss of all.
Link to the rest at io9