“Ex Machina” is a cinematic masterpiece. Everything from the plot, to the production, to the quality of acting, is stellar. It’s a film that combines the two worlds of intriguing science-fiction and cerebral drama for a captivating storyline. And, rather than delivering non-stop sci-fi overtures full of implausible action scenes, the audience is offered a deeply intimate relationship between a computer programmer and an artificially intelligent robot.
“Ex Machina” is a subtle film. The majority of the movie is conversation between the two where Caleb, the programmer, attempts to gauge, Ava, the robot's level of consciousness. This is done by measuring Caleb's ability to relate to Ava through regular dialogue. That is, of course, how humanity operates, millions of people relating to one another at different levels. Caleb’s task is to determine how real or “human” Ava is capable of appearing.
What separates humans from "animal" and "machine" is the ability to process complex emotions like love. But, what if artificial intelligence becomes so intelligent that it too can develop and process those same complex emotions? Beyond lacking flesh and blood, if a robot can love, what makes us different? “Ex Machina” makes the viewer asks those questions.
Love requires a certain level of trust, vulnerability, and hope. And, it can be difficult to find another human to invest that much sentiment into. Loving someone is risky. Handing over that much power can feel unsafe. In “Ex Machina,” we watch Caleb fall in love and become emotionally vulnerable to a robot capable of processing probabilities, body language, and subtle queues in a way no human brain ever could.
“Ex Machina” is a movie you need to watch several times because so much of the story is told in the way each scene is filmed. When we're introduced to Ava, her demeanor is meek and the conversation between her and Caleb feels like an innocent introduction between two beings. But, as time goes on, Ava begins talking to Caleb - and the viewer - about her hopes and dreams. She earns our trust and we unknowingly hand over a bit of our power. Next, she begins demonstrating lust and sexuality which causes Caleb and the viewer to feel even more captivated by her. We hand over more power.
With each shift of power, both Caleb and Ava's body languages change. While Caleb relaxes and opens up over time, Ava becomes more domineering and overt. Eventually, she asks Caleb to do things that would put his future and entire career in jeopardy. And, in hindsight, this subtle progression unfolds in a way only a calculating machine, or a narcissist, could pull off. There’s no limit to the things we’re willing to do for love and there’s nothing more “real” or more “human” than it.
What we witness with “Ex Machina” is how frightening and powerful artificial intelligence can be when we hand it the keys to the only thing that separates humanity from machine, the ability to feel, or, rather mimic love.
Most A.I. movies aren’t as cerebral as “Ex Machina.” But, in one way or another they all address the good and bad consequences of empowering A.I. Now that you’ve seen this wonderful film, here are more movies like “Ex Machina,” where the A.I. often becomes too much to handle.
1. “The Terminator”
The original "The Terminator" is a classic and is arguably the most notable movie about artificial intelligence ever. It makes our list of movies like "Ex Machina" because it too explores what can happen when A.I. overpowers humanity."Ex Machina" examines what possible consequences of A.I. feel like in the very early stages. While "The Terminator" is an action-packed film about the dystopian consequences of A.I. “The Terminator” is the aftermath.
The entire movie is a satisfying overdose of sci-fi that spawned several sequels, and a decade's old cult-following. And, it's a great movie to watch after Ex Machina if only just to compare how moviemakers showcase A.I. on the big screen now versus in the 80s.
2. “Bicentennial Man”
"Bicentennial Man" is a heartwarming ‘90s film starring Robin Williams as an artificially intelligent robot named Andrew Martin. "Bicentennial Man" joins our list of movies like "Ex Machina" as it follows the story of Andrew adopting humanistic qualities like creativity and emotional attachment over two decades. Andrew's goal is to be viewed as human by people and by the government. But, like all movies about artificial intelligence, this ambition comes at a price.
Ultimately, "Bicentennial Man" defines what separates humanity and machine differently. In "Ex Machina" it's the ability to fall in love, but in "Bicentennial Man" love is a given. Andrew is trustworthy and pure, he's arguably morally superior to any human.
Andrew looks, talks, and walks like a human, except for one catch, he does not age therefore he cannot die. Andrew explores the human condition while facing the consequences of watching those around him grow old. For "Ex Machina" it's love that defines humanity and for "Bicentennial Man," it's death.
3. “I, Robot”
"I, Robot" is an early 2004 film about android robots. Will Smith leads the cast as Del Spooner, a detective investigating the death of the CEO of USR, the U.S. Robotics company. The film makes our list of movies like "Ex Machina" as it too takes the vantage point of life with artificial intelligence just before humans lose control.
In lesser detail, the film also explores robots making emotionally driven choices. But, while Ex Machina is a subdued drama, "I Robot" is a full-blown action flick chock-full of stunning visual effects.
4. “The Stepford Wives”
"The Stepford Wives" is a 2004 remake of the 1975 film by the same name. Not only does it make our list of movies like "Ex Machina" but it makes nearly every list of feminist films ever.
"The Stepford Wives," asks the viewer to take a step beyond what defines basic humanity for artificial intelligence. Instead, it asks us what defines womanhood. It's a tug of war between career independence and a more conservative ideology of a woman's place in the world.
5. “Ghost in the Shell”
"Ghost in the Shell" stars Scarlett Johansson as Major, a cyber-enhanced super-soldier, charged to support humans and defend humanity against the world's most dangerous criminals. When terrorists attack humanity through the mind, the audience is taken on an action-packed journey that follows Major's attempts to save the world.
Unlike Ex-Machina, "Ghost in the Shell'' explores the weakness of the human mind and if "humanity" is something artificial intelligence should even aspire to.
"Surrogates" joins our list of movies like "Ex Machina" as another film about A.I. But, this time, humans are in the driver's seat. The film stars Bruce Willis as Tom Geer and explores what can go wrong when humans employ robots to take on all the perils that come with living a normal life.
"Her" is another must-watch cerebral sci-fi film, and frankly, no list of movies like "Ex Machina" would be complete without it. It explores the same questions and concepts as "Ex Machina" but the discussion of a human's emotional attachment to A.I. is much deeper.
"Her" stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly, a heartbroken man struggling to pick up the pieces after the demise of his marriage. Instead of a regular 'ol dating app - if they even exist at this point - Theodore tests out an audio-based A.I. companionship app voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Over time, their relationship deepens. They encounter many of the same conflicts humans experience in dating. And, at times it's so convincing that the viewer forgets this isn't a long-distance relationship between two humans.
Like "Ex Machina," "Her" doesn't ask us to dissect the power of A.I. but what the consequences of when we ask it to take on more human traits.
8. “Blade Runner 2049”
Like "The Terminator," "Blade Runner 2049" follows society after the world has already discinded into the world of A.I. Ryan Gosling plays K, a bio-engineered human replicant whose sole purpose is to track and destroy other replicants. This wonderfully-crafted action film doesn't examine A.I.'s ability to love, but another humanistic trait, memory.
10. “Avengers: Age of Ultron”
"Avengers: Age of Ultron" is one of the many films in Disney’s The Avenger's franchise that features Tony Stark's A.I. intelligence. Before "Avengers: Age of Ultron," fans primarily experienced A.I. through Jarvis, Tony Stark's assistant, and long-time companion.
Tony Stark imagines what it would take for the Avengers to be able to retire and lead less dangerous lives. So, he decides to test out replicating Jarvis's A.I. and turning it into a single conscious police force. But, Tony underestimates what can happen when intensely intelligent A.I. has an agenda and an opinion.
James Spader joins the cast of "Avengers: Age of Ultron" as the voice of the villain. He not only adds a commanding presence to the film but also Spader's signature dry humor.
11. “Robot & Frank”
"Frank & Robot" is a movie about artificial intelligence, companionship, and memory. Frank Langella plays Frank Weld, an aging man gifted a robot companion by his son. "Robot" is voiced by "An Education" and "Boys Don't Cry's" Peter Saarsgard. Frank is initially apprehensive of the robot but soon learns it can be a big asset.
The pair devise a number of plots that intensify their bond. And, ultimately they question if memory whether from a circuit board or human brain is a benefit or a complication.
"Transcendence" makes our list of movies like "Ex Machina" as a film about artificial intelligence that tries its hand at a cerebral storyline. "Transcendence" is an entertaining film, but it takes every single sci-fi concept imaginable and bundles them into one plot which can be jarring.
If you loved "Ex Machina's" visual storytelling, then you'll appreciate “Transcendence's” visual effects. The film also stars Johnny Depp, and if you're a fan of Depp's signature peculiar character roles then you'll love him in "Transcendence" as well.
13. “A.I. Artificial Intelligence”
"A.I. Artificial Intelligence" is a 2001 sci-fi drama starring Haley Joel Osment as an A.I. android child capable of feeling love. While "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" shares the topic of love with "Ex Machina," it's a romantic type of love in "Ex Machina" and a familial one in “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.”
Haley Joel Osment as David, the android child, is perfect. The storyline forces the audience to connect with him. Although he isn't flesh and blood, we want to protect him. Human or not, should a child ever have a place in the A.I. world? Be prepared to choke up, because this classic film will tug at your heartstrings.
If you loved "Ex Machina" you'll adore Amazon Prime’s "Zoe." Both films explore the possibility of artificially intelligent love, but "Zoe" is a true romantic film. If you've ever been on the losing end of unrequited love, you'll relate to "Zoe" even though she's an A.I. Robot. Her sole purpose - and the sole purpose of the entire scientific project she's a part of - is to offer humans a chance at romantic relationships.
Traditional human dating falls short because of incompatibility and abandonment. But, this new technology is able to offer humans a companion that will always love them. In "Zoe" whether robots are able to process love isn't a question, it's their intention. Humans are supposed to fall in love with robots and robots with humans. But, as we saw in "Ex Machina" combining love and artificial intelligence is a risk, but this time it's not the human taking the risk.
"Zoe" follows a heartbreaking story of what happens when a robot, capable of deep emotion, falls in love with an emotionally stunted human man.
Stream “Zoe” on Amazon Prime.
15. “I Am Mother”
Our list of movies like "Ex Machina" features A.I. intelligence serving many roles, from a servant, to a companion, to an assassin, to a child, and even a lover. But, Netflix's " I Am Mother" asks us to imagine an android as a maternal figure whose responsibility is to raise a human in the most natural feeling way possible.
Rose Byrne is the soothing-maternal voice of "Mother." She and her "Daughter" played by Clara Rugaard live in a remote station safe from all the perils of the outside world. The world is a dangerous dystopia and the two have just each other as they grow together as a family.
Stream “I Am Mother” on Netflix.