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The Classic Sci-Fi Movies Fans Of Altered Carbon Need To Watch

Upon making its streaming debut in February 2018, Netflix's Altered Carbon instantly proved itself a daring, surprisingly sexy sci-fi fantasia of the first order — one whose brainy neo-noir narrative was matched only by the sort of stylistic world-building typically reserved for big-screen endeavors.

Season 1 of Altered Carbon is nothing if not cinematic, with series creatives carving out a brutal, twisty detective tale from the pages of the Richard K. Morgan novel upon which it's based. Altered Carbon is set in a far-distant future where "stack" technology — which allows humans to store their consciousness digitally and download it into a new "sleeve" once their body expires — has essentially made immortality a reality. For the wealthy "Meths," that means an eternal life of luxury. For everyone else, it means a life of eternal struggle. Regarding imprisoned revolutionary warriors like Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman), "stack" tech means a chance to solve a perplexing murder, and maybe find his way out of an eon of bondage.

As they usually do in detective tales, things got a bit dicey by Altered Carbon's season 1 finale, with Takehsi solving the case, but still ending up back in a prison "stack." But even as the series expanded on its themes and visual flourishes (and even swapped Marvel Cinematic Universe stalwart Anthony Mackie into the lead role) for season 2, the grandiose sci-fi series never quite earned the viewership to justify its obvious cost. As such, Netflix pulled the plug on Altered Carbon just as it was really starting to cook.

Luckily, Altered Carbon fans devastated by the cancellation can console themselves by revisiting a couple of sci-fi epics that clearly influenced it: 1982's Blade Runner and 2017's Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner set the standard for every brainy sci-fi film that came after

If you're a fan of sci-fi cinema, Blade Runner is obviously a film you should know. In truth, any genre devotee has likely seen Blade Runner several times — and not only because there are about six different cuts of the film out there. Blade Runner in any form fronts the sort of visceral, ambitious storytelling that not only demands repeat viewings, but also rewards them.

If you've somehow not learned the austere beauty of tears in rain, understand that if you dig the epic, neon-soaked city scapes of Bay City in Altered Carbon, or found yourself fully engrossed in the hard-nosed detective-tale aspects of the series, you'll find all that and more at work in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner.

More than mere spiritual cousins, Altered Carbon and Blade Runner are essentially blood relatives. Released in 1982, Blade Runner unfolds in a drastically transformed version of Los Angeles in 2019, and also tells a tale of technology run dangerously amok. This story follows the titular detective (Harrison Ford) as he tracks down a band of advanced robots called "Replicants" who, having been created to work inhuman jobs in inhospitable off-world environments, are now becoming sentient beings and rebelling against man in their search for their own "humanity."

Yes, its very heady stuff. And yes, Scott and the entire Blade Runner team want it that way — imbuing the film with narrative textures, atmospheric weight, and a soul-crushing empathy rarely seen in the genre either before or after. The result is an undeniable sci-fi masterpiece that's influenced virtually every sci-fi flick that's come in its wake.

Blade Runner 2049 is everything great about Blade Runner dialed up to 11

On the subject of Blade Runner's "blood relatives," there's no more direct descendant than Denis Villeneuve's jaw-droppingly gorgeous Blade Runner 2049. Set decades after the original film and released in 2017, Blade Runner 2049 essentially recycles the structure of its predecessor by following one of the Replicant-"retiring" hunters as he runs down a new case. The twist is that Blade Runner K (Ryan Gosling in yet another wonderful performance) is a Replicant himself, a fact that complicates matters when said case reveals a truly unexpected twist — that the bioengineered "Replicants" have developed the ability to reproduce. 

That shocker of a clue sets K on collision course with wealthy industrialists orchestrating interstellar colonization, Harrison Ford's long-retired Blade Runner Deckard, and fate itself as K begins to suspect his own part in the spiraling drama may be bigger than he ever could've imagined.

Purely from a narrative standpoint, Blade Runner 2049 is every bit as daring as the original. And if you can believe it, Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins (who won an Oscar for his work here) actually manage to out style the original in virtually every way — conjuring images, set pieces, characters and scenarios Scott and company could only have dreamed of back in 1982.

Unfortunately, Blade Runner 2049 followed its predecessor into the annals of brashly ambitious sci-fi epics that failed to set the box office ablaze in their theatrical run (though 2049 at least has an epic runtime to blame). Thankfully, Blade Runner 2049 is also every bit as revered and every bit as influential on the genre at large. And yes, that means it's just as responsible for the look and feel of Altered Carbon as Blade Runner itself.