Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

All Of This Wouldn't Exist If Blade Runner Never Happened

While it has come to be recognized as a masterpiece since its underwhelming release in 1982, Blade Runner (a loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) was a disappointment at the time, barely scraping back its production costs at the box office and receiving little love from the biggest critics of the day. Opinion started to change in 1992, when the first of what would be many alternate cuts of the movie was released, and in the years that followed its influence has been increasingly felt—not only in the film world, but in other forms of media.

From '80s arcade throwbacks and forgotten '90s films to some of the most innovative games and TV shows of recent years, the following titles simply wouldn't exist without Blade Runner.

Snatcher (1988)

Even if you're not old enough to have enjoyed the Sega Genesis in all its 16-bit glory, you've probably still heard of the legendary '80s games console. What you might not have heard of is the Sega CD, an innovative add-on accessory released in the early '90s that allowed users to play disc-based games like Snatcher, a cyberpunk adventure game developed by Japanese distributor Konami that lifted heavily from American science fiction.

There's obvious undertones of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the Snatchers are quite clearly influenced by The Terminator in terms of appearance, but there's one movie that essentially inspired the game as a whole. "The city and basic plotline is straight out of Blade Runner," Hardcore Gaming 101 said in their review. "The intro even includes flames shooting out of buildings... and there's a Snatcher that looks just like Rutger Hauer's Roy Batty from Blade Runner." The enhanced version of Snatcher was later ported for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn in Japan.

Rise of the Dragon (1990)

Another game that was ported for the Sega CD as well as the Amiga, Rise of the Dragon was the first adventure outing from American developer Dynamix, who broke onto the scene with tank battler Stellar 7 in 1982 and became known for their flight simulation games in the years that followed. By 1990 they had started moving into the adventure genre, and Rise of the Dragon was their biggest yet. Players control an ex-cop and have to find clues and solve puzzles in order to stop an evil (and politically incorrect) Asian villain.

Like Blade Runner, this cyberpunk detective story unfolds in a dystopian Los Angeles, which is being flooded with drugs by an underground Chinese cult. The aesthetics are remarkably similar to those in Ridley Scott's movie, right down to character wardrobes and attitudes towards life in a bleak version of the future.

"Much of the style of the game borrows heavily from Blade Runner,Giant Bomb said in their recent write up on the classic title. "The main character and protagonist's name is Blade, perhaps as an homage to the film and its hard boiled spiritual predecessors, with crowded, dingy L.A. streets, seedy bars, strong Eastern influences, trench coats, and cynical attitudes."

Syndicate (1993)

Real-time tactical classic Syndicate was released across numerous consoles in the 1990s, including the Amiga, the SNES and the Genesis, which allowed it to build a wide fanbase. The player is in charge of a corporation in the year 2096 and has control over a squad of cyborgs who specialize in persuasion. An expansion pack and a sequel were both released, and the franchise began to earn cult status among gamers, leading EA and Starbreeze Studios to reboot Syndicate as a first-person shooter for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2012 with mixed results.

The influence of Blade Runner is evident throughout the entire franchise, right from the moment you load up the first game. Hardcore Gaming 101 said that the original "closely emulates" Ridley Scott's sci-fi in more ways than one. "Syndicate's visuals were inspired by Blade Runner, to an extent, with all of the floating cars and video billboard advertisements," argues their writeup. "The music is restricted to a small handful of looping CD audio tracks, which, predictably, take a bit after Vangelis' score in Blade Runner."

Strange Days (1995)

This little-known sci-fi gem was referred to as "James Cameron's Blade Runner" by Reel Rundown when they revisited the film in 2017, pointing out some of the obvious similarities between the two. The Titanic director wrote 1995's Strange Days and his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow helmed it, but despite the combined talents of these two future Oscar winners, the film tanked hard at the box office, earning only $8 million from a budget of $42 million.

Of course, Blade Runner (originally titled Dangerous Days) famously had a terrible time at the box office upon release and didn't become known as a classic until many years (and re-edits) later. An unfortunate opening isn't all they have in common, however. Both movies take place in a dreary version of Los Angeles and follow a troubled protagonist as he unravels the mystery behind a new technology that records events directly from the wearer's cerebral cortex.

This device (known as a SQUID) was actually created by Syd Mead, the same industrial designer who came up with the unmistakable Blade Runner aesthetic. Mead recently talked to Film School Rejects about returning to the world he and Scott built for the 2017 sequel. "Working on Blade Runner 2049 was a completely new inventive challenge, which I relished," he said. "Having worked on the original with Ridley Scott in pre-production and post-production, this new involvement was a professionally thrilling way of bracketing my Blade Runner design history."

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Mamoru Oshii's cyberpunk classic Ghost in the Shell is an influential film in itself, having inspired pretty much every aspect of The Matrix franchise and countless other properties in Japan and the west. This atmospheric anime "introduced American audiences to the philosophical risk-taking and literary sophistication of Japanese animation," according to Japanamerica author Roland Kelts (via L.A. Times). "The film is about defending against malicious hackers and the fluidity of gender identities, making it almost unbearably prescient two decades later."

As culturally important as Ghost in the Shell has been over the years, it isn't wholly original. As far as Oshii is concerned, this is basically unavoidable. "People have told me about the similarities between my film and The Matrix with annoying frequency, but that series is based on the Wachowskis' own worldview," he said. "Ultimately, all movies begin as copies of others, and it's impossible to avoid consciously or unconsciously copying things from other works. Any film set in a near-future world is influenced to some degree by Blade Runner, but I did my best to make [Ghost in the Shell] different from it."

The director also name-dropped Ridley Scott's movie during an interview with IGN, in which he revealed the American films that had influenced anime the most. "There was a time in Japan," he admitted, "when every anime movie borrowed from 2001: A Space Odyssey or Blade Runner or The Terminator."

Gattaca (1997)

Another criminally overlooked sci-fi film from the 1990s, Gattaca was written and directed by New Zealand-born filmmaker Andrew Niccol and co-starred Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, who would go on to get married in real life. Their relationship wound up getting more headlines than the film, which, despite an impressive an impressive 82 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is still not fully appreciated today. This could well change with the release of Blade Runner 2049, according to The Guardian.

"It's possible to argue that the current hype around Blade Runner 2049 should also encourage studio executives to take a second look at the unheralded work of Andrew Niccol, whose Aldous Huxley-inspired 1997 thriller Gattaca remains an under-viewed cult classic," the paper pointed out. "Set in a world where eugenics have led to humans being judged according to the quality of their genetic code, its failure at the box office shouldn't mask the movie's potential as the jumping off point for dozens of potential sequels."

The one distinction between the two films is that Blade Runner depicts a future in which the artificially enhanced "replicants" are hunted by the regular humans, whereas Gattaca takes place in a world in which the artificially enhanced "valids" are the dominant force. Will Brooker, author of The Blade Runner Experience: The Legacy of a Science Fiction Classic, said that despite this turnaround, "both movies deal with the difficulty of a human negotiating a world that is in danger of leaving that humanity behind." 

Solider (1998)

Paul W.S. Anderson's late '90s sci-fi thriller Soldier was a direct product of Ridley Scott's movie in that it was scripted by the same guy who co-wrote Blade Runner. David Webb Peoples was drafted in to bring Hampton Fancher's first screenplay for Blade Runner up to scratch, and when he went on to pen Soldier he decided to set it in the same universe. According to Ain't It Cool, Peoples referred to Soldier as a "sidequel" to Blade Runner, with its story taking place on a different planet.

Kurt Russell stars as eponymous soldier Sgt. Todd 3465, the leader of a group of orphans taken in by the military in the year 1996 and moulded into obedient killing machines. Unfortunately for Todd and his men, they are deemed obsolete by the year 2035, when a new breed of genetically engineered super-soldiers are brought in to replace them.

There are a few Easter eggs that reveal Soldier's relationship to Blade Runner, though only diehard fans of Scott's masterpiece would notice. A police vehicle known as a Spinner in Blade Runner can be spotted rusting away in a scrapyard in one shot, and there is a subtle reference when it's revealed that Todd fought in the battle of "Tannhauser Gate," which Rutger Hauer mentions in his famous "tears in the rain" monologue.

Westworld (2016-present)

At first glance, HBO's Westworld doesn't come off as having major Blade Runner vibes, lacking the urban landscape. If you sit down to watch the show's first season, however, you'll begin to understand where Westworld's cinematographer was coming from when he said Ridley Scott's classic was "key" to their planning. "The key thing that we had to keep in mind was that it was a lot more Blade Runner than a Western," Robert McLachlan told Vulture. "We had to keep in mind that we weren't shooting a Western, we were shooting a science fiction show."

McLachlan (who has also worked on Game of Thrones for HBO) went on to explain how he figured out ways to bring the feel of Blade Runner to the show despite the landscapes being polar opposites most of the time. "It was so subtle that I think most viewers wouldn't pick up on it," he said. "When it came to how we used the camera and how we framed things and the camera movement itself, the goal was to be assertive, mechanical, and we didn't ever want the viewer to feel like there was a human being on the other end of that camera who was operating it."

Observer (2017)

Polish developers Bloober Team made no secret of the influence Blade Runner had on their recent release Observer, even going as far as casting Rutger Hauer as the game's protagonist. Hauer (who played Roy Batty, leader of the renegade Nexus-6 replicants in Blade Runner) is the face and voice of police investigator Daniel Lazarski, a Krakow-based cop the player guides through a neon-hued urban sprawl that CNET described as having definite "Ridleyville influences."

"The city he eventually steps into is pure Ridleyville, dark, damp, and covered with neon signs and futuristic advertisements," reads their review of the game, which is set in the year 2084. "The nods to Blade Runner start right away, with an opening written crawl mimicking the one at the start of the film, offering some backstory to this game's dystopian world. Within a few minutes, Lazarski is searching for clues on a laptop, using software that looks and feels almost exactly like Deckard's Esper machine from Blade Runner."

The game (released on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) has been a hit with the critics, who have praised the blend of Blade Runner aesthetics with effective horror. "What the developers have done with Observer," argued Critical Hit, "is combine the very best cyberpunk elements of Blade Runner with an intense layer of psychological horror that will leave you dreading this frighteningly recognizable future."