There’s no question that the internet has radically reshaped almost every aspect of modern life. In particular, the exponential growth of social media over the past couple of decades has changed how people relate to one another in deep and drastic ways, and not always for the better. Given its powerful influence, it’s not surprising that movies have attempted to convey some of this influence.
As movies like The Social Network and others demonstrate, both the internet and social media are, to put it mildly, mixed blessings when it comes to the health of society.
The Social Network (2010)
The Social Network is something of an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the talent involved, and it remains one of David Fincher’s best movies.
In particular, the movie is notable for taking an incisive look at the life and personality of Mark Zuckerburg, arguably one of the most influential people of the 21st century. What’s more, it also features some powerful performances from its lead cast, and Jesse Eisenberg is particularly memorable for his uncanny ability to replicate Zuckerburg’s mannerisms.
Hard Candy (2005)
One of the most troubling aspects of the growth of the internet has been sexual predation, and that is exactly the subject taken up by Hard Candy, one of the best movies of the 2000s.
Featuring Elliot Page as a vigilante gaining vengeance on someone she believes to be a sexual predator, it’s a movie that remains disturbing (and timely) even after a decade and a half. It’s also a powerful reminder of how dangerous the internet can be when it’s used by those who want to commit crimes.
The Circle (2017)
The Circle is another movie that is very much about the dangers posed by the internet and by the perils of living in an age of almost constant surveillance.
What makes the movie succeed is the performances delivered by both Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, as well as its ability to weave together its social commentary and the personal dramas that are at the heart of the plot. The fact that it takes place now rather than in the future makes its bleak message all the more intensely relevant and incisive.
The Hater (2020)
Even though many of the best movies about the internet have been produced in the US, The Hater is a Polish production about a young man who starts to use his influence on the internet as a means of attaining vengeance.
Given the way that many bad actors have sought to use social media for less-than-honorable purposes, the movie feels ever more relevant. What’s more, it features some tremendous performances that draw the viewer into the mind of its troubled and deeply destructive protagonist.
There’s no question that this is an age of screens, and it’s almost impossible to escape their presence in everyday life. This being the case, movies like Searching have sought to replicate that experience on the movie screen.
All of the action takes place on the small screens that are so ubiquitous, and while in other movies this could have become little more than just a gimmick, this thriller makes sure that it is a key part of its plot and its ultimate message about the impact such screens have on daily life.
While many of the best movies about the internet and social media are thrillers or mysteries, Mainstream is actually a comedy, and it features Andrew Garfield in one of his best roles.
In particular, the movie takes aim at the idea of viral fame, a status that many people, including the movie’s protagonist, played by Maya Hawke, are obsessed with obtaining. It’s a movie that skillfully blends together its comedic and dramatic elements, and for that reason, it leaves the viewer unsettled about the future.
There are many very good found-footage horror movies, and Unfriended deserves to be seen as one of them.
What’s more, it brings in elements of the supernatural in order to demonstrate just how destructive and corrosive social media can be on the lives of young people whose entire way of looking at and experiencing the world is often mediated through their various social media feeds. In that sense, it manages to take one of the more well-established and crowded sub-genres of horror and do something new with it.
Horror and comedy are two genres that, in some surprising ways, actually work together quite well. They certainly blend in the movie Spree, which focuses on a young man who decides to attain the fame that he yearns for so much by murdering his rideshare passengers.
It features a very strong performance from its central lead but, more than that, it also displays just how desperate people have become to get attention, even if that necessarily leads them into the darkness of violence and murder.
Eighth Grade (2018)
There’s no question that elementary school is a very difficult time in every child’s life, and it has been made exponentially more difficult by the advent and proliferation of social media.
This movie follows a young girl’s efforts to gain the appreciation and popularity of her peers by publishing vlogs in the style of a motivational speaker. What really makes the movie land as a form of critique is the believability of the performances, which allow the viewer to appreciate the tremendous toll that social-media-influenced anxiety takes on the minds of young people.
Ingrid Goes West (2017)
A yearning for fame is one of the most common tropes in movies about the internet, and most often this leads people to commit acts that, in normal circumstances, they wouldn’t.
This dynamic is very much at work in Ingrid Goes West, in which a young woman tries to ingratiate herself with and imitate a social media influencer (played by Elizabeth Olsen in one of her best roles). There’s no question that Aubrey Plaza is one of the movie’s greatest attributes, as is its skillful blending of black comedy and drama.
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