The internet and its culture play a major part in some summer movies, with dark podcasts forming a major element of BJ Novak’s Vengeance and influencers and social media challenges parodied in another black comedy Bodies Bodies Bodies. With both movies being received well by critics and fans, it suggests that movies are improving when it comes to getting the internet right.
Of course, in the decades when the internet existed, there have been tons of attempts at portraying it, some a lot better than others. With some older portrayals surprisingly prescient and some newer portrayals unnervingly accurate, these were Reddit’s suggestions for the best attempts.
Nerve stars Emma Roberts and James Franco as players in an all-new online game of truth-or-dare where the consequences can be all too real. The film doesn’t attempt to hide the fact that it’s taking on internet culture and the way it can drive people to do things they never would ordinarily.
Redditor VaguerCrusader felt that it nailed this internet aspect, saying they “really liked Nerve’s portrayal of internet culture” and the importance it puts on subscribers, view counts, and trash talk. It’s how convincingly the movie captured the dark side of social media that made it stick with some fans.
Men, Women & Children (2014)
Based on a novel of the same name that deals with the issue of online addiction, Men, Women & Children had the potential to explore the effect of the internet in a way that’s rarely seen. Unfortunately, despite a star-studded cast that includes Jennifer Garner, Kaitlyn Dever, and Adam Sandler, whose been in a fair few unfunny comedy movies, the movie was panned by critics who felt it played out like a bad spoof.
Redditor Gambit1138 acknowledges its problems, saying it “could use some work,” but thinks the movie shouldn’t be overlooked as it “does a pretty good job” when it comes to presenting the internet. In particular, the movie’s exploration of some of its effects on young people is its strong point.
A documentary may have an automatic advantage when it comes to capturing the internet realistically, but that would be downplaying the achievement of Catfish. Whereas more high-budget projects often end up going overboard, Catfish‘s low-cost, indie style, the way it highlights its subject, and Nev’s personal connection with the topic make it work.
Whilst the television show it spawned got wild in some episodes, Redditors like hey_sergio appreciate the movie’s grounded nature as it documents Nev’s relationship with a woman he knows only through Facebook. They point out how the movie is “ahead of its time” in exploring issues of internet anonymity and the fact it even spawned a new term is a testament to that.
Whilst there are some great found-footage movies, Unfriended puts an internet-age twist on the idea, being the first feature film in which all the action takes place on a computer screen. Critics were mixed on the movie overall, but fans loved its unique concept and simple horror thrills as well as its use of real social media sights rather than parody versions.
Redditor spacednlost was one of the fans who felt the choices in that regard paid off to make it “a good horror movie” despite a “low budget and some really cheesy effects.” Its central characters felt like a real group of people interacting online, which is what gave the slasher primer its impact.
Whilst portrayals of the internet in 1992 might seem quaint from today’s standpoint, it’s always impressive when a movie from such an early era of the online world manages to get aspects of it right. A crime thriller starring Robert Redford and Ben Kingsley as hackers issued a challenge by the NSA, Sneakers is a surprisingly high-tech caper.
Redditor PopPopPoppy makes the argument for why it should be considered amongst the great movies that nail the internet as it “gives a good glimpse into hacking/phreaking and infosec (before it was a real thing).” The movie isn’t free of the hacking clichés that are so easy to mock in movies like this, but it thankfully isn’t enough to distract from the action.
Ingrid Goes West (2017)
Whilst it never received a full theatrical release, the black comedy Ingrid Goes West does such a compelling job at exploring how the internet plays a part in stoking unhealthy parasocial relationships. Those who have seen it, including some Redditors, believe it deserves to be considered one of the best movies that get the internet right.
One Reddit user describes how it achieves this, explaining that it “pokes fun at the “influencer” lifestyle” and “Instagram addiction and consequences that come with it.” Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen are also so perfect as an obsessive stalker and a vain influencer, respectively, that it’s impossible to look away.
The Social Network (2010)
Though it’s far more interested in the man behind Facebook as a subject, the way it portrays behind the scenes in the early days of the company means The Social Network still manages to be one of the best portrayals of social media. David Fincher is known as a perfectionist, so it’s no surprise he makes sure to get the early internet right.
Redditor TheDudeWithNoName_ agrees that the movie “really nailed the mid 00s web interface in the film.” In every interaction a character has with the online world, it feels no less real than the movie’s real-world locations. Though that’s just a small thing, this attention to detail explains why it’s so highly rated as a portrayal of the internet.
Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)
Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back is remembered as one of Kevin Smith’s most hilarious movies by the director’s fans, but what’s easy to forget about the buddy comedy is that it’s also one of the first comedies to feature the internet as a major plot point. In 2001, the internet was already seen as a place where fans could exchange ideas.
That’s why, as one Redditor explains, “the whole plot of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is from something they read on the Internet.” It’s after reading negative reviews online that the pair set out to prevent the release of the Bluntman and Chronic movie and, in a movie not known for its realism, it’s perhaps one of the most realistic elements.
Eighth Grade (2018)
As someone who became a star, thanks to his meteoric rise on YouTube, it’s no surprise that Bo Burnham was able to capture the internet honestly in Eighth Grade. Starring Elsie Fisher as a teenager struggling with anxiety and a social media obsession, the movie doesn’t shy away from showing how the internet impacts mental health, especially at a young age.
Redditor HeyzeusGodofThunder goes as far as to say that “Eighth grade does the best job portraying social media so far imo.” Along with the decision to cast actual eighth-graders, the movie’s portrayal of young people online manages to feel incredibly real and that struck a chord with critics and fans alike who think the movie deserves a sequel.
One recommendation came up countless times in Reddit’s movie discussions that nailed their portrayal of the internet and that’s 2018’s Searching. The feature debut of Aneesh Chaganty who also stars, the movie took the all-online concept of Unfriended and ran with it, crafting a tense thriller about a dad searching for his missing daughter.
It received a ton of critical acclaim for a variety of reasons, not least that it’s just an extremely well-executed action film. However, Redditor MarioKartFromHell summarized how its use of the internet also played a big part in its success. While most movies avoid showing the internet because of how often interfaces change and become outdated, they think “the evolution of technology plays a part in the plot beautifully” in Searching.
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