Mark Zuckerberg is all about the metaverse these days. By metaverse we mean a hypothetical future version of the internet that functions as a persistent, three-dimensional virtual world enabled by technology like VR and AR headsets. The metaverse, sort of, already exists in forms ranging from video gaming and virtual chat apps and the internet already functions as a bizarre parallel reality, but Zuckerberg is so convinced this is the future that Facebook Inc. renamed itself to Meta and has plans to start pushing hardware in retail stores.
Zuckerberg obviously didn’t come up with this concept, but rather ripped it off from decades of sci-fi. The name was first coined by Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash, which built on tropes introduced by movies like Tron and William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer such as hackers walking around in virtual worlds generated by computers and heavy influences from the punk subculture. Both before and after Snow Crash, though, one may notice that virtually all fictional versions of the metaverse are kind of dystopian—either imagining it as a form of escape from a crumbling physical reality ravaged by unchecked capitalism or an entry to a dangerous new one, privy to manipulation and new forms of control by powerful mega-corporations, malicious hackers, and demonic artificial intelligence. Or, you know, sometimes it’s just taken over by a serial killer.
These nine old movies (we’re defining “old” as released prior to the turn of the millennium) are a flashing warning sign to steer clear of Facebook’s forthcoming Metaverse. Otherwise, you might make out with a TV, get melted by a microwave, kill your spouse in VR, or awaken a monstrous digital god who will consume us all.