Blade Runner Movie Home Page

The Blade Runner FAQ

Is, or can BR be considered "cyberpunk"?

What is BR?
News & Views
BR Fun
BR Game
BR Magazine
BR Comic
Site Info
Search Site is the Home of Blade Runner - the current Blade Runner FAQ, news, resources, links, quotes, scripts and everything else Blade Runner.

Blade Runner
Blade Runner
Buy this Mini Poster at

Any Comments?
Please e-mail the Webmaster

Want the DVD? Or the BR Game? Don't know which books or music to get? Maybe you'd like a Deckard action figure? Make sure you check the BR Related section for all your BR choices.


What is cyberpunk?

Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction literature, particularly prevalent from the 1980's. It referred to a particular writing style (characterized by a "high-tech meets low-life" theme) and to a particular group of writers, which included William Gibson, John Shirley, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan (the "Queen of Cyberpunk"), Walter Jon Williams, and others.

Gardner Dozois

Gardner Dozois, an editor of "Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine" during the early '80s, is generally acknowledged as the first person to popularize the term "cyberpunk" describing a body of literature. Dozois doesn't claim to have coined the term; he says he picked it up "on the street somewhere". The term itself was actually coined by writer Bruce Bethke; it was the title of a short story he wrote in 1980, about a group of skilled teenage hackers/crackers. See Bruce's description of the invention of the word and read the short story here.

Although the term only started being used in the 1980's, there are many stories from earlier decades that fall into the sub-genre. However, it was primarily the book "Neuromancer" by William Gibson, and perhaps the Blade Runner film that were the catalyst for this becoming widely recognised as a sub-genre of Science Fiction.

For more information about cyberpunk, the alt.cyberpunk FAQ can be downloaded from the following site:


Is, or can BR be considered "cyberpunk"?

To be sure if Blade Runner can be considered cyberpunk, it might be useful to get a clear definition of what cyberpunk is. This is not as simple as it sounds. If you ask a hundred (knowledgeable) people to give a definition of cyberpunk, you'll likely get a hundred different definitions.

Even so, while formulating any precise definition may be hard, there are some typical aspects that seem inherent to cyberpunk stories:

- The individual vs. the system: the individuals are "high tech low-lifes", outlaws who are either actively or passively fighting "the system" - the system being either government, or big multinational corporations, or both - fighting them with computers, high tech gadgetry, etc.;

- Often, some kind of "cyberspace" is involved;

- Stories are situated in a near future, and usually in or near big cities;

- Dystopia: the future is not a pretty place to be, and the stories reflect this;

- The "hardboiled", rough-edged nature of the cyberpunk stories is said to owe much to the work of people like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, with their gritty detective novels.

So, is Blade Runner a cyberpunk movie? Let's compare some aspects of BR with the above points:

- The individual vs. the system: Rick Deckard starts out as an individual; he was once part of the system (in this case, the LAPD), but apparently he quit his job. However, he is coerced by the system (personified by Captain Bryant and Gaff) to get back to his old job. In the end, even though he is again part of the system, he is still very much on his own. Not exactly your basic "outlaw" (although by the end of the movie his position may be very "unclear" indeed).

- The outlawed replicants themselves are clearly individuals outside the system who must be dealt with.

- Corporate power is clearly represented by the Tyrell Corporation.

- BR is situated in the city of Los Angeles (big city) in the year 2019 (near future).

- LA 2019 looks like a nice place to visit, but not to live in (i.e. a Dystopia).

- High technology is everywhere in BR - the replicants themselves are in fact state of the art technology, in a way. On the other hand, while computers can be seen in the movie, they're more part of the "background"; there is no mention of any "cyberspace"-like computer network (although the Esper machine that Deckard at one point uses to examine one of Leon's photos was supposed to actually be a terminal which was linked to the LA police mainframe) and there are no "high tech rebels", hackers or whatever featured in the story. Of course the fact that cyberspace and hackers are not features of the story does not mean they don't exist in this fictional future.

- BR seems very much inspired by the old hardboiled detective movies like "The Maltese Falcon" (starring Humphrey Bogart); Deckard is a detective, ex-cop, dressed in the typical classic detective outfit (the trenchcoat). His old police "buddies" get back in touch with him, meaning trouble for Deckard. There's the resident "femme fatale" Rachael (Sean Young), who essentially gets Deckard in more trouble. (By getting involved with her, he loses everything. He may have hated his job, but at least he had this great apartment :-) ) [See also the Trivia section]

In the end, it is this author's opinion that Blade Runner contains enough elements to allow it to be labelled "cyberpunk". One might actually wonder if it is not a question of the chicken and the egg: Blade Runner's influence on SF in general has been substantial, and may have influenced the writings of many, if not all of the "cyberpunk" writers at some point (after 1982, at least) and in some way.

It might be interesting to note that the alt.cyberpunk FAQ contains a section which is dedicated to BR; the FAQ's author(s) regard(s) the movie as "proto-cyberpunk", even calling it "the quintessential cyberpunk movie".

[See also p. 325 of Future Noir]


  Back     BR FAQ Index     Forward