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31st October 2022

Culturally significant and agonisingly existential: Blade Runner at 40

After 40 years Blade Runner is still an extremely poignant and thought-provoking film
Culturally significant and agonisingly existential: Blade Runner at 40
Photo: Flickr

The Arctic Monkeys lyric “what do you mean you’ve never seen Blade Runner?” is an acceptable response to someone that hasn’t seen this masterpiece. Blade Runner (1982) needs no introduction. As the film celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, why not revisit one of the most culturally significant films of all time?

Based on Philip K. Dick’s dystopian novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner tells a story of humanity’s bleak future. Set on a futuristic Earth in 2019 after the departure of the wealthy and upper classes, we follow Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, a former blade runner forced back into work hunting a gang of escaped human-like robots called replicants. Rick’s task is to “retire” them.

Blade Runner was directed by Ridley Scott and consists of an incredible cast. Not only do we get both Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer, but we also get a great performance from Sean Young and even an early performance from Daryl Hannah.

Although on the surface, the film seems like a two-dimensional sci-fi movie with wild predictions of flying cars and robots, Blade Runner tells a deep story with many existential and philosophical topics. It asks the question of what it really means to be human. You transition from rooting for the blade runners to feeling sympathetic for the oppressed replicants. With Roy Batty’s (Rutger Hauer) famous monologue at the film’s climax, you feel the pain and fear of the replicants – sentient androids built to serve, but with short shelf lives.

The film ends on a solemn note, leaving the existential questions to linger in your mind. What does it mean to be human? Is it just to be born, as Blade Runner initially suggests, or is it to think and feel and love and experience? The line in the final speech “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe” shows the fear that these memories will be “lost in time, like tears in rain”.

The impact and inspiration from this film can still be seen on the screen today, with a lot of sci-fi films being loose copies of it. It’s no surprise that it’s considered to be one of the greatest films ever made. If you are yet to watch Blade Runner, watch it.

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