26 Oct 2012

Privacy Pop – Our top ten films on privacy


Privacy and surveillance have always been compelling themes in pop culture, and Hollywood has certainly used the concepts to great effect. Below, in no particular order, is our own selection of the best films with a privacy theme.

Do you agree with our list, or do you think we’ve left something out? Let us know in the comments!

Louis 19, le roi des ondes (King of the Airways

The only comedy on our list, Louis 19 traces the path of Louis Jobin, a man initially thrilled to be chosen as the star of a reality TV show, only to discover that celebrity is not all it’s cracked up to be. Released in 1994, the movie predated the onslaught of reality TV shows, social networking sites and the concept of micro-celebrity.

A Scanner Darkly

Like a few of the other films on this list, A Scanner Darkly takes place in the not-too-distant-future, where surveillance is ubiquitous and constant. Based on the Philip K. Dick novel and directed by Richard Linklater, this film also considers notions of identity, and how the effects of surveillance on identity.

Caché (Hidden)

This Austrian-French thriller follows the lives of the Laurent family as they attempt to determine who has been secretly videotaping them. Released in 2005, the film has won numerous awards and earned global accolades from film critics.

The Conversation

Gene Hackman plays a plays a paranoid and brilliant surveillance expert in this 1974 film which may or not be the precursor to another movie which didn’t quite make our cut, Enemy of the State. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, The Conversation has been praised for its “remarkably advanced arguments about technology’s role in society that still resonate today.”

Gattaca

Gattaca brings the themes of privacy and surveillance to the sub-atomic level. In this version of the not-too-distant-future, DNA plays a major role in determining future profession, potential mates and social class.

Minority Report

Before starting production, director Steven Spielberg assembled a group of futurists to get a handle on what the year 2054 might look like. That would explain the wealth of plausible technology showcased throughout the film, like this scene where Tom Cruise’s character is approached by pushy holographs with  personalized, targeted sales pitches.

The Lives of Others

Released in 2006. A Stasi agent takes an interest in a couple living in East Berlin and begins to monitor them – at first, with the intention of determining their loyalty to the Socialist Unity Party, but then increasingly for his own personal interest in their lives.

1984

George Orwell’s modern classic was brought to the big screen for a second time in 1984. (The first film adaptation was made in 1956.) Like all good cultural memes, this one introduced several new words and phrases into our vocabulary, including Big Brother, thoughtcrime, and memoryhole.

Rear Window

Man breaks leg, gets bored, spies on neighbours – high jinx ensue. The high-tech surveillance techniques featured in many of the other films on this list are nowhere to be found in this classic Hitchcock mystery.

Red Road

This Scottish film follows a CCTV operator who actively monitors a man from her past. Director Andrea Arnold has said her depiction of Glasgow as a city under constant surveillance was meant to provoke a debate about the use of CCTV networks.

 


5 Responses

Simon Davies Says:

I couldn’t resist bringing some fresh controversy to the list guys. Cheers for doing this. A great selection

http://www.privacysurgeon.org/blog/incision/canada-publishes-its-top-ten-list-of-privacy-films-let-the-controversy-commence/

Identity Theft – Beware! | The Law of Privacy in Canada with Barbara McIsaac Says:

[…] “Identity Thief”, a movie about – what else, identity theft – opens in theatres this February; but will it make the Privacy Commissioner’s list of “top 10” privacy films? […]

Eric Lawton Says:

Gattaca is a great movie. It does a very good job demonstrating the risks and social implications of DNA collection.

I also like Minority Report for its depiction of the police using commercial facial recognition systems to track and locate individuals.

Four more movies that should be on this list are as follows. The last was not well-made but should be on the list by virtue of its name.

Brazil (1985) – A bureaucrat in a retro-future world tries to correct an administrative error and himself becomes an enemy of the state.

The Net (1995) – A computer programmer tries to find anyone who can vouch for her assertion of who she really is (with most in authority not believing her story since their computer systems are protected by the fail-safe Gatekeeper program).

The Final Cut (2004) – The story is set in a world where implanted microchips can record all moments of an individual’s life. The chips are removed upon death so the images can be edited into something of a highlight reel for loved ones who want to remember the deceased. Caviezel portrays the leader of the organization that opposes this technology’s development.

Invasion of Privacy (1996) – A mentally unbalanced man kidnaps the woman carrying his child to prevent her from having an abortion.

Office of the Privacy Commissioner » Blog Archive » Privacy Pop – Our top songs about… what else? Says:

[…] found it difficult to whittle the list down to only 10, as we’d done with our post on privacy-themed films. So, we’re posting our top 15 in the hopes that you will weigh in, either in the comments below […]

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