Blade Runner (1982), rising director Ridley Scott’s follow-up to his hit Alien (1979), is one of the most popular and influential science-fiction films of all time – and it has become an enduring cult classic favorite. But the enthralling film was originally a box-office financial failure, and it received negative reviews from film critics who called it muddled and baffling. It also wasn’t encouraging that it faced Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) during its opening release.
It received only two Academy Award nominations without Oscars: Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Visual Effects. The evocative, inventive, stylistic film has improved with age and warrants repeated viewings. The dense, puzzling, detailed plot of the film is backed by a mesmerizing, melancholy musical soundtrack from Greek composer Vangelis – undeservedly overlooked for an Oscar nomination.
Stylistically, the film was arresting with fantastic, imaginative visual effects of a future Los Angeles conceived by futurist design artist Syd Mead, and influenced by the vision of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). [Mead had also been production designer for the same year’s visually-pioneering TRON (1982), teamed with famed French futuristic illustrator Jean “Moebius” Giraud.] Another inspiration for the film was the 1974 science fiction book by novelist Alan E. Nourse titled The Bladerunner, set in the year 2014 about people who sold medical equipment and supplies to ‘outlaw’ doctors who were unable to obtain them legally. Many films have attempted to duplicate the dystopic, cyberpunkish look of Blade Runner, including Batman (1989), Johnny Mnemonic (1995), Strange Days (1995), The Fifth Element (1997), Dark City (1998), The Matrix (1999), and I, Robot (2004).
The ambitious, enigmatic, visually-complex film is a futuristic film noir detective thriller with all its requisite parts – an alienated hero of questionable morality, a femme fatale, airborne police vehicles called “Spinners”, dark sets and locations in a dystopic Los Angeles of 2019, and a downbeat voice-over narration. The film mixed in some western genre elements as well, and is thematically similar to the story in High Noon (1952) of a lone marshal facing four western outlaws.
The main character in Blade Runner is a weary, former police officer/bounty hunter who is reluctantly dispatched by the state to search for four android replicants (robotic NEXUS models) that have been created with limited life spans (a built-in fail-safe mechanism in case they became too human). [Dustin Hoffman and many other actors were considered for the role of the title character, blade-runner Deckard.] The genetically-engineered renegades have escaped from enslaving conditions on an Off-World outer planet. Driven by fear, they have come to Earth to locate their creator and force him to prolong their short lives.
The film’s theme, the difficult quest for immortality, is supplemented by an ever-present eye motif – there are various VK eye tests, an Eye Works factory, and other symbolic references to eyes as being the window to the soul. Scott’s masterpiece also asks the veritable question: what does it mean to be truly human? One of its main posters advertised the tagline: “MAN HAS MADE HIS MATCH – NOW IT’S HIS PROBLEM.”
The film’s screenplay (originally titled Dangerous Days and Android) by Hampton Fancher, and later supplemented by David Peoples, was based on science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
This article is about the 1982 film. For other uses, see Blade Runner (disambiguation).
Blade Runner is a 1982 American neo-noir dystopian science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, and Edward James Olmos. The screenplay, written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, is a modified film adaptation of the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.
The film depicts a dystopian Los Angeles in November 2019 in which genetically engineered replicants, which are visually indistinguishable from adult humans, are manufactured by the powerful Tyrell Corporation as well as by other “mega-corporations” around the world. Their use on Earth is banned and replicants are exclusively used for dangerous, menial, or leisure work on off-world colonies. Replicants who defy the ban and return to Earth are hunted down and “retired” by special police operatives known as “Blade Runners”. The plot focuses on a desperate group of recently escaped replicants hiding in Los Angeles and the burnt-out expert Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who reluctantly agrees to take on one more assignment to hunt them down.
Blade Runner initially polarized critics: some were displeased with the pacing, while others enjoyed its thematic complexity. The film performed poorly in North American theaters but has since become a cult film. It has been hailed for its production design, depicting a “retrofitted” future, and remains a leading example of the neo-noir genre. It brought the work of Philip K. Dick to the attention of Hollywood and several later films were based on his work. Ridley Scott regards Blade Runner as “probably” his most complete and personal film. In 1993, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. Blade Runner is now regarded as one of the best science fiction films ever made.
Seven versions of the film have been shown for various markets as a result of controversial changes made by film executives. A rushed Director’s Cut was released in 1992 after a strong response to workprint screenings. This, in conjunction with its popularity as a video rental, made it one of the first films released on DVD, resulting in a basic disc with mediocre video and audio quality. In 2007, Warner Bros. released The Final Cut, a 25th anniversary digitally remastered version which is the only one on which Scott had complete artistic freedom and was shown in select theaters and subsequently released on DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray Disc.