Imagining Futures: AI on Film

Exploring the facts behind the fiction

The AI on Film festival was presented by the School of Informatics and the Edinburgh Laboratory for Integrated Artificial Intelligence in 2023 as part of the University of Edinburgh's 60 Years of AI & Computer Science celebrations.

60 years of Computer Science and AI celebrations

A future we can imagine is a future we can build

It is a very human habit to imagine the future. When we envision the future through film where AI is concerned, themes of fear and loss of control are central. From indie cinema to Hollywood, what we see on screen shapes our opinions on artificial intelligence and what its growing prevalence means for humanity. 

The most common depiction of AI on film can be lumped into two categories: The anthropomorphised Other who alienates and destroys, or the anthropomorphised Other who is much like us yet could never be us, who then gets alienated and destroyed. In film, there is little room for visions of AI which ease rather than aid human folly. That’s where Imagining Futures: AI on Film came in.   

From 1927 silent masterpiece Metropolis to 2022 Sundance London’s Audience Favourite Brian and Charles, the programme spanned decades and genres: it included sixteen screenings of sci-fi and anime cult classics, comedies, thrillers and documentaries, accompanied by talks and panels.

Edinburgh University academics and invited guests introduced the films and guided the audience to challenge their own views on AI whether drawn from cinema or elsewhere. 

The 5-day film festival was part of the 60 Years of Computer Science and AI anniversary celebrations at the University of Edinburgh in 2023.

In 1963 the University established its first research hubs in these disciplines. A year-long programme of events marks achievements over the past six decades and looks to the future of computer science and AI at Edinburgh.

Programme of events

The AI on Film festival was a showcase of the following classic and contemporary films about artificial intelligence, introduced and accompanied by discussion from guest speakers and industry experts.

  • AlphaGo
  • MindGames: Games and AI (panel)
  • WarGames
  • Metropolis
  • Archive
  • WALL·E
  • Moon
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Ron's Gone Wrong
  • Pinocchio
  • Only Connect: Storytelling and AI (panel)
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence
  • Brian and Charles
  • Her
  • iHUMAN
  • Moral Coding: Ethics and AI (panel)
  • The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz
  • Ghost in the Shell (1995)
  • Little Joe


The festival was supported by the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh and ELIAI, The Edinburgh Laboratory for Integrated Artificial Intelligence.

The School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh is the largest in the UK and one of the largest in Europe. It is recognised internationally for excellence of its research outputs, education and knowledge exchange. 

Link to the School of Informatics website 

ELIAI, funded by UKRI and industrial partners, is seeking to enhance neural network models with reasoning capabilities, a skill required to enhance many AI applications. ELIAI is developing a theoretical framework which characterises what it means for neural network models to reason, designing various reasoning modules, and showcasing their practical importance in applications.

Link to the ELIAI website