While internet usage is an unremarkable part of daily life today, in 1995, at-home internet was just starting to become widespread. According to the Pew Research Center, just 14 million American adults used the internet 20 years ago, compared with 87 million last year. As the world became more plugged in, films started to home in on how we connect to the digital world, and 1995 saw a bumper crop: Virtuosity, The Net, Hackers, GoldenEye, Johnny Mnemonic, and Strange Days. Oddly enough, all of them focused not on the excitement of the emerging technology but on dangers of the internet and virtual reality, creating a new subgenre of internet-and-VR-paranoia movies.
Despite its newfound ubiquity, this new brand of paranoia was not a moneymaker in 1995. The best they could hope for was a home-video cult following. The mini-trend in 1995 of internet-related movies didn’t come about because studios were chasing after the lucrative technological-paranoia market. Instead, there was just something in the air at the time; internet culture gave filmmakers the heebie-jeebies.
As a result, in these films the internet and virtual reality are pushed to characters who live on the fringes of society: outsiders, criminals both petty and powerful, and people who work in between, dealing in black-market goods.