BLADE RUNNER is a visionary film in terms of both its obvious futuristic look and style, and its thematic elements. Thematically, it's a neo-noir dystopian love story and an exploration of what it is to be human, what it might be like to be granted the chance to be able to re-do a missed opportunity (especially in regards to "love") and how the dystopia shapes our perception of who we are and what we are capable of. While Ridley Scott was definitely the guiding force behind shaping the difficult PK Dick novel into the film (making many changes and improvements on the way), many of these elements are evident in the source material, from the visual cues (eyes, related to being and life, and the various futuristic technologies like the "Esper" machine that goes "into" Leon's photograph to find hidden information, etc.) to the thematic elements such as the difficulty of determining real from fake in this awful future.
BLADE RUNNER spawned a resurgence of interest in PK Dick's work, and many more film adaptations. They all pretty much fail for the simple reason that no one could figure out how to show these thematic elements using a new visional cue. For instance, MINORITY REPORT with Tom Cruise: one of the major visual elements of the film is... Yep, eyes. It's lazy on the part of the filmmaker (a well known hack) that he chose to just lift this element from BLADE RUNNER and re-use it, betting that his youthful audience would have never experienced BLADE RUNNNER.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, BLADE RUNNER may be the most admired film since CITIZEN KANE.
So, here's a list of major movies (off the top of my head) that steal or lift important elements from BLADE RUNNER. They demonstrate that BLADE RUNNER, the actual 1982 film, remains state-of-the-art, and soars above its imitators in vision, impact and originality.
MINORITY REPORT - Based on a PK Dick story, of course, staring Tom Cruise as a "Pre-Crime cop" using technology (much like the Esper machine) to "predict crimes before they're committed." Explores themes of who and what is real and what is not real and the truth (or untruth) of memory. Problem is, the hack director seems to have lifted whole visual cues from BLADE RUNNER, including flying cars and eye-ball close ups. Lame.
A.I. - So, let's get this straight: people in the near future are using "more human than human" androids (called "Mechas," which is lame) as companions and slaves... Hmmm. Nexus 6? This movie is like a filmed term paper on one of the central themes of BLADE RUNNER: what is love, what is human feeling, and who feels it? What a piece of crap. Who directed this garbage?
THE MATRIX - Without BLADE RUNNER, there would be no MATRIX. Nuff said.
TOTAL RECALL - Also based on PK Dick source material, explores themes of the validity of memory and who's life is this anyway; themes that obsessed PK Dick. Schwarzenegger ultimately morphs into Deckard in this silly movie, which is full of inventive seeming visuals... Except they pretty much all start in BLADE RUNNER. From flying cars to Esper and Pre-Crime machines, to memory implants. An homage? Ok.
CODE 46 - Christ this movie is terrible (and I'm feeling the sting, since I just recently watched it). In this "futuristic sci-fi romance," Tim Robbins tries to play a Deckard-like character on the hunt for a woman with forged ID papers. And there's something about DNA, something about the dystopian city vs the natural world... Or something. This movie is terrible. And pretty much every visual cue, from the neon rain-slicked Asian city streets, to the subtle just-this-side-of-futuristic clothing style, is straight outa LA 2019.
DARK CITY - Memory, reality, rainy dark future-noir cityscapes, and even a Jennifer Connelly dressed like Sean Young's android Rachael. Please. What a waste of great images.
GATTACAA - A creepy, slightly interesting story of genetic determination in the near future, dealing with classic PK Dick issues like what is real and what is not, who is real and who is not. Filled with slick and stylish BLADE RUNNER-esque images, but ultimately empty of content.
PAYCHECK - In this PK Dick story, a Deckard-like future noir detective (the completely idiotic Ben Affleck) does the dirty work, then has his memory erased. But something's gone wrong, he's on the run now, and he has to piece together his memory from clues in an envelope to find out why. What is real? What is not real? What role does memory play in our behavior? Hello, Ridley, can you help us here?
THE FIFTH ELEMENT - Probably the most egregious BLADE RUNNER rip off. I mean, flying cars, dark noir street scenes, a genetically enhanced love interest... The worst thing Luc Besson could have done. Or, could it be an homage to BLADE RUNNER by yet another director who was highly influenced by both ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER? (Could be!)
JOHNNY MNEMONIC - Based on a story by the guy (William Gibson) who saw BLADE RUNNER and then ran home and wrote "Neuromancer," coining the word "cyberspace." Loads of PK Dick-influenced machinery and technology (and PK Dick was writing in the 60s!), this movie can not overcome its BLADE RUNNERisms, even tho Gibson is definitely plugged into the cutting edge (in his writing, at least - read "Neuromancer"!).
STRANGE DAYS - Ah, another Deckard-like cop in near-future Los Angeles, mixed up in very PK Dick-like "virtual reality clips." What is reality? Who is alive and who is not alive? All these themes are explored in an inventive way, certainly, but the film is still topheavy with BLADE RUNNERisms, and they get in the way.
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND - Didn't expect an "offbeat romantic comedy" to be in this list? Well, this is a movie about memory and implants and reality. Very PK Dick, very BLADE RUNNER!