Blade Runner is a neo-noir science fiction franchise that started in 1982 with the release of Blade Runner, which was loosely based on the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. While the film performed modestly at the box office, it ascended to Cult Classic and remains an influential work of the Cyberpunk genre, and left enough of a cultural mark to get a sequel more than three decades later.
The setting is a dystopian 21st century Los Angeles, and the stories involve Artificial Humans, the Replicants, who were invented to perform tasks deemed too dangerous or undignifying for humans, especially in deep space. Some of them develop personalities of their own and struggle to break free from servitude as a result, and a special police force, the Blade Runners, is tasked to track them down and "retire" them, as they have no right to roam free on Earth.
Works in the franchise:
- Black Out 2022 - A 2017 short directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, released with two other shorts as introductions to Blade Runner 2049.
- Blade Runner: Black Lotus - An Adult Swim / Crunchyroll series set in 2032, directed by Shinji Aramaki and Kenji Kamiyama, and once again produced and overseen by Watanabe.
- Blade Runner - contains a list of the various comic book adaptations and spin offs.
- Blade Runner (1982) - The original film written by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples and directed by Ridley Scott.
- Blade Runner 2049 (2017) - The sequel written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green and directed by Denis Villeneuve.
- Three short films released in 2017. They are set between the first film and 2049:
- Black Out 2022 - See above.
- 2036: Nexus Dawn - Directed by Luke Scott.
- 2048: Nowhere to Run - Also directed by Luke Scott.
- Soldier (1998) - Written by David Webb Peoples, the film contains a number of references that suggest it is set in the Blade Runner universe.
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), the novel that inspired the 1982 film, by Philip K. Dick.
- Blade Runner: A Story of the Future (1982), novelization of the first film by Les Martin.
- Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human (1995) by K. W. Jeter.
- Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night (1996) by K.W. Jeter.
- Blade Runner 4: Eye and Talon (2000) by K.W. Jeter.
- Blade Runner 2049: Nexus Protocol (2020)
- Blade Runner: The Roleplaying Game (2022), from Free League Publishing.
- Blade Runner (1985) - Developed for Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC.
- Blade Runner (1997) - Developed by Westwood Studios for PC.
- Blade Runner: Revelations (2018) - VR game
Tropes present across the franchise:
- Alternate History: History diverged at some point in the Blade Runner timeline to where the Soviet Union still exists in some capacity by 2049, and humanity was able to develop the technology for FTL travel and humanoid androids by the early 21st century.
- Ambiguously Human: Replicants have bones, flesh, blood, and ultimately very human-like intelligence and feelings, and conscience of their existence, which causes much trouble once they want to break free.
- Artificial Humans: Replicants are bioengineered androids.
- Ban on A.I.: Replicants, artificially created humanoids, were outlawed for use on Earth, with bounty hunters dubbed "Blade Runners" charged with tracking them down and executing them. However, between the original film and the sequel, this law was overturned when newer generations were proven to be more reliable.
- Central Theme: Humanity and empathy.
- Crapsaccharine World: The Off-World colonies are frequently described as a paradise for those who can afford to leave the Earth, but it is outright stated that they rely on replicant slave labor to keep them functioning. It's also implied judging by Roy and Sapper's backstories that they are frequently fought over in military conflicts.
- Crapsack World: Let's just say this version of 21st century America is not a nice place to live, what with pollution, unfriendly climate, corporate corruption and potentially dangerous bio-androids roaming free.
- Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain: The 1982 film is probably responsible for starting the trend in cyberpunk films. The endless rain was a reference to the Film Noir genre as much as it helped disguise the fact that the film was just shooting on a backlot — all those scenes set at night with lots of rain and smoke are a great disguise. In this 2005 interview with Wired Magazine, Ridley Scott stated that the rain in part was present to hide the wires on the Spinners. Quote: "Because you can't make a spinner fly without a crank. That's why it was raining in the shot, because the rain would help to hide the cables."
- Dystopia: Oh boy... The Earth is now a Polluted Wasteland, most of the humans live unhappily in slums, a single omnipotent company controls most of the technology available (and even food in 2049), and a Replicant's life is even worse.
- Flying Cars: The Spinners, mainly used by police forces.
- The Future Is Noir: The future in which the films are set doesn't have very good lighting.
- Futuristic Pyramid: The pyramid towering over Los Angeles, first inhabited by Eldon Tyrell and his company, then by Niander Wallace and his company.
- Gaia's Lament: In the original film, real animals are already extraordinarily rare and the Earth is being polluted at an extraordinary rate. By the second film, set thirty years later, the entire biosphere has been wiped out, with humanity only being kept alive due to mass production of low-quality food through artificial means.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Pretty much the central theme of the series.