Back in 2010, a new aesthetic was brewing on various internet chatrooms and SoundCloud pages. Associated with vibrant neon colors and immersive graphics, Vaporwave came to be known as an aesthetic that evokes the feeling of nostalgia and offers a form of escapism.
Before listing down some must-watch movies and series inspired by the genre, let’s first understand what vaporwave truly is and take a trip down memory lane.
How it all began..
Vaporwave doesn’t have one particular definition. It’s a culmination of various genres and draws inspiration from many time periods, artists, music styles, and colors. Did you know that vaporwave was originally a music genre that originated from electronic chillwave? Today, it has branched into an aesthetic that perfectly samples the ‘80s and ‘90s nostalgia.
As you can see in the visual above, the genre is a satirical take on consumer capitalism and pop culture. It is amplified by hints of popular entertainment, technology, and advertising.
The colors associated with vaporwave are: Russian Violet, Mardi Gras, Cerise Pink, Rajah, Persian Rose, and Persian Blue.
Now imagine yourself in a low light setting with neon-colored objects around you, an orange sunset coating the skies, with nostalgic elements taking the spotlight. Feels good, doesn’t it? This sums up the authentic aesthetic of vaporware.
Even if you weren’t around in the early ’80s or ’90s, vaporwave manages to capture the essence of that time.
So, now that you have a fair idea about what the genre comprises, let’s take a look at 7 movies and series that any vaporwave lover needs to get behind.
Any true vaporwave fan would have seen this one. ‘Drive’ is an action/crime movie directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, starring Ryan Gosling. This movie brings out the essence and colors of vaporwave, making it a cinematic masterpiece and flagbearer of the aesthetic.
The film centers around the life of an unnamed getaway car driver. A man of few words. A stuntman by day and getaway car driver by night, the ‘driver’ is a mysterious and complex character whose narrative really captivates the audience.
There is a stark contrast between warm and cool colors throughout the movie. Vibrant pinks, reds, blue, green, orange fill up the screen to portray the neo-noir style of this film. Every shot in the movie is well thought out, making it a visual delight. With minimal dialogues throughout the movie, the cinematography and visual elements bring the storyline to life.
Another thing worth noting is the soundtrack of the movie. The opening song Nightcall by Kavinsky has an electronic lo-fi retro feel to it and truly transports you into the depths of the film. Moreover, this song is a true testament to vaporwave-inspired music.
Blade Runner 2049
If you’re a sci-fi buff with an appetite for dystopian thrillers, then Blade Runner is the movie for you. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, this neo-noir style film has all the elements of a brilliant science fiction laced with a solid vaporwave aesthetic.
The movie is set in a reality where bio-engineered humans aka ‘replicants’, are integrated into society. It follows the journey of an LAPD officer, played by Ryan Gosling. The film seamlessly incorporates visual elements and takes you into a futuristic dystopian reality.
In fact, cinematographer Roger Deakins even won his first Oscar for his outstanding work on the film. The crisp landscape, geometric architecture, dystopian-futuristic setting, neon low-light colors are the main elements that make up the scenes throughout the film.
In a world where the sun is no longer a source of light, the movie’s cinematography relies heavily on fog, smoke, and moving light as a tool to give it a dream-like hazy effect.
If you’re someone who gravitates towards mind-bending shows, then Manic is something you should definitely add to your watchlist. Manic is a psychological dark comedy-drama limited series written and directed by Carly Joji Fukunaga. This ten-episode series starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill will truly keep you at the edge of your seat.
The show is set around a pharmaceutical trial for a drug designed to solve all problems in life. The rest of the show is basically a dream sequence. It takes you through previously undisclosed aspects of the characters’ memories and thoughts.
This miniseries has a ‘70s look and feel coupled with a retro-futuristic setting and colors that lend themselves to the vaporwave genre. If you haven’t seen Maniac yet, you should definitely add this to your weekend binge!
Lost in Translation
The theme of Lost in Translation and the essence of vaporwave are both steeped in nostalgia. This 2003 romantic-comedy-drama written and directed by Sofia Coppola circles around the lives of two strangers (Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray). Both strangers from contrasting backgrounds form a heartfelt bond amidst the city lights of Tokyo.
Now here’s where the other color palette of vaporwave comes in. Think of a muted pink pastel background along with tropical themes, glitchy visuals, and nostalgia being the underlying motif that connects it all together.
The city and its hustle-bustle are further used as a tool to highlight the feelings of nostalgia, loneliness, and love.
A movie that won its director Sofia Coppola an Oscar for best original screenplay, Lost in Translation will make you question and appreciate life in all its glory.
As mentioned earlier, vaporwave originated as a microgenre of electronic music. It takes heavy influence from chillwave, ‘80s disco with notes of lo-fi and elevator music. Good Time is a movie that fits the genre of vaporwave-style cinema. This can be attributed to the visuals and the soundtrack of the movie.
Robert Pattinson stars in this American crime thriller set in the dark and dingy streets of Queens, New York. The original soundtrack of the movie is by electronic musician Oneohtrix Point Never who contributes to the movie seamlessly. If you haven’t heard of this artist yet, do give him a listen to dive into the musical side of vaporware.
This teen thriller flick directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost is a movie you should watch purely for the neon aesthetics and graphics.
Starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, the storyline revolves around this dystopian interactive game called ‘Nerve.’ Both players must complete a series of dares through the course of the movies.
The scenic shots, neon lights, glowing faces, gaming graphics, high-speed chases come together and make this movie worth watching.
The Neon Demon
The Neon Demon is a product of Nicolas Winding Refn’s direction and Natasha Braier’s intuitive cinematography. The 2016 psychological-horror movie is a commentary on how society has become so distorted.
The film is essentially a visually stunning and surreal gorefest set in a modern yet gothic world of fashion. It takes you on a journey through the superficial fashion industry that thrives on the importance of beauty and perfection.
Starring Elle Fanning, the predominant colors in the movie are blue, red, yellow, and violet. Interestingly, Nicolas Winding Refn uses these signature colors in most of his direction. The color palette in the movie is much like the name of the film with neon colors clouding the screen.
Speaking of great graphics and visuals, if you’ve seen or read any of the Marvel content, you must have picked up on hints of vaporwave that embellish the screen. In fact, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) is the first result that pops up on IMBD under the keyword ‘Vaporwave.’ The elements of vaporwave truly bring the Spider-verse to life.
Apart from cinema and music, vaporwave has also been a vital part of digital art, video games, and memes. The genre has culminated into various aspects of life and is a way to bring back the ‘80s in a more acceptable fashion.
Today, with the rising popularity of vaporwave, even Gen Z gets a peek into the culture back in the day, while allowing them to put their own futuristic spin to the aesthetic.
Even the most popular music you listen to has a muted, slowed-down version. Almost like elevator music meets nostalgic late-night drives. People have also jumped on this bandwagon by creating different versions of popular music. For instance, this slowed-down remix of Tame Impala’s ‘Let it happen’ is an output of the vaporwave influence on the music industry.
Moreover, vaporwave is a union of aesthetics that forms a genre. You can even create your own vaporwave-inspired short video on Rizzle by picking from a range of Filmi templates that match the genre.
So, if this blog piqued your interest, leave a comment and let us know your favorite vaporwave movie or series. Let’s keep the list growing!