Social media is a part of modern life, so, naturally, more movies should embrace it as central to the experiences of the characters in the movies.
An interesting trend with social media-based movies is more comedies and the mixture of comedy with horror.
Here’s a list of movies with some new additions, in no particular order.
1. Not Okay (2022)
Comedy/Drama – Hulu
On the surface, “Not Okay” is a comedy about a misfit millennial anti-hero longing for social media fame who accidentally stumbles into it and subsequently becomes the internet’s most hated person. It’s also a gentle satire about the social media ecosystem.
British author Terry Pratchett observed that satire is best when it aims at the powerful.
In this movie, the powerful are the faceless social media consumers who both crown and cancel with brutal fickleness.
The movie star is Zoey Deutch, whose comedic performance had me laughing out loud from the very first minutes while also feeling dread because the outcome is known from the beginning of the movie.
It’s quite a feat to play an unlikable person in such a way the viewer can’t help but root for them, simultaneously cringing and laughing.
I enjoyed this movie very much.
2. Untraceable (2008)
Thriller – Hulu
“Untraceable” is a cat-and-mouse crime thriller starring Diane Lane as an FBI detective who is tracking down a killer who live streams murders online while the faceless crowd eggs the killer on.
The movie subtly investigates how empathetic we really are with an early scene depicting a traffic jam caused by motorists pausing to glance at a body on a pavement beside the wreckage of an automobile accident.
A cop frantically waves his arms, yelling to the motorists to keep on driving, but the drivers ignore him and pause to look, a reminder of everyone’s capacity to be voyeurs of the macabre.
That scene is followed by another in which it is implied that a kitten is being tortured to death online. The detective and her boss watch the scene play out.
She is clearly distressed and disturbed by the lack of empathy expressed in the comments by the mob of digital rubberneckers. The detective vows to take down the perpetrator. Her boss scoffs and tells her to move on because it’s “just a kitten,” betraying his own lack of empathy.
The movie is about more than a quest to catch a killer. It explores the darkness of online social interactions and casual everyday cruelty.
A colleague of the detective later in the movie comments about the murder website that “it’s a jungle in there.” Still, the movie itself, in an understated manner, also suggests the disturbing conclusion that we’re all just a few clicks away from becoming part of that jungle.
If you like thrillers with serial killers, this is a good one that’ll scare you and leave you thinking.
3. Tragedy Girls (2017)
Horror Comedy – Amazon, Roku Channel, Tubi
Surrealism is based on discovering that sparks happen when you join two things that wouldn’t ordinarily ever come together. The first surrealist combination was a sewing machine on an operating table.
There’s a similar quality to horror comedy.
A feature of horror comedy is that the plots are absolutely ridiculous and utterly realistic.
For example, “Freaky” (2020) is about a high school girl who switches bodies with a serial killer, and “Serial Mom” (1994) is about a sweet all-American mom who is secretly an unhinged psychopath.
“Tragedy Girls” continues in the comedy horror tradition of ridiculous plots and gore mixed with comedy. The plot is bonkers but in a good way.
It’s about two high school girls who want to become internet famous, so they devise a convoluted plan to serial-kill to provide content for their website and ultimately pin the blame on an actual serial killer.
“Tragedy Girls” stars Alexandra Shipp and Brianna Hildebrand.
Shipp starred in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” “Dark Phoenix,” and will be in the upcoming Margot Robbie’s “Barbie” movie. Hildebrand starred in “Deadpool,” “Deadpool 2,” and the TV show “Lucifer.”
“Tragedy Girls” also stars Craig Robinson (“The Office”/”Hot Tub Time Machine”), Jack Quaid (“The Boys” TV series), and Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games,” “Future Man” TV show).
4. The Social Dilemma (2020)
Documentary – Netflix
A popular movie that can’t be recommended enough.
Even if you’re in the business, there are parts of this movie that will still startle.
Featuring interviews with people who invented various algorithms, this movie balances the shock factor of what’s going on behind the scenes of social media with insights into how social media can be improved.
5. Love, Guaranteed (2020)
Romantic Comedy – Netflix
Stars Rachael Leigh Cook, Damon Wayans Jr., Heather Graham, and Kandyse McClure (Dualla on “Battlestar Galactica”).
Social media is defined as a social network, and what kind of network is more social than a dating app?
This romantic comedy follows an attorney and her client who claims that a dating site that guarantees love is offering a false promise.
As evidence, he offers himself, who has engaged in a thousand dates and failed to find love.
6. The Hater (2020)
Thriller – Netflix
This is a great movie that you might never have heard of but should definitely check out.
It’s a fast-paced thriller and drama about using social media to settle personal scores.
The hero of the movie is both likable and worthy of loathing.
Don’t be put off because this is a Polish movie, and you might have to read subtitles.
This movie tells the story of harnessing the power of social media like a weapon against those who may or may not deserve it.
It’s highly relevant in today’s world of disinformation amplification, yet it’s not really about social media in the same way that a movie like “Taxi Driver” is not about guns.
Both movies, “Taxi Driver” and “The Hater,” share a theme of the misfit trying to fit in and not really able to find a way in until circumstances create an opportunity.
7. Emily In Paris, 2020
Comedy – Netflix
Ok, this isn’t a movie.
But so many who are interested in social media marketing and movies will find this so interesting that I had to fit it in.
The central character – Emily (duh!) – is a social media marketer from Chicago who is sent to a Paris office where she’s met with skepticism.
She changes her Instagram handle to @emilyinparis and starts posting photos; her account goes viral.
The series is from the mind of Darren Star, the writer behind such hits as “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Melrose Place,” and “Sex and the City.”
If any of those are your favorites, then you’ll likely enjoy “Emily in Paris” as well.
There’s a bit of suspension of disbelief necessary regarding social media, but “Emily in Paris” is fundamentally a fantasy, not a documentary.
A little fantasy helps to get through these dark and pandemic times.
8. Spree (2020)
Comedy Horror – Amazon, Vudu
A spree is defined as a sustained period of time during which an unrestrained activity is indulged.
In keeping with the genre of comedy horror, the plot is unrealistic and fun at the same time.
The movie is about a rideshare driver who wants to become a social media star by live streaming himself while murdering his clients.
But the live streams fail to go viral, so he hatches a plan to take it up a notch.
“Spree” stars the lovable Joe Keery (Steve in “Stranger Things”). It’s a dark and violent comedy featuring cameos from former “Saturday Night Live” cast members.
9. Hard Candy (2005)
Thriller/Horror/Revenge – Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
This is an under-the-radar movie that might make some uncomfortable.
It stars Elliot Page (“Juno,” “Umbrella Academy”), Patrick Wilson (“Conjuring,” “Watchmen,” “Aquaman”), and Sandra Oh (“Killing Eve,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Sideways,” “Princess Diaries”).
The movie won several awards, including three at the 2005 Sitges Film Festival (Best Motion Picture, Best Screenplay, and an Audience Award for Best Motion Picture) and four awards at the 2006 Spanish Malaga Film Festival (Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Cinematographer).
Elliot Page won Best Actress at the 2006 Austin Film Critics Association Awards.
This is an intelligent suspense and thriller.
But it’s not for the squeamish; it can get grueling for some.
Page stars as a 17-year-old teenager who entraps an older man via a chat room.
Expecting illicit activities, the teenager turns the table on him.
Again, I must warn you that this movie is not for those with delicate sensibilities.
10. Searching (2018)
Thriller – Amazon, Vudu, YouTube
A movie starring John Cho (“Harold & Kumar,” “Star Trek”) in the missing person genre.
The daughter goes missing, and the police lack leads, so the father takes to the internet to trace the daughter’s virtual steps to find her.
11. Ingrid Goes West (2017)
Comedy Drama – Hulu
Stars Elizabeth Olsen and Aubrey Plaza.
Plaza is a great actress who consistently surprises with the quirky nuance she brings to her roles, and that’s also the case here.
This film is a stalker comedy with drama mixed in. It’s also a satire of the influencer world.
But ultimately, this is a quirky Aubrey Plaza movie that’s pretty fun to watch.
12. A Simple Favor (2018)
Comedy/Thriller – Amazon, Hulu, Sling TV, Vudu, YouTube
This is a Paul Feig movie about a video blogger who gets in over her head after she befriends a woman who causes her viewership to soar.
It’s like a noir because it has a femme fatale.
The mystery and thriller quality of the story kept me watching.
13. Smosh: The Movie (2015)
Comedy – Amazon, iTunes, Vudu
Satire of YouTube stars starring two actual YouTube stars.
Directed by Alex Winter, star of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”
14. Friend Request (2016)
Mystery/Horror – Amazon, Hulu, Vudu, YouTube
A woman accepts a friend request whose mysterious death sets off a series of deaths of those who are friends with the woman.
15. Unfriended (2015)
Social Media Horror – Amazon, iTunes, Netflix, Vudu
Instead of a group of young people at a camp getting murdered, it’s people on a group chat that are meeting their demise one by one.
16. The Assistant (2019)
Comedy/Satire – Amazon
Short film (13 minutes), available on Amazon Prime.
Comedy/satire of being an assistant to a social media influencer.
17. The Circle (2017)
Thriller – Amazon, YouTube, Vudu, iTunes
Starring Emma Watson, John Boyega, Bill Paxton, and Tom Hanks.
This is a cautionary tale of living life on social media based on Dave Egger’s novel.
18. Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World (2016)
Documentary – YouTube
A documentary that explores how the internet affects the society today and may affect it tomorrow.
It asks probing questions like, “Will our great, great-grandchildren grow up in a world where they do not need human companionship?”
Werner Herzog is a consistently thought-provoking filmmaker.
19. The Great Hack (2019)
Documentary – Netflix
A chilling documentary not just about Cambridge Analytica but about the surveillance internet.
20. The Social Network (2010)
Drama – Netflix
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, this movie is based on the story of how Mark Zuckerburg came to found Facebook.
Highly acclaimed and a must-watch movie.
21. American Meme (2018)
Documentary – Netflix
Featuring Paris Hilton and DJ Khaled, it’s a behind-the-scenes look at what it means to be a social media star and the conflicts between reality and what’s presented.
22. Disconnect (2012)
Drama/Thriller – Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
Starring Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Alexander Skarsgård, and Frank Grillo.
Three stories interweaved around human interaction via social media.
Lives are changed, conflicts arise, and some characters face a reckoning.
All of the actors are top shelf, including a strong performance by Frank Grillo – a character actor who’s been in dozens of popular films, including “Mambo Kings,” “Minority Report,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and several of the recent Marvel superhero movies.
23. Catfish (2010)
Documentary – Netflix
Documentary and indie film of two brothers who strike up a relationship with a woman over Facebook, with both sides misrepresenting who they are and their motives.
The movie is the origin of the term catfishing, which is the practice of pretending to be someone you are not – like pretending to be an associate of a famous person over the internet to woo someone.
24. Chef (2014)
Comedy/Drama – Amazon (free), iTunes, Pluto (free), Vudu, YouTube
Starring Jon Favreau, Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo, Sofía Vergara, and Robert Downey Jr.
This is a feel-good dramedy.
A chef gets a bad review on Twitter, and he responds in kind.
The Twitter argument went viral and resulted in unanticipated events in his personal and business life.
It’s partially about the transformative effect that social media can have on a life.
25. Airplane Mode (2020)
Comedy – Netflix
A comedy about a social media influencer who finds herself without an internet connection. The comedy is in the protagonist dealing with change.
Social Media At The Movies
Many of today’s movies about social media seem to reflect the generational gap of those in power who make the movies who don’t live on social media in the way today’s generation does.
It’s reminiscent of the early days of rock and roll when the movies of the time implied that youth were untethered and even violent in movies such as “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Blackboard Jungle.”
The first rock-and-roll generation was also superficially portrayed in movies such as “Beach Blanket Bingo.”
It wasn’t until the rock-and-roll generation made movies that more thoughtful portrayals made it to the movie screen with movies such as “American Graffiti” and “Rock and Roll High School.”
So, it seems to be today that the portrayal of social media tends to lean toward the horror of it at one extreme and the belittling of the Millennial and GenZ generations as shallow on the other end.
And we’re starting to see more sensitive and realistic portrayals of these generations as Millennials.
Featured Image: Anton27/Shutterstock