Biometrics on the Silver Screen

Movies have been key in bringing biometrics to a mainstream audience since the 1950s, from James Bond to Minority Report. But we can’t always believe what we see in film, and sometimes what the movies show paints biometrics in not only an inaccurate light, but a frightening one. Below are some of the better known examples of biometrics being used, often inaccurately, in film.

biometrics movies

1951Fingerprints Don’t Lie – The first use of biometrics in film, the plot of this movie revolves around fingerprints being the main evidence in a murder case.

19682001: A Space Odyssey – This seminal film features the AI computer HAL 9000. HAL is capable of voice and face recognition, in addition to its many other skills.

1971Diamonds Are Forever – James Bond wears a thin, latex fingerprint over his own thumb to spoof a crude fingerprint scanner in order to convince jewel thief Tiffany Case that he is a diamond smuggler she is meeting.

1982Blade Runner – The film’s famous “Voight-Kampff” test includes eye scans, which are used to determine if a person is real, or a “replicant” android. The film opens with a close up of an eye scan in progress.

1993Demolition Man – Wesley Snipes’ character Simon Phoenix removes a prison guard’s eye in order to pass a retina scan and escape from prison.

1995Judge Dredd – Biometrics feature heavily in this futuristic crime action film. Most noticeably, the “Judges” in the movie have sidearms that are programmed to their DNA, rendering them unfireable to anyone but the biometrically-authenticated owner.

2002Minority Report – Another futuristic crime thriller in which biometric feature heavily. Citizens are monitored and identified everywhere with eye recognition software, including at the dentist or when shopping. Tom Cruise’s character John Anderton  replaces his eye with one he purchased on the black market to bypass this surveillance.

2005The Island – In this futuristic film, a clone is able to use face and fingerprint recognition to bypass the biometric security system of person he is a clone of.

2012Jack Reacher – Yet another Tom Cruise film, this movie features a realistic depiction of a latent print being pulled from a quarter, digitized, and scanned in order to compare it against a database of potential matches.

Interested in how biometrics have been misrepresented over the years?