‘Total Recall’

The Most Notorious Movie Corporations: Rekall, Facebook, and More (PHOTOS)

From ‘Total Recall’s’ Rekall to ‘The Social Network’s’ Facebook, the most sinister corporations in movies.

Raul Arboleda, AFP / Getty Images

Raul Arboleda, AFP / Getty Images

By Marlow Stern

“Soylent Green is … People!!” Charlton Heston uttered that infamous line in Soylent Green, a film about a corporation in a dystopian future where denizens are fed processed food rations of the titular product. But the Soylent Corporation isn’t the only evil company out there. From the mind-altering maniacs at Rekall in this weekend’s Total Recall remake to the cutthroat nerds at Facebook portrayed in David Fincher’s The Social Network, see The Daily Beast’s list of the most notorious corporations in movies.

Michael Gibson, Columbia Pictures - Sony / AP Photo

Rekall

Set in 2084, Total Recall—a remake of the cult Arnold Schwarzenegger 1990 film of the same name—doesn’t involve Mars but rather two warring superpowers duking it out for worldwide domination. Factory worker Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell), tired of his boring existence, decides to visit Rekall, a corporation that inserts artificial memories into customers allowing them to live out their wildest fantasies. When Quaid emerges from the brainwashing, he discovers that his mind has been erased—something Rekall is notorious for—and hordes of armed men are out to kill him. Not exactly a sound investment.

Merrick Morton, Handout / DPa / Corbis

Facebook

As depicted in David Fincher’s Oscar-winning 2010 film The Social Network, Facebook—and its Machiavellian creator, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg)—is a cutthroat company that copied its idea from Adonis-like rowers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, both played by Armie Hammer, and whose creation is motivated (in part) by Zuckerberg’s bad breakup with his girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). Furthermore, the company dupes cofounder/Zuckerberg’s best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), into signing a deal that dilutes his share of the company from 34 percent to 0.03 percent. Hell hath no fury like a nerd scorned, apparently.

Resources Development Administration (RDA)

Visionary filmmaker James Cameron is no friend to corporations in his movies (see next slide), and RDA, featured in his 2009 film, Avatar, is no exception. It is the year 2154, and the earth’s resources have been severely depleted due to overconsumption by humans. RDA is a corporation that mines for unobtanium—a valuable mineral—on a forest-filled moon planet called Pandora that’s inhabited by blue-skinned humanoids called the Na’vi. Since the atmosphere of Pandora is deadly to humans, they must explore the area by using human-Na’vi hybrids called avatars. However, RDA Corporation’s main goal is to wipe out the Na’vi so it can rape Pandora of all its valuable mineral resources, and the bastard in charge of carrying out that mission is Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the head of RDA’s private security force, who hates all things Pandora.

TriStar Pictures / Everett Collection

Cyberdine Systems

In the Terminator films, Cyberdyne Systems is a defense firm contracted by the U.S. military charged with creating “Skynet”—a computer system designed to be the first “Global Digital Defense Network” that controls all the U.S. military’s hardware and nuclear arsenal. It’s installed on Aug. 4, 1997, and then in true HAL-fashion, becomes self-aware on Aug. 29. The U.S. military then attempts to shut down Skynet, which the system sees as a threat, and launches nuclear missiles at Russia, which then counter-attacks and launches nukes at the U.S. More than 3 billion people are killed in the strikes in what is from there on out referred to as “Judgment Day.”

Buy ’N Large

Andrew Stanton’s 2008 Pixar classic WALL-E is set in the year 2805, and the earth has been reduced to a steaming pile of garbage (literally). It’s become a rank, polluted cesspool thanks to mass consumption courtesy of megacorporation Buy ’N Large. All the humans, meanwhile, were transported off the planet in 2105, leaving behind hordes of Waste Allocation Load Lifter—Earth Class ‘WALL-E’ robots to help clean the planet. Shelby Forthright, voiced by recent tabloid target Fred Willard, is the former CEO of Buy ’N Large, and had intended to have the robots clean the planet but abandoned plans when he realized that the earth had become too toxic.

Soylent Corporation

In Soylent Green, Richard Fleischer’s 1973 sci-fi classic, the year is 2022 and the world is plagued by disease and starvation, thanks to overcrowding (the population of New York City alone exceeds 40 million). Since food has become scarce, the majority of the population survives on “soylent green”—a processed food ration resembling a small green wafer that is said to contain “high-energy plankton.” NYPD detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston) looks into the murder of a high-ranking Soylent executive and eventually discovers that the oceans are barren, so soylent green could not possibly contain any plankton, and is actually made of … human remains. 

UBS

No, I’m not referring to the Swiss global financial services company, but rather the fictional television network featured in the late Sidney Lumet’s 1976 satire, Network. Suffering from dwindling ratings, UBS decides to fire the longtime anchor of the UBS Evening News, Howard Beale (Peter Finch), who then threatens to commit suicide on air. Since his psychotic episode results in a ratings spike, UBS execs exploit it and leave him on the air. Meanwhile, the head of the network’s programming department, Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway), is desperate for a hit show and signs a group of radical terrorists known as the “Ecumenical Liberation Army” to their own show called the Mao-Tse Tung Hour. When Beale’s ratings eventually begin to slip again following a change in on-air philosophy, UBS executives agree to have the Ecumenical Liberation Army assassinate Beale on air, and the film closes with the narrator stating: “This was the story of Howard Beale, the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings.”

Taco Bell

In the 1993 sci-fi action film Demolition Man, LAPD Sgt. John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) has been cryogenically frozen in 1996 and awakens in 2032 to discover that Los Angeles has been transformed into a hoity-toity city where virtually all crime—and autonomy—has been eliminated. All restaurants in San Angeles—as it’s called—are Taco Bells, the only establishment to survive the “franchise wars.” But this isn’t your stoner nephew’s Taco Bell. The Taco Bells of the future are fine-dining establishments serving nouvelle cuisine. Unfortunately, the servings are criminally small, and the restaurants only cater to the rich. If the poor want to eat restaurant-quality food, they’re forced to steal from Taco Bell.

20th Century Fox / Everett Collection

Weyland-Yutani Corporation

In Prometheus, filmmaker Ridley Scott’s prequel of sorts to the Alien films, Peter Weyland is the elderly CEO of Weyland Corporation, and sends a team of archeologists on the scientific vessel Prometheus to discover the origins of human life. Later, we learn that this is all in a selfish effort to prolong his own. In Aliens, the 1986 sequel to the 1979 classic, Weyland Corporation has merged with Yutani Corporation to form Weyland-Yutani Corporation, and they send an emissary—in the form of Paul Reiser—to obtain alien specimens in order to use them as biological weapons (the mission is disguised as a search-and-rescue). In Alien 3, directed by David Fincher, Weyland-Yutani once again sends a representative to obtain alien specimens from Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), eventually leaving her no choice but to commit suicide by jumping into a furnace.

Enron

Based on the bestselling book of the same name, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is filmmaker Alex Gibney’s 2005 documentary examining the 2001 collapse of the Enron Corporation, eventually unearthing one of the largest business scandals in U.S. history. Led by founder Kenneth Lay and CEO Jeffrey Skilling, Enron uses shady mark-to-market accounting, posting profits on deals they’re not sure will be profitable, thereby giving it the appearance of a successful company. Skilling also implements a review committee that grades employees and annually fires the bottom 15 percent, creating a crazy work environment. Furthermore, Lou Pai, another Enron executive, uses company money to pay for strippers to visit the office, and many Enron executives cash in on their stock options via pump-and-dump. Many executives at Enron eventually were sent to prison, and the company filed for bankruptcy on Dec. 2, 2001. 

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Virtucon

Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) is the nemesis to shagadelic secret agent Austin Powers (also Myers) in the Austin Powers series of films. In the first film, Dr. Evil travels back to 1969 and holds the world hostage—aiming a laser-shooting satellite at it—for $100 billion. Virtucon is Dr. Evil’s industrial empire that funds his evil plots, and is run by Number 2 (Robert Wagner), who often suggests that they invest in legitimate business ventures (like Starbucks) in order to increase Virtucon’s influence—much to the chagrin of Dr. Evil, who doesn’t care all that much about Virtucon’s bottom line. It’s later revealed that Dr. Evil’s industrial empire consists of Virtucon, Starbucks, and an unnamed Hollywood talent agency. 

David Bloomer, Sony Pictures / Everett Collection

Multi-National Limited

In District 9, Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 sci-fi smash, Multi-National United (MNU) is a private military corporation hired by the South African government to relocate aliens to the titular government camp. The relocation efforts are led by Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a spineless bureaucrat. But when Wikus accidentally inhales the contents of a small alien canister, he begins to slowly transform into an alien—or “prawn”—himself. Wikus soon sides with the prawns, especially when it’s later revealed that MNU has been conducting Mengele-like experiments on prawns. He eventually squares off against Koobus Venter (David James), a xenophobic MNU soldier, sent out to kill Wikus and his alien friends, who are just trying to find their way home.

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Initech Industries

Initech is a software company hampered by bureaucracy and suffocating management techniques in Mike Judge’s 1999 workplace satire, Office Space. It’s also home to the company’s smarmy vice president, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole), who passive-aggressively bullies his employees into submission, including having them constantly work on Saturdays. Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) spends most of his days reprogramming the company’s software so that the shit doesn’t hit the fan in Y2K, and he absolutely loathes Lumbergh (he even has nightmares about him casually banging his girlfriend, played by Jennifer Aniston). To make matters worse, in an effort to streamline things at Initech, two idiotic consultants are hired to downsize the staff. One day, Peter snaps—thanks to a hypnosis experiment gone awry—and vows to bring an end to what he’s convinced is the most hellish workplace ever.

Warner Bros. / Everett Collection

LexCorp

LexCorp is the company in Superman run by Lex Luthor—played by Gene Hackman in the 1978 original and Kevin Spacey in the 2006 reboot. In Richard Donner’s original Superman film, Luthor uses funds generated by his corporation to hatch various schemes, including a real-estate scam where he’ll buy up large amounts of desert land at bargain prices, and then divert a nuclear missile test flight to the San Andreas Fault and destroy California. The leveling of California will make Luthor’s desert the West Coast of the U.S., making him a fortune in real estate. Fortunately for the great state of California, Superman (Christopher Reeve) has other plans. 

Umbrella Corporation

In the Resident Evil series of films—based on the video game of the same name—the Umbrella Corporation is an international pharmaceutical company that’s secretly conducting weapons research in a facility dubbed “the Hive.” A thief foolishly steals a case containing vials of a genetically constructed mutating virus known as the T-Virus, and unleashes it inside the Hive. All who come in contact with it become human-feasting zombies, and eventually Umbrella reopens the Hive, transforming all the residents of fictional Raccoon City into a rabid army of the undead.

Orion Pictures Corp / Everett Collection

Omni Consumer Products

In 1987’s RoboCop, set in the not-too-distant future, Detroit has been transformed into a city marked by a depressed economy and criminals roaming the streets. The über-corporation Omni Consumer Products wishes to destroy “Old Detroit” and transform it into a utopian society dubbed “Delta City,” ruled by a corporatocracy. OCP controls nearly every aspect of life in Detroit, including the privatized police force, and implements a cyborg program there called RoboCop. Senior President of OCP Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), has the creator of the cyborg program murdered, and then attempts to murder RoboCop (Peter Weller) by siccing an ED-209 enforcement droid on him.  

Columbia Pictures / Everett Collection

Oscorp

The notorious executive in Sam Raimi’s 2002 film Spider-Man is Dr. Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), the president of Oscorp manufacturing corporation, which is vying for a valuable weapons contract with the U.S. Army. The company is developing a dangerous, new performance-enhancing chemical and, under company pressure, Osborn takes the drug himself. The chemical makes him strong but also introduces a murderous alter ego, known as the Green Goblin, who wears an artificial exoskeleton and flies around on another military prototype, known as the “glider,” and hurls pumpkin bombs on Spider-Man and the citizens of New York City. In the recent franchise reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, a dying Osborn threatens to kill Dr. Curt Connors if he doesn’t begin testing a serum that will regenerate the limbs in animals via gene-splicing. Connors is forced to try it out on himself—with disastrous results.  

Handout, AP Photo

ICS

Based on Stephen King’s 1982 novel of the same name, The Running Man (1987) is set in 2019. America’s economy has collapsed and the country has been transformed into a totalitarian police state that censors virtually all aspects of cultural activity. The only thing available to entertain the people comes courtesy of the television network ICS, which produces a variety of sadistic game shows; the most popular of these is The Running Man, which is a gladiator-style show that pits convicts up against warrior-characters in a fight to the death. Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is framed for a massacre he doesn’t commit and forced to compete on The Running Man. The show’s host, Damon Killian, is also a megalomaniac who relishes the death of contestants and even rigs certain scenarios to make sure they’re killed. Killian is, in a genius bit of casting, played by Richard Dawson, famed late host of Family Feud.

Cat's Collection / Corbis (2)

Tyrell Corporation

Set in 2019 Los Angeles, Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Blade Runner (1982) follows Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a retired police officer who works as a “blade runner”—his job is to “retire” (kill) bioengineered androids known as “replicants.” These replicants appear to be identical to humans, but possess superior strength and intellect. They are, however, deemed illegal on Earth due to a bloody revolution carried out by Nexus-6 model replicants on another world. Tyrell, the founder of Tyrell Corporation that’s responsible for producing replicants, sees himself as a god of sorts. At one point, he even replies to a query by his most advanced replicant, Roy (Rutger Hauer), by saying, “Nothing the god of biomechanics wouldn't let you into heaven for.” However, since Nexus-6 replicants can develop humanlike emotions, and are all embedded with a fail-safe that makes them die after just four years, he’s a perverse “god” indeed.

Everett Collection

Parallax Corporation

Alan J. Pakula’s 1974 thriller, The Parallax View, opens with TV newswoman Lee Carter (Paula Prentiss) serving as one of several witnesses to the public assassination of presidential hopeful, Sen. Charles Carroll (Bill Joyce), atop the Seattle Space Needle. A waiter armed with a gun falls to his death in the fracas, and news reports believe that a lone gunman is responsible. However, as all the witnesses to the assassination start turning up dead, including Carter, her newspaper-reporter pal Joe Frady (Warren Beatty), investigates and discovers that the Parallax Corporation is responsible for recruiting and training a league of political assassins.