Netflix Sci-Fi Thriller Hated By Critics Deserves Another Look

By Robert Scucci | Updated

Sometimes a movie’s subject matter is so on the nose that critics and audiences alike hate it for calling them out in a profoundly accurate way. The Circle is one such film, as it points out how damaging the overuse of social media can be to an individual, and society as a whole. But we don’t think this dystopian sci-fi thriller deserves all the hate that it received back in 2017 because its messaging certainly isn’t wrong given what we know about online culture in 2023.

Social Media And The Circle

the circle

Centering mostly on the negative (and sometimes the positive) aspects of social media, The Circle shows us the pros and cons of being constantly connected to the world through the devices we voluntary use, and the devices that we don’t know are surveilling our every move. At it’s heart, The Circle is a cautionary tale about the dangers of forfeiting privacy for the sake of being constantly connected to the outside world. Though we learn that a certain level of global transparency has the potential to make the world a better place, there are some aspects about private life that should simply remain private.

Mae Holland Hits The Jackpot

the circle

The Circle focuses on Emma Watson’s Mae Holland, a call center intern who secures an amazing job with all the benefits that she could possibly dream of at a tech company called The Circle. With this job, she can financially support her struggling family. Mae’s father, Vinnie (Bill Paxton), suffers from multiple sclerosis, and his medical bills are reason enough for her to pursue her new career path at the social media company.

The Circle’s Zuckerberg

The Circle’s CEO, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), isn’t necessarily a bad guy, but is clearly a cinematic surrogate for Mark Zuckerberg. He introduces a technology called SeeChange, which uses real-time high-quality video to capture its user’s every movement, to the masses. As Mae’s career moves further along and the technology proves its worth on a global level, her personal life falls apart because her family and friends don’t necessarily want the granular details of their lives to be made public through the Circle’s social media platform, TrueYou.

Pros Vs. Cons

While The Circle shows us the benefits of 24/7 surveillance through social media by proving its ability to apprehend violent criminals in a short amount of time, it does so in a way that demonstrates how most people would prefer to be left alone.

It Made Money But Didn’t Make Critics Happy

the circle

Despite The Circle’s commercial success, critics and audiences alike absolutely hated this film, citing its heavy-handed messaging as one of its many faults. Earning only a 16 percent critical score against a 21 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, The Circle was far from well-received. But when you look at how social media platforms operate today, The Circle warned us about the dangers of being constantly connected, and we see the kind of fallout portrayed in the film play out every day as our online presence more often than not has real-life consequences.

Ahead Of Its Time

The Circle absolutely suffered from being a little too ahead of its time, and we simply weren’t ready to acknowledge what we risk losing whenever we make a revealing post on Facebook, X, or Instagram. But in hindsight, we can’t deny the film’s attempts to warn us about the dangers of oversharing. For that reason, you should give this dystopian sci-fi a second chance and stream it on Netflix.