Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future

Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future is a 1985 cyberpunk television film created by Chrysalis Visual Programming Ltd. for Channel 4 in the UK to provide a back story for Max Headroom, a computer generated TV host. A British produced, yet American broadcast, television series, Max Headroom, was later developed from the original film.[1] HBO provided some of the original funding.[2]

Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future
GenreScience fiction
Written bySteve Roberts
Directed byRocky Morton
Annabel Jankel
StarringMatt Frewer
Nickolas Grace
Amanda Pays
W. Morgan Sheppard
Roger Sloman
Hilary Tindall
Music byMidge Ure
Chris Cross
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
Executive producer(s)Terry Ellis
Producer(s)Peter Wagg
Chris Griffin (line producer)
Production location(s)East Ham, London, England
CinematographyPhil Meheux
Editor(s)Michael Bradsell
Running time57 minutes
Original releaseApril 4, 1985


The film introduces Edison Carter (Matt Frewer), a television reporter trying to expose corruption and greed. Carter discovers that his employer, Network 23, has created a new form of subliminal advertising (called "blipverts") that can be fatal to certain viewers.

While attempting to flee the network headquarters with proof, Edison suffers a serious head injury, caused by striking a low-clearance sign labelled "Max. Headroom 2.3m". Bryce Lynch, an adolescent genius working as a scientist for Network 23, suggests to the network's chief executive that they keep Carter sedated and generate a computerized version of him by digitally recording Carter's mind. It will be used as a temporary replacement for Carter in order to hide his disappearance.

Bryce's program is flawed. It burbles "max headroom" repeatedly. Bryce instructs his hired goons to dispose of both Carter and his virtual clone, but the thugs sell both of them — Carter to a body bank, and the machine copy to pirate television station owner Blank Reg.

After a bit of nurturing from Reg, the computer program achieves a somewhat eccentric life of its own. With a gift for rapid-fire gags, he hosts his own show, and sends Reg's ratings through the roof.

Meanwhile, a merely unconscious Carter escapes from becoming a premature organ donor, pursued by Bryce's goons, who quote Hamlet's Response to Corruption as they search ("'Tis now the very witching time of night, when churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes contagion to this world."). With the help of colleague Theora Jones (Amanda Pays), and the distraction provided by Max, Carter eventually defeats Network 23.



After this film was made, an American television series was developed, titled Max Headroom. It lasted 14 episodes during the 1987–1988 television season and was broadcast on ABC. For at least the first episode, some footage from the original Channel 4 movie was used, while other scenes were reshot with American actors. Jeffrey Tambor was cast as Edison's boss Murray. Pablo Cruise keyboardist Cory Lerios provided the theme.

Home media releaseEdit

Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future was released on VHS for the UK and US in 1986.[3]

In September 2005, it was released as a Region 2 DVD in Japan only.[3]


  1. ^ "Stone, Jankel and Morton at the ICA". Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  2. ^ Bishop, Bryan (2 April 2015). "The definitive oral history of 1980s digital icon Max Headroom". The Verge. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  3. ^ a b Saint John, Robert (29 January 2007). "Live and Direct from Japan… It's M-M-Max Headroom!". SciFi Japan. Retrieved 29 March 2020.

External linksEdit