(German: World on a wire)
German science fiction television mini-series (1974) by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, based on the novel Simulacron-3 by Daniel F. Galouye. Screenplay credited to Fassbinder, Galouye, and Fritz Müller-Scherz.
In an undefined near-future setting, a project to create a virtual world within a computer, called Simulacron-1, is under way. Leading the project, Dr. Stiller (Klaus Löwitsch) begins to notice curious anomalies affecting himself and his surroundings. People disappear around him, and nobody seems to know that they were ever there. His investigations of these occurrences leads him to a terrifying realisation about the nature of the reality he lives in.
Welt am Draht is a well-written and suspensefully-paced TV series, built up around an old science fiction premise: suppose the world were an illusion, and we were but unwilling participants in it?
This classic premise of the science fiction genre has received far too little treatment in film and television - but has recently received a great deal of attention, due to the success of The Matrix. Compared to The Matrix, Welt am Draht has inferior special effects. However, the premise doesn't really require Matrix-type effects, and Welt am Draht benefits from a much better story, told in a far more intelligent fashion.
Bottom line: for flash and thunder, see The Matrix - but for mental stimulation, see Welt am Draht.