For better and for worse, some movies are better about predicting the future than others. Nobody wants to eat Soylent Green, but we’re OK with most of these elements from other movies coming true.
1. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted video calls and Siri-like artificial intelligence—though Siri hasn’t gone murderous like HAL 9000 (knock on wood). 2001 also predicted space tourism, which isn’t real yet, though tech moguls like Richard Branson and Elon Musk are working on it.
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE
What hasn’t the Star Trek franchise predicted? A big get for Star Trek is the cell phone; inventor Martin Cooper, whose team at Motorola built the first cell, has cited Captain Kirk’s communicator as one of his influences. Wrist-worn communicators are a precursor to the modern smartwatch, the PADD (or Personal Access Data Device) is basically just a tablet, and doesn’t the earpiece Uhura wears look an awful lot like an early Bluetooth headset? In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the replicator—a device that seemingly synthesizes food out of thin air—was introduced; the details aren’t the same, but looked at in a general sense, it’s basically a fancy, futuristic 3D printer.
3. AIRPLANE II: THE SEQUEL (1982)
Airplane II: The Sequel
accurately predicted full-body scanners at airports, of the sort that have come to be used in just the past few years (though Airplane II’s version of those scanners is, er, a bit more NSFW than they are in real life).
Gigantic digital billboards are a familiar sight to those who live in New York, Tokyo, and other big cities, but in 1982—the year Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner came out—they were still a thing of the future. Blade Runner is also one of a handful of sci-fi movies that had its characters making video calls with technology that did not yet exist in the real world.
5. THE TERMINATOR (1984)
Skynet might not have sprung up to kill us all (yet), but there’s one thing from The Terminator franchise that did come true: the existence of military drones. (Military robots were also predicted, albeit in a more benign way, in the 1986 comedy Short Circuit.)
6. BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II (1989)
We may not have flying cars or hoverboards quite yet, but Back to the Future Part II did predict wearable tech, à la Google Glass. In the Back to the Future franchise’s version of 2015, Marty McFly’s kids can take calls on futuristic phones that they wear as sunglasses.
7. TOTAL RECALL (1990)
Uber, Tesla, and Google, among other companies, are working on bringing self-driving cars to the road; though we have a ways to go before members of the general public can buy them, the tech does exist and is being further developed. But the Arnold Schwarzenegger action vehicle Total Recall got there first, even if its self-driving cars are equipped with a robot taxi driver named “Johnny Cab.” Tesla probably won’t use that one.
8. GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (1990)
Joe Dante’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch may not have been the most realistic film (remember that Hulk Hogan fourth wall break?), but it still managed to get an accurate prediction in there by accident. With its automatic doors, lights, and, well, automatic everything else, the high-tech skyscraper Clamp Tower, where most of the movie’s action takes place, was a precursor to modern day “smart home” technology. Of course, that tech was played for laughs in The New Batch, where it constantly broke down.
9. HACKERS (1995)
Much of the tech in Hackers looks pretty damned goofy nowadays, but there’s one thing it got right: virtual reality gaming. In one scene, evil hacker Eugene (sorry, evil hacker “The Plague”) can be seen playing a video game on something that looks remarkably like an Oculus Rift.
10. THE NET (1995)
is one of those movies that, in retrospect, looks “somewhat hokey” (that’s us being polite). Set in 1995, it depicted online identity theft before that was a thing that really happened. More importantly, it predicted a golden age when we’d be able to order pizza without leaving our houses or talking to another human being. Where would we be without that?
11. THE CABLE GUY (1996)
“The future is now. Soon, every American home will integrate their television, phone, and computer! You’ll be able to visit the Louvre on one channel and watch female mud wrestling on another! You can do your shopping at home, or play Mortal Kombat with your friend in Vietnam.” That’s Jim Carrey’s crazy Cable Guy character in Ben Stiller’s movie of the same name. Only he’s not so crazy, is he? Not about using your computer to watch female mud wrestling, at least.
12. FACE/OFF (1997)
Who’d have thought that any part of the uber-campy John Woo action movie Face/Off, in which an FBI agent (John Travolta) and a terrorist (Nicolas Cage) switch faces, would ever come true? And yet, here we are. Facial transplant technology has come a long way over the past few decades, with the most extensive transplant surgery ever having taken place last year.
13. THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998)
Another Jim Carrey movie that predicted the future is The Truman Show, in which Truman Burbank (Carrey) unwittingly stars in a reality TV show that the entire world is obsessed with. It’s a great piece of commentary on the Kardashian era, except The Truman Show came out in 1998. There was some reality TV then, notably MTV’s The Real World, but this was still pre-Survivor; reality TV was nowhere close to the powerhouse that it would eventually become.
14. MINORITY REPORT (2002)
Back in 2002, the notion of targeted ads was a small but still vaguely creepy aspect of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report. Now Facebook has picked up the mantle, and how; search out tips on how to start a garden, and next time you update your Facebook status you’ll get an ad for shovels. Minority Report also predicted gesture-based computing; the Nintendo Wii or Xbox 360 Kinect are decidedly less flashy than the tech Tom Cruise and his future cops work with, but it’s still the same concept.
15. I AM LEGEND (2007)
It’s not in line with cell phones, 3D printing, or drones, but I Am Legend predicted the existence of this year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In a scene where Robert Neville (Will Smith) wanders around a post-apocalyptic Times Square, a poster for a Batman/Superman team-up film can clearly be seen; the logos of the real film and its fictional doppelgänger are quite similar.