When we watch movies, it’s mostly for escapism, not for prophecy. But these days, science fiction is becoming non-fiction at an alarming rate. Although we’re not flying in cars (yet), our everyday lives are enriched with technologies that would have been considered fantasy less than 50 years ago.
We can’t help but wonder, what movies are we watching now that hold accurate predictions for the future? Are those crazy holographic computers, operated by touch, something the next generation will live to see? Science fiction has been doing a good job of become scientific reality in the last twenty years, and it seems that technological geniuses are developing just about everything our human imaginations can dream as fast as we can imagine it.
The following ten films predicted the future, in a chillingly accurate way; was it inevitable that science would follow up on these ideas, or did the technologies develop independently of these fictional creations? It might just be possible that these movies, unwittingly, formed the world as know it today.
10. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey, predicted so many technologies, it deserves its own list. The 1968 film, inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel,” accurately predicts the iPad. Clarke refers to the device as a “newspad” – an automatically updated and electronic news monitor. Sadly, Clarke died in 2008, two years before the release of the iPad.
The film also predicts space exploration, which was a developing, but largely untested, technology at the time. Keep in mind that the moon landing did not happen until 1969, a year after the release of this film.
9. The Truman Show
Jim Carey’s 1998 sci-fi offering, The Truman Show, was a precursor to reality television. At the time, this film was a razor-sharp commentary on humanity’s voyeuristic tendencies. Now we see it as an accurate interpretation of television programming. Although we haven’t watched a baby grow up and become a grown man before our eyes (mostly due to our collectively short attention span), many viewers are now addicted to watching the lives of others through hidden camera, no matter how mundane.
8. Blade Runner
Although there aren’t any replicants walking among us (that we know of), there is a surprising amount of reality in this science fiction. The cult-classic, Blade Runner – based on a 1968 Philip K. Dick novel – predicted two important technologies. The movie shows former detective/ blade runner Rick Deckard in a video call, which is a recognizable precursor to Skype, Google+, or similar. It also showcases digital billboards. Times Square is definitely starting to resemble a popular scene from Blade Runner.
7. Airplane II: The Sequel
Not exactly a masterpiece or even a sci-fi, Airplane II is a goofball comedy that’s easily (and thankfully) forgotten. One of the things we can’t forget, though, is its accurate prediction of naked body scanners. Way back in 1982, Airplane II accurately predicted a technology that would eventually be revealed in 2007, a full 25 years later. The full body scanner proved to be an unpopular technology. Privacy rights activists lobbied against the scanner, which reportedly allowed TSA agents to see the entire body, including breasts, genitals, and external medical devices. The scanner was ditched in 2013.
6. Back to the Future II
It’s easy to dismiss the Back to the Future series as amateurish and unsophisticated, but it accurately imagined many technologies we’re using today. The film was made in 1989, but takes place in 2015, so we’re not quite there.
One of the obvious ideas present in Back to the Future II was wearable technology. In a scene around the dinner table, the McFly family watches television and answers calls with special wearable technology glasses. Hello, Google Glass.
5. Total Recall
“How would you know if someone stole your mind?” This chilling premise leads Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Douglas Quaid through a mind-bending maze of virtual and actual reality in this 1990 sci-fi inspired by eerily prescient science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. While a lot of this movie seems far-fetched or outdated, at least one of its predictions is completely accurate – self-driving cars. In one scene, we see Quaid jump into a self-driven taxi. That may not be too far in the future. Of course the folks at Google have introduced autonomous cars, also known as the Google Self-Driving Car. And this car is not just experimental; it’s on public roads in 4 US states: Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan. You can also see the driverless cars in public operation in European countries, such as the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain.
In this 1997 sci-fi, Ethan Hawke plays the character of Vincent Freeman – a man born from natural selection in a society so obsessed with genetic perfection that it practices genetic manipulation. Against this bleak backdrop of eugenics, the film raises the question of creating designer babies. Fast forward to 2014, and the FDA is considering a medical trial of 3-parent embryos. The hopeful outcome of such an ethical nightmare is a baby without inherited diseases. The idea of genetically engineering eye color and height can’t be too far down the road.
3. Enemy of the State
“The government’s been in bed with the entire telecommunications industry since the forties. They’ve infected everything. They get into your bank statements, computer files, email, listen to your phone calls… Every wire, every airwave. The more technology used, the easier it is for them to keep tabs on you. It’s a brave new world out there. At least it’d better be.”
These words, uttered by the character Brill on the 1998 thriller, Enemy of the State, seemed completely inconceivable to viewers at the time. How can the government possibly have the technology to undertake such a massive operation? Of course, revelations from former system administrator Edward Snowden about the NSA’s activities took this movie from fiction into stark reality within the span of 15 years.
2. Minority Report
1. The Cable Guy
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, or watch female wrestling on another. You can do your shopping at home, or play Mortal Kombat with a friend from Vietnam. There’s no end to the possibilities!
The Cable Guy may have been off his rocker, but he was eerily accurate about the possibilities of the Internet. The movie was released in 1996. In that year, there were only 15 million people online. That was less than .05% of the world population. Today, approximately 3 billion people are online, accounting for 40% of the world population. That demonstrates just how foreign this concept was to the original viewers of this 1996 comedy, and how prophetic it turned out to be.