I’ve always thought of science fiction as a look at what screenwriters and novelists think the future may hold, and that seems to be a fairly accurate stance. In fact, by definition, science fiction is simply fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances or social/environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets. The great thing about these films is that they do sometimes accurately foretell the future... and now that some of the more legendary entries in the genre are reaching a certain age, a lot of the ideas they explore are actually beginning to come true.
Here are eight examples of science fiction films from years past that made accurate predictions as to what the world would look like today...
Star Trek's Communicators Foreshadow Modern Cell Phones
We aren’t charting deep space or battling Klingons yet, but we do have a device very much like the Star Trek communicator, and roughly 95% of Americans use one every day. Mobile phones may have been bigger than your head when Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out in 1979, but today they're a basic necessity, and pretty much ubiquitous. They're also about the size of the communication device used on the original Star Trek series.
2001: A Space Odyssey Depicts Permanent Orbital Space Stations
Stanley Kubrick is unquestionably a creative genius, and it’s even been speculated by conspiracy theorists that he helped the US government fake the moon landing, so it’s no surprise that the director was on the cutting edge of what was to come in the future of space travel. His classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey foretold the advent of permanent orbital space platforms many years before the International Space Station became a reality.
The Terminator Predicts Google Glass Technology
Upon the release of The Terminator in 1984, the concept of an eye-mounted computer interface seemed little more than a pipe dream. But with the advent of Google Glass, that tech is now a reality. Sure, Google Glasses are not yet designed to be implanted in our eyes, but for all intents and purposes we have access to a device that mimics the capabilities of the Terminator’s retinal computer. In fact, there are also reports of a contact lens device that can project an image on to the wearer’s retina, but they have not generated as much attention or demand... yet.
Total Recall's Full-Body Scans Now Standard in Airport Security
Total Recall painted a very different future than what the world actually looks like today, but the future portrayed in the film was circa 2084, so it’s possible that more of its predictions may still come to pass. One thing already upon us is the full-body airport scanner. No matter what your thoughts on this controversial implementation, the full-body scan is here and now. What's so interesting about this is that a movie released 13 years before 9/11 so accurately foretold the arrival of this modern security feature.
Predator's Wrist Computer is Similar to the Samsung Galaxy Watch
The Predator’s wrist computer, while certainly not identical to the Samsung Galaxy wristwatch and its kin, is remarkably similar to it in many ways, and both are computer devices that the user wears around his wrist. The smart-watch is noteworthy because it gives people a reason to wear a watch again... but also because it makes it easier for me to pretend like I'm a Predator myself.
Back to the Future II Shows Video Calling Long Before Skype
Although video calling has been depicted in sci-fi for decades, Back to the Future II eerily predicted Skype-style video conferencing long before it was any kind of convenient reality. The film came out in 1989, around the same time as the early incarnation of the videophone, but the quality of the real-life version was so poor and the device was so cost-prohibitive that almost nobody bought one. It wasn't until the introduction of Skype in 2003 that the technology was suitably streamlined for mass consumption.
The Day the Earth Stood Still Foretells Laser Technology
This early science fiction prototype showcased a (now) prehistoric-looking laser an entire three years before the first laser was actually invented. It was in 1954 that the first laser-like device was introduced to the public; it was called a MASER – Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Later, there was that unfortunate The Day the Earth Stood Still remake with Keanu Reeves... but that’s another story.
Looker Predicts the Use of CGI in Advertising
This 1981 film, adapted for the screen and directed by author Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park), made some interesting assertions about computer-generated imagery and subliminal messaging in advertising – both of which are now commonplace in TV ads. The film didn’t get all of the finer details right (CGI isn’t just used by evil corporations, and the subliminal ads of today are slightly less malevolent than those in the film), but the core premise is dead-on.
What are some of your favorite examples of science fiction films that have accurately foretold things to come?