Movies That Predicted The Future
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Michel Gondry’s modern classic Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind depicted a future in which memory-wiping procedures exist, used primarily to erase people’s memories of relationships after painful break-ups. This, naturally, has some side effects, and throughout the film, we get to see how these memories decay, and if in the end it is really worth it for Joel (Jim Carrey).
In real life, there’s no fancy machine doing all the work, but some Dutch scientists somehow discovered that a common heart medicine can have a similar effect, erasing traumatic memories. However, reports suggest that they wouldn’t plan to use it as frivolously as to erase the pain of a relationship breakdown, but more for truly traumatic events, like rapes and muggings.
Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)
Airport Body Scanners
The film presents a world in which full-body scanners are ubiquitous in airports, giving airport security a naked video of whoever passes through the scanner, much to their delight. Naturally, the personnel in the film ensure to pick out the most attractive women to walk through the scanner, making for a briefly hilarious moment in this otherwise underwhelming flick.
And in the last few years, similar scanners have been implemented in airports the world over; though they obviously don’t provide an image of you as clear and graphic as in the film, it is an X-Ray-type image that nevertheless will reveal intimate imagery of your body. True to the film, countless airport staff members have already been accused of sexual harassment while using the technology.
Minority Report (2002)
To be fair, most of Minority Report – specifically the idea that the authorities will be able to predict a crime before it happens – hasn’t come true (yet), but one of its more memorable if seemingly throwaway predictions was that advertisements will eventually aim themselves at the viewer and their interests. While this hasn’t come true in supermarkets and malls yet, it is happening big time in one place – the Internet.
Through the genius invention of cookies, computers will often take note of what you’re searching for, and then websites that you visit will aim advertising towards you that reflects that data. If you’ve been searching for video games lately, then a site might link you to the best deals on games, and so on. Though it hasn’t quite gotten to the creepy level yet, one can imagine that it’s only going to get weirder in the coming years.
A sort of merging of the corporeal world with the hyperreality of video and television - by way of user-generated material. That, we think you'll find, equals YouTube!
Now, of course, we love the Internet and there are some very good things about YouTube - but, with four-million videos uploaded every five seconds, the quality control is a bit off. For every smart DIY instructional vid and ace conceptual mash-up, there's a hundred films of someone's cat being sick.
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Alright, this isn’t exactly the most prescient prediction on this list, but you still have to give Forbidden Planet some credit nonetheless given that it called the idea of mobile phone about three decades before it came to popular fruition.
Indeed, the crew of the United Planets Cruiser C-57D all came with small communication devices attached to their belt buckles (as well as cameras), and though we still defer to the old-fashioned pocket for on-person storage, they seem to have mostly gotten it right.
In retrospect, the film is something of a depressing reminder how inescapable technology is; you sit down to watch a classic movie, hoping its sci-fi predictions will be hilariously out of date, but even they have Leslie Nielsen Tweeting on his iPhone…
The Truman Show (1998)
Sure, the central premise of The Truman Show is an exaggeration of things as they are today – in the film, the subject (Jim Carrey) is unaware that he is being filmed, which realistically would have all sorts of legal implications – but it nevertheless nailed the pervasive nature of reality TV in contemporary society.
Back in 1998, reality TV shows were virtually non-existent, yet within two years, the likes of Big Brother and Survivor kick-started the craze that nowadays includes the braindead likes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Jersey Shore. Shoot me now.
Also amusing were the film’s predictions on how the reality TV show would become commodotised as a whole, but what strikes me as disturbing is that back in 1998, the idea of a reality TV show was so abjectly strange that a satirical movie could be made about it. Today, with that being a reality, it would feel old-hat; we have essentially become the joke that The Truman Show was predicting, and that’s sad
The Cable Guy (1996)
Marriage of TV, Computer, Phone & Games Devices
During the film’s climactic stand-off between Chip (Carrey) and Steven (Matthew Broderick), Chip screams about all the ways technology is going to transform; a combination of television, computers and phones. Perhaps most prophetically, he suggests you’ll be able to play Mortal Kombat with a friend living in Vietnam.
In the present day, online gaming is a cultural mainstay, and services like Skype and on-demand TV fully live up to Chip’s prediction. It’s an unfortunate fact that because the film is critically divisive and not one of Carrey’s bigger hits, more praise isn’t lavished on it for its impressive predictions of technology’s future.
Total Recall (1990)
Based on a Philip K. Dick short story, this Arnold Schwarzenegger film envisioned elements of the future like videoconferencing and holograms. But it’s the JohnnyCab, an autonomous vehicle that drives its passengers anywhere they want to go, that was particularly prescient. While a driverless car may have seemed far-fetched to viewers back in 1990, Google has since patented its autonomous car and Nevada has made them street legal. With a roof-mounted laser that can differentiate between cars, pedestrians and stationary objects, Google’s car is a modern version of JohnnyCab, minus the animatronic driver
Wag the Dog (1997)
Bill Clinton Sex Scandal
Barry Levinson’s thorny satire Wag the Dog is about the President of the United States being rumbled as he tries to sleep with a Girl Scout.
The POTUS’ publicist (Robert De Niro) enlists the help of a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman) to stage a fake war in order to draw some of the heat away from the Presidential scandal; the titular term refers to the fact that the politicians controlling the media is like a tail wagging its own dog.
The term took on a higher cultural significance when Bill Clinton’s sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky broke in December 1997, and within three days of Clinton actually owning up to it, he announced that the US had started bombing Afghanistan and Sudan to bits, a shocking revelation that was clearly aimed to distract from his own personal headline-making issues.
The parallel of the two would be hilarious if not for the eerie similarity; I suppose at least the military action from Clinton’s administration was (apparently) real, whereas in the movie it is pure artifice
One of the all-time great movie satires, Network is a masterpiece of prescience, unarguably most famous for its iconic scene in which Howard Beale (Peter Finch), an incensed TV news anchor, declares, “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”.
Despite being close to 40 years old, it’s incredible that Network still feels as fresh and on the money as it surely did upon release; it was lavished with awards at 1977′s Oscars, and has taken on a whole new lease of life in recent years once we began to realise how accurately it began to predict 21st-century media trends.
Most disturbingly apt was its depiction of so-called “tabloid TV”, wherein news channels would grab for ratings by depicting the most sensationalist news items possible, and as Beale himself remarks, “we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be!”.
Look at conservative douche-news anchor Glenn Beck today; his crazed ramblings pull in viewers in just the same way that Beale did in the film, through a sensationalistic “car crash” appeal. Nowadays, just look at channels like FOX News and their emphasis on breaking, live news; the recent Christopher Dorner siege was a pitch-perfect example of how crassly news channels the world over have tried to turn real life into some sort of Hollywood spectacle, complete with trailer-style narration and dramatic music.
America’s Economic Difficulties & China’s Rise To Power
One of the most underrated films of the 1970s, Americathon was a reflexive satire that feature America in a rare instance of self-aware mockery, though the film’s jokes would eventually start to become reality in the decades that followed.
To date, the following of the film’s overblown predictions have actually happened: China has embraced capitalism and become a superpower, Nike has become a gigantic, worldwide company, the USSR has collapsed, US’ oil production wavered, reality TV is a thing, and the President of the United States is the son of a previous President, and more to the point, is completely terrible at his job.
It’s astounding that given how scarily well the film predicted the world’s future political machinations, it hasn’t seen the sort of critical re-appreciation that it so sorely deserves. Sure, the film’s far from perfect, but it offers up some uncomfortably close stabs in the dark at what the future holds.
Game of Death (1978)
Brandon Lee’s Death
Here’s the one that’s bound to leave you extremely creeped out. Bruce Lee’s final film, Game of Death, was incomplete at the time of the actor’s demise, and was finally released around five years later, completed using doubles and crassly.
None of this is creepy in comparison to one scene that Lee shot prior to his demise, in which he plays an actor on set, who is shot with a prop gun by another actor, but the prop gun is in fact loaded with an actual bullet, severely wounding Lee’s character.
This same fate inexplicably befell Lee’s own son Brandon while shooting Alex Proyas’ stylish gothic thriller The Crow, except Brandon didn’t survive, fragments of the bullet firing into his chest and mortally wounding him. Though many will ascribe this to the so-called “Lee family curse”, it’s simply one of those extremely bizarre coincidences, given that scenes featuring prop guns malfunctioning aren’t exactly common cinematic occurrences.
Above Suspicion (1995)
Christopher Reeve's Paralysis
In May of 1995, a mediocre movie called Above Suspicion quietly premiered on HBO and then slipped into obscurity. It featured Christopher Reeve as a police officer who suffers from severe depression and encourages his wife and his brother to murder him in order to collect the insurance. So what could trigger that kind of depression? Well, that's the eerie part:
Reeve's character is shot in the spine and confined to a wheelchair for the majority of the movie. Now this film was released on May 25. If for some reason you haven't committed the chronology of Christopher Reeve's life to memory, May 27 was the day he was paralyzed in a horseback riding accident. The movie where he plays a paraplegic was released just two days before his accident landed him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Despite the movie never being in any danger of winning awards or even showing up in theaters, Reeve took the role seriously, preparing by spending a couple of days at a spinal cord trauma unit and learning what it's like to live life in a wheelchair. He even did interviews promoting the movie, stating, "A couple of days at the spinal cord trauma unit and you can see how easily it can happen."
Then, of course, it did happen almost immediately, though in the film, the big reveal is that Reeve was only pretending to be paralyzed to build an elaborate trap for his wife and brother, who were cheating on him behind his back. A pretty morally reprehensible move, even in the context of sibling adultery. Apparently karma thought so, too, but had a hard time differentiating between characters and the actors playing them.
Jack Nicholson's Family Secret
One of the biggest reveals of the story is that Dunaway's character was raped by her father and gave birth to a daughter, and then the child was raised as her sister. Screenwriter Robert Towne originally wanted the film to end with Dunaway killing her father, but the director insisted on a much darker conclusion where Dunaway is killed and then the creepy old child molester takes possession of his inbred offspring. If you're wondering why a studio would intentionally release a film in which a pedophile comes out the victor in the end, remember who directed it ...
Shortly after Chinatown's release, Time magazine was planning to do a cover story on Nicholson, but while researching his family, the reporter made some surprising discoveries. Namely, that the man and woman Nicholson had always called dad and mom were actually his grandparents, and the woman he thought was his older sister was his biological mother (not due to incest in this case, she just got knocked up by a random dude as a teenager).
So, maybe Nicholson was attracted to the Chinatown role because it mirrored his own messed-up family dynamic? Nope -- at the time, he didn't even know. He only found out because, while Time never ran the story, they did call him up just to give him a heads up that his whole life had been a lie.
To give some context, Nicholson was born in 1937, a time when it was more socially acceptable for an unmarried woman to walk around in public with the plague than with a baby. So when the family's 16-year-old daughter got pregnant with Jack, they covered the whole thing up after he was born by claiming the baby belonged to the girl's mother. They kept this up for the rest of their lives.
Everyone involved in the cover-up passed away before Nicholson ever learned the truth, so even in their dying breaths they didn't feel it necessary to tell him that his sister/mother had gotten pregnant by some guy, and thus his biological dad was probably still out there somewhere, presumably wandering the streets in a purple felt suit and shouting about how this town needs an enema. Still, Nicholson claims to hold no resentment toward his family, saying "I'd like to meet two broads today who knew how to keep a secret to that degree." Because Jack Nicholson is one of the only people who can insult every woman in the world and have it sound endearing.
Destination Moon (1950)
Privately-funded space travel
This film’s main character is a rocket scientist who recruits private investors to fund his flight to the moon. Several visionary industrialists respond by pouring millions of dollars into the ultimately successful mission. As predicted, private investors have become key players in space travel. In 2004, Michael Mevill became the world’s first commercial astronaut when he piloted the privately funded SpaceShipOne to the boundary of space. And more than 500 space tourists have purchased seats aboard Sir Richard Branson’s privately funded VSS Enterprise.
Full Face Transplant
In March 2010, a team of 30 Spanish doctors performed the first successful full face transplant on a patient injured during a shooting mishap. French surgeons followed up that accomplishment later in the year with a full transplant that included functioning eyelids and tear ducts. Both owed their efforts to pioneering facial transplant studies by the Cleveland Clinic.
In March, a surgical team at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston succeeded with a 17-hour full face transplant (the patient even regained his sense of smell). That hospital had previously performed a partial transplant in 2009.
Woman in the Moon (1929)
Elements of space travel
Four decades before NASA put a man on the moon, this German film used stunning guesswork to predict many of the elements of space travel. Among its bold predictions are a multi-stage rocket and liquid fuel. The crew even counts down from 10 to zero prior to the launch, the first recorded countdown to a rocket launch. With its amazing prescience, “Woman in the Moon” is considered one of the most impactful sci-fi films of all time.
Short Circuit (1986)
Johnny 5’s antics may seem like child’s play, but this film’s prediction of armed military ground vehicles is right on. The robots from “Short Circuit” (designed by Syd Mead of “Blade Runner” fame) have now become reality with our modern military’s unmanned ground vehicles. These robots move on tracked wheels, just like Johnny 5, and can carry weapons. Thousands of UGVs have seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan, presenting scenarios not unlike those suggested in the movie.
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