Sci-fi movies that got the future all wrong . . .

Always in motion is the future. Ah, Yoda – the little green guy will never let you down. The problem is, if you were making a movie in the 70s, 80s or 90s – the future always seems so far away. So you put in flying cars, aliens or some horrific global event and set in the far, far future of . . . 1997! Or 2012!

Who knows what amazing things will happen by then, except it has happened and, thanks to my love of science fiction, I can show you oh so many different futures that never happened (well, in this reality anyway).

Granted – this list isn’t all-inclusive – I admit I have tried as hard as I can to watch as many varied movies as possible as the driving critic for – but I can’t watch everything. If your favorite movie isn’t on the list – feel free to share your own opinion.

And it’s a good thing these never came around too!

I mean, look at Death Race 2000 – yes, B-movie exploitation at its best (thank you Roger Corman): a future in which the United States fell to a horrendous financial crisis and the fascist United Provinces serves and government and a unified national church. And, oh my crazy – it reminds me of the Tea Party – maybe if Sarah Palin had been elected we could be enjoying cross-country murderous racing right now! I have to move on to something a little less unsettling.

Like Escape from New York – taking place in the “future” of 1997 (the same year I graduated high school) – where Manhattan has been transformed into a supermax, and super massive, prison – thanks to a 400% crime rate increase. Oh, also, there’s a third world war to deal with. But don’t worry, we all have Snake Plissken on our side. I hear they’re thinking of rebooting this movie too. Wonder what year it will be set in this time around?

Of course, these are the best-case scenarios.

We have no end of films dealing with some horrendous event that pushes mankind to the brink of extinction. Maybe by machines. According to Terminator (and T2), a self-aware computer system was supposed to wipe (most of) us out in 1997 – or, if you go be the inferior third film – by 2004. Luckily for us, the closest thing to a self-aware robot we have to deal with is a geminoid that, while still incredibly creepy, isn’t going to launch any nuclear attacks on us.

Forget robots – what about some crazy disease? In Twelve Monkeys, a virus released in 1996 took out all but 1% of the population and forced them underground. Fortunately, by 2035, humankind has also developed time travel to stop the virus from being released. Hey, maybe it’s not fiction! We’re all still here so it must have worked!

According to I Am Legend by 2012 most of the population (90%) has been wiped out thanks to a cure for cancer that mutated and turned most people into some proto-vampire mutants. The movie was pretty close to getting Shaq’s retirement announcement right. Too bad we never got that Batman/Superman crossover film though.

However, disasters don’t come any bigger than when Roland Emmerich is behind the camera. He’s given us aliens, a giant lizard and catastrophic climate change, but nothing can top 2012 for sheer chaos. It’s like torture porn on a global scale and doesn’t everyone love a great Apocalypse? However, seeing as I’m here typing this, obviously the Earth’s core hasn’t shot up in temperature causing Yellowstone to explore or an aircraft carrier to hit the White House. And those are the least unbelievable scenarios I could pick from that movie . . .

There are plenty more movies with futures that have yet to come that aren’t going to get it right either.

Back to the Future Part II, Children of Men, Soylent Green (well, at least I hope) but I might save those for another day.  The only advice I can offer future filmmakers is to set the bar higher. If you’re going to set your movie in the future, make it the year 3000 or something, because if you go short-term, the only future you’ll have is one where people like me get to gleefully pick your movies apart.


Chris Kavan is the chief blogger and prolific critic at and he hopes the future is kind of darker, because he doesn’t own shades.

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Category: Features, Movies

About the Author

Chris Kavan is the community manager for, a haven for all fans of sci-fi movies. He really holds no grudge against Mars - after all, he doesn't want to anger the god of war.


    A Geminoid?

  • Cyber Revengeance

    in case of terminator they thought it would be easy to develop computer AI. but it is not the case. so computers are not taking over.

  • Adam Smith

    What about that TV show ‘Beyond 2000′ ? Most of the things they showed are still not available to people.

  • xyl

    For Terminator, it is very simple to make something that kills people without exception.
    With current hardware and software it can be done. (Thermal camera, basic shape recognition programs + robot from Boston Dynamics for movement)
    While T>36 & moving & human shape
    fire weapon

  • mpitts2k1

    What about Blade Runner ??

  • inefekt

    Why would any sane person take the visions of the future of Hollywood directors/writers as gospel? Hollywood is all about sensationalism, it’s what makes movies interesting. Not too many movie makers care whether their predictions of the future are accurate or even physically possible, they just want it to look good on film. Do you think Spielberg thought to himself when he envisioned the hoverboard that ‘hmmm, this actually isn’t physically possible so maybe I should think of another futuristic mode of transportation for my movie’? No of course not, he probably though that it was cool and would get a reaction from the viewer………which of course it DID. The best bet when watching a movie that is set in the future is to double the timeline to get a better indication of when it MIGHT be possible. So the future we seen in BTTF2 (made in the late 80′s and set in 2015) has a better likelihood of becoming reality in the mid 2040′s……well aside from those hoverboards.

  • inefekt

    as per my post below, Blade Runner was made in 1982 and set in 2019, 37 years into the future, so double that and you get the year 2056. Can you imagine androids running around that are barely distinguishable from humans with a similar level of intelligence in 2056? It’s impossible to say but you can say it’s much more likely to happen in that timeframe than 5 years from now! What about off world mining colonies? Well we’re already talking about mining asteroids so who knows but chances are we’ll have been to Mars and set up a permanent base on the moon by 2056.
    And if you’ve been to Tokyo lately (probably the most Blade Runner-like city we have today) you’ll be giddy at the thought of what that cityscape will look like post 2050!

  • Vlad Vondoom

    The NSA has suppressed all significant technology. That is why we have no future except the slavery of capitalism.

  • Roger Mihalko

    dont you think its more about the concept rather than the hard dates? Possible futures. I know some are so far fetched as to just be dismissed.

    I ask you this, why does the US government have written plans of action for a zombie event as well as alien invasion? unless it was possible?

    Is 20k leagues under the sea possible? a over the top eco fighter develops some crazy wealth and decides to go off the grid? building submarine that is better than anything else? starts attacking oil rigs, whale hunting ships, sinking trade ships??

    Can an AI become self aware? would self preservation against the number one predator on the planet not be its natural reaction?

    again concepts or possibilities not hard dates,

  • Anonymous

    Back in 1966, a cheesy TV show premiered – “The Time Tunnel.” It was set in 1968, just two years in the future. Guess what – time travel didn’t happen by then.

    When I was growing up, practically EVERYONE predicted atomic powered flying cars, jetpacks, and robot maids at home to do the housework by the year 2000. Here it is 2014 and I’m still waiting . . .

  • Gah Mutter

    film makers setting their stories in 3000+ years futures may escape critics picking their films to pieces over getting the techlvl wrong. But they are sure to get flemed for not making their depicted futures weird enough (“Whaaaat – this is supposed to be the year 30015 and they STIL got flying cars?!? Bahh!”)
    Besides, the only thing failing in “Terminator” is the year. Everything else fits snuggly, right down to the name of the a fledgling global AI right now being cultivated by neural Network learning on the net.



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