We take a look at eight films that eerily and accurately predicted the future.
WAG THE DOG (1997)
Director: Barry Levinson
Prediction: A sex scandal in the White House, with the President then manufacturing a war to change the media narrative.
This acerbic satire about American politics and media was rooted in the experience of Operation Desert Storm when, thanks to CNN, war irrevocably became a televised spectacle. The film’s hilarious premise involves an American President stuck in a sex scandal manufacturing a TV war to take the heat off himself. It hit the bull’s eye. One misplaced Bill Clinton cigar later, America had a Presidential sex scandal. And when his administration started bombing a harmless pharma company in Sudan to change the media narrative, it had its manufactured war. Unluckily for Clinton though, the people had already seen that movie.
A TRIP TO THE MOON/LA VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE (1902)
Director: George Melies
Prediction: Space travel and the moon landing.
Melies, maverick illusionist and the world’s first special effects ninja, tells a whimsical story of a group of astronomers who travel to the moon via a capsule shot out by a cannon. They land smack in the moon’s eye (ouch!) and end up getting chased by moon-dwelling aliens. In spinning his magical yarn, Melies predicts the advent of space travel and the lunar landing — a fantastic triumph of the imagination, coming at a time when Ford’s Model T hadn’t even yet been invented.
THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998)
Director: Peter Weir
Prediction: Intrusive reality TV and life under the gaze of the omniscient camera, purely for the second-hand joy of others.
Many will be shocked that 18 years ago, the idea of a person living under the gaze of cameras 24/7so that others could partake in his life vicariously on a TV show was considered ‘high concept’. Indeed, Peter Weir’s film thought a ‘Reality Show’ was such a bizarre idea, devoid of humanity, that its architect was depicted inhabiting a remote satellite far from earth. Several seasons of Bigg Boss and Keeping Up with the Kardashians later, I won’t be surprised if it’s Weir who is looking for a way off the planet now.
BLADE RUNNER (1982)
Director: Ridley Scott
Prediction: Genetic engineering, cloning, and Singularity by 2019.
It’s kind of hard to say anything about Blade Runner without seguing into a long orgasmic moan. Genetically engineered animals, digital billboards, gritty multicultural megacities, private space exploration… just listing things it got right is exhausting. So let’s talk about what it hasn’t got right instead. The absence of flying cars we can forgive, but where are the sexy replicants (AI beings) with mystifying existential crisis the film promised? While sophisticated AI won’t be here by 2019 like the film predicted, it should be here in a couple of decades according to some scientists, ensuring that in the long run Blade Runner will be proven right again. Just as well, bet the world can’t wait to swipe right on a replicant.
Director: Mike Judge
Prediction: Reality TV becomes a farcical epidemic, big corporations only sell sex, and the U.S. is run by a complete moron as President thanks to the mass breeding of idiots.
This satire from the creator of Beavis & Butthead and Silicon Valley may well have been written by an acid-tongued Nostradamus. It imagines a future world where, through mass breeding of idiots, humanity has become as dumb as an internet comment board. Every corporation now basically just sells sex (Oogle on Google or handjobs at Starbucks?), the most popular thing on TV is a reality show about getting your balls smacked, and the President of the USA is a show-boating, trash-talking “fivetime Smackdown champion, porn superstar”. A year ago, an American TV channel actually put a reality show called Ow! My Balls! in development, and Donald Trump could be President by the end of 2016. ‘Nuff said.
ENEMY OF THE STATE (1998)
Director: Tony Scott
Prediction: The rise of the surveillance state, and the government tracking its citizens’ every move.
With Top Gun, Tony Scott sort of predicted that fighter pilots would become seriously cool
(by making them look so killer that a whole generation grew up dying to ride flying coffins). But in this popcorn-friendly masala thriller, he seems to have predicted something altogether more sinister — the rise of the surveillance state. Gene Hackman plays a paranoid security expert who believes the government is spying on all its citizens by hacking mobiles, e-mail, digital cameras — ideas that, in 1998, were thought to be as ridiculous as the notion of Ram Gopal Verma ever making a terrible film. In the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent of the NSA’s snooping abilities, the only people left looking ridiculous are the ones who still believe that the government isn’t watching everything you’re putting out on Snapchat.
DEEP IMPACT (1998)
Director: Mimi Leder
Prediction: A black President sitting in the Oval Office, running the whole wide world.
This disaster film is about a comet hitting planet earth and wiping out most of humanity. Don’t worry, that’s not the prophecy it’s got right (at least not yet). What it was prescient about was the first African-American president — played powerfully by Morgan Freeman (who else?), with his now-trademark sandpaper-voiced gravitas. The idea of a black president was such a flight of fancy at the time that you wouldn’t even see it depicted in American mainstream popular culture, much like you’ll never see an openly gay Prime Minister in Bollywood (someone should make that film). Merely by placing such a character at the heart of a huge Hollywood summer blockbuster, Deep Impact broke through a cultural glass ceiling, arguably even making it a little easier for people to imagine someone like Obama in the White House.
DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Prediction: Widespread disillusionment with the USA’s special brand of cowboy militarism and a response against government policy and aggressive American nationalism.
Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is a permanent fixture on such lists, credited with predicting Siri, space tourism, tablet computers, and the International Space Station (although we’re still waiting for the bone that turns into a space shuttle). Remarkably enough though, in his earlier dark comedy about nuclear war, he’d already predicted the topography of modern military engagement, with generals hovering over TV sets, planning pinpoint strikes. But perhaps the film’s greatest feat was that despite being released in the middle of the Cold War, in an era of aggressive American nationalism, it prophesised a future disenchantment with the nation’s cowboy militarism — and was proven right a few years later by the anti-war protests over the Vietnam War.
MINORITY REPORT (2002)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Prediction: Targeted advertising, gesture-based interfaces on smart devices, and iris recognition technologies used for security purposes.
This film noir set in 2054 is, in some ways, the most unsurprising entry on this list. Spielberg worked with an entire battery of futurists — writers, architects, computer-scientists, and biomedical researchers — to get his prophetic cinematic world of the future right. Fourteen years later, one of the film’s coolest gimmicks (for its time) — gesture-based interfaces — is a mundane reality for most smartphone users, iris recognition technologies are increasingly being adopted as security measures, and annoyingly enough, personally-targeted advertising is here to stay. The technology behind pre-cogs (AI beings that can predict future crimes) might not yet be here, but in some ways, the moral Rubicon has already been crossed with police forces increasingly using meta-data to predict crimes based on past behaviour.