The 21st century isn’t exactly how we all pictured it. There are no hover cars, no jet packs. We haven’t cured cancer and every once in a while birds just fall from the sky. But as bad as things may seem sometimes, it’s worth noting that they’re a hell of a lot better than many movies predicted they’d be by now.
Let’s take a look at some of the worst fates that were supposed to befall mankind by now (or will in the near future).
10. Murder driving as sport
Movie: Death Race 2000
Released In: 1975
Set In: 2000
Prediction: The two political parties will merge into one, which will then merge with the church, creating a fascist police state that entertains its citizens with a gruesome and illogical cross-country race where many of those same citizens are run down for points.
Reality: The two political parties remain annoyingly intact, and the most gruesome form of entertainment is watching Brett Michaels try to hook up with aging prostitutes on a tour bus.
9. World War III
Movie: Escape from New York
Released In: 1981
Set In: 1997
Prediction: World War III, fought between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, will cripple both nations. Crime in the U.S. will be so out of control that the island of Manhattan will be turned into a giant prison, where there are no guards and prisoners are free to kill each other however they please.
Reality: The Soviet Union never managed to cripple the U.S. through war, but it did cripple itself through economics. Also, the rate of total criminal incidents in the U.S. actually dropped between 1981 and 1997, so no need to turn Manhattan into a large scale, grown-up Lord of the Flies.
8. Creepy robot servants
Movie: Bicentennial Man
Released In: 1999
Set In: 2005
Prediction:Families will be able to purchase humanoid robots that can perform housekeeping and maintenance duties. These robots will be able not only to detect human emotion, but to respond appropriately. I know this doesn’t sound as terrible as death races and prison cities, but if other movies have taught us anything it’s that robots with feelings are a hop, skip and a machine-led revolution away from global domination. If you had a Robin Williams robot in 2005, we’d be well on our way to The Matrix by now.
Reality: The filmmakers must have really overestimated robot technology in 1999 to set the movie a mere six years in the future. As of now, the “most advanced humanoid robot in the world” looks like a slow moving child in a space suit, and the closest a family could afford to having their own robot is certainly not going to be able to do their laundry.
7. Time travel/body stealing
Released In: 1992
Set In: 2009
Prediction: Rich people will be able to extend their lives by hiring “bonejackers” who travel back in time to steal people from the past just before their deaths. The brains of the wealthy are then implanted into these people’s bodies, allowing the rich to live on as long as they can afford to keep doing this. The rest of the population will live in poverty and suffer health problems due to pollution and drug use.
Reality: See? Our current health care system’s not as bad as that. I told you this list would make you feel better. We may have a lot of work to do to address inequality in health care, but at least the difference between the haves and have-nots isn’t a morally questionable immortality versus dying in squalor.
6. Corporate-sponsored cannibalism
Movie: Soylent Green
Released In: 1973
Set In: 2022
Prediction: The population of New York City alone will rise to 40 million people, most of whom will be forced to live in the streets due to lack of shelter. Food will be scarce and expensive, but human bodies won’t be, so…well, we’ve all heard the line.
Reality: O.K., so we’re not at 2022 yet, but with only ten years left to go, I think we can say that this is an unlikely scenario. The population of New York was 8.3 million as of 2009, so even with a substantial baby boom, we’re not going to get anywhere near the number of people required to make a human body cheaper than a can of tuna and some Wonder Bread.
5. Clones as organ farms
Movie: The Island
Released In: 2005
Set In: 2019
Prediction: Wealthy people will have the choice to be cloned, so they can have a set of back-up organs if they develop heart problems or meet a friendly stranger at a bar and end up in a tub filled with ice. They will be told that their clones never gain consciousness, but in reality, these clones will be kept in an isolated facility and told they can’t go outside due to toxic air. That is, until they “win” the lottery and have their organs harvested.
Reality: Technically, this is one of the few that could actually happen. Scientists have managed to clone multiple species, including rats, camels, even a rhesus monkey, and it’s only 2011. Now, I don’t know how much more complex cloning a human is versus a monkey (what am I, a NERD?), but I’m guessing if they can do that, we could totally have Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor clones running amok in the next eight years. But while The Island scenario might very well be possible, the raging debate about stem cell research proves that people, who are uncomfortable enough with cloning individual cells, would probably raise a few objections to humans being cloned, stored, and farmed for their body parts. And I think we should all feel pretty good about that.
4. Nuclear holocaust/global collapse/shitty postal service
Movie: The Postman
Released In: 1997 (based on a 1985 novel)
Set In: 2013
Prediction: Things will pretty much fall apart due to nuclear war, which will turn the U.S. into an apocalyptic wasteland where lone nomads can trade performances of Shakespeare plays for food and shelter (dear God, what was this movie?). One guy will change all of this by posing as a member of the U.S. Postal Service to convince people that the government has been restored.
Reality: We’ve avoided nuclear war, and while the price of stamps keeps going up, the USPS is still more reliable than Kevin Costner on a mule.
Movie: Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
Released In: 1985
Set In: 2004
Prediction: Following the apocalypse, justice will be ruthless. Disputes will be settled in the Thunderdome, an arena where two opposing parties fight to the death. Break a contract, any contract, and you’ll face “the wheel.” Kind-of like Wheel of Fortune except you can lose limbs.
Reality: Legal disputes are typically settled by arbitration, where two men enter and both men leave, hopefully having reached an adequate resolution. Courts tend to assign punishment based on the severity of the crime, not a spinning wheel. And none of the available punishment options include “amputation” or “underworld.”
2. Simian overlords
Movie: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
Released In: 1973
Set In: 1991
Prediction: A disease will kill off all dogs and cats, so humans will respond logically by taking in dangerous primates as pets. Eventually apes, who we will train to do domestic chores and then use as slaves, will revolt. Sometime between 1991 and when Charlton Heston shows up, they will prove they can be just as dickish as us and humans will end up in cages.
Reality: Humans continue our reign as the biggest dicks on the planet.
1. Nihilistic rape gangs
Movie: A Clockwork Orange
Released In: 1971 (based on 1965 novel)
Set In: 1995
Prediction: Holy shit, things are gonna get weird. Bizarrely dressed teenage gangs will roam the streets, randomly beating and raping people. When arrested, they will be subjected to an aversion therapy treatment that will ruin the music of Beethoven for audiences everywhere.
Reality: Man, I’m glad this one hasn’t come true. Granted, there are gangs, violence, and even rehabilitation therapy for criminals, but Beethoven plays a part in none of it and, as far as I know, mixing amphetamines with milk to amp up for a night of ultraviolence is uncommon.