Several movies of the past years offered optimistic and dire predictions about the future. And now that the “futures” featured in those films have come and gone in real life, it had been revealed that some of those flicks actually got their projections right, while others were just dead wrong about the then-future of the world. Below are 35 movies that predicted the future but got it all wrong.
In Geostorm’s version of 2019, climate change has become so bad that Earth ended up relying on a global system of weather-altering satellites to keep the planet habitable. But when the network of satellites malfunctions and starts attacking Earth, its creator must uncover the real threat before a worldwide geostorm wipes out everything and everyone.
While climate change remains a grave threat to Earth at present, it’s not as serious as it was depicted in the Dean Devlin-directed movie.
2012 is a sci-fi disaster film that played off the ancient Mayan prediction that the world would end in the titular year. The Roland Emmerich-directed film follows geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and novelist Jackson Curtis (John Cusack). Adrian discovers the Earth’s crust is becoming unstable after a massive solar flare caused by an alignment of the planets, while Jackson attempts to bring his family to safety as the world is destroyed by a series of extreme natural disasters caused by the instability of the planet’s outermost layer.
Obviously, the world didn’t end in 2012. But if it would in the future, it doesn’t seem that it would happen on the same scale portrayed in the film, in which dramatic shifts in climate, springing earthquakes, plate shifts, tsunamis, and erupting super volcanoes are happening all at the same time.
Written and directed by brothers Michael and Peter Spierig, Daybreakers envisions a future wherein a plague turns most of the world’s population into vampires. In 2019, 10 years after the start of the plague, a critical blood shortage causes panic and gruesome mutations among the reanimated. Edward (Ethan Hawke), a vampire hematologist, tries to develop a blood substitute when he meets fugitive humans Lionel (Willem Dafoe) and Audrey (Claudia Karvan) who both claim they have a possible cure.
Apparently, Daybreakers got its 2019 predictions wrong, as there had been no vampire plague that hit the world between 2009 and 2019.
I Am Legend (2007)
Loosely based on the 1954 novel of the same name by Richard Matheson, I Am Legend is set in 2012 New York City after a man-made virus, originally created to cure cancer, has transformed most humans into bloodthirsty mutants. It follows U.S. Army virologist Robert Neville (Will Smith) as he calls out for other possible survivors and works on finding a cure for the plague using his own immune blood.
Though the plague depicted in the Francis Lawrence-directed movie can be compared to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the latter didn’t begin until the end of 2019. And while over 3 million people have already died from COVID, people who contract the virus don’t turn into bloodthirsty mutants.
Children of Men (2006)
Based on P. D. James’ 1992 novel of the same name, Children of Men predicted that humans would be infertile by 2009. Set in the year 2027, almost two decades after human infertility started, the Alfonso Cuarón-directed movie follows a former activist (Clive Owen) who helps transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea.
While the world’s birth rate is falling in real life, humans are still able to reproduce, so it’s unlikely that the human race will be on the brink of extinction anytime soon.
The Island (2005)
The Island envisioned a world where mankind has perfected human cloning. Set in 2019, the Michael Bay-directed movie follows Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) as he struggles to fit into the highly structured world in which he lives. Isolated in a compound with a few others, Lincoln later finds out that he and his fellow inhabitants are all clones used for organ harvesting and surrogates for wealthy people in the outside world. After dark secret is revealed, Lincoln attempts to escape with Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) and expose the illegal cloning movement.
Although human cloning is believed to be theoretically possible, there have been really few studies about it, as around 70 countries in the real world had already banned it primarily due to ethical reasons.
Bicentennial Man (1999)
Based on the 1992 novel The Positronic Man by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, Bicentennial Man predicted that robot housekeepers and servants would be available for public purchase by 2005. The Chris Columbus-directed movie tells the story of Andrew (Robin Williams), a robot bought by the Martin family as a household appliance programmed to perform menial tasks. But as years pass, Andrew begins to experience emotions and creative thought, and even falls in love with another robot. While this eventually makes him mortal, Andrew expires after the world congress decides to finally recognize him as a human.
At present, the real world still doesn’t have any robot as advanced as Andrew in the film. What humans currently have is the AI robot named Sophia. Though not as sophisticated as Andrew, Sophia was declared a citizen of Saudi Arabia without having to wait its whole life.
The Thirteenth Floor (1999)
According to The Thirteenth Floor, fully realistic virtual worlds would exist in the 2020s. While the video game industry is getting closer and closer to simulating reality, there’s currently no information that suggests that there will be fully realistic virtual worlds before the decade ends.
Loosely based on Daniel F. Galouye’s 1964 novel Simulacron-3 and a remake of the 1973 German film World on a Wire, The Thirteenth Floor centers on an heir (Craig Bierko) to a multibillion-dollar computer company who discovers an incredibly rendered simulation of Los Angeles in 1937, in which the simulated beings have no idea they are being simulated. Later in the movie, the hero finds out that the 1999 Los Angeles where he lives is also a simulation and that he’s actually from the year 2024.
The Postman (1997)
Based on David Brin’s 1985 book of the same name, The Postman projected that the U.S. would be a post-apocalyptic wasteland by the year 2013, following a series of plagues, the fall of the government, and the breakdown of society through hate crimes and racially motivated attacks, which collectively left a huge impact on human civilization and erased most technology.
Though hate crimes and racially motivated attacks remain prevalent in the U.S. at present, the country’s government hasn’t fallen yet. We’re also in the middle of a technological boom, with new inventions and innovations almost every month.
In the Kevin Costner-directed movie, Costner plays a nomadic drifter who stumbles across the uniform of an old U.S. Postal Service mail carrier and unwittingly inspires hope in others by pretending that a new government already exists.
Barb Wire (1996)
Directed by David Hogan, Barb Wire envisions a world where the U.S. is embroiled in a second civil war in the year 2017. While the real world didn’t see a war break out that year, the intense divisive political atmosphere going into the 2016 election felt a little similar to the civil war featured in the movie.
Starring Pamela Anderson in the title role, the sci-fi action film centers on Barb Wire, a sexy nightclub owner who moonlights as a mercenary in one of the last free zones in the already fascist America. When scientist Cora Devonshire (Victoria Rowell) wanders into Barb’s establishment, she gets roped into a top-secret government plot involving biological weapons and gets reunited with her old lover Axel Hood (Temuera Morrison), who is now Cora’s husband and a guerrilla fighter.
Escape from L.A. (1996)
A sequel to 1981’s Escape from New York, Escape from L.A. predicted that an earthquake would break Los Angeles off the rest of California and become an island by 2013. In the John Carpenter-directed film, the president of America turned the newly formed island into a dumping ground for people who don’t conform to his hyper-conservative views.
Thankfully, California hasn’t had the “Big One” yet. But when it does, it’s very unlikely that it will become a prison island under the control of a theocrat president.
12 Monkeys (1995)
Inspired by Chris Marker’s 1962 short film La Jetée, 12 Monkeys centers on James Cole (Bruce Willis), a convict from 2030s who is sent back to 1997 to gather information about a plague that wiped out the majority of the world’s population. In the movie’s version of 1997, people live in cages underground and have to wear condom-like bodysuit to avoid infection.
Like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the plague depicted in the Terry Gilliam-directed is also caused by a virus. But the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t start until December 2019. While the current global health crisis doesn’t send people to hide underground to protect themselves, the World Health Organization recommends people to wear face mask, practice social distancing, or stay at home to slow the spread of the virus.
Directed and written by Albert Pyun, Heatseeker imagines a version of the year 2019, where cyborg kickboxing is the most popular sport. In the movie, kickboxing champion Chance O’Brien (Keith Cooke) is forced to fight cyborgs in a tournament after the cybernetics company behind the competition kidnaps his fiancée.
While cyborgs are commonplace in sci-fi fiction, the real world has yet to see a fully functioning one. And though cyborg technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, it seems that we’re is still several years away from developing a cyborg that can do a stand-up combat sport like kickboxing.
Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
Based on the short story of the same name by William Gibson, Johnny Mnemonic is set in 2021, wherein half of the Earth’s population is suffering from Nerve Attenuation Syndrome (NAS), a disease caused by overexposure to electromagnetic radiation from omnipresent technological devices. In the film, sensitive data is no longer safe to send over the Internet, so there are so-called human couriers, like the titular character played by Keanu Reeves, who are literally carrying data packages inside their heads.
Luckily, at present, NAS remains a fictional disease. And while there are risks in transferring highly sensitive data over the Internet, there’s currently no need for human couriers like Johnny Mnemonic, as flash drives and external hard drives are way more practical to use.
Strange Days (1995)
Strange Days is one of the many ‘90s sci-fi movies that predicted the future, but proved to be more of a miss that a hit. Set in the year 1999, the Kathryn Bigelow-directed film envisioned a world where memories could be recorded directly from the cerebral cortex using devices known as SQUIDs. Those recordings could be downloaded and viewed like regular movies. And in addition to seeing and hearing the memories, users could also feel the actual physical sensations that the owner of the memories experienced.
While the real world doesn’t have any device similar to SQUIDs yet, we currently have 360-degree cameras that allow us to record videos from our own point of view, which, in turn, can be played back using VR technology.
Double Dragon (1994)
Set in 2007, Double Dragon takes place in an earthquake-crippled Los Angeles, now called New Angeles. Styled as a mix between a post-apocalyptic and ‘80s/’90s punk environment, New Angeles is a swampy wasteland, where highly trained martial artist brothers Billy Lee (Scott Wolf) and Jimmy (Mark Decascos) are tasked to protect a mystical dragon medallion from an evil overlord and his henchmen.
Thankfully, in the real word, there wasn’t a huge earthquake that hit Los Angeles in 2007. Though the “Big One” has yet to happen, there are no data that suggest that the city will turn into a swampy wasteland after it hits.
No Escape (1994)
Based on Richard Herley’s 1987 novel The Penal Colony, No Escape centers on John Robbins (Ray Liotta), a former Marine who serves life imprisonment on an island inhabited by savage and cannibalistic prisoners. Set in 2022, the Martin Campbell-directed movie imagined the world with a penal system run by private corporations that conscript prisoners as mercenaries.
Though there are a number of countries in the real world that currently use privatized prisons, none of those has cannibalistic prisoners. Also, it seems that the U.S. government may have been worried about the possibility of private companies using prisoners as assets, so President Joe Biden signed an executive order earlier this year that ends the federal government’s use of private prisons.
Timecop predicted that mankind would perfect time travel by 2004 and would use it to thwart crimes. In the Peter Hyams-directed movie, police officer Max Walker (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is recruited by the Time Enforcement Commission to investigate a case concerning Senator Aaron McComb (Ron Silver). But when Walker’s wife, Melissa (Mia Sara), is attacked, he tries to rescue her and save the future at the same time by traveling through time.
Apparently, Timecop got its time travel prediction wrong, because even now, the thought of being able to travel through time remains science fiction. However, the film also featured self-driving cars that were not realistic then, but are becoming more accessible now.
Demolition Man (1993)
In Demolition Man, a devastating earthquake in 2010 damaged Los Angeles and San Diego so badly that they merged to form a seemingly utopian megalopolis called San Angeles.
Fortunately, the “Big One” has yet to happen in California. And though it has been predicted to cause 1,800 demises, 50,000 injuries, and $200 billion in damages, it will less likely result in the creation of San Angeles.
Fortress envisions a world where the U.S. has a strict one-child policy. Set in 2013, the Stuart Gordon-directed movie follows husband and wife John Henry Brenick (Christopher Lambert) and Karen B. Brennick (Loryn Locklin) who are sent to a maximum-security prison after authorities find out that they’re expecting their second child.
While overpopulation is a global issue, it’s less likely that the U.S. will impose a one-child policy, as the country’s population has actually been growing at its slowest pace since 1919.
Starring Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, Rene Russo, and Anthony Hopkins, Freejack is set in the then-futuristic year of 2009 where the uber-rich people have developed a way to transfer their consciousness into younger and healthier bodies. But since global pollution and a drug epidemic have wiped out the majority of the human population, the wealthy people have begun hiring mercenaries to travel back in time to kidnap young people from the past.
Obviously, the Geoff Murphy-directed film got all its 2009 predictions wrong. Aside from the fact that the first instance of time travel has yet to be recorded in the real world, there were also over 6.84 billion people on the planet back in 2009.
Predator 2 (1990)
Written by brothers Jim and John Thomas, Predator 2 predicted that by the year 1997, Los Angeles would be completely consumed by a three-way war between a Colombian drug cartel, a Jamaican drug cartel, and the police. In the Stephen Hawkins-directed movie, the fight between the two gangs is so dreadful that the titular alien is able to operate in the city unnoticeably for a long period of time.
While there are a few drug cartels believed to be operating in Los Angeles at the present time, the city is definitely not beset by Columbian and Jamaican cartels.
Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)
A sequel to 1986’s Highlander, Highlander II: The Quickening is set in the year 2024 where the world is protected from solar radiation by the Shield, an artificial ozone layer that has fallen under the control of a corrupt corporation. Prior to the main events of the film, Earth’s natural ozone layer was completely depleted in the late ‘90s, resulting in the deaths of millions of humans.
Though the real world’s ozone layer has yet to completely heal, scientists recently observed that it has slowly been recovering, thanks to the continued efforts and partnerships of various governments across the world.
Set in the year 2020, Hardware envisioned the world as a radioactive wasteland where nomads spent their days scavenging for scrap in a blasted landscape. That’s how former soldier Moses Baxter (Dylan McDermott) came into possession of some spare android parts, which he gifted to his artist girlfriend, Jill (Stacey Travis). Jill planned to put them in a sculpture, but unbeknownst to them, those pieces were from a kind of android that was capable of reassembling itself and was programmed to kill.
Apparently, the real world is not a radioactive wasteland quite yet. And though a number of technologically advanced countries have already invented some AI robots, none of those can reassemble themselves like the one depicted in the Richard Stanley-directed movie.
Back to the Future Part II (1989)
Back to the Future Part II finds Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and his friend Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd) traveling from 1985 to 2015 to prevent Marty’s son from sabotaging the McFly family’s future. In the film’s version of 2015, hoverboards, self-drying clothes, and holographic movie billboards are commonplace. There are also food rehydrators where people can put a little packet in it and get a full-on meal coming back out.
While all those pieces of technologies are still non-existent today, the Robert Zemeckis-directed movie accurately predicted video chatting. Nike also unveiled Nike Mag in 2015 as a homage to the self-lacing sneakers featured in the film. The actual limited-edition shoes, however, were not released until 2016.
Based on Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga of the same name, Akira predicted that World War III would start in 1988, and Tokyo would be an overpopulated hellscape characterized by filthy streets, seedy bars, and motorcycle gangs by the year 2019. In the film, a secret military project turns a biker gang member into a rampaging psychic psychopath, endangering the entire capital city of Japan.
Luckily, World War III didn’t break out and ravaged the real world as envisioned in the animated classic. There have also been no reports of any underground organization in Japan that experiments on superpowered kids.
Alien Nation (1988)
In Alien Nation, an unidentified flying object bearing 300,000 enslaved aliens, called the Newcomers, landed in the Mojave Desert in 1988. By 1991, they have successfully integrated themselves into the Los Angeles community after learning the human language and taking various jobs.
It’s been over three decades since the year 1988, and there have been no reports of a UFO landing in the Mojave Desert. And while Los Angeles appears to be home to some of the biggest eccentrics on the planet, humans ― with our strong fascination with aliens and life outside Earth ― will likely notice right away if there’s a group of extraterrestrial beings roaming among us.
The Running Man (1987)
Loosely based on Stephen King’s 1982 novel of the same, The Running Man envisions a world where murder is a form of mainstream entertainment. Set in the year 2019, the Paul Michael Glaser-directed movie centers on a falsely convicted policeman (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who gets his shot at making it back to the outside world when he forcibly participates in the titular game show, where prisoners must run to freedom to avoid a brutal death.
While many people today love murder-packed TV series, we haven’t gotten to the point where we televise actual death for entertainment. More civilized people feel that day will never come, but some cynics and futurists think otherwise.
Warriors of the Wasteland (1983)
Also known as The New Barbarians, Warriors of the Wasteland predicted that America would be a post-apocalyptic wasteland by 2019 following a nuclear war. In the Enzo G. Castellari-directed movie, humanity is reduced into a few starving groups, including a ruthless gang called The Templars, who constantly raid other settlers in an attempt to exterminate everyone in order to purge the Earth.
Though a number of countries have recently been showing off their nuclear arsenal to the rest of the world, a nuclear war, fortunately, didn’t break out in 2019. But if something similar happens in the future, it won’t be a surprise if some people will take advantage of others in order to survive.
Blade Runner (1982)
Set in 2019, Blade Runner imagines a version of Earth where flying cars and human-like robots called replicants exist. While the Ridley Scott-directed movie is considered as one of the best films ever made, its 2019 predictions were way off base, as flying cars and robots as advanced as those depicted in the movie have yet to become a reality in real life.
Based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the Oscar-nominated film follows Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a blade runner who is tasked to pursue and terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space and have returned to Earth to find their creator.
Escape from New York (1981)
Set in the then-futuristic year of 1997, Escape from New York features a crime-ridden America which has converted New York City’s Manhattan Island into a giant maximum-security prison. When Air Force One is hijacked and crashes into the island, the president (Donald Pleasence) is taken hostage by a group of inmates. Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), a former Special Forces soldier turned criminal, is recruited to retrieve the president in exchange for his own freedom.
Obviously, in the real world, Manhattan was not transformed into a maximum-security prison in the year 1997. At present, the borough remains the urban core of the New York metropolitan area and the city’s economic and administrative center.
An adaptation of William Harrison’s short story Roller Ball Murder, this Norman Jewison-directed movie predicted that corporations would replace countries by 2018 and Rollerball, a violent roller derby-esque game, would be the world’s most popular recreational sport. In the movie, Rollerball teams representing various areas compete with each other, but one player (James Caan) stands out from the rest of the participants, as he fights for his personal freedom and threatens the existing corporate control.
It’s been almost three years since 2018 ended and private corporations have not replaced countries. And even though roller derby remains popular around the world, it has yet to have a violent and murderous version like the one depicted in the film.
Death Race 2000 (1975)
Based on the short story The Racer by Ib Melchior, Death Race 2000 takes place in a dystopian American society in the year 2000, where a murderous cross-country automobile race has become a form of national entertainment. Called Transcontinental Road Race, the sport features competing drivers that earn points for logging the fastest time and for mowing over innocent pedestrians in the process. The deadly sport is hosted by the country’s totalitarian government to help control overpopulation.
While overpopulation is a growing concern today, as the death rate decreases and life expectancies rise due to the advancement of technology, the world’s current population of over 7 billion is not so alarming that there will be a need for some sort of trans-continental road rage anytime soon.
Soylent Green (1973)
Loosely based on Harry Harrison’s 1966 sci-fi novel Make Room! Make Room!, Soylent Green envisions a future world where the collective effects of overpopulation, pollution, and climate change have caused severe global shortages of food, water, and housing. And in an attempt to solve the dreadful population growth, rations manufacturer Soylent Corporation resorts to industrial cannibalism to feed people. Its main product, Soylent Green, is introduced as being made of plankton, but as the film unfolds, the main character discovers that it’s actually manufactured from people.
While the movie is set in 2022, it’s safe to assume that the awful things that took place in the movie will not happen next year. Because even though overpopulation remains one of the greatest threats to global stability in the real world, it’s not yet as serious as the one depicted in the Richard Fleischer-directed film.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted that there would be lunar colonization and commercial space shuttles for civilians by the year 2001. Though both concepts are now a possibility, neither of the two existed in the year 2001.
Mankind doesn’t also have a computer system as advanced as the intelligent supercomputer H.A.L. 9000 featured in the Oscar-winning movie. The film, however, accurately predicted many pieces and forms of technology, including tablets, video communication, voiceprint recognition, and flatscreen TVs.