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Classic 80s Movies That Accurately Predicted the Future

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Oftentimes when we go to the movies, it’s sheer escapism. The ’80s gave us so many amazing films–Chariots of Fire, Aliens, The Color Purple, Raiders of the Lost Ark, (and those John Hughes’ soundtracks!). People loved them when they came out–especially the far-out sci-fi films of Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick, and Terry Gilliam, to name a few. However, looking back and watching these movies again, (or for many new fans, for the first time) some of those far-out concepts and themes don’t seem futuristic at all, in fact, they feel oddly familiar and eerily accurate.

These are four 80’s films that got things right in obvious, and not so obvious ways

If you’ve already seen these films, you might be surprised at how they still resonate as powerful and relevant works. If you’ve never seen them, get the popcorn and the snuggies ready–there’s a reason why people are still talking about these movies 35 years later.

1. War Games (1983)

Most people know Matthew Broderick as the conniving, calculating, but incredibly charming dude who starred in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But in one of his earlier films, War Games, Broderick was a nerdy but adorable teenager who messed around with one of the first personal computers, and by playing what he thought were innocent war games, (with nerdy but adorable Ally Sheedy looking on), comes close to causing global thermonuclear war. 

Yes the computers are dated, the Space-Invaders looking technology is far from sophisticated by today’s standards, and people speak on landlines with actual cords–but the movie has something important to say about the dangers of overreliance on technology, the peril of nuclear war, and leaving nuclear technology in the hands of artificial intelligence. 

Broderick was a crafty, bright kid who accidentally hacked into a military supercomputer. Since this movie came out there have been many infamous hackers who got in way over their head — Kevin Mitnick, Gary McKinnon, Kevin Poulsen to name a few. The movie started exploring cyberwarfare and dangerous cyber interference in political and military arenas that are even more frightening and relevant today than they were when the movie came out in 1983.

2. Back to the Future (1985) & Back to the Future II (1989)

Back to the Future had everything–it was smart, funny, incredibly entertaining and way ahead of its time in so many ways. No, we’re not all time-traveling in weird old guy’s DeLoreans, but watching the movie now it makes you wonder if innovators like Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Elon Musk weren’t secretly inspired by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, the writers of these before-their-time futuristic films. 

These are 8 things that debuted in Back to the Future that might shock you, as they are uncannily much like technology that we have today:

Drones 

The year is supposed to be 2015, and drones are flying everywhere in Back to the Future. They are shown doing everything from taking photographs for news organizations to walking a dog. While most of us have not employed drones to walk the dog just yet, drones are now utilized by military and civilians alike.

Fin Tech

Tablets and Mobile Payment Technology are portrayed when a small flatscreen device is used by Marty to donate $100 electronically. Probably Venmo and Paypal’s oldest living relative. 

Biometric devices

Fingerprint recognition is seen many times in Back to the Future–to identify people, open the front door and use payment technology in a taxi. Indeed, today we use fingerprints and other biometric tech to unlock devices, open doors to our homes, and yes, pay the taxi driver. 

Hands-free gaming consoles

In one scene in the diner, two young kids laugh at Marty for still using his hands while playing a game. Today gamers can forgo gaming consoles and joysticks–controlling the action by using gestures and voice commands.  

Smart clothing and wearable tech

The precursors to Fitbit, smart shirts and onesies that function as baby monitors may have been Marty’s smart sneakers and an auto-drying, size-adjusting jacket featured in Back to the Future. 

Video Phones

Marty gets fired during a video phone call in Back to the Future II. Pretty interesting when you consider the movie was written in an era of landlines, fax machines and mobile phones the size of a cereal box.  

Waste-fueled cars

Doc uses garbage to power his car. Which is almost as crazy as using biofuel such as animal fat, restaurant grease, or wait…Perhaps not so crazy. Consider that with the heightened awareness of global warming these trends exploring alternatives to fossil fuels are in extremely high demand. Biodiesel, vegetable oil, plug-in hybrids, ethanol, and flex-fuel are all alternatives to gas-powered cars.

Video glasses

Another eerie vision of the world in 2015 was dinner at the McFly family being interrupted by various devices. Marty and Jennifer are irritated when their kids use futuristic glasses at the dinner table to chat with friends and play games. Though Goggle Glass was a bit of a flop, virtual reality headsets that cover the eyes are not unlike the glasses the McFly kids wore for entertainment in the movie.  

3. Broadcast News (1987)

Undoubtedly influenced by the classic 1976 Network, Broadcast News is a hilarious, clever love triangle set behind the scenes at a nightly news show. The brilliant and talented writer of Mary Tyler Moore, Jim Brooks came from a journalism background and definitely saw the writing on the wall in terms of “fluffing” up the news with human interest and entertainment. He probably speaks his message most effectively through the unforgettable character of Jane (Holly Hunter) when she goes off on pretty-boy anchorman (also her love interest) Tom: “You personify something I truly think is dangerous: ‘Oh, I don’t write; I’m not schooled; I don’t understand the news I’m reading … but at least I’m upset about it, folks!’”

Here’s what the movie got right: 

  • News has changed 
  • Nightly newscasts are fading dinosaurs
  • Technology has created shorter attention spans
  • Journalism would see very challenging times
  • Style sadly often trumps substance in the world of TV journalism.

All pretty prescient and forward-thinking stuff for 1987.

4. Blade Runner (1982)

When we think of futuristic cities, most of us go to the iconic images burned in our brain from Ridley Scott’s unforgettable dystopian film set in Los Angeles, 2019(!). And though we don’t have flying cars or replicants living among us (well, hopefully not), there are concepts and technology in the movie that were way ahead of their time in 1982.

Robots

In the movie, earth is infiltrated with bio-engineered androids known as replicants. Today’s robots don’t look as lifelike as Darryl Hannah’s Pris, but AI is advancing every day. And “basic pleasure models” like Pris are a bit like lifelike robots that can be found in today’s sex-bot industry.

Video calling

Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard makes a video call in the movie. It was not until Skype launched in 2003 that this technology went mainstream. Now we have FaceTime, Google Duo, and WhatsApp to do what seemed like such a novel idea back then. 

Google and Alexa 

In the movie’s futuristic 2019, when Deckard returns home, he gives his “voiceprint identification” as he steps into the elevator. After a female voice thanks him, the elevator is activated. In today’s 2019 Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa identify their owners by voice patterns, and tailor their behavior accordingly. 

Though the film was set 37 years in the future, Hampton Francher, David Webb Peoples, and Philip K. Dick, the writers, definitely seemed to have their finger on the pulse of what technologies people would be wanting and developing in the near future. 

The writers and directors of all of these films had a vision, and despite the fact that they were mostly made for the purpose of escapism, these movies have stood the test of time because they truly had something to say, which resonates as much, (and sometimes more) for a modern audience than it did when it premiered. Ipads, Siri, Alexa, hackers, cyberterrorism, the decline of journalism–these were not so much whacky sci-fi concepts as they were intelligent predictions and warnings of the good and the bad that can come from power, technology, and unchecked corruption.

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