Category Archives: Movies

Best Futurist Movies of 2015

Last year was a good year for futurist movies. Now that a film festival has allowed me to see “No Men Beyond This Point,” I’ve seen all 16 of the futurist movies I’ve detected.

This is what I thought of them, in inscrutable graphic form:

Briefly, these ratings capture:

  • Futurism (blue) — how carefully was the future on screen constructed?
  • Plausibility (green) — how plausible is that version of the future events it depicts?
  • Storytelling (red) — how entertaining is it?

I judge these four the best:

  • Advantageous — This film ponders how far we might go in transforming ourselves, in this case using neurological technologies. In the background is a future that is all the more alarming by seeming ordinary.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road — A thoughtful vision of how a human society might evolve underlies this two-hour vehicle smash-em-up.
  • Ex Machina — This movie is an extended rumination on what a real Turing test might look like.
  • No Men Beyond This Point — Technically, this is an alternate present, but it amusingly and elaborately explores a post-male world.

Longer reviews of these movies’ futures are to come.

Back to the Future Day

Today is “Back to the Future Day,” the day Marty McFly travels forward to in the 1989 movie, the second in the series.

Like all futurist movies, “Back to the Future” wasn’t meant to be a forecast. Many of its future elements — the flying cars, the garbage-powered fusion — were meant more as jokes on futurist tropes.

The movie succeeds in some of its forecasts by simply envisioning what might be useful — a legitimate futures technique, when married with a sense of plausible timeframes. Thus, we see a news drone filming live shots. The movie also foresaw ubiquitous connectivity, but based it on the exciting new technology of … fax machines. In fact, these would spread, peak, and then recede between the movie’s release and today.

Curiously, an item thrown in as pure fantasy, the hoverboard, has so appealed to people that a minor industry now churns out faux versions such as the self-balancing skateboard and the mini-helicopter hover contraption. Though the real thing still defies our command of physics, this is a great example of science fiction inspiring actual innovation.

And see this video for a bit of futurist wisdom from the movie’s designer, John Bell. In the 11th item, it cites his “15/85 rule,” that items in the future scenes should be 15% unrecognizable and 85% recognizable, to provide a comprehensible future.

This raises the question: how long a time period can the 15/85 rule realistically remain true in a sphere of study? It might be 10 years for electronics but 100 for geopolitics.

Match the GOP Candidate with the Futurist Movie

Which futurist movie results if each GOP candidate is elected?

Newt Gingrich:

  • “The Road” — Bold new thinking, like removing government regulations against eating children.
  • Alternate scenario: “Zardoz” — Giant heads drifting around making strange pronouncements.

Mitt Romney:

  • “Demolition Man” — The moralizing is half-assed, but at least corporations are doing well.
  • Alternate scenario: “AI: Artificial Intelligence” — So much effort to build the perfect human, but it is never quite convincing.

Ron Paul:

  • “Mad Max” — Government is finally off our backs (and market forces are allowed to play out in the energy industry).

Rick Perry:

  • “Rollerball” — Corporations rule the planet, and Houston is recognized as a global power center.

Rick Santorum:

  • “The Handmaid’s Tale” — Order is restored to familial relations.
  • Alternate scenario: “28 Days Later” — It turns out all that rage can be spread by bodily fluids.

Michele Bachmann:

  • “The Stepford Wives” — Something is deeply wrong in suburbia.

Jon Huntsman:

  • “Silent Running” — Yeah, I don’t know what to say either.

(Thanks to JP and CK for ideas.)


A 1970s cult classic?  No, this is simply one of the worst futurist movies ever made, scoring at the bottom of the 150 or so films I’ve reviewed.

Why did I watch it?  I am doomed to watch many bad futurist movies.  And, more specifically, I acquired it on videotape when a local video store went under some time ago, and am watching the tapes while I still have a functioning VCR.

The stats:

  • Futurism: 2 — A hodgepodge of robots and other futurist elements, dealt with incoherently.
  • Entertainment: 3 –The big “mystery” is telegraphed in the opening sequences, then nothing happens for the first 56 minutes.  After that, nothing interesting happens, unless you count mysterious gaps in plot and continuity.
  • Plausibility: 2 –Robots, AI, and clones are not going to happen like this.

The highlights, such as they are:

  • The robots are futurists: one explains that their world-domination plot is driven by the fact that “All our probability studies indicate that, if left alone, you’ll destroy much of this planet by the end of the decade. . . We don’t intend to be destroyed by your mistakes.”
  • A character does at least coin a good euphemism for a preference for sex with robots: “A taste for the iron.”
  • It anticipates the Wii by 30 years: people box via hand controllers, though they operate androids rather than virtual avatars.

I do not even get the benefit of educating my Netflix computer overlord about a really bad movie: Futureworld does not seem to be available on DVD.

Upcoming Futurist Movies

Avatar-PosterA number of futurist or quasi-futurist movies is coming out in the next three months.

Movie: Splice
Release date: Global release beginning
Futurist element: Genetic engineering runs wild

Movie: Surrogates
Release date: September 25, 2009
Futurist element: Reverse virtual reality using robot surrogates

Movie: Pandorum
Release date: September 25, 2009
Futurist element: Space exploration (as horror setting)

Movie: The Road
Release date: October 16, 2009
Futurist element: Surviving in the aftermath of societal collapse

Movie: 2012
Release date: November 13, 2009
Futurist element: Apocalyptic destruction of the world

Movie: Avatar
Release date: December 18, 2009
Futurist element: Battle aliens on an alien world

Note that some of these dates could shift.

(Image courtesy 20th Century Fox via Wikipedia)