Starship Troopers

Movie released: 1997 | Set in: 21st century

Summary Table
Event Likelihood Time frame
Ground and space warfare as depicted extremely low beyond 2100
Global government based on military service very low beyond 2040

Approach to the future

Excuse for special effects


Futurism: 2

Entertainment: 6
A silly and gratuitously violent distortion of Heinlein’s novel of the same name. Taking criticism of the novel as quasi-fascist literally, director Verhoeven dressed his stable of television actors in Gestapo and Luftwaffe uniforms.

Plausibility: 2

Interesting depictions


Other technologies/topics depicted

The infantry inexplicably employ 20th century weapons and no discernable tactics, milling about in crowds until the Arachnids (“bugs”) show up to dismember them. They are armed with little more than automatic rifles, when explosives, armor, and artillery would all clearly be useful.

They need infantry to capture the brain bug, but otherwise they could adopt the tactic proposed in Aliens—nuke the place from orbit. They could at least use sensors, recon, better air cover, heavier weapons, and robotic systems.

The insectoid aliens have plausible purposes: expel invaders and survive.

The intelligent “brain bug” has a novel form of communication: it inserts a probe into a human head, purees the brain, and sucks it out, gaining access to what the person knew.

Differences in biology, neural structures, and communication forms make this method unlikely.

Launcher bugs discharge masses with enough force to destroy ships in orbit around the planet. Why such an ability would evolve is unclear, but perhaps the bugs can engineer new forms as needed, and have designed launcher bugs to fight the invading Terrans.

Space travel:
The Arachnids massacre a Mormon colony on their planet.

Leaving Earth will probably never be a way for ordinary people to find a better life. Colonization will require other motivations, and the desire to live differently may be one of them. The Pilgrims and the Mormons both left their societies for more freedom (or, as the parent society viewed it, to live deviantly), and such motivations may inspire efforts to settle orbital colonies, the Moon, Mars, or the asteroid belt.

The ships of the space fleet are immense and bulky, based more on 20th century naval vessels than the needs of interstellar craft. We know nothing of their propulsion systems, but the utility of minimum mass is likely to make future space ships small and spindly. Warships would probably find stealth more useful than bulk.

The world has adopted a neo-fascist model in which citizenship is dependent on military service. Given the strong global trend toward liberal democracy, this is unlikely.

The soldiers are disproportionately Caucasian, considering that they are recruited globally.

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The futures depicted in the movies