12 Movies That Got the Future Completely Wrong

Many iconic science fiction movies are set in the future, but the future depicted in most is just a pessimistic view of the present. The 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger masterpiece “Total Recall” may have taken place in 2084, but the music, clothes, and fear of technology gone awry were very much the products of the late 20th century.

Many of us will probably not be here in 2084, and for the filmmakers, that’s great because they’ll never know how incredibly wrong they were when that year inevitably rolls around and looks nothing like what they depicted. Many science fiction movies have come and gone, and so have the years in which they take place. Here’s our rundown of films that take place in the future, except we’re all here to say, “None of that ever happened.”

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

A vintage movie poster with the text "An epic drama of adventure and exploration" at the top, an illustration of a space station and spaceship in space, and the title "2001: a space odyssey" at the bottom, along with production credits and logos.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” is a visionary science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. As the title implies, this 1968 movie takes place in 2001, and while we appreciate that the famously perfectionist filmmaker tried to get the science right as much as possible, we’re now 23 years late for the voyage by astronauts and sentient supercomputer HAL to investigate alien monoliths that can influence human intelligence.

Blade Runner (1982)

A dramatic movie poster for "Blade Runner" featuring Harrison Ford holding a gun, with futuristic city elements and another character in the background. The text reads, "MAN HAS MADE HIS MATCH... NOW IT'S HIS PROBLEM." The poster is dark with bright light accents.
warner Bros.

“Blade Runner” was directed by Ridley Scott and has been massively influential to other science fiction movies that have come after. It’s set in a dystopian Los Angeles of 2019, where a corporation farms synthetic human beings to work as glorified slaves in “off-world” colonies. While 2019 came and went without a replicant or a flying car in sight, the movie remains groundbreaking and effective, even 42 years later.

Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Poster of "Back to the Future Part II" featuring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. They stand in front of a DeLorean time machine with the car's gull-wing door open. Both characters look surprised. The movie title and credits are displayed at the top and bottom.
Universal Pictures

1989’s “Back to the Future Part II” takes place immediately after the original “Back to the Future.” It depicts the wacky hijinks of Marty McFly and his mad scientist friend, Dr. Emmett Brown, as they travel from 1985 to 2015 to prevent various issues from materializing. The movie actually got some things right, correctly predicting such technological advances as drones, widescreen television sets, and wearable technology, so congratulations to the filmmakers on that. Unfortunately, the movie also promised us self-tying sneakers by 2015, and nine years later, we’re still waiting.

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Escape from New York (1981)

Illustrated movie poster for "Escape from New York". Shows a chaotic urban scene with the destroyed head of the Statue of Liberty on the ground. Central figures, including a man in a leather outfit and a woman in a red dress, are running away. Text at bottom reads: "Escape From New York - The Official Story of the Film" by John Walsh.
Embassy Pictures

“Escape from New York” was directed by John Carpenter and stars Kurt Russell as the eyepatch-wearing antihero “Snake” Plissken. Set in 1997, it depicts a future in which crime has gotten so out of hand in the United States that the government just builds a massive wall around the island of Manhattan, and voila! Instant maximum security prison! The President of the United States is in a hijacked plane that crash-lands in the Big Apple, and Plissken has just 24 hours to get him out. Everything in the movie is completely wrong; none of the technological advances in the film exist, and even though it’s supposed to be 1997, nobody in the entire movie talks about crying when they watched “Titanic.” Sad!

The Running Man (1987)

Movie poster for "The Running Man" featuring a close-up of Arnold Schwarzenegger's face in a metallic effect. The title is in bold red letters at the top and bottom. A small silhouette of a running man is at the bottom. Skyline and helicopters are also depicted.
Tristar Pictures

“The Running Man” is a futuristic action movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and set in the United States in 2017. It features a very popular television game show in which convicted criminals are chased through an obstacle course by murderous killers, most of whom are portrayed by professional wrestlers, and it’s very, very, very loosely based on a story by Stephen King. While we’re now seven years late per the movie for a game show in which criminals fight to the death, all we’ve gotten that’s even close to that is Teresa Giudice flipping over tables on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Movie poster for "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" featuring a leather-clad Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator, holding a shotgun, and sitting on a motorcycle. Bold red text at the top reads "Schwarzenegger," with "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" below.
Tristar Pictures

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, yet again. This time, the evil artificial intelligence network Skynet has sent a Terminator back in time to alter the future in its favor, going back to 1995 to kill the future leader of the human resistance, John Connor. While nothing of the sort was turning up on Los Angeles police radios in 1995, the movie is pretty hard to find fault with over 30 years after its debut.

The Postman (1997)

DVD cover of the movie "The Postman" featuring a man with a beard and long coat (actor Kevin Costner) standing with a serious expression. Below him is a woman dressed in period clothing. The background shows a dystopian landscape with the text "KEVIN COSTNER THE POSTMAN" at the top.

“The Postman” is a post-apocalyptic science fiction film directed by Kevin Costner, who plays the lead role. We say “lead role” as opposed to “title role” because, in this movie, Costner is only pretending to be a postman, taking a bag of undelivered mail that he found in the desolate wasteland and distributing its contents to people who have survived whatever unspecified apocalypse has taken place. By delivering all those years-late Easter cards, he restores hope to the hopeless and eventually (SPOILER ALERT) saves America. The movie takes place in 2013, and 11 years later, we’re still waiting for our Fingerhut catalogs.

Children of Men (2006)

A man with a weary expression peeks out from behind a weathered, dark surface. The text "CHILDREN OF MEN" is prominently displayed beside him, with "CHILDREN" in red and "OF MEN" in white. The background is grungy and textured.

“Children of Men” is set in 2027, and while we’re not there yet, the events leading up to the beginning of the movie would have already taken place over the last couple of years, so while it’s not strictly wrong, we feel confident to say it’s “pre-wrong.” The movie takes place after 20 years of human infertility have persisted, leaving the future of the human race in imminent doubt. If you’ve looked around at the very overpopulated world lately, you’ll see that’s not accurate. Having said that, this aspect of the movie is about the only thing it got wrong, and when you watch it today, it’s depressingly and persistently relevant to the world we’re dealing with now.

Barb Wire (1996)

A man in black clothing and a woman with blonde hair in a leather outfit pose on a motorcycle in an industrial setting. The man holds a gun, and a large tire is visible at the top of the image. Text with red accents is on the right side of the photo.

“Barb Wire” was the first starring movie vehicle for Pamela Anderson of “Baywatch” fame, and it was supposed to take her career to the next level. Sadly, the movie was awful, and no one went to see it, not even very hard-up single men in trench coats who could not access adult material. It takes place in 2017 in a world ravaged by war, and Barb Wire is some kind of mercenary bounty-hunter type of person who also runs a nightclub. Every critic on earth noticed that the story was directly lifted from that of “Casablanca,” but we would strongly recommend just watching that instead of this. You won’t even mind for a minute.

Soylent Green (1973)

Poster for the movie "Soylent Green" from the Warner Bros. Archive Collection. Features a futuristic scene with a "Riot Control" truck scooping up people. Tagline reads, "It's the year 2022... People are still the same. They'll do anything to get what they need. And they need Soylent Green." Rated 15.
Warner Bros.

“Soylent Green” is a 1973 dystopian movie starring Charlton Heston. It’s based on the 1966 novel “Make Room! Make Room!” and depicts a heavily overpopulated planet Earth in 2022, in which every ecological calamity has come to pass, with depleted resources and abject poverty sprinkled in for good measure. While we have plenty of those kinds of problems and had them two years ago, they’re nowhere close to the level depicted in the movie. There’s also no way of discussing the movie’s title without spoiling the whole thing, but let’s just say that, as far as we know, that hasn’t happened either.

Timecop (1994)

Movie poster for "Timecop" with Jean-Claude Van Damme's close-up face and intense expression, overlaid with a futuristic clock. Text reads, "They killed his wife ten years ago. There's still time to save her." A silhouette of a person holding a gun is seen in a glowing portal.

“Timecop” stars that great thespian Jean-Claude Van Damme as a U.S. federal agent in the year 2004, when time travel is possible. If you can remember back to those heady days 20 years ago, you may recall that time travel was, in fact, not possible. Neither could most federal agents execute the type of fancy martial arts splits and kicks that Van Damme executes throughout the film, with no explanation for how he received such training as a federal agent.

Predator 2 (1990)

The movie poster for "Predator 2" features a menacing, armored Predator holding a weapon, with the tagline "He's in town with a few days to kill." Text highlights the location as Los Angeles in 1997. The background has a dark, ominous tone with cityscape elements.
20th Century Fox

“Predator 2” was the completely unnecessary 1990 sequel to the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. It’s set in 1997, and to the filmmakers’ credit, they remain aware that the time they’re depicting is only seven years off, and they’d better not make everything look too much like “The Jetsons.” It depicts Los Angeles as it experiences a heat wave and warring drug cartels, so they certainly got that part right. Still, no extraterrestrial hunters from distant planets were ever reported on mass transit that year, so the movie is a lie.