1980s Movies That Predicted the Future


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If you grew up in the 1980s, the movies promised you certain technological advancements. While much of the science fiction content that came to cinemas back then fell firmly under the heading of “dystopian nightmare,” there was still some neat tech depicted that might come to pass in real life, such as the self-lacing shoes in “Back to the Future Part II,” provided a nuclear apocalypse failed to happen.


While many futuristic movies from the 1980s depicted scenarios that have not come to pass 40 years later, many offered surprisingly accurate glimpses into the future regarding gadgets that we might use and socioeconomic realities that we might live through. Here’s our list of movies from the 1980s that were surprisingly prescient and predicted certain things about the time we’re living in now.

Image Credit: IMDb.

1. ‘Blade Runner’ (1982)

“Blade Runner” takes place in 2019, a year that came and went a while ago without all of the movie’s predictions coming to pass. Still, many things in the film, like the rise of megacorporations, urban sprawl, and artificial intelligence, are here with us today and have been for a while. We still have no human-appearing androids walking among us (that we know of), but who knows how prophetic this movie will prove to be in another decade?

Image Credit: IMDb.

2. ‘Robocop’ (1987)

Paul Verhoeven’s satirical action film envisioned a future where privatized law enforcement and corporate greed are in full effect, along with police militarization and unchecked corporate influence. At the time when it was released, not everyone got the joke, and some saw the movie’s titular character not as a victim of violence and corporate greed but as a superhero designed to waste creeps. Today, it’s impossible to watch this movie without conceding that it got many things right and that its warning about where America was headed was not heeded.

Image Credit: IMDb.

3. ‘WarGames’ (1983)

John Badham’s techno-thriller warned of the dangers of computer hacking and artificial intelligence long before cybersecurity was even a mainstream concept. The movie depicts a teenage boy who unwittingly hacks into the U.S. military’s new defense system, which has been designed to operate without human input. We don’t know if anyone took any lessons from the movie about the need for the human element to be present when launching a tactical nuclear strike, but we’re happy if it somehow inspired anyone in the military – even a National Guard janitor – to express skepticism about handing everything over to artificial intelligence.

Image Credit: IMDb.

4. ‘The Terminator’ (1984)

James Cameron’s sci-fi classic imagined a future – the year 2029, specifically – in which murderous robots and AI-controlled drones threaten humanity after a nuclear war launched by artificial intelligence has wiped out most of the human race. While many people’s sole takeaway from the movie was, “Arnold Schwarzenegger is big and looks cool with a gun,” it’s easy to see today that its warnings about the rise of automation and military technology were on point.

Image Credit: IMDB / Orion Pictures.

5. ‘Escape from New York’ (1981)

John Carpenter’s dystopian action film depicted a New York City so hopelessly crime-plagued that the U.S. government gave up on it entirely, walled it off, and declared it a maximum-security prison. This echoed a lot of fears at the time of urban decay and rising crime, and a single visit to the city today will show that the movie was only off about a couple of things – for example, none of the prisoners living in New York City have to pay a monthly rent of $4,000 for a 600-square-foot studio apartment in a building with no heat or hot water.

Image Credit: IMDb.

6. ‘They Live’ (1988)


John Carpenter’s satirical science fiction film explored themes of consumerism, mass media manipulation, and the erosion of individuality. In today’s age of fake news and corporate control, it seems eerily accurate, and it would be great if all we had to do was put on special sunglasses like those depicted in the film to identify those kinds of phenomena and the malicious actors perpetrating them.

Image Credit: IMDb.

7. ‘The Running Man’ (1987)

Based on a short story by Stephen King, this science fiction action film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a falsely imprisoned man. His only hope of escaping his punishment is to appear on a reality TV game show in which he’s running from murderous professional wrestlers who are hunting him with deadly intent. The fact that he will live or die based on the results of a reality TV show is enough to indicate that this movie saw the future coming.


Image Credit: IMDb.

8. ‘Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home’ (1986)

Leonard Nimoy’s second entry as a director in the “Star Trek” movie franchise tackled themes of environmentalism and conservation, addressing concerns about pollution and species extinction that continue to resonate today. It was also the absolute best of all the movies in the “Star Trek” franchise, which fans lovingly call “the one with the whales.” Most films in the “Star Trek” franchise really missed the mark, but this one made up for all of them.

Image Credit: IMDb.

9. ‘Brazil’ (1985)

Terry Gilliam’s dystopian satire depicted a bureaucratic nightmare of government surveillance and totalitarian control, reflecting anxieties about authoritarianism and the loss of individual freedoms. Watching this movie today, it’s shocking how much they got right, and as we human beings hand over more and more of our privacy to both the government and its surveillance operations, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that a lot of people might actually want society to operate the way it does in the movie. Somehow, this film is also still hilarious.

Image Credit: IMDb.

10. ‘The Fly’ (1986)

David Cronenberg’s body horror film explored themes of genetic engineering and the dangers of unchecked scientific experimentation, reflecting concerns about bioethics and biotechnology. Honestly, all that scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) needed to do was not get drunk before testing the teleportation machine on himself, and he wouldn’t have had all those problems. As such, we ask that if you find yourself next to a teleportation machine in need of testing, drink apple juice instead and make sure the interior of the machine has been thoroughly inspected for unwanted vermin.

This story was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

Image Credit: IMDb.

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