Seven Sci-Fi Movies Set in 2020: What Did They Predict?
The arrival of 2020 brings with it the dawn of a new decade. What can we expect from the year ahead? Well, if movies are any indication, it’ll be filled with robots, trips to Mars and more robots.
Yes, over the years, an assortment of sci-fi films have based their plots in 2020. Thankfully, many of their dystopian predictions missed the mark. Still, there are several instances where screenwriters successfully predicted various elements of future society.
None of the films below would be considered cinematic classics, though a couple were at least box office hits. Their style ranges from anime to big-budget action flicks, with an adult film thrown in for good measure.
As you ready your resolutions and prepare for the year ahead, we at UCR provide a look at seven films' predictions for 2020.
Real Steel (2011)
Hugh Jackman stars in this action flick that feels weirdly like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots brought to life. In the film, human boxing has been replaced by robot battles, as massive cyborgs duke it out in the ring, while their flesh-and-blood counterparts control them from the side. Yes, the plot has deeper themes of redemption and a heart-warming father son story, but come on - robot boxing!
WHAT IT GOT RIGHT: While real-life technology is not quite as advanced as Real Steel, robot fighting has existed for many years. The successful TV shows Robot Wars and Battlebots brought clashing cyborgs into homes across America, while a much-hyped 2017 showdown saw massive, multi-million dollar robots from the U.S. and Japan dueling for supremacy. Botboxer, the world’s first robotic punching bag, was released in 2018 with advanced technology to respond to its opponent’s movements. Throw in the fact that robots have already invaded the worlds of basketball, soccer and golf, and suddenly the concept of a robot boxing league doesn’t sound so far fetched.
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)
In 1965, legendary filmmaker Roger Corman purchased the rights to the Soviet 1962 sci-fi film Planeta Bur, dubbed in English dialogue, added a series of newly shot scenes, then rereleased it as Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. The movie’s plot revolved around a team of astronauts who encountered dinosaurs, lizard people and various ancient beasts while exploring a previously unknown world. With a weak script and cheesy effects, it’s the type of flick that would have been lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
WHAT IT GOT RIGHT: It’s hard to find many connections between this B-movie and the real world, however a few pieces of technology connect to the real-life 2020. The film’s astronauts use support robots during their exploration, a practice that NASA has employed for quite some time. The characters use voice command to control these droids, at one point even requesting the machine play music. This is eerily similar to how modern households command their Alexa. Then there’s the hover-car, a concept that was featured in this film (among many). Though the vehicle has not been made for public use, its creation seems to certainly be in the works.
Mission to Mars (2000)
A team of astronauts venture to Mars in hopes of finding proof that life can exist on the red planet. Instead, they discover the keys to human existence and that Earth lifeforms originally began on Mars. This thriller was visually stunning and boasted a cast which included Gary Sinise, Don Cheadle and Tim Robbins. Still, it was a box office dud and earned largely negative reviews.
WHAT IT GOT RIGHT: Though humans have yet to set foot on Mars, NASA has launched multiple successful unmanned landings. The most recent, 2018’s InSight, is the first spacecraft to study Mars' deep interior. A key point in the movie’s plot revolves around the discovery of water on Mars, a fact that has been confirmed in real life.
Inspired by Blade Runner, adult filmmakers decided to create a bleak, futuristic porno titled Cabaret Sin. In an attempt to earn further return on their investment, producers edited out 22 minutes of sexually explicit material and rereleased it as a sci-fi flick called Droid. As you’d expect with a movie that was distributed direct to video, the production quality is extremely poor. The plot, which centers around a mulleted cop who hunts down killer droids while also spending extensive amounts of time at the “Pleasure Dome,” is virtually non-existent. There’s also a robot named Rochester who talks and acts exactly like C-3PO of Star Wars fame.
WHAT IT GOT RIGHT: Though much of this film is laughable, there’s one thing it did get right: robot sex. As weird as some people may find it - and as potentially unhealthy it may be - artificially intelligent sexual companions have become a booming industry. Many lifelike models are already on the market, with companies making more and more to keep up with demand. There are even robot brothels already established in various international cities.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
As humans battle alien invaders, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) acquires the ability to loop time. Each time he dies on the battlefield, he wakes up to relive the day, with all of the memories from his previous incarnations still intact. Fellow soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) recognizes Cage’s looping ability and works with him to find the key to defeating the aliens.
WHAT IT GOT RIGHT: Thankfully, not much. While the world certainly has its problems, facing annihilation from an alien invasion is not one of them. However, the technology used by Cruise’s character in the film isn’t far from reality. In Edge of Tomorrow, soldiers are armored in large exoskeleton bodysuits. While the real-life versions are much smaller, the U.S. Army is already investing in the creation of exoskeleton technologies.
Roujin Z (2001)
In this anime film, scientists are frustrated by the growing number of elderly people and the toll they take on the medical community. In response, they create the Z-001, a robotic hospital bed that dispenses food and medicine, supplies entertainment, provides showers and generally does everything the patient needs to survive. A dying widower agrees to be one of the first to use this revolutionary hospital bed, much to the chagrin of his human nurse. Things take a turn when the robotic bed gets inhabited by the spirit of the man’s deceased wife, leading to a breakout from the hospital.
WHAT IT GOT RIGHT: The film acts as a satire regarding healthcare, but its point is astonishingly accurate. The elderly population is growing exponentially, with people over 65 in the U.S. set to outnumber people under 18. The changing demographic is already causing major problems in the world of healthcare, making it a hotly debated topic in Washington.
The first manned mission to Mars crash lands, leaving five astronauts marooned on the red planet. Though a rescue ship is dispatched from Earth, the team’s air and food supplies will only support two people. Bravely, three of the astronauts decide to venture onto the uninhabited planet in the hopes of finding the means to survival. This indie film was low on production value but did feature a few familiar faces including Vincent Gallo, Maria de Medieros and Johnny Ramone (yes, that Johnny Ramone).
WHAT IT GOT RIGHT: The Mars exploration shown in the film was again close to accurate, as long as you remove the humans.