Escape from New York (1981)
Set In 1997
In exchange for a full pardon, prisoner "Snake" Plissken, who happens to be a total asshole, is given 24 hours to rescue the president, whose plane had been hijacked by terrorists and crashed into Manhattan in a tasteless allusion to Sept 11, 2001. Also, it's World War III and everything has gone to shit.
400 percent Increase In Crime: In the distant future of the late '90s, prisons have become so overcrowded that eventually the government has to convert Manhattan into a giant penitentiary, like a modern-day Australia. In reality, crime rates have fallen precipitously since the film was released, particularly in the increasingly gentrified Manhattan. But if you take everything this movie predicts and make it the exact opposite, it's frightening how prophetic Escape from New York turned out to be.
400 percent Increase In Mustaches: Almost everyone has a breathtaking mustache in this movie. It is a facial-hair utopia.
As we know today, however, the mustache industry reached a tragic nadir in the late '90s, and today are worn only by ironic Gen-Xers, the NBA's Adam Morrison and feminists.
Complete Lack of Technological Improvements: The president is in possession of a futuristic "cassette tape" that contains critical information about nuclear fusion. Like everyone else in this movie, the president is just one of those guys who is really into the retro scene. Other characters even have those novelty shoebox-sized cell phones. Also, all the computers have an operating system based on a 3D-vector map of a city that looks as though it's being rendered by an Atari 2600. It really takes us back to 1997.
Pretty pathetic. But, some secondhand credit must be given for the movie's sequel, Escape from L.A., which describes an outspoken "Christian militant" being elected president in 2000. It's a shame they couldn't have been right about something more agreeable, like World War III.
Things to Come (1936)
Set In 1940-2036
Global war breaks out in 1940, splintering the Western world into tiny isolated factions. Decades later, an aircraft arrives with news of a new utopian society based in Basra, Iraq, presciently anticipating the peace currently enjoyed in that part of the world.
Large Scale War in 1940: This movie often gets credited for predicting World War II, missing the actual date by just 16 months. But, the extent and nature of the war were both completely wrong. Plus, who couldn't see World War II coming after a war called World War I?
Spread of Wandering Sickness: The enemy spreads a virus known as the Wandering Sickness, which causes its victims to stumble around with outstretched arms, and which in the movie is cured in 1970. Today, of course, we know that there's no such thing as a "wandering sickness." What these people were dealing with were zombies, which remain a very serious everyday threat in 2007.
Complete Collapse of Western Civilization: The way World War II actually ended seems like a foregone conclusion today, but in 1936 the breakdown of civilization was a real possibility. Europeans had no idea America would show up to single-handily rescue them from destruction. That's why Europeans are so grateful to America, and why when Americans travel to Europe today they're treated like heroes.
When life gets us down, sometimes we visit the utopian society in Basra, Iraq, to recharge our batteries. It's nice to know that somewhere in this crazy world, humanity is getting things right.
Strange Days (1995)
Set In 1999
Former police detective Lenny Nero has begun pawning erotic virtual reality recordings of other people's experiences as L.A. descends into civil war. Such is the remote dystopian future of 4 years after the movie was released.
Ability To Record Experiences: Using special "SQUID" headgear, people's sensory data can be recorded to a disc and re-experienced by anybody, literally putting them in the shoes of others.
The only thing we have that's even remotely similar to this is the ability to read whiny LiveJournal entries, but this only puts us in the shoes of angsty social outcasts.
Increase In Race Riots: Racial tension was coming to a boil in this movie's version of 1999, leading to large-scale rioting. In the real 1999, racism continued to percolate beneath the surface, killing our humanity slowly from within.
Omnipresent of Widescreen HDTVs: Hi-def TVs are ubiquitous in this movie. The assumption was that as soon as everybody left the theater in 1995, they would immediately purchase a $2,500 television. This seems especially ridiculous to those of us who still own TVs with fake wood paneling on the sides.
Strange Days is the peak of overly ambitious predictions for the future. If you were to guess when the movie took place based on the movie's sophisticated technology, you'd probably say something like 2025. That it was actually set in 1999 was totally ridiculous. This was probably supposed to be novel: setting a futuristic movie just a few years in the future! But, they probably should have found an original angle that didn't make their movie laughably irrelevant by the time the movie left theaters. You'd think that such astute futurists would have foreseen the eventual importance of DVD sales to the success of a movie.
Back to the Future Part II (1989)
Most of the film is set in 2015, but director Robert Zemeckis has detailed a comprehensive timeline of events leading up to that date. Basically, we really enjoy Back to the Future II and wanted to crowbar it into this list.
Marty McFly and Doc must travel to the future to prevent a catastrophe in the McFly family, leading to a convoluted and illogical adventure through time.
Improved Relations with Vietnam: In the movie, there's an advertisement for surfing in Vietnam, alluding to steadily improved relations with that country during the '90s and 2000s, which has proven extremely accurate. Of course no one really surfs anymore now that everyone has hoverboards.
Increasing Consolidation of News Media: The local Hill Valley Telegraph sells its print operations to USA Today sometime after 2000.
This correctly forecasts the ongoing financial troubles facing America's small-town independent newspapers, such as The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. Also note the now-cruel, "Washington Prepares for Queen Diana's Visit" headline (though not one-tenth as creepy as if the newspaper had accurately predicted her death).
Introduction of Vitamin-Enriched Cola: Modern vitamin-enriched soft drinks like Coke Plus recall the vitamin-enriched "Pepsi Perfect" Marty Jr. buys from a café.
The only way the movie could be more accurate at this point is if Marty's future self suffered from Parkinson's. Which, with the Princess Di thing, would have this one of the most morbid re-watching experiences of all time.
If you liked this article, check out our rundown of 11 Movies Saved by Historical Inaccuracy .