Forget ‘Back To The Future Day’ — 10 Other Bold Cinematic Futures, Now in The Past

By now you may be sick of hearing that today is being hailed as “Back To The Future Day” — the future date to which Marty McFly traveled in Back To The Future Part II. A vision of the future in which Marty encounters hoverboards, Jaws 19, and his own failure in life.

In honor of this date, and instead of writing about Back To The Future, here’s our look at some other cinematic futures which now lie in our contemporary past.

Destroy All Monsters (1968/1999)

This kaiju monster battle royale features an all-star “cast” including Godzilla, Minilla, Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah, and other Toho creations. Viewers may not even be aware that it takes place at the tail end of the 20th century, but if we have to accept a horrible fate, “giant dinosaur apocalypse” is the one I want. Interestingly, this film’s time setting has now been revisited by contemporary films like Godzilla 2000.

TimeCop (1994/2004)

We haven’t invented time travel (that I know of), so there hasn’t been much need for TimeCops like JCVD to help police it. But it could be argued that TimeCop correctly predicted the computerized gonzofication of pornography.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968/2001)
and 2010 (1984/2010)

History’s first spacewalk took place in 1965. The original moon landing followed in 1969. In 1968, Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke) imagined a future in which lunar travel is treated as somewhat ordinary and mankind has delved far into the solar system. While our real life space probes have made significant progress (Voyager 1 has exited our solar system and entered interstellar space), the extent of human travel is not as exciting and hasn’t changed since 1970 when the crew of Apollo 13 passed the far side of the moon.

We do have pretty sweet phone and video-conferencing technology, though.

The Ultimate Warrior (1975/2012)

Admittedly, I haven’t seen this movie and don’t know much about, but Cinapse Editor-in-Chief Ed Travis loved this 2012-set Yul Brynner post-apocalyptic film so much that he covered it for The Action/Adventure Section. Check out his review because it sounds incredible.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991/1995)

There was only a 4-year spread between Terminator 2 and its vision of John Connor’s future encounter with two competing cyborgs, but the real threat was an apocalypse event called Judgment Day, which the film placed in 1997. That threat was averted, but it was later revealed in Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines that Judgment Day was inevitable, and had only been postponed.

Double Dragon (1994/2007)

Despite its humble video game origin, Double Dragon is a post-apocalyptic adventure film with a staggering amount of world-building. Editor-in-Chief Ed Travis introduced me to this little-known and amazingly bonkers films, and we are both big fans. My review.

Conquest of Planet Of The Apes (1972/1991)
and Battle For The Planet Of The Apes (1973/2004)

For the uninitiated, these films are sequels, not prequels, to the original Planet Of The Apes which is set in the distant future. These films take place in an alternate future in which a group of Apes from the original timeline have returned to contemporary times, thus establishing a new Apes timeline. Presumably, the current Apes prequel franchise is the “original” timeline in this mix.

In Conquest, Apes are rounded up and mistreated by fearful humans, causing them to revolt. Battle takes us further into this timeline when humans and apes are for the most part at war, but some still try to coexist. We have previously covered Battle for Two Cents.

Death Race 2000 (1975/2000)

Our society may not engage in murder-races in which celebrity competitors accrue points for killing innocent bystanders and each other, but the real prophecy of Death Race 2000 was its analysis of contemporary society, slyly condemning our bloodlust while also gleefully engaging it. Also under the microscope: corrupt government, celebrity worship, extreme patriotism, and shock entertainment. Check out our Two Cents on this exploitation classic.

Escape From New York (1981/1997)
and Escape From L.A. (1996/2013)

It’s 1997 and Manhattan Island is a giant penal colony with no rules. That’s the backdrop for Escape From New York, in which Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken must descend into the hell of New York to rescue the kidnapped US President. New York has actually progressed in the opposite direction of this futuristic action classic by significantly cleaning up its gritty urban decay, but the most chilling aspect of Escape is its terrorist-hijacking incident which crashes an airplane (in this case, Air Force One) in the middle of Manhattan. This event was eerily echoed in some respects by 9–11.

The 1996 sequel Escape From L.A. isn’t nearly as well regarded, but climate scientists do agree with the film’s assessment that California’s coastline is in danger of erosion.

1984 (1956)

George Orwell’s dystopian novel about an authoritarian/totalitarian future introduced the term “Big Brother”, among many others, to our cultural lexicon. The novel was published in 1949 and a film adaptation followed in 1956. 1984 set the template for modern dystopian fiction including some of the films on this list which could be described as Orwellian.

These are just a select few of many such instances of films whose future dates have now passed. This has always been a particular interest of mine and I maintain a list of them on Letterboxd with some additional notes. Check it out and let me know of any I may be missing!

A/V Out.

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