Back in the '90s, we all just assumed everything after the year 2000 would be either a sci-fi paradise or a hellscape. There wasn’t really anything in between, but the common thread was that technology was going to go nuts with robots, flying cars, and neon lights everywhere. It was going to be dope.
But wait, where’s my robot slave and vacation house on Mars? It’s 2023! We’re way beyond the years some of these '90s movies took place, but here I am typing on a crummy keyboard with my hands and not in some VR office that can read my thoughts.
The future sucks, and it's all thanks to these '90s movies setting unrealistic expectations.
The Thirteenth Floor (1999) – VR worlds
We kind of do have VR now, but let’s be real: it stinks.
Even at its best, it isn’t the full-body, Matrix-style total immersion system we all want. The Thirteenth Floor assumed back in ‘99 that by the 2020s, which is now by the way, we could fully simulate and live in a completely virtual world. In reality, I can’t even use a bulky VR headset for more than 10 minutes without getting dizzy.
Strange Days (1995) — Record memories
Reliving memories would probably cause way more problems than it would solve, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t want it!
Strange Days was so sure humanity was about to invent this tech that it predicted it would happen by 1999. I didn’t have a DVD player in 1999, let alone the ability to record and relive memories!
Timecop (1994) — Time travel
Alright, before you go pushing up your glasses and claiming time travel is impossible or whatever, just shut up for a minute.
Another massive swing and miss comes from Timecop, which predicted we’d not only have time travel but also an entire Time Enforcement Commission — by 2004.
Bicentennial Man (1999) — Robot servants
Robots! Aside from lasers, robots are the de facto symbol of the future, and yet all we have are those damn Alexa devices we turn our lights off with when we’re too lazy to brush the cookie crumbs off our chest and get off the couch.
If Bicentennial Man were accurate, we’d have had robot servants since 2005 to brush stuff off for us... and then turn off the lights — because why get up, right?
Johnny Mnemonic (1995) — Human flash drives
I admit the way the tech is used in this movie isn’t great, but the concept is too cool to totally write off.
Imagine being able to finally wipe away useless info like the Pythagorean theorem and how to convert ounces to liters to instead free up brain space for important stuff like memorizing every Pokémon or all the Mortal Kombat II fatality combos.
We were supposed to be able to do that since 2021, according to Johnny Mnemonic.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) — AI
Am I just looking for an excuse to include Terminator 2? No… maybe.
But it still counts, because according to the in-universe timeline, Skynet first became self-aware and caused Judgement Day in the far-flung future of 1997.
The best our AI can do in 2023 is to mindlessly spout obscene and offensive phrases. Maybe that's step one?
Escape From L.A. (1996) — Shut down all our devices
Putting aside all the incorrect predictions about L.A. finally breaking off from the U.S. and leaving us the hell alone, it's the Sword of Damocles that we’re missing out on, which was developed by 2013 according to this movie.
Using a satellite, somehow this thing is able to zap any electronic device in the world and deactivate it. This superweapon isn’t actually something we want — in fact, we’re happy it doesn’t exist — but it's still a cool idea.
Gattaca (1997) — Genetic modification
I’m stretching the rules a smidge here again since Gattaca is technically just set in the “not-too-distant” future. But since it was made in ‘97, I’m counting it.
This is another example of something potentially cool that we’d totally ruin just like in the movie, which is modifying genes to make the best babies possible. If it didn’t ruin the lives of those with bad genes, we’d be all for it!
Barb Wire (1996) — Retinal scanners
There’s a lot to say about Barb Wire (starring Pamela Anderson) and how it predicts the world in 2017, but I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about crap like retinal scanners. Yeah, we technically can do it now, but not for anything cool.
And listen, I know they sound super exploitable and creepy with how they’re used in the movie (to essentially track everyone’s movements at all times), but if it means I never have to worry about losing my ID or passport going to the airport again, sign me up.
Freejack (1992) — Mind transfers
Personally, I think uploading my brain to a robot or something would be a more ideal technology, but the concept of jacking younger people’s brains is a decent stopgap.
According to Freejack, by 2009 the ultra-elite would create a way to live forever by zapping their minds into younger, healthier bodies (interesting choice to cast Mick Jagger here). I don’t think any of us want those greedy old dudes to live forever, so maybe this is another one best left in the movies.
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