The Future Is Here
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When the Future Expires - A Timeline

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Putting an expiration date on the future is risky. Take the Terminator franchise: The all-important "Judgment Day" — originally set in the "near future" of 1997 — has been pushed back twice already. Here's a timeline of future scenarios past their sell-by dates - and a few that will curdle soon.

Better to keep things safely distant, like Starship Troopers did (set in the 23rd century), or ambiguous (Gattaca could be 10 years from now or 100). Still, specificity is hard to resist. Here's our timeline.



1973 - IT! The Terror from Beyond Space (made in 1958)
Astronauts complete not one but TWO missions to Mars. Too bad they're still using bolt-action rifles to fight the rubbery monster that snuck onboard.

1980 - Just Imagine (1930)
Everyone has serial numbers instead of names and pops pills instead of eating. Strangely, no one has heard of Michael Jackson.

1984 - "1984" (1948)
Mind-controlling propaganda infiltrates every aspect of daily life—but why is everyone so glum? MTV isn't that bad.


1993 - Robocop (1987)
Military robots, venal tech moguls and privatized police (not to mention insane TV hosts and ads in urinals)? They're crazy!... not to have set it in 2008 instead.

1995 - Quantum Leap (1989)
Time travel, courtesy of an A.I. named Ziggy and a dude with a hologram-projecting PDA. Sure beats Netscape and the Newton.

1997 - Escape from NY (1981), Predator 2 (1990), Terminator 2 (1991)
Convicts control Manhattan, a fishnet-wearing alien terrorizes LA, and Skynet nukes the whole world on "Judgment Day." We've had better years.

1999 - Strange Days (1995)
Black-market brainwave recordings let you see through someone else's eyes...and then hurl because of the shaky pics. (What, no built-in image stabilizer?)

2000 - Metropolis (1927)
Plutocrats control a shimmering cityscape, supported by a dronelike underclass. We didn't know they spoke German in Dubai!

2001 - 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Supercomputer HAL takes mankind "beyond the infinite." Meanwhile, takes our deli order.

2005 - Bicentennial Man (1999)
An insipid robo-Mrs. Doubtfire in every home? We'll stick with our Roomba, thanks.


2009 - Freejack (1992)
Transhumanism meets time-travel: Old rich guys will pluck young replacement bodies from the past. Does Ray Kurzweil know about this?


2010 - District B13 (2004)
Sure, Sarkozy's got a temper — but we doubt he'll clean up Paris's slums with a neutron bomb. Click to view

2013 - A Scanner Darkly (2006)
A schizo-hallucinogenic drug war? Maybe. Robert Downey Jr. still nuttier than a Payday bar? Definitely.

2015 - Back to the Future II (1989)
Skip the self-lacing Nikes and focus on Mr. Fusion. The clock's ticking, science!

John Pavlus is a science writer and filmmaker based in Brooklyn.