Close your eyes and think of the future. Not, like, next week - like the future future, 50 years and beyond. Chances are the future you imagine derives from an image you saw at the movies. Creating memorable futurescapes is something Hollywood excels at; this week's new release, Ghost In The Shell, scorches itself into cinematic legend with an unforgettable world of cyborgs, skyscraper-high commercials and nude bodysuits. It's just one of several memorable movie worlds that pitch futures both fantastical and fearful - the places we visit when we close our eyes and dream of what's to come.
Ghost In The Shell (2017)
Set in the not-quite present in Not-Quite-Tokyo, this live-action remake of the Manga classic has a seedy neo-future atmosphere that channels a distinct Blade Runner vibe. Gigantic moving ads dominate the city skylines, but below the looming skyscrapers on the rain-soaked city streets, backmarket dealers offer customers cyborg upgrades, making the augmented citizens more machine than man. Who knew healthcare in the future would be like upgrading RAM?
Watch Ghost In The Shell, available to rent on Virgin Movies from 7th August. Also available in HD. Cert 12
Children Of Men (2006)
One biological snafu and the whole country goes to Hell. Alfonso Cuaron's terrifying vision of an infertile Britain hits a little too close to home: with no children born in the last two decades, London is a city that's literally and figuratively dying. Commuters shrug off terrorist attacks as they drink their morning coffee. Bus ads scream racist and anti-immigrant propaganda. But the most frightening part about it is how normalised it feels: a city, and its people, that have accepted the apocalypse.
Blade Runner (1982)
Ah, Blade Runner - the high watermark of dystopian movie hellscapes. Production designer Syd Mead and director Ridley Scott created a world choked by smog, retrofitted with technology and gripped by neon lust; the Los Angeles of 2019 was both breathtakingly beautiful and suffocatingly awful. Everything about Blade Runner felt anachronistic, like a hard boiled Raymond Chandler detective novel set in a nightmarish future. If the future world of the sequel, Blade Runner 2049, can remain even half as unsettling, it'll have done its job.
Demolition Man (1993)
Rather than create another depressing and grimy future world, this massively underrated Sylvester Stallone actioner was set in the highly sanitised city of San Angeles, where walls auto-clean their own graffiti, swearing is outlawed and even intercourse is made less messy. Leave it to literal fossil Stallone to bring a bit of good old fashioned ass-kicking to town to show these future wimps how they used to fight crime old school.
Minority Report (2002)
Famously, Steven Spielberg consulted a team of scientists, futurists and ad agencies in order to accurately depict a futuristic New York. Nothing is so far-fetched: cops fly around on jet packs, self-driving cars pilot commuters home and targeted holo-ads pester shoppers - it's a future that's not far away. In fact, the film's central conceit has recently been put into action: Chinese police recently arrested a man before he was able to commit the crime they arrested him for. The future is now!
Mad Max (1979)
G'day? Not really. In George Miller's oil-streaked future thriller, Australia is a barren wasteland (well, more so) and Mel Gibson is a troubled loner (also more so). Petrol is in short supply but gas guzzlers still rule the road, despite the famine and war that blights the land. In a word: grim. It's basically what the world would be like if Jeremy Clarkson became Prime Minister and Richard Hammond was made Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
In Time (2010)
Time is quite literally money in this high concept future thriller, where the years you have left to live and the money you have in your wallet are basically one and the same thing. Quite how the film's future government passed and implemented this bonkers law we have no idea, but the idea of putting a value on seconds, minutes and hours is a fascinating one, and it's also neat lens through which to examine the disparity in social classes in America too.
Basically Avatar in a bad wig, this clumsy Bruce Willis cyber-thriller has a neat concept - that humans send out android surrogates to do their monotonous daily tasks - but fumbles it simply by virtue of presenting a wiggy Willis and asking you to take it seriously. It's an extremely 2008 take on digital detachment and how we live our lives through machines and technology, but - Bruce Wiggis aside - it's a fun yomp with a side of social commentary.
Ready Player One (2018)
Is this even set in the future? Ready Player One's nightmarish VR world feels only a few Oculus Rift updates away. Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the popular book sees humanity give up on the decaying real world to retreat to the digital paradise of Oasis, a virtual reality where anybody can be anything or anyone (as long as their intellectual copyright belongs to Warner Bros). Check how many people on your bus are buried in their phones and tell us this is set in the future.
Before the HBO TV show and the Simpsons Itchy & Scratchy Land parody was the original Westworld: a theme park where you could live out your darkest desires and face no consequences. Live like a cowboy! Shoot to kill! Rape, burn, pillage! Then return home to your family! Naturally, with a system that relied heavily on artificial intelligence, the gunslingers of Westworld were duty bound to become sentient, doling out volleys of karmic justice to the tourists that paid top dollar for such decadence.
The Fifth Element (1995)
And you thought traffic in 2017 was bad. Luc Besson's mind-boggling future action epic has lines and lines of hover-cars dominating the airspace above the city of New York. And sure, there's a sentient angry cloud threatening humanity and alien gun traders intent on spoiling the whole intergalactic peace and love thang, but mostly we remember the space traffic.
Escape From New York (1997)
In the terrifying future world of 1997 (LOL), the city of New York is a crime-ridden, disease-filled cesspit full of criminals (double LOL). John Carpenter's campy future thriller doesn't have high hopes for America's capital - in fact, Manhattan Island is walled off and filled with the worst criminals in the world. Naturally, ironic justice sees the US President crash-land smack bang in the middle of crime town, with only a one-eyed man named Snake trying to rescue him. Pray that Donald Trump never sees this movie or his idea for his wall is only going to get worse.
Total Recall (1990)
Is your life dull, boring, moribund? The future as depicted in Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall has the solution: citizens can implant fake memories in their consciousness and live vicariously through past existences that never happened. The world outside of Rekall Corp isn't that much fun either: 2084 is all Mars mining expeditions, rebel insurgents and three-breasted hookers.
The Island (2005)
Life on The Island doesn't seem that bad. You get to wear cool jumpsuits, you get to play as much Xbox as you want and you get to hang with Scarlett Johansson. then you find out that you're actually a clone of a much richer, much more callous version of yourself, who has effectively been growing you for spare parts. Suddenly Xbox doesn't cut it any more. Michael Bay's sci-fi thriller takes a stab at social commentary but is far more concerned with chucking hover-cars and laser weapons in the general direction of Ewan McGregor.
The Hunger Games (2010)
Cuh, the youth of today, eh? Am I right? Bunch of ingrates with their iPhones and their fidget spinners and their lack of a World War to enlist in. The Hunger Games - loosely based on Japanese action epic Battle Royale - posits a future where kids are tooled up and pitted against one another in a giant arena for the entertainment of the masses. Gruesome? Yes. Unnecessary? Oh heavens yes. But would you watch it? Ummm.... probably. Let's face it, it's the kind of future that commenters on the Daily Mail website are praying for.
James Cameron saw past the fad of videogames for his 3D action epic and gave us a world where first-person shooters were more immersive than ever. On the alien world of Pandora, mankind has developed technology to allow the consciousness of a person to make a neural link with a fully-fleshed-out alien avatar while their physical body has a nap in a pod. It's VR and then some. What you choose to do with your avatar is up to you: go on a frag rampage, liberate some native alien slaves, whatevs man, it's your avatar.
Long before he ever did a Star War, George Lucas was hard at work on creating future dystopias. His debut movie saw an America where android police ruled over a largely docile populace, controlled by emotion-numbing drugs. Of course, you can't keep a good society down and soon the good people of the 25th century are rising up against their police oppressors, eventually discovering that their entire city was underground, which explains why nobody has a tan.
Although it's difficult to imagine an America any dumber than the one currently run by President Wotsit, Mike Judge pitched a comedy that saw the United States fall foul to widespread anti-intellectualism. Luke Wilson's average Joe is placed in suspended animation and when he wakes, finds that America is obsessed with dumb reality shows, the people are hooked on junk food and the Commander-In-Chief is a complete moron. This may be one of the most terrifying documentaries ever made.
Pacific Rim (2013)
Hands up who likes giant robots? Now hands up who likes giant monsters? Who wants to see those giant robots fight the aforementioned giant monsters? That's what I thought: lots of hands in the air. The future of Pacific Rim sounds fun from a distance - who wouldn't want to gawp at huge mechs slicing hulking great Kaijus in half? - but the reality of the situation is probably way less entertaining. At the very least, imagine how badly your local public transport would be once you factor in rampaging beasts from outer space.
The Truman Show (1997)
The ultimate goal of reality television is surely to replicate what Peter Weir created in The Truman Show - to create a totally immersive and 100% artificial world for its star to live in, without him or her knowing about it. Poor old Truman has no idea he's the world's biggest TV star: he's just going about his unremarkable daily life in Seahaven Island, never moved to venture further than the city limits - little does he know a nation are stuffing Doritos into their gaping mouths while watching him shower. Expect The Truman Show to become a reality when Big Brother Series 76 hits the air in around 2030 and remember that there are already kids enrolling for The X Factor who weren't even born when it started.
Watch Ghost In The Shell, available to rent on Virgin Movies from 7th August. Also available in HD. Cert 12