Movies set in the future have long been a harrowing, exciting, and thoughtful idealization of what the world might look like many years after the movie was actually released. It's been a staple of science fiction since the genre was adapted to film to predict what the future might look like, but what happens when the world finally catches up to movies like Blade Runner and Akira, an actual comparison between the world of tomorrow and the predicted world of today collide? The internet is full of memes asking where our jetpacks and flying cars are now that we're living in the future, but as futuristic films transition chronologically into the real world of the present, it's becoming clear that most movies are set within the minds of the people creating them.
While that's certainly true of most films set in the future, the ones set in the year 2019 aren't all off the mark. Sure, we don't have flying cars taking up all the space in the sky above our cities, but some of the technology, fashion, and ways of life have come pretty close to accurate. Not many movies or TV series were explicitly set in the year 2019, but there are some you may have forgotten about. These films and television shows set in the future gave us a look at what we thought our lives would look like once humanity finally crossed the line between 2018 and 2019.
Akira is one of the best known and beloved Japanese animated films in history. The movie is based on the manga of the same name and was released back in 1988. The film is set in Neo Tokyo in the year 2019 where motorcycle gangs rule the streets, drugs are available on every corner, and the military is in control of all government. While the world hasn't developed to this sort of dystopia in Japan, there are elements of Akira that can be compared to real-world society of 2019.
In the United States and other countries, many places sell drugs that were once considered outlawed to the public. Marijuana, which was once criminalized throughout the United States, Canada, and other nations is now available in dispensaries. The signature motorcycle belonging to Kaneda in the film has been fully recreated by fans and is certainly technologically possible. What the Akira anime and manga did right was not to imagine a world full of amazing technologies, but rather, how the world would likely progress in three decades. That prediction seems to have panned out (minus the dystopia and destruction of old Tokyo), which makes this film reasonably accurate in how it imagined 2019 might look.
#48 on The Best Movies of 1988
In many ways, Blade Runner set the standard for futuristic films when it was released in 1982. It has influenced the look and feel of not only movies, but video games, comics, and other media depicting glimpses into a possible future. The film is set in the dystopian future of 2019 Los Angeles, and there's not a lot the movie got right about how the world would turn out. In the film, technology has advanced to the point of being able to create bio-engineered synthetic humans called Replicants. These "people" are used off-world for slave labor in places that would be too dangerous for humans such as mining and other hazardous industries. Other futuristic tech includes flying cars, interplanetary space travel and colonization, and complex mega-cities.
Blade Runner predicted a world that looked good on the surface but didn't fare as well under scrutiny. In that sense, it was the perfect dystopian concept of the future. While we don't have fully synthetic humans running around, a recent study conducted by a Chinese scientist revealed that not only is genetic engineering possible, it's being done and could one day lead to the creation of a Replicant-type human. Many of the aspects of the background trimming of the film such as the intrusive advertising taking up large portions of a building's external space has certainly come to pass--just check out Times Square for a modern example of this. Regarding fashion, the movie wasn't way off but clearly had an '80s punk inspiration, which hasn't manifested fully in 2019. The movie may have been idealistic about space travel as well, but talk of colonizing Mars has moved from the realm of science fiction into something that will probably come about by the 2030s, so this movie wasn't too far off in that respect.
Dark Angel is a cyberpunk television series created by James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee. It starred Jessica Alba as Max Guevara/X5-452, a genetically enhanced transgenic super-soldier. The series was set in a post-apocalyptic version of Seattle, Washington in the year 2019. The devastation came in 2009 when a terrorist organization detonated an electromagnetic pulse in the atmosphere over the United States, which plunged the world into chaos.
The series is set in a world trying to recover with a heavy focus on cyber technology and the genetic handiwork that went into making X5-452 a superior human and soldier. Dark Angel didn't make huge strides in trying to imagine weird futuristic clothing for the cast, which ended up working in its favor. The clothing worn on the show is pretty much what you see walking down the streets anywhere in America in 2019. While the tech and genetic manipulation are advanced beyond what exists in 2019, the general look and feel of the series aren't that of some futuristic reality, but the one that actually exists today... minus the EMP weapon and the plunging of the world into darkness. This series came out a year before the United States was attacked by terrorists on 9/11, but as that event proved, the concepts that went into this series have a basis in reality.
Don't let the opening title card fool you, the beginning of this film was set in 2017... the distant past, but all the action takes place square in 2019 following Arnold Schwarzenegger's character's incarceration and entrance into a television series called The Running Man. The dystopian world presented in this film is one that focuses less on technological improvements or an idealized future and more on the nature of society and how it can break down amidst various forms of vice and immorality. The main focus of this film is a television show where convicted criminals have an opportunity to earn their freedom by battling in over-the-top gladiatorial combat for the enjoyment of the masses.
While we don't have that kind of programming available in 2019, the amount of television that is available and the moral degradation of society may be putting humanity on the path of The Running Man. That isn't to say everyone everywhere is terrible and people would enjoy watching a show where folks kill one another - many probably would enjoy it, but the masses tend to prefer less violent reality television. That being said, the overpowering influence of reality TV in 2019 and the people involved show a clear connection to the future predicted in the film. Add to that the fact that in 2019 a reality TV star is the President of the United States and we may just be moving straight into the situations depicted in this 1987 classic.