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Time Warp Indeed! 8 Iconic Futuristic Movies Set in The Past!

There’s a special brand of nostalgia that one experiences when watching a movie set in the future … a future that we’ve already passed! Many of these movies had charmingly ambitious visions of the future: flying cars, casual space travel and (sometimes) reliable time machines–all advances that we’re still pining for in this old dusty world. Check out our top eight future movies of the past below.

1984 (1984) / Set in 1984
Based on the novel of the same name (i.e high school’s most disturbing required reading), this British film captures the horrors of an imagined 1984. Protagonist Winston Smith (John Hurt) exists as a mere cog in the totalitarian superstate “Oceania,” where he’s forced to re-write history for “Big Brother” and constantly evade the “thought police” that seek to stifle any and all inklings of rebellion. The novel was written in 1949, though the film adaptation wasn’t released until the title year itself. Thankfully, 1984 came and passed without society falling into totalitarianism, but the film still serves as an ominous cautionary tale with respect to freedom and privacy—one worth revisiting no matter how many decades go by.

Robocop (1987) / Set in the ’90s (roughly)
The original action-packed sci-fi flick Robocop hit theaters in 1987, depicting a then “near-future” where both crime and corporate greed had skyrocketed. When Alex Murphy (played by Peter Weller) is savagely murdered by Detroit gangers, the menacing super-corporation Omni Consumer Products swoops in to save the day … or to turn him into a superhuman-cyborg law officer. This smart, impressively designed (for the time) film used its vaguely dystopian premise to explore capitalism and privatization—something we’re still debating today.

Escape from New York (1981) / Set in 1997
This action classic is set in the then-distant future of 1997, with a terrifying depiction of WWIII—Manhattan is a maximum security prison and violent crime is the norm. After the U.S President’s plane is shot down on the lawless island, the rebellious “Snake” Plissken (special soldier turned criminal) is sent in on a retrieval mission in exchange for a full pardon. The movie’s clunky technology is now charmingly dated, but the mustaches that many characters sport are truly timeless. Present day audiences can be thankful for the film’s inaccuracies—instead of a 400% increase in crime, violent crimes in the city have been actually on the decline since the 1990.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) / Set in 2001
At the time of its release, this British-American sci-fi flick was set over three decades into the future—in a year we now mostly remember for its awesome Walkmans. While often glorified for its instances of clairvoyance (We went to space! We have wildly smart computers!), we have yet to fly on commercial space planes. However, we do have in-flight TV screens on the seat-backs in front of us—deftly predicted in a throwaway scene in 2001.

Time Cop (1994) / Set in 2004
Time Cop was set a decade into the future (2004), where self-navigating cars are a thing and time travel is so common that there’s a specific police force to regulate it. The title’s “time cop” is Jean-Claude van Damme (played by Jean-Claude Van Damme), a Time Enforcement Agent who works to ensure that nobody uses time travel illegally to alter the past. While time travel isn’t an everyday occurrence yet, Google is on the brink of bringing us the driverless car.

District 13 (2004) / Set in 2010
Similar to Escape from New York, the French action flick District 13 depicts a metropolitan city overrun by increased crime. In this case, the film shoots six years into the then future, and is set in the grim Parisian suburbs—specifically “B13,” an area so dangerous that police have simply isolated it with maximum security walls, forcing inhabitants to fend for themselves. Hinting at disturbing themes of segregation and skyrocketing corruption, it’s comforting that the reality of 2010 saw Paris intact and void of maximum security ghettos.

The Postman (1997) / Set in 2013
Nuclear war and social collapse have left the surviving humans with the choice of trying to restore civilization or joining the powerful warlords. One nomadic drifter (Kevin Costner) stumbles into the role of leader, instilling hope in his fellow survivors after finding and donning an old U.S Postal Service uniform—a magic ingredient that’s brilliant in its no-tech simplicity.

Back to the Future Part II (1989) / Set in 2015
The second entry in this comedy/sci-fi trilogy finds time-travel buddies Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown, traveling to the not-quite-future-now-past of 2015 (we’ve only got six months!) While light-hearted at its core, the film did see some 2015 predictions come to pass: One scene captures Americans surfing in Vietnam, hinting at improved foreign relationships with the country in the future. Now, if only we could also figure out that whole time-travel thing.

Check out the on-air schedule for Escape from New York on SundanceTV. Feeling stressed about the future? Relax with our list of top 10 stoner movies.