Apocalypse, Now: Bad ’80s Flicks That Predicted These End-Of-Days Times

Here’s what dystopian hell awaits us, according to these ’80s movies and straight-to-video gems

From politics to pop culture, the present feels more like a grim sci-fi version of reality than ever before. Welcome to Dystopia Now!, a collection of stories about our darkest timelines.

In 2017, the United States was in the middle of the Second Civil War, and everyone was desperate to escape to Canada. Our leaders acted suspiciously like Nazis. At least one woman was willing to do anything to never be called “babe” by a stranger ever again. After the past few months, this backdrop all seems within the realm of possibility. But if it sounds familiar to you, it might be because these are plot details from Barb Wire, a 1996 film starring Pamela Anderson. It is, as you probably already deduced, loosely based on the Academy Award–winning film Casablanca. The protagonist, named Barb Wire, calls 2017 “the worst year of my life.” Despite the fact that Ms. Wire's saga currently has a 28 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, she's definitely onto something.

Humanity's hunger for hellscapes comes in cycles. And right now, our stomachs are grumbling for some dystopian comparison shopping. Since Donald Trump's presidency began, Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale has lurked on the New York Times best seller list. You can find clickbait like “What is George Orwell’s 1984 about, why have sales soared since Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway referred to ‘alternative facts,’ and what’s happening on April 4?”

There's no need, though, to indiscriminately gobble totalitarian content as a way of coping with the fact that you can no longer tell where the real world ends and the computer simulation begins. Filmmakers have conveniently been making predictions about the next four years for decades, imagining the worst long before anyone of us knew that a man who once appeared in a tabloid cover next to the headline, “BEST SEX I EVER HAD” would be running the country in these dark days ahead.

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A collection of stories about our darkest timelines.

For the good of the world, I have sacrificed myself and watched many ’80s movies and deservedly forgotten direct-to-video gems from across generations in order to ascertain what might await us in the next four years. Each attempt at foreshadowing will be scored by our official dystopian feasibility ranking.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Will Defeat The Justice Department By Starring In Its Game Show

“By 2017, the world economy has collapsed. Food, natural resources, and oil are in short supply. A police state, divided into paramilitary zones, rules with an iron hand. Television is controlled by the state and a sadistic game show called The Running Man has become the most popular program in history. All art, music, and communications are censored. No dissent is tolerated and yet a small resistance movement has managed to survive underground.” This is the exposition offered before the beginning of the 1987 classic The Running Man, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger is forced to save us from a game show host with questionable morality, an unquenchable thirst for ratings, and a fear of anyone who tries to touch his hair. The TV show is on 24 hours a day and is beloved among old white people who gleefully cheer as wrongfully imprisoned people are taken down by government law enforcement. The Justice Department's entertainment division, which helps run the show, is manufacturing massacres and complaining about fake news. In the first five minutes of the movie, a Hispanic man is killed while trying to cross a wall. Two immigrants eventually defeat the government, shortly after saying, “The truth hasn't been very popular lately.”

The Official Feasibility Rating

This all seems vaguely probable, although it's unclear why so many people in the ’80s thought Arnold Schwarzenegger was the single likeliest person to save us or kill us in the distant future. Regardless, the name recognition won by this reputation helped him beat more than 100 other people to become a governor, which then led him to the gig that might have made Running Man become a reality. Our president is a former game show host who is obsessed with TV and the words “law and order.” Arnold Schwarzenegger was appointed to run the TV show left behind by our new leader, setting this entire scenario up for the perfect cinematic denouement.

And then he left.

So, no, don't expect him to save us. The Justice Department has probably already worked up a treatment for their first entertainment division programming, though.

All Sports Will Be Replaced By A Weird Roller Derby Hybrid

Football will only exist as a story that grandfathers tell their children in 2018. The only sport left on cable is Rollerball, a Flintstones-style NASCAR meets Quidditch on Ice mash-up that takes place in a giant roller rink.

This is the future imagined by the 1975 film Rollerball, not to be confused with the universally panned 2002 remake also titled Rollerball.

After the Corporate wars, companies have taken over the world, each city run by a monopoly that has completely eradicated individual action. War has been replaced by Rollerball, books replaced by summaries fed into retro computers, and everyone has at least four TVs in their house — usually in the same room. Instead of resisting or rebelling, citizens merely stay home and watch sports all day. Wood paneling and bell-bottom pants are in, as are scowling and never laughing, not even once. Eventually, the corporate state banishes all regulations in Rollerball, leading to the death of countless athletes.

The Official Feasibility Rating

Well, the man who ran ExxonMobil is already running international affairs. As soon as Bill Belichick gets a job in the Trump administration ... who knows what could happen? It doesn't make sense that corporations would ever want to get rid of football, or that sports would make people into nonaggressive automatons. The fact that the filmmaker seems to have never seen the Super Bowl makes their predictive prowess questionable.

A Nazi From The Moon Will Come To Earth And Get A Job As A Presidential Speechwriter

In 2018, our president, who looks and acts eerily like Sarah Palin and works next to a taxidermied polar bear, will run for reelection, according to the 2012 film Iron Sky.

Also, the Nazis have apparently been hiding out on the moon since 1945, and are about to head to Earth to steal smartphones to power their war machine. It is basically a Death Star, as imagined by someone who has never seen Star Wars because they've been stuck on the moon only watching the 10 minutes of The Great Dictator that could be interpreted as flattering to Nazis. When the Nazi delegation arrives in New York, they kidnap the president's campaign manager, who decides that fervent nationalism would sound excellent in a speech. The outer-space fascists' Earthologist is hired to spit out clichés about strength and winning. The partnership doesn't last, and eventually the president puts her campaign manager in charge of national security while Nazi UFOs storm the planet. North Korea briefly tries to claim responsibility for the invasion, but everyone laughs at them.

After Earth is saved, the United Nations security council will start fighting about the massive energy reserves found on the moon. All nations deploy their weapons of mass destruction, resulting in a nuclear winter. The Nazis left on the moon decide to abandon National Socialism.

The Official Feasibility Rating

This all sounds credible. One of Trump's speechwriters is a “Leninist” who also has a role on the National Security Council. We haven't found Nazis on the moon yet, but people are putting swastikas all over the place. At least one Nazi — who is from Montana, not the moon — was punched by the resistance. But don't worry, there probably won't be a nuclear winter, because as Donald Trump said in 1984, “It would take an hour and a half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles ... I think I know most of it anyway.”

Another possible scenario is that our president will try to send astronauts to Mars instead of the moon. There are no Nazis on Mars, but we will get the chance to learn that we are actually all immigrant martians.

The Robots Will Be Afraid Of Death And Willing To Kill Anyone To Prevent It

No one will complain about traffic in L.A. in 2019 because there will be no highways and lots of flying cars. Also, no one will be able to brag about the sun ever again because L.A. is a noir Gameboy wasteland with corporate ziggurats, per the 1982 Ridley Scott film Blade Runner.

It's a buyer's market for real estate — you can buy up entire apartment buildings for yourself because no one wants to live here anymore. Atari is popular again for some reason, and everyone dresses like the Jetsons if they visited Downton Abbey. Interior decorators seem really into Trump Hotel chic, which is perhaps why everyone is leaving Earth to head to the off-world colonies. Public phones have made a comeback now that they have FaceTime. People are once again allowed to smoke inside. Robots that look exactly like humans — and only have a four-year lifespan — are freaking out about death, instead of the fact that they still think that bleaching their hair makes them look cool. Shoulder pads are in again. Also, you might be a robot.

The Official Feasibility Rating

There are jeans with clear patches in them on sale at Nordstrom right now, only months after a rock in a pouch sold out on its website. Never assume that a trend won't happen.

Insurance Policies Are People

If you are obsessed with wearable tech, hacking your diet, and minimalist athleisure in 2019, you might be a clone. The fact that you also live in group housing filled with upscale Ikea/hospital-chic furniture might be a bad sign that you will one day be harvested for your body parts, per the future laid out in Michael Bay's The Island, released in 2005.

Merrick Biotech, an evil corporation based in Tucson, Arizona, will let the 1 percent pay $5 million to have a clone on standby in case they need an extra lung or surrogate for their pregnancy. The clones are called “insurance policies,” and no one outside the clone facility knows that these organ donors are not in a vegetative state. Out in the real world, Amtrak finally gets the federal funds for new high-speed trains, and MSN search will pass Google as the most popular search engine.

The Official Feasibility Rating

The federal government will never give Amtrak money for fancy new trains, so this will never happen.

The Government Will Cultivate Teens With Superpowers

Tokyo was completely destroyed after the explosion that prompted World War III. Said blast was caused by children with psychic powers being experimented on by the Japanese government, per the 1989 anime classic Akira.

Neo-Tokyo was built from the rubble, and the city is now getting ready for the 2020 Olympics, less than a year away. The government, which has not learned its lesson and is filled with corrupt politicians, is still experimenting on kids — but has now moved on to teens. Unsurprisingly, teens with psychic powers are even harder to control than children with psychic powers. Student protesters and other anti-government activists are intensely active. The military stages a coup, and Tokyo is destroyed again. The Olympic stadium is also ruined, which means that they'll never have everything done in time. It is unclear what is happening in the rest of the world after World War III.

The Official Feasibility Rating

Tokyo is hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, which ups the trustiness of this prediction. It is also feasible that something would happen that would put Olympics preparation behind schedule.

The Dragons Will Come And Kill Us All

Our failed efforts to stop lady dragons from incinerating Earth after leaving its molten core — where they had been hiding since eating the dinosaurs — will turn the world into a fiery wasteland in 2002's Reign of Fire.

Everyone has no choice but to dress like they live in the Middle Ages. The only source of happiness in 2019 will be those precious moments when very angsty Brits act out the plot twist in Star Wars for children born after pop culture ceased to exist.

The Official Feasibility Rating

Why do dystopian films always feature people dressing like medieval reenactors or Tilda Swinton's reimagining of Cruella de Vil? Life seems hard enough — why not just head to the nearest abandoned mall and stock up on some normcore cotton essentials? There are empty Walmarts everywhere — you don't need to wear bear fur or plastic dresses. No one will care what you look like, especially when nuclear war eventually incinerates your fashion choices.

Big Pharma Will Get Rich By Price-Gouging Human Blood

In 2019, Chrysler will make self-inflating tires, and companies that sell advanced whitening toothpastes have massive advertising budgets, per 2009's Daybreakers.

Pharmaceutical companies will still be screwing over humans, who are now an endangered species, by sucking them dry in blood farms. The rest of the humans have turned into vampires after a weird outbreak. There are senator vampires, and doctor vampires. Uncle Sam now wants you to join the vampire army to “CAPTURE HUMANS.” Everyone dresses like Patrick Bateman if he got stuck in the Matrix. The remaining humans aren't doing too well, judging from the fact that they say things like, “My friends call me Elvis” and pensively quote William Tecumseh Sherman. The resistance is holed up in a vineyard, and the vampire foodie movement, still drinking their tiny ration of nonlocal blood from caged humans, hasn't found them yet. Eventually a cure for vampirism is found, and the recovering humans start inexplicably dressing like Han Solo.

The Official Feasibility Rating

Seems implausible. Pharmaceutical companies would never let humans go extinct, especially if they were replaced by vampires. The profit margin on immortal beings isn't too great; mammals that keep falling apart, especially when they have lackluster health care, on the other hand, are great for business.

A PR Guy Will Be The Only Person Who Can Save Us

Aliens who can predict our next move will take over most of Europe by 2020, according to 2014 Tom Cruise movie Edge of Tomorrow.

American military personnel, however, still have time to go on Russia Today to brag about how fancy, fun-size Transformers suits will help save the world. The most important person in the entire military is its PR rep — and not just because he is great at selling the war. He also dies, gets sprayed with alien blood, and now has the power to restart the day of the Earth-ending Dunkirk-esque battle — called Operation Downfall — every single time he dies, like an action-packed Groundhog Day video game.

The Official Feasibility Rating

Well, The New Yorker did just say we might be living in a computer simulation. It also seems entirely possible that four years from now the military budget will be so huge that we could have invented superhero suits for soldiers. Pacific Rim, which, like Edge of Tomorrow, is also set during the Trump years, also predicted that massive metal military armor would be key to saving the planet from aliens.

And, only a few months into 2017, it already does feel like we're being forced to live the same day over and over again until we can make it through one without a single bad thing happening.

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