You know you're in the future when a title card pops up letting you know, and giving you a glimpse of the future world. This is one of our absolute favorite tropes from movies and TV. These establishing shots can be delicate (like this shot from Gattaca) or wonderfully obnoxious (like in Demolition Man) — but either way, they're a great dose of futureshock.
Here are 13 of the coolest establishing shots of future worlds from science fiction movies and TV.
1. Children of Men (2006)
Stark and dire, just like the future of humanity.
2. Titan A.E. (2000)
The golden hues of the animated Colorado skies paired with the green types (and the beeping computer noises) blend a little bit of Americana, in this opening scene in Titan A.E. — then they blow the Earth to smithereens. Goodbye amber waves of grain!
3. Gattaca (1997)
A beautiful moment that highlights the main character (Vincent Freeman) and his struggles with problematic DNA in a future dystopia. Not only does director Andrew Niccol let you know this is in the "not too distant future," he also shows the imperative green light, meaning Freeman has passed the genetic locks to access his desires. Quite beautiful.
4. The Fifth Element (1997)
Similar to Blade Runner, I also expected the date reveal for The Fifth Element to be with Leeloo and her bandage outfit on the ledge of the massive future city. We were wrong! The date actually appears on a shot of a space ship, extremely briefly in fact.
5. The Saint (1997)
Kind of like the massive plot holes in this wonderful rainy day movie, The Saint sets its cold fusion-making story sometime... tomorrow.
6. Demolition Man (1993)
Inspired by the LA riots, the burning Hollywood sign is possibly the most memorable thing to come out of Demolition Man — well, besides the three sea shells.
7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
James Cameron redoes his own future title shot, showing dead bodies forever stuck in traffic. Same place, same time — but maybe just a little bit creepier.
8. Predator 2 (1990)
We've actually passed this future world of Los Angeles, and yet no strange tribal gang wars or murderous aliens have visited our West Coast city.
9. Max Headroom (1985)
Sure it's not a movie, but the 20 Minutes Into The Future caption from Max Headroom is easily the most popular version of the "ambiguous future" title card ever.
10. Brazil (1985)
Terry Gilliam mixed together whimsy and horror for Brazil, which was perfectly demonstrated in his opening titles.
11. The Terminator (1984)
The most famous shot of a ruined L.A. in the year 2029. Who knew it would become a massive sticking point for all other Terminators?
12. Blade Runner (1982)
Perhaps the biggest surprise was Ridley Scott's movie. Almost everyone I asked about this project immediately pointed to the skyscraper ads of Blade Runner as the most memorable moment for Los Angeles November, 2019 (many could quote the date too). But surprisingly the first specific date reference appears over a black screen, much like A Boy and His Dog — not in front of the future cityscape.
13. A Boy and His Dog (1975)
After showering the audience with copious mushroom clouds and ominous warring nation sounds, the movie cuts to black and all we can see is 2024 A.D., the future.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
We added this one, because you all are right. It was totally unnecessary!