Spectacular sci-fi: the movies with the best future worlds

Perfect flicks for fans of futurism

Science-fiction is one of the most popular genres in the movies - loved by both filmmakers and the people who watch the results - and the term covers a wide range of styles, themes, topics and approaches. They don't necessarily have to involve the future, of course.

However, many do take a look at what our world and society might look like dozens or hundreds of years from now. Here we've gathered together some of the movies we think do this best: read through our selection and see how many you agree with.

The Fifth Element (1997)

Fifth Element

Luc Besson's bright and barmy view of the 23rd century leaves an impression that you don't quickly forget. It's a heady, uncompromised vision of what our future world might look like with nothing held back, from haircuts to hovercars and everything in between. What's more, it's almost 20 years old this year and yet it still looks fantastic.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)


Imagining what the future's going to be like is harder than you might think - which is why visionaries like Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke often have a lot of people scratching their heads. Despite the big ideas behind 2001, Kubrick takes care of the smaller details too - and once you've seen HAL in action you can't help be a little wary of Siri.

Minority Report (2002)

Minority Report

Director Steven Spielberg and screenwriters Scott Frank and Jon Cohen (working from a short story by Philip K Dick) craft a future world that becomes more plausible and recognisable with each passing year. Gesture-controlled computers, highly intelligent AI, government surveillance that's almost impossible to escape, eye scanners and more... plus a plot that's packed with some superb twists and turns.

Wall-E (2008)


Maybe it's easier to create a CGI future world than a live action one, but that shouldn't count against Wall-E: the movie shimmers with imagination and creativity throughout, and the idea of overweight humans drifting through space while relying too heavily on robots and computer software is one we'd be wise to take a warning from.

AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001)


It divided critics on its release, but Spielberg's fable of the future is earning a greater appreciation over time. It takes a long and hard look at both the physical and emotional changes coming our way in the next few decades, covering climate change, advanced robotics, artificial intelligence (of course) and a polished-looking Jude Law.

Avatar (2009)


Whatever you might think about the dialog, acting and plotting in Avatar, in terms of creating a spell-binding future world it's difficult to fault - as far as visual effects and vision are concerned, Avatar broke new ground. In fact, James Cameron had to put the project on hold for several years while he waited for the graphics tech to catch up.

Interstellar (2013)


The newest film on our list, Interstellar benefits from Christopher Nolan's expert hand and the computer graphics of the modern era. It shows us a future that's jaw-dropping but also, somehow, grounded in reality, from the tiniest details to the biggest set pieces - let's just hope the real robots of the future have a sense of humour setting.

Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner

It might be bleak and depressing, but Blade Runner's vision of the future is fantastically detailed and very believable - you almost feel like you're on the rain-soaked streets of Los Angeles with Deckard. Alongside all the high-tech gadgetry on show there's still a strong sense of realism and authenticity which makes the film such a powerful one.

The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix

In the very early days of the internet, a little film called The Matrix appeared and changed the way we all thought about computers, AI and technology - nowadays the idea that we're all living in the matrix isn't such a far-fetched one, which is a credit to the production values and the visual inspiration that went into these three movies.

Brazil (1985)


Brazil isn't always a comfortable film to watch but it's likely to leave an indelible impression on the minds of anyone who watches it. Bureaucracy and technology have taken over, George Orwell style, and this is a future of dingy warehouses and dark offices rather than glistening spaceships and strange-looking bits of gadgetry.

Dune (1984)


Dune has a lot of flaws but the enormity of its scope and vision isn't one of them: the minds of (original author) Frank Herbert and (director) David Lynch combine to create a sci-fi world that's truly awe-inspiring. We can only imagine what Return Of The Jedi would've looked like if Lynch had agreed to take the reins on that one...

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Mad Max

You might not necessarily want to live in the future world of Mad Max: Fury Road but it's impossible to deny its visceral impact: from flame-throwing guitars to flying buggies, there's so much going on that it's almost overwhelming. Let's just hope that Earth doesn't end up turning into the desert wasteland depicted in the Mad Max movies.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.