Next Thursday, Oct. 27, Turner Classic Movies will be airing films that represent 70s future shock. There are some great movies for that theme, but I thought it would be more interesting to broaden it to all time periods of film. So here’s my list of the great future shock movies.
5. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The world is shocked by the presence of aliens, but these aliens don’t come to invade the earth. They come to heal it. They know that the real source of the world’s future shock is its fear and unwillingness to unite with other people.
4. Modern Times (1936)
Chaplin’s classic comedy shows fear of a very soon-coming future. The combination of mechanical advancement with increasing poverty gives the hilarious futuristic machines created in this film a somber and frightening backdrop in Chaplin’s own present time.
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Mostly a wondrous and beautiful look at the future, HAL represents all that is also scary about the future. The shock comes from getting the answer to the question the astronauts don’t really want an answer to: Can something humanity created become human and even replace humanity?
2. The Time Machine (1960)
The starkest look at the potential future, George Pal’s masterful adaptation of the H.G. Wells’ classic novel includes a future without the capacity for thinking, individuality, or love. As the result of centuries of cultural brainwashing, this is the thought of what the world will look like. It’s especially shocking for Americans right now, living in a country led by someone so insecure that he wants to make everyone like him (in both senses of the word “like”), creating some segments of the country that look a lot like this movie’s dismal vision of the future.
1. Metropolis (1927)
Fritz Lang directed the greatest of all silent films. A futuristic retelling of the story of the Tower of Babel, Metropolis shows how future shock is often the result of fearing that the past will repeat itself. With loads of biblical imagery placed in a sci-fi setting, Metropolis, like 2001 and The Day the Earth Stood Still, has a potentially hopeful view of the future. But it understands that shock must come before the hope, and that the hopeful possibilities can only occur if there is a Mediator willing and able to lead people through the shock and into the hope.