The year 2021 has arrived, and if it’s anything like it’s been depicted in movies, we can expect the year to be … terrible. Screenwriters have been merciless when envisioning 2021, in many cases showing the year as dark, disturbing and downright dystopian.
Climate change is a common theme throughout many of the movies, with the effects of global warming playing a key role in several of the plots. Technology’s negative effects, the potential destruction of Earth and alien invasions are some other things we should be worrying about, too.
The year 2021 has offered a setting for a variety of films, with genres ranging from sci-fi, to comedy, romance and anime. Below, we round up 10 movies set in 2021 and what they predicted about the year.
Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
Well before he was Neo or John Wick, Keanu Reeves starred as Johnny Mnemonic, the titular character of this 1995 movie that depicts 2021 as a dark, dystopian time. The internet has grown to become an all-powerful presence, conglomerate corporations rule the international marketplace and people struggle to define truth from the computer-generated falsehoods being actively spread. There’s also a dangerous pandemic plaguing the world, with scientists racing to find a cure. Hit too close to home? Don’t worry, the movie got plenty of things wrong. Chief among them: a hard drive implanted in Johnny’s brain used to transfer highly sensitive data. The device, which serves as a catalyst in the film, holds a whopping 80GB of information – less than the average iPhone today.
A Quiet Place (2018)
Aliens with hypersensitive hearing have invaded Earth and wiped out much of the planet’s population. Remaining humans live in silence, knowing that even the slightest noise could attract the extraterrestrials’ attention. The story centers on the Abbott family, led by father Lee (John Krasinski) and mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt), as they evade and battle the aliens in a desperate attempt at survival. Real-life 2021 hasn’t seen any alien invasions (yet), though investigations into UFOs continue to spark imaginations. Meanwhile, the massive box-office success of A Quiet Place has spawned a sequel: A Quiet Place Part II is planned for release in April 2021.
Moon Zero Two (1969)
If classic cheese is what you’re looking for, then this 1969 B movie could be up your alley. Billed as “the first moon western,” Moon Zero Two featured several storylines. There’s a greedy businessman determined to farm precious materials from an asteroid. There’s the colonization of the moon, with a settlement of human’s establishing residency on the lunar satellite. And, of course, there’s murder and revenge: The businessman was actually responsible for several mysterious deaths. Released three months after the Apollo 11 Moon landing, Moon Zero Two certainly had timing on its side. Still, the script, acting and effects were low quality – even by its era’s standards. It would eventually end up skewered in a 1990 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Carnage: Swallowing the Past (2017)
Finally, a comedy! In this British mockumentary, the U.K. has gone entirely vegan by 2067. The film then explains the cultural changes that led to that point, spending a lot of time in 2021. That year, climate change explodes to the point of drastically affecting the world’s food supply. A Swine Flu pandemic plagues England, killing a lot of the population and further hurting the nation’s resources. With meat scarce, the government outlaws “carnism” and forces people to turn vegan. Sounds hilarious, right?
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
In terms of people to spend your last days with, one could do a lot worse than Keira Knightley. The English actress starred alongside Steve Carell in this 2012 movie with a premise revolving around an asteroid set to destroy Earth. With just three weeks to live, the duo sets out on a road trip, encountering suicidal motorists, witnessing an orgy and more. Naturally, they also fall in love, delivering the film’s deeper message of companionship and appreciating what you’ve got before it’s too late. Even though a real-life asteroid hitting Earth in 2021 seems unlikely, there have certainly been enough close calls for us all to be on the lookout.
Weathering With You (2019)
Anime feature Weathering With You gave a deep analyzation into the world’s climate crisis, shown within the framework of a fantasy romance. Hodaka is a near-poverty teenage boy who meets Hina, a “sunshine girl” with the amazing gift of controlling weather. Tokyo is being inundated with rainy days, and Hina proposes he and Hina set up a business offering good weather and clear skies for special events in exchange for a nominal fee. The business quickly becomes far too popular, leading the teens to close it down. What’s more, Hina reveals that each time she uses her powers, her health deteriorates a little more. Hina decides to sacrifice herself to stop the continuing rain from flooding Japan, but Hodaka – who by this point is in love with her – risks his own safety to convince Hina to stay alive with him. The acclaimed film was the highest-grossing movie in Japan in 2019 and pulled in more than $100 million worldwide.
It’s All About Love (2003)
Another sci-fi film set in 2021, which, shockingly, features climate change. The world has become a much colder place, but that doesn’t mean humans have somehow gotten less complicated. Enter John (Joaquin Phoenix), a college professor who is divorcing his estranged wife Elena (Claire Danes). As a popular ice skater, Elena is constantly surrounded by an entourage of handlers. Things take a turn when she reveals to John that her staff is actually cloning her, with plans to eliminate the real Elena. The couple goes on the run, but gets caught up in the unforgiving frozen terrain. Although it featured big-name stars – in addition to Phoenix and Danes, Sean Penn served as the movie’s narrator – the film was a colossal flop. It was roundly panned by critics upon release and holds a 19 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
This Filipino sci-fi adventure – the title translates to “Recycle” – sees humans battling murderous, insect-like alien invaders known as the Balangs (locusts). As a means for survival, the humans search and scavenge their war-torn lands for any material they can repurpose to build giant robots, which are used to fight back against the alien invaders. See where the recycling comes in?
The Sisterhood (1988)
While most of the films on this list offer a grim outlook for 2021, perhaps none is more dystopian than The Sisterhood. Women have been enslaved by men, violent vigilantes roam everywhere and society goes around wearing nothing but small pieces of animal fur covering their half-naked bodies. After a young woman named Mayra watches her family killed by an evil warlord, she’s taken in by a “renegade army of amazons” known as The Sisterhood. Together, the women battle evil throngs of men with swords, bows and arrows and machine guns. Take elements of Mad Max, One Million Years B.C. and Barbarella, throw them together in a blender, then remove all the best dialogue and you’ll end up with this 1988 flick.
Long Shot (2019)
Okay, this one is kind of cheating. The majority of the Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron comedy Long Shot is set in 2019. Theron’s character, Charlotte Field, is the U.S. Secretary of State with dreams of becoming commander in chief. Rogan’s Fred Flarsky is a journalist-turned-speech-writer who ends up working with Field. The two fall in love and hide their romance from the public, only to be blackmailed by political rivals. Spoiler alert: Things work out in the end. The couple survives in the face of long odds, Field becomes America’s first female president and the two are married in … 2021.