The term “science fiction” gives writers an outlet to break the rules a bit and tell stories that revolve around scientific theories and concerns without necessarily having to worry about accuracy. Indeed, there have been many sci-fi movies that totally ignore how science works (we’ve even compiled a list of the worst offenders), which is fine if you want to tell a fun story about people traveling to the center of the Earth like in The Core, but not so great if you want your movie to actually be taken seriously by …well, anyone.
Fortunately, not every movie sets out to completely set aside accepted science in favor of spectacle. When filmmakers enlist the help of actual authorities in the scientific field, we get films that actually hold up in the realism department (a crazy concept, we know). While we’d still recommend reading an actual science textbook if you truly want to learn something new, the following movies could actually teach you a thing or two about the natural world, which is more than can be said for most sci-fi fare out there.
12. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Released in 1982, the original Blade Runner depicted a vision of Los Angeles in 2019 that included black skies choked with carbon emissions, human-like androids, and flying cars. While we can look back now and say that the film didn’t quite hit the mark in its predictions (though we are getting closer and closer to getting those flying cars), its sequel, Blade Runner 2049, has earned praise from futurists who point to the film’s depictions of climate-ravaged Los Angeles and the surrounding California countryside as an extreme, but realistic vision of the effects of unchecked climate change.
“It just feels so present,” futurist Melissa Sterry tells Syfy Wire. “Blade Runner 2049 is almost sending up the worst, most cliched concepts of 2017 technology and saying ‘This is a nightmare.’ It’s a fantastic backscape to narratives and new conversations for examining the present as well as the future.”
There is a reason to be hopeful that things won’t be so bad in 2049 as Blade Runner makes out, as Sterry notes that the film’s complete lack of natural plant life and animal life is unrealistic, as these would depreciate but almost certainly not be at near-extinction levels in the next three decades.