In Brief
  • "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Her," and "Minority Report" are three examples of accurate science leading to a better science-fiction experience.
  • By taking special care to be as scientifically accurate as possible, the creators of these sci-fi films were better equipped to immerse viewers in the fantastical worlds on display.

The Science in Sci-Fi

Science-fiction is one of the most enduring genres in film. From the very beginnings of the medium, with films such as “Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon)” by Georges Méliès, to the modern-day superhero epics, of which there are many, audiences are oft enraptured by the spectacle and limitless possibility displayed in the genre.

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Some films play fast and loose with the laws governing our world, while others take special care with tending to the reality of the science behind their fantastical claims. Such movies as “Interstellar” (if we ignore the ending), “Contact,” “Blade Runner,” and more stick out for the extra care taken to blur the lines between fiction and reality.

While many of the above films explored, or were even firmly grounded in, completely impossible situations, they were still able to immerse viewers into their worlds by injecting just the right amount of truth in with the fiction.

Here are a few such films that stand as beacons of scientific accuracy in the decades-long history of filmmaking.

“2001: A Space Odyssey”

Stanley Kubrick was a man of meticulous attention to detail. When creating the world of his 1968 classic, Kubrick wanted to ensure the scientific accuracy of the film’s visual design. To that end, he hired teams of astronomical artists, aeronautics specialists, and aerospace engineers among other professionals. Such detail went into the planning that even the positions of Earth’s satellites were accurately displayed in the film.

Beyond getting the available science right, the film also contained visions of future technologies such as tablet computers resembling iPads, prescient spacesuit designs, and advanced artificial intelligence (AI) systems.

“Her”

Spike Jonze’s “Her” tells the story of a man who falls in love with his advanced AI. Given the amount of time our faces are securely planted in front of a screen, a future in which humans become emotionally attached to technology isn’t far-fetched. In his review of the film, Ray Kerzweil, a famous computer scientist, stated that the film could become a reality by 2029.

“Minority Report”

If you can look past the draconian dystopia of the world presented in the movie, you’ll find a lot of interesting scientific details “Minority Report” strived to get correct. Steven Spielberg consulted with computer engineers to come up with the now-iconic vision of the next gen computer systems. While our current touchscreen devices aren’t exactly what was depicted in the film, we are getting closer to gesture-based interfaces.