What ‘Back to the Future’ hit, missed in its 2015 predictions

Introduction The wait is over. Hollywood’s past projection of the future has officially become the present. Oct. 21, 2015 is the exact date Marty McFly visits in the middle chapter of the “Back to the Future” trilogy. So what did the film get right — and wrong — in its predictions of daily life? Listen below for some audio highlights, then click through the gallery for a collection of videos.
Miami Baseball Along these same lines, the film correctly predicted a future baseball team in Miami, which didn’t exist at the time in 1989. The Florida Marlins entered the league in 1993, and now go by the name “Miami Marlins.” So much for that gator mascot.
Sports Almanac The film’s most memorable — and plot-altering — prop is the Sports Almanac, which Old Biff brings back with him to 1955 so that his younger self can bet big on sporting events by already knowing every outcome from 1950-2000. The back on the almanac shows a then-unknown sport called Slamball, which we recently saw come to life with basketball hoops on trampolines. Who knows if that’s what the filmmakers had in mind, but it nailed the idea of an almanac in an antique store. Today’s sports fans simply Google the box scores.
Pepsi Cola In need of a refreshment, Future Marty had a funky-shaped Pepsi bottle to choose from. Pepsi is still alive and well, but the shape of the bottle doesn’t quite look like that. Either way, it recalls Marty’s line from the first film: “I’ll take a Pepsi Free.” “Free? If you want a Pepsi, you have to pay for it.”
Peeling Faces As far as we know, humans don’t go around peeling off their skin like Christopher Lloyd — unless you count Botox and face lifts — although it was disgustingly hilarious for Mike Myers in “Goldmember.” Somehow, when “Back to the Future” does it, Lloyd is beloved, but when “The Silence of Lambs” does it, Buffalo Bill is reviled. Fairness anyone?
Drone Technology “Back to the Future” didn’t portray drone warfare, but it predicted the rise of drones for human convenience. In our 2015 reality, we’ve seen drones used for both business and pleasure, right down to Amazon delivering packages. There’s even a Vimeo video of a drone walking a dog, just like in the movie. We can’t confirm it’s a real video, but one thing’s for sure: drones are everywhere.
Flatscreens During the 1980s, it was the norm for television sets to look like giant boxes. If you ever had to move one of those behemoths, you recall how much of a pain TV technology used to be. But “Back to the Future” was prescient in predicting the rise of flat-screen televisions mounted to the wall. This was probably an easy prediction to make, bringing the concept of a movie theatre screen into the living room. The film was also correct in predicting multi-channel viewing, which came to fruition with picture-in-picture and is still all the rage with NFL Red Zone and other satellite TV packages.
Fax Machines After Old Marty is fired, the television sends a signal to a nearby fax machine, which prints out confirmation of Marty’s termination. While fax machines were all the rage in the late 20th century, they are rarely used in homes in the 21st century, relegated instead to the office or your local Fed-Ex Kinkos.
Hydrated Food Moving from the living room to the kitchen, “Back to the Future II” features a scene where Grandma Lorraine hydrates a pizza using a kitchen hydrator device. Sorry “American Hustle,” but this is a real “science oven.” Still,the technology isn’t in 2015 kitchens.
Wearable Technology The “Back to the Future” filmmakers thought virtual reality would be a thing of the future. So they gave multiple characters digital eye devices, which came to fruition in real life with products like Google Glass. Wearable technology has become something of a tech trend, so don’t be surprised to see someone sporting Marty’s adjustable outfit sometime soon.
Newspapers After the defeat of Biff’s boneheaded lineage Griff, Marty and Doc grab a copy of USA TODAY to see the headline instantly change. While newspaper subscriptions are rapidly dwindling in the digital age, the film was prescient in predicting instant news in the palm of your hand. However, it missed the USA TODAY graphic redesign. Oh well, we hear D.C. folks still love radio stations anyway … If you look closely at the front page fine print, the headlines don’t quite match up with today’s. “Queen Diana’s” D.C. visit could not come to pass, after Princess Diana’s tragic death in 1997. Scanning the rest of the news, baseball pitchers do not use bionic arms, and a woman is not president.
Actress Lea Thompson attends the "Back To The Future" 25th anniversary reunion in New York, on Monday, Oct. 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)
Bonus Slide As your reward for clicking to the end of the gallery, we’ll go back in time to our interview with Lea Thompson, who played Michael J. Foxx’s mother in all three movies. Thompson joined WTOP earlier this year during a 30th anniversary salute at Wolf Trap. LISTEN: Lea Thompson shares ‘Back to the Future’ memories (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)
Actress Lea Thompson attends the "Back To The Future" 25th anniversary reunion in New York, on Monday, Oct. 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)
July 22, 2024 | WTOP's Jason Fraley grades the 'Back to the Future' predictions (Part 1) (Jason Fraley)
July 22, 2024 | WTOP's Jason Fraley grades the 'Back to the Future' predictions (Part 2) (Jason Fraley)
Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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