Soylent Green Is People!

Soylent Green Is People!

What sci-fi movies say about future food

By Eric Slatkin

THX-1138
THX 1138
Sleeper
Sleeper
The Apple
The Apple
Back to the Future 2
Back to the Future Part II
Soylent Green
Idiocracy

What will we eat many years from now? Let’s hope it’s nothing like the movie Demolition Man, in which the only place to eat is Taco Bell. Here are 10 sci-fi flicks set in the future, and their takes on what food and drink will become. (Note: Some of these “future” scenarios have already passed. Did the predictions come true? Read on!)

1. A Clockwork Orange
Made in: 1971
Set in: The future

A gang of sadomasochistic juveniles enjoys a milk-based elixir laced with uppers at the Korova Milk Bar. Beyond T-shirts, “milk plus” a.k.a. “moloko” has inspired three bars (in Portland, New York, and Tokyo), record labels, bands—the most prominent being Moloko—and even a website, DrinkMoloko, which lists upcoming events. Someone also created a recipe (without the drugs).

2. THX 1138
Made in: 1971
Set in: The 25th century

George Lucas made this stylized film before Star Wars. Robert Duvall is THX 1138, just another gear in the dystopian machine, until his female flatmate, LUH 3417, tampers with his meal (beige, chalky food blocks plus sedative pills). Off the drugs, he falls in love with her, only to be caught and sent to jail; he then escapes in a memorable car chase. The film also depicts a trash can of the future, which is merely a black hole that sucks up anything put in front of it.

3. Soylent Green
Made in: 1973
Set in: 2022

The few cows and vegetables still poking around in this overpopulated, hyperpolluted tomorrow-land are only for the wealthy. Everyone else is fed a synthetic tofulike substance manufactured by the Soylent Corporation. The shocking ending: It ain’t tofu—it’s humans who take part in the state euthanasia program.

4. Sleeper
Made in: 1973
Set in: 2174

Miles Monroe (Woody Allen) is the owner of a natural foods market who, after going into the hospital for a routine ulcer, is for some reason cryogenically frozen. He wakes up hundreds of years later to find out that fried, fatty foods are considered good for you. Produce, apparently, is also quite large. At one point Monroe stumbles into a field of giant hydroponically grown fruits and veggies while trying to elude a security guard, slips on a six-foot-long banana peel, and ultimately knocks the guard out with a gigantic strawberry. Monroe also battles an unruly ever-growing blob of instant pudding.

5. The Apple
Made in: 1980
Set in: 1994

A rock musical that follows the degradation of a wholesome folk duo trying to make it in the future’s sleazy music business, dominated by glam band BIM. Following a concert in which one song repeats the chorus “Hey, hey, hey, BIM’s on its way” 25 times in a row, we see people drinking from what appear to be triangular flower vases, 10-inch-wide champagne flutes, and gilded chalices.

6. Back to the Future Part II
Made in: 1989
Set in: 2015

Not only will Black & Decker still be going strong, according to this film, but it will also have developed a rehydrator that takes three-inch Pizza Hut pizzas (it’s never specified if the appliance works with other pizza companies) and in three seconds transforms them into piping-hot 16-inch pizzas. The McFlys also have a voice-activated fruit basket that descends from the ceiling and a Master-Cook console, a spruced-up ’80s PC with added metal “helper” arms.

7. The Fifth Element
Made in: 1997
Set in: The 23rd century

Earth is too polluted, so Manhattan exists 200 feet in the sky. Soldier-turned-flying-taxi-driver Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) is being served Chinese food through his apartment window by a man in a flying boat when he finds out he has to get back in uniform to help save Earth. One notable advancement (very similar to the Star Trek replicator) is a microwavelike device that magically creates a roasted turkey.

8. The Matrix
Made in: 1999
Set in: Unknown

Spoons don’t exist, and the only nondigital food is gruel. Humans live underground, zipping around in dank flying ships. I don’t know about you, but I’d be fine eating gruel every day if I could learn kung fu in two minutes.

9. The 6th Day
Made in: 2000
Set in: The near future

Though it’s more focused on cloning than on food, The 6th Day features an endearing moment between Adam Gibson (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his daughter. She brings two bananas, one orange and one yellow, to the table and asks if he wants “nacho” or “regular” flavor. The scene also hints at technology that might not be far off: Gibson puts milk back into the fridge, which tells him that he’s running out and asks if he wants to buy more.

10. Idiocracy
Made in: 2006
Set in: 2505

Joe, an average soldier, is frozen for what’s supposed to be a one-year experiment. But when his pod is misplaced, he wakes up 500 years later to find that everybody’s dumb. There are Carl’s Jr.’s on every corner, the most popular show on TV is Ow My Balls, and a Gatorade-like drink, Brawndo, has all but replaced water. When Joe is hired by the president to fix the food-shortage problem, he discovers that farmers have been using Brawndo to hydrate the crops; after Joe gets the farmers to switch to water, the crops miraculously grow back.