The Future of Your City According to Sci-Fi Movies

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The Future According to Sci-Fi Movies

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you lived in a science fiction or futuristic fantasy movie? What would it feel like to discover that the entire human race had been replaced by intelligent apes? Or can you imagine narrowly escaping a cybernetic machine sent back in time to kill you?

We spend our time wondering about stuff like that, too.

So we analyzed 44 of our favorite futuristic and science fiction films to answer the question:

If sci-fi and fantasy movies came true tomorrow, what would happen to us – and the cities we live in?

In 1987’s “Escape From New York,” the island of Manhattan is turned into a maximum-security prison. In “12 Monkeys,” (released in 1995) citizens of major cities are forced underground when a deadly virus is released. And in the 2004 film “I, Robot,” Chicago’s residents are suddenly under threat from the robots they created.

After looking at 44 futuristic and science fiction movies, we looked at where the most devastating events took place in those films. It turns out that these are the locations favored for the end of the world (according to the filmmakers):



Washington, D.C.

Los Angeles

New York City


San Francisco

United States

So what happens to you and your city in the future? Continue reading to find out.

The Sci-Fi Future Boston


From deadly viruses to power-hungry AI, sci-fi Boston is a pretty terrifying place.

If you lived in Boston as shown in the movies, you probably wouldn’t make it. In 1997, a nuclear holocaust and Skynet wipe the place clean. The city is destroyed again in 2005 in “War of the Worlds,” and yet again in 2012 by a whole host of natural disasters.  And when we looked at the future of the city, it’s even more grim. If you did somehow escape the devastation, you’d be driven underground in 2035 to escape a deadly virus. So, yeah, if life ever turns into a sci-fi flick, it might be time to consider a move. Montana is nice this time of year – and the aliens showing up there seem pretty friendly.

The Sci-Fi Future of Chicago

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If being separated into factions based on a single personality trait, stalked and murdered by robots, or forced to choose between the red or blue pill sounds good to you, sci-fi Chicago is the place to be.

It’s the setting of “Divergent,” “I, Robot” and “The Matrix,” among a host of other futuristic films, which all share one common belief: the outlook for Chi-Town is a bleak one.

The Sci-Fi Future of Washington, D.C.

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Looking forward to meeting visitors from another planet? Look no further than Washington, D.C., which will fall victim to two alien invasions.

Add to that four corrupt government regimes, two robot revolts, a natural disaster, two government collapses, famine, a major disease outbreak, a criminal uprising, an ape revolt and a civilization collapse … and we’re pretty sure nobody’s getting out of this city alive in the sci-fi world.

The Sci-Fi Future of Los Angeles


Adding to our list of cities to get the heck away from if the world goes sci-fi, here comes Los Angeles, home of movie stars, broke surfers and, according to the movies, police states, terminators, a ruling class of apes, and – oopsie daisy – an ice age that wipes out the whole planet.

Apparently, there’s nowhere to hide. Good luck to us all.

The Sci-Fi Future of New York City


What’s worse than being trapped on an island that’s been turned into a maximum-security prison? Perhaps escaping only to find your city’s next tragedies include nuclear devastation, alien attacks, and a flood that wipes the city off the map.

In a sci-fi movie world, the Big Apple just can’t catch a break, with three robot revolts, three alien invasions, four corrupt government regimes and too many other disasters to even count.

When the totalitarian police state comes, we suggest heading to that underground bunker in peaceful Oklahoma. Nobody writes disaster films about Oklahoma. (Well, OK, they do, but at least in those films, people make it out alive.)

The Sci-Fi Future of Philadelphia

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Poor Philly. It doesn’t get the press or attention of New York or LA, but when it comes to sci-fi movies, it gets more than its fair share of evil governments, too-smart robots and devastating natural disasters.

If you lived in sci-fi Philly, you’d be totally destroyed at least six times, which is a lot of destruction. We hope you at least get to have a few cheesesteaks first.

The Sci-Fi Future of San Francisco


Bulletin for those who live in sci-fi San Francisco: Good news! Your rent is about to go down!

Of course, the reasons your rent is about to plummet aren’t so great. First, the body snatchers, then the nuclear holocaust and if you’re still around after those delightful sci-fi treats, you’re heading into a war against the machines with John Connor.

But, hey, you won’t have to worry about rent payments. So, silver lining, right?

The Sci-Fi Future of the United States


So perhaps we jumped the proverbial gun when we told you to hunker down in an Oklahoma bunker because – surprise! – nowhere is safe when it comes to alien invasions and killer robots. If the sci-fi future were true, the good ol’ USA is headed for destruction – 11 times.

You heard us right: 11 times.

The only safe choice is to head down to Mexico. (Just kidding, sci-fi Mexico is full of monsters, too.)

Life Inside a Sci-Fi Flick

Okay, let’s be honest: It’s funny to think about, but none of us really want to live in a sci-fi flick. Zombies and vampires? No thanks, I’m good. Turning the entire East Coast into an extension of the ocean? Sounds unnecessary. And body snatching? Well, that’s only funny when it doesn’t happen to you.

Scratch that: Body snatching is never funny.

Here’s to the end of the world.



We selected 44 science fiction films and analyzed available plot summaries to identify where the films’ central disastrous event(s) took place. We used that information to create timelines for the U.S., as well as several major U.S. cities.

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It wouldn’t be a complete disaster if you used the images found on this page on your own website.  If you choose to do so, please link back to this page and give credit to the original authors.

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Alanna is the celebrity real estate expert at Redfin and oversees the Fun & Fabulous content for the Redfin Real-Time blog. Before coming to Redfin, Alanna was a local TV news producer and dabbled in the world of reality TV production. Her dream home would be a duplex in NYC with a balcony, washer/dryer and a dishwasher. Redfin is a full-service real estate brokerage that uses modern technology to make clients smarter and faster. For more information about working with a Redfin real estate agent to buy or sell a home, visit our Why Redfin page.

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