Seven of the Best Futuristic Sports in Sci-Fi Movies
Scified2024-03-15 08:40:07
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One of the attractions of the sci-fi genre is that writers and directors can populate their future universes with aspects of everyday life. The main plot may be about the fight for independence from a galactic overlord – but the background characters need to be seen as normal but in a futuristic way. Many sci-fi movies have decided to use sports to help show that.

It could be said that we are already incorporating a lot of sci-fi ideas into our major league sports, with the kinds of technology that are used these days. But we are more interested in how writers think sports will change in the future.

It is rare to see that football, basketball, or baseball is still a thing in movies set in the future. But there is usually some kind of adaptation and evolution of the basic ideas of sports that we know today. Worryingly, it does seem as though many sic-fi movies see sports of the future involving much more violence and fight-to-the-death rules!

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

The Mad Max franchise had already proved to be a huge hit by the time the third movie came along in 1985. It was also a big enough thing to be able to attract the talents of Tina Turner, who was enjoying a massive career revival of her own at around that time.

In this film, the people of Bartertown would settle disagreements in the titular Thunderdome in a battle to the death. Bungee chords were attached to the competitors, who could use them to access the weapons stationed around the dome. We did say that sports does look like getting more violent in the future!


Maybe we should be worried that sci-fi films typically see a future where governments have been replaced by corporations that look to placate the population with attention-diverting bloodsports. Whatever that says about our future, that is basically what the makers of Rollerball foresaw in 1975.

James Caan is the star of the show, who begins to question the sport of Rollerball in which two teams of five on rollerskates and motorbikes aim to score points by placing a steel ball into the opponent’s net. Obviously, this being a sci-fi sport, they also have to avoid being maimed or killed during the violent games.

Tron: Legacy

Anyone who is old enough to remember the original Tron from the 1980s will know how ahead of its time the movie was in terms of not quite being able to produce the look needed for such a grand idea. Tron: Legacy, on the other hand, came out in 2010 and was able to exploit technological advances.

The film follows our hero entering the game to search for his missing father. But what we are really interested in is the two main sports that exist there. Disc wars was a little so-so but light racing is simply iconic. Competitors would race light bikes on a grid with the aim of getting the opponent to crash into the trail left behind.

Real Steel

In this 2011 movie, set in 2020, humans have been relegated to the sidelines, with robots the stars of the show. This may have predicted the current move to make sports safer but replacing the threat to humans with deadly fighting robots is probably not what the NFL has in mind.

In Real Steel, Hugh Jackman stars as a trainer of fighting robots who looks to turn an underdog droid into a champion. He is the one controlling the robot but finds that his journey helps him learn to be a real father to his son. Father-son relationships and fighting robots – what’s not to like?

Starship Troopers

Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 sci-fi actioner was received poorly at the time of its release thanks to the audience generally not understanding that it was supposed to be a satire and getting turned off by the fascist themes as a result. Later reappraisals tended to see the film in a different light.

The main action of the movie was troopers attempting to kill giant spiders with powerful futuristic weaponry. But those troopers were initially trained with the help of Jump Ball. This futuristic sport was a mixture of basketball, football, and gymnastics and was very physical.

Alita: Battle Angel

Manga has always been a fertile breeding ground for dystopian futures and 2019’s Alita: Battle Angel featured a sport much like Rollerball – but this time called Motorball. This sport could afford to be much more violent than today’s sports though, as it was designed for cyborgs.

Body part replacements were a major reason for the acceptance of the violence, as cyborgs raced around a track looking to score points. The titular hero plays her way through the leagues until she reaches the top tier – and the chance to win her a new home in a dream destination.

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace

Many Star Wars fans would rather forget the first new batch of movies that came out in the late 1990s. Thanks to some questionable graphics and CGI, as well as some frankly poor storytelling, the prequels received their fair share of criticism for ruining a much-loved franchise.

But, whatever your personal views on Episode 1, there is the introduction of podracing to enjoy. Essentially just a futuristic spin on motor racing, podracing was much quicker and far more dangerous. The fact that a child Anakin Skywalker seemed to be the best in the business makes it all the better.


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