JARVIS (Iron Man)
An acronym for Just A Rather Very Intelligent System, JARVIS is Tony Stark’s long-suffering AI butler – tidying up after his messes and helping him assemble new versions of the Iron Man armour. In the comics, Tony has to make do with a mere human manservant, Edwin Jarvis. For the film, Tony's upgraded to an artificial intelligence blessed with the plummy tones of Paul Bettany – who recorded his lines without having any idea he was playing a machine.
Exosuit (District 9, 2009)
What's better than a mecha? A mecha with a gravity gun. Likely inspired by the gravity gun of the Half Life series, the gravity gun attached to this alien combat suit in District 9 packs a mighty punch, flinging nearby objects and debris towards foes at bone crushing velocities. So naturally, our hero Wikus uses it to weaponise a pig. Was there nothing more suitable to chuck at his assailants?
Motion controls (Minority Report, 2002)
When Minority Report burst onto cinema screens back in 2002, the gesture controls used by Tom Cruise’s pre-crime agent seemed impossibly futuristic – and yet less than 10 years later the Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect had made them a reality (albeit one slightly less accurate and impressive). With tech like Leap Motion coming to our computers, it's only a matter of time before we’re sifting through huge amounts of data using little more than our mitts.
Hoverboard (Back to the Future Part II, 1989)
We all wanted a Hoverboard as soon as we laid eyes on them – and the producers of Back to the Future Part II didn't help matters by claiming that the fictional gadget from the year 2015 was real. With non-functional replicas of the Hoverboard and Marty McFly's Nike Air Mag trainers on the market, we've got two years left to perfect the technology. Get a move on!
Bat-Shark Repellent Spray (Batman: The Movie, 1966)
Possibly the most fondly-remembered Batman gadget from the Adam West era, this spray saved the Caped Crusader from an unexpected Great White assault; the fact that it just happened to be in the Batcopter at the time is a perfect example of the self-aware absurdities of the 1960s Batman – something much missed in the why-so-serious age of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight.
Nokia 8110 (The Matrix, 1999)
Okay, it may not be the most impressive gadget on this list, with a feature set including, er, SMS and five hours of talk time. But when Neo activated its spring-loaded cover, everyone suddenly needed a phone that snapped open with a ca-chik! sound. Unfortunately, this wasn't it – the spring-loaded mechanism was added to the 8110 by the props department, and eager buyers had to wait until the release of the Nokia 7110 before they could mimic Keanu Reeves.
Three seashells (Demolition Man, 1993)
Sly Stallone's cryogenically-preserved cop may have to tangle with Wesley Snipes' psychopathic criminal in this sci-fi action comedy – but first he has to learn to cope with life in the year 2032. Specifically, how to use the three seashells that have replaced loo roll in the toilets of the future.
If you're still puzzling over the mechanics all these years later, Stallone himself answered the question in an interview with Ain't it Cool News: "The way it was explained to me by the writer is you hold two seashells like chopsticks, pull gently and scrape what’s left with the third. You asked for it…"
Mapping drones (Prometheus, 2012)
Who needs GPS? Just chuck one of these handy little drones in the air and it'll use lasers to plot a map of your location. Mind you, they didn't do explorers Fifield and Millburn much good – the hapless pair still managed to get lost, despite being in constant radio contact with the Prometheus and having a map.
Jet pack (The Rocketeer, 1991)
Designed by Howard Hughes himself, this Art Deco engineering marvel is perfect for dodging the rush-hour traffic, battling Nazis and retrieving cats from trees. You might want to invest in a pair of flame-retardant trousers, though.
Make-up gun (The Fifth Element, 1997)
Luc Besson's future world is packed with handy gadgets, from the microwave that conjures up a full roast chicken from a pill to the multipass ("muuuuuultipass"). But none is more convenient or time-saving than the (Chanel-branded!) make-up gun, which zaps Milla Jovovich's Leeloo with full warpaint in half a second flat.
For fashion-forward gadgeteers, the film also features a device that applies fingernail polish in an instant – which you can actually buy in the real world, in the form of the Tat'z Nail'z fingernail printer.
Magnetic watch (Live and Let Die, 1973)
James Bond’s Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner couldn’t just be a normal watch, could it? Q Branch fitted this timepiece with a fast-spinning bezel (able to cut through ropes and cable with ease), as well as a powerful magnet. Roger Moore’s 007, in typical style, eschewed the magnet’s intended use as a bullet-deflector to instead unzip a lady’s dress hands-free. Oh James…
Transporter (Star Trek, 2009)
The crew of the USS Enterprise has used the transporter in almost every version of Star Trek – it was orignally a work-around to avoid having to shoot expensive landing sequences with model shuttlecraft every time the Enterprise crew visited a planet. For the 2009 cinematic reboot, the venerable transporter effect was given a CGI spit and polish. Interestingly, the famous phrase "Beam me up, Scotty" was never uttered in the original Star Trek TV show or films.
More after the break...
Neuralizer (Men in Black, 1997)
The standard issue MIB Neuralizer looks like someone crammed HAL into an oversized metal cigar. But it's definitely not for smoking. Agents use the neuraliser to replace the memories of alien witnesses with safe cover-ups. Also useful for forgetting movie spoilers leaked by annoying friends.
PASIV dream machine (Inception, 2010)
We're not entirely sure how the Portable Automated Somnacin IntraVenous Device works in detail, but it's used in Inception to upload a dream scenario into users' minds using a drug called somacin, with a countdown timer to help kick people out of their dream worlds. That shared dream of a raid on a mountain stronghold looks like much more fun than a Call of Duty deathmatch…
Power Loader (Aliens, 1986)
The Power Loader is essentially a wearable forklift truck used for moving heavy crates and large weapons. When it's not wearing its work hat, its hydraulic claws come in handy for ripping alien queens in half. Useful, eh?
Hand phone (Total Recall, 2012)
Smartphones are getting thinner every year – eventually they'll vanish altogether. That's the vision of the future depicted in the recent Total Recall remake, in which a character makes a call using a phone that's built into his hand. Plus the device can turn any glass surface into a screen, just by placing your hand on it. Take note, mobile phone manufacturers.
Sticky gloves (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, 2011)
Tom Cruise impressed us with his climbing skills in Mission: Impossible 2, so for the fourth film in the series, he upped the ante by scaling the world's tallest building, the Burj Dubai. To cling on to the building's glass frontage, he used these clever mitts that convert electrical charge into stickiness. Although they do fail on his way up – so as with all gadgets, battery life is an issue.
Lightsaber (Star Wars, 1977)
One of the most famous, and desirable, of gadgets – a sword made of pure light. The infamous sound of the swooshing laser blade was created by audio effects guru Ben Burtt, combining the hum of a projector with interference between a microphone and a TV set. Our love for the lightsaber only increased when Star Wars Episode I revealed that its heat could cut through a thick metal door – making it ideal for cutting bread and making toast at the same time.
Replicator (Star Trek: Nemesis, 2002)
3D printing is on the right track, but the replicator – first seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation – is the ultimate goal. It can produce literally anything from pure energy, making it the cornerstone of Gene Roddenberry's post-scarcity society. When we finally crack this invention it’ll be the end of shopping as we know it. No more trudging round supermarkets? We can’t wait.
Oil slick shoes (The Goonies, 1985)
Many a super spy had cars that could spray an oil slick to deter pursuers. Goonies gadgeteer Data managed to cram that kit into his trainers. Now, if we could just combine this tech with Back to the Future Part II's auto-lacing shoes…
Point of View Gun (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 2005)
These days, anyone with a tablet and a Wikipedia bookmark has access to the eponymous guide. So we've plumped for the yet-to-be-invented Point of View Gun (created by Douglas Adams especially for the movie), which persuades whoever's in the crosshairs to see things from your point of view. Like most guns, we’d have thought.
Smart contact lenses (I-Spy, 2002)
You might think Google’s Project Glass is cool, but wait until you have a mic and camera embedded in your eyeball. Yes, I-Spy is one of the worst films ever made, but there’s no denying that smart contact lenses are a real-life possibility – and one we’d queue up to get our eyes on.
Time remote control (Click, 2006)
You’d bet a dollar pretty near the bottom of your pile the producers of Click wished they had a time-travelling remote control to fast-forward through the panned release of this sci-fi comedy car crash. Perhaps they’d hit the rewind button and get some decent writers on board, rather than grabbing a hackneyed plot-by-numbers for this underwritten celluloid donkey.
X-ray glasses (The World Is Not Enough, 1999)
They might look like the sort of specs worn by a Florida retiree, but when Pierce Brosnan’s Bond donned these X-ray specs he could see who was packing a gun. Naturally, being James Bond, he immediately hit on the possibility of being able to see through women’s clothes. Pay attention, 007.
Grappling Gun (Batman, 1989)
Batman doesn’t really go in for guns – unless they discharge magnetic grappling lines that’ll hold 350lbs of Bruce and his Batgear. That’s why he keeps this nifty gas-powered steampunk shooter tucked into the back of his pants.