One of the best things about movies is that anything is possible. The laws of physics, reality and common sense needn’t apply. Mind-reading mutants? No problem. Fighting giant bugs on another planet? You’re there.
If a film isn’t rooted in magic, it’s going to need physical things to make the movie work. Some of the devices and gadgets used in film have become the stuff of legend – and rightly so. They’re pretty damned cool. So with that, let’s celebrate them! This list is by no means in order of preference (because how can you rank true greatness?) but you’re going to see some universal favourites that fully embody on-screen awesomeness.
Aliens – Power Loader
Reimagining the forklift truck might seem like a boring undertaking, but when you scrap the wheels, add legs and turn it into something you can wear, things become very interesting. Put that contraption in space, add bloodthirsty nesting aliens and you’ve got the recipe for hero cake.
Ellen Ripley’s skills as a manual space labourer came in handy when the time arose to smash alien skulls in. The power loader was her weapon of choice – like a big, yellow Mjolnir. And nobody swings a forklift arm like Ripley.
The power loader scene has been parodied a million times and it still looks good today, proving that some suits never go out of fashion.
Star Trek – Warp Drive
JJ Abrams’s 2009 reboot of Star Trek did a lot of things well, including the gadgets. Transporters, phasers, communicators, computers – everything had a wow factor that made you wish the future would just hurry up and arrive already.
But the one tantalising piece of technology that never fails to capture our imagination is warp drive, because the (fake) science behind it is so mouth-wateringly believable, it almost feels like a crack team of science and engineering wizards could pull it off tomorrow. Well, maybe not tomorrow. But someday.
Warp drive is cool, because going really really REALLY fast is cool. But the implications would be universe-changing. Can you imagine? Day trips to Mars would be like a drive to the beach and instead of finding shells, you’d be digging for (possible) prehistoric microbes. And Alpha Centauri, Earth’s nearest star system, would be a mere day away. We can but dream…
Elysium – Med-Bay
Neill Blomkamp’s dystopian vision of our near-future in space gave us plenty of radical fictional technology to drool over. His fable of a binary social class system was far from subtle but it didn’t hold back on the cool factor.
As we watch Matt Damon act as the instigator of social justice, we also get to see him parade around in a powered exoskeleton, bolted to his bones. We see him travel on spaceships. We even see some mighty scary sci-fi weapons go off. Everything’s so sinister, but for one delight: a cure-all medical bed.
The Med-Bay may look like the Wi-Fi enabled tanning salon bed of tomorrow, but this machine does the opposite: it repairs the human body. Any part of it. No matter how hopelessly disease-ridden it is, or how much of your face has been blown off.
On that note, check out Kruger’s facial regeneration scene for the full gruesome (read AWESOME) effect.
Predator – Active Camouflage
Fear will drive a human being to the brink of psychological meltdown. When that fear is brought on by an alien trophy hunter looking to score some big game in the jungle, amplify that fear by a factor of ten. Make that alien invisible and… Okay, you get the point.
The “predator effect” as it became known still looks mind-blowing, even though the film came out in 1987. The active camouflage and heat vision of the otherworldly hunter made it a truly bad sport, picking off victims with ease. Until it met its match in everyone’s favourite Austrian beefcake.
Active camouflage is now a serious point of investigation for the military and could soon be a real thing. Let’s just hope we don’t have to beat down eight-foot-tall, crab-faced aliens to get it.
Batman: The Dark Knight – The Tumbler and Batpod
If your reaction to the Tumbler popping out a crime-fighting steampunk motorcycle was anything but “OH MY GOD”, there’s something wrong with you. It will go down in history as one of the most ridiculously cool moments of the Batman franchise.
It doesn’t just look cool – oh no. Keeping up with the substance-over-style theme of Nolan’s Batman, it’s loaded with machine guns and some stunningly evil towing winches that can trip over an articulated lorry. And that bit where it does the self-righting breakdance up the wall? STUPENDOUS.
As if motor bikes weren’t cool enough already.
Prometheus – Mapping Drone
Whatever you thought of Ridley Scott’s return to space, Prometheus did give the movie world some mad technology. Like an android (not like the cute little green one on your phone, but a big Michael Fassbender shaped one).
But while androids and spaceships are ten a penny in sci-fi, sometimes it takes a practical, problem-solving gadget to make you say “hey that’s pretty cool”. And the mapping drones used to explore the structure on the alien planet are about the most useful thing you could hope for in that situation.
The best bit is that this isn’t really science fiction any more. Since Prometheus first hit the big screen in 2012, consumer drones became widely available and by 2014, a team at Chiba University in Japan had cracked the autonomous mapping drone.
It’s not quite as cool as the ones in the film – but it’s a start!
The World Is Not Enough – Bagpipe Flamethrower
You can’t have expected this to go any other way; a Bond gadget was going to show up at some point – and this one is straight out of leftfield. And it’s so hopelessly ridiculous that it’s actually amazing.
Read it again. It’s probably the most beautiful pairing of words since “cellar door”.
Sure, Bond films have had “cooler” gadgets, more “iconic” gadgets. This one doesn’t even have any role in the film, other than being tested in Q’s lab. But we know enough about exploding pens and laser beam watches to last us a lifetime. We need bagpipe flamethrowers.
Seriously though, how many situations would this be useful in? Answers on a postcard (or you know, leave a comment).
Back to the Future – The Time Machine
The term “best film ever” gets bandied about too often, but there are times when you can say it and enough people will agree with you that you won’t get lynched. Back to the Future is probably one of the only films you could be audacious enough to put forward as a contender.
The universally loved sci-fi adventure went on to spawn two sequels that made us dream of hoverboards and the Old West. But the original will always be remembered as the best – from the moment we see Doc Brown’s creation come to life and shoot across the screen (at 88mph) in a flash of blue light and tyre track flames, we’re in love. If you’re going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?
The DeLorean had it all – good looks, time travelling ability, a fusion reactor, the ability of flight… It’s a superhero in its own right.
Ironman – The Suit
Everyone’s second favourite vigilante billionaire isn’t much without his flying suit of armour but he does have the brains to get himself out of every seemingly inescapable bind he finds himself in. Brains always win!
Still, that suit is where it’s at – I mean we’d all like a crack at the slightly duller, less explosion-filled moments of Tony Stark’s life, but that suit would make it all worthwhile. As long as you didn’t have to undergo radically experimental surgery to protect your heart with a glowing electromagnet.
Throughout the Marvel universe, the Ironman suits get more elaborate, with more appendages, more weapons and more autonomy. That freedom of flight looks like enough though doesn’t it?
Bonus – Gadget-Stuffed Movie Cars
We’ve featured some cars already, but damn, there are some seriously cool tech-loaded four-wheeled monsters on film. Cars in film deserve their own platform – and those with special features deserve even closer inspection.
So here’s an insight into your favourite gadget-filled, iconic movie cars. Want to take them apart to see what’s under the bodywork? Check out this interactive anatomy of some of the coolest cars from cinema and TV – pick your favourite, then use the slider to reveal the innards!
This piece was written by Andrew Russell of the CVM Group – Unfortunately, none of the featured cars are available to lease or on finance. But if you’re ever near their showroom, I’m sure they’d let you quote some classic lines in a car of your choice!