Sometimes, props are just as memorable as the characters who use them.
Not all movies are full of cool doohickeys and whatzits that come take on their own life in pop culture, but the pieces of speculative technology that strike a chord are often remembered just as much, if not more than, the plots of the films and characters who use them. This video from Burger Fiction, a supercut of their picks for the 100 Greatest Movie Gadgets of All Time, features some iconic—and some more relatively obscure—items that don't actually exist, but have a real place in pop culture. See if you agree with their picks, and check out some of our favorites, below.
The Power Loader from Aliens (1986)
It should surprise no one with a passing acquaintance with the past 30 odd years of Hollywood movies that James Cameron has had quite an influence on the aesthetics of sci-fi. There's something about Cameron's films, their universes, and the contraptions therein that captures the imagination, and goes down to the most granular details. Case in point: the Power Loader, the director's vision for the "future forklift" from the second movie in the Alien franchise, Aliens. The setpiece was apparently a massive headache to fabricate, and Cameron has been quoted as saying, "All the effects guys were starting to think, 'Oh my god this actually sort of works just enough that he's going to make us do this.' And I did, I made them do it." Which, knowing what we know about James Cameron's obsessive attention to detail, isn't surprising.
The PASIV Dream Machine Device from Inception
Gadgets tend to feature heavily in, not surprisingly, films that take place in worlds slightly different from our own. In the case of Christopher Nolan's mind-bender of a dream within a dream, the gadget on the list isn't even a tertiary object, it's the thing that drives the plot, being the PASSIV machine that actually allows the heroes to jump into people's dreams to commit their acts of corporate espionage (which isn't technically heroic, but you know, Leo had his reasons, and also he had that spinning top, which didn't make the list.) Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, PASIV is an acronym, in this case for Portable Automated Somnacin IntraVenous Device, and you probably weren't wondering, but Nolan did a LOT of research for this movie, which featured a surprising amount of practical, non-digital effects (and tons of VFX, too.)
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ictEMQ8sBvY&ab_channel=PopCulturePandora
The Hoverboard from Back to the Future II
Because, well, what the Maltese Falcon is to classic movie props, the Hoverboard is to a generation of young kids who were convinced that these were real, and being kept secret by the forces of adults who were totally and completely no fun, which is true, because vegetables and sleep. Today, there are real hoverboards, but I for one am not blown away by these things, though if you put out a new watch and called it a time machine, I probably wouldn't get on board with that, either.
Check out this long article from io9 about the making of the famous sequence, which was seriously way more dramatic than you would think, and also do let us know whether or not you agree with the list in the video, and what you would have added (or left off). Now if you'll excuse me, I'm due in a dream where I'm skateboarding on air toward an interstellar outpost to battle aliens with Sigourney Weaver. OK, my dreams are actually more like David Lynch b-roll, but that is a matter for me and my diary, thank you very much.