Almost 30 years after Marty McFly wore Nike sneakers with self-tying “power” laces in Back to the Future 2, Nike launched a real version of the iconic pair on November 28th, 2015. Since the advent of film, motion pictures have been at the front of innovation. Also in 2015, Lexus released a real life hoverboard based again on Marty McFly’s board in the first Back to the Future film directed by Robert Zemeckis. Check their video out here:

It’s interesting that Lexus was the company to first produce this innovation. The video opens with a quote from Haruhiko Tanahashi, Lexus’ chief engineer:

“There is no such thing as impossible, its just a matter of figuring out how” 

This aptly explains Lexus’ reasoning in creating the hoverboard: to redefine the impossible. How is this possible? In brief, the board uses liquid nitrogen and strong magnets to keep it afloat. Granted there are some limitations to the boards maneuverability, they still did create a board that floats with absolutely no contact to the ground, a feat in itself. What brought about these incredible feats of innovation?

Both of these recent inventions were inspired by a single film series: “Back to the Future”. Not only has film pushed technologies in the visual arts, but also (and more significantly) the fields of electrical sciences, computer engineering, as well as mechanical and Industrial Engineering. In a sense, film directors envision a new scientific advancement, portray it in film using CGI and visual effects, people (and scientists) see it and want to make fiction reality. More so than literature, film, being fully audio and visual, has to present such scientific advancements in a realistic matter so that it physically works on screen and viewers accept the “new reality” as actual. This is a key part to how film pushes the technological envelope—because it can’t just look good on paper, but it has to actually, visually look good and believable.


Star Wars, arguably the greatest modern mythological series of our time, has of course inspired an array of scientists. One scientist who is known for turning movie props into real life, Allen Pan, took what he saw in the films and built his own lightsaber—see here:

Albeit the small beam of flaming light isn’t comparable to what we see in the films, its still a step in a positive direction. As we see in the video, the flaming light can cut through paper and light it on fire. Can It cut through metal or flesh? Probably not. This isn’t the only thing that Allen Pan has created—in 2015 he also created a real life replica of Thor’s hammer as seen in the movies. Using super magnets, the hammer can only be “unmagnatized” when the right finger print touches the handle.

Often times these new tech advances appear on Facebook or Twitter in the form of Buzzfeed videos—too some degree this patronizes the creator’s work, by trading its credibility for mass exposition. However, its engagement by millennials is fascinating. Film has a very indirect yet powerful way of shaping how we think by placing ideas into our mind that cause us to ask, “is this possible?”.

As a “millennial” I feel I have some insight into the minds of my own generation. Millennials seem to be interested in this topic for a multitude of reasons, one of them being: people in my generation are very attentive to culture. This is due to how mainstream culture has become through the increased usage of smart phones—and more specifically apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Millennials also enjoy visual data much more than printed—more and more people would rather watch a brief video (like a video on Allen Pan’s “Thor’s Hammer”) than read an article on the same topic.

Besides this, millennials, unlike their parent “baby boomers” are more used to seeing fantasy become reality. Were our parents dreamed of things, we are doing those things. In other words, the great ideas that the boomers came up with, we took a step further with the help of scientific advances. All of this is made possible through the medium of film—since its advent in the 1890’s (even without sound) movies alongside technology has not only shaped what we create, but has also changed the very nature of culture. When asked how film shapes culture, Joe Harrington, a student in his sophomore year at Wheaton College, said,

“I think film changes how we perceive life—in a macro sense as well as micro. It changes the fundamental ways in which we view our own life and others— we see life through the lenses of the films that we enjoy so that we can emulate them to whatever degree in our own life.”

This is so true, especially in regards to what we deem possible and impossible. The years change, the movies change, and even the methods we use to produce these films change, and yet what doesn’t seem to change is the effect that these films have upon humanity. Film continues to stretch our minds—to put to question those things we deem impossible.