Over the decades, the sci-fi genre has featured many different gadgets in both film and television. The fantastical nature of sci-fi allows unrestricted storytellers to let their imaginations run wild. As a result, sci-fi gadgets include weapons, tools, and devices that audiences would love to own for themselves.
It can be difficult determining which sci-fi tech is better than the other. All gadgets are useful in some way, but there are other factors when determining how great something is. Inventions have to stand out in a genre that is constantly producing countless interesting ideas for new and exciting gadgets.
Updated January 9th by Isaac Williams: Since its inception as a genre, science fiction has been full of cool gadgets. Its mixture of the possible and impossible presents fantastical and unique inventions that viewers want to own. This list has been updated with even more of the best gadgets on screen in science fiction.
20/20 The Rocketeer’s Jetpack Has A Long Sci-Fi History
Jetpacks and rocket belts have been a staple of science fiction since serials like Flash Gordon. The jetpack craze in sci-fi led to the real-world development of jetpacks that have appeared in spy movies like James Bond’s Thunderball.
Disney’s adaptation of The Rocketeer hit theaters in 1991. It followed a stunt pilot after he found a stolen experimental jetpack created by Howard Hughes. He fashioned a helmet to better pilot in the air and to hide his identity. The Rocketeer continued science fiction’s ongoing fascination with jetpacks, but it was far from the only example of the technology.
19/20 KITT Was An Artificial Intelligence Inside A Pontiac Firebird
The classic Knight Rider TV series starred David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight. He was a former detective turned crimefighter with an advanced car named KITT as his partner. The 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am featured advanced artificial intelligence and added booby traps and weaponry.
KITT was an acronym that stood for Knight Industries Two Thousand. The car had a personality and it could learn and communicate with Michael Knight. The pair were a fantastic crime-fighting duo and made fans everywhere dream of having their own sentient vehicle.
18/20 The Proton Pack Is Limited But Very Cool
The proton pack was the Ghostbusters‘ iconic weapon. It shot a stream of protons that could grab ghosts to capture them. On anything other than a ghost, it was of limited use. It could cause sparks and damage, and it could throw the wielder back. However, it was far from a useful weapon.
None of this stopped the proton pack from being iconic. The proton pack was a key part of the striking Ghostbusters ensemble. Its backpack-based design was clunky, but looked impressive. It was also a notable work of engineering, considering the group had invented them on their own with limited resources.
17/20 The Web-Shooters Are A Useful Gadget For Travel And Crime-Fighting
The first live-action version of Spider-Man introduced the concept of organic web-shooters for the wall-crawling hero. However, later versions explored the character’s technological prowess with the introduction of mechanical web-shooters. One of Spider-Man’s best gadgets is the advanced wrist-worn web-shooters he used in his crime-fighting career.
Andrew Garfield’s version of the character from The Amazing Spider-Man franchise used tensile cable created by Oscorp for the web-shooters. Tom Holland’s version in the MCU created his own webbing formula, like his comic counterpart. The web-shooters are easy to conceal and are both offensive and defensive weapons as well as a quick-transport system.
16/20 The Haptic Bodysuit Allowed Users To Experience The Virtual Oasis
Ready Player One
The 2018 adaptation of Ready Player One introduced the virtual world of Oasis. Users could work, play, and live in virtual reality thanks to advancements in technology that were heavily consumerized. The OASIS required gloves and a visor headset, but an advanced sci-fi gadget known as the X1 Haptic Bodysuit enhanced the experience.
The X1 Haptic Bodysuit was a synaptic conductor that mimicked the feelings experienced by the user’s online avatar. The gadget made both battle scenes and intimate moments feel incredibly real to all the players involved. VR is already pushing boundaries with gaming. The Haptic Bodysuit could make gaming even more immersive and fun.
Reboot was a CG animated series set inside a computer in the city of Mainframe. The Super Computer sent a Network Guardian named Bob to protect the system. A powerful key tool named Glitch bonded with its user and contained several powerful weapons and devices.
Glitch was capable of many functions. It could communicate at long range and was capable of energy protection to deal with tears in the network. However, it could also form into other objects as needed. This made it a highly sought-after device in the Reboot world, and it would be in the real world as well.
14/20 Mr. Fusion Could Fix Fuel & Waste Problems
Back to the Future
The DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future is one of the best inventions in sci-fi history. The flux capacitor was initially one of the most interesting additions to the vehicle that allowed it to travel through time. However, Part II introduced a new gadget that replaced the flux capacitor’s need for plutonium as a power source.
The Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor combusted organic waste and garbage to generate cold fusion. This powered the time-traveling flux capacitor and hover capabilities, but not the classic gas-powered vehicle. Mr. Fusion would solve serious energy and waste problems if scientists developed it in the real world.
13/20 The What-If Machine Could Explore Hypothetical Scenarios
Set in the year 3000, Futurama followed the crew of a galactic delivery service. Professor Farnsworth used Futurama‘s Planet Express crew to fund used his experiments. He created several interesting sci-fi gadgets during the long-running animated series that included the imaginative What-If Machine.
“Anthology of Interest I & II” explored several hypothetical scenarios given to Professor Farnsworth’s What-If Machine. These included a 500-ft tall Bender as well as a look at Fry’s life if he had never been frozen in the past. Most people have some alternate scenario, realistic or fantastical, that they’d love to explore in safety and the What-If-Machine could grant them the answers they seek.
12/20 The Tricorders Could Scan Environments & Diagnose Illnesses
The iconic Star Trek franchise has introduced several high-tech gadgets and inventions over the years. Some have even inspired real-world technology. These gadgets include the diagnostic device known as the tricorder. There were both medical and engineering variants, along with standard-issue scanning devices.
Star Trek‘s engineering tricorder could scan equipment and environments, analyzing the data. The medical versions were capable of scanning biological physiology and instantly providing data and diagnoses. Tricorders could, at minimum, revolutionize medicine. They’d also be hugely influential in engineering, geology, and other fields.
11/20 The Sonic Gun Was Non-Lethal But Powerful
Set in 2054, Minority Report was a thriller that took place in a dystopian future. Pre-Crime officers were charged with arresting murderers before they could act. They are able to operate with advanced knowledge of the future thanks to psychics known as “precogs.” Since preventing murder is a priority, the sci-fi thriller featured an advanced weapon designed to avoid killing, called the sonic gun.
The sonic gun was similar to a taser gun. It fired a sonic pulse toward the target, which sent them flying back. Featuring a flashy reload, it also affected objects near the target. Although the sonic gun was non-lethal, it was still a very useful weapon in Minority Report.
10/20 The Portal Gun Allows Rick And Morty To Travel Across The Multiverse
Rick and Morty
In the Rick and Morty animated series, traveling is rarely done by typical means. Created by Rick Sanchez, the portal gun allowed the mad genius and his grandson to travel to different realities, universes, and dimensions. It resembled a handheld vacuum cleaner and used a dial to open green portals to the next destination.
Beyond travel, the portal gun had many features. These include interfacing with computers, storing location history, and a self-destruct option. It could also transport hazardous objects or cut targets in half with its portals. The portal gun is so useful that Rick and Morty sometimes took it away from the characters to challenge them.
9/20 Everyone Wanted The Hoverboard
Back to the Future Part II
Back to the Future is the gold standard of time travel movies. In Back to the Future Part II’s future timeline of 2015, hover technology was real and used to power recreational devices. While fleeing from bullies, Marty McFly borrowed a child’s hoverboard for a faster escape. The now-iconic pink Mattel hoverboard featured a detachable handlebar and a foot strap.
Like a skateboard, the hoverboard required momentum and a solid surface to function. When over water, the hoverboard maintained its hover but gradually stopped moving. Luckily, Mattel wasn’t the only manufacturer of the gadget. Bully Griff Tannen owned a faster Pit Bull model powerful enough to move over water and haul additional hoverboards.
8/20 The Neuralyzer Can Erase Memories
Men in Black
The Neuralyzer was a silver cylinder-shaped handheld used by Men in Black agents. The Neuralyzer erased the memories of people who had witnessed alien activity. The process of agents putting on their sunglasses and flashing the Neuralyzer in witnesses’ faces quickly became iconic.
The gadget was both effective and entertaining. It had significant power to change a human mind, but was also used for plenty of humor throughout the Men in Black franchise. There would be no ethical way to use it in real life. That hasn’t stopped many fans from wanting one. It could be used for great evil, or just to make people forget embarrassing incidents.
7/20 The Point-Of-View Gun Was Deadly In The Wrong Hands
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy showed sci-fi weapons don’t always have to cause physical harm. The point-of-view gun caused the target to see things from the shooter’s perspective. The supercomputer Deep Thought designed the weapon at the request of the Intergalactic Consortium of Angry Housewives to end quarrels with their husbands.
The gun didn’t work on women because they allegedly already had high empathy. The point-of-view gun is one of the strangest weapons in sci-fi. Nonetheless, it’s doubtlessly effective. Marvin the Paranoid Android was able to use one to stop an entire army of Vogons in their tracks.
Most superheroes have some sort of power or supernatural ability. Not so the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Iron Man. Tony Stark held his own with some of the most powerful beings in the world off of the strength of his own engineering. His signature armor was an engineering marvel of unparalleled coolness.
The Iron Man armor was iconic in comic books for decades before 2008’s Iron Man. Immediately, the armor became one of the MCU’s most iconic items and the dream of every sci-fi fan. It could fulfill any number of functions. It was a militarized exoskeleton. At the same time, Iron Man’s armor could fly, repair machinery, respond to remote commands, and play music.
5/20 The Voight-Kampff Machine Could Detect Replicants
The different versions of Blade Runner addressed the popular sci-fi theme of examining humanity with the Voight-Kampff test. The test featured a series of emotionally provoking questions. A machine then gauged bodily reactions to see if individuals were human or replicants. Blade Runners, or replicant bounty hunters, were in charge of conducting the test.
Replicants were synthetic beings comprised entirely of organic matter. They were virtually identical to humans, but had superior physical and mental abilities. They had full human consciousness, but lacked the maturity and emotional responses that came from experience. The Voight-Kampff test was an iconic piece of science-fiction storytelling.
4/20 The PASIV Device Allowed Users To Share Dreams
In 2010’s Inception, advanced tech allowed users to create and access dreams at will. Stored in a steel briefcase, the PASIV (Portable Automated Somnacin IntraVenous) Device allowed people to share one dream. It administered the Somnacin drug in a group’s bodies via IV lines. This drug allowed for lucid dreaming and dream sharing.
The PASIV device was originally used by the military to simulate realistic but harmless training scenarios. Its purpose changed once it was in the hands of civilians, who explored dream-sharing for entertainment and financial gain. Extractors could even steal valuable information from dreams. In rare cases, the device was also used for implanting ideas into a target’s unsuspecting mind.
3/20 The Replicator Could Create Almost Anything
Star Trek: The Next Generation
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, replicators were devices used to create and recycle matter aboard ships. Users simply said what they desired, and the replicator produced it within seconds. With several exceptions, replicators could create any inanimate matter, as long as the necessary data was on file.
In earlier series, Star Trek‘s replicators went by different names and could only synthesize food. It wasn’t until the 24th century that they could produce non-food items. Their importance is critical on a ship since they free up space and reduce supply trips. Even with their limitations, Replicators all but ended scarcity in the Star Trek universe.
In the iconic sci-fi series Doctor Who, one of the staples among the various Doctors is the sonic screwdriver. It originated from Gallifrey and used powerful miniaturized alien technology to aid the Doctor in whatever way it could. This ranged from unlocking a door to relaying complicated information. Its design changed along with every Doctor’s signature outfit.
The sonic screwdriver had an important role throughout Doctor Who. It symbolized the difference between the Doctor and other sci-fi heroes. It wasn’t a weapon. Instead, it was a very versatile tool. The sonic screwdriver was the answer to a great many problems, and only sometimes in a way that felt contrived.
1/20 Lightsabers Are A Weapon From A More Civilized Age
The lightsaber became a cultural icon immediately upon its debut in Star Wars. It was a laser sword used by the Jedi and Sith in their battles across the galaxy. Only three were seen in A New Hope. More appeared in later films until the Prequel Trilogy began showing hundreds of Jedi with their own lightsabers.
Star Wars was responsible for one of the most iconic and beloved weapons in sci-fi history. It had all the cool properties of a sword, while being undeniably futuristic. Lightsaber fights were the highlight and climactic scene of most Star Wars movies. To this day, Star Wars’ lightsabers remain some of the most prominent symbols of sci-fi in the public eye.
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