common trope found in any stories told in future
settings, a Video Phone
(Sometimes also referred to as a VidPhone
) is a telecommunications device that functions exactly like a telephone but distinctly comes with a video screen which allows for the individuals on both ends of the call to see each other.
In some depictions, such a device may make use of an ordinary telephone receiver in order to speak to and hear the person on the other end, but most often characters usually just talk to the screen.
Like Flying Cars
, Ray Guns
, and, of course, Jet Packs
, this is one of the most frequently observed tropes in depictions of The Future
and originally popularized in the Raygun Gothic
era of Science Fiction
, but where most of these ubiquitous genre tropes remain absent from our reality
, the Video Phone
is one that has been made possible and is slowly becoming more commercially available around the world (although it's not very likely to ever see as much prevalent usage in our world as it does in fiction).
Being a dream invention in the telecommunication industry for decades, Video Phones
in future settings occasionally allow for Product Placement
spots for companies that have invested in creating such technologies.
Compare: Comm Links
, for another Sci-Fi phone equivalent. See Also: Cell Phone
, Pay Phone
, and Phone Booth
for more contemporary uses.
Note: Given this trope's increased existence in Real Life, please refrain from listing work examples that use existing technologies in Present Day settings. If a work example of a Video Phone is based on an existing consumer product, please only list the product as a Real Life example if it's not listed there already.
Anime and Manga
- These showed up almost everywhere in early seasons of Pokémon.
- Cowboy Bebop's in-universe equivalent to the cell phone uses video feeds on both ends of a call.
- Commonplace in Judge Dredd and its Spin-Off stories where they're frequently called VidPhones. Models vary, sometimes having mic stands, ordinary phone receivers, or no visible microphones or speakers at all.
- Veronica of the future once got one installed, only to switch back to normal phones because her friends called while she was doing face masks or when she'd just gotten up.
- The Blake and Mortimer adventure "The Time Trap" depicts a dystopian far future in which communication takes place via camera-equipped wrist phones, for those who can afford them anyway.
- Back to the Future Part II, The Future McFly household's video phone is connected to the television set. Personal information about the individual on the other end of the line is scrolled through on screen, including name, age, occupation, home address, spouse, children, and assorted hobbies and preferences. Video calling is also sponsored by AT&T.
- Johnny Mnemonic opens with the main character making a call on a video phone that also doubles as a television and an alarm clock, all of which can be operated by remote control. Another such phone shows up in the back of a future taxi cab, and the Street Preacher has one hidden in his Bible (or whatever Holy Book equivalent he has). Video phone screens are also branded with AT&T's company logo, AT&T having tried to develop such technology since the 1960's.
- In Blade Runner, Deckard has a vidphone in his car, which he uses to call Sebastian's residence, only for his call to be answered by Pris.
- Featured in Until The End Of The World. Video payphones also take credit cards.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey featured a videophone in a phone booth, in a rotating space station.
- In Starship Troopers, Johnny Rico is talking to his parents in Buenos Aires via Video Phone when the Bug asteroid hits the city.
- A video phone appears in the 1929 silent movie High Treason.
- Austin Powers has one in his car. Very helpful for Basil Exposition to talk to him.
- Ro-Man in Robot Monster uses a video linkup to communicate with Great Guidance on the planet Ro-Man.
- These are used in Total Recall a lot. In the movie, talking to someone on Mars was as easy as phoning them up on Earth. In fact, Cohaagen (when on Mars) uses his vid phone to call Richter (on Earth) without any technical difficulties.
- Used in Aliens, for instance right after Ripley's nightmare at the beginning.
- They appear in Demolition Man. John Spartan gets a wrong number from a topless chick.
- The Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle The 6th Day interestingly showcased a video phone call with an automated machine... for 911 Emergencies.
- Seen in Metropolis which, made in 1927, is a likely candidate for being the Ur Example.
- Pee-wee Herman had a video phone on Pee-wee's Playhouse that came with an ordinary phone receiver used to speak to and hear the person he was seeing on the other end of the line.
- In The Star Wars Holiday Special, Chewbacca's family uses one of these hidden in some kind of dresser to contact the other characters associated with the Rebel Alliance--Luke and R2-D2, Leia and C-3PO, etc.--to ask about Chewie and Han Solo's whereabouts. In a separate instance, Chewie's wife, Mala, contacts Art Carney with a device that doubles as a television which Carney's character refers to as a "wall screen."
- Max Headroom featured many video phone conversations.
- In Knight Rider, KITT was equipped with one.
- Made sporadic appearances in the second season of War of the Worlds.
- The Outer Limits episode "The Duplicate Man" had video phones with rotary dials.
- Warehouse 13 has a very Steam Punk version.
- Dick Tracy has a "2-Way Wrist TV" that carries the same function and used to communicate with police headquarters.
- One Dilbert strip involves Dilbert being the first person in the city to own a videophone. He then sits next to the phone, waiting for someone else to buy one so he can call them.
- Alan Ayckbourn's sci-fi play Henceforward features a video phone, though it's never answered; people just leave messages.
- Half-Life 2 features several Video Phone calls, notably between Alyx and her father. Extra points for touching the screen to emphasize the separation.
- One episode of The Simpsons taking place in the future, "Lisa's Wedding," showcased a conversation between Lisa and Marge using a "picture phone." Marge kept forgetting that Lisa could see her over the phone, and her body language made it more obvious to tell when she was lying.
- Frequently seen in The Jetsons, fitting the show's Raygun Gothic aesthetic.
- In C.O.P.S., videophones are the norm to the point that even public phone booths have screens; they are, after all, fighting crime in a future time. And yes, cell phones pretty much don't exist.
- Apple's iPhone allows for two people with the phone to engage face-to-face calls, incorporating both the device's camera and speaker phone capabilities, when both operators are connected to Wi-Fi.
- Cisco Systems has produced several telecommunication devices which make long-distance face-to-face conversations possible that the company has notably been showcasing in an ongoing advertisement campaign with Ellen Page.
- Skype allows users to make voice calls over the Internet, and users with web cams can send a video feed with their calls.
Needs More Examples
, Rolling Updates
, Seen It a Million Times
, Do We Have This