Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Man Who Saw Tomorrow

Go To

The Man Who Saw Tomorrow is a 1981 Speculative Documentary about Nostradamus, in which we learn that he predicted everything accurately up to 1981, but then he started getting everything wrong for some reason. Either that or this film is guilty of the Sharpshooter Fallacy. It was hosted by Orson Welles, who would later disown it. It's based on a 1973 book of the same name.

The film starts off by recounting the life and times of Nostradamus, mixing in some bits of folklore about him. It then tells us about his supposed predictions of The French Revolution, The Napoleonic Wars, the abdication of Edward VIII, The American Revolution, the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, the two Kennedy assassinations, the Chappaquiddick incident, the Spanish Civil War, Louis Pasteur, hot air balloons, airplanes, space travel, submarines, Nazi Germany, The Holocaust, World War II, the Statue of Liberty, Nuclear Weapons, and the Iranian Revolution. And yes, this is the very non-chronological order in which they are covered by the film.


But you're here for the wacky "future" predictions, aren't you? Of course you are. For the 1980s, Nostradamus is said to predict horrible disasters like droughts, famines, earthquakes, and Ted Kennedy becoming president. The 1990s will see a Middle Eastern warlord launch World War III, which will last twenty-seven years and include the nuking of New York City. Ultimately, the United States and Soviet Union will join forces to defeat this warlord, ushering in a thousand years of peace. And then the world will end in the year 3797, although they leave open the possibility that humanity will survive by colonizing other worlds by then.

In 1991, NBC aired a shortened, reedited version of this film, with Charlton Heston replacing Welles as host. This version corrected or eliminated predictions that had turned out to be inaccurate by that time. It also suggested that the mysterious Middle Eastern warlord might be Saddam Hussein.



  • The Antichrist: Nostradamus predicted three antichrists to arrive in the future. The film identifies the first two as Napoléon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler. The third is a warlord who will launch World War III in the 1990s.
  • Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: In addition to the prophecies of Nostradamus, the film endorses the predictions of Jeane Dixon (most of which were fully or partly off too), and the conspiracy theories surrounding the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations.
  • Creator Provincialism: Turns out a surprising number of Nostradamus' predictions are about the Kennedy family. Because of course they are.
  • Failed Future Forecast:
    • Ted Kennedy will be elected president in 1984 (he didn't even run that year, after his failed bid in 1980).
    • A worldwide drought and famine in 1986.
    • An earthquake will strike San Francisco in May, 1988 (this would actually occur in October, 1989).
    • A worldwide deluge (at the same time as the worldwide drought?).
    • A Middle Eastern warlord will, in alliance with the Soviet Union, launch World War III by the year 1999. This will begin with a nuclear exchange in which New York City is destroyed. The war will last twenty-seven years and devastate the world. In the end, the warlord will be defeated by an unlikely U.S.-Soviet alliance, leading to a new era of peace that will last a thousand years.
    • As usual, the Soviet Union is assumed to still exist in the 1990s and beyond.
  • Grave Robbing: The film repeats an old myth about grave-robbers who dug up Nostradamus' remains, and found a skeleton wearing a plaque with the current date on it, meaning Nostradamus must have predicted the date on which his own grave would be robbed. Different versions of this myth disagree on what this date actually was. In the film's version, it's 1791, during the French Revolution.
  • The Great Flood: As mentioned above, Nostradamus predicts one.
  • The Ken Burns Effect: When they can't find appropriate stock footage.
  • Qurac: The scenes with the "future" Middle Eastern warlord have this vibe somewhat.
  • Stock Footage: Lots and lots of it. Most amusingly, some of the Napoleonic footage is taken from Waterloo, which Welles cameoed in.
  • Suggested by...: The Prophecies of Nostradamus, produced and directed by Paul Drane. That is, it was adapted from another Speculative Documentary because why not.
  • The War Room: The warlord has an impressive one.
  • Who Shot JFK?: Turns out Nostradamus says there was a shooter on the grassy knoll, so there!
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Welles muses about whether this is the case with regards to Nostradamus' predictions. He decides that it's not, which only raises the question of why none of Nostradamus' pre-1981 predictions were averted.