You’ve Got Gmail: How Today’s Technology Would Ruin These 11 Classic Films

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Photo Source: Stefano Buttafoco/Shutterstock

Gmail turns 20 this year, and with an estimated 1.2 billion users, it’s hard to imagine a world without it. But what if email, Facebook, or any of the other modern devices and applications we rely on had existed in classic movies? For starters, a simple text would rule out the “running to the airport/party/chapel to confess that I love you” trope. (See: “The Graduate” and “When Harry Met Sally.”)

It’s an important reminder that even though a project may feel enduring when you’re creating it, the time period in which your character is living can help you be more specific and thoughtful with your acting choices. Here’s how we imagine a few other films would be altered with today’s tech—with the caveat that these inventions will themselves look outdated before we know it.

“Psycho” loses its horror

Looking for somewhere to stay to get out of a rainstorm, Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane spies the Bates Motel. She quickly checks Tripadvisor, where she finds a one-star rating and reviews with titles like, “The guy at the front desk is super creepy,” “What’s up with the mother?” and “The showers are a NIGHTMARE!” She moves on to the next roadside spot. 

“Home Alone,” but not for long

Kevin McAllister wakes to find an empty house. Fumbles for his smartphone. Texts his mom: “Just woke up. Where is everybody?” Mom’s reply: “Kevin!” 

Scrolling the socials of “Citizen Kane”

Tasked with discovering the meaning of Charles Foster Kane’s dying word, reporter Jerry Thompson does a deep dive on Kane’s Facebook page, where he discovers a photo of the young media mogul holding his cherished sled, “Rosebud.” 

Think different, Leonard Shelby

An iPhone might not have altered the outcome of “Memento,” but it certainly would have made things tidier. Instead of self-administered tattoos, Polaroids of license plate numbers, and other clues, Guy Pearce’s amnesiac Shelby tracks his wife’s killer with the help of the phone’s camera and Reminders app. 

“The Warriors” get a ride home

Faced with a deadly trek from the Bronx to their home turf in Coney Island, Cleon, the leader of the Warriors street gang, swallows the cost of the 30-mile car fare and calls an Uber. Hey, at least it’s the middle of the night. No surge pricing. 

“The Blues Brothers” save a lot of time

Fulfilling the oath to pay the taxes on the Catholic orphanage that reared them, Jake and Elwood Blues set up a group chat on WhatsApp: “We’re getting the band back together.” After raising the money from their reunion gig at the Palace Hotel, Elwood hops on the Cook County Assessor’s website and clicks “Pay Your Bill.” There is no car chase, and hundreds of police cars are spared. Sadly, so are the Illinois Nazis.

“Soylent Green” goes viral

Charlton Heston’s Detective Robert Thorn makes a shocking discovery and tweets on X (formerly Twitter): “SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!!”

“Serendipity” hits so much faster

Jonathan and Sara spark while shopping at Bloomingdale’s and go to Serendipity 3 for frozen hot chocolate. After parting and returning to the restaurant, each to retrieve something they forgot, Jonathan coaxes Sara to give him her phone number, which he puts into his phone’s contacts. Two days later, he calls, and the two agree they’re meant to be together. Fin. 

Instagram illuminates “The Hangover” blackout

Phil, Stu, and Alan wake at Caesar’s Palace, uncertain of what happened the night before. They quickly pull out their phones. The dashes on Stu’s many Instagram stories are tiny. Is that Mike Tyson and a tiger? Who is Stu marrying? Who is this angry Chow guy? Suddenly, Phil gets a text: “Guys! I’m on the roof!” 

“Luke, your results are available”

Curious about his lineage, Luke Skywalker sends a DNA sample to 23andMe. The Skywalker tree reveals few surprises, but the detection of two previously unknown genetic relatives—Organa, Leia, and Vader, Darth—gives him pause.

The Sixth Sensitivity

Puzzled by his young patient’s revelation that he “sees dead people,” child psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) puts together his own sentient status when he pulls out his cell phone to make a call and can’t swipe. 

The real “Toy Story” gets caught on camera 

Checking the nanny cam, Andy’s mom makes the shocking discovery that the toys are autonomously moving throughout the house. Paranormal investigators and priests are summoned.