12 Years Ago, Eerily Accurate Sci-Fi Movie Predicted Our Future… by Mistake

12 Years Ago, Eerily Accurate Sci-Fi Movie Predicted Our Future… by Mistake
Image credit: Flamingo films.

No one could have expected a virus to take over the world, or could they?


  • Years before the COVID-19 pandemic, this movie told its story.
  • Many events in the movie actually happened in the pandemic 8 years later.
  • The largely unknown flick has gained attention for its prediction of the future.

Mass graves, empty landscapes, masked medics, and an overwhelming sense of fear and emptiness. The scenes from this trailer could easily be mistaken for found footage from the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. However, despite mirroring the pandemic, these scenes have nothing to do with it, as they are all part of a Peruvian dystopian drama that debuted in 2012.

4 years ago, we had the pandemic, and 8 years before that, we had a movie about it

The Cleaner (El limpiador) was the first film written and directed by Adrian Saba, with the intention of telling a heartwarming story against a backdrop of death and devastation. Saba's The Cleaner was inspired by the events of the 2009 swine flu crisis and a documentary he had seen about crime scene cleaners.

Set in Lima, Peru, The Cleaner begins by following Eusebio, a stern and lonely man who works as a professional cleaner, as he is tasked with cleaning up the crime scenes and victims of a rapidly spreading respiratory disease. The morbid premise sets the stage for a compelling story of companionship and humanity, as Eusebio meets a young boy orphaned by the pandemic. The two find solace in each other at a time when the world seems to be dying.

There have been many films after the pandemic, but what about before?

The post-Covid era has seen an influx of pandemic-related stories, from plot additions to our favorite shows to entire movies. At first glance, The Cleaner could easily fit into the growing list of Covid-inspired content, but what sets it apart is the fact that it came out not only before all the other movies, but before the virus itself.

Before the events of 2020, there were several other movies about viruses taking over the world, such as World War Z, I Am Legend, Contagion, and Quarantine - all of which depict a world ravaged by disease, but none come close to this. Without the terror, action and gore, The Cleaner pulled us into a terrifying (and realistic) pandemic.

The masks, the isolation, the fear. A virus that attacks the respiratory system. The Cleaner is a disturbing parallel to the events of Covid-19, but no one watching the movie at the time knew it was an inadvertent prediction of a looming future.

Where to watch it?

The Cleaner has remained under our radar for many years, whether because it is not an English film, or because it was made by an unknown director, or because many people prefer action or comedy films to more somber titles.

The movie went unnoticed until people began to realize how closely it mirrored the real-life pandemic.

Ironically, many fans and critics commented on the film's lack of originality. The story of a grumpy old man who befriends and finds meaning in caring for a young orphaned boy, along with the backdrop of a natural disaster, has been done before. In 2012, fans were quick to comment on the lack of fear they felt from the white hazmat suits and lifeless apocalyptic atmosphere. How different their views would be today.

You can watch The Cleaner on Prime Video and Tubi.