When I was younger, my summers felt like they lasted forever. But as an adult, days now seem to go by so quickly, except for maybe that last hour before the end of the workweek. I often imagine myself going back to my childhood years. But we can’t really go back, can we? I might not be able to do that in real life, but I certainly can in the movies. This got me to thinking, what are my favorite time travel movies. Here are my top five picks.
5 – Donnie Darko (2001) – I struggled to select my definitive fifth place movie. Movies like Timecop, 12 Monkeys, and Looper are all fine examples of time travel movies. But there is something about Donnie Darko that stands out. For one, the story suggests a supernatural cause for time travel instead of your typical scientific reason. And like The Time Traveler’s Wife, this movie is more about the time traveler and less about the time travelling.
4 – Groundhog Day (1993) – In my fourth pick, we find a brash weatherman who relives Groundhog Day over and over again. Through the course of the movie, we see Phil (played by Bill Murray) go from a pompous egotist to a decent citizen. Not your typical time travel movie, this film has the main character not going back and forth through time, but rather going back to the beginning of a single day (for decades) and still retaining all the knowledge and experiences he had in the previous jumps back. We get to see this Groundhog Effect years later take place in the movie Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise.
3 – Time Bandits (1981) – I remember first watching this film when I was sick. My mother let me lie down on the sofa with a bowl of soft rice. To this day, I still love soft rice whenever I’m ill. Anyways, this film was directed by Terry Gilliam, who will later go on to direct 12 Monkeys. This movie is the first of his “Trilogy of Imagination” films. It’s about an eleven-year old boy who loves history that joins forces with six “dwarves” to fight against the forces of Evil. I found this movie to be inventive and adventurous, and I would recommend it anyone, sick or healthy.
2 – Back to the Future (1985) – It’s amazing how a movie that is so identifiably an 80’s film could be so timey-wimey, time travel-tastic. Back to the Future is a funny tale about a teenager who goes back in time and meets his parents. Along the way, his interactions with people and events reshape his own history, potentially leading to his own existence being wiped from the timeline. This movie and its sequels truly show us the consequences of messing around with time travel.
1 – The Terminator (1984) – Now to my final pick. My Number 1 pick for time travel movie has to be The Terminator. This film is about a cyborg assassin, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is sent back in time to kill the future mother of The Resistance played by Linda Hamilton. This science fiction film does a fantastic job of keeping time travel contained and believable, even despite having a killer time paradox involving Sarah Connor’s protector Kyle. Honestly, I feel if it were not for the later sequels (namely those after the T2), this film would be a shining example of how time paradoxes should be handled in cinema. Why do I like this movie though? Well, when I first saw it, I was visiting my dad at work. He was an air traffic controller at a private airport. After a while, I got bored so I was allowed to go down to the pilot’s lounge and watch any of the VHS tapes that had been available. I really didn’t know what I was watching at the time, but I certainly knew I liked it.
Time travel is a very popular plot device. When done well, it can lead to fantastic adventures and complex storylines. When overdone or done with little thought though, it’s a complete disaster more catastrophic that a rip in the space-time continuum. I’ve outline my top five choices for time travel films. Did you have a different movie in mind? I’m they were in my top 10. Let me know what your favorites are and we can discuss them.