When anyone mentions time travel movies, I perk up. I love ’em. Even the bad ones. (I’m looking at you, Time Rider and The Time Machine…) Having said that, it’s really difficult for me to limit this list to only three. But I’m biting the bullet. And, I think, they are all weird ones… not ones you’d expect to see on a Top # list of these kinds of movies.
Since you can’t really have a list like this without mentioning GREAT flicks like Bill & Ted’s, or Back to the Future, or that one Star Trek where they go back in time to save whales — there, I just mentioned them. But then there are also the cult classics like Donnie Darko and Primer — which are both absolutely fantastic films, and would be on this list if it were a longer list.
One of the problems I have with some of the more high-profile films is that, although entertaining, for the money put into them there are just some unacceptible mistakes. Take Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Love it. Watch it often. The DVD is actually sitting on my player right now because I watch it so often. But, if you remember it, can anyone tell me who introduces Rufus to our heroes?
Or, in Back to the Future III, where is Doc’s Delorean in 1885? 1985-Doc got zapped back to 1885 by that lightning strike in 1955. There, hid his Delorean in the cave that Marty then has to blast out with 1955-Doc’s help. Marty then uses THAT Delorean to go back to 1885 to save Doc.
So… where’s Doc’s Delorean? Why aren’t they using the parts (and maybe even the fuel) from that one?
See? One of the things I love about time travel movies is that you have to think. No matter how light-hearted these movies are, time travel is never an easily explained or executed thing. And there’s all these RULES that go with it.
But, that’s also why Primer isn’t in the Top 3. Great a movie as it is — and it is — you are damn near dropped into an advanced math/physics class. You literally have to go to the internet, look up “the chart,” and then go RE-watch the movie again (at least once) to even come close to fully understanding the plot. Which is awesome, if not a little cumbersome.
These Top 3 aren’t in any particular order, since I love them all for their own unique reasons. And, as always, I ecourage you to go check them out!
Or Twelve Monkeys. 1995 film directed by Terrmy Gilliam. Featuring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer, and David Morse. Based on the French short film La Jetée. What I love about it is how the timeline — or perception of the timeline — changes over the course of the plot, to finally culminate in the timeline being solidified. I also love how no one is going into that past to change anything in order to save their present.
It also doesn’t get too technical on how time travel works. You see some machines, and a scientist explains some things to Willis’ character. But other than that, all the mechanics are just part of the background plot.
The Butterfly Effect
2004 film written and directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber. It stars Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart, and has a ton of supporting actors you’d know. The plot (and title) have to do with the butterfly effect hypothesis, which states that tiny causes can lead to massive effects. What I like about the film is how the plot approaches this idea, and how the character has to deal with it all. The story is stressful and suspense-driven.
The time travel is mental, so there isn’t any need for tech bells & whistles. You understand how and why the protagonist time travels… and it’s awesome.
Somewhere In Time
1980 film directed by Jeannot Szwarc. The film stars Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Plummer (twice on this list!). This movie is an adaptation of the 1975 novel Bid Time Return, by Richard Matheson. Matheson also wrote the screenplay for the film. This is probably the most influential time travel movie in my life — based off of when I saw it. The plot is also not based around some vast epic reason for the time travel. No race to save humanity. No self-puzzle to solve. Nope… dude just had the hots for a girl in a picture.
Like The Butterfly Effect, but much simpler, the time travel dynamic here is strictly psychological. So, no flashy trons or high mathematics.
There are so many awesome time travel movies out there. And I can’t, off the top of my head, think of one that just simply isn’t entertaining — even if it is low-budget and/or campy. The list of good time travel movies also covers animation feature films like The Light Years, which — aside from being fantastic — ALSO stars Christopher Plummer. (Dude’s into time travel flicks, too, I guess.)
So, here’s the short list. Track ’em down and start watching!
Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.