It’s one of the oldest cinematic devices. It’s been used in comedies, dramas, science fiction, and even romance movies. I’m talking about time-travel. It’s been twenty-five years (this month!) since Bill and Ted hopped in that phone booth and rounded up history’s most famous folks for a class assignment, so I decided to round-up my own famous folks for this list. In honor of Marty McFly and the rest, I give you what I think are the best (and my favorite) time travel movies. In no particular order as usual. Enjoy!
- Planet of the Apes (1968) – By far one of the greatest “twist” endings in movie history happens in this Heston classic. Heston (who eats every scene he is in) travels to a distant planet only to discover it is inhabited by apes. Apes who walk and talk and have british accents. By the end of the film we discover along with The Hest, that he hasn’t travelled through space, but through time. Oh, and do yourself a favor and skip the horrible 2001 remake.
- Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) – The only film on my list where you just aren’t sure if anyone has actually time-travelled. And that’s why I love this movie so much. It’s time-travel done the “Quirky Indie” way. Aubrey Plaza (Indie’s IT girl) stars as a young woman who answers an ad asking for a partner in (you guessed it) time travel. Is the guy crazy, or has he really found a way to travel through time? You tell me.
- Midnight in Paris (2011) – By far one of the best films Woody Allen has made in the last twenty years. It stars Owen Wilson as
Woody Allena screenwriter who takes a trip to Paris with his horrible fiancé and her family. While he is there he stumbles into 1920’s Paris and meets all the literary Who’s Who of the famed Expat community. A fantastic movie that reminds us how often we romanticize the past. And how much I miss living in Europe.
- Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) – Francis Ford Coppola directed this comedy starring none other than Nic Cage. It’s really hard for me to make a list and not include him somehow. And he sings in this movie, which of course makes me even happier. Anyway, the film centers around Kathleen Turner, (the title character) a forty-something housewife who is dissatisfied with her life and her no good husband. She wakes up one morning to find herself as a teenager, living at home with mom and dad. How would you deal with dating the man who you know later in life you would come to divorce? Jim Carey and Joan Allen also have small roles. Great, funny film worth checking out again.
- Somewhere in Time (1980) – Christopher Reeve time travels again, but this time he isn’t a super hero. It’s simple. He falls in love with a picture of Jane Seymour and travels back in time to woo her. Self hypnosis is amazing.
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) – I struggled with which Star Trek movie to use since the two that deal with time travel are the best, and I went with the first. Sure, it’s a little cheesy, but that’s what I like about it. Seeing the Enterprise crew walking the streets of a mid-eighties San Francisco is just too much fun. They are trying to save the humpback whale from extinction (naturally) and wear really awesome “future” clothes while doing it. Look to Spock for some quippy one liners.
- Time Bandits (1981) – I saw this movie in the theater when it came out. I was seven and I didn’t understand much. Years later in Prague I re-watched the movie and realized I understood it fine. It was just a Terry Gilliam movie. It’s absurd, funny, raunchy, over the top, and everything you might expect from a Gilliam film. Not for everyone, but it sure is weird. And I like weird.
- Twelve Monkeys (1995) – And while we’re talking about Terry Gilliam time-travel movies, I might as well add this one. It stars Bruce Willis as a convict who is sent back in time to find out how the virus that has devastated the earth got started. Brad Pitt steals every scene he is in as the (maybe) crazy inmate Jeffery.
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – Special effects. Explosions. Time-traveling. Motorcycle riding. Badass babe. A cyborg made from liquid metal. What’s not to enjoy here?
- Back to the Future (1985) – Duh. I’d have to slap myself silly if this classic didn’t appear on the list. The all time best time travel movie ever. Hands down. End of discussion.
Honorable Mentions: Star Trek: First Contact, Time After Time, Groundhog Day, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure