Published on January 12th, 2010 | by Darren Byrne13
Darren’s Top 5 Time Travel Movies
Despite what the song may say, time is not on my side. Time is a harsh teacher – the test comes first, the lessons later. Time brings aging, mistakes and regret. But what if you could go back? What if you had the chance to change things, to correct the mistakes and make things better? Would you do it? Could you do it?
Thankfully, we have Hollywood to help us answer these questions for us. The movies take the what-ifs and play them out on the big screen. Here’s my Top Five Time Travel Movies.
5. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
“Cassandra in Greek legend, you recall, was condemned to know the future but to be disbelieved when she foretold it.”
With a brilliant cast that includes Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis and Madeleine Stowe, this Terry Gilliam movie is a futuristic thriller. In Twelve Monkeys, Willis plays James Cole, a seemingly deranged prisoner sent back in time to find out the exact cause a plague that destroys most of humanity and makes the earth’s surface uninhabitable. As the jabbering madman Jeffrey Goines, Brad Pitt has an intense deviousness that is responsible for unnerving the viewer and creating the film’s central mystery. Gilliam keeps the audience guessing and that’s one of the film’s strengths: we’re never really sure we know what we’re seeing. Suspenseful and darkly brooding, Twelve Monkeys is well worth watching three or four times to truly appreciate it.
4. Primer (2004)
“Are you hungry? I haven’t eaten since later this afternoon.”
A former mathematician and engineer, Shane Carruth is responsible for the scientifically plausible and exceptionally credible Primer. The movie explores the exploits of two scientists who build a device that allows them to travel back in time to for financial gain. Primer portrays time travel in the realistic sense — it using actual science instead of fantasy as the vehicle for travel. The dialogue is dense and at times may leave the viewer confused (it certainly hurt my brain on the first two viewings). If you can figure out the premise, you’ll appreciate how big budget blockbusters are not the only means of entertainment in today’s movie scene. Shockingly, Primer was made on a budget of only $7,000.
3. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Abraham Lincoln: “Fourscore and seven minutes ago… we, your forefathers, were brought forth upon a most excellent adventure conceived by our new friends, Bill and Ted. These two great gentlemen are dedicated to a proposition which was true in my time, just as it’s true today. Be excellent to each other. And… PARTY ON, DUDES!”
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure provides an entertaining history lesson filled with comedy and memorable characters. Starring Alex Winter and more notably Keanu Reeves. George Carlin plays their guid, Rufus, who provides them with their time travel vehicle: the phone boot (Doctor..ahem..Who??). The duo go back to retrieve actual historical figures to bring them to the present time in order to complete their history project. Ultimately, they save the world. 🙂 Sophisticated? No! Entertaining? Hell yes!
2. The Terminator (1984)
“Are you saying it’s from the future?”
James Cameron’s Terminator is one of the tightest, most tense sci-fi films ever made and a landmark in the genre. In the year 2029, battles rage between the machines and the last of humanity. In late-20th-century LA, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) suddenly finds herself stalked by an unstoppable killing machine – a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sent from the future to kill her and her unconceived son, John Connor, the future leader of the human resistance. Sarah can rely only on Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a soldier sent from the future to protect her from the seemingly indestructible Terminator and save humanity. This relatively low-budget masterpiece was the breakthrough film for director Cameron and began a vicious time line that just might kill your brain. Although, if you can get your head around it, maybe you could click here for the Primer timeline. Mwahahah!
1. Back to the Future (1985)
“Wait a minute, Doc. Ah… Are you telling me that you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?”
Every so often there comes along a movie that is so good that it defines its genre. If you were a child of the 1980s you grew up with Back to the Future. You can quote the lines and identify with the characters. As the movie starts we learn that the McFly family’s youngest son Marty (Michael J. Fox) is the rebel of the clan and his friendship with the odd, eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) forms the core of the story. Marty travels back back to 1955 and and helps his parents during their teen years in order to save his own present (without erasing his existence in the process). Doc’s time travelling Delorean is so famous it has become synonymous with time travel.
Those are my selection but I’d love to hear what you think. Are you annoyed I left out Time Bandits? Should Army of Darkness be on the list?
I do have a few honourable mentions to add: Though not a time travel movie, Pleasantville does an incredible job of capturing era displacement. 🙂 It’s a beautiful movie. Similarly, Groundhog Day isn’t strictly time travel but it does play with the concept. It’s an awesome film and if you pay attention to Culch.ie over the next week or so, you’ll be hearing a lot more about it.