FilmOpinion

The Top Ten Time Traveling Films

James Canellos ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

When you get down to it, time travel makes no sense. You really can’t think too hard about it because then you’ll be frustrating yourself. That’s whats so great about these selected films, they include a complicated plot device yet, they still manage to attract viewers and always leave people asking themselves what time we would travel to. Time travel might not be every science-fiction fan’s cup of tea but it’s difficult to imagine the genre without this inventive and convoluted concept.

10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2003)

Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Ent.
Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Ent.
Time Traveled: 24 hours or so

In the darkest and arguably one of the best Harry Potter films time travel plays a crucial part to Harry’s third year at Hogwarts. At first glance you might be skeptical about whether this film deserves to be classified as a time travel adventure. The actual time leaps don’t occur till the second half of the film, but director Alfonso Cuarón manages to subtly hint at it throughout the first half just enough to qualify this film for the list. Not only does time travel effect the fates of more then one character but it adds to Harry’s development from the boy who lived to the man who will save everyone.

9. Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Rob Corddry and John Cusack in Hot Tub Time Machine. Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.
Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Rob Corddry and John Cusack in Hot Tub Time Machine. Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.
Time Traveled: 24 Years

There are certain rules you should follow when time traveling by accident, the most important one is trying your best not to alter the past. This film basically takes a dump on that rule after four friends get into a hot tub and travel back to 1986, when they were 19 years old and in their prime (or so they think). What makes this film so funny is how all of these characters misremembered how bad their lives really were at this age. Despite its “are you kidding me” title, this film goes through some really dark places about not succeeding and depression. But it’s never a downer as the character’s own selfish agendas lead them to intentionally make the future a better place for them.

8. Donnie Darko (2001)

Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko. Photo Credit: Newmarket Films.
Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko. Photo Credit: Newmarket Films.
Time Traveled: A few weeks

Before Jake Gyllenhaal was creeping everybody out in Nightcrawler he was the one being stalked by a six foot tall bunny named Frank. Gyllenhaal plays the titled sleep deprived teenager who avoids being crushed by a plane engine, however, is told by Frank that the world will come to an end within a month. Time traveling does play a major part in this film, but it would take much more then one paragraph to fully explain how so and would spoil too much. There’s so much to take from this bizarre cult favorite and despite the concept of time travel, this one especially will have you re-watching again and again. Like it’s angsty protagonist, you might lose some sleep just thinking about it.

7. Midnight In Paris (2011)

Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.
Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.
Time Traveled: About 90 Years

Time traveling doesn’t always have to be a grand race against time with action and mayhem. Woody Allen’s charming love letter to Paris and the roaring twenties is by far the most calm edition on this list. Owen Wilson is the Allen surrogate as Gil, a nostalgic screenplay writer trying to find inspiration for his new novel while in Paris with his fiancée’s family. Once the clock strikes midnight, Gil is transported to 1920s Paris and has hilarious interactions with the likes of Ernest Hemingway (the fantastic Corey Stoll), Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali, and more. It might not run as fast as these other films, but it’s a delicate little stroll through the desire we have to want to experience another time period.

6. The Time Machine (1960)

Yvette Mimieux and Rod Taylor in The Time Machine. Photo Credit: MGM.
Yvette Mimieux and Rod Taylor in The Time Machine. Photo Credit: MGM Studios.
Time Traveled: Thousands and thousands of years

The effects may be dated and it might be biting off more then it can chew, but George Pal’s adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel of the same title still has enough spark to it. This is also one of the first time traveling films ever made and has become a blueprint of inspiration for the rest of the films on this list. Wells wrote himself into the story as a Victorian era man who travels thousands years into the future and witnesses that humanity has been divided into two hostile species. While it may not hold up as well today, it’s worth seeing to marvel at the step forward it helped science fiction films make.

5. 12 Monkeys (1995)

Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt in Twelve Monkeys. Photo Credit: Universal Studios.
Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys. Photo Credit: Universal Studios.
Time Traveled: 45 Years, but it was supposed to be 39 years.

In the year 2035, a lethal virus has exterminated 99% of the human race leaving the remaining 1% to try to prevent this apocalypse from happening. After convict James Cole (Bruce Willis) volunteers to go back to 1996 and gather intel on what caused this event. However, Cole is accidentally sent to 1990 and must make do by gathering as much intel he can from mental patient Jeffrey (Brad Pitt) the son of a famous virus expert. While this plot borrows heavily from The Terminator it still has enough twists, turns and a mesmerizing performance from the Oscar nominated Pitt to keep anyone intrigued.

4. Looper (2012)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures.
Time Traveled: 30 Years

The most recent edition on this list is also one of the most dynamic. An exceptional Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a contract killer in the year 2044 who kills people sent from the future (the year 2074 to be exact). Joe’s inner demons have made him numb to killing anybody, until his future self (Bruce Willis- once again on this list) is sent back in time and gets away. Out of all the time traveling films it might have the most honest line about how annoying time travel even is: “I don’t want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we’re going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.” That line defines this movie, one that goes with the action and never tries to explain itself. The film overall sums up what time travel is: dangerous, confusing, but also a damn good time.

3. The Terminator and T2: Judgement Day (1984 & 1991)

Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator. Photo Credit: MGM Studios.
Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator. Photo Credit: MGM Studios.
Time Traveled: 45 Years

Before there was the reboot and the series there was the simple story of a man going back in time to prevent a robot from killing the mother of the future revolutionary leader. Well simple might not be the best word but still. James Cameron’s low budget tale still holds up as one of the most elaborate franchises ever made. It also made a star of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, making them the science fiction icons that they are today. While the first one was much darker and suspenseful, Cameron got all the resources he needed to make Judgement Day one of the best action blockbusters in modern films. Both films have delivered some of the best villains in film, both The Terminator (Schwarzenegger) and The T-1000 (Robert Patrick). Both are equally qualified as some of the best villains in film and are partially why this franchise is so beloved. Expect to see Schwarzenegger again in his signature role this summer in Terminator Genisys. After all, he said he would be back.

2. Groundhog Day (1993)

Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures.
Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures.
Time Traveled: 24 hours, over and over again.

While this film doesn’t dip its toes into the future or past, it does remain on the same pointless holiday every single day. On (you guessed it) Groundhog Day, sarcastic weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) and his news producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) cover the holiday’s festive Groundhog unveiling in Punxsutawney, PA. The next morning and the morning after that and the morning after that, Phil wakes up reliving the same day, having the same encounters, literally, yet he’s the only one who is aware of this. What’s so great about this film is how Murray reacts like how anyone else would and takes advantage of the schtick. This is up there as one of Murray’s best comedic performances. It’s a difficult task for any actor to repeat the same scene continuously, yet he does so with grace and offers some of the cleverest scenes in any comedic films.

1. Back To The Future (1985)

Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. Photo Credit: Universal Studios.
Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. Photo Credit: Universal Studios.
Time Traveled: 30 Years

In terms of time travel films and most films in general nothing is more fun or alive then Robert Zemeckis’ iconic blockbuster. The concept of time travel is balanced in a not too dark not too goofy fashion and along the way becomes one of the most referenced films of all time. Michael J. Fox became a household name for his performance as accidental time traveller Marty McFly. McFly uses Dr. Brown’s (Christopher Lloyd) time surfing DeLorean to (after hitting 88 miles per hour) travel back to 1955, and must save his own existence after interfering in his parent’s teenage lives. After thirty years this film still sets the standard for what time traveling should be and its sequel still has people expecting hoverboards to become a popular franchise before 2016. It also makes us grateful that Jaws 19 is not a thing.

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