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Top Five Time Travel Movies

  • Jul 28, 2010
I haven't made a list on here yet and I just read an article on about the dangers of time travel, so this was what was on my mind. And a warning, this list is riddled with spoilers, none of the movies on here are less than 10 years old so most people have probably seen them, but just a warning each one pretty much has a full synopsis as well as mentions of their sequels. Enjoy.
12 Monkeys
Steam punk time travel
12 Monkeys is not only my favorite time traveling movie, but one of my favorite movies in general. It has a solid, fun and smart story, solid acting and a great feel to it. James Cole (Willis) is a prisoner in the future where everyone lives in some sort of underground steam punk bunker after a virus killed 5 billion people in 1996 driving humanity below. It's not made clear what kind of government there is left, if any, but Cole is confronted by a group of scientists who have developed a way to travel through time to go back to 1996 to stop the virus in exchange for a full pardon and hero's welcome. He agrees only the machine doesn't work. He is sent to 1990 where he is disoriented from the journey and winds up in a mental hospital where he runs into a crazy guy names Jeffrey Goines (Pitt). He is swept back to the future after being locked in an isolation cell and reprimanded for having drugs in his system from the institution and for not finding anything out. They give him a second chance though and send him back again. This time things are wrought with coinsurance. He finds out one of his doctors from the previous journey is giving a speech about pandemic viruses as well as a phenomena that is directly related to other time travelers running into people in the past. He also discovers that Goines is out of the crazy house as well and it turns out his father runs a biological research company and has started soem sort of group called the Army of the 12 Monkeys, which is who the scientists from the future think are responsible for the outbreak. The rest of the movie spent with Cole trying to convince his doctor he is from the future and needs to stop Goines. He tracks Goines down and finds out that the Army of the 12 Monkeys was in fact just a bunch of stupid kids who freed a bunch of zoo animals and graffiti tagged their logo all over the place and that the real culprit was was on the researchers at Goines' dad's company. Cole fails to stop this guy himself, but the scientists are informed of the true source of the virus and if you pay attention to the last couple of scenes, they take the necessary action to stop him. This was such a great movie, Terry Gilliam is a brilliant film maker who is very adept at keeping you IN the movie and throwing in the twists and turns in an effective manner. The movie is a bit off-beat but if it weren't for this I seriously doubt Pitt and Willis would have landed some of their quirkier roles down the road, like Tyler Durden or Corben Dallas. One of those movies everyone should see to witness what a real film is.
See the full review, "A muct see for all sci-fi fans, or just fans of good film".
The Terminator
The Termitator.... need I say more?
Well before James Cameron was making movies about giant smurfs he sent a body building cyborg back in time to kill Sarah Connor. In the year 2029 a war between the humans and the machines (Skynet) rages on. Led by the series' messiah, John Connor; the humans hand a crippling blow to Skynet insuring their victory. The machine's solution, of course, is to send a robot that looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger back to 1984 to kill Connor's mother, Sarah Connor, before he is born. Connor responds by sending Cpl Hicks back to the same time to protect her. After they show up in the past you get to see Arnold's gizmo, then after he gets clothes alot of badassery happens, like Arnold systematically hunting down and assassinating every Sarah Connor in the Los Angeles phone book, running a car through a police station and Kyle Reese teaching Sarah Connor how to make pipe bombs and then impregnating her. That's right.... John Connor's best bud goes back in time, bones his mom and conceives him. Sounds creepy, but not as creepy as going on a date with your mom and having her get drunk and hitting on you -- that's right, McFly, I'm talking to you -- and it's actually something I like about the series. The mechanics of time traveling in the Terminator universe for the most part revolve around the idea that the time may incur variances and changes in minor things like names and dates, but it will preserve itself as a whole. Yeah, in Terminator they stop the machine and all is well, but two bigger things happened. Sarah Connor became pregnant with John in the middle of being shown a taste of what is to come for man kind and she makes it her life's mission to instil a sense of survival and leadership in her son. AND key components of the machine are left behind to be discovered, researched and reversed engineered by the company that in the future forms a government contract to build the missile defense system, Skynet. Throughout the series and various directors that principal has carried on, in T2 they destroy the previously mentioned components and convince the guy writing Skynet's AI to delete everything and stop his work (he also gets killed), in T3, T4 and the Sarah Connor Chronicles it turns out that both sides have carried the war into the past in attempts to assassinate and protect key members of the human leadership other than John Connor while they are still just civilians. And with all the fighting and destruction and attempts to (in sense of those fighting the war) change the present by altering the past every thing pretty much plays out the way it should. Skynet DOES go online and attempt to wipe out humans in an eerily beautiful nuclear holocaust in T3 and as shown across the whole series, while John does become leader of the resistance, there will always be someone there to protect him and make sure he fulfills his destiny as well. While the last two were kind of S-Bombs as a whole they are pretty good, but The Terminator really set off the 80s action movie genre as well as Schwarzenegger's acting career. T2 was also a great flick and was one of the 1st movies to effectively use extensive computer graphics but the first one really set the whole thing off and really was the best of the series.
See the full review, "I'll Be Back".
DVD set front
Time travalling DeLorean
You can't have this list WITHOUT Back to the Future. I loved these movies because they were fun and light-hearted and didn't have such a bleak outlook on everything like most sci-fi of the time did and on top of that they were smart. People like to bitch an whine about paradoxes and "what would really happen" but really when you come down to it, nobody has time traveled so nobody can do anything but speculate what it would be like. And in this movie you can tell that alot of thought was put into how the time line works in the BTTF universe and it remained consistent for the most part throughout the trilogy. I also liked how in addition to the main plot points and story lines there where alot of subtle things throughout the movies that showed just by hopping around through time you change things even if you seemingly do nothing. If you pay attention you will notice the very 1st thing Marty does upon entering the past is knock down a tree on a farm resulting in the mall near his house changing it's name when he returns to his own time at the end. Not to mention almost banging his mom, messing up his parents' teenage courtship, turning his town into a casino, and introducing the names Clint Eastwood and Calvin Klein to the masses before any one had ever heard of them. Oh also Chuck Berry stole his own music from a time-traveling kid thanks to the time traveling kid playing his music before it came out but coincidentally at the same dance as Chuck Berry's cousin. Fun fun fun. But really these are great movies and the segments in the future and the wild west were wonderful.
Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home
Time Travelling Green Movement...
I'll admit I liked a good number of the Star Trek movies as a whole and have seen enough of the shows to know what's going on, and I know that their writers have used time traveling alot throughout the franchise. I think I chose this one because it was a good movie on it's own, it was a good Star Trek movie with out being too Star Treck-y. It wasn't loaded with dialogue only the nerds get and really with the exception of the beginning and end wasn't even too science-fictiony. Pretty much what happens is the crew return home in a stolen alien ship only to find an alien entity has traveled from God knows depths of space to Earth because it wanted to know why all the whales had died and in it's journeys leaves a path of destruction and when it gets to Earth starts sucking up the Earth's oceans and wreaking havoc on the weather. The crew determines the signal it is sending sounds like humpback whales which have been extinct for a while so they decide to do the ole whip around the sun trick to go back in time to San Francisco of the 1980s... which is convenient because that is when the movie was made. Needles to say there is some good comedic moments dealing with the foibles of future people interacting with the temporal locals, there is nothing but disregard for their actions on the time line, such as the part where they give a formula for a then non-existent alloy to a plexiglass company, land an invisible space ship in the middle of Golden Gate Park and abduct not only two whales from that time, but also allow a person from the 20th century to come back with them. They then return to their time, let the whales talk to the space entity and all is well in the galaxy until the next movie. All in all a fun flick to watch and it conveys its environmentalist message without being too preachy. The other two movies: First Contact and Star Trek also had time traveling and were good action/sci-fi movies but by then it was like... oh time traveling; again.
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
On the surface this seems like a dumb movie -- which it probably is to most -- but I loved it growing up and it still holds true seeing it and it's sequel as an adult. They are both fun, a little cheesy, and original. I mean, who else has people time traveling in a phone booth! Pros - Has the late great George Carlin, Keanu Reeves before anyone cared who he was or thought he could act and the second one has William Sadler as one of the best portrayals of the Grim Reaper I have seen on screen. It also has a nice cameo from Primus. I also liked the lackadaisical attitude it takes on time travel. For example, the whole reason they are given the time machine is to pass a history report to keep them together and stop an alternate future where their crappy music heralds a new era of universal peace... however it's okay to borrow a handful of the most iconic figure in the history of mankind for a high school project without disrupting things as well as using not the physical time machine, but just the idea of it as a plot device like when they discuss stealing some keys and hiding them only to have them magically show up after discussing it without them actually ever following through with their conversation later. Cons - Their music was SOOOOOO lame. Other than that if you take it for what it is, it is a very fun couple of movies to watch and a nice departure from some of the bleaker time travel movies.
See the full review, "EXCELLENT!!!!! *air guitar*".

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August 11, 2013
Update for Looper?
August 02, 2010
Did one of these lists myself only with a few more movies and a lot less description. I'm a sucker for lists. I've got about 60 of them so far. They're so much fun to do, and i REALLY ENJOY READING EVERYONE ELSES TOO.
July 29, 2010
ssswweeettt list!!!
August 02, 2010
July 29, 2010
I'm surprised that none of the "Planet of the Apes" films or "Donnie Darko" made it on to this list. It is however a great list. I particularly love 1-3. Did you ever see the film "Time After Time"? It's an underrated little time travel film, but I highly recommend it if you're interested in the subject, which you appear to be.
July 29, 2010
Well this is really more of a my favorite ones than if I went through my mind and thought what were the most popular or best executed or whatever and I personally can't stand either of the Gyllenhaals with the exception of maybe Secretary and Dark Knight and didn't think Donnie Darko was much better than like Butterfly Effect. Also as for Planet of the Apes go, I thought it was decent but I'm not a huge fan of 60/70s sci-fi and tend to stick more to my generation.
July 29, 2010
Great list. I never thought of a list like this and I have seen all these movies. 12 Monkey's doesn't get the love it should.
July 29, 2010
Yeah, well I couldn't think of a good list idea then I saw an article that slammed time travel in BTTF and I thought I would make somewhat of the opposite because until someone time travels (and proves it) it's all just speculation and even Futurama proved that in a paradox free situation the individual still determines what happens and that when you get down to it it's all just fun. And just think if Terry Gilliam got the recognition (and budgets) that other similar film makers such as Kubric, Nolan & del Torro have received. He could do alot, although his trademark steam punk feel seems to work in his flicks.
July 28, 2010
EXCELLENT! Ha, this brings me back! Fantastic list, Alan. Your list descriptions are so in depth that you could post them as reviews in and of themselves! Thanks for sharing :)
July 29, 2010
Thanks, I might do that. Maybe it will get me some more badges lol.
July 29, 2010
Oh, I just noticed you did! Awesome! And yes, badges ahoy. Maybe the the community Founder, @woopak_the_thrill, can even make a time travel badge! ;)
July 28, 2010
Great list! Hot Tub Time Machine didn't crack the top 5? I am shocked! ;-)
July 28, 2010
Ha ha yeah right. It had it's moments though.
Lists Inspired by This List
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created a list. July 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Back to the Future: The Complete Trilogy The Terminator Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home The Time Traveler's Wife (movie) Peggy Sue Got Married
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Alan Saastad ()
Ranked #73
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