Our time travel will be pretty mundane – Sunday marks the start (or is it the end, I can never remember) of Daylight Savings Time. So we’ll all, most of us from the comfort of our own beds, travel one hour back in time. Time travel is way better than a snooze button.
At any rate, our upcoming journey back in time brings to mind what an exciting cinematic concept time travel can be. Whether it’s Christopher Reeve freaking out physics – he did it twice, in Superman: The Movie and Somewhere in Time – or Van Damme serving and protecting in Time Cop, the ability to alter settings and plot devices has proven heady stuff to generations of filmmakers. Here are a few of the better examples.
BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985): Marty McFly went back and forth numerous times over the course of the three Back to the Future films, but never as successfully as during his first adventure. Of course, this movie, or either of the two sequels, explains how Marty’s rather oblivious parents never noticed how closely their son resembled the mysterious Calvin Klein. It doesn’t really matter. This one is a stone cold summer movie classic.
THE TERMINATOR (1984): Produced on a microscopic budget and featuring a cast of then relatively untested talent, this science fiction story about a robotic assassin from the future made a star if an Austrian immigrant who would one day become California’s governor. Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t the only one to benefit. Director James Cameron went from being a B-List talent to the director that could, and would, make some of the biggest budget epics in Hollywood history.
12 MONKEYS (1995): A cerebral thriller about stopping the end of the world, Monkeys stars action hero Bruce Willis and an unhinged Brad Pitt as society’s unlikely – and perhaps not completely successful – saviors. It’s a complex movie that blends complicated plotting and a distinctive visual style in a successful way.
GROUNDHOG DAY (1993): Playing the idea of living a single day over and over (and over and over and over) again for laughs, this Bill Murray vehicle follows a dissatisfied TV weatherman through a cold February day that seemingly has gotten stuck in some sort of cosmic loop. The reason for the repeating day is never actually explained, but it’s fun watching Murray struggle with confusion, anger and despondency before eventually working out amusing ways to rig the game. It’s a comedy classic worthy of watching over and over (and over and over and over) again.
THE TIME MACHINE (1960): Most contemporary time-travel fiction – be it feature films, television or literature – owes a considerable debt to author H.G. Wells. This adaptation of his famous work concerning the technicalities of Victorian time travel is the best known, but the vaguely connected Time After Time (1979) is also worthy of investigation. Both concern the famous author piloting his literary invention across time, with very different results.