Time travel has been a staple of fiction for over two thousand years, gaining more popularity from the 19th century with classics like The Time Machine from H. G. Wells.
TV and movies are where many people experience the miracle of travel travel and recent big screen examples include Hot Tub Time Machine and The Time Traveller’s Wife.
But what are the five best big screen time travel movies so far..
5. The Final Countdown (1980, United Artists)
What would you do if you had the chance to go back in time and stop a disaster from happening? Would you change history to save thousands of lives? That’s what the captain and crew of the USS Nimitz must decide in this 1980 science fiction movie.
Starring Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen, in The Final Countdown the USS Nimitz gets sucked into a vortex during a training mission and sent back to December 1941 on the eve of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Do they stop the attack or let history run its course? You’ll have to see the movie for yourself but of course like all time travel movies, The Final Countdown has a paradox or two. The paradox here is that if the attack is stopped, would the Nimitz even exist later?
This is a movie that even more than 30 years on is still worth seeing today and a remake of The Final Countdown could be great.
4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1980, Paramount Pictures)
The City on the Edge of Forever is considered the best time travel adventure that Kirk and his crew ever had in the original TV series but Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the best big screen
Star Trek has skirted with time travel many times over the past decades and 1967′s The City on the Edge of Forever is usually considered the best small screen adventure. But on the big screen Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the best time travel movie in the series.
Kirk and his crew time travel to the San Francisco of 1986 in order to take two humpback whales back to the the 23rd century in stop an alien problem from destroying the Earth. It sounds hokey and even Doctor McCoy agrees but it’s a great adventure with some really fun moments.
The Voyage Home remains one of the best loved of all Star Trek movies and was a big success upon release. Do you know where you can find the nuclear wessels?
3. The Time Machine (1960, MGM)
Remade rather badly in 2002, the original 1960 movie starring Rod Taylor is a real golden oldie and one of few time travel movies about travelling into the future.
Based on the classic science fiction novel by H. G. Wells, Taylor is an inventor from Victorian England who builds a time machine and first travels to 1917, then 1940 and then 1966 where civilization gets destroyed in a nuclear conflict. He then travels forward to the year 802,701 where humanity is divided between the peaceful Eloi and the ferocious Morlocks who live below the ground and prey on the Eloi.
Of course, the special effects are not up to modern day standards but they maintain a quaint quality (they won the Oscar for Best Effects in 1961) and The Time Machine is an endearing and timeless love story.
2. The Terminator (1984, Orion Pictures)
The iconic movie The Terminator needs no introduction. As well being Schwarzenegger’s most iconic role it was also director James Cameron’s first hit. The sequel is the better movie but it’s the original that’s the better time travel movie as it introduces the whole concept of Skynet and the Terminator travelling back in time to kill the mother of the future resistance leader.
Of course though, like most time travel movies, The Terminator and its sequels have paradoxes. In the original the main paradox is how could John Connor have been alive in the future to send Kyle Reese back in time to rescue his mother Sarah if it was only by first going back that he would become John’s father?
But to dwell on the paradoxes is nitpicking and The Terminator remains a supreme example of a great time travel movie.
“I’ll be back!”
1. Back to the Future (1985, Universal Pictures)
And talking of being back, we come to the best time travel movie ever and also the best science fiction comedy movie of all time.
Like The Terminator, Back to the Future and its sequels are full of paradoxes but that takes nothing away from enjoying this perfect popcorn flick. Yes, in the present Marty’s parents should have remembered him as the one who brought them together. And, yes, if the doc used the lightning bolt at the end of the movie to send Marty and the DeLorean back to the future, why is the clocktower still damaged in the present?
This really is a great time travel movie and has a lot of fun with the idea of going back in time and meeting your own parents. The DeLorean itself is probably the coolest time machine ever and Back to the Future remains as watchable today as it was in the 80s.
Time for More?
There’s more good time travel movies, including Time After Time, 12 Monkeys and even Timecop. What are your favourites?