My top 10 time travel movies

It’s hard to get time travel in movies right but when it works and the narrative doesn’t get too screwy it can be an awesome device for exploring the past… or the future. These are my favourites.

mip1Film: Midnight in Paris (2011)
Starring: Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates
A nostalgic writer travels back to Paris in the 1920’s every night meeting all his heroes and falling in love
The timeline: Present day to the 1920’s
Encounters with former selves: None
Interesting encounters: Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemmingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein
“Gil: These people don’t have any antibiotics!
Adriana: What are you talking about?
Gil: Adriana, if you stay here though, and this becomes your present then pretty soon you’ll start imagining another time was really your… You know, was really the golden time. Yeah, that’s what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life’s a little unsatisfying.
Adriana: That’s the problem with writers. You are so full of words.

WhatdidItellyou-HQFilm: Back to the Future (1985)
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson
The timeline: 1980’s to 1950’s
Marty McFly accidentally gets sent 30 years back in time to when his parents were teenagers and has to try and find his way back
Encounters with former selves: None
Interesting encounters: Marty’s mom has a massive crush on him and he has to attempt to deflect her attention to his dad or risk never being born
“[Marty wakes up in Lorraine’s bed]
Marty McFly: Mom. That you?
Lorraine Baines: There, there, now. Just relax.
[pats a damp cloth on Marty’s forehead]
Lorraine Baines: You’ve been asleep for almost nine hours now.
Marty McFly: I had a horrible nightmare. I dreamed that I went… back in time. It was terrible.
Lorraine Baines: Well, you’re safe and sound now, back in good old 1955.
Marty McFly: [opens his eyes wide] 1955?

The-Terminator-terminator-24509187-1920-1080Film: The Terminator (1984)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn
The timeline: 2029 to 1984
A cyborg is sent back in time to kill a woman whose unborn child will save humanity in a future war between humans and machines
Encounters with former selves: None
Interesting encounters: Humanity sends a soldier after the cyborg to protect its only hope
“Sarah Connor: What’s it like when you go through time?
Kyle Reese: White light. Pain. It’s like being born, maybe.”

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-Photos-quicksilverFilm: X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Michael Fassbender, Ian McKellan, James McAvoy, Hugh Jackman
The timeline: The near future to the 1970’s
Mutant Wolverine’s consciousness is sent back in time to his younger body to prevent and assassination that will start a war
Encounters with future selves: Professor X communicates with his future self to make sure he is on the right path
Interesting encounters: Wolverine crosses paths with several younger versions of his friends and enemies including Magneto, Mystique, Beast and Quicksilver
“Logan: I was sent here for you.
Charles Xavier: Well, tell whoever it was that sent you that I’m… busy.
Logan: Well, that’s gonna be a little tricky. Because the person who sent me, was you.
Charles Xavier: What?
Logan: About fifty years from now.
Charles Xavier: About fifty years from now? As in the future “fifty years from now”?
Logan: Yeah. If you had your powers, you’d know I was telling you the truth.
Charles Xavier: How do you know I’m not using my powers?… All right, you’ve piqued my interest. What do you want?
Logan: I need your help. We need your help.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Bruce WillisFilm: Looper (2012)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt
The timeline: 2074 to 2044
Former assassin, Joe, is sent back in time to be killed by his younger self
Encounters with former selves: This film is one long crossed timeline
Interesting encounters: Joe crosses paths with a psychotic telekinetic future mob boss, while he is still a child
“Joe: Time travel has not yet been invented. But thirty years from now, it will have been. It will be instantly outlawed, used only in secret by only the largest criminal organizations. It’s nearly impossible to dispose of a body in the future… I’m told. Tagging techniques, whatnot. So when these criminal organizations in the future need someone gone, they use specialized assassins in our present called “Loopers.” And so, my employers in the future nab the target, they zap them back to me – their Looper. He appears, hands tied and head sacked, and I do the necessaries. Collect my silver. So the target has vanished from the future, and I’ve just disposed of a body that technically does not exist. Clean.”

Harry-Potter-and-the-Prisoner-of-Azakaban1Film: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
The timeline: 3 hours
Using a magical time turner, Hermione takes herself Harry back three hours to save Sirius and Buckbeak
Encounters with former selves: Harry realises that it was him who cast the Patronus, not his father like he thought
Interesting encounters: there isn’t really time
“Hermione: This is a time turner, Harry. McGonagall gave it to me first term. This is how I’ve been getting to my lessons all year.
Harry: You mean we’ve gone back in time?
Hermione: Yes. Dumbledore obviously wanted us to return to this moment. Clearly something happened he wants us to change.”

butterfly effectFilm: The Butterfly Effect (2004)
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Melora Walters
The timeline: About ten years back from present day
Evan is able to project himself backwards in his timeline by reading old journal entries, changing his decisions and splintering off alternate realities
Encounters with former selves: It doesn’t really work like that
Interesting encounters: Evan sees his friends and family as their younger selves every time he travels back and creates a new reality
“Thumper: Maybe there’s a reason you’ve repressed the day some pervert had you in your tighty-whities.
[glances at Evan’s journals]
Thumper: Hey Man, I’d think twice about what you’re doing. You could wake up a lot more fucked up than you are now.
Evan: More fucked up than I am? You think you know me? *I* don’t even know me!”

bill and tedFilm: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin
The timeline: Late 1980’s all the way back to Roman times and into the future
High schoolers, Bill and Ted find out that they’re going to be the salvation of future society but first they need to finish their history report by time traveling to meet major historical figures
Encounters with former selves: A few funny moments where they need to convince themselves to listen to their mentor, Rufus
Interesting encounters: Joan of Arc, Billy the Kid, Socrates, Napoleon, Sigmund Freud, Genghis Khan, George Washington
“Bill: It is indeed a pleasure to introduce to you a gentleman we picked up in medieval Mongolia in the year 1269.
Ted: Please welcome, the very excellent barbarian…
Ted, Bill: …MR. GENGHIS KHAN!
[All the students applaud wildly for Khan]
Ted: This is a dude who, 700 years ago, totally ravaged China, and who, we were told, 2 hours ago, totally ravaged Oshman’s Sporting Goods.”

12monkeysFilm: Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Madeline Stowe
The timeline: From an unspecified dystopian future to 1990, 1996 and the First World War
Convict James Cole is sent back in time to gather information about a lethal man made virus which has wiped out most of humanity
Encounters with former selves: None
Interesting encounters: After his time traveling adventures, James is discovered in the 90’s to inexplicably have a bullet lodged in his leg from the First World War
“Louie: Where’d they send you?
James Cole: 1990.
Louie: ’90! How was it? Good drugs? Lots of pussy? Hey, Bob, you do the job? You find out the big info? Army of the 12 Monkeys?
James Cole: I was supposed to be 1996.
Louie: Science ain’t an exact science with these clowns but, they’re getting better. You’re lucky you didn’t end up in ancient Egypt!

austin-powers -the-spy-who-shagged-me-(1999)-large-pictureAustin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me (1999)
Starring: Mike Myers, Rob Lowe, Heather Graham
The timeline: Late 1990’s to the 1960’s
Austin Powers must follow Dr Evil back to the 60’s to rescue his mojo
Encounters with former selves: At one point there are multiple Austins all running around together
Interesting encounters: Dr Evil’s encounter with his “henchlady”, Frau Farbissina results in the birth of his future son
“Austin: Wait a tick. Basil, if I travel back to 1969 and I was frozen in 1967, presumeably, I could go back and visit my frozen self. But, if I’m still frozen in 1967, how could I have been unthawed in the ’90s and traveled back to…
[goes cross-eyed]
Austin: Oh, no, I’ve gone cross-eyed.
Basil: I suggest you don’t worry about those things and just enjoy yourself.
[to camera]
Basil: That goes for you all, too.
Austin: Yes.

23 Comments

  1. Oooooh, Harry Potter! Awesome list all around! I want to see some of these again now — that Midnight in Paris quote is so great, I loved that film. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Abbi

      I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Some of them you can definitely watch again and again.

  2. 12 Monkeys! Great list. Love them all πŸ™‚

    1. Abbi

      Thanks! I only saw 12 Monkeys for the first time about a year ago. One of Terry Gilliam’s finest.

  3. theipc

    Looper!!

    1. Abbi

      I didn’t LOVE Looper immediately but the more I thought about it the more I liked it and then I realised it was awesome.

      1. theipc

        I was only liking Looper until that big scene on the stairs and I was all – LOVE!!

        1. Abbi

          Up until that point every time JGL was on the screen I was thinking, “Holy fuck balls, what have they done to his FACE??”

  4. Love that Austin Powers quote!

  5. […] Read more here: My top 10 time travel movies […]

  6. What a great list Abbi! My fave is prob Midnight in Paris and of course Back to the Future. πŸ™‚

    1. Abbi

      Thank-you! I LOVED Midnight in Paris. Such a brilliant cast. And I still remember the first time I saw Back to the Future. I think I was a little bit in love with Marty McFly

      1. Yes Midnight is now in my favorite movies list. Loved it. Seriously not only was he adorable, I wanted to be cool like him, you know time travel, ride a skateboard in the air. lol.

        1. Abbi

          Oh totally. I loved that vision of the future. Although I’m definitely going to be the one falling off the flying skateboard.

          1. LOL the craziest is part is that the “future” date is coming up soon. Crazy!!!!!

  7. Great list! All my favorites are here: HP3, Looper, Midnight in Paris, X-Men:DOFP, Twelve Monkeys!

    1. Abbi

      Thanks! There are so many greats in this genre.

  8. back to the future all the way!

    1. Abbi

      Absolutely one of my faves!

  9. The Butterfly Effect (despite Ashton Kutcher) was really under-rated. I loved it.

    1. Abbi

      So did I. I wasn’t expecting much but it was really engrossing!

  10. AWESOME choices. Nice idea, lady! πŸ™‚

    1. Abbi

      Thanks! It’s a cool little sub genre of sorts.

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