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TOP5: Time Trips

Having recently been recommended the Spanish Sci-Fi thriller LOS CRONOCRIMENES (Timecrimes) — which I throughly enjoyed — I’ve once again had good old time travel adventures on my mind. And given that I’m currently working on the next episode of Remote Viewing and haven’t had a chance to sit down and put another review together, I thought I’d make an attempt to meet the internet’s minimum “TOP-LIST” requirement before my blogging license is revoked. With that in mind, here’s my favorite time travel stories all in one convenient place:

Back to the Future – 1985

Seems like an obvious pick, don’t it. Well it is, and as much as some the elitist time-travel snobs on some movie sites like to consider the BTTF movies ‘low rent’, there’s no denying that the adventures of Marty McFly are a landmark in science-fiction movie history. After all, you can thank Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale for just about every time-travel movie to have been given the green light for production since BTTF’s release. While I love all three BTTF movies, the first one stands head and shoulders above the rest. It’s fun, it’s fast, and best of all it doesn’t make any significant time-travel blunders. To quote Adam Smith’s review for , Empire Magazine: “To put it bluntly: if you don’t like Back To The Future, it’s difficult to believe that you like films at all.”

Timescape – 1980

timescape-mainA novel by Gregory Benford, Timescape is the story of two scientists, one, John Renfrew, living in a 1998 on the brink on ecological disaster, the other, Gordon Bernstein, living during the 1960’s. Using a process — which is brilliantly explained in the book — Renfrew attempts to use tachyon particles to affect an innocuous experiment being conducted by Bernstein. While the novel is a little long winded it is probably one of the most believable time-travel stories I’ve ever come across.

Immortality, Inc – 1958

immortalityinc-main(aka Immortality, Delivered) I’m hesitant to mention that this book was the basis for the steaming pile of awful that is the movie FREEJACK. What ever you do don’t bother with the movie, or if you’ve already bothered, don’t blame the book or it’s author, Robert Sheckley. Unlike the film, this is the intelligent story of Thomas Blaine, whose consciousness is ripped from his body moments before said body is killed in a car accident. Blaine awakens to find himself in the year 2110, in a body that isn’t his own. Ultimately this novel has it all: Twists, turns, body swapping, time-travel, Futurama like Suicide booths, and zombies… yes, zombies.

Terminator – 1984

It’s pretty easy to forget that, in the end, Terminator is a time-travel movie. After all the whole thing is based on a never ending pile of paradoxes. A man and a machine are sent from a future devastated by war to a past devastated by 80’s hair. As much as BTTF is the catalyst for all those feel-good, adventure based time-travel movies that followed it, Terminator is single handedly to blame for all the crap-tastic time-travel action movies which materialized in its wake. And just as every other time-travel movie since BTTF has been desperate to come up with a time machine as cool as the Delorean, Terminator’s unbeatable ‘arrival’ has never been matched either. What’s also easily missed in amongst all the I’LL BE BACK’s and NICE NIGHT FOR A WALK’s is the great supporting characters that really make this movie work: The dynamic between Lance Henriksen and Paul Winfield’s characters, Sarah’s brain dead, lizard owning, room mate and her ‘don’t make me bust you up man’ boyfriend and the ‘before we were famous’ appearances from Bill Paxton and Brian Thompson. Sure, as far as time-travel mistakes and paradoxes go this movie (and the sequels and series that followed) has plenty… but it doesn’t care, it doesn’t get tired, it doesn’t give up, because it’s too busy being awesome.

Twelve Monkeys – 1995

To describe this Terry Gilliam movie as a work of art is an understatement. Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and Madeleine Stowe all offer superbly tragic performances. It stands up to many, many viewings and reveals new connections each time. It’s one of the few time-travel stories that isn’t about exploring a future, or changing the past, but rather about documenting and observing. On the whole, this is probably one of the most complex, yet elegant time-travel stories I’ve ever come across. I appreciate that this movie isn’t for everyone — no Terry Gilliam movie is — but for me, this is movie hits all the right check boxes.

Honorable Mentions

The Butterfly Effect (2004 – The Directors Cut), Donnie Darko (2001 – NOT the Directors Cut), The Time Machine (1960).

This is by no means a definitive list, it’s just some of my personal favorites. And, as much as I hate blog posts that end with an obvious call for participation, I’m always open to new movie suggestions. So, if you’ve got a time-travel favorite I’d love to hear about it.

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    Not my favourites, but worth mentioning:

    Primer: Some nerds accidentally discover time travel and proceed to get all caught up in trying to fix lives, but mostly fuck their own.

    Groundhog Day: People forget this is sort-of-time-travel. One of my favourite movies, and definitely my favourite Bill Murray movie.

    Frequency: Watch this one with your dad. Then go out and play catch like you used to when you were a kid.

    Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut: Ok, I’ve not actually read it, but the focus on the main character becoming unstuck in time inspired a lot of stories like the Star Trek TNG finale and Season 5 of Lost’s “The Constant”

    Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams: I had to read this twice to fully understand how this all worked, and I realise that by posting this here, anyone who hasn’t read it yet I’ve just given a major 3rd-act spoiler away. Oops. Serves you right for not reading it yet.

  • Groundhog Day rocks!

  • Primer is high on my list. That’s a DVD that has pride of place in my collection.
    Frequency is also a pretty enjoyable movie… but if you’re counting that then you’ve got to start including movies like The Note Book, or The Mail Box or whatever the hell that Neo/Bullok movie was.

    The Dirk Gently books are f@#king awesome… so, hells yeah.

    The only one I’m going to bork at is Groundhog Day… While I agree that it’s an awesome movie (calm down Rommy), I just don’t know if I count it as a time travel story… I’ll have to think on that one.

  • Hey, just because he aint using a machine or any scientifically explainable device or motion, doesn’t mean he isn’t travelling through time

  • And no, I’m not gonna include the Lake House because unlike Frequency, Lake House was a rubbish film.

  • Re: Groundhog day. No, he wasn’t traveling in time. If he were then he’d have run into himself every day. Time reset, and he was the only one who knew it. Also… because, if he was actually traveling in time then he wouldn’t have been able to die and start the day over again, on account of BEING DEAD. Don’t get me wrong GHD is an awesome movie, but I’m extremely hesitant to call it a time travel movie.

  • Hmm good point Elroy. I suppose it depends how broad your definition of time travel is.

  • I think someone should mention “The Philadelphia Experiment”. Not to be confused with “Philadelphia” – that’s a movie about AIDS prejudice, not time travelling sailors. And I will refrain from “hello sailor” jokes, as that would be bad taste.

  • There’s also “The Final Countdown” – also about time travelling sailors. Not to be confused with the awesome 80’s hit from Europe (the band, not the continent).

  • I actually have a copy of the book Philadelphia Experiment around the place somewhere. Nice big fat hard-cover if I recall.

  • Re: Groundhog Day. You could look at it as a very similar scenario to Desmond Hume on Lost in the episode “Flashes Before Your Eyes,” with Bill Murray’s consciousness going back in time to relive a day while retaining his memories of previous iterations each time he loops.

    It’s also conceptually similar to the plot of the 1988 time travel novel “Replay” by Ken Grimwood, which basically follows a character who keeps reliving 30 years of his life. It’s my favorite novel of all time and the only one I reread annually.

  • ‘Replay’ sounds interesting LBDG – although the fact that you read it over and over again suggests that it has some kind of temporal rewinding powers of it’s own! looks extremely interesting too!

  • I like that one too, but I might be biased :)

  • Thought you may have been! :P

    I’ll look at grabbing a copy when I can read again (recovering from eye surgery and can only read for short periods at the moment).

  • Love the use of the logo described by John Titor too! Top work