Time travel may not exist in real life, as recent experiments suggest. But it’s alive and well in fiction, especially movies. Not many of them are any good from a scientific standpoint, of course: Methods for time travel range from hypnotizing yourself to putting a nuclear reactor in a DeLorean. Nevertheless, some are worth mentioning, and a few are even worth watching. My 10 favorites:
10. Timecop (Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mia Sara, 1994)
The science is terrible, but at least the bad guys got what they deserved.
9. Back to the Future (Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, 1985)
This one appeared when Ronald Reagan was president, a shock to people from 1955. “Who’s vice president,” asked Doc Brown, “Jerry Lewis?”
8. Somewhere in Time (Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, 1980)
Moral of this one: If you’re going to hypnotize yourself to go back in time, remember to remove all the coins from your pocket.
7. The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton 1984)
No serious science. But lots of action.
6. Peggy Sue Got Married (Kathleen Turner, Nicolas Cage, 1986)
6. Déjà Vu (Denzel Washington, Paula Patton, 2006)
An excellent example of what could happen if NSA got its hands on time surveillance technology.
5. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, 1986)
From a physics standpoint, it’s hard to see how slingshotting your spaceship around the sun would send you back in time. Especially in a Klingon ship. Still, everybody likes whales. But the best Star Trek time travel was The Next Generation episodes in which they have to replace Data’s head with the one they found from the past.
4. The Day of the Doctor (Matt Smith, David Tennant, 2013)
OK, it’s really a TV show, but it was in the theater for a special one-time showing. And (spoilers! spoilers!) the Tom Baker cameo really did take you back in time.
3. Hot Tub Time Machine (John Cusack, 2010)
Definitely just kidding.
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, 2004)
Kudos for the exquisite consistency between Hermione’s two separate time streams, but nobody explains how her Time Turner worked. I guess it was magic.
2. Time after Time (Malcom McDowell, Mary Steenburgen, 1979)
I always suspected that H.G. Wells really did travel through time.
1. The Time Machine (Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux, 1960)
Especially clever, Wells was, to understand the basics of relativity even before Einstein came along and perceived the role of time as a fourth dimension. Oh wait. Maybe that’s how he found about relativity….
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