What is it about the premise of time travel that has captivated us for so long? Certainly, we can look back to the great literature (books, ever read one?) of the 19th century for instances where time travel was used to catapult a narrative along. There's a literal, physical time traveling that is features in science fiction, and then there's the metaphysical time-traveling--instances were our minds play tricks on us, or we are transported to another era through the power of our human minds. Hollywood has never been shy about making time travel movies. They've made science fiction films as early as the 1950s (maybe earlier, even) that transferred the science drama of HG Wells' The Time Machine--the book--into a successful movie starring Rod Taylor in the 1960s. They have been time traveling television series, time traveling romantic movies, actioners, horror flicks, even time travel comedies--Hot Tub Time Machine, anyone?
So of the best remembered time travel movies would find a list that would include: The Terminator, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Back To the Future, Interstellar, Groundhog Day, Planet of the Apes, the Austin Powers movies. There are also cult gems--movies that feature a revisionist take on time travel like The Butterfly Effect, Safety Not Guaranteed, Timecrimes or Donnie Darko, for example. Even movies that ask us, the audience, to interpret the time traveling presented as being in the mind of the hero of the movie, like Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys. There have also been lousy time travel movies like Jean Claude Van Damme's Time Cop for example (but let's not talk about that one.)
Time Bandits (1981)
Speaking of Terry Gilliam's cult science fiction movie from the 1990s, 12 Monkeys, Gilliam has been interested in time travel for quite some time. Prior to 12 Monkeys, Gilliam wrote and directed Time Bandits in the early 80s. The premise? A young boy wakes up one night to discover of a group of time-traveling dwarfs in his bedroom and is forced to go with them in flight to escape the dark ruler of the world. What follows is a Gulliver's Travelers-like scenario that finds the gang traversing through a land of giants, a maze of death, and the Roman Gladiator era. With an all-star cast that features actors: Shelley Duvall, Sean Connery, David Warner and many others, Time Bandits is a cult classic of the 1980s that left quite an impression of those that saw it when it was first released into theaters.
Released onto DVD in 2005, where it found its audience, director Shane Carruth sets up a story that features two engineers that develop and begin to sell cutting-edge technology. But when they realize that they've miscalculated something and actually developed a time machine that could create dangerous scenarios all hell breaks loose.
Somewhere in Time (1980)
Commonly known as being a "chick flick" this little fanfare science fiction tale starring Superman himself, Christopher Reeves was shot on Mackinaw Island in Michigan. Reeves is a playwright who encounters a old, dying women one evening at a reception for one of his plays. When he acknowledges her, she tells him to: "Come back to me." Sticking in his head for many years, in the middle of writer's block Reeves gets in his car and drives to Mackinaw Island now knowing quite why he has done so. When he arrives he begins to investigate his surroundings only to discover that the old woman whom he had met many years prior was once a famous actress who had worked at the hotel he is staying in on the island. Falling in love with her image, he begins to consider the possibilities of time travel through machinery--in doing it with his mind, Reeves transports himself back in time so that he can meet up and be with the older woman, now the young, beautiful actress. After he courts her, he wins her heart, and intending to stay with her forever, he mistakingly notices a penny in his pocket that triggers his return back to his own time. Heartbroken, and unable to return to see her, he dies of sadness. Somewhere in Time is a powerful, minimalist science fiction tale that asks its audience a question: Is time travel possible through the power of the human mind?
Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
Released in 1986, and directed by the great Francis Ford Coppola, Peggy Sue Got Married features actress Kathleen Turner as a woman who passes out at her high school reunion and is transported back to her high school days to re-live them again, but this time, with the knowledge, foresight, and experience of her current self. Living her live again, she tries to right wrongs of those around her, but also to experience things that she was too scared to try the first time around, but also questions her present life as seen through her past. Featuring an all-star cast that features a young Nicholas Cage and Jim Carrey, Peggy Sue Got Married, like Somewhere in Time asks that one, big question: Can we time travel in ourselves?
My Science Project (1985)
A flop at the box office when it was released initially, My Science Project finds a muscle-car geeky kid who, in search of a science project for classic, finds a device in a military junk yard and accidentally triggers it. The device, from an alien spaceship which landed on earth many years prior, has the ability to combine past with the present, bringing in them together in one new dimension. As the device continues to run strange things begin popping up in school like Egyptian monsters and the like. In the end, the school becomes a portal for the past to come into the present, and the geek alongside his friends, and their former ex-hippie teacher must team up to entire the vortex of time to shut it all down. While the film didn't do well at the box office, it earned a loyal following and fan base over the years that followed due to its constant airing on pay cable like HBO of the late 1980s.