July 14, 2024

What makes a great time travel movie?

Hey we’ve all done it, spent two hours watching a movie only to realize three-fourths of the way through it’s a dud, yet you keep watching because at this point you’re invested. I’m guessing if you’re reading this you are interested in and have probably seen most if not all of these movies. What makes a great time travel movie? There are several aspects that make for great time travel flicks.

One critical element we look for when rating this genre of cinema is the level of special effects. Now some people, myself included, love a good, cheesy, science-fiction movie. Obviously the visual effects need to be great to help tell the story. but in the case of some older movies (for example all three Back to the Future movies) the special effects were fairly good for the times. Compared to today’s technology? Not so much. That shouldn’t take away from the greatness of the film. Great time travel movies can overcome poor effects by succeeding elsewhere.

The storyline is the next element on my list, but not necessarily the most important. We can put up with a suspect story as long as the effects are great, the scenery pleasant to look at, and there are some nice explosions from time to time. This is where some people really have trouble with the time travel subject. It’s not an exact science, well not yet anyway, so lighten up a bit and enjoy the story! People get so involved in the technicalities of time travel and often forget to just stop and smell the story. Now I won’t pretend that I understand every time loophole and paradox in every movie ever, so maybe I’m better suited to just let the technical bullshit go. Again, as long as everything else is really good,let it slide a bit! I’ve been told that Back To The Future has a few complications in this area, but I don’t care. That’s still a great movie, and everything else is good enough for me to not worry about it too much.

However, we can’t ignore the importance of the time travel activity. The means with which the characters actually travel through space and time is kind of important folks. Over the years we’ve seen quite an array of methods, and let’s be real right now, some of them really suck. Here are some of my least favorite ones:

  • Vanishing into thin air and reappearing in another time and placen (Time Traveler’s Wife)
    • This, my friends, drives me crazy, and is just plain lazy.
  • Unexplained technology strapped to an everyday object. (Back to the Future & Hot Tub Time Machine)
    • Doc and Marty come pretty close to this method. It’s possible that I’m blinded by my love for the movie, but I believe they explain it well enough to satisfy my needs. However, the one that doesn’t is the new time machine movie where it’s a lazy boy with spinning dials and virtually no explanation. Also Hot Tub Time Machine? really? FOH with that junk.

Now here are some of the better mechanisms within a movie. How about the 1984 blockbuster, The Terminator? In the first Terminator movie, Arnold comes back from the year 2029 to the year 1984. Now this method has a couple elements mixed into one, highly technical machine, from a future ruled by supercomputers and cybernetic organisms. Yes, I had to look that up. This is key in explaining the method, or at least giving you the sense of a good explanation. I also really buy into the Dejavu method of time travelling. That’s the Einstein-Rosen bridge. Again, I’m not pretending to understand this 100%, but you should check it out. Here’s a simple diagram that is very helpful.

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you have watched Interstellar? This is just a fantastic movie, and incorporates many theories into its storyline and method of time travelling. Despite Matt Damon’s best efforts to Bill Paxton the fuck out of this movie, it really turned out to be just fantastic, with pretty good science and special effects. The part where they landed on the first planet and lost twenty some years was, and still is, a hard concept to grasp, but if you look into it, it actually makes a lot of sense. I can’t lie though, the ending took a few viewings to wrap my mind around, but that’s fine.

So here we are, the home stretch where we all agree and rank the top five time travel movies of all time.

5. Back To The Future 1,2,3 (tied)

I’ll admit that it’s possible I have an inherent bias towards this movie. It misses on several of my points, but it’s a sound and admirable storyline with great acting.

4. Dejavu

This is a perfect combination of Sci-Fi, action, Denzel, Val and Einstein-Rosen bridges. It is possibly the best movie to ever put all of these remarkable things in one, $5 bin DVD.

3. Groundhog Day

Comedy and Bill Murray trump any plot holes or lack of a mechanism for this time travel movie. It’s top 5 don’t @ me.

2. Terminator

This classic combines quite a bit of what we’re looking for in a time travel movie; story, special effects, traveling mechanism. Not to mention, its sequels are really good as well.

1.  Interstellar

This really does have it all folks. Top notch plot, special effects, mechanism, and quite a bit of scientific jargon to at least fool me into thinking this could really happen. Let’s not forget what all the other actors had to do to turn this flick around once they unzipped that cryostasis bag and let Matt Damon do his best Bill Paxton job on this movie.

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Jared Smith 62 Articles
Key Grip Supervisor

If you don't know what a ‘Key Grip Supervisor' does, you can't afford one. One of the best key grippers of his generation, Jared is also the well-documented fashion icon of southwest Iowa. While it's hard to list all of Jared's specialties in this limited area, one of his most prevalent skills is making the editor work overtime. He's also an expert at almost everything, just ask him. When he's not busy retweeting crying Jordan memes, you can find Jared fishing, grilling, pounding vegas bombs and taking the family on road trips.

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