If you have been on the Internet at all today, you know what day it is. Yes, it is Back to the Future Day, and what better way to celebrate our lack of hoverboards, double ties and closet fax machines than by going over our favorite uses of time travel across movies, TV shows and video games.
10. Army of Darkness
Some of you might be upset that I ranked this one so far down on the list, but that is only because it used time travel in the third movie, which is a bit unfair to the other contenders that use it in every episode/installment. But I couldn’t just forget about this gem. Bruce Campbell stars as a grocery store employee who is sent back in time after fighting against an army of the undead to fight another army of the undead. Do what you love, as they say. This movie is filled to the brim with awesome one-liners, crazy action and outrageous characters. Heck, I want to go watch it right now after writing this.
9. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
While I can say that I enjoyed this one, it is far from my favorite on this list. It is fun and goofy like Army of Darkness, but in a more kid-friendly, “look at how cool we are” kind of way. Still, the scene near the end of the movie when they figure out they can use time travel in the future to save themselves in the present (it may be old, but I don’t want to spoil everything) is time-travel storytelling at its finest, and cements this movie’s spot on the list.
8. The Flash
Just to be clear here, we are talking about The CW’s The Flash. While time travel doesn’t initially appear to be a main focus of The Flash, it doesn’t take too long to work out just who that “Yellow Blur” is, and those of us who know anything about “Professor Zoom” will be able to quickly understand how time travel might play a part in this. And while it has been done before, few could argue that Season 1’s finale didn’t tug at the heartstrings with its time travel wonky-ness. If you don’t know what I am referring to, you clearly haven’t seen the episode, and you should probably go do that yesterday.
7. The Terminator Franchise
I should probably say right out of the gate that I haven’t seen Genisys, and I have no interest in doing so. However they butchered the Terminator franchise in the sequels does not change the pure time-travely awesomeness that is the first two movies. The thing that really holds the first two together so well is its basic approach to time travel, something that the later sequels don’t understand. With The Terminator, the plot is simple. A robot has been sent into the past to kill a child that would become the leader of the revolution in the future. Terminator 2 expands on this even more by having two terminators sent into the past, one to try killing the boy again, and the other reprogrammed by the revolution to save the boy. By having a relatively simple premise, the first two Terminator movies took a bare-knuckle approach to time travel, introducing the concept to mainstream audiences. It’s a terrible shame that the later three sequels didn’t live up to their potential, and that’s why The Terminator franchise isn’t ranked higher on the list.
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past
I have written before on my love of Days of Future Past, so I will try to keep it brief. Not only does Days of Future Past stand as one of the greatest comic book movies ever made, but it also uses time travel to brilliantly reboot the increasingly convoluted X-Men movie timeline. My only complaints about the movie were the sheer number of characters, causing some fan-favorites to get little screen time (looking at you, Havok, Quicksilver and Rogue), and the over-focus on the past. I of course love the story being told in the past, but I felt like it was a bit of a waste to have the original trilogy characters in the future get so little screen time. Though, that Xavier/ Xavier conversation was pure awesomeness.
5. Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes is another example of taking the potentially convoluted story mechanic of time travel and making it as simple as possible, which is not only easy to understand but often leads to a more character-focused story. An astronaut is accidentally sent into the future. Arriving on a planet ruled by apes, our hero desperately tries to find a way to get back home, before realizing in the climax that he is at home, and this apocalyptic world is Earth in the far future. The whole movie feels like an extra-long episode of The Twilight Zone, telling a great tragedy of loss and desperation. It’s just a shame that the special effects have aged so poorly.
Much like Planet of the Apes, Futurama also tells the story of a man from the present accidentally sent forward in time. That is where the similarities end, however. Futurama is one of those modern classics that people love to look back on and say, “I wish it got more seasons.” But if Futurama had gotten more seasons, all people would have to say is, “It should have ended years ago.” As it stands, Futurama is one of the best, modern comedies out there, and thankfully knew when it was time to bow out, unlike similar series in Family Guy and The Simpsons.
3. Doctor Who
You all knew it was coming. Doctor Who’s entire plot hinges on the idea of time travel, along with space travel, interdimensional travel and international travel. Doctor Who is one of those shows that should never really end, even when long-time fans like myself secretly wish it would. There will always be another story to tell—another planet, time period or dimension with a mystery that can only be solved by a weirdo in a box who is a lot older than he looks. Even though the show has its ups and downs, it in many ways reflects its protagonist: timeless and constantly reinventing itself.
2. Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time
Why is this one so high on the list? Because it is fantastic that’s why! Crack in Time followed up on the cliffhanger of Tools of Destruction in the best way possible, with a newly, lonely Ratchet searching the universe to try to find his mysteriously disappeared best friend/backpack. It also features really clever time-travel mechanics, like growing a tree in the past and putting it through a time portal to reach a platform in the future. It was also my very first PS3 game, so forgive me if I am overly loyal. It had heart, comedy and some of the best mechanics in a Ratchet and Clank game.
1. Back to the Future
Well of course this is number one; it’s a classic! Back to the Future may not have invented the idea of time travel, but it was the first movie for many that really went all out in showing how changing the past can change the future. Was it childish? Yes. Was it over simplistic? Yes. But it had a style and soul to it that few movies have ever come close to matching. It had one-liners, an easy to follow plot, memorable characters—everything that makes a movie great. I won’t argue that the movie is perfect, and the sequels were even worse. But if you are really mad that it is number one, ask yourself why people across the country are so excited for it to be Back to the Future Day? It’s because this movie had a special magic to it, and absolutely no one can deny that.
Anything you think should have been on the list? What are your plans for ‘Back to the Future’ Day? You can tweet me @adam_mcconnell. And be sure you follow us @YouNerded.
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