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5 Great Time Travel Movies (That Aren't Back To The Future)

5 Great Time Travel Movies (That Aren't Back To The Future)

By Gabriel Laks

Okay, first things first—pitchforks down everyone.  We know, we know Back To The Future is a classic cherished by young and old alike that features wit, charm, and a script rightly lauded for being one of the tightest in the... hey you, yeah you, sir that is clearly a pitchfork underneath your internet coat—just please hear us out on this. Back To The Future is an outstanding film and we all love it, but we all love it because we've all seen it. Isn't it more fun if we take a look at some time travel movies that maybe we haven't ALL seen? Yes? Good.

I'm glad we're all on the same pa-OK, WHO THREW THAT INTERNET TOMATO!?

LOOPER (2012)

Guysguysguysguysguys... what are you doing?  Why are you at home reading the internet like some kind of layabout when you could be doing something productive like patronizing your local theater and seeing Looper!?  WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU!? Sorry... the point here is that you really should see Looper as soon as you can.  Its smart, thrilling, funny, affecting and just about any other superlative you can throw at it.  Writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick) has proven himself to be a master craftsmen of genre fare that transcend the limitations of genre fare.  We don't want to spoil any plot details, so go see it. Go see it now.

BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989)

Before Wayne and Garth, before Beavis and Butthead, there was Bill and Ted. Two dudes (played by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, respectively) outta San Dimas, California with one simple little dream: to be the best and most successful rock stars of all time. Luckily for them, they're fated to do just that. Unluckily for them, if they don't pass their next history class presentation not only will their band never take off—they'll doom the entire future. So with the help of time traveler Rufus (George Carlin) the duo travel back in time to kidnap historical figures and get them to help on their class project. It's a gloriously silly movie, with some truly inspired gags. To our knowledge no other movie can boast of having a scene where Sigmund Freud awkwardly hits on girls at the mall, and if for no other reason than that Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure can claim to truly be excellent.

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

Okay, this entry's a bit hypocritical. The Terminator series has been seen by just about everyone which, as you'll recall, was the reason we disqualified Back To The Future from this list. But if you can allow us a quick rejoinder to that point we'd argue that, popular though it may be, the original Terminator too often gets overlooked in favor of its bigger and flashier sequel. Which is kind of a shame since The Terminator is a much better film than Terminator 2. Don't get us wrong, T2 is awesome, but The Terminator is mean and efficient in ways its sequel doesn't come even close to matching. It's a terrifying and complex film, relentlessly cynical about the paths human beings carve for themselves while still finding empathy for and decency in mankind regardless. Also, Arnold shoots big guns in it.

TIME BANDITS (1981)

"If I were creating the world I wouldn't mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would have started with lasers, eight o'clock, Day One!"  So the villainous EVIL describes his qualms with the universe in director Terry Gilliam's  Time Bandits—the story of an imaginative boy born to unimaginative parents, whisked away on an adventure through time by a group of dwarves, and pursued by both the supreme rule of the universe and the personification of Evil.  Half the members of Monty Python were involved with the production, and that group's madcap lunacy permeates the film, complementing the story's whimsy all too perfectly. Time Bandits is a hilarious, wonderful film every bit as imaginative as its hero.

LA JETEE (1962)

Time travel's an effective plot device for action or comedy films, but all too rarely is its potential to provoke pathos realized to full potential. Not so in La Jetee, a beautiful short French film about a man forced by his government to travel through time in a dystopian Paris ravaged by war. It's a mesmerizing and haunting piece of work likely to stay with a viewer long after the credits roll. For those interested, La Jetee is a perfect gateway into world cinema and arguably a perfect film about time travel.

What are your favorite films about time travel?

Tags: movies, time travel, sci fi, back to the future, time machines, reviews, looper

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About the Author
Gabriel Laks

Gabriel Laks is a Seattle born and New York-based writer and director. His work has been featured in such places as College Humor and Channel 101, and his writing has been quoted in The New Yorker. Gabriel currently resides in Brooklyn, in an apartment filled to the brim with Adam West Batman memorabilia.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.