One of the minor frustrations on working on Now and Then We Time Travel was how often I would click on a “great time travel films” article and discover exactly the same list of films as the last time I clicked on one. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Groundhog Day. The 1960 The Time Machine. Edge of Tomorrow. Back to the Future. The Terminator.
And no question, those are the A-listers. But still, with several hundred time-travel films out there, you’d think an occasional effort to look for different choices would be reasonable. I actually pitched a couple of websites on this topic, but without success (fools, blind fools! They will rue the day—oh, wait, where was I?). So as the guy who has just spent the past two years watching a shit-ton of films, I figured I’d offer up some lists msyelf (and if this prompts anyone to pick up a copy of my book, so much the better). There are a lot of B-list films that are worth watching, and they offer an alternative to rewatching the A-list films for the tenth time (though of course, there’s nothing wrong with watching movies multiple times. I’ve done it with a few).
This week: films of danger and adventure. Okay, and one comedy.
Past Perfect (1996) Hard, cold cop Eric Roberts discovers someone is hunting down members of a gang of teenage petty crooks. It turns out they’ll become very bad people in the future — and so the future’s policy is to execute them for crimes they have yet to commit. To his surprise, Roberts finds this may be rougher justice than he’s willing to tolerate. I liked this one because it comes down on the side of redemption over retribution, and that’s depressingly rare these days.
Nostradamus (2000) Homicide cop Rob Estes investigates a case of spontaneous combustion. FBI psychic Joely Fisher warns him its one of a pattern of such deaths across the country. It turns out time-traveling fallen angels are committing the murders, which will tilt the cosmic balance so that when the apocalypse comes, Satan will triumph! Nostradamus’ prophecies play no role in this (the title is clickbait) but it’s a lot of fun.
Running Against Time (1990) Robert Hays has never gotten over the death of his brother in the Vietnam War. When he learns professor Sam Wanamaker has a time machine, Hays convinces the scientist to send him back to 1963: Hays saves JFK from Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy pulls us out of ‘nam, Hays’ brother lives. Unfortunately it all goes wrong … Easily superior to the Stop Oswald film Timequest or the adaptation of Stephen King’s 11-22-63. Among other things, while a lot of time travel films talk about the risks of materializing in the wrong location, this is the only film that builds that into the plot.
Triangle (2009) Melissa George takes a yacht ride with her friends into the Bermuda Triangle. They land on an abandoned freighter, the Aeolus, and become targets of a mad killer — but it soon becomes obvious all is not what it seems. And even then, what we learn is not what it seems … A very creepy, twisty one, and certainly the best film about the Bermuda Triangle I’ve ever seen.
The Visitors (1993) Jean Reno and Christian Clavier play a knight and squire transported to the present. Broad slapstick results, but it’s outrageously funny slapstick about the clash of times. Far superior to the sequel, or the American adaptation Just Visiting.
Between Time and Timbuktu: A Space Fantasy (1972) A young William Hickey wins a contest, and as a prize goes through a time warp. He meets characters from multiple Kurt Vonnegut stories, including Cat’s Cradle, Happy Birthday Wanda June and Harrison Bergeron. This blew me away when I was a kid — portal stories of bouncing into strange, disconnected realities always did — less so when I rewatched it on YouTube for the book. But it’s still interesting enough and goofy enough (“I’m not in control of my destiny! I can barely control my own bladder!”) to recommend.