Looper is in Australian cinemas from this Thursday and I think it’s one of the more interesting, more believable time travel movies that I’ve seen. You can check out my full review by clicking here.
It got me thinking about my all-time favourite time travel flicks. It’s a theme that’s been covered often but you only have to watch movies like Hot Tub Time Machine, The Lake House, Timeline or A Sound Of Thunder (the worst film I've ever reviewed - see here) to see how bad they can be.
Having scanned the web for inspiration and searched through my old reviews, here are my 5 favourite time travel movies…
Back To The Future (1985)
I was born in 1977 and so I can’t be sure when I saw Back To The Future for the first time. All I know is that it was fun and I loved it. If I’d have seen it for the first time today and looked at it through a critic’s eyes, perhaps I wouldn’t feel the same way. But things are different when you’re a kid. You’re a lot easier to please. You don’t judge movies based on those that have come before (mainly because you haven’t seen any).
Directed by Robert Zemeckis (who later went on to win an Oscar for directing Forrest Gump), the film saw Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd travel back to the year 1955 and almost cause a world changing event.
I didn’t realise until recently how successful Back To The Future was at the box-office. It made $210m in the United States alone back in 1985 (that’s a LOT of money when you consider the effects of inflation). To also put it into context, only two other films that year made more than $100m. It’s currently ranked 53rd on the all-time greatest film list on the Internet Movie Database which shows that it's as popular today as it was 27 years ago.
Groundhog Day (1993)
I love Bill Murray. Pure and simple. His dry sense of humour wins me over every time. Whenever Groundhog Day appears on television, I can’t help but stop what I’m doing and watch. It just lures you in.
Directed by Harold Ramis (Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation), the movie followed a weatherman (Bill Murray) who keeps living the same day over and over. Ramis extracts so much humour and originality from the idea and I was surprised to learn that it won the British Academy Award in 1994 for best original screenplay – beating out The Piano, In The Line Of Fire and Sleepless In Seattle. It reaffirms my belief that the British have great taste when it comes to comedy. Then again, it’s hard to see how anyone could not like this film.
Pleasantville received a rare A+ grading from myself and featured in my top list for 1999 (alongside some great films include Being John Malkovich, Gods And Monsters and Election). It didn’t set the box-office alight and I know there are many people who wouldn’t have had the chance to see it.
It’s a rich, intelligent film about two kids (Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon) who find themselves transported into a black and white 1950s sitcom. The 1990s mentality that they bring to this world will cause complete chaos, for better or worse. It marked the directorial debut of Gary Ross – who followed it up with Seabiscuit and last year’s The Hunger Games.
The film says so much about how the world has changed over the past few decades and is a must see movie.
Some films sneak up on you unexpectedly. Frequency was one such example. I knew nothing about it prior to its small cinema release in Australia in August 2000.
A firefighter from the year 1969 (Dennis Quaid) is talking to a police offer from the year 1999 (Jim Caviezel) though an old ham radio. It takes them a little while to realise that they are father and son. Once they come to grips with this bizarre event, they work together to help prevent a murder from taking place.
Directed by Gregory Hoblit (Primal Fear, Fallen), Frequency is a stunning film that stirs emotions and past memories without the commercialism and tackiness that Hollywood so often provides.
Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie is talking to a motivational speaker in front of his class at school when he utters one of my all-time favourite lines – “You're right, actually. I am pretty... I'm pretty troubled and I'm pretty confused, but I... And I'm afraid. Really, really afraid. Really afraid. But I-I think you're the f***ing Antichrist.” You have to see the movie to fully understand it… but I remember bursting into laugher when I first saw that scene.
As I said in my review, great movies are usually those in which the plot cannot be simplified in a single sentence. Not only does that rule apply to Donnie Darko, I believe it to be a physical impossibility to fully explain the film. It follows a troubled high school teenager who takes medication to battle depression and has imaginary friends.
The time travel aspects don’t become clearer until late in the movie but there are some terrific scenes shared between star Jake Gyllenhaal and school teachers Noah Wyle and Drew Barrymore. The film made my top 10 list in 2002 and given its cult status, it has a permanent place inside the top 250 film list on the Internet Movie Database. There are few lovers of cinema who wouldn’t have seen this mind-blowing movie.