Recently, scientists in Hong Kong concluded that a single photon obeys Einstein’s Theory of Relativity by failing to have the capacity to travel at speeds that exceed the speed of light. Unfortunately for us, that means that one of the primary theories behind the possibility of time travel has been all but shot down. While there will undoubtedly be further discoveries on the subject, we can still relax and enjoy some great cinema based on the ideas of time travel. Here is my list of top five time travel movies:
Potential Spoiler(s) Below
Few movies have captured the imaginations of science lovers as much as Back to the Future. This series explores various principles of time travel including whether or not your actions in the past could destroy your chances of existing in the future, and the ethics behind using knowledge of the future to place wagers in the past. Following the adventures of a teenager and a modern mad scientist, Back to the Future takes viewers on an interwoven journey to as far back as 1885, to the near future of 2015. While we may not be wearing transparent neck ties or driving flying cars (yet), it’s interesting to see how many inventions of the future in the series are not so different from what we use today.
If any movie or television franchise has inspired technology over the past several decades, it’s Star Trek. Our mobile phones, tablet computers, desire to communicate with our technology verbally, and a seemingly endless amount of ideas have gone from being simple science fiction to reality after having been featured in Star Trek.
In several Star Trek movies, the crew of the Enterprise is called upon to take a trip through time in order to save the world (or even the universe) from peril. Whether these stalwart officers of Starfleet are traveling back to Earth in the 1980s, or some point in the near future, their missions to the past are firm reminders of where technology is headed.
Arnold Schwarzenegger solidified himself as an action hero with his roles in the Terminator series. Whether he’s the mechanical assassin of Skynet, or a reformed protector of the Connor family, the action and intrigue is plentiful throughout the series. One of the founding principles behind Terminator is the concept that man creates an AI so advanced as to become self-aware. This intelligence, coupled with a link to a growing network of systems, takes over and begins overseeing the production of a race of machines, each intended to fulfill the purpose of wiping out mankind.
Time travel in the world of Terminator can only be done if the object sent back in time is organic. While the exact principals behind this are still rather fuzzy (as are most scientific theories that come out of Hollywood), the action and storyline make it easy to forget.
Wait, what does Harry Potter have to do with time travel? Simply put, it’s hard to make a top 5 list without including one of the biggest blockbuster successes of our time, and the theories of magical time travel are just as valid as much of the scientific nonsense that comes from script writers. In this case, a magical devices allows the protagonists to travel back and forth through time in order to right wrongs and save lives. The movie (and book) did offer a clever use of the gift of time travel in that instead of getting rich or assassinating the leader of a revolution, the ability is used for purely academic purposes. Couldn’t we all use more time, after all?
Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt star in this post-apocalyptic thriller that brings to question how the events of the past we know and recognize could very well be shaped by future time travelers. Like answering the question from the Oracle after the vase was shattered by Neo in The Matrix, 12 Monkeys leaves you wondering if events would have even taken place if we were not told about them and sent back to stop them.
For that matter, The Butterfly Effect deserves some honorable mention on this list. While there isn’t exactly a science behind time travel in that series, the idea that the smallest actions taken by someone in the past could have profound impact on the future is certainly worth considering, especially if you plan on going back in time.
Whether or not time travel is actually possible, the idea behind being able to go back and see the events of history isn’t likely to fade from people’s minds and imaginations anytime soon.
What are your favorite time travel movies? Comments welcome.