Time Machines that have stood the test of time

Hot Tub Time Machine is the new time travelling comedy starring John Cusack, out in cinemas this week. The time travelling genre has produced a wide range of films from the more serious adaptations of H G Wells Time Machine to comically absurd films like Time Bandits. But what about the Time Machine itself? While some films use straight out technological machines developed in a science labs, other films find their protagonists accidentally travelling through time, often in the most bizarre vehicles possible for comedic effect. It all started with the Doc’s DeLorean back in 1985 so we’ve decided to look at the strangest time machines in the last 25 years of cinema.

Back to the Future Trilogy – 1985

In everybody’s favourite time travel trilogy, the Doc (Christopher Lloyd) converts a DeLorean DMC-12 into a time travelling vehicle. When the DeLorean reaches 88mph, a flux capacitor is activated and the car travels through a wormhole to any date you wish. Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) used the DeLorean to travel both backwards and forwards through time to try and ensure his past and future self still exists, and it is probably the most iconic time machine in cinema’s history.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – 1989

American teens Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are visited by the time travelling Rufus (George Carlin) from the future, who arrives in a time machine disguised as a phone booth and the idiotic comedy pair travel back through time to bring back historical figures to help them with their school project. The idea of the phone booth as a time machine is a blatant rip-off of Dr Who’s Tardis, a blue 1950s phone box. There’s not much science explained as to how the machine works, but at one point he duo do repair the antenna with bubble gum! Earlier this year it was revealed a script is in development for a new Bill and Ted movie, and apparently something ‘funkier’ will replace the phone booth.


Pleasantville – 1998

Although its not really time travel in the usual sense Pleasantville sees high school twins David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) transported to the world of their favourite black and white 1950’s sitcom, somehow through a TV remote that repairman Don Knotts gives to them. Pleasantville is definitely the most serious film on the list with its messages of racism, but its still got a lot of comedy elements to it.

Frequency – 2000

John (James Caviezel) discovers that he can communicate with his deceased father Frank (Dennis Quaid),  through an old ham radio. Father and son work together to try and prevent Franks tragic death and repair that the consequences this has on the timeline so they can be reunited. Although the radio is not really a vehicle that propels a character through time itself, as the other films on the list do, it’s still a bit of an oddly comic use for a radio so we’ve kept it in.

The Butterfly Effect – 2004

Ashton Kutcher plays Evan in this preposterous thriller, who discovers that when he re-reads his old journals he is able to travel back in time and re-enact parts of his past. The ‘butterfly effect’ is a term that covers something that most essential principle of the time travel movie, that if you make small changes while in the past, this can set of a massive chain effects on the future. The film was quite successful and spawned two even more ridiculous sequels.

Click – 2006

Again the remote control is a time travelling device in this Adam Sandler comedy. After buying a universal remote from Christopher Walken Michael finds the remote allows him to control time, fast forwarding and re-winding the past and future.  


FAQ about Time Travel – 2009

This low budget British comedy is another buddy movie; Ray (Chris O’Dowd), Pete (Dean Lennox Kelly) and Toby (Marc Wootton) are in a London pub but find a time travel gateway in the pub toilets. However the portal is unpredictable and they end up going back and forward either years or mere minutes at a time trying to return to the real world.

Hot Tub Time Machine – 2010

The cinephile among readers may notice a link between the first film on our list and this recent Hollywood comedy. Crispin Glover played Marty’s father George McFly in the Back to the Future trilogy, and returns here as he one armed bellboy in the hotel that John Cusack and friends visit. After a drunken night in the hot tub the friends find themselves transported back to their young 80’s selves on a previous visit to the hotel – read our full Hot Tub Time Machine Review for more details on this new comedy.

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  1. 16 Time Machines | ForeverGeek

    […] Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure 1989 Borrowing liberally from the last entry in this list in its design, the phone booth used by the excellent Ted “Theodore” Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esquire bounced them around through time via technology on loan from their friend-from-the-future, Rufus. It also later transported them to Heaven, Hell, and some other stops in between in a second, far less memorable film. [Image source.] […]


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