Anyone with an afternoon to waste, a functional cable box, and a lack of motivation to change the channel has found themselves stuck to a leather sofa watching the SciFi channel. No one is proud of it and no one will admit it without a little coaxing, but facts are facts, and a little shame is humbling. For this reason alone, I am willing to admit to you that I was that sticky, lifeless teenager, soaking in the inane and sloppy acting of science fiction and fantasy television. I’ve seen my share of Star Trek reruns, I’ve watched the late night black and white serials, I’ve indulged in the ineptitude of screenplay writers trying their hand at pseudoscience.
It’s not pretty.
We know that you’re a busy person, and you don’t always have the energy to explore the finer examples of these cinematic dog piles. Have no fear: I’ve accounted for your lack of desire. To facilitate the sharing of knowledge without forcing you to experience the (in some cases) gut-wrenching nightmare of actually watching, the following list of time travel movies has been compiled with two sentence explanations. In no time (heh), you’ll be parroting these to friends, sounding for all the world like the glib hipster that lives inside you.
12:01 – This thriller chronicles What’s-His-Face from Weekend at Bernie’s and Caddyshack 2 as he tries to save mega-hottie Helen Slater (you heard me) from certain doom. As it turns out, the universal timeline(s) know(s) when you’re in love.
12 Monkeys – A Philadelphia-based super-mystery that shows why you should never share living space with Brad Pitt. The film also offers compelling evidence against watching future versions of yourself commit suicide.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me – This sequel takes time traveling a step further from cryogenic freezing, employing a spinning portal to allow Dr. Evil passage to steal bio-goop from the 1960’s. This film proves conclusively that SPIRALS = SCIENCE.
Austin Powers in Goldmember – The final installment of the AP trilogy features a tricked-out Cadillac time machine used to go back to the ’70s to stop something or other. There wasn’t much to the movie, aside from some farting.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – Two high school students discover the joy of learning by standing in a phone booth for 90 minutes. This movie exploited featured George Carlin as a guy from the future who shreds gnarly on electric guitar.
The Butterfly Effect -Ashton Kutcher tackles the most difficult challenge of his acting career: pretending to read. Using hastily scribble notebooks, he travels to the past and watches his next door neighbor kill a dog.
Donnie Darko – A disturbed teenager commits arson and befriends a giant rabbit before (after?) being crushed by piece of an airplane. Maybe?
Groundhog Day – Bill Murray gets caught in a recurring timeloop with Punxsutawney Phil and is forced to relive the same 24 hours over and over until he learns a heartwarming lesson. The highlight of the film is Bill Murray helping the groundhog drive a truck off a cliff.
Millennium – Cheryl Ladd visits Kris Kristofferson from the future to stop a plane crash. I bought this VHS tape by accident in an online auction trying to purchase the Chris Carter TV series, and I still lose sleep over it.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – Mega-hottie Catherine Hicks (you heard me) helps Kirk and Spock kidnap a whale in an attempt to save the future from an angry groaning garage door opener. I’m wasting my second sentence so I can say “nuclear wessels.”
Superman – After watching mega-hottie Margot Kidder (I was kidding about that one) die in an earthquake, the son of Jor-el reverses the spin of Earth—-and time. The only lesson learned is that Superman is hideously overpowered, and Batman is one of the greatest superheroes of all time.
The Erotic Time Machine – Seriously, this is a movie and, honestly, I’ve never seen it. I think we can all figure it out for ourselves, hmm?
Timecop – In 2004, time travel is illegal. Jean-Claude Van Damme is (predictably) a time cop who saves his (supposedly) dead wife’s life without changing the timeline.
This list is by no means exhaustive. I have only exposed the tip of the time-traveling iceberg, and it certainly stretches deep into the abyss. Some on the list, like 12 Monkeys, are excellent for their attention to detail, while others, like The Butterfly Affect, are enjoyed only by a select few. (I admit to you, in the utmost confidence, that Ashton Kutcher’s time-travel masterpiece is actually one of Dave’s favorites.)
Without these sometimes breathtaking, sometimes mind-numbing, always campy gems, the world of cinema would be a dark and realistic place. These timeless (“Haha, Jeff, we get it.”) classics push the imagination to new realms, and force the viewer to consider things outside the ordinary. Come to think of it, the large majority don’t just push, but beat and rob the imagination. Still, I highly recommend opening a Cold One and gluing yourself to a sofa.