As movie critics, my husband and I are often asked to review movies different ways. Sometimes, we are asked to compare original films against remakes. Sometimes we are asked to review sequel movies against the original. And sometimes we are asked to review movies by category. So we have learned, over the years, to compartmentalize films in different ways as we watch them.
One of the areas that we haven’t been asked to review so far is movies about time travel. I find that somewhat strange because these types of movies are appealing to a lot of people. They are among my very favorite. So using my expertise in the area of movies, I thought I’d share some of my favorite films about time. These aren’t necessarily the best movies ever made, but they all have something worth seeing.
13 Going on 30. For pure fun and entertainment, 13 Going on 30 is the right film. As it starts out, Jenna Rink (played by Jennifer Garner) is preparing for her 13th birthday, while wishing she could be “fun and flirty 30” instead.
Through a magical gift from her best friend, Matt (played by Mark Ruffalo) she gets her wish. She wakes one morning to find herself all grown up and 30. She has the perfect job, a killer “bod,” an unbelievable wardrobe, a beautiful apartment, and her pick of handsome men. However, Jenna quickly discovers that everything she thought she wanted isn’t making her happy. Instead, she yearns for her best friend. The problem is, Matt’s no longer interested. Or is he?
This cute movie makes it clear that what we human beings think we want isn’t always what we really need or deserve. Garner’s performance makes this film memorable. She is totally adorable as Jenna. Ruffalo’s no slouch either, playing the handsome leading man with soul and heart; making this a “must see” film about time travel.
The Butterfly Effect. This 2004 film took an unusual approach to a time-related story. It focuses on Evan Treborn (played by Ashton Kutcher), a college student who suffers blackouts and often finds himself in difference places and at different times. Through his diary he begins to relive his very troubled past and discovers that he can travel back and forth in time to change events. But each change he makes has repercussions that he doesn’t expect or want.
This movie is certainly unpredictable and engrossing, although a bit difficult at certain points. It focuses heavily on the darker outcomes that time travel poses and has some disturbing scenes not appropriate for the squeamish. But Kutcher’s performance is worth the price of admission alone and Amy Smart is equally effective as his ladylove.
Fountain, The. The most recent film about time, this 2006 film includes three stories; all of which involve star-crossed lovers played by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. In the past, a brave conquistador searches for the tree of life so that he can free his captive queen. In the present, a medical researcher desperately seeks a cure to save his dying wife. In the future, a space traveler seeks enlightenment in a nebula that is about to explode.
This movie is a little difficult to follow and doesn’t have the best screenplay. However, nothing can detract from the beauty of the special effects and cinematography of this stunning film. It is absolutely dazzling and widely imaginative; showing how past, present, and future often does merge with one common goal.
Frequency. This 2000 film starred Dennis Quaid and James Caviezel as a father and son separated by time and unbearably painful memories. Taking a different approach to the time separation, this film proposes that a strange atmospheric phenomenon allows time and space to bend so that Frank Sullivan (Quaid) can communicated with his son (Caviezel) via short wave radio. The twist, however, is that the two are separated by 30 years.
As the two men bond, eventually figuring out their connection, they share information that begins to change time and lead to new tragic consequences. Then they must work together to fix what went wrong in order to get the outcome they both yearn for.
This movie definitely tugs at the heartstrings while highlighting the skills of two very worthy actors in the process. Those who haven’t yet seen it, have missed a jewel of a film.
Kate & Leopold. This lovely film stars America’s sweetheart Meg Ryan and English heartthrob Hugh Jackman. Leiv Schreiber also stars as a photographer who finds a gateway through time. But during one of his visits, he makes a mistake and brings a member of royalty back through time with him.
Kate (Ryan) is a high powered advertising executive seeking to travel even further up the corporate ladder. Leopold (Jackman) is the English royalty who falls through time and right into her life. At first she is aggravated by his old fashioned take on life and his unusual manners, but before long she finds herself falling in love with everything she always thought she never wanted.
This is a sweet, romantic movie that makes the best of all of the assets of its stars. Ryan and Jackman make an unusually charming match that is both believable and heartwarming.
Millennium. This 1989 movie starring Kris Kristofferson and Cheryl Ladd may have one of the most unusual plots ever conceived. Bill Smith (Kristofferson) plays an investigator who stumbles on to a group of time travelers from Earth’s future who are trying to save the planet from its inevitable polluted fate. They jump in time to save people who are fated to die, replacing them with dead bodies.
When Smith finds what is obviously an alien device among the rubble of a plane crash, it sets things in motion for the present to meet the future. Louise (Ladd) plays the woman from the future that is doing everything in her power to prevent a paradox that could ultimately destroy both time lines.
Because this film was way ahead of its time, it never received the recognition it rightfully deserved. The concept, the sets, the acting, and the direction were all worthy of recognition. But the far-reaching story simply went over the heads of much of its audience and ended up without much of a following.
This is an interesting film. It is by no means a perfect one, but well worth a watch for those who haven’t yet seen it.
Planet of the Apes. One of the most definitive movie series about time travel, the Planet of the Apes and its many sequels and one and only remake, have a strong cult following. Its mixture of science fiction and fantasy, with a heavy dose of history, psychology, and sociology thrown in for good measure, assured this film its status as one of the most intriguing movies of all time.
Starring Charlton Heston, the 1968 film deals with three astronauts who crash on what they believe to be a far away, foreign planet which, as it turns out, is run by a colony of intelligent apes. Humans, on the other hand, cannot speak and are uncivilized.
As the film progresses, Taylor (Heston) is locked in a battle for his life and that of Nova (played by Linda Harrison), who was given to him as a mate. The more he learns about the planet, however, the stranger things become for Taylor leading up to one of the most memorable film endings of all time.
Somewhere in Time. Made in 1980, this beautiful movie starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour is my favorite movie about time travel. Who doesn’t want to believe that true love can conquer anything – – even time?
Reeve plays Richard Collier, a young playwright in the 1980’s who is infatuated with the photograph of an actress from the early 1900’s. He feels a connection to this woman that he doesn’t fully comprehend. So he goes in search of answers, finally finding a way to cross time to meet the woman of his dreams, Elise McKenna (Seymour). Inevitably, they of course fall in love. But can they be together? If so, how?
Although this movie doesn’t end the way I would have chosen, it is still one of the most beautiful screenplays every written. The acting by Reeve and Seymour was superb. The sets and cinematography were also exceptional. In fact, there was little about this film that wasn’t sheer perfection. It is perfect for those who are romantics at heart.
The Terminator. It’s impossible to review time related movies without including this one. Clearly one of the best science fiction films of its time, The Terminator spawned two sequels and made certain the career of its star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, continued to soar. Never was a role more perfectly cast than that of Arnold as the machine that traveled through time to “terminate” the mother of its archenemy.
Hamilton was the perfect victim for the inhuman machine’s wrath and Michael Biehn proved to be the perfect hero to save the damsel in distress. But who would win, the machine intent on destroying the only person who could possibly save the human race or the soldier from the same time who was assigned to protect his best friend’s mother?
The terminator is an arsenal of thrills with a fascinating plot and enough heart stopping suspense for 10 movies. It is well worth a watch, once, twice, or even more.
Timeline. This 2003 movie is not very well known. It didn’t feature an all star cast or employ a lot of glitzy special effects. Still, it’s a pretty good little movie.
It centers around a team of archeology students who are exploring the ruins of a 14th-century castle in France. When the student’s professor is inadvertently thrown back in time to 14th century France, his students follow after him; landing amidst the raging Hundred Years War between the French and the English. Together, they must save their professor without changing time and ultimately affecting the future.
Although this isn’t a big name film, it is worth a watch. I really enjoyed it and liked the unique turns and twists.
That’s one dozen films dealing with time and time travel. I urge those who haven’t seen them to give them a try.