5 Back to the Future
The three “Back to the Future” movies have become classics, although they’ll never be mistaken for cinematic fine art. The original film offered three familiar characters: all-around normal teenager Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, mad scientist Emmet Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Brown’s gull-winged DeLorean sports car, which transports Marty to the 1950s and a chance to bring his own parents together. Although the special effects were universally rated “not great,” the witty script and fast pacing made “Back to the Future” a 1980s classic, the kind of movie that generated devoted fan clubs that are still going strong.
4 The Time Machine
For vintage film fans, “The Time Machine” is the definitive time-travel movie. Based on the story by H.G. Wells, the 1961 film follows the adventures of inventor H. George Wells, who’s created a charmingly eccentric vehicle that takes him on a fourth-dimensional journey through the ages. Starring Rod Taylor, this movie won an Oscar for its special effects, which will probably leave modern audiences a bit less than impressed.
3 The Terminator
In this 1984 action thriller, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a cyborg from the future who travels back to Los Angeles to kill the mother of a revolutionary leader—who hasn’t yet been born. The relentless killing machine deals death and destruction in nearly every scene, but the machine is so good at dying and then reviving again that you end up cheering for him (it). “The Terminator” gave rise to several hit sequels, Schwarzenegger’s spectacular film career and director James Cameron’s reputation as a bracingly innovative film director.
2 Groundhog Day
While some movies travel through time, “Groundhog Day” just repeats it endlessly to underline the futility and boredom that attend everyday existence. Star Bill Murray plays a jaded TV weatherman who sleepwalks through a dreary small-town appearance, then begins waking up to the identical day and its prosaic events, endlessly repeating. Unable to break through to a new tomorrow, he resorts to parlor tricks to amuse the townspeople, poetry and music to woo a reluctant romantic interest (Andie MacDowell) and finally suicide—all of which bring him right back to another 6 a.m. and Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe.”
1 Time Bandits
Written by Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin of the Monty Python crew, this 1981 film stars Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall and John Cleese. In “Time Bandits,” a youngster joins a posse of piratical dwarves who have found a map that allows them to voyage through the centuries in search of treasure. Trolling past a series of whimsical and sometimes bizarre images, the film offers an unique vision of Napoleon, Robin Hood and other historical figures, not all of whom conform to the expected whimsical tone.