back to article I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations

Most films take a sombre view of time travel. Beings from the future will look back on our concepts of time travel seen in films as different as the Time Bandits and the Edge of Tomorrow and wonder what the hell we were thinking. The Terminator franchise has pushed timelines further out, postponing Judgement Day until 21 …

  1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Shonko Kid

    Judgement Day

    "Judgement Day has been postponed from 29 August 1997, to 21 April 2011, apparently"

    I got the impression, from the 2nd and 3rd installments that Judgement Day was inevitible, and all Sarah/John Connor could do was to delay it.

    1. WraithCadmus

      Re: Judgement Day

      You know, when thinking about it it struck me as odd that postponing Judgement day was seen as a good thing. Surely robots are improving faster than people, so there must be benefit to having the war against the machines sooner rather than later. Would it not be more challenging to beat up a modern Taranis drone than kick in a malevolent Metal Mickey?

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        Re: Judgement Day

        The fifth terminator movie picked up on that. The robots that John Connor couldn't find reference to in Sarah's tapes.

      2. Annihilator

        Re: Judgement Day

        "You know, when thinking about it it struck me as odd that postponing Judgement day was seen as a good thing"

        They also assume that what they're doing is a positive thing. In their existing timeline, the human race exists (barely) - who's to say that it would exist at all when they meddle with it?

        It's like the argument over whether you would kill Hitler by time travel - Hitler lost the war and was an atrocious war tactician. Would you really want someone better skilled to take his place?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Edge of Tomorrow...

    ...was brilliant. Right up to the ending that made no sense in terms of time travel timelines. Even allowing for the suspension of disbelief for time travel, it needs to have an internal consistency and the 'rules' set out within the particular movie. Otherwise it leaves the audience with a 'WTF - that makes no sense'.

    I suppose that's what you get when you start filming and leave the writing of the script till later.

    1. JacobZ

      Scratch that, reverse it Re: Edge of Tomorrow...

      I gave you an upvote for pointing out the WTF in Edge of Tomorrow and especially managing to do so without spoilers, but it turns out that the reason for the problem is actually the opposite of what you suspected.

      Allegedly, the original script made complete sense (at least, within the rules of the film) but the ending was much darker. Test audiences wanted a more upbeat ending, and given the constraints of time, budget, and availability of actors for re-shoots, that's what you got.

      BTW, it's possible to make excuses for the ending -- and I'm sure some people will do so -- but I agree with you, there's no way to make that ending "right" based purely on the internal evidence of the movie itself.

      1. dan1980

        Re: Scratch that, reverse it Edge of Tomorrow...

        Would you believe I am actually watching that movie right now? Waiting for some data copies to finish I popped it on and,in checking I logged in here and . . .

        I saw the movie once before and assumed that the 'reset' was an involuntary reaction triggered upon the death of an 'Alpha'. Once Maverick unwittingly vampires an Alpha, his death provokes the same response - a reset. The response is not deliberate as the 'Omega' is an largely an unthinking being.

        The way I saw it was that Captain Couch Jump aquired the traits of the creatures whose blood he vampired. The 'reset the day' action can be seen as an arbitrary use of a general power which, in the case of the aliens is applied in limited form to save an Alpha. It must be involuntary, else why reset a whole day? Why not just the last 10 minutes?

        So, Ethan Hunt isn't actually resetting the day - he is dying which the unthinking, reactionary 'Omega' is see as the death of an Alpha and thus is resetting the day. When he get;s to the end of the movie, he absorbed the Omega's blood and thus the Omega's powers to reset time. And so, un wittingly, he resets it but, as he is human with different emotions than the Omega, he winds it back to a different point.

        In short, the death of someone with Alpha blood causes the the Omega to reset time involuntarily. Charlie Babbitt acquires the Omegas ability buy, as a human (aren't we great?!) he doesn't have the same restrictions.

        1. MrXavia

          Re: Scratch that, reverse it Edge of Tomorrow...

          He died earlier in the day the last time, and absorbed the omega blood at that time of death, hence the reset to an earlier time relative to the original reset point, a day earlier....

          Well that was my take on it anyway, what didn't make sense was the whole 'its dead' thing when the day had been reset...

          Surely resetting the day brought the omega right back??

          Unless for each reset the omega itself transports itself back through time and transfers the memories back to the alphas, its last dying act being to reset the day... maybe...

          1. Matthew 17

            Re: Scratch that, reverse it Edge of Tomorrow...

            What bothered me mostly about the plot was Blunt had the ability to reset but lost it following a blood transfusion.

            How could she know that she'd 'lost' the ability, she didn't know how it worked when she had it, only finding out after the first and subsequent resets, therefore the only way to know she'd lost it would be to die and discover that she was now dead, not much use. Sure she felt 'different' but you would if you'd just come out of hospital following major surgery. Presumably she'd lost the ability and decided not to risk getting killed again when TC conveniently turned up.

            TC losing the ability and getting it again for that odd final reset seemed a little crowbarred in, still, enjoyed the film.


    2. a cynic writes...

      Re: Edge of Tomorrow...

      That's a pity - the book it's based on makes perfect sense. I suppose the ending was a little grim for hollywood.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Edge of Tomorrow...

        Come on though, it's a movie where you get to watch the midget getting splattered in a variety of different ways many times over? Anything else is a bonus...

  4. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

    Army of Darkness

    This... is my BOOM STICK!!

    Excellent film, will have to dig out the VHS this weekend and relive my student years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Army of Darkness

      s'on Netflix, too, I am fairly certain.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Army of Darkness

        yo, she bitch! Lets go.

    2. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge

      Re: Army of Darkness


  5. Woodgie


    (At least it WAS. I don't know how those posts which now appear above me got there...)

    1. JamesThorpe

      I finally got round to creating an account, just so I could upvote this...

      1. Woodgie

        Wow! I'm honoured.

      2. Captain DaFt

        My head hurts...

        I read his post, went back in time to create an account to upvote him, pranged into a police callbox in the middle of nowhen, and now I'm stuck in a loop... HELP!

    2. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      (At least it WAS. I don't know how those posts which now appear above me got there...)

      Time travel of course!

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Oddly enough, I went and created my account 8 years ago just to give you an upvote too ;)

        1. Woodgie

          HA! I see what you did there!

  6. unitron

    As I recall...

    ...Scrooge was shown visions of the past and future, but he wouldn't have been able to interact with anyone in either place, so he wasn't really "there", so I don't see it counting as a time travel tale.

    This was the most Dickensian looking icon of the bunch.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: As I recall...

      Clearly it's a subjective evaluation (there being no objective standard for what constitutes "time travel"), but obviously in the general case it's possible to create paradoxical situations if you have any kind of information about the future - to say nothing of the philosophical implications of predestination.

      Even if you just have arbitrary access to information from the past, you can probably wrangle up an information-thermodynamic paradox of some sort. Let's see ... you could use the past for information storage, giving you more information storage than the present universe can contain; that seems dicey.

      So while ACC may not seem like much of a "time travel" story, the plot device "visions of the past and future" could be leveraged into the same sort of paradoxical situations that time travel in general produces.

  7. thomas k.


    I thought Looper was pretty interesting, both the time travel aspects and the make-up job on JGL.

    1. Santa from Exeter

      Re: Looper

      Plus 1 for Looper.

      I particularly liked the dissapearing limbs and appearing scar message, they showed that the writers had actually thought about the ramifications of time travel.

      1. MrXavia

        Re: Looper

        actually looper made no sense at all to me... the scars 'appearing' when the time traveller would remember all that... and just by being captured could be prevented from jumping back and escaping....

        1. NumptyScrub

          Re: Looper

          actually looper made no sense at all to me... the scars 'appearing' when the time traveller would remember all that... and just by being captured could be prevented from jumping back and escaping....

          Those are all references to the causality paradox(es) due to time travel. The time traveller has already experienced reality one way, and in travelling back is changing (attempting to change) how that "reality" plays out, so their memories are necessarily false; what they remember is exactly what they are trying to avoid. In looper I think they mention headaches at one point as a cover for memory rewriting itself (because causality) the same as a scar they never had when they jumped back, suddenly appearing when their "current" self gains the injury that they never received in their version of history.

          When considering causality violations due to time travel, the 2 ends of the scale are a pliable reality that allows time travellers to affect it (meaning causality necessarily gets broken as hell and you have magic appearing scars and disappearing limbs, and people disappearing up their freshly murdered grandfather's vas deferens), or that reality is fixed such that nothing time travellers can do can change anything (meaning that Fate is predestined and immutable), because it has already happened because they already came back and changed it before they decided to come back and change it. Which makes time travel irrelevant to the plot, because anyone travelling in time is basically running on autopilot and can only do what they are fated to have already done when they did it the first time.

          That second option also pisses all over free will and suggests that the entire history of the universe is pre-scripted, so I don't really like that one. It also doesn't work well with quantum electrodynamics, you'd have to be a total bastard to script a fixed and immutable universe where even basic particles act like they just don't give a fuck about rules.

          I'm also not a big fan of the Trousers of Time, but it has a little more credence than the Immutable Fate depiction, at least IMO.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Looper

          see "Butterfly Effect" for that plot

  8. JacobZ

    The glaring philosophical issues of time travel

    The thing that bothers me most about movie and TV time travel -- far more than causality paradoxes, which will probably sort themselves out in the end -- is that the idea of "changing the timeline" raises profound philosophical questions that almost never get addressed. For example, if lots of people die, then the hero goes back in time and saves them, so now they are not dead and never have been... what does that mean? Did they experience "being dead" and then un-experience it? If you're of a religious bent, does that mean their souls were in Heaven but then got yanked back, leaving God going "hey, where'd they go? they were here a moment ago!". Even if you're not, what does it mean for the nature of experience that something can become un-experienced?

    Travel into the future raises even more profound questions about the nature of consciousness and free will. For example, suppose I travel to next week and meet my up with my friend Alice (let's call her Alice+7). She appears to be -- and believes herself to be -- a perfectly normal, conscious, freely-acting person. And if I ask Alice+7 for her personal perspective, she will probably say that she exists and is conscious at that instant in time, continuously moving forward into the future. But if I travel back to my own time, Alice+0 will say the same; and so would Alice+14 (Alice two weeks from now). It seems like there is not one Alice existing from moment to moment, as we normally think of our conscious selves, but an infinity of Alices each existing in their own moment, any of which I can visit, and each convinced of their own continuity (and of course, if Alice had the time machine she would say the same about me). If the future (relative to my personal present) already "exists" in some sense that allows me to visit it, this is the inevitable conclusion.

    Most TV and movies ignore this completely -- in fact, they act as if the perspective of the protagonist is uniquely special, that his or her "now" is the one definitive, privileged, real "now".

    And yet... when a couple of Star Trek characters travel in time to save the day, it's as if they say "well, we just had an adventure that not only raises profound questions about causality and paradox, but also throws into doubt all our concepts of self, consciousness, free will, and the nature of experience. Let's never speak of this again."

    1. Professor Clifton Shallot

      Re: The glaring philosophical issues of time travel

      "when a couple of Star Trek characters travel in time ... it's as if they say "well, we just had an adventure that ... throws into doubt all our concepts of self, consciousness ,.. Let's never speak of this again.""

      Well they are all already used to teleporting which raises pretty much all the same issues so I guess they have dealt with any cognitive dissonance.

    2. Hans 1 Silver badge

      Re: The glaring philosophical issues of time travel

      Well, I believe we can travel into the future, it's what we do on a daily basis, but we cannot travel back into the past - the main reason being universal uniqueness of matter. The first thing somebody with a time machine that could go back and forth would do, would be to get all gold/diamond/whatever from the future. Imagine, you get your car from tomorrow at noon, you would now have two same cars, made of exactly the same matter - what happens when you reach noon the next day. Are both gone ?

      Time travel into the past makes absolutely no sense, in physics, it violates the First Postulate of the principle of relativity (You can only be in one spot in a four dimensional world "space/time", at any given time). I thought we had a lot of physics experts on here, where are they when you need them.

    3. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: The glaring philosophical issues of time travel


      You raise a lot of interesting points, I'd like to address this one: "what does it mean for the nature of experience that something can become un-experienced?"

      When we experience something, that is something that happens "in the moment". Experience has no permanence, as soon as it's past, it's gone forever. We then (usually*) have a memory of having experienced something. Many studies have repeatedly shown that what people remember they experience is VERY different from what they actually DO experience**, see for example contradictory witness statements.

      In time travel scenario you describe, experience counts for nothing, you have effectively already 'de-experienced' something teh second after that experience. It's memory that gets rewound. Typically time travel scripts get round this by assuming that memory is intimately tied into time, so that if time is rewound, memory gets erased. Unless you're in a time machine of course.

      *some alcohol-fueled nights are good examples of something experienced but sometimes not remembered. Possibly all for the best.

      **people actually have a magical ability to edit their own memories, usually subconsciously but sometimes actively and consciously misremembering something. Very useful superpower to have!

    4. hplasm Silver badge

      Re: The glaring philosophical issues of time travel

      "And if I ask Alice+7 for her personal perspective..."

      But Alice+7 would say- "You asked me about this last week!" And Alice +14 would say "Oh not again!" and hit you with a pan.

  9. Inspector71
    Thumb Up

    A Recommend

    One of the best and more intelligent time travel movies is Primer ( which doesn't have any of those whizzy special effects ) but you really have to see it at least twice to try and work out all the permutations going on.

    1. kryptonaut

      Re: A Recommend

      "Timecrimes" is another good one, which does a pretty good job of avoiding/evading causality problems.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A Recommend

      Definitely agree with Primer, except the part about having to see it at least twice. I'd say at least four times, and then you consult this:

      1. Bleu

        Re: A Recommend

        I think you are likely correct, only saw Primer once, loved it, but am pretty sure that watching it again would not clear up parts of the last twenty minutes.

        I won't be checking the site you mention until I watch it again, at least three times, but thanks.

    3. bigphil9009

      Re: A Recommend

      Thank you sir, for giving me the opportunity to post a link to an excellent XKCD :-)

    4. Bleu

      Re: A Recommend

      I agree, only saw Primer once at the cinema, want to see it again, think I understood the time-travel part, but did not fully understand the last twenty or so minutes.

      Impressions were great.

      Are you truly sure that the whole plot has a logical explanation?

      Suppose I will have to track it down (with difficulty) and (with pleasure) watch it again.

      I will posit the rom-com Time after Time as the all-time prize turkey of time-travel films. For sure, someone must know of an even worse example! Yet another criminal waste of McDowall.

      That reminds me, my concentration only lasted about twenty minutes, but the remake of The Time Machine was truly execrable. Recalling it, that is now my nomimation for prize turkey, at least the rom-com part of Time after Time worked a little.

  10. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    I know this wasn't a definitive list, but "Retroactive" is a decent film.

  11. PhilipN Silver badge

    Groundhog Day

    Easy. Time moving, but sideways.

    1. User McUser

      Re: Groundhog Day

      If you realize that Bill Murray's character is the Buddha, it all makes perfect sense.

      1. The Vociferous Time Waster

        Re: Groundhog Day


        1. NumptyScrub

          Re: Groundhog Day


          Isn't it, though? :)

  12. Extra spicey vindaloo

    Star Trek

    ST always had time travel, there is a whole back story on how there are people patching up Kirk and co's mistakes so that the future always comes out right. Except for the alternate universe crap that JJ bought to the latest films.

    "JJ Abrams' commercially successful reboot of the Star Trek (2009) franchise used time travel as a way to re-introduce old characters without upsetting everyone"

    Upset most of the fans however. And he has as little respect for Starwars as he did for Star Trek.

    1. returnmyjedi

      Re: Star Trek

      "Upset most of the fans however. And he has as little respect for Starwars as he did for Star Trek."

      Just like Lucas, then.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Star Trek

        JJ Abrams manages to turn whatever he touches into an abomination. Star wars is next on his hit list.

        Then there will be a star trek into star wars crossover with another time travel instalment.

        1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

          Re: Star Trek

          I'm just hoping someone will travel back in time and erase the second Abrams installment in the series. I thought the first in the rebooted line set things going the right direction while the second was written by a thirteen year old fan boy.

          1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

            Re: Star Trek

            Oh come on, I already erased the third and fourth, what more do you want from me?

        2. Jes.e

          Re: Star Trek

          "Then there will be a star trek into star wars crossover with another time travel instalment."

          Couldn't we have a Star Wars / Jetsons crossover instead??

          Make as much sense.

          Robert Heinlein basically did this with his novel "The Number of the Beast" years ago.

          Invented a whole new cosmology to let this happen.

          This let his latter stories like "The Cat Who Walked Through Walls" have all his other stories all become deeply intertwingled..

          ..actually- upon a close reading of his full length novels, you will come to the that none of them are in the same universe as each other nor are any of them in our future.

          A bit unsettling actually.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Star Trek

            upon a close reading of [Heinlein's] full length novels, you will come to the that none of them are in the same universe as each other nor are any of them in our future.

            Hell, most of them are barely even in the universe of novels.

            I suppose some are OK - Sixth Column isn't too bad, tiresome Yellow Peril cartoon stereotype villains aside. But most of them are just "Hey, I'll throw a bunch of random vignettes and half-baked ideas at the page until I get bored. Screw narrative!" The Number of the Beast is an excellent example. ("Gosh, this story has gotten completely bogged down. I bet a transsexual Andrew Jackson would perk it right up, without being in any way a glib trivialization of gender issues.")

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Star Trek

      If they ever do invent a time machine the first thing they need to do is go back to 2008 and explain to Mr Abrams why his idea for 'rebooting' Star Trek is a really bad one...violently, if need be. And while they're at it they can go and put a stop to Peter Jacksons remake of King Kong....i mean, how fucking dare he remake a classic piece of Horror-Fantasy! This was a film that inspired, and continues to do so, a whole generation of film makers. Then along comes pete in his size 12 steel toe-caps and kicks its head in! No respect this younger generation, no fucking respect whatsoever.

      PS: Peter Jackson is a Big-Headed BASTARD.....hate him.

  13. Chris G Silver badge

    Ahh what was it now?

    I was going to tell you what is going to be the best time travel movie.

    But I've forgotten!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Futurama" has explored Fry travelling back in time to the moment when he became accidentally frozen. There may have been an episode about all the team becoming children - or was that a cloning thing? Cue "The Boys From Brazil"...

    It is interesting that cartoons like "Futurama" and "The Simpsons" can explore tricky problems in a reasonable way - without their audience twigging that they are being educated.

    1. Vulch

      Re: Futurama

      That's Mr "I'm my own grandpa" Fry of course.

  15. andy gibson

    Family Guy

    I like Stewie's time machine in Family Guy. Good fun when used, and never takes itself too seriously.

  16. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    A consistent sequence of events

    Imagine a snooker table where anything that falls into the right pocket jumped out of the left pocket a little earlier. If you hit the white ball from one end of the table to the other, that could be all that happens. Another possibility is you hit the white ball, it jumped out of the left pocket, knocks its earlier self into the right pocket and continues down the length of the table. Next time, you hit the white ball, jump over to the left pocket ready to snatch the white ball as it jumps out, but it doesn't (If you succeed, your cat will jump onto the table and bat the younger ball into the right pocket). In each case the sequence of events is consistent.

    Marty McFly can watch Emmett get shot by the Lybians, warn him in the past, get back a few minutes ago, watch Emmett get shot again and see him survive because he had a bullet proof vest. What he cannot do is see bully Biff getting his dad's dented car towed home, go back to 1955 and get George to stand up to Biff then return to 1985 and find Biff has been polishing Marty's car that Marty knew nothing about. That kind of adventure requires parallel universes - Marty(A)'s father got bumped by Sam Baines's car in 1985(A). Marty(A) goes to 1985(B) that is not his own past, does not change anything because in 1985(B), George gets pushed out of danger by a time traveller from a parallel universe. Later Marty(A) returns to 2015(B) where Biff polishes cars for a living. Marty(B) really wants to return to 2015(C) because 2015(A) is a horrible universe for the McFly family.

    The snooker table resembles what happens on the quantum scale, but embiggened to the point where it is almost certainly fantasy. Parallel universes are a huge cop-out in an attempt to preserve the possibility of time travel despite the fact that no time travellers turned up to Stephen Hawking's party even though he sent them invitations after the event. Magically changing family photos, faxes and newspaper articles are plot devices used by writers of entertaining fiction because they know sticking to known physics would make a dull film.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: A consistent sequence of events

      nah, the wizards did it.

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: A consistent sequence of events

      You seem to discard the very real possibility that in 500 years, absolutely nobody remembers Stephen Hawking's party, but time travel only gets invented 600 years from now. Or that it becomes a high risk / illegal activity that carries no corresponding reward for gratuitously showing up at a scientist's invite. Or that it requires technical means that make it impossible to return to a time before the first such thing is invented (much like it works with teleportation / jump gates - you need to bootstrap the process first). All of which goes to show that mr. Hawking's little experiment may be 'clever' but it's utterly useless as a rebuttal of time travel in general.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A consistent sequence of events

      I went to that party. I got a bit drunk and copped off with someone I REALLY shouldn't have. When I woke up, I left a message to myself suggesting I avoid the party at all costs.

      i suspect many of the rest of the attendees did something similar. It was one of those parties.

    4. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: A consistent sequence of events

      Yes, but is it the top or bottom of the snooker table? If it's the top there's likely to be a lot of reds in the way. On the other hand if a ball that pots in top right immediately pops out of top left, just imagine the break-building opportunities! Rocket Ronnie would have a field day, as soon as he beat the cat off the table at least.

      Ref, wipe my balls please

  17. Real Ale is Best

    You really should have used the 'Scientist' icon for that post!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Technically not a time travel movie, but it does let you experience and follow choices if times arrow is reversed.

  19. string

    > Using a time machine in the form of a telephone box (surely Dr Who could prosecute?)

    er, police box != phone booth.

    You're getting confused with superman, who sometimes changed in a phone booth.

    1. Lamont Cranston

      Police boxes had a telephone in them.

      Doctor Who seems to use his quite a lot, in the new series.

      Double Fail.

  20. AOD
    Thumb Up

    Time's Arrow...

    Not a movie, but the current Syfy show "Continuum" is quite enjoyable and looks at some of the issues around changing the past and what that could mean for the future (present?).

    Episodes are available on Netflix for anybody interested in taking a look.

    BTW, the title was dredged up from memory recesses before a quick Wikipedia pointed out that this was used as the title for a couple of STTNG episodes.

  21. Daedalus Silver badge

    Where did all you zombies come from?`

    "Predestination", a relatively faithful embellishment of Heinlein's beautifully twisted (and daring for its time) story "All you zombies..." is about to be released.

    Clearly somebody nipped into the future to plant this story so it would be possible to slip in a plug for the movie.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about The Butterfly Effect

    A surprisingly brilliant movie given the cast involved Aston Kutcher

  23. Amorous Cowherder

    Someone one said, "We experience time travel every time we look up into the heavens and see the light from distant stars."

  24. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Zathras Knows

      Upvote for this. But it'll still be bad for Zathrus. Not the one.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Mark York 3 Silver badge

          Re: Zathras Knows

          "Zathras is used to being beast of burden to other people's needs. Very sad life. Probably have very sad death. But, at least there is symmetry."

  25. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Forget the film..

    A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury deals with it nicely.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Forget the film..

      Connie Willis' time-travel novels - the heartbreaking (if ultimately uplifting) Doomsday Book and the hilarious To Say Nothing of the Dog. Haven't read Blackout / All Clear yet, but I'm sure it's up to form (it won the Hugo just like the other two; DB and B/AC both won the Nebula, and TSND was nominated). And the short story "Fire Watch" which started the series.

      John Varley's Millennium, one of the time-travel novels that does a decent job of explaining its version of the rules and then has the characters deal with them in interesting ways.

      There's Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, though time travel there is of course treated a bit casually, in Adams' usual fashion. (The same applies to the Dr Who story, also by Adams, that he adapted the time-travel element from.)

      And honorable mention to Pamela Dean's Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, an unusual fantasy novel which involves building a time machine.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Forget the film..

        ... and I completely forgot Charles Yu's How to Live Safely in a Science-Fictional Universe. That's a novel that takes the time-travel concept and gives it a good thrashing, and the resolution is one that would likely please some of the folks who have commented in this forum.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. Forget the film..

    "By His Bootstraps" ..

    "The Man who Folded Himself" ..

    lets see what other examples we can come up with.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Re. Forget the film..

      Palimpsest by Charlie Stross

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Re. Forget the film..

        Palimpsest by Charlie Stross

        Haven't read it, but since Stross started his career with hard-SF novels that try to deal rigorously with causality problems, I'd expect he does a pretty good job. I'm hard-pressed to think of another author I've read who puts so much effort into logically-consistent treatment of a topic that's inherently about inconsistency. Singularity Sky turned out to be not quite my cup of tea (the cat-and-mouse spy-game stuff rubs me the wrong way), but I really appreciate how Stross grappled with those issues.

        He's also the only hard-SF author I can think of offhand who writes space combat with any verisimilitude.

  27. The Vociferous Time Waster

    One word


  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surprised that the Red Dwarf 'Inquistor' episode not mentioned

    Seemed to cover all the bases in the end.

    'Ah the old back-firing time gauntlet routine; gets 'em every time!"

  29. Sandtitz Silver badge

    I'm surprised!

    No-one has mentioned the "Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel". Is it really that obscure film?

    1. Mark York 3 Silver badge

      Re: I'm surprised!

      For a comedy I couldn't find a fault with it's internal logic (except maybe the closing final scene).

      Throughly enjoyed it.

  30. Seanie Ryan

    what about

    the famous film "The Big Red Ball" released in 2025?

    Explains it all perfectly.

  31. ScottK

    We need a movie of Harry Harrison's Technicolo(u)r Time Machine.

    1. sawatts

      Upvote for TTM.

      While I haven't heard of this being made into a film or TV, it was about the production of a movie, so may scrape into the Hollywood criteria. There was a BBC Radio 4 adaptation of it many years ago - which is where I first encountered it.

      Also includes the bootstrap paradox - AFAIR the instructions to repair the time machine exist in a closed loop, being brought back in time by a character and given to himself... Perhaps this is the only way we'll ever build a time machine?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What we need is a movie that explains how our (extremely sucky) reality is actually the one where time travel gets invented in about a year's time and upon discovering this, all the horrible mistakes of the past get corrected until we end up with an interstellar society in like 1050 AD.

  33. Grumpy Fellow

    Giant Blancmange south of London with Time Travel

    Does anyone else remember visiting a giant white dome down near Greenwich back in 2000? They had a special theatre set up on the site that showed the time travel film "Blackaddr: Back and Forth". That film treated time travel with just the right amount of irreverence. Ah, the memories! Particularly when Shakespeare gets his comeuppance. By the way, what ever became of the dome? That thing was frickin' huge! Probably a shopping mall now? I'm off to the Google to check.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: Giant Blancmange south of London with Time Travel

      It's currently better known as the O2 Arena, or just the O2 if you prefer. Usually to be found on band tour itineraries in the way Wembley used to be.

      Meanwhilst the Blackadder special is on disc 5 of the Blackadder ultimate DVD box set, and is rather fun in a slightly dated sort of way.

  34. Mark York 3 Silver badge

    "conveniently forgotten about an hour into the narrative."

    Films of this nature have caused more & bloodier family arguments with me decrying what everyone else thinks was a good little TVM.

    The other trope I hate with Hollywood is the time traveling backwards & replacing the younger version of yourself with the older self Quantum Leap being a prime example instead of having two of you running about with you trying to avoid meeting yourself because of the embarrassment that usually causes.

  35. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I've always liked Robert Heinlein's novel The Door Into Summer. I'm a bit surprised no-one has ever made a film out of that. Not that I'd want to encourage it though given how lousy most adaptations end up.

  36. Stuart Moore
    Thumb Up

    The Time Traveller's Wife

    I loved "The Time Traveller's Wife" as a film - works really well on most levels.

    1. OzBob

      Re: The Time Traveller's Wife

      Apparently the time travellers wife is a metaphor for something, some say "relationships", I say "mental illness" (and I'm not being flippant).

  37. sawatts

    Time Travel invented when?

    Time travel, by its very nature, will be invented at every point in history at the same time.

    (Douglas Adams?)

  38. cortland

    FWIW department:

  39. Fehu

    Physcial time travel: not possible

    For one thing because time is not physical. It's just a unit of measure. And the one little phrase that so many seemingly intelligent people gloss over in conversations such as these, the amount of energy necessary would approach infinity. Same thing as traveling at the speed of light. Apparently, some people don't get what infinite means. As the subject for movies that we all agree are just ways to waste some time, it's fine. As a subject for serious study? Come on, guys. You've already answered the question. Why keep asking it?

    The pints all I need to travel to any space-time continuum I desire.

  40. Tempest8008

    Multiple timelines

    I'm surprised I haven't seen more mention of the multiverse model.

    There's a simple way of approaching this.

    What happens to you, happens to YOU.

    There is no paradox, ever.

    If I go back in time and kill myself, that happened to THAT person, obviously not to me. It's a separate timeline and remains separate, and that existence goes merrily along its way, though deprived of my glorious self.

    I return to my time none the worse for wear...because that didn't happen to me, it couldn't have because it didn't. Not in my timeline.

    There's no changing your past. There's no changing the past you remember, the history of the world you live in. It happened. It cannot be changed. But, were time travel possible, you'd be perfectly free to go back and make as many tweaks and changes as you'd like and see what would happen.

    Just for fun.

    1. Michael Thibault

      Re: Multiple timelines

      > were time travel possible, you'd be perfectly free to go back and make as many tweaks and changes as you'd like and see what would happen.

      Yes, but to "see what would happen", you'd have to go 'back' or 'across' to another verse, one not your own. However, if that were possible--energy requirements aside, and given the nature of consciousness--could you not arrange to travel to that same verse repeatedly/continually (to the point of continuously), ending up--effectively--in a different verse on a basis indistinguishable from it being your 'native' verse? ...

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    No one's mentioned "Sliders" the TV series - they travelled from one time/multiverse to another...

    Must see if I can find a box set...

  42. Permidion

    and dont forget...

    ...the wonderful piece of comedy that is the Stargate SG-1 episode "Window of Opportunity"

    one episode I could watch in loop (!)

  43. OzBob

    Problem with Time Travel Movies

    is that they need to be intelligent enough to stimulate thought, and simplistic enough to make money in America. Dilemma much?

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