Time travel and comedy films are not two genres one typically associates with one another. Time travel films usually rely on more intense, dramatic or tragic events such as in “The Butterfly Effect” or the remake of “The Time Machine.” Still, there’s been enough interest and investment in the wacky, comedic hijinks that ensue from screwing around with the space-time continuum and these are the 10 best ones that Hollywood has to offer.
Director: Woody Allen
Sleeper is about a nerdish store owner Miles Monroe (Woody Allen) who is revived out of cryostasis 200 years in the future by a rebellious group of scientist determined to fight an oppressive government from controlling this strange new world. As the protagonist has not been fitted with a biometric identity tag, he is free to assist the rebels in their plan, with the ensuing action providing great comedy moments, replete with confessional robots and Orgasmatron booths. The use of unique, odd future designs for the robots and people are timeless in their visual comedy, and despite the heavily dated references, there’s plenty of verbal AND physical comedy to go around.
Time Bandits (1981)
Director: Terry Gilliam
A kid finds a time travel warp in his wardrobe closet and somehow joins a band of time traveling dwarves, seeking treasure and battling beings from the Fortress of ultimate darkness. The movie’s director, Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame) is known for his surrealistic films, including such works as Brazil (1985) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), band as usual he doesn’t disappoint in this absurdly intelligent comedy that can be weird and witty without fail. It’s a unique experience with a stellar cast that includes such actors as Sean Connery, John Cleese, David Warner and Kenny Baker.
Back to the Future (1985)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
The timeless comedy is a classic time travel flick which other should be judged upon. As well as directing the movie, Robert Zemeck also helped write this unforgettable tale about Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) turning a DeLorean into a time traveling machine; sending Marty to the past to meet younger versions of his parents and save his own very existence. What more needs to be said? This is an iconic film with memorable performances, speechless effects and a nostalgic spirit that still feels as impactful and engaging as it was when it first premiered in 80’s. A time traveler fan’s must see!
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Director: Leonard Nimoy
Star Trek has always been out there but this film really stretched that “boldly go where no man has gone before” phrase to absurdly silly new heights. In this film, Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise crew travel back to Earth’s past to collect a high-tech device, and also communicate with whales. There’s no getting around it: this movie is flat-out weird. It’s a strange sci-fi fish out of water story that puts everyone’s favorite star fleet crew in hilarious situations that grow more absurd and more amusing the deeper you dive into this whale of a tale (pun totally intended).
Army of Darkness (1992)
Director: Sam Raimi
Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” series has always been more horror than comedy, but that took a hefty gear shift when this film “boom-sticked” it’s way into theaters. Bruce Campbell’s “Ash” gets sent into medieval times, along with a shotgun and chainsaw, to take on a whole army of undead monsters, demons, as well as adjusting to a primitive new/old lifestyle. The comedy-over-horror approach works better here than it has in any past “Evil Dead” film. The monsters and makeup have vastly improved and Ash’s witty one liners and bad ass-ness are too fun and too iconic to forget anytime soon. This is the REAL reason why “Evil Dead” is still so popular to date.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Director: Stephen Herek
Before Keanue Reeves was “John Wick,” and even before he was Neo in “The Matrix,” he was Ted, and one half of a hilarious comedy duo that included Alex Winter as Bill. In this initial outing for the two rock loving partiers, Bill and Ted find out that they are essential to a promising world future, but must first pass a final history presentation in order that Ted’s father doesn’t ship him off to a military academy. Arriving from the future, Rufus (George Carlin) then helps them with their project by providing a time traveling phone booth that allows them to bring figures such as Socrates, Joan of Arc, Napoleon and Abraham Lincoln to their time to ace a history report. Very dated but delightfully so, “Bill and Ted” is a fun, quirky time travel joyride that just gives you a good time as you travel THROUGH time.
Director: Mike Judge
Mike Judge is hit or miss when it comes to making movies, and just like another movie of his, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996), “Idiocracy” is definitely what I call a hit. When Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson) winds up frozen in a cryogenic chamber, he wakes up hundreds of years in the future to find out all the intelligent people have died out and that the idiots of the world now control/ruin everything. It’s sad and funny how dangerously accurate this idea of a world run by morons could be a reality, but Judge at least makes it a worthwhile watch. “Idiocracy” is simple in its execution, but stellar in its comedy accomplishments. From electrolytes to Terry Crews as president, you’d be stupid to miss this one.
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
This Spanish movie isn’t a pure comedy, but instead a darkly funny sci-fi thriller containing elements of drama, comedy, and slapstick that is occasionally mildly disturbing. In Los Cronocrímenes, to give it its Spanish title, Héctor (Karra Elejalde) accidentally gets into a time machine and travels back in time nearly an hour. Finding himself will be the first of a series of disasters of unforeseeable consequences in this amusing and intelligent time-travel tale that actually holds up under closer scrutiny. Furthermore, the cast is decent, with some nudity humor thrown in for those who like it raunchy, and for this being the director’s first crack at filmmaking; it’s certainly proved to be a triumph of imagination over budget.
Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
Director: Steve Pink
This is one of those “self-explanatory title” films. No deeper meaning behind the title, no surreal metaphor, just a bunch of rowdy guys (John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke) getting into a hot tub time machine that sends them back to 1986 where they try not to change anything in the past, leading to some expectedly hilariously disastrous results. This may sound daft, but it’s actually so stupid it really does work. This is a non-stop laugh a minute flick that just throws time caution to the wind, and just gets screwy with every passing moment. It’s a hilarious cast, script, and premise; bottom line: it’s funny as Hell and wears its ridiculousness as a badge of pride.
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Director: Woody Allen
Woody Allen is back for more time traveling fun in this sentimental comedy set in one of Europe’s most romantic cities. The story centres on a nostalgic screenwriter called Gil (Owen Wilson), who while on a trip to Paris with his fiancée Inaez (Rachel McAdams) and her family finds himself mysteriously going back to the 1920s every day at midnight, where he has the opportunity to socialize with artists and writers from the Belle Époque, including Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody) and Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll). Despite there being nothing really new here, one cannot deny the charm of the music, the beauty of the scenery, and simple romantic smiles this film brings as it successfully combines elements of comedy and romance into an old-fashioned, time traveling good time.