Time Machines

Josh Winning

If movies have taught us anything, it’s that time travel is really, really dangerous. Just look at Back To The Future Part II, when Biff’s meddling created an entire alternate reality. It’s also really, really cool - as proven by Safety Not Guaranteed, which warps into cinemas this week, giving time travel films an indified makeover along the way. So here’s to cinema’s slickest time machines…

1. DeLorean (Back To The Future, 1985)

“If you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), there, explaining why he chose that particular model to turn into a time-hopper. The epitome of style and functionality, the DeLorean is the coolest time machine out there – in BBTF2 it can even fly. Of course it’s number one.

2. The Time Sled (The Time Machine, 1960)

H.G. Wells dreamt it up for his novel of the same name in 1895, and didn’t so much describe it as list a number of its qualities (apparently it was made of brass, ebony, ivory and quartz). For the movie adaptation, though, we got this beauty – so cool that it made an appearance in an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

3. Phone Box (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, 1989)

Need help on your high school presentation? Just pop over to the nearest phone box and relive history yourself. That’s what Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) do in this ‘80s delight, getting a little help from a future man called Rufus. Radical.

4. Time Displacement Sphere (Terminator, 1984)

Slightly more believable than a car or a phone box when it comes to winding back the clock, the Time Displacement Sphere is the sci-fi MacGuffin in James Cameron’s defining time travel film. It’s how Arnie’s buff Terminator (and Michael Biehn’s Reese) jumps back to the ‘80s. The only catch? You gotta go in the nuddy…

5. The Time-Turner (Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, 2004)

Invented by authoress JK Rowling, the Time-Turner is a simple little device that doesn’t require anything more than some well-directed magic. Simply wear it as a necklace, and turn it over to jump through time. It’s handily unisex, too.

6. Hot Tub (Hot Tub Time Machine, 2010)

Who knew hot tubs could be so dangerous? When four chumps, sorry, chums party up at a ski resort, a malfunctioning hot tub whisks them back to the ‘80s to relive their big-haired youth. Includes a frankly awesome cameo by Chevy Chase as the mysterious ‘Repairman’.

7. Klingon Bird Of Prey (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986)

Not a time machine per se, but a tremendous spaceship that’s temporarily transformed into one via a rather clever slingshot manoeuvre around the sun. Said manoeuvre pings Kirk and co back through history – all to record a, uh, whale sound that they need to communicate with an alien…

8. Map of the Supreme Being (Time Bandits, 1981)

Alright, not so much a machine as a really intricate map of time that’s used by a band of dwarves to pinch riches from various ages. Little blighters.

9. Time Spiral (Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, 1999)

Easily the silliest time machine ever, but pretty fun nonetheless. This swirly, psychedelic time-leaper is used by Dr Evil (Mike Myers) to flit back to the 1960s and steal Austin Powers’ mojo. Which all leads to a rather unfortunate downstairs malfunction for our favourite spy…

10. The Box (Primer, 2004)

The creation of four entrepreneurs, the mysterious-sounding ‘Box’ is used by its creators – Abe and Aaron – for the very same reason we’d use a time machine. Yes, to make money. The film’s tech-speak, which director Shane Carruth refused to water down, makes the entire thing disturbingly plausible…

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