5 Great Time Travel Comedies That Aren’t ‘Back to the Future’
When Robert Zemeckis teamed up with Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, I don’t think they knew what magic they were about to create with Back to the Future. Not only did the smash hit spawn a multimedia franchise that now includes sequels, theme park rides and even a musical, but it became the face of the time-travel genre. At least whenever you think of a time-traveling comedy it’s hard to think of anything but that plutonium-powered DeLorean. And while it rightfully holds the GOAT title, it’s hardly the only funny film that’s explored the endless possibilities of time travel.
Here are five other comedies about transcending all sorts of time and space that have nothing to do with going Back to the Future…
Safety Not Guaranteed
A film inspired by a joke ad from the classifieds section might be a risk, but even riskier than that? A time-travel film that really only capitalizes on the promise of its time-traveling premise in the film’s final moments. To that (literal) end, Safety Not Guaranteed is more an exploration of the innate human impulse to want to time travel and what that means for the human psyche. Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson and Mark Duplass embody the desire to fix the things in our past that we can’t change — unless we have a time machine. But even then, safety is not guaranteed. Oh, and bring your own weapons.
Peggy Sue Got Married
Peggy Sue was at her lowest — her husband was cheating on her, and she brought her own daughter to her high school reunion, where she discovered that the class dweeb was now a billionaire inventor. What’s a girl to do after taking all these hits? Pass out in front of her former classmates and wake up 25 years earlier of course. A surprising but sweet film from Francis Ford Coppola, who only took it on after two other directors dropped out, features an Oscar-nominated performance from Kathleen Turner as a woman with an opportunity to change her past for the future she wants and a larger-than-life performance from Coppola’s nephew, the inimitable Nicolas Cage.
The first of two time-loop movies on the list, Max Barbakow brought the rift in the space-time continuum where no other film had gone before: Palm Springs. Hulu’s 2020 sleeper hit brought Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti together as wedding-guests-turned-lovers-turned-time-loop-prisoners. The film explores and compares the two paths one can take when they discover they’re trapped in a time loop: 1) losing hope and giving into complacency after realizing this is now their life for the rest of eternity; or 2) trying to do everything in their power to get out and see the next day.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Time travel. Slackers. Radical historical fiction. This Excellent Adventure has it all. The sci-fi comedy that paired Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves with George Carlin saw two lovable stoners enter a time-traveling phone booth that brought them to all corners of history in order to ace their history class and, in turn, preserve their destiny. While you may not exactly want to take notes from this one for your own history class, it did teach us a very valuable lesson: to be excellent to each other.
What’s the best way to punish a man with utter contempt for a small-town assignment that he thinks is beneath him? Trap him in that small town. When Harold Ramis and Bill Murray embarked on what would become their final collaboration, they didn’t trap Groundhog Day’s Phil Connors in any conventional way. Instead they trapped the crotchety weatherman in a time loop, forcing him to relive February 2nd as he lives recklessly, makes mistakes, learns lessons, falls in love, and ultimately, makes an unlikely decision once February 3rd finally arrives.