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The Ten Most Ridiculous Methods of Time Travel in Movies

Time travel can be tricky, as the slightest misstep disrupts the space-time continuum. Best-case scenario? Your teenage mother ends up falling for the wrong guy. Worst-case scenario? The world ends. But that hasn’t stopped fictional characters from transforming toasters, telephone booths, and, yes, hot tubs into time-traveling devices. As John Cusack and Craig Robinson fire up the jets for Hot Tub Time Machine, we compile the ten most ridiculous methods of time travel seen on the big screen. If we missed any, take the time to let us know.

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10. Pimp Mobile, Austin Powers in Goldmember
Needing to return to 1975 to halt his nemesis, Dr. Evil (Mike Myers), Austin Powers (also Myers) slides behind the wheel of a bouncy, tricked-out Cadillac with a fuzzy pink interior and gigantic die hanging from the mirror. The gaudy automobile tickled the international superspy’s fancy and, let’s face it, kind of appealed to the lowrider in all of us.

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9. Device in a Garage, Primer
Shane Carruth’s low-budget head-scratcher analyzes the complications of time travel, but does so with a basic means of transportation. Aaron (Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan) accidentally construct a random device in a suburban garage that sends items back in time. Deciding how they should use it, however, damages the multiple realities they occupy. At least, that’s what I think happens. With Primer, you’re never 100 percent sure.


8. Medallion in a Moat, Black Knight
You’ve heard of A Kid in King Arthur’s Court. Black Knight works kind of the same way, except that it delivers a Bad Boy to the same medieval territory. Martin Lawrence plays Jamal “Sky” Walker, disgruntled employee of the Medieval World theme park who time-travels after fishing a shiny medallion out off a miniature moat. Not exactly sure how that works, but at least his Jets jersey remains intact.


7. Runaway Train, Back to the Future Part III
Stuck in the Wild West, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) must supercharge a locomotive to reach the pivotal 88 miles per hour and return to modern times. (Naturally.) The idea, alone, sounds crazy. But it’s Doc’s color-coded logs, tossed into the train’s furnace, that make this a memorable — and absurd, even for this series of flicks — method of time transport.


6. Maser Velocity Accelerator, Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann
Legendary racer Lyle Swann (Fred Ward) accidentally rides his souped-up dirt bike through a time-travel experiment, sending the cocky cyclist back to the 1800s, thanks to a device that manipulates microwaves. Swann wasn’t supposed to enter a time warp: scientists were attempting to transport an ape named Ester G. The Lyle Swann screenplay was penned by Michael Nesmith, onetime member of the Monkees.

NECRO resized.JPG5. The Necronomicon, Army of Darkness
Portals and vortices are nothing new in movies. But it’s the way Sam Raimi opens one up here that deserves mention. The Necronomicon, a book that traces its roots back to H.P. Lovecraft’s horror stories, torments Ash (Bruce Campbell) through three Evil Dead films. But in this one, it actually sends him to medieval England, where he must fight knights and night-walking demons. In time, though, it sends Ash home, where he resumes his dead-end retail job. Hooray?

FINAL resized.JPG4. Freakish Storm Vortex, The Final Countdown
To interfere with history or not to interfere? Don Taylor’s Final Countdown asks that question, sending a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, piloted by Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen, to a time days before the Pearl Harbor attack, so that they can debate whether they should prevent it. The premise is strong, but the freak “storm” that sends our sailors back in time — and magically returns late in the movie to correct the narrative’s timeline — is pretty weak.

AZKABAN resized.JPG3. The Time-Turner, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
In this hit movie, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) produces an hourglass-shaped pendant that sends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Harry Potter (Danielle Radcliffe) back in time so that they can rescue…Harry Potter? It makes more sense once you’ve seen it. What doesn’t make much sense is that the Time-Turner disappears for the rest of the franchise, even though there are countless times when its power would come in handy — like, for instance, when a certain professor kills a certain headmaster.

DELOREAN resized.JPG2. DeLorean, Back to the Future
The franchise that’s so nice we mention it twice! Even Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) thinks this one is ridiculous: “Are you telling me that you built a time machine…out of a DeLorean?” The movie and its silly method of time travel climbs to number two on this list both for its rebuttal from Doc (Christopher Lloyd) — about traveling in style — and for the fact that it enabled John DeLorean’s gull-wing-door contraption to live on in our hearts and minds, when it could have been little more than an historical footnote.

1. Phone Booth, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Before they could record righteous music as members of Wyld Stallyns, Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter) and Theodore “Ted” Logan (Keanu Reeves) need to pass their history final. Enter Rufus (George Carlin), who lends them a time-warp telephone booth (!) that miraculously fits Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon, and Socrates, to name a few. Like the movie itself, Bill and Ted’s ridiculous method of time-traveling transportation — wait for it — totally rules.


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