Celebrate Back to the Future Day with time-travel favorites

Happy “Back to the Future” Day! Today is Oct. 21, 2015, the day Marty and Doc traveled to the future to stop Marty’s kid from getting arrested. The Internet is abuzz with questions of “What did the movie get right?” If you’re not sick of hearing how close you are to having your own hoverboard, you will be soon.

I love the BTTF trilogy as much as anyone, but they’re not the only cool time-travel flicks in the universe. Time travel is a fun subject, even though it’s not possible – and thank goodness, because we really do not want to “unravel the fabric of the space-time continuum!”

Some characters get to go back in time, some go forward, and some just go back a day and are forced to keep repeating the same day over and over until they get it right. Here are some of my favorite time travel movies.

  1. Back to the Future trilogy. But of course. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd are stellar as teenager Marty McFly and his kooky inventor friend Doc Brown. The DeLorean is arguably the coolest time machine of all time. These movies are so cool, we’ll forgive them for predicting we’d have flying cars by now.
  2. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter play a couple of rock ‘n’ roll-loving teenagers whose time-traveling mentor is an older guy (George Carlin). It seems that Bill and Ted copied BTTF – I’ve heard their time machine was originally a van, but they thought that would be too similar to the DeLorean, so they changed it to a phone booth. Apparently they never saw Dr. Who. It’s still a fun movie.
  3. The Terminator and Terminator 2. The time travelers in the Terminator movies are androids sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor and her son John, who becomes a leader of the resistance in the future. Arnold Scharzenegger’s catchphrase “I’ll be back” comes from The Terminator. Fun and action-packed. What more could you want from your time-travel movie?
  4. 12 Monkeys. Bruce Willis stars as a prisoner who is sent back in order to collect information on a deadly virus that has forced the survivors to live underground. I love this crazy movie, directed by Terry Gilliam, and also starring Brad Pitt and Madeleine Stowe. I think this was the first time we saw that Pitt was a versatile actor, and not just a pretty face. He won a Golden Globe and earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for his role as a mental patient.
  5. Groundhog Day. Bill Murray stars as a grouchy meteorologist who is forced to live the same day over and over. What would you do in this position? Commit crimes with no fear of consequences? Learn to play the piano? Phil Connors uses it as an opportunity to woo the beautiful news producer, played by Andie MacDowell. The first time I saw this movie, I hated it. I felt like I was trapped in Feb. 2, along with Phil. But after forced repeat viewings – it’s one of my husband’s favorites – it became one of my favorites too.
  6. Army of Darkness. OK, I know this one also made my Halloween Top Ten, but … it’s good. Bruce Campbell, as a discount store employee who has the worst luck, gets sucked into a time portal and ends up in the Middle Ages and has to fight an army of undead before he can go back to his own time.
  7. Star Trek: First Contact. The crew of the Enterprise travel from the 24th to the 21st century after the Borg destroy Earth by altering the timeline. Patrick Stewart, et al, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew, are wonderful, but I especially love James Cromwell as Zefram Cochrane, who is famous for having created the first warp-capable vessel. The crew is delighted to meet Cochrane, because he’s a legend, but Cochrane doesn’t understand why they’re so impressed. “I wish I had a picture of this,” Geordi tells Cochrane. “You’re standing almost on the exact spot where your statue is going to be!” “Statue?” “Yeah, it’s marble, about 20 meters tall. You’re looking up at the sky, and your hand is sort of … reaching toward the future.” Cochrane replies, “I’ve got to take a leak.” Too funny.
  8. Men in Black 3. My favorite MIB movie sends Agent J (Will Smith) back in time to save Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) from a Boglodite (Jemaine Clement) who has gone back in time to murder him. In 1969, K is a young man, played by Josh Brolin. This is such a fun movie, also starring Emma Thompson, Will Arnett, and Bill Hader, with cameos from Lady Gaga and Tim Burton.
  9. Edge of Tomorrow. Tom Cruise in yet another futuristic action movie? But wait – this one is good. Think “Groundhog Day” meets “Starship Troopers.” Earth has been invaded by an alien race, and Cruise’s character gets caught in a time loop that sends him back to the day before, every time he dies. He teams up with a badass Special Forces sergeant (Emily Blunt) to hone his fighting skills.
  10. X-Men: Days of Future Past. This is my favorite X-Men movie. Logan (Hugh Jackman) goes back to 1973 to – what else? Save the world, blah blah blah. This could get old, but it doesn’t. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as young Professor X and Magneto are soooo great, and the cast also includes Jennifer Lawrence and Peter Dinklage. But arguably the best part of this movie is the prison break scene in which Quicksilver (Evan Peters) dashes around to the tune of Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle,” moving bullets out of the way and giving cops wedgies.

Ten times real life reminds me of science fiction

Do you ever ask your husband or wife, “When is second breakfast?” Or wish you could “beam up” to your destination when you’re stuck in traffic? I often find myself thinking of science fiction in my ordinary life. Here are a few examples.

  1. Whenever I have déjà vu, I wonder if it means something, like in “The Matrix” when Keanu Reeves sees that cat again and says “Whoa. Déjà vu.” I love it that everyone takes him seriously, because in real life no one cares if you have déjà vu. They also don’t want to hear about the weird dream you had last night.
  2. Every time my First World existence isn’t quite cushy enough, I wish for one of the nifty gadgets in science fiction, like the holodeck or the medical tricorder on Star Trek. And the food replicator. Pretty much anything on Star Trek.
  3. When I’m delirious from lack of sleep, I sometimes wonder if the world as I know it is a replica, manufactured to trick me, and that my life is really being broadcast all over the world. What if everyone can see me obsessively overplucking my eyebrows, or hear me talking to myself? And it is then that I wish I’d never seen “The Truman Show.”
  4. Lately, I’ve been thinking about Jadzia from Deep Space Nine. She was a Trill: an alien species who serves as a host to a symbiont called Dax. Jadzia retains all the skills and memories from the previous hosts. When I look back on my life 20 years ago, or even just five years ago, it hardly seems like I’m the same person, like I’m a Trill or something.
  5. Admit it – sometimes you wish you had a time machine so you could have do-overs, like in the completely nonsensical “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” “After the report, we’ll time travel back to two days ago, steal your dad’s keys and leave them here. … How about behind that sign? That way, when we get here now, they’ll be waiting for us!”
  6. A lot of us spend a lot of time online. Our world seems to be becoming more and more like that movie “Surrogates,” in which people in the future live in front of their computers, controlling robotic avatars who stand in for them in the real world.
  7. When I see news stories about scientists trying to recreate the woolly mammoth, or selling genetically modified pet pigs, or abusing science in some other similar asinine fashion, I think of Jeff Goldblum’s character in “Jurassic Park,” Dr. Malcolm, who said the scientists were “so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
  8. When I’m feeling lazy, I think maybe I should do some pull-ups, or learn how to drive a motorcycle, or hotwire a car, in case there’s some future emergency and I need to be strong and fast and skilled. Like, for instance, what if a cyborg from the future is sent to kill me? Oh wait, that’s the plot of “Terminator 2.”  Which is mostly unlikely to happen.
  9. As my kids get older, I am reminded of Sil from “Species,” who ages 12 years in like, three months. I keep doing double takes at my son, like, “Weren’t you a toddler a few minutes ago?”
  10. We all have our favorite movie quotes that we use conversationally. Most of the movies my husband and I quote to each other are from sci-fi/fantasy movies: “Aziz, light!” “Do or do not. There is no try.” “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” “You keep saying that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.” “I am altering the deal; pray I don’t alter it any further.” “My precious!” And my favorite faux curse word, “Frak!”