With the upcoming release of a movie about a Jacuzzi that allows its occupants to traverse back through time (read: Hot Tub Time Machine), we thought this might be a good opportunity to see what other devices have been used throughout cinematic history for time travel – so we’ve compiled a list of of the 5 best and 5 worst time machines depicted in movies.

The ability to relive our past has been something that most (if not all) people have thought about at some point in their lives. Oftentimes, the wannabe time traveler just wants to go back to high school and capture some past glory that eluded them. Others may want to go back and change some horrific event in their lives, thinking that the future will be better for them if they do. I, for one, can think of a couple of things I would like to go and erase from my chronological database (like the time I decided to date my first girlfriend in high school).

Whatever the reason, the scientific means to make it possible to become a jet setter cruising through time just doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t stop people from dreaming up ingenious, and often ridiculous, ways to imagine how it could be done. So join me, if you will, as we take a look back at the best and worst time travel devices conceived in movies.

The Top 5 Cinematic Time Machines

#5: Hot Tub Hot Tub Time Machine

The movie that inspired this article (read our Hot Tub Time Machine review), gives us one of the most fun, wettest ways to experience a temporal shift. The best part is that it comes with its own repairman, liquor and mascot. Seriously, why did it take so long for someone to come up with the idea to travel in a device full of wet people wearing minimal clothing? I can’t wait to see the film that gives us the Karaoke Time Machine.

Time Traveled: 24 years

#4: DeLorean – Back to the Future I/II/III

It would be difficult to write an article about movie time machines without mentioning the famous modified defunct car and its “flux capacitor.” Anyone who enjoys 80’s films will immediately answer “Back to the Future” when asked the question “What movie has the most popular time machine ever?” In the sequels, Doc Brown further modifies the vehicle to run off of garbage and fly. By the time the third installment rolled around, Brown had found a way to make a locomotive engine both fly and travel through time. If only Amtrak were that efficient.

Time Traveled: 60 years

#3: Phone booth: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Like its fish ’n chips cousin, the 1960’s American style phone booth became a time traveling sensation in this 1989 comedy starring a pre-kung fu Keanu Reeves.  This cramped mode of travel was more than sufficient to allow our two intrepid chrono-voyagers to visit the past and return well into the future. It can also be repaired with bubblegum, so that’s a plus as well. Wyld Stallyns… EXCELLENT! *air guitar*

Time Traveled: 3100 years

#2: The Tardis – Doctor Who

OK, granted this time machine shaped like a 1950’s style London police box comes from a TV show, but I’ll remind you that there is also rumor of a feature length Doctor Who movie in the works, so let’s just say it counts. The Doctor is an alien being called a Time Lord and can move back and forth through time as he wishes using the Tardis, which is itself a living object capable of much power. Being much larger on the inside than it is on the outside, the Tardis definitely deserves a spot in the top 5 of all time travel devices.

Time Traveled: 100 trillion years

#1: The Time Machine – The Time Machine (1960/2002)


I would be remiss if I didn’t make the number 1 time travel device the one that inspired two movies from the book of the same title. The Time Machine was written by H. G. Wells, who many sci-fi experts consider to be the father of time travel.  First published in 1895, it was the precursor to all time traveling explorers to come. With the ability to move in small increments or large spans of time, Wells’ time machine is an all-time classic that any sci-fi aficionado would be proud to own.

Time Traveled: 30 million years

Honorable Mentions: The following films don’t quite explain exactly what device is used that allows their characters to travel time but their contribution to the time traveling genre can’t be ignored:

The Terminator I/II, Timecop, Time Bandits, A Connecticut in King Arthur’s Court, Frequency, Donnie Darko, Flight of the Navigator, Twelve Monkeys; The Philadelphia Experiment, The Final Countdown

Continue reading to see the 5 Worst Time Travel Machines

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