Pop Cuture’s Coolest Time Machines

Time Travel

I love time travel. I’ve been fascinated with it as long as I can remember. I’ve read countless books on the subject, including Stephen Hawking’s dense A Brief History of Time (it may be brief, but it isn’t light, I’ll tell you that) because he added chapters on wormholes and time travel in the 10th Anniversary Edition. Just the idea of being able to travel in time is cool to me. It’s what compelled me to see Back to the Future 10 times in the theater in 1985 (I’m not kidding…10 times). It’s what got me to beg my mother to let me stay up late on a school night and watch the final hour of Quantum Leap’s 2 hour debut in March 1989. It’s also what compelled me to go see the revamp of HG Wells’ Time Machine with Guy Pearce in the theater in 2002 (it sucked, btw).

Since I’ve read and watched so much stuff, I thought I’d list some of my favorite time machines in movies and/or tv shows. None of these are perfect, I even discuss their problems and idiosyncrasies, but they are cool nonetheless. So sit back and let’s take a look at some of the coolest time vehicles ever created.

Tardis from Dr WhoThe Tardis from Doctor Who – I’ve never really watched Dr Who…EVER, but I’ve always liked the look of his flying time machine/phone booth. This police box is more than just a time machine, it also serves as a base of operations and a space ship. It has the cool feature of being much larger on the inside than you would expect on the outside. They can also change shape to blend in with their surroundings. Apparently, though, Dr Who’s vessel is an outdated model that has a faulty chameleon circuit that is stuck in the police box form. It also is unreliable in it’s time travel because it’s an older model and prone to breakdowns. Sounds like something Han Solo and Chewie would piece together with spit, duct tape and a prayer.

Bill and TedThe phone booth from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – This was a cool idea, and I like the gimmick of it, but in practice it leaves a lot to be desired. There’s not much room on the inside, and other than travelling to the 20th and 21st centuries, the vehicle itself might seem out of place and draw attention. I don’t imagine our forefathers would take kindly to a phone booth popping up in the middle of the White House lawn. However having a “time book” to tell you how to go wherever you want to go would be nice. But, again, Bill & Ted proved it’s pretty easy to be stuck in time when their antenna was damaged. But, again-again, they fixed it pretty easy with some discarded metal canisters. Time travel must not be too hard if Bill and Ted can service a broken time booth. Also, I never liked this movie’s rule that the clock in San Dimas is always ticking. Meaning when Bill and Ted left on their time trip, if they spent 24 hours searching for historical persons, when they return it had to be 24 hours later. That makes no sense. You are in a time machine, you should be able to go back to 1 minute after you left. That’s somewhat the point of time travel, no?

Quantum AcceleratorThe quantum accelerator from Quantum Leap – This is a cool way to travel as you become someone else and interact with the people around you as that other person. The downside, you have no control over where you are going or if you will ever be able to return home. And you can’t take back souvenirs because your body jumps away into the next situation. So, actually, this time machine sucks. Nevermind.

TimeCopTime vehicle from Time Cop – This is another cool time transport device. Controlled by rooms of supercomputers, you can pinpoint exactly where you are traveling in time. However, you can’t travel to the future, only to the past and back to your original point in time. Take a look at the picture; the time machine is an angular, wedge shaped vehicle that travels forward on a set of tracks at an extreme velocity towards a brick wall surrounded by some weird, stone circle structure. When it reaches a certain point on the track it pierces the fabric of the time barrier and disappears. Interestingly, the movie alludes to the fact that the vehicle sometimes doesn’t work properly and crashes into the aforementioned brick wall at the far end killing the passengers. My question? Why did they build a wall at the end of the track in the first place? Why didn’t they leave the room open at one end with no wall/giant circle structure to crash into, then when the ship doesn’t pierce the time barrier, it just glides to a stop. Nobody has to die. At the very least they could put some pillows or a giant net at the end to catch the ship. I mean, COME ON, I have three or four better ideas than a deadly brick wall to kill my passengers and I’m not even a futuristic scientist building a time machine. After the ship breaks the time barrier and disappears, the time passengers are dropped into the past…sans vehicle. Where does the giant car-sized machine go as it is not seen in the past at all and magically appears back on the tracks later in the movie?

Delorean from Back to the Future – This is the quinessential time machine. Cool car, acurate time circuits. And at the end of the movie when it gets fitted with Mr Fusion and no longer needs Plutonium to power the time circuits (and it gets the hover conversion), it becomes the easiest and funnest to use. Who wouldn’t want to drive a flying Delorean into the past and/or future? I know I would. Back to the Future made the Delorean cool again.

Time Egg from Green Futures of Tycho – I read this book when I was in 7th or 8th grade. Great story. It’s considered Children’s Literature but the story is pretty dark. Young Tycho finds a silver egg in his backyard. After playing around with it he discovers that it’s actually a time device. He can set some dials on the bottom and press a button on the top and be taken to any destination in time that he so desires. He decides to alter some unpleasant incidents in the past but he soon finds out they have major repercussions on his present…and his future. The time egg is great because it’s small, portable enough to fit in your pocket, and can go both forward and backward in time. It’s instantaneous too, so if you get in trouble, reach in your pocket, flip the dials and press the button for a quick escape. No running back to the time machine or having to start the motor. Very convenient.

How about a few of the worst time machines ever?

Time ChasersCessna plane from Time Chasers – One of the worst movies ever, but one of the greatest episodes of Mystery Science Theater ever. Science geek Nick Miller builds a time machine out of a Cessna airplane and an Apple II computer. Very cost efficient using a small AIRPLANE to power your time machine…WTF?! Did the scientist think it would just be easier to travel in time with a plane? That’s crazy. Besides, how did this guy afford to pay for a damn PLANE?!  He sure as hell wasn’t borrowing it cause I don’t know anyone that would loan some dorky researcher guy a plane just because he asked.  Dude must have taken out like 200 payday loans to pay for the plane.  How’d he have any money left to buy the computer equipment?  You know the plane bankrupted the guy because later in the movie, he takes a reporter lady in the time machine on a date to the future and they eat at an Orange Julius. But you know it’s an Orange Julius in the future because everyone is wearing one piece shiny silver suits and weird head gear. If you watch this, be prepared…or just watch the MST3K version.

Uncle Rico’s time machine – Obviously not a real time machine, but I think it’s the funniest. I laugh just thinking about it. “If only coach would have put me in the game back in ’85. We would have won State.”

Have a good weekend everybody!

Related articles:
7 Time Machines that would suck if they existed in the real world

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41 Responses to “Pop Cuture’s Coolest Time Machines”

  1. Mike Lehman Says:

    Wow. Time chasers. This movie was soo bad, it wasn’t even saved by the MSTK treatment.

    I will have to re-watch timecop to see if I can figure out the mystery of the missing time transport. If I can get past Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits in every other scene.

  2. Dude, the splits are his signature. Seeing a movie where Van Damme DOESN’T do the splits is like going to see the Stones in concert and they don’t play Satisfaction. It’s just not right.

    And I disagree, Time Chasers on MST3K was the balls.

  3. I always thought “Somewhere in Time” had a great concept. There was no time machine… you time travelled in your mind by disassociating yourself with the present day.

  4. True, I always liked Somewhere in Time. Good movie.

  5. Thank you so much! I remember reading a book about a boy with a time egg in gradeschool. I wanted to read it again and could not remember anything else about it. A quick search for Time Egg, hit your site, amazon.com, and a copy is on the way! Made my year!

  6. Paxton Holley Says:

    No problem. Glad I could help! It’s one of my favorite books!

  7. …what? No Time Force Megazord? 😄

  8. i think it works, honestly all my life i have been searching for it. When i woke up this morning i said i’m going to visit the year 1.5( yes it’s real) and say how you doing to my dinosaur friends( or as you call them reptiles). This movie is on the right track so you should search “time machines” and see what you can find. I want to go back in time and watch my birth.
    See yal,
    im old gregg

  9. You forgot the the Toaster from The Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror V.

  10. Hey buddy Hans solo and Chewbaca ain’t got shit on a Dr. Who. You should really watch the show before you judge it but I’ll give you props for puttin it at the top. The Tardis isn’t just a time machine, It’s a biomechanical interdimensional time and sub-space reality machine. The coolest part is the tardis is linked to you genetically (though others can pilot it) and can almost think for itself. It was made from an ancient race of aliens known as the timelords. They “policed” time and made sure nothing was interfered with and prevented crimes againt the universe. All knowing beings of divine origin they made the tardis to protect the universe. Plus the tardis has a swimming pool…so yeah

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