The found footage flick Project Almanac, formerly titled Welcome to Yesterday and delayed a number of times, finally hits theaters this weekend, closing out the first month of 2015 with a bit of time travel. (Oddly enough, the month also started with a time travel joint, the Spierig Brothers’ under seen Predestination.) This teen-centric movie about a group of nerdy high school friends who discover that one of their dads made a time machine, got us thinking about our favorite young-folk themed time travel movies. With that in mind, here is a list of our favorite offerings in this realm, there are slackers, robots, and everyone’s favorite DeLorean.
Back to the Future
When you set out to make a list of time travel movies, teen-centric or otherwise, you have to start with Back to the Future, shocking as that is. There’s a reason that 30 years later we still love this movie, and it’s not just Part 2 promised us we’d have hoverboards by later this year. This is what every kid wants out of life: you get to go on an awesome adventure, drive the coolest car you can imagine, have a huge influence on history, and invent rock and roll in the process. All while wearing one sweet ass vest that your mom thinks is a life jacket. Not only is this the absolute blast it sounds like, you get emotionally invested in the characters, and it is such a tight, almost perfectly written script, one that Robert Zemeckis and Michael J. Fox execute to precise perfection. There’s nothing not to like here.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is another movie that directly informs Project Almanac, and one that actually shows up in the movie itself. We were tempted to throw Bogus Journey into the just for the hell of it, but we realized that, while they heroes are still young, they’re not exactly teens anymore. Every kid who has ever strapped on a guitar has dreamed of being a rock god, and slacker burnouts Bill S. Preston, Esquire (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) not only get to realize their dream, but ride a magic phone booth through the circuits of time with the help of George Carlin, all without being able to play a note. Rescuing beautiful princesses, meeting the greatest historical figures of all time, and saving the future; acing a damn history report has never been so much fun. Strange things are indeed afoot at the Circle K.
For some reason Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits tends to get lost among the rest of his filmography. That’s a risk you take when you make classics like 12 Monkeys and Brazil, but it’s also a damn shame. As you would expect from a Gilliam joint, the story of an eleven-year-old boy who teams up with a group of time travelling dwarves to pillage valuable artifacts from historical figures is even stranger than the description makes it sound. Full of fantastic cameos—Sean Connery plays Agamemnon, Gilliam’s Monty Python brother John Cleese shows up as Robin Hood, among others—this is a lunatic ride from beginning to gleefully delirious end. If you haven’t watched this in a while, you owe it to yourself to pop it in the player or cue it up on your preferred streaming service. It’s a wild ride well worth taking again.
Flight of the Navigator
If you love mid-1980s adventure films where the kid is the real hero, like The Goonies, D.A.R.Y.L., and Explorers, then 1986’s Flight of the Navigator is right up your alley. And if you like seeing kids pilot their very own spaceship, even better. Young David Freeman has somehow lost eight years of his life, and the explanation involves alien abductions, star maps implanted in his brain, and blasting off in an awesome, retro future spaceship. The whole thing is way more complicated than that, but there are also some awesome practical puppet aliens, and who among us didn’t want to spend most of our childhoods zipping around in an awesome spacecraft and travelling light years from Earth?
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Easily the most badass installment on this list, Edward Furlong’s young John Connor in Terminator 2 also has the distinction of being the biggest criminal among the protagonists of these particular films. He’s way more adept than the others at doing things like ripping off ATM machines, and when you add his very own futuristic killing machine into the mix, that’s the making of a very good time indeed. Making the titular robotic assassin, who is so cold and terrifying in the first film, the good guy, took some stones on the part of James Cameron, but the results obviously speak for themselves. Instead of trying to destroy the future, this unlikeliest of duos embarks on a quest to save the human race, and just for the hell of it, they bring John’s mom along for the ride.