The 6 Stupidest Cinematic Reasons to Travel Through Time

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as David Addison in Looper

In Looper (opening Friday), Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a contract killer who rubs out people that the mob throws back in time … until he himself is tossed back through the portal looking like Bruce Willis and he is unable to shoot himself because he was a huuuuuge Moonlighting fan. At least I think that’s the plot.

The point is, time travel is a tricky topic for movies, and lots of times it gets botched. Here are some of the worst reasons we’ve ever seen for someone to get their Back to the Future on.

1. To Bang Your Own Great-Great-Grandmother (Kate & Leopold)

Wait, I banged WHO? (Meg Ryan is confused.)

UGH. This movie is wretched. I wish I could travel back in time and slap myself in the face for sitting through it on a flight to the west coast. (Added bonus: double miles!) But worse than just being a bland romantic comedy that gives Meg Ryan ample time to sweater-act, it also features a loopy subplot (which was mostly cut from the final print after a critics at advance screenings balked) that makes engaged lovers Liev Schreiber and Meg Ryan blood relatives as a result of all the time-hopping. That’s even more uncomfortable than the rash Hugh Jackman got from his tights! Oh yeah – Hugh Jackman wears tights. THAT’s why I watched this movie.

2. To Push Ron Silver Into Himself (Timecop)

Ron Silver and his favorite costar, Ron Silver

Granted, his character is a total dick. And yes, when his past-self and his future-self touch, they break the laws of the space/time continuum and he devolves into a kinda cool pile of goo. But really, Jean Claude – why bother traveling through time at all when instead you could just stay home and do this all day:

Jean Claude Van Damme tidies up in Timecop

I guess he really doesn’t like to get his feet wet!


3. As an Excuse for a Wretched Rap Theme by L.A. Posse (Waxwork II: Lost in Time)

The adorable Zach Galligan in the not even remotely adorable Waxwork II: Lost in Time

“Lost in time/Like a bug in a jar!” Wait – if the bug’s in the jar, how is it lost? You know exactly where it is! It is in fact THE OPPOSITE OF LOST. Anyway, a bad time-travel-based sequel to a great little cult horror comedy, and one of the worst theme songs ever. Exhibit A.

4. To Attend Twice as Many Classes (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe

Sorry, Hermione – we love you, but you really need to step back from the One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi. In the third (and one of the best, IMHO) films of the HP franchise, our Miss Granger gets a hold of a time-travel-inducing hourglass … which she then uses to go to as many classes as she possibly can. That’s like using the Hellraiser puzzlebox as a yoga block. Thank Hogwarts that the thing actually gets put to decent use later on.

5. To Kill Yourself (Donnie Darko)

Jake Gyllenhaal as carefree teen Donnie Darko

Whatever the hell Donnie Darko was actually about (time travel? alternate universes? slow-motion?), in the most basic sense it’s the simple story of a guy who jumps across time to make sure he’s in the direct path of a jet engine that crashed into his house while he was busy out chasing a demonic man in a rabbit suit across a golf course.

On the bright side, his death does manage to save Sparkle Motion. So he’s got that going for him.

6. To Make Out With Nicolas Cage (Peggy Sue Got Marrried)

Pre-curse Kathleen Turner and Nic Cage

I believe time itself is a testament to just how bad of an idea this one is. Above = Then. Here’s Now:

And to take it a step further, Peggy Sue’s big regret that she gets to reverse by revisiting her youth is that she finally gets to sleep with … Kevin O’Connor?! I guess Clayton Rohner was unavailable.

Anyway, those are some of our favorite bad reasons to jump through time. Anyone have others?


In 2003, Brian launched the world's first website devoted to horror film from a gay perspective (, mining an untapped (and occasionally unintentional) source of entertainment and bringing together a huge and colorful population of gay horror fans and filmmakers. When he's not pulling skeletons out of closets, Brian writes reviews for horror megasite, general film site, and can be found on the ever-informative Brian is also a filmmaker, having produced, written, and directed two shorts (the dark romantic comedy An Apple a Day and the eerie suspense piece Two Story House) that have played at film festivals worldwide and left audiences generally uneasy. A born-and-bred Midwesterner, Brian studied Mass Media and Film at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. (I know – crazy, right?) before fleeing the district for the warm and occasionally stinky shores of NYC. Brian is a proud member of the Online Film Critics Society, loving husband to illustrator Andy Swist, and benevolent overlord of their two cats.