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‘Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.’ Doc Brown

I’m sure most of us have said to ourselves ‘If only I could go back in time, I would make a different decision!’  If only, but in reality, we can’t travel through time, especially not backwards, to a time we choose and correct the mistakes we have (through hindsight) concluded should happen. 

One of the most popular time travellers for those of us who grew up in the United Kingdom is the Doctor (Doctor Who) the person who travels through the universe and through time in the Tardis, an amazing police phone box which is bigger inside than out! The many adventures occur with an unusual array of characters and in a range of settings that make our lives seem dull and uneventful.

Time-travel movies are a sub-genre of science fiction or fantasy where characters journey to different points in time, either the past or the future.  Time-travel is the key plot element which explores the various scenarios made possible by bending the flow of time.  These movies come in a variety of styles: science fiction, action adventure, comedies and complex thrillers.  Attracting a wide following of audiences with films such as the Back to the Future series targeted to the young and others with a more complex timeline where it is difficult to predict the outcome as the time travellers’ actions are what causes the events to happen.

This chart was created by Mr. Dalliard and Gizmodo. Breaks down a number of time travel in film and TV.  It shows the intricacies and flow of the various time-travel movie plots and how they are written into many of the well known movies.

The wonders and magic of the silver screen has made time travel a definite possibility and has allowed the protagonists to move through time both backward and forwards, changing the action which in turn alters the outcome of those actions!  We are fascinated by time traveller stories for several reasons including the question ‘What if?’, which may or may not be answered if we go back in time and change the future.  It can also quench our historical curiosity by bringing into view an era we can only imagine.  Understanding and creating something which until now has proved to be unrealistic and impossible and might even answer the eternal question ‘Why are we here?’.

Possibly the first time-travel movie where a machine travels to the past is director George Pal's The Time Machine (1960) adapted from H.G. Wells' 1895 novella.

At the time, the film received mixed reviews but it won an Oscar for special effects.  The actual time machine is now an iconic prop in film history—it's a sled-like design with a large clock-like rotating disk and a brass plate on the instrument panel identifying the inventor as "H. George Wells."

Conceivably the most popular series of time-travel movies for family viewing has been the Robert Zemeckis’ series Back to the Future the first one coming to our screens in 1985.  A Sci-fi/Comedy, which tackles the fact that we will never really know what our parents were like when they were young!  The amazing success of the original film led to the second and third in the series being released in 1989 and 1990 respectively.  Although these didn’t perform quite as well at the box office.  Yet they all remain extremely popular and have led to a variety of spin-offs such as an animated TV series, video games and a stage musical.

Even though in reality we cannot alter the time in which we live, we can through movies time-travel!

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