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The Adam Project, director Shawn Levy’s new family-centric, time-travel adventure, became part of our timeline when it premiered on Netflix on March 11. Ryan Reynolds stars as Adam Reed, a time-traveling fighter pilot in the future who crashes into the past (our 2022) and connects with his 12-year-old self to save the future. Confused?
It all makes sense, but most importantly, the film got us revisiting the past and thinking about all of the fantastic time travel movies that have been accessible to both kids and adults. If after watching The Adam Project, you’re enamored with the idea of time travel and want to watch more of them in your future, we’ve got a grab bag of equally worthwhile movies with the genre that are meant to spark imaginations to even greater heights.
1. 13 Going on 30
Jennifer Garner nails the “teen inside an adult body” vibe that’s so necessary to sell the charm of this wish fulfillment comedy. She plays a nerdy 13-year-old who desperately wants to be part of the popular crowd, but gets pranked by them instead. After a desperate birthday wish to be "30, flirty, and thriving,” she wakes up 17 years in the future, exactly as she hoped. Garner’s unbridled enthusiasm yet awkward gangliness is a sight to see. It’s also a movie that appeals to kids who will totally get the fantasy of being grown-up, and adults who can wistfully appreciate the realities of adulthood and the hard knocks experienced along the way.
2. Back to the Future
Back to the Future remains a pinnacle title in the genre because of Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and the ensemble cast’s pitch-perfect performances. They’re why we buy the absurd high concept premise of a DeLorean turned into a time machine. Perhaps kids respond so well to the movie because the script does such an efficient job explaining the twisty, paradox-filled concept and then it doesn’t pander to audiences of any age. Younger viewers get the stakes, the weirdness of Marty’s mom crushing on him, and the almost cartoonish charm of Lloyd’s Doc Brown. It’s a perfect entry point title for the time travel genre. If you like this one, then just wait until you see what else is out there.
3. The Bill & Ted Trilogy
The beguiling dudes of Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and "Ted" Theodore Logan (Keanu Reeves) dumb down time travel for the masses, and we’re forever grateful to them. The two besties from the Valley have a lot of air between their ears, but plenty of heart beating in their chest’s. Without a doubt, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) is the best of the trilogy but there are plenty of charms to be had in all three installments of their adventures through time. There’s also a tailor-made appeal to audiences of a younger age, who can see themselves in the less than stellar students and sorta floundering young men. And then the third installment reaches across the generation gap by including their daughters which brings the whole premise into the now and gives the guys an arc that earns an enthusiastic “Excellent!”
Adam Sandler is the poster-guy for arrested development, which is stitched into 90 percent of his film projects, which is why Click is a natural fit. He plays Michael Newman, an overworked family man who is getting clobbered at work and watching his family life suffer. Instead of making some life-changing choices, he uses a magical remote to fast-forward through the rough spots, time-jumping through his life to the better parts until he is forced to face the repercussions of his avoidance. Sandler makes the comedy relatable for all ages and it’s a fun concept to play within, until it gets a bit dark towards the end. But there’s a strong moral to the story about being present and not disappearing inside the boob tube when you can take control of your life.
5. Flight of the Navigator
An old school Walt Disney title from 1986, it tells the adventures of 12-year-old David Freeman (Joey Cramer), an average kid who gets abducted by aliens and is taken eight years into the future. His family thinks he was just missing, but David was taken to planet Phaelon and given a brain full of alien information and knowledge. It’s a bit dated today but it certainly hits the nostalgia buttons for Gen-Xers and captures that Amblin ethos of capable kids doing incredible things.
6. Futurama: Bender's Big Score
After fading away from the Fox lineup, Futurama was resurrected (the first time) in 2007 as a series of four direct-to-video movies, starting with Bender’s Big Score. The complicated plot has Bender (John DiMaggio) getting involved with a bunch of scammers who use the morally-compromised robot to steal history's treasures throughout time. Due to paradoxes and multiple Fryes (Billy West), the whole adventure ends with a cliffhanger tear in the fabric of space. Ridiculous, but as is the case with the show, always scientifically minded if not always completely sound.
7. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
This 2006 animated sequel to the book of the same name is kinda like the teenage girl version of Groundhog Day. Young Makoto Konno discovers she has the power to “time leap” with a tattoo that lets her know how many times she is allowed to jump in time. It ends up being an affecting romance and clever story about choice and destiny. Often positively compared to the works of Studio Ghibli, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is now considered a modern anime classic.
8. Groundhog Day
“Phil? Phil Conners? I thought that was you!” If you know Harold Ramis’ classic time loop comedy Groundhog Day, then you know that quote perfectly encapsulates the spirit of hilarity and misery inherent to the film. Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, an arrogant local weatherman covering the Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, PA. What should be a one-day stay in the tiny burgh ends up becoming an endless repeat of that single day for Phil, as he desperately tries to break the cycle and get back home. Heartfelt, and silly, Groundhog Day makes a poignant lesson out of kindness, self-betterment, and never letting a groundhog drive.
9.Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Even if you’re not into Star Trek, this 1986 installment featuring the Original Crew on the big screen is easily the most accessible movie of them all. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy are at their comedic best and the story is as resonant as ever as the future Starfleet heroes go back in time to recover some humpback whales necessary to resolving a crisis. Young viewers will get the ecological message (and wonder at the old tech of the era), while older viewers can appreciate the chemistry and very Trek messages at its narrative core.
10. Mr. Peabody and Sherman
The once small screen heroes from The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends leaped to the big screen in 2014 for a computer animated adventure featuring the brilliant Peabody and his "way back" time machine. Today's kids are likely unfamiliar with the old, hand-drawn Mr. Peabody and Sherman cartoons, but this movie introduced the egg-head duo to a new generation without losing the charm of the original 1960’s cartoon. The time-jumping is also a great way to sneak some history into a kid’s brain without them feeling the pain of textbooks.
11. Meet the Robinsons
Based on the book, A Day with Wilbur Robinson, this CG animated adaptation from Walt Disney Animation has two pint-sized time travelers making trouble with their inventions. Twelve-year old Lewis meets his match in 13-year old Wilbur Robinson who says he’s a time cop from the future. A twisty adventure that also works as a great primer for the genre, it appeals with the complexities of the premise and the ridiculousness of their impact across time.
12. Time Bandits
A perfect blend of British absurdism from Terry Gilliam and timeless adventure, Time Bandits was the entry point for a lot of Gen-Xers into British comedy with an all-star cast of some Monty Python alum and the likes of Sean Connery, Ian Holm, and Ralph Richardson. It’s a bit too busy to follow at times, but its history-loving hero, Kevin (Craig Warnock) is a great relatable character for the young viewers while the adults will get the fun on a whole other level. Plus, it all comes down to a toaster oven and that’s about as low-fi cool as it gets.