The Worst Time Travel Action Movies

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Story:  In the future, criminals have managed to get ahold of time travel.  To stop them, the government has created a time cop agency, police that go back in time to track down criminals.

Method of Travel:  A really fast machine that speeds them along a track really quickly.  One that also seems to be able to make the people who use it appear at any physical point in the United States.  It's not just a time machine, but also a taxi.  (We're not going just to 1892, we're going to 1892 in Alabama!)

Reason for Inclusion on the Worst List:  In this film, it's apparently impossible to affect the time stream - until it isn't and the script suddenly calls for it.  There are all these bad guys back in time, but none of them really seem to be affecting the future - ever hear of the butterfly effect?  They're just in the past, getting rich of betting on sports games and stuff.  Only when it's suddenly necessary to the plot, does the past start affecting the future.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.

I also like that in the film, the time travel cop corps loses government funding.  Yeah, because when you have to protect the time stream from bad guys, sometimes you just can't come up with the money, you know?

This film is the subject of my article on why Hollywood usually gets time travel wrong.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past

Story:  Wolverine of the X-Men travels into the past to try and stop the building of robots that will take over in the future.

Method of Travel:  Another on the list of worst time machines, Professor X uses his mind and Kitty Pryde uses powers no one knew she had and Woosh!...Wolverine is suddenly in the past!

Reason for Inclusion on the Worst List:  The method of time travel is just unbelievably dumb - I just can't get past it.  Professor X cannot create time travel.  Neither can Kitty Pryde - yet we're meant to just believe that somehow they both think about it and manage to create a time portal?

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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Story:  Kirk and company must travel into the past to find two Humpback whales, so that an angry alien probe in the future - which is attempting contact with the whales - doesn't decide to annihilate the planet.

Method of Travel:  Spinning around the sun, which I listed as one of the worst time machines developed by Hollywood.

Reason for Inclusion on the Worst List:  In addition to a lame method of time travel, their journey to the past seems one entirely free of any sort of potential paradox or worry about messing up time.  Their only problem is finding the whales - it's like guilt and consequence free time travel!  While the film is considered one of the better Trek films and - when you divorce it from the time travel business - it is funny to watch Spock in 1980s America.  But ultimately, their little day trip back in time seemed too frivolous for my own tastes.

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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines


Story:  Yet another assassin from the future returns to the past to try and stop John Connor.

Method of Travel:  Future time machine

Reason for Inclusion on the Worst List:  I just want to know what it's like in the future where the time machine is at, the point in space where they're sending back all these Terminators into the past.  While there's a span of a few years between the first and second and third Terminator films, in the future, we don't need an equally corresponding gap in time, because well, we're using time travel.  In the future, you'd instantly know whether the assassin you sent into the past was successful or not, because if it was, the entire future would suddenly change.  If you're standing at the tip of the time machine in the future, and you're just sent back your first Terminator and nothing changes, then your Terminator - even if the Terminator's attempt took twenty years in the past - was unsuccessful.  

I'm imagining the Terminator from the first film going.  Then Skynet sends the T-1000 from the second film.  And then the T-X from the third film, all waiting on one another, each waiting to see if the previous Terminator was successful.  Which begs the question -- why do they each go back to increasingly less distant points of time?  Why not all go back to the same time period?  Why not all go back at once?  Why not go back earlier before the characters in the past knew to be on the lookout for Terminators?  Why only send one Terminator, why not send a dozen?

And at what point did the Resistance send in their corresponding protectors at each point in time?  Was it that a Terminator would go back, then the Resistance would step up and send someone back, then a Terminator again - each taking their turn?

I mention all of these technical details because well, an idea that was fresh in the first film, sending an assassin back in time to kill someone in the past, becomes increasingly absurd by the third time the same exact story has been attempted!

Consider the stupid futility of the franchise at this point...

We sent a machine back in time to kill John Connor (Terminator 1)

We're sending another machine back in time to kill John Connor (Terminator 2)

Okay, that one didn't work either, but wait!  We're sending another machine back in time to kill John Connor!  (Terminator 3)

See what I'm getting at?

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Terminator: Genisys (2015)

Story:  Taking over the story of the original Terminator film, this time around John Connor is a Terminator.

Method of Travel:  Spinning around the sun, which I listed as one of the worst time machines developed by Hollywood.

Reason for Inclusion on the Worst List:  Where to start.  Well, to begin with you could consider this list of time paradoxes, many of them originating from this film.  Or you could look at these maps of time travel as portrayed in the film.  Basically, the movie makes an entire muddle of an already convoluted time and storyline, and violates a half dozen of the franchise's rules.  It's as if the script was written by someone that never thought out any of the consequences of time travel.  Where the first film was one of the best time travel movies because it was smart with time travel, this film is one of the worst because it's stupid towards the idea of time travel.  Nonetheless, it appears we might be getting a sixth film, unfortunately.

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Source Code

Story:  A soldier uses a machine to transport himself into the bodies of others and re-live the same events over and over.

Method of Travel:  A super computer.

Reason for Inclusion on the Worst List:  This film makes no sense.  Ostensibly, Gyllenhaal's character isn't time traveling, he's just in a computer simulation - but then suddenly, it's not a simulation, but real life, and he's going back in time and affecting the future.  What?!  How?!  I don't understand!