Top Five Time Travel Romance Movies,
According to Gwyn Cready
Okay, brace yourself. This list does not include Somewhere in Time. Hurl your spitballs if you must, but it doesn’t make the top five time travel romance movies—at least not my top five. Now, let’s pick the fragments out of our hair from that bombshell and move on to the qualities a good time travel romance movie must possess in my world. First, time “travel” is a little too precise. I’m just as happy with a movie that fiddles around with time. Second, one or both protagonists have to undergo a transition in order to be worthy of love. Third, the protagonists have to work to overcome what time has done to them, not just be battered around by it. I want my protagonists to be fighters. And fourth, there has to be love and lots of it.
5. Time Traveler’s Wife (Robert Schwentke, 2009.) This movie probably shouldn’t have made this list for two reasons important reasons. First, the movie is so-so, but the book is so, so great, the movie gets to draft behind it into fifth place here. Second, the ending isn’t exactly happy. To be fair, it’s not exactly unhappy either. But the story is one of the finest examples of the power of love to overcome all obstacles, even the most capricious involuntary time travel forced on Henry De Tamble, the friend, lover, and eventual husband of Clare Abshire, that I have ever experienced. Henry has been tossed into almost every part of his past and future life by a tendency for time travel he can’t control. My favorite part is when Clare, who has met his traveling self before though he doesn’t remember it, tricks him into taking her virginity.
4. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993.) Not your classic time travel romance, for sure. The screenwriter plays with time, and, in this case, that’s even better. Phil Connors is a Pittsburgh weatherman. His worst assignment ever turns into a never-ending loop of small town inanity. But does Phil let that get him down? Well, at first, yes. He seduces women, gets drunk, gets arrested, and even dies trying to free himself from the hell he’s stuck in. But he always wakes up at the start of the same awful day—and what’s worse, nothing he does gets him any closer to his producer, the beautiful and smart Rita Hanson, who hates her self-centered co-worker. It isn’t until Phil gives up trying to use his special circumstances in selfish ways and instead commits himself to becoming a better person, He learns to play the piano and speak French, and he even saves lives. And for his hard work—Harold Ramis estimated that Phil lived through enough Groundhog days to make up ten calendar years—Phil is finally rewarded with Rita’s love. A better version of desire for a good woman making a bad man worthy has never been written.
3. About Time (Richard Curtis, 2013.) Another time Spirograph, and this one hits all my time buttons. It’s funny, sweet, veers into heartbreaking, and then just as quickly gives us the happy ending we’ve been waiting for. And it’s populated with some of my favorite British Isle actors—Domhnall Gleason, Bill Nighy, and Tom Hollander. Gangly, sweet Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleason) is an attorney who is told by his father on his twenty-first birthday that all men in their family line can time travel back in time to an earlier point in their lives whenever they’d like. Tim uses his new-found talent to fix problems for his friends and to set himself up with a beautiful American woman (Rachel McAdams). Eventually, he discovers what his father did with his own time travel abilities—pack a box of Kleenex. But in the end, Tim realizes that living life as well as one can in each day one is given, rather than savoring it again by living it over, is the best way to appreciate it.
2. The Adjustment Bureau (George Nolfi, 2011.) David Norris is meant for good things. He’s running for the senate but falls in love with Elise, a beautiful, vivacious dancer. The mysterious people who plot out our lives—the Adjustment Bureau—can’t have David derailed from his intended career path. They move Elise out of his reach. But David catches on to the game, and begins to try to outmaneuver them in order to find her again. But when the men from the Adjustment Bureau tell him Elise is meant for better things too—things she’ll never achieve if she stays with David, he has to decide if love rules our lives or fate.
1. 13 Going on 30 (Gary Winick, 2004.) A dark horse for #1, I’ll admit it, but I can't pass up the story of 13-year-old Jenna Rink, played by Jennifer Garner, who is transported into her future and discovers a great job and a closet full of shoes isn't enough to make up for losing Matt, the boy who was her best friend. The über-fun acted-out dance numbers from "Thriller" and "Love is a Battlefield" made this 80s gal's squeal with delight. I cry every time grown-up Jenna tracks down grown-up Matt, the one person she knows she can trust with her story, and he says, “Jenna, we’re not friends anymore.” The movie makes us ask ourselves, “What do we lose when we take the people closest to us for granted?” Fortunately, the answer for Jenna is not Matt, at least not forever. Happy sigh.
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