When my best friend complained about having to sit through certain action video rentals with her boyfriend, I would sometimes empathize with her. Although, I would also empathize with the male perspective as they are forced to endure the average “chick flick”. I decided to offer both of my friends a compromise: five romantic time travel films, balancing love stories with a little bit of the science fiction genre. These movies are in no particular order and can be viewed in any home media format, such as video, DVD, Blue-Ray, etc. They also tend to be more retro, not too recent. However, a few are new classics and the remaining unconventional ones have won critical acclaim with unique plots, characters and settings.
The first movie is called “Chances Are”, from 1989. It stars Robert Downey Jr., Cybil Shepherd, Ryan O'Neal and Mary Stuart Masterson. A young man dies in a car crash during the year 1964. He left behind a beautiful young wife and a baby daughter. He feels so broken over being separated from his family that he inadvertently (and comically) finds a way to become reborn on earth. Fast forward to the late 1980’s where the man's widow has hooked up with his best friend (Ryan O’Neal) and helped to raise his daughter (Mary Stuart Masterson), now grown. The daughter has started dating a very attractive young man (the handsome Robert Downey Jr.). However, upon meeting the girl’s family, especially the mother (Cybil Shepherd), the young preppy begins to experience memories of a past life in 1964. He begins to fall in love with his girlfriend's mom and all comical chaos ensues. There's just enough combination of romance mixed with comedy and light action to make this movie appealing to both sexes.
The second movie is called “Somewhere in Time”, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour from 1980. This one is more dramatic than any of my other picks, but has plenty of male presence. Reeve’s character is a young playwright from the early 1970’s who celebrates the opening of his first play. During this party, a strange old woman approaches him and bestows a gift along with a verbal request to “come back” to her. When she realizes that her efforts are in vain and the young man doesn't know her, she leaves. The young man discovers that she has left him an antique pocket watch. Fast forward to the late 1970’s and he's now an established playwright but stressed out, suffering from writer's block. To make matters worse, he has also broken up with his girlfriend. While on a sabbatical to the Grand Hotel, he finds an old photograph of a woman that intrigues him. A hotel worker informs the writer that it is a picture of a famous stage actress from the early 1900’s. Some further research reveals that the actress was the old woman he had met earlier. He also begins to fall in love with the idea of her, coupled with compelling physical objects that she previously owned. Adding fuel to his fire of passion is an old book about self-hypnotic time travel. Practice eventually makes perfect and Reeve’s character is transported back into the first decade of the 20th century. He finally meets his potential true love (Jane Seymour), but her manager (Christopher Plummer from “The Sound of Music”) disapproves of their relationship and attempts to separate them. Both the romance and plot thicken, leaving a memorable movie experience.
The third movie is lighter than the previous one, but also bridges the gap between the values of modern times and those of the past from about two centuries ago. It's called “Kate and Leopold” from 2001. It stars Hugh Jackman as an English duke from 1876 that needs to marry a wealthy spouse in order to save his family fortune. One day, he discovers a mysterious young man (well-played by Liev Schreiber) taking photographs of him and snooping around his property. Eventually the Duke ends up chasing the man to the edge of the Brooklyn Bridge and jumps into the water after him. This causes both of them to fall into an open time portal. Fast forward to the 21st century and the Duke wakes up in the apartment of the mysterious young man, who is actually a scientist documenting temporal events. While dealing with culture shock and pondering whether or not he's been kidnapped, the duke encounters the scientist’s ex-girlfriend (Meg Ryan), an independent and spunky businesswoman. The two form an unusual romantic connection with each other that overcomes the obvious difference in centuries and values. The rest of the movie keeps the watcher on his or her toes with regards to the fate of both lovers, the dangers and sacrifice of time travel and other interesting elements.
The fourth film is called “Peggy Sue Got Married” from 1986. It's more down-to-earth and realistic than all of my other picks, but the drama combined with romance will keep the viewers glued to their seats. The plot revolves around a 40-something mother (Kathleen Turner) who was pregnant as a teen with a marriage on the brink of divorce, financial troubles and a depressing life, in general. During a high school reunion, she falls ill and is suddenly transported back in time to circa 1950’s - 1960’s, where she first met her husband (Nicolas Cage) in high school. While apparently stuck in that era, she ponders whether or not to change some things in her life that lead her to the future she came from. Memorable scenes, a befitting soundtrack, and a firm commitment to the spirit of an era long-gone make this movie a true classic.
My fifth and final film is called “Groundhog Day” from 1993. It stars Bill Murray as a pessimistic weather reporter who travels to a quaint little town in Pennsylvania to cover the annual Groundhog Day celebration. His cameraman (the funny Chris Elliott) and producer (Andie MacDowell) accompany him on this trip. After covering the festivities, a blizzard forces them to stay in town and the weatherman wakes up to the exact same day, February 2, as yesterday. He's the only one that's aware of this déjà Vu. Comical genius Bill Murray then attempts to find a way out of his personal hell, all the while improving his character and even falling in love. This is one of my top 20 favorite movies of all time.
In closing, I invite any couple to check out these movies for themselves, even if they don't tend to share my respect for them. Not only will lasting memories be made, but a deeper compromise for appreciating a balance of all the available genres of movies out there for one's viewing pleasure. Besides having fun, we could also learn a few things along the way.