Screw a spaceship, we want a time machine! Time machines rule, because they crack open the mysteries of the past and future. And each time machine has its own weird personality. And if you visited another planet, you'd probably suffocate.
Here are the ten awesomest time machines of all time. If it turns out we missed one of the best ones, let us know — and we'll go back in time to before we wrote this list, and fix it in advance.
Note: This doesn't include time portals. So no Guardian of Forever. Also, no methods of time travel that aren't machines.
Top image: It Came Out of Nowhere, via Woot.com
10) Bill and Ted's Phone Booth
Loses points for being sort of similar to the TARDIS, but still pretty awesome. For one thing, it's piloted by George Carlin. For another, it descends from the sky during a weird thunderstorm.
9) The rocket sled in Time Cop
Any method of time travel where you launch a rocket sled at a wall and smash into it is automatically superb. It's the fitting way for Jean-Claude Van Damme to travel through time so he can kick people in the head in two eras. Plus this movie is kind of underrated in general.
8) The machine in Primer.
This one is less fancy and not as eccentric, but it deserves a spot just for the sequences where we see the two nerds inventing it in their garage, and for the care with which writer/director Shane Carruth sets up the rules of the machine. You can only travel back as far as the moment you turned it on, and you have to stay in it for as long as you travel back. Plus this movie sets up some awesome paradoxes. Graphic via Wikipedia.
7) Overdrive in The Runaways
During Joss Whedon's run on the comic that Brian K. Vaughn created, the group of super-powered teenagers take the bitching time machine created by Gertrude Yorkes' parents, and go back into the past. Among other things, they speculate that the machine has a "bubble" with failsafes against making any major changes to the timeline — which would come in handy, although I'm not sure if it turns out to be true.
6) The WABAC (way-back) Machine
No, not the one that lets you read old Geocities pages and stuff. The one that lets Mr. Peabody the super-smart dog take his pet human, Sherman, back in time to different historical eras. Unlike all these other sleek or inconspicuous time machines, the WABAC machine is totally insane and massive, full of dials and "DANGER" warnings. Mr. Peabody's so cool, he's soon to become Robert Downey Jr.
5) The Time Treadmill
Long before Superman decided to travel back in time by flying really really fast around the globe, his colleague the Flash had already cornered the market on the "time travel via going fast" schtick. With the time treadmill, he could get some exercise, and visit other eras.
4) The Steampunk Time Machine from The Time Machine (2002).
You can find plenty of fault with the 2002 version of The Time Machine, directed by poor Simon Wells (who just struck out again with Mars Needs Moms). But it did have some cool bits, and you can't really fault its amazing production design — especially the time machine itself, which is like a whirring, zooming steampunk barber chair. At left: some concept art for the machine, via Oocities.
3) Skynet's Neon Ball of Nakedness
We don't see all that much of the time machine in the Terminator movies and television series, if memory serves. There's one in the final episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and it's mostly just a room with some gear. Anyway, it's got lightning, which we already established was awesome with Bill and Ted. And any method of time travel which requires you to be naked is automatically kind of awesome.
2) The DeLorean
Back to the Future's machine has got the weird eccentric appearance — one of the wackier sports cars of all time — plus the amazing tech, the Flux Capacitor. And there are the rules, like you have to be going 88 miles per hour and stuff. Mostly, it's just got tons of character, and it gets you when you need to go.
1) The TARDIS
Well, duh. Of course this is number one. It's the indestructible blue box based on an abandoned police telephone booth design, the Doctor's time machine pretty much defines eccentric. Everything about the TARDIS is engraved on our memories: the "sex-crazed elephant" noise, the hum of its engines, the "roundels" on the wall, the six-sided console, and the fact that it's a cathedral inside a booth. Enough zany ideas for ten time machines, rolled into one.