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The Best Fictional Time Machines (As Opposed To Real Ones)

Updated September 23, 2021 1.4k votes 190 voters 5.5k views23 items

List RulesVote up your favorite time machines that have appeared on the big or small screen.

Here are the best time machines in entertainment. Time travel is one of the basic plot devices of numerous science fiction movies and TV series, and because it's used so often, there are tons of devices, mechanisms, techniques, and tricks characters use to jump around in time and space. Some of these machines have incredibly inventive names like the TARDIS (Time AN Relative Dimension In Space) while others are simply called what it is, a time machine. But with so many options, it's hard to determine which time machine from across all of screen fiction is the best of them all, but this list attempts to do exactly that with help from your votes, of course.

These are the greatest time machines across all films and TV shows, ranked by you! Scroll through the list and vote up your favorite time travel devices, concepts, ideas, or vehicles. The best part is you don't have to pick just one and the best time machine is sure to rise to the top of the list!

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  • Photo: Universal

    As the great Doctor Emmett Brown once said, "The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?" He had a point, and despite being a failure in the retail market, the DeLorean DMC-12 became a hit thanks to the success and popularity of the Back to the Future trilogy.

    Doc Brown engineered his time machine out of the car for one reason: he had to get his device up to 88 miles per hour in order to get it to function. The device in question was the Flux Capacitor, Doc's invention that made time travel possible.

    Add to that 1.21 Gigawatts of power supplied by Plutonium, a bolt of lightning, or a Mr. Fusion device, and the DeLorean will take you to any point in time (but not space) you want!

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  • Photo: BBC

    Throughout all of science fiction, there is probably no time machine as well-known or as recognizable as the TARDIS, which stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. The TARDIS is more than a time machine; it's also capable of traveling through space and can move to any point in time and/or space almost instantly. This also makes it the fastest spacecraft in fiction, but when it comes to the TARDIS, it's mostly about time travel.

    The TARDIS most people are familiar with was stolen by the Doctor, a Gallifreyan who left his home with his granddaughter, Susan in the "borrowed" Type 40 TT Device (TARDIS). The TARDIS is sentient and much bigger on the inside. It also has a chameleon circuit, which keeps it from standing out in whichever era it finds itself, but the one the Doctor travels in has a busted circuit. Because of this, it's been locked in the shape of a blue police box since it appeared in the first episode of Doctor Who in 1963.

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  • One of the earliest examples of a time machine in fiction came in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, which was made into a film in 1960. A remake was released in 2002, but both machines were pretty much the same in function, so this entry will focus on the original film.

    In the movie, there were actually two separate time machines. The first was a model used to show that time travel was possible, and the second was a full-size device capable of traveling forward or backward in time, but not space. It featured a seat with a console controlled by a lever with dials indicating the date and time. The rear of the device featured an ornate disk. Essentially, it was what a steampunk designer would have created were they told to make a time machine, but had never seen or heard of the movie or book.

    The time machine created an impenetrable sphere of energy around it, which protected it and whoever was inside from anything outside. In the movie, this was shown as lava flowed and encased the device for thousands of years before the rock eroded to reveal a new world.

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    Time Stone ('Doctor Strange')

    While not a machine or mechanical device, this list would not be complete without mentioning the Time Stone from the MCU. Entrusted to Doctor Strange inside the Eye of Agamotto, it allows the user to manipulate time in almost any fashion.

    The Time Stone is mostly used to see into the past or future but it is entirely capable of traveling through time. This is most clearly illustrated when Doctor Strange creates a time loop to defeat Dormammu.

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