"I'm from your future, and I'm here to save you"
June 11, 2018 6:41 PM   Subscribe

I've become interested in the hypothetical idea of using time travel, or other ways of communicating with the past, in order to alter and improve your own life (for example, traveling to your childhood to alter an incident that would have had negative repercussions in later life). Are there any good examples of this in movies, tv or books?

I'm most interested in examples of someone traveling or communicating within their own lifetime to deal with personal issues, less so larger scale problems (e.g. 12 Monkeys) or fixing accidental problems caused by the time travel (e.g. Back to the Future). I'd prefer a serious tone, but also open to more light-hearted films/tv/books.
posted by Jellybean_Slybun to Media & Arts (46 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
In the Time Traveller’s Wife the main character communicates with his wife from childhood to a old age and the information he passes along improves his own life (inasmuch as it can be improved).
posted by saucysault at 6:44 PM on June 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

The movie, Butterfly Effect, discusses this, and the issues it can cause.
posted by Thella at 6:44 PM on June 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Frequency? with Dennis Quaid. An accidental cross-time radio link connects father and son across 30 years. The son tries to save his father's life, but then must fix the consequences.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:49 PM on June 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

The move Lake House with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves is a romantic drama with a unique twist on time travel across a two year gap. I don't think it's an entirely successful movie but it's worth checking out.
posted by muddgirl at 6:56 PM on June 11, 2018

This is the premise and recurring joke in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. (Why does Keanu Reeves keep playing variations on this plot line?)
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:01 PM on June 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

About Time (2013; 123 mins.) is probably my favorite recent film with this theme. It's essentially a romance, but it's definitely focused on redoing relatively minor personal moments.

The Infinite Man (2014; 84 mins.) is a decent low-budget SF film from Australia with this theme. Its tone is a mix of seriousness and comedy, but I wouldn't call it light-hearted exactly--more like straight-faced arthouse comedy? YMMV.

The Man from the Future (2011; 106 mins; available on Netflix) is a Brazilian rom-com with this theme. I thought it was fine too.

One-Minute Time Machine (2014; 5:40) is a short film that goes beyond light-hearted--it's just a quick joke--but I think it's worth six minutes.
posted by Wobbuffet at 7:04 PM on June 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Also the Jasper Fforde "Thursday Next" series is a very light-hearted set of novels that defy explanation but do involve time travel. And book jumping.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:06 PM on June 11, 2018

The first fifteen lives of Henry August is time travel that gets pretty personal.

Very good book, maybe a movie coming in the next few years if I recall correctly
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:14 PM on June 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Rainbow Rowell’s Landline involves time traveling phone calls that help a fighting couple make up.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 7:22 PM on June 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

William Sleator's The Green Futures of Tycho is a pretty dark take on this theme.
posted by jackbishop at 7:24 PM on June 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Primer is all about this, and is also one of the best films about time travel ever made.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:29 PM on June 11, 2018 [10 favorites]

Peggy Sue Got Married is a very lighthearted take on it. Kathleen Turner and Nic Cage make it work somehow.
posted by emjaybee at 7:31 PM on June 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Jess Fink’s autobio graphic novel, We Can Fix It
posted by moonlight on vermont at 7:39 PM on June 11, 2018

Being Erica is a television series where the protagonist is in a kind of time-travel therapy where she gets to go back and relive key decision-points in her life and do things differently. It's less about changing the event and more about changing herself, as a sort of self-help though -- be more self-aware, have the courage to do something, etc. etc.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:41 PM on June 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

I very much enjoyed the book "A Gift of Time" by Jerry Merritt. It has elements of action, wisdom, love and evil; laid over top of the physics of time travel; blended together into a story that drew me in. My 2 cents.
posted by forthright at 7:44 PM on June 11, 2018

There’s an episode of Futurama where Fry uses a time machine to not be late for Leela’s birthday.
posted by bleep at 7:52 PM on June 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

The movie “Predestination” blew my mind. Don’t read any spoilers.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:21 PM on June 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

I just re-read two related Harry Turtledove short stories about this, Forty, Counting Down and Twenty-One, Counting Up.

They're both in The Time-Traveler's Almanac, an anthology of short stories (about, well, you can guess) collected by the VanderMeers. Some other stories there have the same sort of focus on purposefully communicating with yourself or altering your own life, but definitely not all.
posted by cardioid at 8:33 PM on June 11, 2018

Replay by Ken Grimwood
posted by parakeetdog at 9:01 PM on June 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

Steins;Gate (game and anime are pretty much equivalent) has a lot of this. Both personal issues and larger scale issues appear.
posted by one for the books at 9:03 PM on June 11, 2018

TV Tropes has a huge entry on time travel but it sounds like you are looking for Set Right What Once Went Wrong, although it's not limited to personal concerns.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:16 PM on June 11, 2018

I think these qualify?

Back to the Future
The Man Who Folded Himself

But really, I think you're going to find some aspect of this in any time travel story.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 3:54 AM on June 12, 2018

Greg Benford's _Timescape_
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:10 AM on June 12, 2018

On Netflix, there's a 16 episode Korean TV show, "Operation Proposal" that is about time travel to fix a personal mistake. The main character realizes at his best friend's wedding that he loves her but of course at that point it is too late. The show is about him going back in time to fix it. Again. And again. (He's not very insightful at first). I thought it was an interesting way to explore a story in depth.
posted by SandiBeech at 5:33 AM on June 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have to thank you for this question, because I knew I had a perfect answer, a story I've never forgotten since I first read it a half-century ago (!)... but I couldn't remember the title or author. There was no point just giving a lame summary, so I went down to the cellar and started going through all my many, many sf anthologies, praying that it was in one of them and not in one of the boxes that contain my collection of many hundreds of old magazines. And sure enough, after maybe twenty minutes of dogged searching (I could eliminate most just based on the title, but sometimes I had to check the story itself), there it was, in World's Best Science Fiction 1969 (ed. Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr): "Backtracked," by Burt Filer, originally in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1968. And hey, look at that, Internet Archive has the whole issue; the story is on p. 76—enjoy! It moved me when I read it just now as much as it did the first time, and now I know where to find it when I want to experience it (or recommend it) again.
posted by languagehat at 7:13 AM on June 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

Fetching Cody, an amazingly serious turn for Jay Baruchel, fits the bill here.
posted by hanov3r at 8:38 AM on June 12, 2018

posted by pompomtom at 8:48 AM on June 12, 2018

Dean Koontz's Lightning is kind of like this; a time traveler from the past travels to the future and falls in love with a woman who is in a wheelchair due to an incident when she was born. He travels to that night to fix it, and then proceeds to fix some (but not all) of the bad things that happen to her.

A lot of the plot is about Nazis and the dude's love, but the question of how much you can fix someone's life by fixing specific traumas is the interesting part of the book.
posted by gideonfrog at 8:50 AM on June 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, hey, I hadn't actually read the wikipedia link I linked. Don't read that if you're going to watch Primer for the first time. At least not the section headed 'Plot'.

Read that before the second time you watch it.
posted by pompomtom at 8:53 AM on June 12, 2018

How about a song? Mineshaft 2. Lyrics in the top comment.
posted by clavicle at 9:19 AM on June 12, 2018

Read [the "Primer" plot on Wikipedia] before the second time you watch it.

And the third, and probably the fourth as well.

Even with the diagram, that shit is confusing, yo.
posted by hanov3r at 10:09 AM on June 12, 2018

Thanks, this reminded me of the web novel "Do-Overs" by Ed Yordon. He is famous for "Decline and Fall of the American Programmer" and perhaps infamous for "Time Bomb 2000: What the Y2K Computer Crisis means for you!"
from his site: "What if you were knocked back to your childhood and had "do-overs" at everything -- an opportunity to re-live your triumphs, avoid your most embarrassing mistakes, take revenge on enemies, and right a thousand wrongs that have troubled you throughout your life?"

Also a classic story "Time and Time Again" by Henry Beam Piper
posted by Sophont at 10:32 AM on June 12, 2018

From the TV show The Outer Limits, A Stitch in Time (1996), guest starring Michelle Forbes. I only saw it once, but never forgot it.
posted by jokeefe at 10:36 AM on June 12, 2018

The Door Into Summer from 1957, by Robert A. Heinlein.
posted by Rash at 10:49 AM on June 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I recommend Mo Daviau's Every Anxious Wave, in addition to the numerous votes for Primer.
posted by obtuser at 11:05 AM on June 12, 2018

"All You Zombies" by Heinlein.
"Yesteryear" an episode of Star Trek the Animated Series
posted by Billiken at 11:40 AM on June 12, 2018

"By His Bootstraps" by Robert Heinlein is a classic example of this.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:43 AM on June 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, which I first saw recommended here on the green. (Posting from my phone so sorry no link.)
posted by probably not that Karen Blair at 12:14 PM on June 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O, by Nicole Galland and Neal Stephenson. It's more about fixing national issues but there's personal gain involved for some of the characters. The audiobook is very good, by the way.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:16 PM on June 12, 2018

2nding About Time, just lovely and well worth watching.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:59 PM on June 12, 2018

Changing Times by Tim Kennemore fits, I think.
posted by SisterHavana at 2:24 PM on June 12, 2018

A distant neighbourhood by Jiro Taniguchi. A beautifully evocative manga.
posted by bluedora at 9:58 PM on June 12, 2018

There's a short story in Ellen Klages' collection Portable Childhoods that touches on this.
posted by azalea_chant at 6:16 AM on June 13, 2018

Seconding Predestination - A really great movie that almost no one has seen. Agreed - don't read anything about it and the trailer doesn't give anything away. Just watch it!
posted by cnc at 5:26 PM on June 13, 2018

2nding The first fifteen lives of Henry August
posted by taltalim at 5:22 PM on June 15, 2018

The move Lake House with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves is a romantic drama with a unique twist on time travel across a two year gap. I don't think it's an entirely successful movie but it's worth checking out.

The original Korean movie, Il Mare, is a little better but more melodramatic.
posted by anem0ne at 11:40 AM on September 5, 2018

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