Iconic Time Travel Machines And Devices in Pop Culture

Time travel, a concept as old as time itself, has woven its way intricately into the fabric of storytelling, offering a fascinating exploration of history, destiny and the human condition. At the heart of many of these tales lies the enigmatic time travel machine, a device that transcends the boundaries of space and time, propelling characters into the past, future and realms beyond comprehension.

These time travel machines, each with its own quirks and mechanics, serve not only as plot devices but as symbols of humanity’s enduring fascination with the mysteries of time. They invite audiences to ponder profound questions about fate, causality and the consequences of altering the past, all while embarking on thrilling adventures through the annals of time itself. Check out some of the time machines/ devices below.

DeLorean Time Machine – ‘Back to The Future’ Trilogy (1985, 1989, 1990)

Among the most iconic of these machines is the DeLorean Time Machine from the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy. A modified sports car outfitted with flux capacitors and powered by plutonium or lightning, it became synonymous with the whimsical yet perilous nature of temporal adventures. 

DeLorean Time Machine

TARDIS – ‘Doctor Who’ (TV Series, 1963-present)

Similarly, the TARDIS, the time-travelling spaceship from ‘Doctor Who,’ is not just a means of transportation but a sentient being in its own right, disguised as a British police box and capable of traversing the vast expanse of time and space.

Tardis Time Machine

The Time Turner – Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (Books, 1997-2007; Films, 2001-2011)

J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series introduced the Time Turner, a seemingly innocuous hourglass necklace capable of turning back time for short durations, offering its wielder the chance to rewrite history, albeit with strict limitations.

The Time Turner in Harry Potter

Hot Tub Time MachineHot Tub Time Machine (Film, 2010)

The hot tub time machine in the film ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ is an ordinary-looking, run-down hot tub located at a ski resort. Despite its humble appearance, this seemingly mundane object possesses extraordinary time-traveling capabilities. When activated, it transports its occupants through time, sending them on a wild journey through the past. As the central plot device of the film, the hot tub serves as a source of comedic chaos and unexpected adventures for the characters who find themselves caught in its temporal whirlwind.

Hot Tub Time Machine

The Phone Booth – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Film, 1989)

The phone booth serves as the unlikely time machine for the titular characters, Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan. Gifted to them by the enigmatic traveller Rufus, this ordinary-looking phone booth becomes the vessel for their extraordinary journey through history. With its retro charm and quirky humour, the phone booth takes Bill and Ted on a wild ride as they travel through time to recruit historical figures for their history presentation. Despite its humble appearance, the phone booth symbolizes friendship, adventure and the power of music to transcend time and space.

The Phone Booth time machine- Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

The Time SphereLegends of Tomorrow (TV Series, 2016-present)

The Time Sphere in ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ is a pivotal element in the time-traveling adventures of the Legends, a group of heroes and misfits tasked with protecting the timeline from temporal aberrations. Piloted by the seasoned Time Master Rip Hunter, the Time Sphere is a sophisticated vessel equipped with advanced technology that allows its occupants to traverse through different eras and dimensions. With its sleek design and cutting-edge capabilities, the Time Sphere serves as both a mode of transportation and a command centre for the Legends as they embark on missions to safeguard the fabric of time. Throughout their journeys, the Time Sphere becomes a symbol of unity and resilience, carrying the Legends through perilous encounters and forging bonds that transcend the bounds of time itself.

The Time Sphere - Legends of Tomorrow

The Time Displacer – Futurama (TV Series, 1999-2013)

In ‘Futurama,’ the Time Displacer is a device created by Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, the eccentric owner of Planet Express, a delivery company in the 31st century. The Time Displacer is capable of projecting individuals into both the past and the future, allowing characters to experience historical events or explore distant futures. Despite its potential for scientific exploration, the Time Displacer often serves as a source of comedic chaos, as characters find themselves entangled in paradoxes and absurd situations. Whether inadvertently altering the course of history or encountering famous figures from the past, the Time Displacer adds an element of unpredictability to the already zany adventures of the Planet Express crew.

The Time Displacer - Futurama

The Epoch – Chrono Trigger (Video Game, 1995)

Even video games like ‘Chrono Trigger’ offer their own take on time travel, with the Epoch serving as a fantastical means of navigating between different eras and altering the course of history.

The Epoch time machine - Chrono Trigger

The Time PortalStargate SG-1 (TV Series, 1997-2007)

In ‘Stargate SG-1,’ the Time Portal is a rare and mysterious phenomenon discovered by the SG-1 team during their exploration of the galaxy. Unlike traditional Stargates, which allow for instantaneous travel between distant worlds, the Time Portal possesses the unique ability to transport individuals through both time and space. This temporal anomaly presents both opportunities and dangers, as its manipulation can have unforeseen consequences on the timeline and the fabric of reality itself. Throughout the series, the SG-1 team encounters the Time Portal on various occasions, confronting ancient mysteries and powerful adversaries as they navigate the complexities of time travel while striving to protect Earth and its allies from existential threats.

The Time Portal - Stargate SG-1

In the trippy series ‘Dark’, there isn’t just one time travel device, but a few that evolve throughout the story:

The Winden Caves in ‘Dark’:

These aren’t machines themselves, but natural wormholes activated by the presence of a substance called ‘God Particle’ or ‘dark matter’. They create a passage that allows travel between 1953, 1986, and 2019 (and their future equivalents) in 33-year jumps.

The Winden caves in 'Dark'

Tannhaus Clockwork Device:

The Tannhaus clockwork device holds significant narrative importance. Created by the character H.G. Tannhaus, this intricate mechanism serves as more than just a simple timekeeping tool. It becomes a central element in the intricate web of time travel and paradoxes that define the show’s plot. The device is not only a symbol of Tannhaus’s craftsmanship but also plays a crucial role in the characters’ attempts to navigate the complexities of time manipulation and unravel the mysteries surrounding their interconnected fates.

Tannhaus Clockwork Device

The Orb:

The orb time travel device in ‘Dark’ is a man-made creation developed by the secret society Sic Mundus, housed within the secretive underground tunnels beneath Winden. Utilized with the Tannhaus Device, it generates a localized time loop, enabling individuals to traverse through time within its confined space, but its use comes with significant risks and consequences.

Also Read: ‘Dark’ TV Show: Characters Forged by The Bootstrap Paradox

The Orb time travel device in 'Dark'

The Ariadne:

In 1921, a machine reminiscent of the chamber depicted in Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Prestige’ exists. It features towering poles generating electricity, with a central dark sphere akin to the one born from the God Particle’s activation in Winden, causing the 2020 apocalypse. Crafted by Adam, this extraordinary device defies conventional logic and appears to be the pinnacle of perfection among all contraptions.

The Ariadne time travel