How to Time Travel Safely and Effectively

Emilia Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jai Courtney in ‘Terminator: Genisys’/Image © Paramount Pictures

Time Travel is a tricky concept. The conscientious time traveler has to worry about the butterfly effect, be wary of paradoxes, or figure out where to purchase a DeLorean or perhaps a phone booth. [Note to our younger readers: A phone booth was a glass structure that housed a primitive, coin-operated iPhone.] It takes a lot of effort, forethought, and the ability to think on your feet. With the release of "Terminator: Genisys," we're thinking about time travel and wondering what lessons could be learned from some of our favorite time travel films. So, on the chance that you are one day whisked away by George Carlin in a flying phone booth or find yourself reliving the same day in a quaint Midwestern town over and over and over, please consider this Time Travel Primer for answers to all of those pesky time-space conundrums.

"The Terminator" (1984)
Overview: John Connor, a freedom fighter from a dystopian future, learns that an evil, sentient AI is sending a cyborg back in time to murder his mother, thus ensuring that John Connor will never exist. Connor sends one of his soldiers back in time to protect his mother from the cyborg. The soldier is eventually revealed to be John Connor's father (see paradoxes), the cyborg is defeated, and John's mother is safe.

What We Can Learn: If you need to send someone back in time to save a parent from a murderous cyborg, choose wisely because no one wants that guy who keeps spouting "Game of Thrones" spoilers at the water cooler in their lineage. Also try to time-travel into a clothing store; it greatly simplifies things.

"Back to the Future" (1985)
Overview: A rambunctious teenager named Marty McFly with a fondness for puffy vests travels back to 1955 to locate his time-displaced mentor. High jinks ensue; Marty invents rock and roll.

What We Can Learn: The lessons of "Back to the Future" are two-fold, but interrelated: 1) Avoid your parents at all costs. While it might be tempting to see what they were really like in high school, it's a bad idea, just trust us. 2) If you do happen to run into your parents, do NOT flirt and/or inadvertently make out with either of them. At least one of the reasons for this should be obvious.

"Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989)
Overview: Two ne'er-do-well teens (the titular Bill and Ted) are swept away in a time machine disguised as a phone booth by a man named Rufus who was sent from a future where Bill and Ted are idolized as saviors and bastions of a peaceful culture. Their mission: gather a group of historical figures for extra credit on an oral report for their high school history class.

What We Can Learn: Whilst time traveling, be mindful of your surroundings. You never know when you may get to glean some wisdom from the likes of Abe Lincoln, Socrates, and Joan of Arc.

"Groundhog Day" (1993)
Overview: A misanthropic TV weatherman played by the awesomeness that is Bill Murray, awakes in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (renowned for the sage-like nature of its groundhogs), only to repeat the same day again and again.

What We Can Learn: Use your time wisely, folks. If life is set on repeat, make the most of it - learn the piano, try to paint, figure out a great burger recipe. Oh, and be weary of groundhogs. They're not to be trusted.

"Time Bandits" (1981)
Overview: A young boy named Kevin joins a band of time traveling dwarves in a quest to thwart an evil sorcerer called, well, Evil (sure, it's a bit on the nose but just roll with it).

What We Can Learn: If a group of dwarves with a time traveling map burst through your closet and into your bedroom, just join them. It'll be fun. Seriously.

"Time after Time" (1979)
Overview: London Police interrupt a dinner party held by H.G. Wells. Wells is debuting his time machine and, unbeknownst to him, one of his guests is the infamous Jack the Ripper. Jack makes off to modern-day San Francisco with the time machine and Wells takes off in pursuit.

What We Can Learn: This should be obvious to the world-weary time traveler (and anyone else really), but just in case: Do not under any circumstances befriend Jack the Ripper - or any serial killer, for that matter. It's just not a good idea.

There you have it, a few lessons to aid you should you ever find yourself willingly or not-so-willingly temporally displaced. For bonus points, do not step on that butterfly. Things go badly when you step on the butterfly, even when the butterfly is asking for it as they often do.