Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Top 5 Alternate Universe Movies

A staple in the science-fiction genre is the use of time travel or the idea of a character entering a parallel universe where he or she stays the same but the surroundings are radically different than what we were introduced to. They become a fish out of water in a world that may or may not exist depending on what the viewer interprets. Everything comes into question in this type of movie. Are the characters dreaming? Maybe they are living dual lives at the same point in time? It can get confusing but fun at the same time. The movies that we’ll be taking a look at today are the ones that best utilize this idea with unique environments, characters, and themes that no other movie will be able to duplicate. Be warned: there are slight spoilers here, so tread lightly.


Planet of the Apes (1968)

Planet of the Apes (1968)

One of the first movies to introduce the twist ending starred Charlton Heston as the leader of an astronaut crew who crash land on a bizarre planet in the distant future where apes have become the dominate species. The film was based on a French novel, whose author also wrote The Bridge over the River Kwai (fun fact.) There were four sequels released over the next five years, all of which did a great job of establishing a vast world that people could truly believe existed and the use of make-up was extraordinary for its time.


Back to the Future (1985)

Back to the Future

Directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, this comic science fiction film sees teen Marty McFly sent back in time to 1955 where he meets and befriends his parents-to-be. After becoming the love interest of his young mother, he must find a way to make his parents fall in love and get back to 1985 with the help of Doc Brown. The idea of meeting and actually becoming friends with your parents as teenagers is a really cool and interesting idea and the fact that it was set in the ‘50s makes it even better. The characters are fantastic with Lea Thompson playing a seducing teenager very well and Michael J. Fox escaped into the role of Marty.


Groundhog Day (1993)

Groundhog Day

Harold Ramis directed his friend, Bill Murray in this fantasy comedy that was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2006. Murray plays Phil Connors, an arrogant and egocentric Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, finds himself in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again. After indulging in hedonism and numerous suicide attempts, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities. The recurring characters are funny and the audience finds themselves rooting for Murray to wake up to a different day every time that alarm clock goes off.


Donnie Darko (2001)

Donnie Darko

First time writer/director Richard Kelly used a budget of $4.5 million to tell a story of a teenager who tries to find the meaning of his troubling Doomsday-related visions that include a freaky rabbit named Frank and a jet engine crashing into his bedroom. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the title character, while Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, and Patrick Swayze have supporting roles. There is a lot to take in the first time you watch this dark tale and some will not appreciate it for what it is. For those who give it a second try and really try to understand what is happening and what the ending means for the rest of the film, they will be one of the millions of cult fans. This film is the definition of a mind-bender. It is weird to look at, it is a strange concept, and the overall execution is not typical, however that is part of its charm.


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

One of the only romantic science fiction dramadies that I can think of stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. By using a nonlinear narrative, writer Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondry explore the nature of memory and love. The film centers on an estranged couple who have each other erased from their memories using a radical surgery that goes inside the brain and removes only the memories that involve the two lovers. When Jim Carrey’s character decides to do the surgery, we go inside his head with him and since he is unconscious and unable to stop the procedure he must relive every event that led to the couple’s meeting, their relationship (both the ups and downs) and the eventual downfall. It is an incredibly inventive film that uses the nonlinear structure so well that it sneaks up on the viewer and they don’t even realize things were out of order until the movie is over.