1. Delorian (Back To The Future)
Look at this beautiful piece of physics-defying machinery. Gull-wing doors, lush leather seats, not one but two cup holders, and, most importantly, a digital display that clocks your destination time down to the second. Sure, you need an absolutely ridiculous amount of energy in order to get it running, but can we honestly say that 1.21 gigawatts is too much of a price to pay for getting to where you’re going at the exact moment you want to be there? Granted, all that exposed wiring means this machine has a weakness to being struck by lightning, but don’t we all?
2. Time Turner (Harry Potter and the The Prisoner of Azkaban)
How does this thing even work? I know, I know. A wizard did it. In any case, this is the most compact time machine on the list, and ounce for ounce, it more than measures up. The range appears to only be a few hours, but within those hours, you can travel whenever you like. To…study more. Because that’s exactly what you would use this necklace for. Studying. No other reason. At all.
3. The Complicated Contraption (The Time Machine)
If you must have a time machine that operates on lever-pull, this H.G. Welles classic is the one for you. While we can argue how effective a lever-based control system is, make no mistake, this unnamed machine brought it’s unnamed inventor back from the far reaches of the future, once he got it back from the Morlocks. So, easily stolen and not a cup-holder in sight, but it will take you namelessly where you want to go.
4. The Ocarina of Time (The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time)
This adorable musical instrument stretches the idea of a time “machine,” and, indeed, time “travel,” itself. Instead of moving Link physically back in time, it instead moves his older conscious back into his younger body. While this does take care of those whole “what if you meet your younger self” conundrums, it somewhat limited, in that if you had a boring childhood, it’s not going to be of much use. The name does seem to imply that there are other time-traveling instruments, so perhaps the Oboe or Glockenspiel of Time gives you more control.
5. Cosmic Treadmill (The Flash)
Being the fastest man alive means that the Flash doesn’t actually need the Cosmic Treadmill to travel through time; it’s purpose is essentially there to give the artist a break drawing backgrounds as Barry Allen (or Wally West, or Jay Garrick, or Bart Allen, or any other of the multitude of people who have run really fast while wearing that lightning bolt on their chest) tears through the fabric of space and time. But, it is used enough as a “this is a time travel story” signifier enough that it counts. As you might imagine from a device powered by a hyperactive marathoner, the Cosmic Treadmill frequently overshoots its desired target, sending the Flash (or Kid Flash, or Max Mercury, or Impulse, or Jesse Quick, or…you get the idea) hurtling farther into the past or future than they originally intend. Cardio, it turns out, is not best way travel through time.
6. TARDIS, (Doctor Who)
This thing. I mean, it’s broken, right? It must be broken. Not only does it not get the Doctor where he wants to go, it frequently won’t let him leave once he’s there. It’s controls appear to be nonsensical in the extreme, it’s cloaking device sets on one setting and it makes a weird noise when you use the parking break. An argument could be made that the TARDIS gets its driver where they need to be, as opposed to where they want to be, but that’s hardly a way to travel. Iconic? Mayhaps. But possibly the absolute worst way to travel through time.
7. Quantum Leap Accelerator, (Quantum Leap)
Oh, boy. I take it back. This is the worst. Never travel through time this way. No direction, no continued identity, no closure even when you get to the end of the season. Also, memory loss, a wisecracking hologram only you can see, and general sense of lack of control over your own life. On the plus side, everyone else’s clothes will fit you just fine. Which is the tiniest possible silver lining to this clown show of a time travel method.