I feel like time travel movies are often overlooked when people are looking for something to watch. Maybe the idea of time travel freaks some people out, but a lot of the time it’s just that they’re not considered the most popular movie genre. Regardless, a lot of them are really good and you’re definitely missing out if you’re not throwing one into your movie rotation every once in a while.
Don’t know where to begin watching? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are 20 of the best time travel movies ever made – Watch one or watch them all. Either way, it’s going to be worth it.
Time After Time
Jack the Ripper was a pretty popular character for a while. As a result, he frequently appeared in books and movies of all genres. In this movie, famous author H.G. Wells chases the notorious serial killer from 19th-century London to present-day San Francisco. The interaction is able to take place because The Ripper uses the future writer’s time machine to escape his time period. Sounds like a good time, right? It totally is.
If low budget B-rated movies are like chocolate to you, you absolutely need to see Timecrimes. In this movie, the protagonist is running away from some psychotic dude on a murderous rampage. While fleeing for his life, he stumbles on a time travel machine and ends up accidentally going back in time. Hilarity ensues. It is in Spanish, but don’t let a pesky language barrier stop you; you don’t need to understand the language to get what’s going on.
Here’s one for the action film lovers. The protagonist in this film goes back in time and inhabits the body of someone else as he attempts to stop a mass murderer from killing a bunch of people. It features some recognizable faces (that’s Jake Gyllenhaal up there) and clearly had a bigger budget than some of the other things on this list. There isn’t a whole lot of depth to it, but with so much going on, there doesn’t need to be.
While you’re on a Jake Gyllenhaal kick, why not also pop in Donnie Darko? This film shows the actor in his younger years playing a moody teenager who hallucinates an evil looking rabbit. Considering that it was made on a relatively low budget, it’s shot and produced really well. Equal parts cryptic, creepy, and intriguing, it’s a movie that everyone should see at least once.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Since this is a Marvel movie, it obviously had a pretty big budget. It doesn’t necessarily have the most original plot, but the production value lets you look past that. In the film, Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men go back in time and team up with younger versions of themselves in an effort to save ‘the future’. Even if you’re not into the comic books, this one is worth a watch.
Army of Darkness
Either you love this movie or you think that it’s the worst movie ever produced, there doesn’t really seem to be any sort of in between. Ash vs Evil Dead has been on TV for a couple of seasons now, but Ash’s story starts well before then. Take this movie, for example – Ash finds himself back in medieval times where he’s forced to trade in his trusty chainsaw for a ‘boom stick’ and fight their zombies. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds, and yes, it’s awesome.
This one’s a little different in that no one actually gets into a time machine. UFOs start mysteriously landing and the protagonist, an expert translator, is determined to figure out what they want. It’s on the list because it touches on time’s fluidity in a big way and it’s ultimately a really good science fiction film.
This movie takes place in the future. In 2042, time travel becomes a real thing and is immediately outlawed. Like in real life, of course, not everyone follows the rules. As a result, folks from 2072 show up and start causing a ruckus. A mob hitman is hired to take them out. Everything is going swimmingly until something major happens. It’s got Bruce Willis in it, so you know it’s action packed.
Star Trek: First Contact
This is arguably the best film installment in The Next Generation series. Picard and the rest of the USS Enterprise crew e-travel back in time in an effort to prevent something catastrophic from happening that could potentially alter earth’s history forever. It’s got some gems for current Trekkies – humanity’s first meeting with the Vulcans, for example – but even people who’ve never seen the show won’t have any problem following the movie.
Plenty of people wonder whether or not there’s life on other planets. This movie does a really good job of exploring that. In the film, an ex-pilot leaves his family behind and goes in search for life elsewhere. It’s fairly lengthy, but it does a really good job of presenting theories of what would happen in such a situation. It also had a pretty big budget, so you can look forward to stunning imagery and familiar faces.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Keanu Reaves was kind of a big deal in the 80s and 90s, and this is one of the best movies he ever starred in. He and a friend, teenagers, get their hands on a time machine and decide to use it to craft the most stellar history report of all time. They visit a bunch of history’s most famous names and do some hilarious, if not questionable, things. Definitely a movie everyone should see at least once.
Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow
This movie is a really good example of what a time travel movie looks like when it’s done right. It’s based on a Japanese novel that’s titled All You Need is Kill, which gives you an idea of just how much bloodshed can be expected. It does feature a time loop aspect – which is done really badly a lot of the time – but it explains it in a unique way.
The Time Machine
This is probably one of the most iconic time travel fiction films of all time and everyone needs to see it at least once. Guys, the novel (by H.G. Wells) that this film is based on actually coined the term ‘time machine’! In the movie, the protagonist inadvertently travels hundreds of thousands of years into the future. He meets some new ‘friends’ and discovers a world completely unlike anything he’s ever known.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
In this film, Captain Kirk and his trusty crew need to travel 200 years in the past (to 1986) and recover a humpback whale. Why, you ask? Because it’s the only thing that can communicate with an alien probe. Whether or not you’ve ever seen an episode of Star Trek, you’re going to want to see this movie.
Planet of the Apes
Seriously, if you haven’t seen this movie yet you need to drop what you’re doing and either download, rent, or buy it. Almost all of the Apes films feature time travel in one way or another, but this one – the first installment – does it best of all. George Taylor lands on a mysterious planet after flying just a little too fast for his own good and the world he discovers is very much unlike his own. It’s an oldie, but it’s also definitely a goodie that easily stands the test of time.
If weird movies that tend to jump all over the place and force you to pay attention thrill you, you need to add this one to your watch list. Kevin, our main character, gets together with six dwarfs and everyone works together to repair the fabric of time for The Supreme Being. They also manage to swipe some treasure along the way.
This film features some pretty famous faces and revolves around a fairly common premise. A deadly virus breaks out and Bruce Willis travels back in time in an effort to save humanity as well as his own future. The artistic imagery of this film alone is enough to make it worth watching, the excellent presentation is just the icing on the cake.
Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day
These films have pretty much the exact same premise and almost share identical names, so they get to be put in the same slot. Arnold Schwarzenegger gained notoriety for playing the AI who travels back in time to kill the mother of Skynet’s most fearsome enemy. Though Schwarzenegger is the villain in the first installment, he turns around and becomes a beloved hero in T2.
If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if Steve Jobs and his buddies had invented a time travel machine instead of Apple while they were working in the garage, this is a movie you’re definitely going to want to see. It explores what happens when a time loop is created and then subsequently mishandled. If you like the way film festival movies are shot, you’re going to love this.
Back to the Future
They say that you should save the best for last, right? If there’s only one movie on this list that every single person on the planet needs to see before they die, it’s this one. Marty McFly, the main character, travels back to the 50s and inadvertently alters the timeline (which of course alters everything thereafter). He teams up with a scientist and the two head out to make things right again. It’s perfectly shot and perfectly cast. Really, it’s the quintessential time travel film and you just need to watch it.
Did your favorite time travel movie make the list? If not, what is it? I’m always looking for new things to watch, so let me know below!