Everyone has thought about going back or forward in time at least once. It would be crazy to say the thought has not crossed your mind. Travelling through time is a concept of movement that has been readily discussed for decades (even centuries). Since time travel does not exist (or cannot be proven at this moment), theorists have been able to create many different scenarios on how time travel might be achieved. Black holes, time machines, cosmic strings, space-time vortexs, time jumps; it could be its own list.
However, reading scientific journals on time travel gets boring fast. Thankfully, we have filmmakers to make time travel fun. As previously stated, there has been no definitive findings on the proper way to travel through time which allows each filmmaker to make time travel their own. The results see protagonists trapped reliving the same day, crossing paths with their younger selves, creating time loops, and using sleek devices to achieve the impossible. It doesn’t always make sense, but when it does man is it worth it.
This is the 50 Greatest Time Travel Movies of All Time.
30. Time Trap (2017)
A brisk science-fiction film that feels like an homage to the action films of the ’80s. When their professor goes missing, a group of students retrace his steps and enter a mysterious cave where time moves slower. By the time they realize this it is too late. Decades have already passed outside and the world has been devastated of life. It’s at this point where the action in Time Trap begins to really pick up. The film falls apart near the end—it doesn’t spend nearly enough time with the students confronting what travelling centuries into the future means for them—but it has some interesting concepts in play that deserve to be recognized.
29. Run Lola Run (1998)
This German experimental thriller follows a woman who tries to obtain 100,000 Deutschmarks in twenty minutes to save her boyfriend’s life. Every time she fails time resets and she begins the day over. One of the best examples of the butterfly effect, the film reveals the futures of certain bystanders Lola interacts with showing how even the slightest changes can have profound long term effects. It’s a fast paced and exhilarating film that makes you completely forget that you are reading subtitles. It’s series of what-ifs that will make you ponder just how much of an impact you can make on someone’s day.
28. Men in Black 3 (2012)
When a prequel to a beloved film is announced that will “explore the origins of the film’s iconic characters”, you will hear fans complain that “we don’t need to know this” or “why can’t you leave some mystery in the character?” Well, Men in Black 3 successfully subverts those worries by acting as a sequel that explores Agent J and K’s past. Josh Brolin is amazing as a younger Agent K, channelling Tommy Lee Jones’ trademark gruffness and charm with ease. Will Smith, essentially returning to acting after a brief hiatus, proves once again why he’s an A-lister. It’s a fun film that is less concerned about defeating the alien antagonist and more on developing and strengthening the bond between these two agents of MiB.
27. Happy Death Day (2017)
Imagine living out the worst birthday of your life, getting killed at the end of it, and then doing that over and over and over again repeatedly. Happy Death Day’s horror comedy take on Groundhog Day may be the most fun movie on this list absent Back to the Future. Never taking itself too seriously, the film creates an engaging whodunnit mystery as Tree determines to find her killer and end the loop, with many comedic and sometimes horrific missteps along the way. The time travel is supernaturally based, which means the rules go mostly out the window, freeing the movie up to focus on the fun of replaying set pieces with different angles as the plot progresses. Without a doubt, Happy Death Day is one of the top films to use the infinite day setup.
26. About Time (2013)
The only reason About Time isn’t higher on this list is the wonky time travel mechanics. When Tim Lake turns 21, his father reveals that the men in his family can travel back to any point in their past and relive that time. They can then return to the “present” with mostly minor changes – except for one notable exception with children. Instead of reaching for groundbreaking changes, Tim goes back to redo a date, or change his sister’s trajectory. Some of these travels create inconsistencies along the way, but the film is a romantic and simple meditation on regret and living in the moment. The mechanics remain in the background where they should stay. Plus it’s an interesting and fresh take to have the time travel as a genetic trait and a bonding experience for father and son.
25. Triangle (2009)
A trippy, psychological film that leaves its best twist for last. Melissa George does a great job playing a single mother who finds herself stuck on an ocean liner repeating the same time loop. It’s an intelligent, well-acted, and clever time travel film that doesn’t reveal its full hand until the very end.
24. Mirage (2018)
Through a TV connection brought on by a 72-hour-long electrical storm, Vera Roy is able to warn Nico, a child who lived in her house in 1989, of his impending death. This causes her to wake up to an altered 2014 timeline where Nico is still alive, but she is no longer a wife or mother. As well, the man who inadvertently killed Nico is still walking free. Mirage‘s biggest mystery is how Vera can get her old life back while keeping Nico alive. It’s full of stunning realizations and close calls that will leave you pleasantly surprised even if the film runs for a tad too long.
23. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
The great thing about the time travel in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is that you don’t know about it until the third act, but it heavily influences the second act. Hermoine’s time turner may actually be the greatest time machine in the movies, literally turning back the clock to travel into the past. The little ways they set up the time travel aspects along the way are genius, particularly poignant when Harry sees his future self cast a patronus and believes it is his father coming to protect him. The fact that Prisoner of Azkaban is seen by many to be the best film of the franchise is the icing on the cake.
22. Donnie Darko (2001)
The best parts of Donnie Darko are simply not related to the time travel. Jake Gyllenhaal’s idiosyncractic dialogue, the raw family and small-town high school dynamics and the disturbing visuals of a manic rabbit dominate the movie. The time travel is bizarrely presented, which fits the movie, and is almost unknowable to even determine the sense of it all. The fact that director Richard Kelly has a whole book explaining his thoughts on how it all works only adds to the puzzle, as very little of that information is within the movie itself. Regardless, the movie is constantly reminding the viewer at every turn that this is a time travel movie, for better or worse, and it is certainly one of the more memorable films on this list.
21. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
Acting as a loose sequel to the 1967 novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui, this Japanese-animated film follows a teenager who learns that she can time travel. However, her frequent use of time travel begins to cause problems that only worsen when she tries to fix those problems with more time travel. I love the idea of leaping into the air being what triggers the time jump as much as I do the number of jumps she has left being shown on her arm. It’s a beautifully animated coming-of-age story that I highly recommend you see.
What do you think of the selection so far? What are some of your favorite time travel movies? Maybe they will show up further on the list!