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.
40. The Time Traveller’s Wife (2009)
If you thought romance was hard enough, try throwing time travel into the mix. Henry (Eric Bana) is unable to control when or where he time travels. He shows up naked and unaware of the day or year. Over time, he finds himself drawn to significant people, places, and events in his life. This allows him to befriend, and later marry, Clare (Rachel McAdams). The chemistry between Bana and McAdams is the real draw here. Watching the two deal with their relationship and Henry’s time travelling is great to watch. The Time Traveller’s Wife isn’t the best romantic-comedy to feature time travelling, but it’s still a heartfelt and funny film.
39. Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
Kathleen Turner, in an Academy Award nominated performance, shines as Peggy Sue, a woman on the verge of divorce. While attending her high school reunited, she is overwhelmed after being crowned the reunion queen and faints. She awakens to find herself back in 1960 during her senior year of high school. At first believing this is all part of some post-death hallucination, she soon embraces her second chance and dumps Richard (Nic Cage), her longtime boyfriend and future husband. However, whether it be fate or Richard’s nasal fry, Peggy Sue goes back to Richard and wakes up in 1986. The film tries to write if all off as a dream, but the inclusion of a Michael Fitzsimmons book as a “get well gift”, whom she only knew after travelling back to 1960, suggests otherwise.
38. The Final Countdown (1980)
This science-fiction war film offers up a question that has been asked time-and-time again in regards to time travel projects: what would you do if you found yourself back in time and hours away from a national disaster? Would you prevent it and alter history, or leave it be so as to not mess with the timeline? The Final Countdown looked to tackle such a subject with the USS Nimitz being transported through a time storm back to the day before the attack on Pearl Harbour. What could have been a remarkable film headlined by strong actors like Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen was instead a feature-length commercial for the naval aviation branch of the United States Navy. Right as the film is about to get interesting, the time storm appears again and sends them all back to the present where it’s revealed that the Nimitz heading back in time has always been part of history. It’s a shame that all we every really got to see were the aircraft flying through the skies and landing. Seeing an altered history where Pearl Harbour never happened thanks to modern aircraft taking down its 1940s counterparts is the film I’m still hoping to see one day.
37. Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
Hot Tub Time Machine could have been much better than it is, but it could have been much worse too. The time travel is iffy — the four friends change events from the past that change their lives present-day lives in ways that shouldn’t make sense. And the opening does little to make you care about the characters, but the chemistry gets better over the course of the movie. All in all, it’s an enjoyable comedic take on the concept if you are willing to accept it for what it is.
36. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
The X-Men film franchise was never been one to care about maintaining a sense of continuity between films. That momentarily changed when Days of Future Past burst into theaters and cleverly retconned First Class into an Original Trilogy prequel. Seeing the original X-Men cast back in action was one thing, but then having Wolverine go back in time to interact with the prequel cast took things to another level. In addition to Bryan Singer returning as director, fans were finally able to see classic heroes like Iceman and Kitty Pryde using the full extant of their powers. The franchise may have quickly muddled their continuity again with Apocalypse, but for a brief moment 20th Century Fox showed us what an X-Men franchise could look like when it was firing on all cylinders.
35. Back to the Future Part II (1989)
Back to the Future II has some of the most iconic imagery of the franchise — from hoverboards to a Trump-like version of Biff. But unlike the self-contained story of the first film that avoids most time travel complications, this sequel has holes so massive the Delorean could fly through. Between the trips to the future and the past, this film sets up an arc that lasts into the third movie and really tangles the timelines in ways that fall short when scrutinized. But the sequel is still enjoyable enough to earn a spot on this list.
34. Somewhere in Time (1980)
Based on Richard Matheson’s Bid Time Return, this romantic fantasy drama features a wonderful performance from the late Christopher Reeve as Richard Collier, a playwright who becomes enamored by a 1910s stage actress. Through the power of self-suggestion, Richard is able to transport himself back in time to the year 1912. The method of time travel is unique, but inherently silly. Yet it works and the payoff of Richard accidentally setting eyes on a 1979 penny and being transported back to the present works brilliantly. I could have done without Richard unsuccessfully attempting to go back to 1912 and growing heartbroken over the loss, but it makes for a more appropriate, if not equally silly, ending.
33. Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)
After almost 30 years away from the big screen, Bill and Ted finally returned to face the music. Now married with children, the two have struggled since Bogus Journey in writing the song that will unite humanity. Now threatened with the world ending if they cannot write the song in under an hour, the duo steals their old time machine and heads to various points in the future hoping their future selves have written the song for them. At the same time, their daughters Thea and Billie set out on their own time travel journey assembling an all-star cast of musicians to help their fathers with the song. The future portions don’t really make sense if reality is supposed to end in the present, but that is easy enough to overlook in exchange for seeing Bill & Ted again.
32. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)
All it took was 81 minutes for The Flashpoint Paradox is tell an amazing time travel story that The CW’s The Flash butchered over the course of three seasons. Arguably one of the last great films to come out of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line, The Flashpoint Paradox sees the Flash accidentally create a new timeline when he goes back and saves his mom from dying. He wakes up in a world unfamiliar to him. Aquaman and Wonder Woman are at war; Superman doesn’t exist; Thomas Wayne is Batman instead of his son Bruce; his super speed is gone; but, more importantly, his mother is still alive. At first, the Flash is happy to remain in this world, but when he sees that his wife Iris is married to another man, and the world is on the brink of destruction, he knows that he has to change things back to how they were. With the help of Thomas Wayne’s Batman, the Flash is able to defeat Professor Zoom and reset the timeline. The highlight of the film is definitely seeing alternate versions of beloved DC superheroes proving just how much of an impact the butterfly effect can have on the timeline.
31. Time Bandits (1981)
The first film in director Terry Gilliam’s “Trilogy of Imagination”, Time Bandits focuses on Kevin, a young boy, who is drawn into a time travelling adventure by six dwarves. In their position is a map that, when used properly, is to repair holes in the spacetime fabric. However, the six dwarves use the map to steal riches from across space and time. The group encounter, and steal from, fictional characters like ogres and Robin Hood, Ancient Greek heroes, and Napoleon. Time Bandits is the first film I’ve seen to use a map to find time travel holes, and this makes the film feel like a science-fiction version of treasure hunting pirates. It’s a film born out of a child’s imagination and love for history, and that’s really all we need to think about in order to enjoy Time Bandits.
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!