Top 10 Time Travel Movies


For some reason, one of my favorite plot devices of all time is time travel, or really any film that messes with the framework of time.  Even a film that tells the story in non-traditional chronological order such as Memento or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind get extra props for time manipulation.

With Hot Tub Time Machine hitting theaters tomorrow, I’m jumping at the excuse to put together a list of my favorite time travel movies. Ooh … I can feel you getting excited already. Once again, can’t claim to have seen every time travel movie, but I have seen all of these for sure.

10. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

You had to figure Star Trek was gonna land on this list somewhere. No singular franchise has probably abused time travel as much as Star Trek. I mean, even the J.J Abrahms reboot last year had a time worm hole thing going on — but “First Contact” was their finest use of it. The Next Generation crew (aka the Jean-Luc Picard crew … by the way search his name in YouTube now if you want some amusement) follows a Borg cube through a time hole and ends up in the 21st Century when according to Star Trek lore, humans made first contact with aliens and began traveling the universe. The best part was in doing so, they meet the original Enterprise crew for the first time to much dork applause.

9. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)


Ah, the time travel comedy. None more memorable than Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Phonebooth’s would never be the same after this movie … or am I talking about Superman? Anyway, two idiot high schoolers learn to become okay people when using a time machine to help write a history paper. At one point they ask themselves what their future selves would have done in order to save their butts. Totally dumb, but excellent, dudes.

8. Back to the Future 2 (1989)

Two time travel hits in 1989, this of course being the bigger deal with Marty McFly going to the future to see how Biff has completely destroyed the world he knows and loves because he got ahold of a sports almanac from the future and bet on everything, knowing the outcome (still the first thing I plan to do whenever I go back in time: bet on sports — which they reference in the “Hot Tub” trailer) It hardly compares to the original, but it was still a lot of fun … and hoverboards!

7. Frequency (2000)


One of only two films I’ve included here that doesn’t technically involve a person traveling through time, but it should count because it’s one of my favorites. Jim Caviezel and Dennis Quaid play a father and son communicating with each other on the same ham radio at two different points in time. Caviezel realizes that his father, a long-deceased firefighter, is communicating with him days before he’s supposed to die and together they avert his death. The consequences of changing time are greater, however, than they anticipated. This is an emotional time thriller, a really quality film.

6. T2: Judgement Day (1991)


Groundbreaking for its time in terms of digital effects, “T2” is a consummate action film with all the chases and explosions and downright terrifying fear of a singular entity gone back in time with only one goal in mind: kill John Connor, leader of the future resistance of humans against machines. Not quite as great of a time travel film as The Terminator although certainly that has to do with novelty wearing out. Two dudes coming back in time, one to protect Connor and the other to kill him makes it still pretty intense. Gotta hand it to James Cameron, he knows how to make entertaining films.

5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Did I give away too much? Oops. Certainly time travel is not the main premise of any Harry Potter book or film, but it’s used here and it makes for one of the more memorable story climaxes of the whole series. I can’t give anything away here because I’m not the spoiler type, but the overall quality of Alfonso Cuaron’s work with this film gives it a right to not only make this list but find its way all the way up to No. 5.

4. Twelve Monkeys (1995)


Terry Gilliam’s excellent sci-fi film is among the top sci-fi thrillers on many lists. Bruce Willis is sent back in time form the way future to 1996 in order to stop the spread of a virus that would decimate the world’s population. He’s not supposed to change events, just collect information and a sample so a possible antidote can be found. With a supporting role from a nutty Brad Pitt as Bruce’s buddy in a mental institution, “Monkey” is so crazy it’s good. That’s Gilliam’s rep and he sticks to it.

3. Groundhog Day (1993)

Might be my favorite comedy of all time, so when I say No. 3 I only mean it because it’s not the best “time travel” movie, just a great time manipulation movie. I just love the living the same day over concept. Groundhog Day is a movie that responds to this idea in slapstick-y, serious and even dark comedy ways. Bill Murray plays a reporter going to cover the annual Punxtawney, Penn. Groundhog Day ceremony only he’s forced to live that day over and over again. He resorts to trying to reach out to his co-workers and his love interest, played by Andy McDowell, then tries to kill himself any number of ways and then tries to do good for people. The days repeat endlessly, sometimes for the sake of one funny scene, which makes this a classic. Does anyone go back in time? Not exactly, but it counts for my list.

2. The Terminator (1984)


“Hi, Sarah Connor, I’m from the future and I’m saving you from Arnold Schwarzenegger who will kill you because you’re going to have the baby that will be humanity’s only hope in 30 or so years, and you’re going to have that baby with me, Kyle Reese, bad actor from the future, so let’s get to it.” It’s kinda screwed up, but Terminator was the first film to really utilize time travel in this way. I mean, when time travel is possible, should we be in an apocalyptic war, wouldn’t the first side who invented it try and use it to win? Playing that out from the perspective of poor Sarah Connor who just wants to party like a normal 20-something is what makes the film genius. Plus, the fact that 1984 LA police are idiots and don’t realize Arnold is a robot from the future who will obliterate them makes the action that more enjoyable.

1. Back to the Future (1985)


A great movie all about time travel and the consequences (and humor) it can provide. Once you get over that Marty McFly’s mom wants to jump his bones back in the 60s, this is pretty much the best from beginning to end. How else would Flux Capacitor and Delorean have become staples of the English language? Then there’s the love story element of Marty trying to set his parents up because his going back in time has threatened his very existence by not allowing his parents to meet. When I say “Enchantment Under the Sea” I get shivers down my spine and the urge to sing “Johnny B. Goode.” This is just such a fun movie that’s as dramatic as it is entertaining even if it’s not serious-serious.


  1. Andy says:

    Great list thanks for the link. I limited mine to 80’s movies, had I looked wide a couple of others worth a look ate Timecrimes and Primer. Check them out if you haven’t seen them.

  2. Roisin says:

    I agree with every single choice, except for no. 5, which I’ve yet to see. Is that first picture from The Time Machine? Classic!

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