A go-to staple of the sci-fi genre, time traveling has been done in films ranging from The Butterfly Effect to Avengers: Endgame, all with their different rules and outcomes. With many examples leaving plotholes for the audience to pick apart, and others not making any sense at all, here are the five best time travel movies so far…
5. 12 Monkeys (1995)
The first entry on my list of five best time travel films, this one stars Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis, and is directed by the oft eccentric Terry Gilliam, 12 Monkeys certainly has all the parts there ready to be a great time travel movie. Throw in a ‘is he, is he not’ crazy character in Brad Pitt, and a time-traveling Bruce Willis who’s attempting to find the origins of a deadly virus that wipes out humanity, and you’ve got yourself a film you’ll be glued to throughout.
4. Primer (2004)
Perhaps the one film on this list that makes no attempt at making the time travel mechanics easily digestible for the audience, it follows two engineers who happen how to time travel. Requiring multiple viewings to fully appreciate, you won’t necessarily know the first time watching you’re actually watching a future version of the characters or the present version, or past… just watch it. And then after watching a second time check out the multiple graphs and fan explanations for a real appreciation of how good this is.
3. Groundhog Day (1993)
Starring Bill Murray in the leading role, this film manages a fine line between the comedic tropes of being stuck living through the same day, and the philosophical side of things to do with it; the loneliness, the nearly infinite choices without consequences, and how given the time and will, you could learn and better yourself in any way you’d like. Starting the film as a regular jaded grump, Bill Murray ends it as a reformed man.
2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
I can’t write a list of the five best time travel movies without including this sequel. The entire premise of the film, in fact, the franchise as a whole, revolves around time travel and affecting the future by disturbing the past/present. Easily the best in the franchise, with having the villain from the first reappear to be the savior of the second, Judgment Day ups everything from the original including action pieces, shootouts, story, and thankfully the motivations and explanations to the time traveling going on.
1. Back to the Future (1985)
Number one on this list of five best time travel movies is perhaps the most obvious and definitely one of the most famous. A staple for any 90s kid whilst growing up, the adventures of Doc Brown and Marty McFly are firmly embroiled in pop culture, from clear inspired projects like Rick and Morty to a huge following to this day by the fans. Who’d have thought a film about traveling back in time and getting to see what your parents were like when they were your age would do so well?
There are the five best time travel films, but what unknown gems would make it on your list, or is there some mainstream example you think should replace one of my entries?