My Top Ten Favorite Movies That Involve Time Travel

I like movies that involve time travel or being able to see into the past or future. Here are my top 10, meaning that if I was going on a long trip and had to pick ten movies that feature time travel in some way, these would be my choices.

1. Source Code (2011) – Jake Gyllenhaal finds himself part of a government system that can send him back in time to an alternate timeline, but as another person. Gyllenhaal’s mission is to determine who blows up a train with explosives. Great combination of mystery and time travel, and I loved the surprise ending.

2. 12 Monkeys (1995) – Director Terry Gilliam has Bruce Willis as a future criminal who is sent back in time to find the cause of a deadly virus that decimated the earth. Unfortunately the time travel device is a bit crude and Willis lands in unexpected situations. Brad Pitt, relatively unknown in 1995, gives a good performance as an insane asylum resident. The ambiguous ending is a flaw in my opinion.

3. The Time Machine (1960) – A science fiction classic loosely based on the H.G. Wells novel. Rod Taylor builds a time machine goes into 800,000 years into the future. There he encounters the meek and attractive Eloi, and the not-so-meek and not-so-attractive Morlocks. Well-deserved Oscar for special effects that hold up well even 50+ years later.


4. Paycheck (2003) – Ben Affleck creates a machine that can see into the future for a giant corporation. As part of the deal, Affleck’s memory is erased. So, choice A – the corporation is good and Affleck has no problems. Or, choice B – the corporation sets out to murder Affleck. Great plot especially where Affleck has an envelope of seemingly random objects that allow him to escape his pursuers. I knew the bird would be significant in the end.

5. Minority Report (2002) – In 2054 the government PreCrime unit, using precog mutants, can peer into the future, see murders, and then stop them before they are committed. Tom Cruise, as John Anderton, does a good job as a captain in the PreCrime unit. Anderton is predicted to commit a murder. Will he or is it all part of a plot? I like the movie’s details of what 2054 might be like. Didn’t like the kind of weird blue tint and light glare in almost every scene.

6. Deja Vu (2006) – Denzel Washington is a government agent who is sent back in time to discover who blows up a ferry and kills hundreds of people. This is really more of a mystery movie than science fiction movie. As is often the case with time travel movies there is an unexpected, clever ending.

7. Time Bandits (1981) – This is really a fantasy film with time travel elements. Director Terry Gilliam crafts a rather wacky story that I liked mostly for its wild creativity. A young boy and six dwarfs jump through time and battle Evil, personified by actor David Warner (who has appeared in quite a few scifi movies).

8. A Sound of Thunder (2005) – Even though this movie was a colossal box office disaster, I really enjoyed this tale of present day hunters traveling back in time for a dinosaur hunt. Unfortunately, one hunter accidentally kills an insect in the past. Could that cause problems?

9. The Time Travelers (1964) – Low budget production where a group of scientists travel to 2071 to find post nuclear war survivors living underground battling surface dwelling mutants. Eventually the scientists return to the present . . . or do they? This movie was kind of remade in 1967 as Journey to the Center of Time but I much prefer the 1964 version.

10. The Butterfly Effect (2004) – Ashton Kutcher has the ability to go back in time, and then change the future. What could go wrong? Lots. For me, this movie was somewhat too dark and disturbing, mostly because of traumatic plot events. Not a movie for children. And a not-so-happy ending.

Some other films:

Time Cop (1994) starring Jean-Claude Van Damme was surprisingly not bad and would make my top ten list on some days

Terminator 2 (1991) with Arnold Schwarzenegger as a good Terminator is an excellent film, but I’ve seen it about 50,000 times.

Looper (2012) starring Bruce Willis had the potential to be great but the idea of child-murder as part of the plot totally wrecked the film for me.

Star Trek: First Contact (1996) with the Borg Queen was very good, but the time travel element was a bit too incidental for me to put this movie on my top ten list.

Primer (2004) was very well liked by most of my friends but I didn’t like this ultra-low budget movie. Too confusing for me to enjoy.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) had Hermione travelling back in time but I felt it was incidental to the main plot.

Frequency (2000) with Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel as father and son was too slow for me.

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2 Responses to My Top Ten Favorite Movies That Involve Time Travel

  1. mvaneerde says:

    How was 12 Monkeys’ ending ambiguous?

    • At the end of the movie, the bad guy (Dr. Peters) with the virus gets on a plane , presumably to spread it throughout the world. But sitting next to him is the female doctor (Dr. Jones) who was sending Bruce Willis (Cole) on his time travels. Coincidence? Was Jones part of the plot all along? Is the implication that she will stop Peters?

      And just before that, when Cole is shot in the airport, he’s being watched by his younger self. Does this mean Cole really was insane the whole time?

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