Long before the advent of mindblowing technological advancements like space travel, the cell phone, email, lasers, and other milestone achievements of mankind in the twentieth and twenty-first century, a few literary works had long predicted and possibly inspired these inventions. One famous writer who notably made such predictions was science-fiction pioneer H. G. Wells who made bold futuristic predictions, many of which have since come to pass. One prediction that he made that is however still yet to become reality is one that is seen in the movies about a machine that enables man to time travel.
In 1895, H. G. Wells wrote a sci-fi novella titled The Time Machine where the concept of time travel by using a vehicle or device to move purposely and selectively forward or backward through time was first discussed. The term has since become very popular and universally used as his book has been adapted into multiple feature films, television shows, and comic books. It also most notably inspired the production of more works of fiction (books and movies) that gave their take on what a time machine and time travel might possibly mean.
Here are twelve best time travel movies from different genres you can watch today that will help explain the concept to you as well as provide the entertainment you so much desire.
12 Best Time Travel Movies You Can Watch
1. The Terminator (1984)
The Terminator, James Cameron‘s brainchild, is undoubtedly one of the best time travel movies you can ever watch. The sci-fi action film goes a long way in giving viewers an explanation of the concept of time travel as it is about a cyborg assassin sent back from 2029 to 1984 to kill the woman whose son later becomes responsible for protecting the world against machines in a post-apocalyptic future.
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, where he used his most famous movie line: “I’ll be back,” the movie was a huge success as it raked in $78.3 million from a $6.4 million production budget. Another testament to why it appears on this list is the fact that the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
2. Back to the Future (1985)
Second on this list of the best time travel movies is Back to the Future. It’s another iconic science-fiction movie that gives a good depiction of the concept of time travel as it follows a teenager named Marty McFly, who accidentally travels back in time from 1985 to 1955. In the past, McFly is able to meet his future parents and interrupt their first meeting before becoming his mother’s love interest.
Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, and Crispin Glover, the movie which has also been selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, grossed over $381 million worldwide from a $19 million production budget.
3. Groundhog Day (1993)
Groundhog Day is a fantasy comedy movie that was derived from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that says if a groundhog emerges from its burrow on 2nd February and sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will return to its den and winter will continue, however, if it does not see its shadow as a result of cloudiness, spring will arrive early.
In the film, a narcissistic TV weatherman, played by Bill Murray, is assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day event which is a popular tradition celebrated in Canada and the United States. Its take on time travel comes when the weatherman finds himself to be stuck in a time loop, thus forcing him to repeatedly re-live the same day over and over again.
4. Interstellar (2014)
Fourth on our list of the 12 best time travel movies is Interstellar, an epic sci-fi film that takes place in a dystopian future where humanity is struggling to maintain survival on planet Earth. Due to this, a group of astronauts travels through a tunnel with different points in space-time, known as a wormhole, in order to find a new home for humans.
Directed and produced by Christopher Nolan, the film that was one of the highest-grossing films of 2014 features a cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Caine. Despite being almost three hours long, its unique exploration of what mankind is worth and the concepts of wormholes and black holes make it a must-see movie.
5. 12 Monkeys (1995)
From the neo-noir genre of science-fiction movies, 12 Monkeys is about a convict from the year 2035 who is trained and then sent back in time to discover the cause of a deadly virus that was released in 1996 and wiped out almost all of humanity, leaving survivors with no option but to live underground.
Inspired by Chris Marker’s 1962 short film La Jetée, Twelve Monkeys was released to critical praise and it grossed $168 million worldwide from a $29.5 million production budget. Starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer, and David Morse, the film solidifies its place on this list thanks to not just the fantastic cast members and box office numbers but also its creative storytelling.
6. About Time (2013)
About Time is another film on this list that has to do with going back to the past to change the future, however, it does not outrightly focus of the fiction element of time travel but rather the meaning of happiness. The romantic comedy film follows a young boy who finds out that the men in his family have the ability to travel back in time to moments they have lived before. With this newfound power, he chooses to use it to improve his love life, although things do not end up happening as he hoped.
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, and Bill Nighy, the film received mixed reviews from critics even though it was a box office success, garnering $87.1 million from a production budget of $12 million.
7. Doctor Strange (2016)
Doctor Strange is the first film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to appear on this list of best time travel movies to watch. Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, the superhero film follows an acclaimed and arrogant neurosurgeon named Stephen Strange who severely injures his hands in a car crash. To gain back the use of his hands, Strange vainly pursues experimental surgeries but later finds himself learning the mystic arts and bending time, creating loops and places where time is non-existent.
Like almost all other MCU films, Doctor Strange enjoyed huge box office success, grossing over $677 million worldwide from a budget of $165 million. Critics hailed the films visuals and cast that included Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, and Benedict Wong.
8. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Based on the television series Star Trek, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the fourth installment in the Star Trek film series. Set in 2286 when an enormous cylindrical probe moves through space and destabilizes the power of any ship it passes with an indecipherable signal. The probe later makes its way to earth’s orbit and destabilizes the global power grid while also further causing storms and sun-blocking cloud cover. It is later discovered that the signals sent out by the probe are similar to that of the song of the now-extinct humpback whales, prompting the former crew of the USS Enterprise to travel back in time to 1986 find whales who can answer the probe’s call.
As expected, the film was a critical and commercial success, with its humor and unconventional storyline being pointed out as key to its success.
9. Planet of the Apes (1968)
Loosely based on Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel, La Planète des Singes, Planet of the Apes tells the story of an astronaut crew who find themselves on a strange planet in the distant future after crash-landing while in deep hibernation. The planet first appears to be desolate but the surviving crew later find that apes have evolved into creatures with human intelligence and speech, assuming a dominant role over humans who are mute creatures wearing animal skin and kept as slaves or used for experiments.
The film was well-received by audiences all over the world as it enjoyed significant commercial success that led to the creation of a media franchise that consists of books, TV series, comics, and other media about a world in where apes and humans clash for control.
10. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Edge of Tomorrow is another film on this list of best time travel movies to watch that concentrates on the idea of time loops. Set in a future where most of Europe is invaded by an alien race, the film follows a military major with no combat experience who is forced to join a land operation against the aliens where he is killed in combat but however finds himself to be stuck in a time loop that sends him back to the day before he died with his memory intact.
11. Arrival (2016)
Based on Ted Chiang’s 1998 short story titled “Story of Your Life”, Arrival is a sci-fi film that follows a linguist who is enlisted by the U.S. Army to discover how to communicate with aliens after twelve extraterrestrial spacecraft hover over disparate locations around the Earth. During the ensuing communication, the linguist’s perception of time is changed, allowing her to experience memories of future events.
12. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
From the comedy genre, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure gives a good account of the concept of time travel as the movie follows two high school students who are struggling in school but are somehow able to stumble upon a time machine disguised as a phone booth that allows them to travel back in time to assemble a number of historical figures who help them in their history class presentation.
Starring Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, and George Carlin, the film was received positively and was also a success at the box office, grossing $40.5 million from a $6.5 million budget.