25 best time travel movies ever

You can't travel back in time to have another crack at getting hold of Marty McFly's Nike Mags, so why not join us for time travel movie marathon instead?

Final Countdown (1980)

Caught in a swirly time storm out at sea, the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz find themselves in 1941 just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Should they interfere with history? Sorry, captain – there are no hoverboards in the 1940s.

Primer (2004)

Shane Carruth basically created this low-budget (US$7000) brilliance on his own. As the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury prizewinner Primer's sci-fi drama is unique in its technically detailed telling of an accidental discovery of time travel and the complex philosophical issues that arise. And it hurts your head to follow – in a good way.

Army of Darkness: The Medieval Dead (1992)

The third in Sam Raimi’s cult classic film trilogy that sees our big chinned hero, Ash (Bruce Campbell) swap his chainsaw arm and boom-stick for a robotic hand and sword. After being hurled back in time it’s up to Ash, again, to save the universe from the walking dead brought out by that pesky Necronomicon (book of the dead) in AoD: The Medieval Dead. Shop smart, shop S Mart.

Timecop (1994)

Van Damme doing the splits in his y-fronts. If you can live with that image burned into your retinas for the rest of your life then Timecop is worth watching. One of JCVD’s greatest films that smashed the US$100m mark. The muscles from Brussels plays a cop whose wife was killed and he wants to save her using his time-travelling job. Naughtier than using the work photocopier for personal projects? Debatable.

Donnie Darko (2011)

Even after repeated viewing, it’s still unclear exactly how to interpret Donnie Darko's brilliance. Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) sees the coming apocalypse after surviving a falling jet engine that came through a worm-hole in time – leading him to sacrifice his own life and save the world. A great soundtrack, top cast and amazing script make this one of the best time travel films of all time – past and future.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Killer robots sent back from the future to kill our only hope at surviving their nuclear automated apocalypse, which is still to come. Not a bad idea, and as they say the execution of an idea is what makes it great – James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger do that perfectly in Terminator 2. The liquid metal T1000 helps.

Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

Star Trek prides itself on accurate portrayals of future tech to the point of employing scientists to help write the scripts. So when it comes to time travel, hopes run high. First Contact sees the crew of the Enterprise follow a Borg ship through a vortex to go back in time and save the first warp drive launch from being sabotaged by Borg – which leads to the important growth of our race as an intergalactic presence. Not a loose end in sight.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949)

Based on the Mark Twain novel, the A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is a witty time travel tale of a singing mechanic (Bing Crosby) from 1912 who finds himself back in the days of King Arthur. Using his knowledge of science, the time traveller is made boss and fits in as a Merlin-like character whose use of a lighter is God-like. Funny and clever, a must see classic.

Time Bandits (1981)

Time travel is far too serious for its own good sometimes, whereas Time Bandits isn't serious at all. If we'd started scripting a time travel movie we would have started with lasers, eight o'clock, day one.

Butterfly Effect (2004)

No time machine required, just a bit of focused nostalgia as Ashton Kutcher tries to make the present better by meddling in the past. If the movies have taught us anything, it's that no good can come from meddling in the past. Shame no-one told Ashton that.

The Time Machine (1960)

HG Wells' classic tale of a time-travelling scientist who goes from his home in 1900 into the future to discover civilisation has crumbled and that the human race has taken a rather shocking turn. The titular object is the most steampunk time machine ever.

Planet of the Apes (1968)

If you haven't already seen it, then we've just ruined it for you by including it in this list. Flipping world order on its head, the apes rule the world and keep the damn dirty humans as their slaves. Ordinarily, there is no situation that can't be improved by a man in a gorilla suit. Unfortunately for Charlton Heston, it's real gorillas that enslave the human race and not just an elaborate prank by his mates.

More after the break...

The Philadelphia Experiment (1984)

An experiment in 1943 to make a ship invisible to radar goes wrong and ends up catapulting two shipmates forward in time to 1984, in the Nevada desert. Cue wonder at modern technology and our time travelling friends being banged up in a mental asylum, Sarah Connor style.

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

A movie with the words "hot tub" and "time machine" was never going to be a cinematic masterpiece. But there are plenty of laughs to be had when a dodgy hot tub sends three friends and a nephew back to 1986 to relive their new found youth, while risking changing the future – and possibly erasing the nephew from existence.

Superman (1978)

Superman is the ultimate superhero – and the only person to ever get away with wearing pants over his tights. And he can turn back time. A few laps around Earth usually does it. It doesn't quite explain why reversing time never sends him hurtling back to Earth arse-over-tit, though.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1988)

A couple of high school slackers are about to flunk their history exam until they run into Rufus – a Bill and Ted superfan from the future – who lends them his time travelling phone box to complete their assignment and fulfil their destiny to rule the world through music.

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)

If you're in a time-hopping relationship, is it technically cheating when you haven't even met yet? The Time Traveler's wife clearly thinks so, which is why she issues him with a diary to keep track of their impromptu meetings, which he then gives to a younger version to write in the first place. Confusing much?

The Black Knight (2001)

Martin Lawrence plays Jamal, a theme park employee who is transported back to medieval times after a blow to the head. He mistakes 14th century England for impressive theme park realism, but a gory beheading soon convinces him this horror show is for real. When he’s not throwing up clichéd comical gags, he dons the armour of the Black Knight to lead the rebellion against the corrupt king.

Flight of the Navigator (1986)

Poor David Freeman. First he’s kidnapped by aliens, then he time travels to 1986 with a vast amount of knowledge about the universe, only to discover he’s been missing for the past eight years. In a bid to go back to being a kid of the 80s, he embarks on another alien adventure. We just hope he used his futurist knowledge to take over NASA.

Back to the Future (1985)

Everyone’s first thought when it comes to time-travel movies... the first of the Back to the Future trilogy showed what happens when you hit 88mph in a DeLorean DMC-12 fitted with a flux capacitor. Michael J Fox plays Marty McFly, the teen who travels back from 1985 to 1955 and ends up having to get his parents to fall in love.

Twelve Monkeys (1996)

A convict is sent from the year 2035 back to the 1990s to save the world after a deadly man-made virus kills 99 per cent of the population in this Terry Gilliam film. Plus Bruce Willis has to act less gung-ho than usual. Everyone has bad days.

Source Code (2011)

Duncan Jones, director of Moon, continues his run with this action thriller which sees Jake Gyllenhaal as a soldier who wakes up part way through an early morning train journey – in another body. Again and again. His mission? Find the train bomber and save the girl.

Les Visiteurs (1994)

Our favourite Gallic thespian Jean Reno and some other French actor play a medieval knight and his squire who get sent to 1993 by a mad sorcerer. It's funnier if you know French but either way, steer clear of the Hollywood remake Just Visiting.

Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (2009)

After being fired from his job at a theme park, Ray (IT Crowd's Chris O'Dowd) and his friends meet from-the-future time traveller Cassie (Anna Faris) and subsequently find a "time leak" in the middle of the pub. Clearly it's only going to get more complicated from there. Sadly FAQATT is the only UK time travel film on the list.

Groundhog Day (1993)

You wouldn’t want any other actor than Bill Murray to get stuck in the same day over and over again. Taking deadpan to wonderfully sour extremes, he plays a weatherman covering Groundhog Day in middle America with the producer he fancies in tow. Our alarm clock will never play I Got You, Babe. Ever.

Comments

Awesome list, although if I had to choose a Star Trek time travel movie it would have to be the voyage home. Brilliant set up with a truly spine tingling reveal. 

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