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Time travel is one of the most fascinating concepts ever discovered by mankind. Basically, time travel involves the movement between specific points in time, as opposed to movement across different points in space.
Though it’s largely a fictional and philosophical concept, time travel has been the inspiration behind numerous successful movies. Time travel movies enable us to go back in time and uncover what might have triggered some of the world’s most tragic accidents and wars.
Through time travel, actors can prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Diana, Princess of Wales, or the sinking of the Titanic ship. Even if they don’t necessarily prevent those accidents, time travel movie makers offer us deeper insights into what might have been the underlying causes behind these infamous tragedies.
But not all time travel movies are set in the past. Others are futuristic in nature. You must already have watched a movie or two that depict Armageddon or how the world would be when technology finally takes over and eliminates the need for human capacity.
The following is a collection of the top 15 time travel movies of all time.
1. The Terminator (1984)
James Cameron’s The Terminator ranks among the top travel movies of all time. The movie features the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator.
His role is to go back in time and assassinate Linda Hamilton before she can give birth to a man who will vanquish the cyborgs in future. The Terminator’s mission of saving the cyborgs from a possible future annihilation proves way too difficult than he could ever have imagined.
2. The Lake House (2006)
Most time travel movies are all about going back to the past to avert a tragedy. However, The Lake House follows a rather unfamiliar but riveting plot. The movie features Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock who are entangled in a mystic romance.
The duo sends romantic letters to each other through a mailbox at a rental house. Interestingly, Sandra seems to write and read her letters exactly two years after Keanu.
3. Back to the Future (1985)
If you’re looking for one of the most bizarre yet hilarious time travel movies, you should look in the direction of Back to the Future. The movie features Michael J. Fox who stars as Marty McFly, a teenager who accidentally travels back to 1955 to prevent his parents first meeting.
In a strange twist, Marty becomes his mother’s love interest. His end goal is to prevent his mother from ever meeting his father, and ultimately preventing his own birth.
4. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Edge of Tomorrow skillfully blends the themes of time travel and science fiction. After getting demoted, Tom Cruise is made to fight in combat with no prior training. He is killed several times on the same mission, then he wakes up and have to relive the entire combat as well as his death all over again.
Each time he wakes up, he joins the combat with better skills and experiences than he had before he was killed a day ago. The goal is to have him fight longer than 24 hours and possibly prevent getting himself killed within a single day of combat.
5. Looper (2012)
Looper is set in a universe where time travel is outlawed and only available on the black market. The movie features Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt, where Bruce Willis plays the grown-up version of himself.
In the movie, Bruce Willis sends rivals and targets back in time 30 years. Once they arrive in the past, a hitman named Joe (Gordon Levitt) is waiting on the other end to murder them using hired guns known as Loopers.
Things appear to follow the script, but a standoff ensues when Levitt’s hired Looper is asked to murder Bruce Willis, who happens to be Levitt’s own grown-up version. A classic case of a man staring at his older self in the eye and determined not to wind up like him.
6. Source Code (2011)
Source Code is a unique blend of science fiction, time travel, and action thriller elements, all rolled up into one film. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Captain Colter Stevens, a U.S Army captain whose mission is to capture a bomber. Stevens wakes up on a Chicago-bound Metra commuter train, something that doesn’t seem right as his last memory puts him on a plane flying to a mission in Afghanistan.
Strangely, the world around him believes that he is a school teacher known as Sean Fentress. Stevens begins to express his disorientation to his friend, Christina Warren. At that moment, the train explodes, killing everyone on board. When he wakes up, Steven is inside a dimly-lit cockpit, where it occurs to him that his mission is to go back in time and find the train bomber.
7. 12 Monkeys (1995)
12 Monkeys is a sensational 1995 time travel movie that features some of the finest talents in the industry – Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, and Brad Pitt. In 1996, a group known as Army of the Twelve Monkeys releases a deadly virus that ends up wiping almost all humanity.
The few survivors are forced to live underground. Fast-forward and in 2035, a prisoner named James Cole is trained and tasked with the mission of finding the original virus in a bid to help scientists develop a cure.
In his 40+ years of traveling back in time, Cole has to contend with recurring dreams involving tragic shootouts. But the most exciting twist in Cole’s journey into the past is his arrival in Baltimore in 1990, as opposed to 1996 as originally planned. He is arrested and diagnosed with a mental condition. It’s during his incarceration as a mental patient that Cole’s quest to find the virus begins.
8. The Butterfly Effect (2004)
The butterfly effect is a popular figurative phrase that’s used to illustrate how seemingly small differences in a situation may lead to significantly large but unforeseen consequences over a period of time.
Starring Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart, the Butterfly Effect chronicles the struggles of a 20-year old college student named Evan Treborn, who struggles with memory loss throughout his childhood. In his late 20s, Evan discovers that he can travel back in time and prevent his former self from suffering his childhood’s blackouts and memory loss.
9. The Time Machine (2002)
The Time Machine is a hypothetical device that’s used to travel back in time. So, when a movie adopts this phrase as its title, then you can only expect fireworks.
The Time Machine film embodies elements of both time travel and science fiction, and is an adaptation from the 1985 novel by H.G Wells by the same title. The movie stars Guy Pearce, Orlando Jones, Mark Addy, Samantha Mumba, and Jeremy Irons, all of whom are engrossed in their individual time travel pursuits.
Unlike the original novel that was set in London, the Time Machine movie is actually set in New York City. The movie also incorporates various aspects that are lacking in the original novel, such as a romantic backstory, artificially intelligent hologram, and a depiction of the ultimate destruction of civilization.
10. Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie Darko is arguably one of the best time travel movies with a sobering and mysteriously interwoven plot. Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the film as Donnie Darko. He stumbles upon a large bunny rabbit named Frank, who informs him that the world is coming to an end in 28 days.
But the imminent Armageddon isn’t the only thing Donnie should be worried about. Within the 28-days timeframe, he will have to contend with some of the most bizarre events that he couldn’t have imagined even in his wildest dreams.
11. About Time (2013)
About Time breaks away from the themes of solemnity and mystery that override most time travel films. In this movie, the producer interweaves romance and comedy to deliver an entertaining yet thought-provoking watch.
The film stars Domhnall Gleeson, a young man who learns that all men in his family are gifted with the rare ability to time-travel. He immediately decides to use his gift to improve his future. However, his time travel gifts are put to test when he soon meets and falls in love with a young woman.
12. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
This isn’t just one of the best time travel movies on our list. It’s also one of the most exciting films of the X-Men franchise. The plot revolves around X-Men who join forces in epic endeavors to alter their past and younger selves, in a bid to improve the future.
As with most time travel movies, their pasts and futures run into a collision course at some point. When that happens, the X-Men forced to make some life-changing decisions to save their own species.
13. Predestination (2014)
If there’s a movie that aptly captures the fundamental theme of time travel, it’s got to be Predestination. Casting Ethan Hawke as the lead actor, Predestination is all about going back in time to stop criminals in their tracks.
But don’t let the underlying theme fool you; the plot is reasonably unpredictable. Though he generally succeeds in his missions, Hawke’s final assignment, which includes stopping a killer who has thousands of lives at risk, appears a bit too challenging.
14. Lucy (2004)
Here’s another movie on our list that blends the elements of time travel and science fiction. The 2004 movie, which was shot in both Paris and New York City, stars Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Amr Waked, and Choi Min-sik. The movie’s highlight is Johansson who plays the role of a woman who is lured into the drug world by her new boyfriend.
A drug delivery goes awfully wrong, leading to the murder of her boyfriend. The drug lords capture Lucy and forcibly sew a nootropic drug known as CPH4, into her abdomen. She is ordered to transport the drug to Europe for sale. But when one of Lucy’s captors accidentally kicks her stomach, the drug is absorbed into her bloodstream and she immediately gains psychokinetic abilities.
15. The Jacket (2005)
If you fancy time travel films with a slice of horror, The Jacket should definitely be a must-watch. Starring Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, and Kris Kristofferson, The Jacket is about an Iraqi war veteran who returns to the US after suffering near-death experiences.
Upon returning to the US, the war veteran is blamed for the death of a police officer, and is incarcerated in a mental institution. He undergoes a series of strange experimental tests, one of which involves him being held inside a morgue drawer. While in this condition, he’s able to travel 15 years into the future, where he stays momentarily in a happier state.
There goes our list of the best time travel movies of all time. Happy watching!