12 Movies to See After You Watch Project Almanac

By  · Published on January 30th, 2015

Paramount Pictures

Project Almanac is the kind of movie where the characters are fully aware of other movies like it. That’s never been an unusual idea, because if you think about it, you’d be one of those characters, too. “Genre savvy” is what it’s called, and any human character who grew up on movies is going to have it. If a real slasher started killing your friends, you’d think about what happens in slasher movies, at least for a second before you just panicked because someone is murdering your friends. But it’s particularly true for more fantastical scenarios. If your world was suddenly populated by vampires or zombies, you’d consider the rules of movies about vampires or zombies. And if you managed to invent a time machine, you’d wonder which time travel movies got it right – especially regarding what happens to you if you encounter another version of yourself.

There are quite a number of other time travel movies referenced in some form or another in Project Almanac, too many to bother listing in this edition of Movies to Watch. Especially the really famous ones. One character mentions “Terminators one through four,” but I’m not going to recommend any of them. Same goes for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, a clip from which even appears on screen. Then there’s Timeline, which isn’t alluded to except through the way the main actor in Project Almanac, Jonny Weston, really reminds me of a young Paul Walker. But nobody needs to see that movie. So, I’ve been selective, and only one third of the following recommended titles is from the time travel genre.

The rest are the usual variety. There are a few movies that have similar style or tone or plots outside of the primary genre and another few are linked by director and cast. And as always, this list is best avoided before seeing the movie at hand, as their reason for inclusion may have to do with SPOILERS regarding Project Almanac.

Chronicle (2012)

Let’s get the most obvious movie connection out of the way first. From the start, back when Project Almanac was still titled Welcome to Yesterday, it was likened to Josh Trank’s found-footage superhero movie. Sure, there are tons of movies shot like this out there, but Chronicle similarly involves high schoolers, a sci-fi situation and selfish results. Project Almanac almost feels like a remake of Chronicle just with every instance of the words “super powers” in the script being replaced with “time travel.” Yet Chronicle is a far superior movie that not just is more consistent with its found-footage logic but also very clever in its employment. At times Project Almanac is actually more aligned with the high schoolers storyline in last year’s found-footage disaster movie, Into the Storm.

Jumper (2008)

From there you might as well also go back and watch this underrated Doug Liman sci-fi flick that also shows us people with super powers being more naturally selfish and greedy rather than heroic. Now that Liman has also made a great time travel movie concerned with do-overs – Edge of Tomorrow – you may consider this the Chronicle to that movie’s Project Almanac.

The Goonies (1985)

For a good while, Project Almanac has a bit of the spirit of an old Amblin Entertainment movie. I started to think maybe producer Michael Bay had learned some good from his Transformers producer, Steven Spielberg (co-founder of Amblin and producer of The Goonies). In the first act of both The Goonies and Project Almanac, there is a financial dilemma and some of the main characters are about to lose their home as a result. They search through boxes of old stuff in an attic and find something that propels the plot and leads them on an adventure. On the way, they end up in a basement, find a significant trap door in the floor, and suddenly a hot girl that one of them likes shows up and – then they split as The Goonies follows a treasure hunt through booby-trapped caverns and Project Almanac follows a series of trips through time that contain their own peril.

Explorers (1985)

While not an Amblin production, this sci-fi teen movie, which hit theaters a month after The Goonies, has a bit of that same spirit. It makes sense, because director Joe Dante had previously worked for Amblin on Gremlins. Here we have a trio of high school nerds (Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix and Jason Presson) who build a space craft together and wind up on an alien ship. Their early scenes building and testing their invention parallels the scenes of building and testing the time machine in Project Almanac all too well. Hawke’s character also has a crush on a cute girl from school that’s akin to the one had by Weston in the new movie.

My Science Project (1985)

Another month went by in the summer of 1985 and then we got this very cheesy but likable sci-fi teen movie in which John Stockwell finds an extraterrestrial engine that can transport things and people through time. What’s interesting about the movie is the plot never takes us along for a ride through time. Instead, the action sticks to the present while a ridiculous Dennis Hopper, playing a history teacher, goes back to the ’60s and returns without the narrative following him. Also, more in focus is all the stuff that the machine pulls to the present from the past and future, including ancient artifacts, Vietnam War soldiers, a Morlock-type creature from the future and a Tyrannosaurus rex.

Timecop (1994)

One of the characters in Project Almanac mentions and recommends this time travel movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme that’s sort of so bad it’s awesome. Besides being relevant for also involving a 10-year-timespan (its future end point is 2004, which is Project Almanac’s past end point), the most interesting part of this comic book adaptation is its rules regarding what happens when a character comes into contact with himself. In Timecop, the danger concerns physical touch, which results in both versions melding and then melting. In Project Almanac it’s bad enough to just see yourself, and long enough eye contact results in both versions disappearing.

Looper (2012)

I think it’s the same character in Project Almanac who references Timecop who also alludes to this Rian Johnson time travel movie as being “awesome” before trying out a trick that he learned from it. Rather than eliminating body parts from his earlier self to see his current self magically lose those same parts, he merely draws a happy face on the back of his neck with a permanent marker and that face shows up like magic on his own neck. But right after is where we first see what happens in the Project Almanac world when you look at yourself. It’s different from Looper, the plot of which heavily centers on the fact that people can be in the same space and communicate with other versions of themselves.

The Infinite Man (2014)

At one point a character in Project Almanac (yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s the same one again) references Groundhog Day during a comedic montage involving him having to repeat a moment over and over again to get it right. Instead of spotlighting that famous and highly influential movie, though, here’s a more recent and little-known time travel-based romantic comedy that also evokes that 1993 Bill Murray-led classic. Like the do-over at the Lollapalooza concert in Project Almanac, this Australian movie written and directed by Hugh Sullivan involves a guy just trying to make everything perfect with a girl, and the more he goes back to do it all over the more he keeps messing something else up in the loop. I don’t know if it’s publicly out in any way in the US yet, so just keep an eye out for it.

Signs (2002)

I’ve included this almost perfect M. Night Shyamalan thriller because now between Signs and Project Almanac I’ll never be able to watch a video recording of a birthday party without wondering if there’s something creepy to be seen in the background, whether an alien or a time traveler or whatever.

Monster House (2006)

I feel like this Oscar-nominated animated feature about a sentient haunted house is largely forgotten (perhaps it will be mentioned more this summer when director Gil Kenan’s Poltergeist remake is released). I’ll always primarily remember it as being my first positive experience with the modern digital 3D technology, but it’s also another terrific Goonies-esque (it is actually produced by Spielberg and Amblin) and Joe Dante-esque story of kids venturing through a fantastical plot. Also, one of those kids is voiced by Sam Lerner, who is one of the main characters in Project Almanac.

A Serious Man (2009)

It’s a shame that Amy Landecker has such a small part in Project Almanac, playing the mother of two of the main characters, but at least her appearance allows me to recommend the TV series Transparent, which I’ll slip in here since it’s not a movie, as well as this Coen brothers film in which she also appears only briefly yet very memorably as the neighbor of the protagonist. A Serious Man also has more intelligent fun with theoretical physics than Project Almanac does and features a better ambiguous ending – one that may in fact also relate more to Into the Storm if we must compare it to a found footage movie.

Acholiland (2009)

Project Almanac is the feature debut of director Dean Israelite, who has a few shorts to his credit listed on IMDb, including one based on a short story by Colin Firth titled The Department of Nothing. While that is not available online, Israelite’s most recent short, the 20-minute-long Acholiland, is. It’s actually his thesis film from when he was a student at the American Film Institute and follows a fictional story of a team of UN workers delivering rations to refugees in Uganda in 1999. They attempt to save some children from being enslaved by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a small faction of which they encounter one night. Yep, it’s pretty serious subject matter compared to that of Project Almanac, and it’s pretty decent for a student film. You can watch it in full on YouTube via paid subscription to the channel Big Star Movies (just get a free trial and then quit after watching it like I did).

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.