As part of our Update the Lists project in August 2018, Siobhan Spera takes us through her list of the best time travel movies ever.
Time travel is a subject that fascinates us—the idea of such a thing is incredibly intriguing and holds a certain mystique that inevitably draws us in. In turn, a lot of movies about time travel have been made. Like, a lot. Naturally, I have compiled a list of best 25 time travel movies. Set in no particular order, each movie was selected on the basis of how compelling its use of time travel is and how it elevated the film’s overall enjoyability.
Donnie Darko (2001)
Richard Kelly’s thought-provoking cult classic is perhaps one of the most profound films ever made involving time travel. And despite how deeply interwoven it is with the film’s plot, it’s not something you can immediately glean early on in the film. Jake Gyllenhaal plays title character Donnie Darko, who encounters a large bunny-rabbit named Frank. Frank informs Donnie that the world is going to end in 28 days, a timeframe during which an increasingly bizarre course of events begins to transpire. The film’s core themes are directly connected to its use of time travel and are a necessary addition to this list.
Groundhog Day (1993)
Perhaps one of the most iconic time travel movies, Bill Murray stars in Groundhog Day as a narcissistic weatherman sent to a small town to cover Groundhog Day for an assignment. However, he soon finds that he’s stuck in a time loop, forced to re-live the same day over and over again. This film has sent the precedent for several other time travel movies, many of which borrow the concept of a character living the same day repeatedly. But none do it quite as well as the original.
Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is one time travel film that brings the sub-genre to space and does so in such a gorgeously captivating way. Taking place in a dystopian future, a group of astronauts travels through a wormhole in order to find a new home for humans, who are struggling to maintain survival on Earth. The film is upheld by a great cast (Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway) and while it may have a near three-hour runtime, its unique exploration of mankind is worth it.
The Terminator (1984)
James Cameron’s The Terminator is not only culturally significant in terms of time travel movies, or even film in general—it has made an impact in pop culture on the whole. Even those who have not seen The Terminator understand the reference upon hearing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous line: “I’ll be back.” Schwarzenegger plays the Terminator, a cyborg sent back in time from 2029 to kill the woman whose son becomes responsible for protecting the world against machines. There is no doubt that as time goes on, this will continue to hold its spot as one of the most prominent time travel movies.
About Time (2013)
Oh, yes, About Time is definitely on this list. A romantic-comedy that soothes the soul, About Time uses the concept of time travel to ponder the beauty and fragility of life. A young man (played by Domhnall Gleeson) learns that the men in his family have the ability to time travel, and uses his newfound gift as a means of improving his future. Along the way, he meets a young woman (Rachel McAdams) with whom he falls in love, and his time travel gifts come into play for both the better and the worse. While it may have its cheesy moments, what makes About Time so great is how it uses the element of time travel to create a simple and honest portrayal of the human experience.