10 Good Time Travel Movies

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 5:35 pm

I put together this list of 10 good time travel movies in honor of this week’s release of Hot Tub Time Machine, a film about four pals who go back to 1985 in an attempted do-over of their lives. Some of the films on this list also feature backwards time travel, but others take a look at possible (often bleak) glimpses of the future. Any way you cut it, time travel is never dull (unless, of course, you wind up in Cleveland).

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Time After Time (1979) – A clever little film from director Nicholas Meyer, Time After Time stars Malcolm McDowell as H.G. Wells, the celebrated writer from 19th-century London. He prepares to unveil a working time machine to his guests at a party, but the festivities are interrupted by the police. It seems that one of Wells’ guests, John Leslie Stevenson (David Warner) may in fact be Jack the Ripper, and Stevenson confirms this by jumping in the time machine and ending up in 1979 San Francisco. Wells gives chase, but his pursuit of the killer is made more difficult by the not-so-utopian future and his attraction to a bank employee (Mary Steenburgen).

Planet of the Apes (1968) – Charlton Heston is George Taylor, an astronaut who crash lands on a strange planet ruled by merciless apes. His crew quickly killed, Taylor finds himself a captive along with many of the planet’s primitive humans. Can he escape, or will he forever be a servant to those “damned dirty apes”? Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter co-star behind ape masks, and The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling co-wrote the screenplay.

Donnie Darko (2001) – Written and directed by Richard Kelly, Donnie Darko follows the bizarre adventures of the title character (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he attempts to unravel the meaning behind a series of bizarre visions featuring a plummeting jet engine and a man in a wicked-looking rabbit costume. Filled with recognizable stars (Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Mary McDonnell) and an original screenplay, Donnie Darko enjoyed great word-of-mouth success. Unfortunately, Kelly would follow this up with Southland Tales, one of the most awful films even made.

The Time Machine (1960) – Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, this film stars Rod Taylor as a man in Victorian England who manages to build a real device for traveling through time. After a few stops in the next century, he ends up in the year 802,701 and meets the passive Eloi and the vicious, subterranean Morlocks. If you like this good time travel movie, be sure to see the modern remake starring Guy Pearce.

12 Monkeys (1995) – Years after the human population has been forced underground by a plague, a convicted criminal (Bruce Willis) volunteers to travel back in time to try and find the culprit who initially spread the disease. Brad Pitt co-stars as the deranged lead suspect, and Madeleine Stowe is a psychologist turned love interest. Based on La Jetee, an innovative black-and-white French short from 1962.

Army of Darkness (1993) – After defeating the Deadite forces in Evil Dead II, our hero, Ash (Bruce Campbell), is hurled through a rip in time and deposited into the Middle Ages. There, he must lead a collection of knights against the forces of the dreaded Necronomicon (including an evil double of himself). Filled with plenty of action and director Sam Raimi’s trademark slapstick, the film has developed a cult following over the years. Look for Bridget Fonda in a cameo role.

Back to the Future Part II (1989) – Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) are back, and this time they must travel to 1955, 2015, and an alternate version of 1985. Their primary obstacles this time are several generations of Tannens (Thomas F. Wilson), including the cybernetic Griff Tannen. The film ends on a cliffhanger, but all is resolved in the third and final installment.

The Terminator (1984) – When it’s determined that John Connor, the child of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), will grow up to save mankind from the forces of the computerized Skynet, a cyborg killing machine known as a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent back in time to eliminate her. But John Connor has no intention of letting his mother die, and so he sends a soldier named Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) back to protect her. While it spawned numerous sequels and video games, The Terminator’s biggest contribution is helping vault director James Cameron and star Arnold Schwarzenegger onto the Hollywood A-list.

Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) – The third entry in the Austin Powers franchise features the yellow-toothed British spy (Mike Myers) once again matching wits with Dr. Evil (also Myers) and the diminutive Mini-Me (Verne Troyer). Heading back to the ‘70s to apprehend a villain named Goldmember (Myers once again), Powers also teams up with FBI agent Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyonce Knowles) in order to rescue his father, famed spy Nigel Powers (Michael Caine). If you liked the first two, then you won’t be disappointed by the third.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) – Bill S. Preston, Esquire (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) are close to failing their high school history class, and this event will entirely cancel out the utopian future they are destined to help sculpt by creating the band Wyld Stallyns. In order to assist them, a man named Rufus (George Carlin) travels back from the year 2688 in a phone booth. When the two dudes get access to time travel, they pop around history and recruit figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon, and Socrates to help them with their schoolwork. All manner of wacky hijinx follow.

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Now that you’ve finished our list of good time travel movies, why not journey back into the past for some of our previous posts at Only Good Movies?

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 at 5:35 pm and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “10 Good Time Travel Movies”

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March 24, 2010

Alexander Mishou

I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked your site to check out the new stuff you post.

March 26, 2010


Nice list. I would’ve put the original Back to the Future instead of part II, Idiocracy might have been a good fit too.

March 28, 2010


Just a note, it might be considered a spoiler that “Planet of the Apes” contains time travel.

April 5, 2010


Primer! Definitely best one, though it’s also kind of a spiler to know before it’s obvious that it’s a time travel movie …sorry

July 12, 2010


I was googling for a time travel movie I saw on TV 15 years ago or so, seems to be very hard to find again. However, this list is a very good attempt on a “Top 10 time travel movies” list. If it’s a series, I’d always list part 1, and if you want to include something for every tast, it really could have “Primer” in it – because it tries very hard to be “smart” and “intelligent”, but is very hard to watch. I had to fast forward it, but there probabyl is an audience for it.

The list focuses more on well known movies – a list of less known movies could include “Somewhere in time”.

It is clear from the beginning that Planet of the apes is about time travel, and the description doesn’t really include a spoiler.


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