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The Movie Like The Butterfly Effect That Sci-Fi Fans Need To See

"The Butterfly Effect" is an early-'00s, post-"Donnie Darko" and "Fight Club" psychological thriller that's become a minor cult classic. It was released in January 2004 and was a surprise box office success, grossing nearly $100 million against a $13 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo.

The film, from writer-directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, stars Ashton Kutcher as a young man named Evan Treborn who had an extremely traumatic childhood. He would black out during moments of extreme stress. One day, while reading his journal from his youth, he realizes that he can travel back in time and inhabit the body of his younger self, which is what the blackouts were. While in the past, he has the ability to change it. So he starts going back and trying to undo some of the terrible things that happened to him and his friends, including his dearly beloved Kayleigh (Amy Smart), who has suffered many tragedies of her own. But every time he changes something in the past, there are unintended consequences in the future, and things keep getting worse and worse for Evan and Kayleigh instead of better. So Evan has to make a difficult decision in order to save Kayleigh and undo the past in a way that works.

The film is a combination of a mind-bending time travel sci-fi and a dark character-driven psychological thriller, with heavy doses of druggy philosophy ("If you could go back in time and change things, would you, man?") and disturbing imagery. If you like those things in "The Butterfly Effect," you should watch a recent film that does a lot of the same things, and does them even better.

If you like The Butterfly Effect, you should watch Synchronic

"Synchronic" is another mind-bending sci-fi thriller that coincidentally also hails from a writer-director duo, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead. It started streaming on Netflix last month. Like "The Butterfly Effect," it has time travel, though to say more than that risks spoiling too much. But perhaps even more importantly, it has a similar vibe to "The Butterfly Effect," with flashbacks helping create a sort of episodic structure, where each scene has its own little adventure as the protagonist learns more about the strange reality he inhabits. Both films have themes of loss, regret, and sacrificing oneself for the needs of others. And "Synchronic" is a better movie overall than "The Butterfly Effect," as it has better technical aspects and lacks the earlier film's mean-spiritedness.

The psychedelic film stars Anthony Mackie as Steve Denube, a New Orleans paramedic who, along with his partner Dennis Dannelly (Jamie Dornan), responds to a number of emergencies where people have died or been injured under strange, seemingly impossible circumstances or experienced severe psychiatric effects after taking a new designer drug called Synchronic. Dennis' teenage daughter goes missing, and Steve suspects Synchronic had something to do with it. So he begins experimenting with the drug and discovers something very, very strange.

"Synchronic" is available to watch on Netflix, while "The Butterfly Effect" is available to watch for free on Tubi.