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55 Best Time Travel Movies Of All Time Ranked

One of the fun things about time travel movies (apart from, you know, the time travel part) is that they're not married to one particular genre. Hopping from one year to the next is a narrative device that benefits everything from romantic comedies to slasher films. If you have a preferred genre, there is a very good chance that there's a time travel film within it just waiting to blow your mind. On the other hand, if you're not picky about your watch habits and are just as keen to watch a Western as a psychological thriller, time travel films are a great way to experience a generous swath of genres while keeping one thematic element consistent: messing with the sanctity of the space-time continuum. 

Below you'll find 55 of the best time travel films that the sub-genre has at its disposal. Along the way, you'll notice a couple of recurring narrative trends. More than one pair of lovers find themselves separated by a decade (or a century). Time-traveling protagonists are forced to accept the messiness of the past after attempting to right the wrongs of history. There are also fish out of water comedies galore, from helicopter-piloting samurai to modern-day teenagers stranded in the Wild West. So with all that said, feel free to take notes, synchronize your watches, and settle in for a look at the best time travel films cinema has to offer ... at least in this timeline.

55. A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court

You may be familiar with that holiest of fish-out-of-water scenarios: "man from the present gets transported back to medieval times." The third installment in the "Evil Dead" franchise, which may or may not feature later on this list, is one example. The 2001 Martin Lawrence vehicle "Black Knight" is another. But there's something especially charming about Tay Garnett's 1949 film, "A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court," which adapts Mark Twain's 1889 novel of the same name. 

Inspired by Twain's text, the film follows a crooning mechanic (Bing Crosby) who is launched back to 6th-century England after receiving a blow to the head. There, he finds allies, lovers, and rivals as his modern ways inevitably clash with the antiquated traditions of a medieval court. "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" is an easy-breezy Saturday matinee flick that highlights Crosby's undeniable charm.

54. G.I. Samurai

Criminally underseen outside of Japan, Kōsei Saitō's 1979 film "G.I. Samurai" follows an elite squad of soldiers who accidentally slip through the cracks of time to an era when roving samurai clans warred in hopes of securing dominance over the country. Starring comedic legend Sonny Chiba (who, as ever, does most of his own stunts), the film is undoubtedly one of the strangest entries on this list. That said, don't let that stop you from checking out this violent genre mish-mash. "G.I. Samurai" (which also goes by the equally accurate name "Time Slip" and the utterly baffling "I Want To") is a charming if eccentric adventure through time.

53. The Visitors

Directed by Jean-Marie Poiré (who also helmed the 2001 English-language remake "Just Visiting"), "The Visitors" follows two poor medieval souls who accidentally stumble into modern times, landing in the early 1990s thanks to a bumbling, not-all-there magician. With his loyal servant (Christian Clavier) in tow, brazen knight Godefroy de Malfête (Jean Reno) must navigate such futuristic horrors as concrete roads, dentistry, and bowl cuts no longer being a fashion-forward haircut choice. Wacky to its core and endlessly over the top, "The Visitors" is a fish out of water time travel romp that's just about as goofy as they come.

52. The Butterfly Effect

While "The Butterfly Effect" wasn't particularly well-regarded when it first premiered in 2004 (as its low score on Rotten Tomatoes testifies), Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber's high-concept time travel film has since enjoyed a modern reevaluation, emerging as one of the more interesting sci-fi horror offerings of the early naughties. The film follows Evan (Ashton Kutcher, playing against type), a young man who struggles to remember his past, thanks to a history of harrowing abuse. By chance, Evan discovers that reading from his old journals allows him to literally embody his younger self, changing the most traumatic parts of his past by making different decisions. Unfortunately, as the film's title suggests, Evan's meddling in the past, however seemingly insignificant, produces a domino effect of tragic consequences for not just his own life, but the lives of those around him.

51. The Final Countdown

Plenty of films on this list have time machines. Heck, one of those time machines is even a DeLorean. But only one film has a time-traveling nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Released in 1980, "The Final Countdown" tells the story of a US military vessel that has the misfortune of traveling back in time to December 6th, 1941, the day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Once the crew (which includes the talents of Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen) comes to terms with the moral implications of their situation, a "Twilight Zone"-like dilemma breaks out as to whether they ought to intervene and change the course of history, or allow a national tragedy to unfold. Part B-movie science fiction romp, part recruitment tool for the US Navy, "The Final Countdown" is utterly unlike any other time travel film on this list.

50. Somewhere in Time

Released in 1980 and starring three of the hottest people to ever exist (Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Plummer, respectively), "Somewhere in Time" follows a young playwright named Richard (Reeve) who has an uncanny experience on the opening night of his first stage play: An old woman, who he has never met before, begs Richard to come back to her. Obsessed by the mystery-laden encounter, Richard does what any self-respecting romantic would do and travels back in time to find her via self-hypnosis. Directed by French filmmaker Jeannot Szwarc (whose 1975 creature feature "Bug" gives William Castle a run for his B-movie money), "Somewhere in Time" is both charming and emotionally devastating. You've been warned!

49. 13 Going on 30

One of the more straightforward romantic comedies on this list, "13 Going on 30" follows a young dorky teen named Jenna who makes a wish on her thirteenth birthday to grow up faster (specifically, she wants to be, "30, flirty, and thriving"). And just like that, Jenna is catapulted into the future, waking up as a 30-year-old woman with 30-year-old problems (first and foremost, the naked man she finds in her new apartment, to her considerable disgust). While the thrills of independence and adulthood are exhilarating at first (what 13-year-old doesn't dream of disposable income?) Jenna soon finds that being older comes with its own set of challenges. A contagiously charming document of all the fashion crimes the early naughties had to offer, "13 Going on 30" is notable for highlighting the considerable talents of its main cast, especially Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, and the ever-delightful Judy Greer.

48. Déjà Vu

Marking the reunion of director Tony Scott and actor Denzel Washington after 2004's "Man on Fire," "Déjà Vu" is a bombastic (pun intended) time-traveling romance that also dares to be a straight-laced crime thriller. The film follows Doug Carlin (Washington), a federal agent who is summoned to investigate a horrific bombing on the Mississippi River. When Carlin proves himself to be a competent ally, an experimental FBI team invites him to participate in a new, super-secret form of investigation: A device, dubbed "Snow White," that allows users to take brief glimpses back into the past. But as the investigation persists, Doug grows less interested in catching the perpetrator in the present day, instead looking to alter history to prevent the accident from ever happening. With Denzel Washington's engaging presence, "Déjà Vu" is thrilling and heart-wrenching in equal measure.

47. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

While there's certainly a debate to be had about whether or not being cryogenically frozen counts as time travel, around these parts we're liable to vote yes. As far as we're concerned, superspy Austin Powers (Mike Myers) going to sleep in the swinging '60s and thawing out in the 1990s absolutely makes the cut. And with his bald-headed nemesis Dr. Evil (also Mike Myers) equally de-thawed and back with a vengeance, it's up to the shagadelic international man of mystery to acclimatize to these modern times in order to save the day. The first (and best) entry in the "Austin Powers" series, Jay Roach's 1997 film is brimming with sly nods and genuinely insightful critiques of its source material (namely, the "James Bond" films). A hoot from start to finish, "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" stands tall in the genre of spy parodies.

46. Army of Darkness

The third entry in the flawless "Evil Dead" trilogy, "Army of Darkness" was director Sam Raimi's vision of a horror film set in the past. This tale of the medieval dead reunites us with the series' incredibly groovy hero Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), who was sucked through a wormhole (book of the dead-hole?) at the end of "Evil Dead II" that transported him to the year 1300 A.D. Somehow goofier than its predecessor, "Army of Darkness" follows Ash as he wins over the hearts, minds, and women of a walled city besieged by nefarious deadites. As he attempts to woo his crush and banish evil from the land, our strong-jawed hero is preoccupied with figuring out how to return back to his own time. Bonkers to its core and unabashedly full of both Raimi and Campbell's love of physical comedy, "Army of Darkness" is a blast from the past in more ways than one.

45. Happy Death Day 2U

Yeah, we hear you: Everything was tied up in one neat little bow at the end of the original 2017 film, "Happy Death Day." How could there be a sequel? What could possibly be worse than getting trapped in a time loop where you are killed over and over again by a killer wearing a creepy baby-faced mask? Well, all of you who answered "getting stuck in a parallel dimension where you're stuck in a time loop again" deserve a pat on the back. Yes, Tree Glebman (Jessica Rothe) may have escaped the maddening time loop in her dimension, but thanks to the science experiment of some neighboring dorks, she's lost all that hard-won narrative closure and must fight for her life (well, lives) once again. Matching its predecessor in charm and creativity, "Happy Death Day 2U" is an arguably unnecessary yet still delightful sequel.

44. Slaughterhouse-Five

Based on Kurt Vonnegut's novel of the same name, "Slaughterhouse-Five" follows the time-tripping exploits of Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks), an aptly named man who is "unstuck in time" after becoming a prisoner of war in 1940s Germany. Slipping in and out of his past, present, and future, Billy trips in and out of decades and major life events (including being abducted by aliens). Directed with a dreamy, atmospheric competence by George Roy Hill (the man behind "The Sting" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"), even Vonnegut himself praised the movie as "a flawless translation ... I drool and cackle every time I watch that film." And if praise from the horse's mouth doesn't do it for you, the film just so happens to enjoy critical acclaim across the board.

43. Primer

If you know one thing about 2004's "Primer," it's that it's famously difficult to explain without sounding like you spent a lot of time in a glue factory. That said, let's have a go at it: "Primer" follows four tech bros who build a machine in their garage that does ... something. They're not sure what, exactly. But it's something. One of the bizarre effects of their creation is that time appears to work differently inside the machine, making it a kind of "time machine," if you will. After much discussion, the foursome decide to experiment with it, only to discover a strange side effect: Whatever passes through the machine creates a double. A puzzle of a film full of paradoxes, loopholes, and sequences of events that overlap, dovetail, and intersect, "Primer" is a feisty, wildly ambitious indie movie that holds its own amidst the bigger blockbusters of the genre.

42. Triangle

Packaged as a typical slasher movie, Christopher Smith's 2009 psychological horror film follows a group of shipwrecked survivors who seek refuge on a mysteriously deserted ocean liner. At first, they think they are alone. Then a shotgun-wielding masked killer emerges out of the woodwork to make an already terrifying situation even worse as they pick everyone off one by one. To say much more than that (or how any of this has to do with time travel) would give away the film's secrets. So we will say no more! Featuring an innovative mid-film plot twist, "Triangle" is an unexpected delight with a captivating lead performance from Melissa George as the mentally fragile Jess. An expectation-subverting watch, "Triangle" will unquestionably win over adventurous fans of the slasher genre.

41. Happy Death Day

Grounded by a charming and sardonic performance by Jessica Rothe, Christopher Landon's 2017 horror-comedy sticks the slasher and time-travel genres in a blender with hilarious results. "Happy Death Day" follows Tree (Rothe), a mean-spirited sorority girl with a tragic past who finds herself reliving the day of her murder over and over again. Some psycho wearing the very creepy mask of their college's mascot has it out for her. And somewhere between being stabbed and electrocuted, Tree starts to suspect that uncovering the identity (and motive) of her die-hard killer is the only way to get out of this cursed time loop. But when the effects of being murdered in a variety of brutal ways start catching up with her, Tree realizes that she doesn't have much time (ironically enough) to solve the mystery. "Happy Death Day" makes dying repeatedly look super fun, and if that isn't a stamp of approval, we don't know what is.

40. Trancers

We have a fair number of time travel methods on this list: cars, hypnosis, telephone booths, you name it. But "Trancers," in all of its 1980s wisdom, takes a different approach: time travel via drugs. Set in the far-flung future of 2247, our hero is the improbably named Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson), a bounty hunter hot on the heels of a psychic villain (Michael Stefani) capable of entrancing his victims with his mind. When Deth finally learns that his foe has traveled back to the 1980s to assassinate the ancestors of future City Council members, it's up to Deth to follow him to the past and stop the nefarious mesmerist from executing his violent scheme. With more laser special effects than you can shake a stick at, "Trancers" comes courtesy of the ingenious low-budget mastermind Charles Band. Ripoffs of "The Terminator" are a dime a dozen, but they're rarely this entertaining.

39. About Time

While you could certainly say that all of the films on this list are about time, only one film is really "About Time." The 2013 sci-fi rom-com follows a young man named Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) who learns that he's inherited the ability to travel in time and change the course of his life. Written and directed by Richard Curtis — a New Zealand-born filmmaker who readers may know from the likes of "Love Actually" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral" — "About Time" has charm to spare, with one of the most lovely onscreen father-son dynamics of the 2010s. A film that is the cinematic equivalent of a warm bowl of soup, "About Time" is a high watermark for one of the more persistent themes in time travel cinema: learning to accept things just as they are.

38. Back to the Future Part II

While admittedly falling short of the lighting in a bottle effect of its predecessor, "Back to the Future Part II" succeeds in being better than most sequels and most time-travel films. Directed once again by Robert Zemeckis, the 1989 film sees scrappy teen Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and his geriatric pal Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) journeying forward in time to the unthinkably futuristic landscape of 2015. The objective is to stop Marty's future son from making a mistake that will land him in the slammer. As you'd imagine, things don't go exactly according to plan, leaving the future (and the past) a little shaken in the wake of Doc and Marty's meddling. A solid if decidedly more chaotic sequel, "Back to the Future Part II" is full of charms of its own.

37. Frequency

Released in the year 2000 and directed by Gregory Hoblit (the man behind the Richard Gere vehicle "Primal Fear"), "Frequency" follows John Sullivan (Jim Caviezel), a New York City detective who accidentally stumbles on a way to communicate across time with his now-deceased father (Dennis Quaid) using a HAM radio. Overcome with joy at the possibility of saving his father's life, Gregory warns his father of his cause of death, triggering a series of events arguably more tragic than his dad's fiery demise. "Frequency" is a suspense-riddled character study that also makes for a solid (and probably weepy) Father's Day watch.

36. The Muppet Christmas Carol

Are all movie adaptations of Charles Dickens' cautionary ghost story time travel stories? In our estimation: yes. The story spends Christmas with Ebenezer Scrooge, a real jerk who begins his journey to becoming a better person after he is visited by three ghosts that show the miserly curmudgeon his past, present, and future to gain some much-needed perspective. While everyone has their own favorite "Christmas Carol" adaptation, we're going to make an executive decision here: The best "Christmas Carol" movie is 1992's "The Muppet Christmas Carol," the directorial debut of Brian Henson. Roll your eyes all you want at the presence of the titular Muppets, but this film features one of Michael Caine's finest performances as the cold-hearted Scrooge. Also, it's a musical. What more could you want?

35. The Time Machine

Based on H.G. Wells's novella of the same name, which was literally the work that popularized the concept of a "time machine", George Pal's 1960 film follows a fancy and adventurous Victorian Englishman (Rod Taylor) who travels into the far-flung future only to find humanity divided into two warring factions: the child-like Eloi and the brutish Morlocks. While the inventor had hopes that the future would be a paradise of new, utopic developments, it would seem that the warring tendency in our species is bound to persist throughout the centuries unless we change our ways. Warmly received by critics, the 1960 adaptation of "The Time Machine" is campy in all the right places with plenty of charm to spare.

34. Tenet

If you ask us, "Tenet" is less about the convoluted ins and outs of using time travel to prevent World War III than it is about the vibes (and the friendship between John David Washington and Robert Pattinson). Look, it's totally possible to enjoy a movie without having the faintest idea what it's about. Then again, director Christopher Nolan has always been interested in non-linear filmmaking, from the memory-loss of "Memento" to the languid dream logic of "Inception." "Tenet" is Nolan leaning fully into his love of temporal logistics and while it's disorienting, there can be no denying that it's a hell of a good time. Despite any flaws it may have, "Tenet" is what you get when you put James Bond and time travel in a blender (in the best possible way).

33. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Directed by Leonard Nimoy (yes, the same Leonard Nimoy who plays the pointy-eared Spock), the fourth feature film in the "Star Trek" franchise begins in a far-flung future on the edge of disaster. An alien probe is wreaking havoc on Earth's environment, drying up our oceans and polluting our atmosphere. (Are we sure it's an extraterrestrial threat? Sounds like plain old climate change to us.) In order to save humanity from the impending apocalypse, the swashbuckling Captain Kirk (WIlliam Shatner) and his intrepid crew voyage back in time to the year 1986, where they hope to locate a soon-to-be-extinct animal that can respond to the mysterious probe. Pivoting the series' sci-fi into more comedic waters, "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" leans hard on the chemistry of its cast to buoy the severity of its environmentalist message. If you're going to watch one of the older "Star Trek" films, this is the one to seek out.

32. Peggy Sue Got Married

There is no time machine, per se, in "Peggy Sue Got Married." Instead, the titular character (played by Kathleen Turner) travels back in her own memories. Or maybe it's an especially vivid daydream. Who's to say? When you faint at your high school reunion, anything can happen! In any case, middle-aged Peggy Sue unintentionally travels back to her teenage days in the early 1960s, where she plays with the idea of breaking off her marriage to her high school sweetheart before it even has the chance to start. With a stellar ensemble cast, including Nicolas Cage, Helen Hunt, and Jim Carrey, Francis Ford Coppola's 1986 film is a bittersweet gem.

31. Back to the Future Part III

Very few films as excellent as "Back to the Future" are succeeded by a sequel that doesn't disappoint. And it's even rarer for such a film to produce two excellent sequels. Enter: "Back to the Future Part III," which catapults spunky skateboarder Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and the white-haired Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) back to the 19th century. The pair find themselves stranded in the Wild West, contending with saloon brawls, rowdy dames, and deadly gunfights. As always, the time-hopping duo must lay low while attempting to find a way back to their own time. There are adorable frontier romances, villains with the faces of modern-day bullies, and plenty of adoring references to old cowboy films. Although it doesn't always get the credit it deserves, "Back to the Future Part III" is a sweet-natured love letter to the Western genre.

30. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

In the first of three films charting the time-traveling/dimension-hopping adventures of Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter) and Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves), our titular doofuses are tasked with a harrowing objective: passing history class. Unbeknownst to these two Southern Californian himbos, the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, because at some point in the future, Bill and Ted write a rock song so great it actually achieves world peace. But in order for the dynamic duo to rock out, they first need a passing grade. Armed with a time machine helpfully supplied by an ally from the future (George Carlin), the pair journey through the past to amass a gang of history's most prolific figures. Lighthearted and energetic, "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" is a profoundly silly journey through history with two of cinema's most radical dudes who have charm (and air guitar riffs) to spare.

29. The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey

A wildly strange film on a list full of kooky adventures, Vincent Ward's 1988 fish-out-of-water time travel jaunt is truly an under-discussed, one-of-a-kind experience. The surreal and atmospheric Australia/New Zealand co-production was selected in competition for the highest prize at the Cannes film festival and received eleven awards from the Australian Film Institute. With a dream-like approach to storytelling, "The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey" follows a psychic nine-year-old named Griffin (Hamish McFarlane) who has trippy visions of an alternate reality that looks completely different from his 14th-century mining village. With the Black Plague at their door, the villagers heed Griffin's warnings and follow his directions to dig deep below the earth. On the other side, the medieval peasants emerge into a bold and bizarre new land: 20th century New Zealand. Full of fantasy and imagination that flies in the face of the film's modest budget, "The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey" is an underrated classic.

28. Jubilee

"Jubilee" boasts one of the wackiest concepts as far as time travel films are concerned. Get this: Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen herself, travels forward in time with the help of occult magic to visit 1970s Britain. Instead of a futuristic new world full of utopian progress, Elizabeth (Jenny Runacre) finds a crumbling country riddled with anarchy, social unrest, and debauchery. Directed by Derek Jarman (who also helmed the evocative 1986 biopic "Caravaggio"), "Jubilee" vibrates with undeniable punk rock energy, both critical and celebratory. So, the next time you're living your best nihilistic teenage dream, think to yourself: what would Queen Elizabeth I think?

27. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Released in 2006, Mamoru Hosoda's animated feature film follows the teenage Makoto (voiced by Riisa Naka), a high school girl who acquires the ability to literally jump into the past after stumbling upon a mysterious device in the science lab. Being a teen, Makoto uses her new gift for trivial, self-serving adjustments, acing pop quizzes and side-stepping embarrassing situations with ease. But when Makoto begins to realize that her adjustments have consequences for others, she resolves to only use her powers for good, and begins uncovering the mystery behind these strange abilities in the process. A decidedly personal (and relatable) approach to sci-fi fantasy, "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" captures audiences' hearts.

26. Time After Time

This 1979 film may share a name with a melodramatic ballad, but don't be fooled! "Time After Time" is way kookier than anything Cyndi Lauper could dream up. Behold, the plot: "War of the Worlds" author H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) hunts down infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper (David Warner), who has traveled to the 20th century after stealing the writer's time machine. With little interest in its pseudo-science and a romantic subplot that often gets in the way of the suspenseful thrills, "Time After Time" is an odd duck that manages to charm in spite of its idiosyncrasies. Then again, when your lead actors are having this much fun with a premise this bananas, you're bound to conjure up a good degree of movie magic.

25. Timecrimes

Easily scampering away with the best title on this list, "Timecrimes" follows Héctor (Karra Elejalde), a middle-aged nobody whose lazy day is ruined when a blood-soaked madman chases him into a secret lab in the woods. Inside, he meets a suspiciously unfazed scientist (played by writer-director Nacho Vigalondo) who casually instructs Héctor to hide in a big vat of sci-fi liquid. Sure enough, Héctor is launched back in time by one hour, forced to navigate (and solve) a string of disasters perpetrated by different iterations of himself. Few films on this list have a protagonist this stupid. But that is, in effect, part of the charm of "Timecrimes:" Héctor is just some dude who winds up at the center of an increasingly complicated web of cause and effect. Inventive, moody, and effective for its smaller scope and scale, "Timecrimes" is a pure delight.

24. Je t'aime, je t'aime

One of the older films on this list, Alain Resnais' 1968 film blends time travel with romantic obsession. From the director of "Last Year at Marienbad," the film sees a depressed young man named Claude (Claude Rich) reeling after the end of his relationship with Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot). Claude agrees to participate in a human experiment with a time travel device that promises to send its user back in the past by one year, for one minute. But when the machine malfunctions, Claude finds himself stuck reliving his nightmarish past out of sequence. Navigating fluidly through time, memory, and trauma, "Je t'aime, je t'aime" is arguably the most heartbreaking film on this list, an emotionally draining experience that must be seen (and wept over) to be believed.

23. Time Bandits

From the demented, hyper-imaginative mind of director Terry Gilliam, 1981's "Time Bandits" follows a young history nerd named Kevin (Craig Warnock) who is whisked away by six time-hopping criminals on an adventure to steal treasures from different historical eras, thanks to some convenient holes in the fabric of space and time. With whimsy to spare and an approach towards fantasy that charms both kids and adults alike, "Time Bandits" is simultaneously silly as hell and bursting with technical prowess, it contains the absurdism and production design that distinguishes Gilliam's cinematic output.

22. Safety Not Guaranteed

A bizarre ad shows up in the classifieds section of a local Washington newspaper. Someone is looking for a partner to travel back in time with them. They stress that it isn't a joke, and that they have only traveled in time once before. Tasked with covering the ad as an amusing fluff piece, a group of reporters, including the listless college grad Darius (Aubrey Plaza), set off to find and meet this clearly unhinged individual (Mark Duplass).There's no way that this lunatic actually invented a time machine, right? Unapologetically quirky, this indie rom-com could not be more twee if it tried. But sometimes adorable awkward dorks finding happiness and love while trying to journey through the ages together is exactly what the doctor ordered.

21. Il Mare

This 2000 South Korean romantic comedy follows a love story that transcends time itself ... literally. When Eun-joo (Jun Ji-hyun) in "Il Mare" abandons her seaside home for the city, she leaves a card in the mailbox for the next owner so that they can forward her any mail. Two years earlier, a young man named Sung-hyun (Lee Jung-jae) receives Eun-joo's letter. The pair soon realize that the beach house's mailbox can traverse time and space, and begin a really long-distance relationship. Remade stateside six years later as the Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock romance "The Lake House," Lee Hyun-seung's original is a captivating love story that is worth seeking out.

20. Predestination

Based on Robert A. Heinlein's short story, "Predestination" follows a time-hopping government agent (Ethan Hawke) who is hot on the heels of a serial terrorist equally unstuck in time. In his quest to catch the notorious Fizzle Bomber, the agent allies with a mysterious individual (Sarah Snook) who writes under the pseudonym "The Unmarried Mother." It is difficult, if not impossible, to dig into the "chicken or egg" delights of "Predestination" without giving away key plot details, so you'll just have to seek this one out to see for yourself. It's ambitious, imaginative, and a must-watch for anyone who enjoys a head-scratcher (you may have to whip out a corkboard and some red string once the credits roll).

19. 2046

Did you know that Wong Kar-Wai, the acclaimed Hong Kong director behind "Chungking Express" and "Fallen Angels," made a time travel pseudo-sequel to "In the Mood For Love"? If not, you do now. Spanning multiple timelines, real and imagined, "2046" follows a sci-fi author named Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung) as he writes about, and lives within, a hotel filled with memories. Like much of Wong Kar-Wai's work, "2046" is deeply interested in missed connections, the painful "what-ifs?" that haunt you long after they've come and gone. With aching melancholy, Chow Mo Wan recounts his experiences with the mysterious titular room and all the lost souls who pass through it. Many films can be summarized by the mournful thesis that "love is all a matter of timing," but few are able to tease out the visual poetry of such a statement quite like Wong Kar-Wai.

18. Source Code

Directed by Duncan Jones, who more than proved himself in the sci-fi genre with 2009's "Moon," "Source Code" tells of Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), a soldier dropped into the body of an unknown man aboard a commuter train en route to Chicago. Soon enough, he realizes his mission: There's a bomb on board, and he's the only one who can prevent the catastrophe from taking place. Reliving the last eight minutes of his host's life again and again, Colter must piece the clues together to thwart further bombings. More action-heavy than many of the films on this list, "Source Code" is a kinetic take on the time loop format grounded by a brilliant and demanding lead performance by Gyllenhaal.

17. Looper

The third feature film from "Knives Out" director Rian Johnson, 2012's "Looper" takes place in a future where mob bosses use time travel to dispose of bodies. Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such time-traveling hitman, raking in the big bucks with dreams of retiring to a quiet life in France. Then, one day during a hit, Joe is shocked to come face-to-face with his future self (Bruce WIllis). A game of cat and mouse ensues, with mob intrigue, paradoxes, and determinism galore. A thinking man's sci-fi time travel thriller, "Looper" will satisfy viewers who enjoy world-building, masterful plotting, and inventive takes on the noir genre.

16. 16. Midnight in Paris

One of the many entries in the "Rachel McAdams is romantically involved with a time traveler" cinematic universe, "Midnight in Paris" follows Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), an aspiring novelist with his head in the clouds who accidentally stumbles through time while vacationing in Paris with his fiancé (McAdams). Brushing shoulders with literary idols, infamous artists, and starry-eyed creatives, Gil soon finds that the draw of the past easily outweighs his obligations to the present. Featuring an all-star ensemble cast and an undeniably charming romantic attitude, "Midnight in Paris" is an enjoyable viewing experience (especially if you cover your eyes and ears when the director/writer credits flash on screen).

15. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

What's a "Harry Potter" film doing on a list of time travel movies? Well, if you'll recall, the third film in the franchise features a third-act plot device called a Time-Turner that allows our wizarding heroes to rewrite history, saving the father figure of hero Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) from a fate worse than death. Sure, the Time-Turner primarily features in the story as a way for bookworm Hermione (Emma Watson) to attend multiple overlapping classes. But, as we'll quickly learn, rules (and the space-time continuum) are meant to be broken. Directed by Mexican New Wave wunderkind Alfonso Cuarón, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" follows Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione as they contend with yet another life-threatening development: the escape of notorious convict Sirius Black (Gary Oldman).

14. Donnie Darko

A moody teen named Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) narrowly avoids being incinerated by a plane crashing into his bedroom when he is lured outside by a giant, demonic-looking bunny rabbit. You know. Typical teen stuff. The rabbit, Frank (James Duval), informs Donnie that the whole world is going to end in less than a month. As Frank continues to pull the strings of Donnie's life, the teen is nudged to commit mischief, arson, and yes, time travel. Famously confusing, with tangential universes and deterministic quandaries galore, "Donnie Darko" is the kind of film that will make your brain hurt ... hopefully in a good way. Featuring one of the greatest soundtracks of the 1990s (INXS and Tears for Fears? In this economy?), Richard Kelly's "Donnie Darko" is one of the defining films of the early 2000s.

13. Arrival

While Ted Chiang's 1998 short story was long thought to be unfilmable, director Denis Villeneuve has a talent for bringing high concept stories to the screen (there's a reason he was drawn to "Dune"). In Villeneuve's 2016 film "Arrival," a renowned linguist named Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is summoned to assist with a bizarre development: Twelve mysterious, smooth-edged alien crafts have touched down across the world. It's up to Dr. Banks to devise a way to communicate with the beings inside the craft and determine if the extraterrestrial visitors are friends or foes. As Dr. Banks discovers, the key to cracking the code may lie in the aliens' nonlinear experience of time. A quiet masterpiece that benefits from repeated viewings, "Arrival" is an intelligent and hopeful slice of science fiction.

12. Palm Springs

Some time travel films see folks hurtling forward (or backward) in time. Others, like 2020's "Palm Springs," have time travelers moving in circles over and over again. One of the most inventive spins on the time loop sub-genre, Max Barbakow's feature film debut follows Nyles (Andy Samberg), a man who has been attending the same wedding over and over again in sunny Palm Springs. After Nyles is shot with an arrow during an impulsive hook-up with Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the depressed maid-of-honor joins the nihilistic Nyles in perpetually sun-drenched purgatory. Released during the beginning of the pandemic when every day really did feel the same, "Palm Springs" embraces the Sisyphean metaphor inherent in the time loop structure.

11. Planet of the Apes

Now, look. If this film's inclusion on this list has you scratching your head, that can only mean one of two things: You haven't seen the original "Planet of the Apes" film, or you've been living under a pop-culture rock and have somehow avoided stumbling across the iconic twist ending of the 1968 sci-fi classic. Indeed, as we learn at the film's end, our resilient hero George Taylor (Charlton Heston) hasn't actually traveled through space at all ... just time. Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, "Planet of the Apes" couches some genuine existential horror in the seemingly campy premise promised by its title. It's an oldie but a goodie that will reward the patient viewer with one of the greatest rug-pulls sci-fi filmmaking has to offer.

10. Interstellar

Are all movies set in space time travel movies? It's certainly a question worth asking. Aging in a relativistic biological space-time is one hell of a drug, after all. Without getting too deep into Albert Einstein's twin paradox, long story short: We age slower when we're zipping about in space. Christopher Nolan's 2014 sci-fi film "Interstellar" not only features some heartbreaking moments of time dilation, but a third act reveal that the power of love can bend the fabric of space and time itself. The film begins with an apocalyptic scenario: A global blight is turning Earth into a pile of ash and dust. A plan forms to find humanity a new home planet and a team, including former NASA test pilot Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), is sent out into the galaxy to scout the three potential candidates. Operatic, inventive, and brimming with intergalactic spectacle, "Interstellar" is an epic space saga of the highest quality.

9. 12 Monkeys

In the alarmingly not-too-distant future of 2035, mankind has been driven underground by a deadly viral pandemic. James Cole (Bruce Willis), a mild-mannered, soft-spoken convict, "volunteers" to act as a time-traveling guinea pig. His mission is to voyage back to 1996, the year of the outbreak, and discover its cause. However, when Cole is accidentally transported back too far into the past, his sweaty warnings about the impending disaster come across as the ravings of a lunatic, and he is promptly incarcerated in a mental health facility. There, he meets two individuals who will profoundly impact not only his life, but the future of the human race: a compassionate psychiatrist and a fellow mental patient who just so happens to be the son of a prominent virologist. Directed by the imaginative former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam, "12 Monkeys" balances its gritty surreal gait with an uncomfortable degree of plausibility.

8. Edge of Tomorrow

Arguably the greatest video game movie ever made (despite not being directly based on any one particular video game), "Edge of Tomorrow" (also known by its more plot-accurate title "Live, Die, Repeat") tells of a future in which mankind is engaged in an apocalyptic battle with an alien force that is giving humanity a real run for its money. Major Bill Cage (Tom Cruise), a smooth-talking PR man who's never held a gun (or piloted a mech-suit), finds himself on the frontlines of a naval landing meant to turn the tide. The catastrophic invasion quickly claims the life of the inexperienced Cage, who dies slathered in the corrosive blood of an especially large alien foe. Then Cage wakes up, startled to find that he is very much alive and apparently stuck in a time loop reliving the disastrous day of the invasion over and over again. With creative action set pieces and an inventive approach to the time-loop sub-genre, "Edge of Tomorrow" is a tremendous amount of fun.

7. Run Lola Run

On the face of it, "Run Lola Run" doesn't seem to be an obvious entry in science fiction cinema. The 1998 German film follows a young woman (the titular Lola, played by Franka Potente), whose forgetful boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreau) accidentally leaves a big chunk of change on a subway car that belongs to a dangerous criminal. It's up to Lola to rustle up the funds and rendezvous with Manni in 20 minutes to avoid disaster. Over the course of the film, we witness three different timelines of Lola's sprint, each deviating significantly thanks to the butterfly effect. Experimental, kinetic, and brimming with undeniable 1990s energy, "Run Lola Run" is a breezy, fast-paced meditation on chaos theory, determinism, and all the mind-breaking side effects time travel entails. "Run Lola Run" might not have a time machine, but its detailed, hyper-specific concern with the fallout of how small decisions shape our lives more than justifies its presence on this list.

6. La Jetée

Directed by the prolific experimental filmmaker Chris Marker, this 1962 French-language film may be short, clocking in at just under 30 minutes, but its influence on science fiction cinema is vast. "La Jetée" follows an unnamed man (Davos Hanich), a prisoner of a future war that has driven all survivors below the surface to survive the post-apocalypse. Tapped as a reluctant test subject to be launched back in time (presumably to learn more about and ultimately prevent World War III), the man is hurtled backward and forward through the decades in search of a solution to humanity's "present" predicament. If this brief plot synopsis sounds familiar, that's because "La Jetée" served as the source material for the aforementioned "12 Monkeys." Still, the 1962 film stands on its own and is absolutely worth checking out, even if you're only familiar with Terry Gilliam's quasi-remake.

5. Groundhog Day

One of the best "time loop" films and one of the best romantic comedies of all time, 1993's "Groundhog Day" follows a grumpy, self-centered weatherman named Phil (Bill Murray) who is dispatched to a small town to cover the titular rodent-related holiday. To Phil's horror (and our amusement), the cranky newsman finds that he can't leave the humble borders of Punxsutawney even if there weren't a snowstorm. Trapped reliving the same day over and over again, Phil's anger and despair eventually transform into something far more endearing and productive. A comedy classic that makes full use of Murray's dual mastery of crankiness and charm, "Groundhog Day" is a cinematic gem worth revisiting again (and again and again).

4. The Terminator

The original 1984 "Terminator" film is the real deal. Straddling genres with mercurial ease (Is it a slasher? Science fiction tech-noir? All of the above?), "The Terminator" follows Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), who finds herself the target of a nightmarish foe: a machine wearing the flesh of a man, tasked to kill her. Unbeknownst to her, Sarah is going to give birth to the leader of the human resistance in an impending machine-led apocalypse. And while the titular muscle-bound hunk of junk (Arnold Schwarzenegger) aims to kill her son before he can be conceived, an agent of the resistance (Michael Biehn) has been tasked to protect her. Textured, brutal, and methodical, "The Terminator" is the slow-stalking progenitor of its much more bombastic follow-ups. Respect where respect is due, we say.

3. Your Name

Do you know what all of these films about time travel were missing? If you answered "romantic comedy body-swapping" you are correct. Directed by Makoto Shinkai (who readers may know from his 2019 film "Weathering with You"), "Your Name" follows the story of two 17-year-old high schoolers, Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki) and Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) who repeatedly switch bodies at random. To say much more, or how the story relates to time travel, would give too much away. Suffice to say, "Your Name" was a runaway commercial success, surpassing the international box office of "Spirited Away" and garnering critical praise to match. If you like to cry, "Your Name" is the film for you — a heartbreaking and visually stunning story that features some of the most strikingly well-realized teenage characters in cinema, animated or otherwise.

2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

"Terminator 2: Judgment Day" holds a number of high-octane superlatives: it's one of the best time travel films of all time, one of the best sci-fi action films ever made, and one of the best sequels. Taking a decidedly punchier approach than its moodier horror-adjacent predecessor, "Terminator 2" sees John Connor, leader of the human resistance against the AI apocalypse, sending Arnold Schwarzenegger's unstoppable machine back in time to protect his younger self (Edward Furlong). After breaking John's survivalist mom Sarah (Linda Hamilton) out of a psychiatric institution, the trio set off to prevent doomsday before it can happen. Hot on their heels is the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), an advanced AI assassin capable of morphing its liquid-metal body to imitate anyone it pleases. Packing a genuinely emotional center into its back-to-back action sequences and time-defying special effects, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" deserves all the praise it receives.

1. Back to the Future

Spunky teen Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) joins his senior citizen pal, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) for a nighttime science experiment: a test drive of a time machine that also happens to be a DeLorean. But an unexpected run-in with a gang of terrorists sends Marty fleeing to the year 1955. Through no fault of his own, Marty accidentally threatens his own existence by forming a love triangle with his own parents that would make Freud spin in his grave like a wind turbine. It's up to Marty to make his own parents fall in love and reconnect with the younger version of Doc Brown to find a way back ... to the future. Full of crackerjack silliness and goofy plotting, the secret strength of "Back to the Future" is its simple message that your parents, believe it or not, are people too. Bouncy and full of the charm that makes director Robert Zemeckis a pillar of the 1980s, "Back to the Future" is pure candy-coated perfection.