Time travel movies are one of the overarching sci-fi genre’s greatest gift to moviegoers. It’s a subgenre of movies that manages to successfully merge reality and fantasy into one riveting, mind-bending experience. Whether it’s an acclaimed classic like Back to the Future or a quirky newcomer like Safety Not Guaranteed, a great time travel movie has the power to transport you into a brand new world of wonder and mystery—and that’s exactly why audiences love watching them.
The first movie of the genre, a silent film adaption of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, happened all the way back in 1921. In the decades to come, the niche area of filmmaking would become more commonplace with George Pal's 1960 adaptation of The Time Machine eventually becoming the first time travel film to win an Oscar. Then, in the early ‘80s, filmmakers like James Cameron (The Terminator) and Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) produced megahit movies with time travelers that mainstream audiences loved. Their secret? Don’t get lost in the nuances of time travel science—just focus on making a movie that is fun and entertaining to watch.
Both films were massive hits, and the popularity of the genre has boomed into new heights. Since those two films, we’ve seen a number of great time travel stories come to life: Looper, Hot Tub Time Machine, Timecop, Donnie Darko—just to name a few. We’ve gone ahead and put together a list of the best time travel movies for you to watch.
We made sure to select some titles the span the corners of the genre—some land in the sci-fi thriller category while others veer into absurdist comedy. But most importantly, they’re all great movies that will have your mind working to figure out the logistics of it all. Lastly, it’s worth noting that some many spoilers may lurk ahead. Unfortunately, this is just the nature of time travel movies, so don’t be too mad. After all, we did warn you.