10 Best Time-Travel Movies Of All Time

There’s certainly something to be said about the fun of a good time-travel movie. Reliving the past, reimagining (or rather pre-imagining) the future, trying to make heads or tails of trippy time paradoxes; it’s things like this that make time-travel one of the most fascinating subgenres in all of sci-fi.

With a staggering number of time-travel films available for near-immediate consumption in today’s age of streaming digital content, we here at Epicstream decided to compile a list of top contenders for you to watch today, tomorrow, or even yesterday! Here are the 10 best time-travel movies of all time:

  1. Donnie Darko

    Director: Richard Kelly

    Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell

    In the eerie cult classic Donnie Darko., Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a stellar performance as the titular troubled teen who’s haunted by visions of a six-foot rabbit that coerces him into committing dangerous pranks and crimes. It’s a cerebral, supernatural, and thought-provoking film that benefits from repeated viewings, as there are a number of subtleties and nuances that one is likely to miss the first time around, particularly when it comes to Frank’s time-traveling and Dr. Monnifoff’s paradox theory. However, if technically-sound, surreal stories about unlikely heroes – with a fun dose of time-travel – pique your interest, Donnie Darko strikes just the right chord. 

  2. X-Men: Days of Future Past

    Director: Bryan Singer

    Cast: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender

    In X-Men: Days of Future Past, the titular team sends Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants, combining the best elements of the series to produce a satisfyingly fast-paced outing that ranks among the franchise's finest installments. Every character feels believable, with no cartoonish villains, and every side of the issue is presented by people who believe they are the ones who are in the right, with the underlying message of tolerance and bigotry adding to the depth of this film. Make no mistake, though; this is a behemoth of a film that won't go down well with everybody, and newcomers to the X-films may find themselves lost and bewildered. Director Bryan Singer's tale sprawls in so many directions that, if you're not at least marginally invested in the characters, it could prove to be a trying experience. But, for everyone else, ranging from casual fans to enthusiasts, Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg have crafted something truly remarkable.

  3. Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow

    Director: Doug Liman

    Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson

    Gripping, well-acted, funny, and clever, Edge of Tomorrow offers entertaining proof that Tom Cruise is still more than capable of shouldering the weight of a blockbuster action thriller as he plays an alien-fighting soldier who gets to relive the same day over and over again, the day restarting every time he dies. With thrilling action sequences, a clever sense of humor, and a surprisingly intellectual storyline, Edge of Tomorrow blows all expectations out of the water, especially after some rather unconvincing trailers. You could describe this movie as a dizzying combination of Groundhog Day, Starship Troopers, Source Code, and The Butterfly Effect, but truthfully, it’s something entirely unique to the sci-fi genre.

  4. Source Code

    Director: Duncan Jones

    Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga

    Source Code is a smart, satisfying sci-fi thriller that manages to isolate the human story within an array of action sequences and tension-filled character beats. It’s the story of a soldier who wakes up in someone else's body and discovers he's part of an experimental government program to find the bomber of a commuter train, with only eight minutes to complete his objective, lest he relive it again. Unlike many similarly-themed films, Source Code manages to work effectively without exaggeration or embellishment, presenting a bold concept in a plausible manner. Full of twists and turns, Source Code will keep you wanting more as the answers to each intriguing question raised are slowly revealed.

  5. Looper

    Director: Rian Johnson

    Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt

    Looper delivers a smart, bravely original blend of futuristic sci-fi and good old-fashioned action, with time-travel, mob men, and assassins galore. Unlike some time-travel films, though, Looper goes to extraordinary lengths to leave every base covered in its quest to avoid plot holes and inconsistencies – a goal that’s achieved with flying colors. As well as confidently dealing with a complex script that could have easily become too convoluted, writer/director Rian Johnson also creates a very believable future, filled with people and events that all feel plausible. It’s a film that treats its audience with respect, and it features a wonderfully multifaceted and intelligent story that rewards patience and concentration with a fantastic and satisfying conclusion.

  6. Groundhog Day

    Director: Harold Ramis

    Cast: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott

    In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays a weatherman who finds himself inexplicably living the same day over and over again. Unlike much of Murray’s earlier work, this film highlights the actor’s dramatic gifts, though it still leaves plenty of room for laughs. The premise of repeating the same day naturally raises questions about how well the film can last before the repetitive nature feels too repetitive, but thankfully, Groundhog Day is full of ingenious ideas, and it successfully throws up new developments and delightful twists at every opportunity.

  7. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

    Director: Leonard Nimoy

    Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols

    The plot of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t work. An alien probe arrives on Earth and begins wreaking havoc. Spock determines the reason for this is because the probe is trying to communicate with the now-extinct humpback whales, so the Enterprise crew travels back in time to bring the whales to their future and save the world. Surprisingly, though, the lighthearted, humorous tone of the film succeeds, despite the silly premise. This is largely due to the fact that The Voyage Home is very true to the spirit of the television series. Additionally, the tone is a refreshing change after the incredibly dramatic nature of The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock. Even though The Voyage Home doesn’t match the scale of the visual effects in other Star Trek films, it makes up for it in terms of character beats and dialogue.

  8. The Terminator

    Director: James Cameron

    Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn

    In The Terminator, a nigh-indestructible humanoid cyborg is sent back in time to assassinate a waitress, whose unborn son will lead humanity in a war against the machines. Meanwhile, a soldier from that war is sent to protect her at all costs in this film jam-packed with impressive action sequences and a relentlessly fast pace. It’s a classic good versus evil struggle, with little in the way of grays to cloud the issue. The movie lags in some parts and the romance element is fairly contrived, but despite all that, the movie brims with energy and promise, characters you can enjoy, and the ultimate Arnie role.

  9. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

    Director: James Cameron

    Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong

    Not only the best, but the last good chapter in the franchise, Terminator 2: Judgment Day features thrilling action sequences, eye-popping visual effects, and a dynamic (albeit small) cast of characters. We see a cyborg, identical to the one who failed to kill Sarah Connor, sent from the future and entrusted to protect her teenage son, John Connor, from a more advanced killing machine, setting the stage for some of the best action scenes in early ‘90s cinema. It lacks the horrific central focus of the first film, but it certainly makes up for this with a new focus on humanity and coming to accept your future.

  10. Back to the Future

    Director: Robert Zemeckis

    Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover

    Back to the Future is rousing a time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit that follows the 17-year-old Marty McFly, who’s accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the maverick scientist Doc Brown. It’s the ultimate feel-good movie, with the dweeb overcoming the bully and the dreamer’s wishes coming true, and it’s packed with action, adventure, humor, and heart, making it perfect for nearly all audiences. Smart, innovative, and classical in every way, Back to the Future is undoubtedly the most timeless time-travel film.

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