The 16 Best Movies About Time Travel

Features
by The Playlist Staff
September 28, 2012 1:58 PM
20 Comments
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“Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986)
It’s easy to forget that Francis Ford Coppola helmed "Peggy Sue Got Married,” the bizarre middle-aged response to “Back to the Future.” Where the latter seems to celebrate the strength you surprisingly find when life deems it necessary, 'Peggy Sue' revisits the past with judgment and misery. Kathleen Turner is compelling as the star who travels ‘back in time’ after a seizure at her 25th high school reunion, as long as you are able to suspend the disbelief that she is anything south of 35 years old. The bright star of the film is Nicolas Cage, who seems to shine whenever tasked with being a pained and heartbroken teen. 'Peggy Sue' attempts to show us that hasty decisions of youth can have lasting effects, such as lackluster marriages, bad jobs and disgruntled kids, but as an adult it’s impossible to view your past as anything but nostalgic. Turner embraces the youthfulness of her character and the many choices not taken, but what's most interesting about Peggy’s return to the past is the difference between the treatment of women in the '50s vs. the '80s. We wonder how the feminist angle would have been represented if Penny Marshall had directed, as originally planned, instead of Coppola. Either way, it was nice to take a trip down Peggy’s memory lane. [B+]

“Planet of the Apes" (1968)
“Damn you dirty apes, damn you all to hell!” barks Charlton Heston as Col. George Taylor in one of cinema’s greatest endings. Prior to that, we had seen the ruins of a future earth, now ruled under a hairy paw, with primates enslaving humankind and reorganizing the food chain. “Planet of the Apes” at times feels like a relic of an era reflecting great social change, but it’s this sober-headed sensibility that makes the absurdity of the premise palatable, and the gravity (and, yes, hamminess) of Heston’s portrayal that gives the picture a genre movie gravitas. An unquestionable highlight of an exciting era in genre filmmaking, even if the actual time-travel science performed countless somersaults in a series of sequels. [A-]

"Primer"
“Primer" (2004)
When cubicle co-workers take advantage of their free time and programming understanding, they create a device that allows them to travel through time, essentially multiplying themselves. Shane Carruth’s chilly debut, however, takes things in more cerebral, sinister directions, creating genuine horror out of the belief that, yes, anything is possible. You may need multiple viewings to fully parse what’s going on in “Primer,” which never slows down to allow the audience to decipher the possibilities present. We’re sadly still waiting for the follow-up from Carruth, who has struggled to find financing, though the no-budget “Primer” has more inventiveness and ideas than any of the science fiction films in the last decade. [A]

“Somewhere in Time" (1980)
Also known as your mom’s favorite time-travel movie, “Somewhere in Time” is a swoony, sci-fi-inflected romance written by “Twilight Zone” regular Richard Matheson. But rather than employing other ‘80s time machines like a DeLorean or a phone booth, our hero Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) simply uses his mind and hypnotizes himself into traveling to 1912, where he meets the object of his affection, then-famed actress Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour). They fall in love despite objections from her manager (a stern Christopher Plummer), but the ever-looming present is more of a threat to their romance. You’ll either laugh at the over-the-top silliness or well up with tears every time John Barry’s Rachmaninoff-inspired score swells, but “Somewhere in Time” is a cult favorite for the romantic set. We’ll give it a mediocre grade, but that doesn’t mean we’re not swayed. [C+]
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20 Comments

  • ChrisCool | February 23, 2013 6:33 PMReply

    Sorry to comment an old post, but how can the article's autor or the commenter didn't talk about The Butterfly Effect, which is a real time travel movie masterpiece for me. I think this movie should have been listed as well among the 16 others.
    Sorry for my bad english, not my native langage.

  • Jhonny | November 16, 2012 12:38 AMReply

    "Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel" is a simple fun nerd time travel movie, probably the one time travel movie i have watched over and over the most. Also "12:01", "Retroactive", "Run Lola Run", and "Triangle"all are more like time loops and events keep repeating.

  • KalKat | October 2, 2012 7:04 PMReply

    "Superman" The time travel plot that reversed the Earth's spin, which is ridiculous, and "Superman II" in which the director's cut uses the same gimmick.

    "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" used time travel.

    "Hot Tub Time Machine" although silly, tells of modern slackers visiting the 1980s via an obvious and weird McGuffin.

    "Primer" Did you mention that?

    "Groundhog Day" Bill Murray's lousy day repeats itself.

    "Millennium" cheesy 90s flick about a plane crash prevented by time travel, or maybe not.

    Some other time travel, reincarnation flick similar to but before Peggy Sue and it starred Glenn Close or something.

    "13 Going On 30" A modern 21st century version of Peggty Sue but in reverse, although not a great, is watchable on video.

  • kalkat | October 2, 2012 6:54 PMReply

    "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was also a time travel musical, so there was at least one more. The couple enter 'another world long ago' in Transvestite Transylvania. It's in the so bad it's good category.

  • Gnat | October 2, 2012 5:13 PMReply

    Ahem...Doctor Who anyone?

  • Andhika | October 1, 2012 10:47 PMReply

    Frequency!

  • Ed Griffiths | October 1, 2012 9:23 AMReply

    'THE TIME MACHINE' (1960); ahem! The clue is in the title...

  • DMC | September 30, 2012 12:11 PMReply

    Futurama: Benders Big Score was a pretty awesome time travel movie.

  • Lindhagen | September 29, 2012 10:24 PMReply

    While not a huge fan of the movie on a whole, The Time Traveler's Wife handles the concept well I think.

  • hellointernet | September 29, 2012 4:16 PMReply

    you've ruined planet of the apes for anyone who hasnt seen it
    primer is the best time travel film

  • Burnsy | September 29, 2012 8:46 AMReply

    Safety Not Guaranteed which of course isn't your normal time travel movie definitely should be noted. You honestly don't know what's up with this guy but by the end your amazed by his world and you start rooting for him.

  • happy happy joy joy | September 29, 2012 7:25 AMReply

    what about the classic time machine. George Orwell

  • ndg | September 28, 2012 8:05 PMReply

    More obscure but more entertaining than most on your list: Summer Time Machine Blues, Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea.

  • ted | September 28, 2012 5:45 PMReply

    Of course, "La Jetée" is probably the greatest time travel movie and it should have been given it's own entry, rather than just a mention under 12 Monkeys. I think Resnais' "Je t'aime, Je'taime" is superior to the other films you have listed. The only film I'd add is Hosoda's "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time," it's a wonderful anime. I wouldn't call myself a big fan, but I did enjoy Source Code and Safety Not Guaranteed.

  • callumq | September 28, 2012 3:42 PMReply

    La Jetee! Only 30 minutes long, later to be remade into 12 monkeys.

  • padre | September 28, 2012 2:59 PMReply

    "Somewhere In Time". I know some woman on your staff had to put forward that one, because guys always forget its existence. But EVERY woman ever loves that movie. Men just do not appreciate the power of that movie. It's bigger than Avatar and Titanic together to women. It is the Mt. Everest of Romantic movies. I'm kind of shocked it never got remade, since 3 generation of women would mob movie theaters, fighting to get in.

  • Archer Slyce | September 28, 2012 2:45 PMReply

    Again I'll try to avoid lengthy debates. So kudos to whoever picked Army of darkness (gutsy move indeed) but most of all thanks a lot for pointing out Time After Time ... what an great movie. It really should have been a classic.

  • rotch | September 28, 2012 2:11 PMReply

    worth noting that Primer's Shane Carruth worked as a "time-travel consultant" of sorts in Looper.

  • owdl114 | September 28, 2012 2:04 PMReply

    No Source Code? Shame about that. A terrific film that (I feel) too few people have seen.

  • DNM | September 29, 2012 4:46 AM

    Source Code was indeed an awesome movie for about 95% of its running time. But an awfully corny and irrational ending (an obvious last-minute marketing decision) makes it a barely above-average action movie, as a whole.

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