Back to the Future: The 24 Best Time Travel Movies, Ranked

Ready to time travel?

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Universal Pictures

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Movies create escapism. And when it comes to movie genres or categories that create the most escapism, few do it better than films centered around time travel. Let’s face it—we’ve all had different imaginations about time travel, and have thought about traveling into the future to see what things will be like, or into the past to see what things were like in yesteryear. We can’t imagine anybody passing up on the opportunity to time travel if it were to ever become a possibility down the line (unless of course it meant you couldn’t return to present day), but if time travel does ever become a possibility, it probably won’t be in our respective lifetimes. That means we’re left with movies and our imagination. Here’s a list of the best 24 time travel movies to add to your watch list.

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24. The Terminator

Year: 1984

Can you believe this movie turns 40 next year? Starring Arnold Schwarznegger who began the role in 1984, The Terminator is about a cyborg assassin named Terminator (Schwarznegger) who disguises himself as a human time traveler on a mission to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). In this first film, the Terminator goes from the year 2029 all the way back to 1984 to accomplish the kill, which has to happen because Sarah’s unborn son is going to be the one to lead against Skynet. Seeing as though we haven’t yet made it to 2029, it will be interesting to see just how different the world is six years from now.


23. Looper

Year: 2012

Starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Lewitt, and Emily Blunt, Looper is about a future society where time travel does exist, but it is only available to those who have the funds to pay for it on the black market. Not only that, but when the mob wants to take somebody out, they do so by sending the target back into the past and right into the hands of Looper. It’s only a matter of time before a willing participant in the scheme gets caught up in the wrong way, and that’s exactly what happens when Joe (Gordon-Lewitt) becomes the victim of his bosses sending his future self (Willis) back in time to be killed. Wild.


22. Kim Possible: A Sitch in Time

Year: 2003

Yes, the millennial writer responsible for writing this article is putting this on the list. You’ve got to understand that this one of the most perfectly executed animated time travels ever. With the movie being a television series first, a lot of the questions we’d had for years got answered in this film such as how Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable became friends, and what Kim’s pre-teen years were like. Not only that, but as if it wasn’t obvious enough, we finally got confirmation that Shego should have been in charge of leading the pack the whole time. Fellas, sometimes you’ve just got to let the ladies run things.


21. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Year: 2004

Lots of you have recently become new Harry Potter fans thanks to Hogwarts Legacy. Allow us to introduce one of the best films in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which was released long before Hogwarts Legacy was even a concept. Centered around Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts, which is off to a dangerous start, time travel is needed for Harry and company to save the day. Warning: This is the third film in the series, and we personally feel that it’s necessary to have watched the previous two before jumping into this one just so you can understand everything (if you haven’t already read the books that is). You don’t have to, but we do recommend doing so.


20. Galaxy Quest

Year: 1999

When you put Sigourney Weaver, Tim Allen, and Alan Rickman on a set together, magic is bound to happen. And magic indeed happened in 1999’s Galaxy Quest, in which the struggling stars of a 1970s sci-fi show are beamed aboard an alien spaceship. Now the time travel element itself isn’t very long (which could disqualify the film from this list), the on-screen narratives in the film are actual real-life documented adventures, which makes this the perfect balance of fantasy and reality.


19. Source Code

Year: 2011

In Source Code, Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a helicopter pilot that’s a part of a top-secret military operation that allows him to experience the final eight minutes of a man who died in a commuter-train explosion. The good news is that the pilot gets multiple do-overs. The bad news is that each restart ends with him not saving the man and dying himself. And while multiple do-overs are given, it’s only a matter of time before there aren’t anymore left.


18. Men in Black 3

Year: 2012

If you’ve already watched parts one and two, then three is a must watch as J (Will Smith) has to travel back in time and team up with K’s younger self (Tommy Lee Jones) when K is killed by an alien criminal who escapes and goes back to the year 1989. A fun movie to watch for those are fans of the Men in Black series.


17. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Year: 1999

In Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure we get introduced to a young Keanu Reeves who is starting a band with his buddy Bill (Alex Winter). The two have a lot in common, including being on the verge of failing their respective history classes, which would send them both to military school. On the brink of running out of options, a time traveler from the future (George Carlin) comes down to help them by taking them to travel through different points in history. Very entertaining and slightly corny, which is the gist of 1980s teen movies as a whole.


16. Tenet

Year: 2020

It might be a tab bit too early to put Tenet on this seeing as though the movie just came out a couple of years ago, but the film is too good not too. Starring John David Washington, Tenet is about a secret agent who’s secret weapon is… a word. The agent is sent back in time to prevent the start of World War III, and has to travel through time and build laws in order for the mission to be a success.


15. Primer

Year: 2004

Anybody else remember Primer? It was this crazy movie about four engineers accidentally discovering/building time travel. As you all know when films like these, happy endings aren’t easily obtained, so there is a sinister element involved with them inventing this time travel device. Really good movie.


14. 12 Monkeys

Year: 1995

In 12 Monkeys Bruce Willis as James Cole, an imprisoned man in the 2030s that gets recruited for a mission to send back to the 90s. The mission involves Cole gathering information about a plague that is set to exterminate the entire population, and to makes things even harder, the only person that cares enough to help him is a man named Jeffrey (Brad Pitt), all while dealing with people in the medical field trying to gatekeep to prevent certain information from getting out.


13. Synchronic

Year: 2015

The title itself should tell you that this film is all about the essence of time, and this one is a bit different from some of the others we’ve listed as it’s about a physicist (Chad McKnight) who travels back in time to seduce a woman and prevent a tycoon from stealing his invention. Traveling back in time to prevent your invention from being stolen is understandable, but traveling back in time to seduce a woman is next level chaos. 


12. Edge of Tomorrow

Year: 2014

Here goes Tom Cruise saving the world again. With the planet under attack by unbeatable aliens that not even the military can defeat, Maj. William Cage (Cruise) is tasked with a suicide mission that involves him having to relive a fight that leads to his death over and over again. With each restart, Cage gets stronger, eventually leading to him becoming strong enough to take on those vicious aliens. 


11. Time Lapse

Year: 2014

Time Lapse is an underrated indie film in our opinion as it hasn’t been given a fair enough shot when it comes to making time travel movies lists. In it, three friends find a photo machine that delivers them pictures a day into the future. While it was cool at first, the machine quickly starts to shoot out disturbing and dangerous photos after the trio uses it for their own personal gain.


10. Groundhog Day

Year: 1993

We all know the deal with Groundhog Day. It’s either time for an early spring or several more weeks of winter. Now what about if you were reliving that same day over and over again. That’s exactly what happens when a weatherman goes on location to the town of Punxsutawney to film a report about Groundhog Day. Obviously the situation is an unwanted distraction, until he finds a way to use the time loop to his advantage.


9. The Butterfly Effect

Year: 2004

Starring Ashton Kutcher as a college student named Evan Treborn who experiences headaches so bad that it not only leaves him unconscious, but able to time travel while in a state of unconsciousness. Through his time travels, Evan is able to alter certain elements of both his life, and the lives of others around him to remove traumatic experiences. All seems well right? Wrong. Evan soon finds that altering the past has actually led to some devastating present events, including a scenario where he’s in prison.


8. Planet of the Apes

Year: 1968

No, not the 2001 version, the 1968 version. Planet of Apes centers around three astronauts on a futuristic planet ruled by apes. Not only can these apes walk and talk, but they also have something comparable to a social class and political system amongst them. So far the events of the Planet of the Apes films haven’t come to fruition in real life yet, but we hold out hope that one day they will.


7. Deja Vu

Year: 2006

Underrated. Do you hear us? Underrated. Starring Denzel Washington as an agent trying to capture a terrorist responsible for a bombing that left hundreds dead, time technology is used to allow the agent and his team to go back four days to try and track the guys movements and alter the course of history.


6. Donnie Darko

Year: 2001

Donnie Darko is about a teenager who encounters a demonic rabbit (yes, a demonic rabbit) who tells him that the world is set to end in 28 days. When he returns home to find a jet engine crashed into his bedroom, he has to deal with the question of whether or not he is suffering from grand delusions, or really living in an alternate universe.


5. The Adam Project

Year: 2022

This also might be a little early to put on an all-time list, but we’re going for it. Starring Ryan Reynolds, The Adam Project is about a time traveling fighter pilot by the name of Adam Reed (Reynolds) who teams up with his 12-year-old self to save the world. A bit of a different plot than what we’ve seen thus far from time traveling movies.


4. Back to the Future Part II

Year: 1989

There’s an on-going debate about whether the first Back to the Future movie or the sequel is the better film. While think it’s the former, there’s no denying that Part II holds its own against many time-traveling movies as the time traveling duo Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) returns from the future to find their own time warped when Marty’s father gets killed. Together the two have to battle time once again to change the outcome.


3. Predestination

Year: 2014

Ethan Hawke stars as a temporal agent set to embark on a final time-traveling assignment to stop a criminal from an attack that kills thousands of people. Sure we’ve seen this concept before with time travel films, but this one has so many twists and turns that it is almost impossible to keep up, making it one of the best in recent memory.


2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Year: 1991

The terminator wasn’t kidding when he said he would be back. Bad joke aside, Terminator 2 gave us another roaring time adventure as this time around the Terminator is out to kill a young boy (Edward Furlong) who is the key to civilization's victory over robots, which obviously the Terminator doesn’t want. This film is yet another element of what makes James Cameron…James Cameron.


1. Back to the Future

Year: 1985

1985. The year that started it all with Back to the Future. If you haven’t already seen this film, then you kind of have an idea of the plot from us talking about the sequel, but just to give you an overview, the first film introduces Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) as he time travels back to the 1950s when an experiment by his scientist friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) goes wrong. While traveling through time, Marty encounters many younger versions of his parents, and has to make sure they fall in love while also trying to save Doc Brown’s life. An all-time classic, so if you haven’t watched it yet, this is your message to do so immediately. 


Which one are you watching tonight? Make sure to keep up with us for more entertainment content and updates.

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