Time-Travel Movies (that aren’t ‘Back To The Future’)

Time-travel in movies has been around since, well, since there were movies. Yet since the…

Time-travel in movies has been around since, well, since there were movies.

Yet since the ’80s, one movie has come to define time-travel and that’s ‘Back To The Future’. Indeed, you can’t even make a time-travel reference in a semi-serious movie and not have some mention of Doc Brown, the DeLorean, or Michael J. Fox.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of what we feel are some of the best time-travel movies – that aren’t ‘Back To The Future’. We’ve set no rules, which means we have time-loops and time-travel in each of the movies.

Take a look.

 

10. ‘FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR’ (1986)

It’s been mooted for a remake for years, but this overlooked classic really does shine to this day. A young boy mysteriously time-jumps ahead, but remains the same age and, somehow, now knows how to fly an alien spacecraft. Starring then-unknowns Sarah Jessica Parker and Paul Reubens as the voice of Max, ‘Flight of the Navigator’ was the kind of movie you’d expect the likes of JJ Abrams or Colin Trevorrow to make today. Indeed, Colin Trevorrow was lined up to direct a remake, but nothing ever came of it.

 

9. ‘PRIMER’ (2004)

A movie so dense, so numbing and complex that it requires a flow-chart to understand it, ‘Primer’ is an apt example of just how deep time travel can get. Made for a paltry $7,000, the movie became a cult hit for its unique take on the topic. Shane Curruth, who wrote, directed, produced and starred in the film, holds a degree in mathematics and was an engineer prior to making the film – and it shows. It takes in the philosophical implications of time travel, choosing not to give any easy answers or outright implications. It’s a fascinating watch.

 

8. ‘LOOPER’ (2012)

Although it’s more known for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s dodgy makeup to resemble Bruce Willis, ‘Looper’ was inventive in how it took time travel to its logical conclusion. Of course it would be outlawed and of course crime syndicates would use it for their own end. What’s also really cool is how the Loopers themselves have that same sort of fatalism we see in stereotypical youth on screen. They don’t care if they shoot themselves in the future, they’re too busy enjoying life now to care. Featuring a fantastic performance by Levitt and one of the few remaining movies of recent years in which we can take Willis seriously in, ‘Looper’ is a smartly-made, classy sci-fi actioner.

 

 

7. ‘STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME’ (1986)

Trivia time! Eddie Murphy was very, very close to starring in ‘Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home’. As an avid and lifelong fan, Murphy was originally slated to star as the whale biologist played by Catherine Hicks. However, Murphy was unhappy with the role and opted to make ‘The Golden Child’ instead, a decision he later came to regret. Still, ‘The Voyage Home’ is one of the better ‘Star Trek’ movies because it taps into great, fish-out-of-water comedy that director Leonard Nimoy does so well. He did, after all, make ‘Three Men And A Baby’, arguably one of the best comedies of the ’80s. Not only that, ‘The Voyage Home’ refuses to take itself seriously and earnestly tries to capture the strangeness of depositing 23rd century people into ’80s San Francisco.

 

 

6. ‘SOMEWHERE IN TIME’ (1980)

Written by sci-fi legend Richard Matheson and based on his novella, ‘Somewhere In Time’ is a lush romance about a writer played by Christopher Reeve who, through self-hypnosis (really?), manages to travel back to 1912 to meet Jane Seymour. There, an affiar flourishes between the two, though Seymour is being managed and coralled by Christopher Plummer. It’s a bit schmaltzy, sure, but there’s one particular scene that is both haunting and beautiful; Jane Seymour talks about finding love in the most unexpected place as she’s in the middle of a play. If it doesn’t make you choke up a bit, you’re a robot.



 

 

5. ‘DONNIE DARKO’ (2001)

Mixing teenage angst, a cracking soundtrack and heady sci-fi philosophy, ‘Donnie Darko’ was one of the biggest movies of 2001. A star-making role for Jake Gyllenhaal, it featured a talking rabbit, tangent universes, Living Receivers, Patrick Swayze as a cult leader, Echo And The Bunnymen and one of the best continuous scenes we’ve seen in years. It’s such a shame that director Richard Kelly never managed to enjoy the same level of success with other efforts like ‘The Box’ and ‘Southland Tales’, as both movies truly are overlooked. ‘Donnie Darko’, however, possesses a kind of mystique about it that isn’t easily explained, but feels present in every scene.

 

4. ‘SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE’ (1972)

Based on Kurt Vonnegut’s novel of the same name, Slaughterhouse-Five deals with a man who is “unstuck in time”, as he describes. Living his life out of linear order, he experiences World War II as a prisoner of war and during the notorious bombing of Dresden, through to family life and, bizarrely, life on the alien planet Tralfamadore. Vonnegut’s bizarre satire is perfectly captured here by master filmmaker George Roy Hill, who worked on the Robert Redford / Paul Newman classics ‘Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid’ and ‘The Sting’.

 

3. ‘EDGE OF TOMORROW’ (2014)

How this movie was passed over by audiences remains a mystery to this day. A mixture of Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Starship Troopers’ with ‘Groundhog Day’ shouldn’t work, yet somehow, it absolutely did. Based on the novel by Hiroshi Sakazura, he got the idea from playing videogames and how, each time, he was landed back at the start. Such a simple idea, really, and yet it works so well. Tom Cruise works perfectly as the sheepish, sleazy PR agent who’s dropped into the middle of a D-Day style invasion of Europe and gains the ability to relive the same day over and over again. Guiding him through the process is Full Metal Bitch herself Emily Blunt, who had the same power, but ended up losing it. Again, it’s bonkers when you say it out loud – but it works so well.

 

2. ‘TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY’ (1990)

It really does speak to its place in sci-fi that, when speaking about time travel, it’s either ‘Back To The Future’ rules or ‘Terminator’ rules. Anyone remember that South Park episode with the Goobacks? Exactly. ‘Terminator 2’ feels far more effective as a time-travel story because we have not only killer robots from the future running around, but also characters haunted by both the past and the future. Sarah Hamilton’s bug-eyed intensity really gives the movie some emotional grounding, not to mention the groundbreaking special effects which still hold up to this day.

 

1. ‘GROUNDHOG DAY’ (1993)

It might be an obvious choice, but ‘Groundhog Day’ is one of those movies – pardon the pun – that stands the test of time. Twenty-eight years on, it’s still as fresh, inventive, heartwarming and funny as ever. Murray, in a career-best performance, marvels as Phil Conners, the self-centred weatherman who is doomed to repeat February 2nd over and over again until he can win the heart of producer Andie MacDowell. Easily Harold Ramis’ greatest work, ‘Groundhog Day’ offers an insight into what exactly happens when you’re forced into the same routine, over and over again.