Time travel movies have been done to death, and many time travel movies suck because they rehash the same old predictable tropes and cliches. But there's still a lot of potential left to be mined in the genre!
Despite the vast number of lackluster time travel movies, there have also been many notable films that came out in the past few decades—and that's on top of the sci-fi classics that still hold up.
At the end of the day, all movies are meant to deliver an entertaining experience for the viewer. With that in mind, here are what I consider to be the best time travel movies of all time.
Warning: I hate spoilers as much as anyone, so I've taken care to exclude spoilers from all movie descriptions in this article. However, knowing that a movie involves time travel could itself be a spoiler! Read on at your own risk.
25. Project Almanac (2015)
Directed by Dean Israelite
Starring Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Virginia Gardner
Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi (1h 46m)
Project Almanac is an underrated time travel movie that probably flew under your radar. Don't let the fact that it seems like a teen drama deter you from checking it out.
A group of high schoolers find something strange in an old home video, which spurs them to investigate—and uncover secrets plans for a time machine. They build it, of course, and that's when the trouble starts.
24. ARQ (2016)
Directed by Tony Elliott
Starring Robbie Amell, Rachael Taylor, Shaun Benson
Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller (1h 28m)
A strange energy-providing device causes a couple to be stuck in a time loop while being forced to defend the device against a group intent on stealing it. The setup is strange, the ending is stranger.
This low-budget film is really nothing more than a popcorn flick, but it's a fun ride as long as you don't think too deeply about it. Compared to other thought experiment-type time travel movies, this one's pretty good.
23. Click (2006)
Directed by Frank Coraci
Starring Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken
Comedy, Drama, Fantasy (1h 47m)
Using a magical universal remote, a workaholic finds himself able to skip ahead or rewind back to various points in his life. During those skipped times, his body continues to live on autopilot.
Don't be turned away by the fact that this is an Adam Sandler movie. In one of his best performances ever, Sandler effectively carries this funny-but-heart-wrenching story on his back.
22. Time Lapse (2014)
Directed by Bradley King
Starring Danielle Panabaker, Matt O'Leary, George Finn
Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi (1h 44m)
When three friends discover a machine that can take photos 24 hours in the future, things take a dark turn as each photo reveals more than they could've anticipated.
Smart writing makes up for the mediocre performances in Time Lapse. If you go into this indie film without much in the way of expectations, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
21. The Endless (2017)
Directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
Starring Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson, Callie Hernandez
Drama, Fantasy, Horror (1h 51m)
Sci-fi horror done well tends to be pretty rare, but The Endless is a shining example of when it goes right.
The film centers on two brothers who used to belong to an alleged UFO death cult when they were young. Years later, after they'd escaped, they both have different memories of what the cult was like—so they agree to return for one day to set the record straight.
What they find is that the supposed UFO death cult is nothing like how either of them imagined, and they end up embroiled in all kinds of mysterious happenings, including a time loop.
20. The Adam Project (2022)
Directed by Shawn Levy
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell, Mark Ruffalo
Action, Adventure, Comedy (1h 46m)
The Adam Project stars Ryan Reynolds as Adam Reed, a man from the future who goes back in time to save his wife. He's injured and takes refuge in his childhood home, but is accidentally discovered by his younger self. They work together to complete Adam's mission of saving his wife.
It's a simple story with Ryan Reynolds basically playing Ryan Reynolds—which is great, if you're into that—but what sets The Adam Project apart is the deeply moving emotional threads that undergird the characters and weave together into a surprisingly cathartic climax.
19. Primer (2004)
Directed by Shane Carruth
Starring Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden
Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller (1h 17m)
Four entrepreneurs accidentally invent a time travel machine, which ends up ruining their lives when they decide to give it a spin. Primer is the quintessential time travel film and a must-see movie for time travel fans who love poring over the tiniest details.
It's short (only 77-minute runtime) but insanely dense—the kind of movie you have to watch multiple times to really understand what actually happened, and even then you may not fully get it.
18. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson
Adventure, Comedy, Drama (1h 26m)
Safety Not Guaranteed is a comedy romance film centering on three magazine staffers who go out to interview a strange man who's looking for a partner for his upcoming time travel mission. They think it's all a joke, but the truth slowly shows itself to be something more.
While the actual act of time traveling doesn't play a huge role, Safety Not Guaranteed is a must-watch for anyone who's looking for a heartfelt drama that's well-written and infused with depth by a solid cast.
17. Triangle (2009)
Directed by Christopher Smith
Starring Melissa George, Joshua McIvor, Jack Taylor
Fantasy, Mystery, Sci-Fi (1h 39m)
In the wake of a yachting accident, a group of friends are rescued by what appears to be a mysteriously empty cruise ship. As they further explore the ship's interior, they encounter horrors unknown.
Again, well-done science fiction horror films are hard to come by, and Triangle stands out for its premise and execution, particularly in how time travel is revealed and incorporated. There's nothing groundbreaking here, but it's certainly interesting and memorable.
16. The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)
Directed by Robert Schwentke
Starring Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams, Ron Livingston
Comedy, Drama, Fantasy (1h 47m)
In The Time Traveler's Wife, Henry is a man who has a genetic anomaly that causes him to time travel. The thing is, he can't control when or where he travels to, and thus struggles to keep his marriage alive.
Based on the novel by the same name, The Time Traveler's Wife may not be able to capture the full magic that made the book so great—there's just too much content to fit into one movie—but it's still a stirring romantic drama with several twists and moving moments.
15. Timecrimes (2007)
Directed by Nacho Vigalondo
Starring Karra Elejalde, Candela Fernández, Bárbara Goenaga
Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi (1h 32m)
In the Spanish-language Timecrimes, an average man accidentally travels back in time one hour, unleashing a series of disastrous events. That's all you really want to know about this film before diving in.
More to the tune of mystery than action, Timecrimes is a flawless example of a "What actually happened?" narrative that asks you to puzzle things together as events unfold before you. The twists are plentiful here.
14. Palm Springs (2020)
Directed by Max Barbakow
Starring Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J. K. Simmons
Comedy, Fantasy, Mystery (1h 30m)
Palm Springs takes place at a wedding in Palm Springs, California. Two guests inadvertently get stuck in a time loop, reliving the same exact wedding day over and over, and try to find a way to escape.
The premise may not seem like anything special, but the performances by Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti elevate this film to new heights. Infused with comedy, drama, and romance, Palm Springs makes full use of its time loop situation to tell an impactful story.
13. Predestination (2014)
Directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Starring Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor
Action, Drama, Sci-Fi (1h 37m)
A time-traveling agent's final assignment is to track down the one criminal who he's never been able to capture. But the further down the rabbit hole he goes, the more mind-bending the truths become.
Predestination isn't just a time travel film. What sets this film apart from most sci-fi movies is how deftly it handles its deeper themes, how deep it's willing to go with its characters, and how expertly the narrative unfolds. It's truly one of the most complex time travel movies ever made.
12. The Butterfly Effect (2004)
Directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber
Starring Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Melora Walters
Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller (1h 53m)
A man discovers he has the ability to change the present by traveling back into the mind of his younger self, but around every corner await unintended consequences.
You've heard of "the butterfly effect" before, and The Butterfly Effect effectively takes that concept and turns it into a dark thriller. Ashton Kutcher stars in this film against type and delivers a surprisingly great performance in this gripping film about regret and control.
11. About Time (2013)
Directed by Richard Curtis
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy
Comedy, Drama, Fantasy (2h 3m)
A man who can travel through time decides to use his power to woo the girl of his dreams, but things aren't as easy as they seem—and the limits of his power cause him to make a tough and important decision.
With Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams taking the lead, About Time ends up being a romantic comedy that's far better than it has any right to be, complete with a superbly moving ending that's completely earned.
10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Adventure, Family, Fantasy (2h 22m)
It's Harry Potter's third year at Hogwarts and this time Lord Voldemort isn't his main concern. Instead, Sirius Black—the one who was suspected as betraying his parents—has escaped from Azkaban Prison and rumor has it that he's coming to finish Harry off.
Often praised as the best film in the Harry Potter franchise—thanks to impeccable direction by Alfonso Cuaron—The Prisoner of Azkaban isn't just a standout for its time travel subplot but also for its cohesive narrative that combines numerous themes with stellar cinematography.
9. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Directed by Doug Liman
Starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi (1h 53m)
In the face of an alien invasion, a soldier somehow ends up reliving the same day over and over every time he dies. He must somehow use this to his advantage and defeat the invading aliens while also finding a way to escape the endless loop in which he's trapped.
As far as time loop movies go, Edge of Tomorrow is one of the better executed ones. Not only is the tight story well-paced, but stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt put in excellent performances that carry the narrative forward from start to finish.
8. The Man From Earth (2007)
Directed by Richard Schenkman
Starring David Lee Smith, Tony Todd, John Billingsley
Drama, Fantasy, Mystery (1h 27m)
During a retirement party, an aging professor reveals that he's been alive longer than his colleagues can imagine.
The Man From Earth is best described as a "play caught on camera," delivering an engaging mystery that's built on the foundation of an interesting thought experiment.
Not many dialogue-only films are this riveting, which is why you should definitely give this one a watch.
7. Arrival (2016)
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi (1h 56m)
When aliens arrive on Earth, a linguist is brought to the frontlines to decipher their language and establish communications.
Easily one of the most cerebral science fiction movies ever made, Arrival takes things to the next level by exploring deep themes and ideas that few other films have dared to touch. You won't ever forget this one.
6. 12 Monkeys (1995)
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt
Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller (2h 9m)
In the year 2035, a convict is sent back in time to 1996 with one mission: to investigate the cause of a man-made virus that decimated the world. But his mission is sidetracked when he's sent back to the wrong time period and ends up in a mental hospital.
Featuring one of Bruce Willis's best performances, 12 Monkeys starts off slow but ends with a bang. There's a lot to love about this mind-bending movie if you can get through the slow but necessary setup.
5. Donnie Darko (2001)
Directed by Richard Kelly
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell
Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi (1h 53m)
A high schooler begins to see visions of a man in a deranged bunny suit who warns him that the world is going to end in a few days—and convinces him to commit all sorts of crimes and unsavory deeds to prevent the oncoming apocalypse.
Donnie Darko is a strange film with time travel elements that aren't as overt as in other time travel films. But if you're itching for a uniquely surreal film experience, it doesn't get much weirder than Donnie Darko.
4. Groundhog Day (1993)
Directed by Harold Ramis
Starring Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott
Comedy, Drama, Fantasy (1h 41m)
An insufferable weatherman finds himself caught in a time loop, reliving the same mundane day over and over again with seemingly no way out of it—and after thousands of repeats, it starts to take its toll on him.
Groundhog Day is a hilarious comedy that's also surprisingly deep if you're willing to unpack it, acting as a lesson in what really brings about happiness and self-improvement. If you're a fan of Bill Murray and haven't seen this yet, what have you been waiting for?!
3. Your Name (2016)
Directed by Makoto Shinkai
Starring Michael Sinterniklaas, Stephanie Sheh, Kyle Hebert
Animation, Drama, Fantasy (1h 46m)
One day, a high school boy in Tokyo and a high school girl in the countryside start swapping bodies, seemingly at random but only when they go to sleep. But then the swapping stops. The boy is compelled to find the girl, but investigating leads to a heartbreaking answer.
Your Name isn't just one of the best animated movies of all time, nor simply one of the best Japanese movies of all time, but one of the best, period. It's incredibly heartfelt with a climax that'll hit you in the gut.
2. Back to the Future (1985)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson
Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi (1h 56m)
A teenage boy from 1985 accidentally goes back in time thirty years with his mad scientist friend. Not only does he need to find a way home, but he accidentally puts his own existence in danger and must make sure his future parents end up falling in love.
Back to the Future is a classic time travel movie and you owe it to yourself to make it the next movie you watch if you've never seen it. Look past the 1980s cheesiness and you'll see an engaging story beneath it all.
1. Interstellar (2014)
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain
Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi (2h 49m)
With Earth on the brink of extinction, a team of astronauts must travel through a wormhole to find a new planet for humans to colonize. But journeying through outer space comes with all kinds of complications, and finding a habitable planet isn't going to be so easy.
For all its flaws, Interstellar packs a thrilling story on top of dazzling visuals and one of the most moving soundtracks of any film, period. This is the kind of film that'll have you thinking long after the credits roll, and for many reasons beyond just time travel.