The best time travel movies you can watch right now

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Is there anything more mind-bending than the concept of time travel?

It’s a sci-fi staple that goes hand-in-hand with so many complex theories and possibilities that it’s something of a double-edged sword in movies: the fictional possibilities are endless, but then so are those of plot holes.

Despite this, there are plenty of films that have got it right — from the sacred timeline bending of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Christopher Nolan’s wormhole odyssey — and we’ve driven a Delorean time machine back through recent decades to track them down for you.

Below are some of the best films about time travel — or that involve some element of time travel — that you can watch on your screens this very minute (or at some time in the future, if you prefer)…

1. Primer

Two men stand on the left hand side of an airport scene, bathed in green light.

Shane Carruth’s ‘Primer’ is an uncompromising time travel movie. Be prepared.
Credit: Thinkfilm / Kobal / Shutterstock

What’s it about?

After two friends accidentally discover a way of travelling back through time, they attempt to use their invention to make money on the stock market. But their plan goes badly wrong.

Why should you watch it?

OK, fair warning: Primer might be the most ambitious and intelligent movie about time travel ever made, but it’s also brain-meltingly complex. When I first saw this 2004 film, I finished it without the faintest idea of what I’d just watched, and it was only after viewing a 23-minute animated YouTube explainer that I came even close to understanding how it all worked.

All of which is to say that the film might not be for everyone. It’s pretty uncompromising. Writer/director Shane Carruth refuses to simplify things or offer any neatly wrapped-up explanations, leaving us to piece together events ourselves as best we can.

Still, if you like your time travel movies realistic and thought-provoking, this is the one to go for.

How to watch: Primer(opens in a new tab) is now available to rent or buy on Prime Video(opens in a new tab), Apple TV(opens in a new tab), or Google Play(opens in a new tab).

2. Donnie Darko

A man, a woman, and a person in a rabbit suit sit in a cinema.

“Do you believe in time travel?”
Credit: Dale Robinette / Flower / Gaylord / Adam Fields Prod / Kobal / Shutterstock

What’s it about?

After a jet engine crashes through the ceiling of his house, a high school teenager is plagued by nightmarish visions.

Why should you watch it?

Where do I start? I’ll attempt to write this section without lapsing into embarrassing over-excitement, but it won’t be easy. The thing is, Donnie Darko isn’t just one of my favourite time travel films — it’s also one of my all-time favourite films, full-stop. The movie has that unique combination of mystery, humour, coming-of-age angst, and Jake Gyllenhaal that all combine to make what is essentially a perfect viewing experience.

The possibility of time travel hangs over the film like a shadow — an extension to the mystery of Donnie’s visions — before coming to the forefront at the very end. The result isn’t quite up there with Primer levels of confusion, but it’s still a film that cries out for a rewatch.

How to watch: Donnie Darko(opens in a new tab) is now streaming on HBO Max in the U.S.(opens in a new tab) and on Shudder in the UK.(opens in a new tab)

A woman points a finger in protest but it appears to be sausages.

One of the biggest movies of 2022.
Credit: Allyson Riggs

What’s it about?

It’s better if we don’t tell you but the word multiverse is all you need.

Why should you watch it?

This iiiiiiis the story of a girl…(also here’s our review).

How to watch: Everything Everywhere All At Once(opens in a new tab) is now available to rent or buy on Prime Video(opens in a new tab) and Apple TV(opens in a new tab).

A group of superheroes stride forward on the battlefield.

The gang all together.
Credit: Marvel Studios

What’s it about?

After 10 years and 20-something films, the big (sort of) finale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s Avengers series, Endgame, is exactly that — the final play for our heroes. After the genocidal Thanos clicks out half the planet by channeling the power of the coveted Infinity Stones, our pals Captain America, Iron Man and co. need to pull themselves together and restore balance (and half of their friends) — and they’ll need time on their side for that…

Why should you watch it?

Aside from the fact that it was one of the biggest film events of 2019, Endgame pulls pretty much every thread of the previous films together in one colossal ride of smug fan service, compelling character arcs, and yes, time travel!

Fans of the MCU were slightly worried that time travel could wreak havoc on the final instalment of the series, but thankfully, Endgame brought the time-bending goods — or rather threw glitter at us while we puzzled over how it was all working out. Thankfully, Mashable’s Ali Foreman broke down exactly how time works in Endgame if you’re confused. And yes, while some (hello) might puzzle themselves into oblivion figuring out their “wait a minute, what about ____”s, as Mashable’s Angie Han put it, “Who’s stressing about the logistics of this twist or that one, when everyone around you is screaming with joy over the big reveal?” If you want more Marvel time travel business, hit up Doctor Strange. — Shannon Connellan, UK Editor

How to watch: Avengers: Endgame(opens in a new tab) is now streaming on Disney+.(opens in a new tab)

5. See You Yesterday

Two young people in backpacks, one wearing a NASA t-shirt, stand in a garage.


Credit: Netflix

What’s it about?

Teen science geniuses C.J. and Sebastian create backpacks that enable time travel — and they’ll use them to try and reverse a tragic, violent event.

Why should you watch it?

There’s a lot to love about this feature from first-time filmmaker Stefon Bristol. See You Yesterday stars newcomers Eden Duncan-Smith and Danté Crichlow in a time traveling adventure that forces viewers to really look at the multitude of possible personal choices and random occurrences that end with another Black American murdered by police.

What starts out as a fun and light-hearted adventure turns increasingly hopeless and soul-crushing as C.J. (Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Crichlow) try using their newly invented time travel device to save C.J.’s brother from a thickheaded cop with a gun. Back to the Future star Michael J. Fox even shows up in a wonderful (and heavily winking) cameo that plays like a passing-of-the-torch moment. See You Yesterday is one of many Netflix originals that is more than worth your time. — Adam Rosenberg, Senior Entertainment Reporter and Editor

How to watch: See You Yesterday(opens in a new tab) is now streaming on Netflix.(opens in a new tab)

Two people float on colourful pool toys staring at each other.

Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg in ‘Palm Springs.’
Credit: Chris Willard / Jessica Perez

What’s it about?

Two strangers, Nyles and Sarah, get stuck in a time loop at a wedding in Palm Springs, California.

Why should you watch it?

It’s one of the best films of 2020. When Palm Springs arrived in July, most movie releases were postponed inevitably because of the pandemic — yet here was a movie, a new movie, a festival darling, about people going quietly insane with monotony and losing grip on time itself.

Max Barbakow’s film showcases a cheerfully nihilistic Andy Samberg, along with Cristin Milioti in her best work to date as his increasingly frenzied companion, in “one of those infinite time loop situations you might have heard of.” Their chemistry makes Andy Siara’s script soar, leaving ample room for J.K. Simmons’ sinister interludes and just the right amount of time travel interrogation. It’s a sharp, original comedy worth revisiting again, and again, and again.* — Proma Khosla, former Senior Entertainment Reporter

How to watch: Palm Springs(opens in a new tab) is now streaming on Hulu in the U.S.(opens in a new tab) and on Prime Video in the UK.(opens in a new tab)

A woman and man walk with their arms around each other.

Zoe Saldana and Ryan Reynolds in “The Adam Project.”
Credit: Doane Gregory / Netflix

What’s it about?

Ryan Reynolds is on top deprecating form in Shawn Levy’s The Adam Project, a time-travelling family adventure about a man who is forced to journey back in time, joining forces with his dad and his younger self in a chaotic attempt to avert future catastrophe. Zoe Saldana, Mark Ruffalo, and Jennifer Garner all put in strong supporting performances but the real star of the show is 12-year-old Walker Scobell, who plays young Adam with a perfectly dry sarcasm that makes him an easy sparring partner for his older self.*

Why should you watch it?

For fun! As Mashable’s Proma Khosla wrote in her review, “Plot holes and worldbuilding take a backseat to charming performances and entertaining visuals that make this neat 100-movie worth a watch.”

How to watch: The Adam Project(opens in a new tab) is now streaming on Netflix.(opens in a new tab)

8. The Butterfly Effect

Two people sit opposite one another in a diner.

Amy Smart and Ashton Kutcher in 2004’s highly panned but misunderstood “The Butterfly Effect.”
Credit: Film Engine / Kobal / Shutterstock

What’s it about?

A man discovers he can travel back in time by reading passages from his childhood journal.

Why should you watch it?

2004 (apparently a big year for time travel movies) saw the release of both Primer and The Butterfly Effect. But unlike Primer, The Butterfly Effect got absolutely hammered by the critics, racking up a memorably terrible 33 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. So why has it made this list?

Well, because those critics were wrong. The Butterfly Effect may not be as realistic as other time travel movies, but it’s fun, dammit (it’s also worth noting that audiences rated the film a much better 81 percent, and five years after it came out the Guardian even published a piece arguing that it “fell victim to snobbery” at the time). In my opinion it’s an eminently watchable film, which uses its time travel element to build tension by gradually revealing the dark childhood memories the main character has been repressing — then opening up the question of what might happen in the present and future if he were able to change them (as you probably guessed, this turns out not to be such a great idea after all).

If you’re looking for a movie that makes you think, go with Primer. But if you’re looking for escapism, you could do a lot worse than The Butterfly Effect.

How to watch: The Butterfly Effect (opens in a new tab)is now streaming on Hulu in the U.S(opens in a new tab). and on Prime Video in the UK.(opens in a new tab)

9. Happy Death Day

A woman in a hospital gown doesn't realise someone in a creepy baby mask is behind her.

Once you’re done with the first film, head right into the second.
Credit: Universal Pictures

What’s it about?

After a university student is murdered on her birthday, she wakes to relive the same day over and over again.

Why should you watch it?

Time loops count as time travel, right? Sure they do. Admittedly the sci-fi element is more of a background plot device in Happy Death Day — which is essentially a slasher with some black comedy elements — but I couldn’t resist including it because it’s so much fun. There’s the baby mask-wearing, seemingly-everywhere-at-once killer, the central whodunnit (or whokeepsdoingit) mystery, and the journey of watching main character Tree (played brilliantly by Jessica Rothe) go from a fairly unpleasant stereotype to an awesome hero that we all root for.

If you’re a fan of ’90s slasher movies, Groundhog Day, and films that don’t take themselves too seriously, this is the one for you.

How to watch: Happy Death Day(opens in a new tab) is now available to rent or buy on Apple TV(opens in a new tab), Prime Video(opens in a new tab), or Google Play(opens in a new tab).

10. Interstellar

Three astronauts consider plans on a table within a spaceship.

Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and David Gyasi in “Interstellar.”
Credit: Paramount / Warner Brothers / Kobal /S hutterstock

What’s it about?

A team of astronauts travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a habitable planet.

Why should you watch it?

Worm Holes. Space travel. A giant black hole. That’s already every sci-fi nerd’s dream, but when you add in the sweet allure of time travel it takes things to a whole new level. And Interstellar does have elements of time travel, although going in to too much detail about them leads us down a slightly spoiler-y rabbit hole I’m keen to avoid. Suffice it to say this one is an absolute Christopher Nolan epic, and if the last couple of decades have taught us anything at all, it’s that a) Nolan’s twisty films are almost always worth a watch, and 2) he’s clearly something of a time travel nerd — one of his earliest releases, Memento, was told backwards, and his 2020 film Tenet delves even deeper into the concept — this time, using time as a weapon.

How to watch: Interstellar(opens in a new tab) is now streaming on Paramount+ in the U.S.(opens in a new tab) and on NOW TV in the UK.(opens in a new tab)

11. The Terminator

A man in a leather jacket points a gun.

“I’ll be back” but when?
Credit: Sunset Boulevard / Corbis via Getty Images

What’s it about?

A robot sent back in time to kill the mother of humankind’s future saviour.

Why should you watch it?

You’ve probably already seen this classic, but if for some terrible reason you haven’t, it’s high time that you corrected that error post-haste. Because this film has everything. Robots. Time travel. The terrifyingly-chiselled, expressionless form of Arnold Schwarzenegger, punching his way through walls and humans alike with all the force and emotion of a bulldozer. God, it’s good. And it goes without saying, but the minute you finish watching it you should obviously get out there and watch the sequels, too (especially the second, which has the only thing in this world that’s better than one time-travelling robot sent from the future: two time-travelling robots).

How to watch: The Terminator(opens in a new tab) is now streaming on Prime Video(opens in a new tab).

12. Back to the Future

Two people in '80s clothing sit huddled together outside a house.

Lea Thompson and Michael J. Fox.
Credit: Corbis via Getty Images

What’s it about?

A teenager and an eccentric scientist travel back in time 30 years using a Delorean time machine.

Why should you watch it?

Another one you may well have seen, but another one that couldn’t possibly be omitted from the list. The Back to the Future franchise may well be the most famous time travel movie saga of all time (it’s at least up there with Terminator), and there’s a good reason for that. The series is wildly entertaining, taking an amusing approach to time travel that sees main character Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) interacting with his teenage parents in order to tweak the present (something The Butterfly Effect teaches us probably isn’t the best idea, even though it seems to work out OK for Marty and Doc and in the end). Then you’ve got Back to the Future Part II (which follows the gang as they travel forwards to the futuristic days of, cough, 2015), before the third and final part of the series has them going all the way back to the Old West. What a ride.

How to watch: Back to the Future(opens in a new tab) is now streaming on Peacock in the U.S.(opens in a new tab) and on Prime Video in the UK.(opens in a new tab)

13. About Time

A man in a suit and a woman in a red dress sit casually on the couch.

‘About Time’ is a time travel movie with a romantic twist.
Credit: Translux / Kobal / Shutterstock

What’s it about?

A family with a bit of a time travel gene — literally. Father and son duo Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) and James (Bill Nighy) share a mysterious ability to travel back in time. Quite handy to have up your sleeve if you have a propensity to muck things up the first time around.

Why should you watch it?

If you’re a fan of Notting Hill, Love Actually, or any of Richard Curtis’ movies, then you’ll probably love this one, too. It’s time travel with a romantic twist to it.

Tim starts off using his time travel ability to go back to the start of the summer to inform his sister’s friend Charlotte (Margot Robbie) that he has a crush on her. When he realises that timing isn’t so much the issue, but rather Charlotte’s permanent lack of interest in him, he abandons ship. When he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams), the time travel ability comes in handy again, when he turns into a bumbling fool who fails to act on his (very strong) feelings. Without giving away any spoilers, it’s an utterly charming, romantic film that’ll make you sob your little heart out. — Rachel Thompson, Features Editor

How to watch: About Time(opens in a new tab) is now streaming on Tubi in the U.S.(opens in a new tab) and on Prime Video in the UK.(opens in a new tab)

14. 12 Monkeys

Two men sit on a hospital bed.

Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis in ’12 Monkeys’.
Credit: Phillip Caruso / Polygram / Kobal / Shutterstock

What’s it about?

A man travels back from 2035 to the ’90s in order to try and stop the outbreak of a deadly virus.

Why should you watch it?

This one isn’t quite up there on Terminator and Back to the Future levels of fame, but it isn’t far off. Directed by former Python Terry Gilliam and starring the likes of Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt, 12 Monkeys is one of those rare films that actually manages to pull off its massively ambitious premise. And it is massively ambitious: the movie incorporates the shadow of a future apocalypse, mysterious organisations, and multiple instances of time travel into its two-hour run-time, not to mention more twists than you can shake a dozen primates at.

If you want a fast-paced watch that will leave you thinking at the end, 12 Monkeys might be the one to go for.

How to watch: 12 Monkeys(opens in a new tab) is now streaming on Starz in the U.S.(opens in a new tab) and on BBC iPlayer in the UK.

* Asterisks indicate the writeup is adapted from another Mashable article.





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