Time travel is something we all secretly wished we could do, no matter how cheesy it may sound. Even if it’s for fixing old mistakes, or changing some decisions we had taken, time travel seems like the perfect solution. But since we haven’t really leaned how to actually do this yet, books and movies are here to help us linger on. So here’s our list of the top 10 time travel movies you should see, according to smashingtops.com. Put the pie in the oven, light the candles, play the movie and dream on… The upcoming winter is going to be a long one.
1. Donnie Darko (2001)
The time-travel genre is treated with a heaping dose of teen angst in Richard Kelly’s moody, menacing and much-adored cult classic starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the titular troubled and supposedly schizophrenic high school student along with Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, and Patrick Swayze as a sleazeball motivational speaker. Time travel, a falling jet engine, and a dude in a bunny suit, almost indie movie Donnie Darko‘s got it all.
2. 12 Monkeys (1995)
Terry Gilliam’s 1995 sci-fi gem imagines the post-apocalyptic future as a filthy subterranean hell of steam, valves, and strange-faced overlords. Gilliam’s film tracks Bruce Willis’s test subject as he’s sent back in time to discover the cause of the viral outbreak that destroyed society. There, he falls in love with Madeleine Stowe and encounters Brad Pitt’s schizo would-be culprit, all while battling the psychological and emotional confusion wrought from jumping between decades. As in Marker’s film, the only constants in this topsy-turvy universe are love, death, and the inevitable failure of trying to change one’s destiny. This is a really good time travelling movie.
3. Somewhere in Time (1980)
Jeannot Szwarc (whose best-known previous credit was, weirdly, Jaws 2) helms this 1980 time travel romance, in which Christopher Reeve, who knows a little bit about time travel himself, having done that whole turning-the-world-backwards business in Superman, stars as a playwright who falls in love with a picture of Jane Seymour and travels back decades to romance her. How cheesy is that? A non-independent man is every girl’s turn off, but what can I say…
4. Time After Time (1979)
Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer adapted a novel about H.G. Wells chasing Jack the Ripper to 1979, where the Ripper attempts to recommence his life of crime in a more violent era. A classic of steampunk design — as well as a great spin on the “fish out of water” trope that comes with a lot of time travel, from the past or future to our own era. Malcolm McDowell is perfectly earnest as Wells.
5. Déjà Vu (2006)
Tony Scott’s under-appreciated 2006 thriller turns the time-travel movie on its head, creating a complicated (yet plausible — for the movies, anyway) computer system that first allows our hero, Denzel Washington, to look into the past, and then to travel into it. Fusing science fiction with domestic terror concerns and themes of post-9/11 government surveillance, this is truly a recent time-travel movie for the 21st century.
6. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2010)
There are a number of time-travel romances on film, including the disappointing adaptation of The Time Travelers Wife from a couple years ago. But this Japanese anime film might well be the best. It’s about a young girl, who accidentally gains the ability to travel through time and uses it to try and fix things in her life, only to fall for a boy who has a secret of his own. It’s a really beautiful coming-of-age story, full of wistfulness and the kind of yearning and forboding for the future that a lot of the best time-travel stories have.
7. Flight of the Navigator (1986)
The year is 1978: 12-year-old David Freeman (Joey Cramer), playing in the woods near his home, is knocked unconscious. He awakens and heads home, only to find strangers living there. He also finds that the year is 1986, and that he’s been officially missing for eight years. NASA officials determine that David was abducted by aliens during his blackout, and hope to scan the boy’s brain in order to unlock a few secrets of the universe. Answering the call of a strange, unseen force, David boards a well-hidden spaceship and takes off, guided by the jocular voice of a computer named MAX (voiced by none other than Paul Reubens, aka Pee-Wee Herman). Realizing that he can’t fit in to 1986 so long as he’s a child of the ’70s, David hopes to retrace the steps of his alien abductors and get back to his own time.
8. About Time (2013)
At the age of 21, Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) discovers he can travel in time. The night after another unsatisfactory New Year party, Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) tells his son that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time. So it wasn’t just about him being independent. Tim can’t change history, but he can change what happens and has happened in his own life-so he decides to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend. Moving from theCornwall coast to London to train as a lawyer, Tim finally meets the beautiful but insecure Mary (Rachel McAdams). They fall in love, then an unfortunate time-travel incident means he’s never met her at all. So they meet for the first time again-and again-but finally, after a lot of cunning time-traveling, he wins her heart.
9. Groundhog Day (1993)
While in actuality a non-time-travel film, Groundhog Day remains the pinnacle of the genre’s comedic entries. Forced to endlessly relive the same day over and over again, grouchy weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) reports on famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, avoids former acquaintance Ned (Stephen Tobolowsky), and woos his coworker Rita (Andie MacDowell) — and, once his Sonny and Cher-playing alarm clock finally begins driving him mad, tries a variety of ways to commit suicide. It’s a skipping-record nightmare that eventually becomes a vehicle for self-aware epiphanies, with Murray at his absolute funniest and most heartfelt. A classical must-see movie.
10. The Circus (1928)
For our number 10, Chaplin’s Little Tramp joins the circus, becomes a hit as a clown and falls for the star acrobatic performer with predictably bittersweet results. Featuring more belly-laughs than many of his more famous films, the 1970 reissue (with musical score by Chaplin) is available on dvd or Netflix. But the amazing thing about this movie is involving an event that takes place sometime in 2010, when George Clarke, a filmmaker from Belfast, posted a video to YouTube that has since received millions of hits. In it, he explains that he may have found the first evidence of time travel. In a short clip from the DVD extras included with Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 silent film The Circus, a woman walks by in the background talking into what appears to be a cell phone. As this movie has proven incredibly popular, it’s unclear why this hadn’t been spotted or discussed before.