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Time travel movies are an interesting genre of film. You usually only have two camps of fans of the genre: Those who can ignore time logic issues and just enjoy the movie for what it is, and those who can’t even watch a time travel movie without complaining every five seconds about all the holes in time logic presented in the film. For all those in the former camp (myself included), we can enjoy movies like the Back to the Future trilogy, which is now streaming on Netflix, for what they are—easy-going, enjoyable films that use time travel as a plot device, not as a way to teach hypothetical concepts.
And that goes for all the movies on this list, too (sorry, Interstellar and Primer fans). So strap on your seat belts, adjust your goggles, and make sure you have a barf bag handy, because we’re about to blast off into the fourth dimension by exploring some great time travel movies that are available on streaming platforms right now. And don’t worry about roads. Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.
Back to the Future
Back to the Future is not only the quintessential ‘80s movie, but also the quintessential time travel movie as well. It’s the story of a 17-year-old teenager named Marty McFly and his scientist friend, Doc Brown, (played by Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, respectively). The two of them have to fix the mess they made when Marty goes back in time 30 years in a time-traveling DeLorean. You see, Marty’s cool since he’s from the future. In fact, he’s so cool that his own mother falls in love with him and he has to make sure that his mom falls in love with his dad instead or he’ll cease to exist. It’s pretty much Oedipus: The Movie but with a time travel element attached to it.
And you’re in luck since the whole trilogy is now streaming on Netflix. That’s right, once you finish the first one, you can watch Part II, which partly takes place in the future, and the oft-ignored (but my personal favorite) Part 3, which takes place in the wild west. All three movies are far out and not heavy at all, which is good, since it means that there’s no problem with the earth’s gravitational pull.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Most excellent, dude! Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure was Beavis and Butt-head before Beavis and Butt-head ever existed. And it had a time traveling twist to boot! Bill S. Preston Esquire, and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Played by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, respectively) are traveling back in time to get an historically accurate history lesson so that they can pass their history class in the present. And they’ll have to pass, too, since the whole world depends on their band, The Wyld Stallyns, as their music is prophesied to be so epic that it will create a Utopian society in the future.
That’s the first movie. The second movie is a whole other thing entirely involving robots and playing board games with the grim reaper. It’s arguably not as good as the first movie, but it does feature Bill and Ted from the future letting us know that God gave rock and roll to us all. Plus, the impossible is happening with us now getting a trilogy, so you know you have to watch the first two movies again just to bone up. Station.
Terry Gilliam’s best film after Brazil (fight me), Time Bandits is about a little boy named Kevin (played by Craig Warnock) who is visited by six little people with a treasure map that shows holes in the spacetime continuum so that they can hop into different time periods. It’s kind of like Bill and Ted, but without the phone booth. And with John Cleese.
If you enjoyed the sci-fi romantic drama The Time Traveler’s Wife (which Racheal McAdams also stars in) then you'll likely also enjoy the sci-fi romantic comedy-drama, About Time. It's about a man named Tim Lake (Played by Domhnall Gleeson) who uses a hereditary gift to time travel to moments he’s already experienced before. Think of it as a sort of a rewind feature, but for your life. Tim wants to use this ability to fix his love life, only to realize that you can’t alter somebody’s feelings, even with time travel powers.
It’s a fun movie—at times—but also lays the drama on thick at just the right moments. And because it also stars Bill Nighy, prepare to tear up (I’m not crying. You’re crying!) at least once.
Stream About Time on Netflix.
It’s crazy to think that the biggest movie of all time is a time-travel movie, but that’s just the world we’re living in. You’ve already seen Avengers: Endgame, but just to recap. It’s the follow-up to Avengers: Infinity War where the remaining Avengers not snapped out of existence have to time travel to get all the Infinity Stones before Thanos gets them. It’s a race to the finish, and not everybody makes it out alive.
The Butterfly Effect
Ashton Kutcher stars in this pitch black thriller about a college student named Evan Treborn who has blackouts, but also finds that he can time travel back to his traumatic childhood with an adult mind. Of course, he tries to change things, but like the title of the movie suggests, even the littlest changes can have massive effects in the future.
The Butterfly Effect is one of the only movies that actually made me feel uncomfortable watching it in the theater. So maybe don’t watch it now If you’re feeling depressed, but definitely watch it eventually. It’s a great movie.
Stream The Butterfly Effect on Starz.
The Time Machine
Based on the H.G. Wells novel, the 2002 Time Machine movie stars Guy Pierce as Dr. Alexander Hartdegen. He creates a time machine and journeys 800,000 years into the future where he encounters two warring factions—the above-ground Eloi, and the below-ground Morlocks.
It’s not very close to the book, but Guy Pierce is pretty good in it. Plus, it’s the OG sci-fi story, so it definitely has that going for it.
Stream The Time Machine on Netflix.
Happy Death Day
Happy Death Day is pretty much a slasher flick version of Groundhog’s Day, and my God, is it wonderful. A college student named Theresa “Tree” Gelbman (played by Jessica Rothe) has to live (or should I say, die) over and over again until she finds out who her killer is.
Half the fun is seeing how Theresa is going to get killed next (but it’s PG-13, so don’t expect anything too grisly). Plus, her character grows from being unlikeable to a complete badass in a swift hour and a half. There’s also a sequel called Happy Death Day 2U that might actually be better than the original. Both are streaming on HBO GO.
And speaking of Groundhog Day, the Harold Ramis classic pretty much created a whole sub-genre of film—the repeat your life time-travel sub-genre (the great, Edge of Tomorrow, also lands into this category). A weatherman named Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) has to live out the same day over and over again until he starts to appreciate life.
What can I say about Groundhog Day that hasn’t already been said? It’s a funny movie, but it’s also kind of dark. It’s a crazy movie, but it’s also kind of deep. It’s a movie about not being a dick, but it’s also beloved by Buddhists. In other words, if you haven’t already watched Groundhog Day then stop reading this article and watch it right away.
Stream Groundhog Day on Netflix
As I said in the intro, time travel movies are more about the story than the logic. But time is, after all, only a human construct, right? Actually, don’t answer that question. I don’t have time to get into a long-winded debate with you. I have movies to watch, after all. Some again and again and again. So either my time is very valuable to me, or not valuable at all. But that’s a paradox that I guess I’m going to have to answer on my own.