In 2021, the Marvel Multiverse was officially introduced as canon to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Disney+ series, Loki, the animated anthology, What If…?, and the blockbuster event, Spider-Man: No Way Home. Since then, it appears that the world has gone crazy for the Multiverse lately, with movies like Daniels’ astonishingly inventive comedic thriller, Everything Everywhere All At Once, and the newest Marvel movie, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, coming out in such close proximity.
However, this trend is really nothing new in Hollywood, as several popular titles and hidden gems alike have explored the bizarre and intriguing concept of alternate realities, whether that has meant, literally, sending characters into another dimension, experimenting with story structure from a different perspective, or the complexities of cause and effect. See for yourself by checking out these cool Multiverse movies and TV shows below - starting with another Marvel movie that pre-dates the MCU’s exploration of inter-dimensional travel.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)
After a radioactive spider bite gives a teenager (Shameik Moore) extraordinary abilities, an accident involving a strange machine brings him face-to-face with other beings like him, but from alternate realities.
Why it’s a great Multiverse movie: Before Spider-Man: No Way Home brought three cinematic Peter Parkers together, various, increasingly unusual variations of the webslinger from the comics (including Spider-Gwen and a pig named Spider-Ham) shared the screen in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - an Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature that spawned two upcoming sequels which will explore the Multiverse concept ever further.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)
Barry Allen (Justin Chambers) struggles to return to his world after waking up in another in which he has no powers, Bruce Wayne’s father (Kevin McKidd) is Batman, Superman (Sam Daly) is a government prisoner, and his mother (Grey DeLisle-Griffn) is still alive.
Why it’s a great Multiverse movie: Another great animated superhero movie about alternate realities is Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox - the first feature-length adaptation of the famous comic book arc in which the speedster accidentally creates an alternate timeline, before the upcoming DC movie, The Flash, used it for inspiration.
Crisis On Infinite Earths (2019-2020)
Why it’s a great Multiverse TV event: The CW’s The Flash TV series actually did their own version of Flashpoint, too, before the Arrowverse adapted one of the the most iconic cross-dimensional comic book events of all time, Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was told in five-parts - each one being an episode of a different series from the shared universe.
Stream Supergirl Season 5, Episode 9 on Netflix.
Buy Batwoman Season 1, Episode 9 on Amazon.
Stream The Flash Season 6, Episode 9 on Netflix.
Stream Arrow Season 8, Episode 8 on Netflix.
Stream Legends of Tomorrow Season 5, Episode 1 on Netflix.
Community - Season 3, Episode 4 (2011)
At a housewarming party, Jeff (Joel McHale) decides to choose who will bring up the pizza from downstairs by rolling a die, despite Abed’s (Danny Pudi) warning that it will create six different timelines.
Why it’s a great Multiverse TV episode: Another iconic TV event exploring alternate realities is “Remedial Chaos Theory” - one of the best Community episodes for how it cleverly (and often darkly) imagines how the simplest of decisions can result in a vast variety of different outcomes.
A young science prodigy (Jerry O’Connell) accidentally creates a portal that sends him and others on a journey through multiple parallel universes, hoping that the next slide is the slide home.
Why it’s a great Multiverse TV show: A TV series that specialized in cross-dimensional travel on a weekly basis was Sliders - a fun, unique sci-fi adventure from co-creators Tracy Tormé and Robert K. Weiss.
Altered States (1980)
A science professor (William Hurt) experiments with rare hallucinogenic drugs while floating in a sensory-deprivation tank and experiences startling visions of other worlds that begin to affect him both mentally and, supposedly, also physically.
Why it’s a great Multiverse movie: If experiencing life in another dimension sounds fun to you, you may think again when you see director Ken Russell’s Altered States - one of William Hurt’s best movies and one of most surreal horror movies ever made.
John Dies At The End (2012)
Two young slackers (Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes) become the only hope for humanity when a drug known as “Soy Sauce” sends users into alternate dimensions, but often with grotesque and deadly results.
Why it’s a great Multiverse movie: Multiversal travel by way of mind-altering and body-transforming substances is also the main concept behind John Dies at the End - a fun adaptation of David Wong’s inventive horror-comedy novel, from Phantasm director Don Coscarelli, that also stars Paul Giamatti and Clancy Brown.
The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (1984)
A rock star (Peter Weller) with a few other talents up his sleeve and his team race to prevent Earth from suffering an impending invasion by an alien race from a bizarre parallel universe.
Why it’s a great Multiverse movie: Another fun sci-fi movie about inter-dimensional travel starring Clancy Brown is The Adventure of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension - a delightfully zany, quirky, and visually arresting cult favorite from director W.D. Richter.
The One (2001)
A cop (Jet Li) goes head to head with his doppelgänger from another universe, who is hunting down every last alternate version of himself after learning he grows stronger with each kill.
Why it’s a great Multiverse movie: Another action-packed, but more earnest (in tone, at least), dimension-spanning adventure is The One - which then-retired actor Ke Huy Quan worked on as a stunt rigger more than two decades before starring in another thriller about a homicidal multiverse traveler - Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Mr. Nobody (2009)
In a futuristic utopia in which agelessness has been achieved and made universally common, a journalist (Daniel Mays) interviews the world’s last mortal man (Academy Award winner Jared Leto), but grows puzzled at which one of three life stories he tells is the truth.
Why it’s a great Multiverse movie: Another unique sci-fi flick about someone at war with his alternate selves (but less violently so) is Mr. Nobody - writer and director Jaco Van Dormael’s thought-provoking, visually astonishing, and inspiring meditation on the power of decision and consequence that is also, quite simply, one of the weirdest freaking movies I have ever seen.
Sliding Doors (1998)
The destiny of a young woman from London (Academy Award winner Gwyneth Paltrow), especially the outcome of her love life, hangs in the balance because of whether or not she manages to catch a train on time.
Why it’s a great Multiverse movie: A more grounded meditation on the power of decision and consequence whose exploration of alternate realities is more of an experiment in story structure is Sliding Doors - a romantic dramedy from writer and director Peter Howitt.
Run Lola Run (1998)
The lives of a young woman from Germany (Franka Potente) and her boyfriend (Moritz Bleibtreau) hang in the balance because of whether or not she manages to collect a large of sum of money within 20 minutes.
Why it’s a great Multiverse movie: Another (somewhat) grounded movie released in 1998 that experiments with story structure by exploring the concept of alternate timelines is Run Lola Run - a high-adrenaline instant classic from writer, director, and composer Tom Tykwer that is technically three films in one.
After a power outage hits London, a young, struggling musician (Himesh Patel) finds himself in a world where The Beatles never existed (among other pop culture phenomena) and uses his knowledge of their music to better his career.
Why it’s a great Multiverse movie: Other than Sliding Doors, perhaps the most lighthearted title on our list of multiverse movies would have to be writer Richard Curtis and director Danny Boyle’s romantic musical dramedy, Yesterday - which, unlike Sliding Doors, is more of a straight-up fantasy, but with, otherwise, grounded and relatable themes of losing one’s self to ambition.
A suburban dinner party takes a sour turn when a comet passes overhead, somehow causing an unusual situation that puts old friends at odds with one another and with their own selves.
Why it’s a great Multiverse movie: I am actually not at liberty to say anything else about Coherence because, just by including it on this list, I have already given away more about director James Ward Byrkit’s refreshingly clever, thoroughly haunting, and partially improvised brainteaser than I would like to.
I actually think that any film or TV show that deals with themes of alternate universes is best experienced with a clear mind. It makes me wonder if there is another reality in which a variant of myself has never seen or heard of the titles above, and gets to watch them all with a clean slate and for the first time. If anything could make me envious of an alternate me, it would certainly be that.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.