The 25 Best Time Travel Movies to Whisk You Away from Reality

NETFLIX

Words by Amy Mackelden

Who wouldn’t love a time machine right about now?

Once reserved for the science fiction genre, time travel movies have since taken on a life of their own. Whether you’re a fan of unique romantic comedies utilizing time machines, or classic ’80s flicks transporting us to alternate decades, time travel films are the perfect escape for anyone needing a little time out from current events. From classic “time loop” jaunts such as Groundhog Day to unforgettable indie films like Donnie Darko, we’ve rounded up 25 of the best time travel movies you can stream right now.

Meet Cute (2022)

Kaley Cuoco and Pete Davidson co-star in Peacock’s Meet Cute, a delightful and often dark rom-com based around time travel. Feeling suicidal, Sheila (Cuoco) finds a time machine in a nail salon and decides to go back in time 24 hours. While re-living her first date with Gary (Davidson) again and again, Sheila loses touch with reality and might have destroyed any chance she had with him.

A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

High schooler Meg Murry travels through time and space in search of her missing astrophysicist father (Chris Pine). On her journey, Meg meets Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), as well as a whole host of dangerous beings.

The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)

Based on Audrey Niffenegger’s 2003 novel of the same name, The Time Traveler’s Wife tells the story of Henry (Eric Bana), a librarian who is able to randomly travel through time. After meeting Clare (Rachel McAdams) as a child, Henry later develops a romantic relationship with her. HBO’s recent adaptation starring Theo James and Rose Leslie has reignited the debate regarding whether or not the story promotes grooming, or if it’s a timeless romance.

Back to the Future (1985)

’80s classic Back to the Future has stood the test of time, and spawned two equally entertaining sequels. In the first film, Marty McFly is sent to the 1950s in his friend Doc Brown’s time machine, a super cool DeLorean. Marty meets his parents as teenagers, and his presence risks changing history forever.

See You Yesterday (2019)

Netflix’s See You Yesterday follows science prodigy C.J. (Eden Duncan-Smith), who invents time traveling backpacks. Along with her best friend Sebastian, C.J. uses her invention to go back in time to stop her brother from being murdered by a racist police officer. However, she’s also forced to face up to the limitations and consequences of time travel.

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About Time (2013)

Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) inherits the ability to time travel from his father, and decides to use the gift to find love. After a failed attempt at romance, Tim meets Mary (Rachel McAdams), but due to several time travel-related mishaps, romance isn’t instantaneous for the pair. Written and directed by rom-com aficionado Richard Curtis.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

James Cameron’s follow-up to 1984’s The Terminator was a smash-hit that cemented the franchise’s popularity. In the sequel, a killer T-1000 Terminator is sent back in time by Skynet to kill the future leader of the resistance, the son of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), John (Edward Furlong). At the same time, the resistance sends a reprogrammed T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to protect Connor.

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

Four miserable friends reunite after one of them nearly dies. To cheer themselves up, they decide to spend some time together at a ski resort. Unfortunately, the resort’s hot tub isn’t what it seems, and they accidentally end up traveling back to 1986. The four friends scramble to find a way back to present day. Starring John Cusack and Craig Robinson.

12 Monkeys (1995)


After a deadly virus destroys humanity in 1996, survivors are forced underground. Decades later, prisoner James (Bruce Willis) agrees to go back in time to find the original virus, so that scientists can work on a cure. However, he arrives too early in 1990, and is promptly institutionalized, where he meets Jeffrey (Brad Pitt), an anti-corporate environmentalist. From there, the mystery only gets more intriguing.

Looper (2012)

In the future, time travel is used by the mob to assassinate people, who are sent back in time and killed by assassins known as “loopers.” Joe’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) older self (Bruce Willis) is sent back to be eliminated, but manages to escape before he is killed. Thus begins a twisty time travel epic, that also stars Emily Blunt.

Tenet (2020)

The Protagonist (John David Washington), a former CIA agent, is tasked with stopping World War III. Learning to bend time, he attempts to prevent the destruction of the world. Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki co-star.

Last Night in Soho (2021)

Aspiring fashion designer Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) manages to travel back to the 1960s, where she meets singer “Sandie” (Anya Taylor-Joy). What starts as a glamorous encounter with the past soon becomings a horrifying nightmare. Co-starring Matt Smith.

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Déjà Vu (2006)

A top secret organization has developed the ability to see four days into the past, in order to catch criminals. While hunting a terrorist, ATF agent Doug (Denzel Washington) realizes that this new technology might allow him to stop crimes from happening altogether.

Source Code (2011)

An unusual riff on the time travel movie, Source Code stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Army Captain Colter, who is trying to identify the person responsible for bombing a commuter train. Re-living an eight minute re-creation of the moments leading up to the explosion, Colter is stuck in a terrifying loop, until he can solve the mystery.

Mirai (2018)

A young boy called Kun runs away from home, as he feels neglected by his family after the arrival of his little sister, Mirai. Kun accidentally discovers a time travel portal in a magic garden, and is transported into the past, where he meets his mother as a child. Later, he travels to the future, where he finds his sister as an adult, and completely changes his outlook in the process.

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

Aubrey Plaza stars as an aspiring journalist whose latest assignment involves a mysterious classified ad about time travel. “You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED,” the ad reads. Mark Duplass co-stars.

Groundhog Day (1993)

Although Groundhog Day is technically a “time loop” movie, it wouldn’t feel right to leave it off the list. Phil (Bill Murray) is a disgruntled weatherman sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. When he wakes up the next day, he realizes that he’s re-living February 2, which happens again and again, until he figures out how to stop it.

Needle in a Timestack (2021)

The wonderful Cynthia Erivo stars alongside Orlando Bloom, Leslie Odom Jr., and Freida Pinto in this romantic sci-fi flick. In the future, the wealthy are able to partake in “time jaunting,” but the ripples from these changes often cause timelines to warp and change. Needle in a Timestack focuses on a happily married couple whose relationship is jeopardized by an ex intent on changing history.

The Lake House (2006)

Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves star in this completely cheesy but endlessly loveable rom-com that defies time. Architect Alex (Reeves) and doctor Kate (Bullock) write letters to one another via a mailbox at a lake house where they both live at separate times. Despite the time difference, they’re able to communicate with one another and forge a relationship via this magical postal system that transcends time.

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Predestination (2015)

Ethan Hawke stars as an agent tasked with stopping a deadly attack before it happens, via time travel. Traveling back to 1975, he attempts to find and stop a bomber in New York, but his mission is far from simple. When he returns to the future, his life only gets more complicated.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure put Keanu Reeves on the road to superstardom. Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Reeves) are at risk of failing history class, until they discover a phone booth that allows them to travel through time. On their journey, they meet a series of historical figures who they enlist to help them pass their latest assignment.

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

The follow-up to 2017’s Happy Death Day gives the franchise a sci-fi twist. Although Tree (Jessica Rothe) solved her original time loop, the Babyface killer returns and stalks one of her friends. Thanks to an experimental quantum reactor created by her classmates, Tree finds herself trapped in even more time loops, and facing a multitude of creative deaths.

Donnie Darko (2001)

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Donnie Darko, a teenager who avoids a fatal accident because he was sleepwalking at the time. Following the incident, Donnie starts hallucinating a terrifying rabbit named Frank who announces that the world will end in 28 days. He’s also coerced into committing crimes, and develops an interest in time travel.

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)


In the second Austin Powers movie, Dr. Evil uses a time machine to steal Austin’s “mojo,” hoping to destroy his abilities as a secret agent. Austin meets CIA agent Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham) who helps him re-discover his “mojo,” and the pair uses the time machine to try to defeat Dr. Evil and his accomplices. Alongside time travel, viewers can expect ridiculous gags and multiple Mike Myers characters throughout.

13 Going on 30 (2004)

After being humiliated at her own birthday party, Jenna Rink wishes to be “thirty, flirty, and thriving.” Thanks to a packet of “magic wishing dust,” Jenna wakes up 17 years later, where she’s living her dream life. However, she soon realizes that she left her best friend Matty behind, and she tries to figure out what happened in the intervening years.

This story originally appeared in harpersbazaar.com