Films about time travel are my second favorite film genre after the post-apocalyptic genre. They are really fun films to watch and tell interesting stories and often present different theories on how time travel would work.
This is a list of my top 10 favorite movies dealing with time travel. I have listed them in chronological order, by year of release.
1. The Terminator
This first installment of the series was directed by James Cameron and released in 1984. It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role and Linda Hamilton as the women he is sent back in time to destroy. Michael Biehn plays the soldier that is sent back in time by her mother to protect her.
2..Back to the Future
This is my favorite installment of the franchise. It was released in 1985 and directed by Robert Zemeckis. Michael J. Fox stars as the teenager that takes a Delorean time machine back to the 1950s and meets his parents and becomes obligated to make sure that they get together, thus ensuring his own existence. Christopher Lloyd plays the inventor of the time machine.
3. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
For all of its flaws, including acting, I thought this was a fun film about a couple of high-school slackers that go back in time so that they can pass their history exam and ensuring the survival of the future. It was released in 1989 and directed by Stephen Herek. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter play the title roles and George Carlin (R.I.P.) plays Rufus, their mentor from the future that attempts to help their journey along.
4. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
This 1991 follow-up to the original was also directed by James Cameron. Arnold returns as the Terminator, only this time, it is a different Terminator that is tasked with protecting a younger version of John Conner, the son of the women the original Terminator was sent to destroy. Linda Hamilton also returns as Sarah Conner. Robert Patrick plays the villain in this film, an updated model of the Terminator.
5. 12 Monkeys
This film was directed by Terry Gilliam and released in 1995. It was based on a 1962 short film titled La Jetée. Bruce Willis plays James Cole, a prisoner from the future that is sent to the past to try to find out the source of the virus that wipes out most of humanity. Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt and Christopher Plummer also star in this film.
6. First Contact
This Star Trek film is my favorite of the “original” Star Wars films (that is, before the franchise was re-booted by J.J. Abrams). It was released in 1996 and directed by Jonathan Frakes. The crew of the Enterprise travel back to before warp drive was invented to ensure the inventor does not give up while Captain Pickard and Data fight off the Borg in the “present” timeline. Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Levar Burton, Michael Dorn, and Jonathan Frakes (among others) star as the Enterprise crew while James Cromwell plays Zephram Cochrane, the creator of the first warp drive ship.
7. Meet the Robinsons
This 2007 animated feature released by Walt Disney Animation Studios was directed by Steve Anderson. It was based on characters created by William Joyce in his children’s book A Day with Wilbur Robinson. A young boy nearly gives up on his dream of becoming an inventory while his son from the future travels back to his time to convince him to “keep moving forward” with his dreams and they both try to foil the plans of the villain who is trying to re-write history.
8. Men in Black 3
This third installment of the MIB series is the only one in the franchise to include elements of time travel. It was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and released in 2012. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones returns as the MIB agents, J and K. K disappears due to the timeline change effects caused by an old villain of his, Boris the Animal, played by Jemaine Clement. J must travel back in time to stop this from happening and gets help from a semi-familiar face, the younger K, played brilliantly by Josh Brolin.
9. X-Men: Days of Future Past
This 2014 installment of the X-Men franchise was directed by Bryan Singer and is loosely based on the 1981 comic book storyline of the same name. Logan, played by returning Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman, goes back to time to stop the Sentinels from wiping out mutantkind and bringing out an apocalyptic future for mankind. Patrick Stewart/James McCoy and Ian McKellen/Michael Fassbender return as Professor X and Magneto, respectively. Also returning to the franchise are Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Barre, Anna Paquin and Ellen Page. I also liked the introduction of the Bishop character in this film.
10. Terminator: Genisys
This most recent installment of the Terminator franchise was released in 2015 and directed by Alan Taylor. It more or less rebooted the franchise. It was more like a soft reboot because of the way it was done. Arnold returns as a Terminator. Jai Courtney plays the role of Kyle Reese, the role that Michael Beihn played in the first one and Emilia Clarke plays the role of Sarah Conner, replacing Linda Hamilton. Jason Clarke plays the role of John Conner who, for the most part, the entire franchise is about. Probably my second favorite of the entire franchise, after Judgment Day.