17 Underrated Sci-Fi Movies About Time Travel
Everyone and their mother knows about time travel movies like Back to the Future and Avengers: Endgame, but what about the underrated time travel movies? It's a sci-fi subgenre with plenty of room to maneuver; there have been virtually countless time travel movies since the dawn of filmmaking. Some films fare better than others - the less said about 2002's The Time Machine, the better - but we're here to focus on some of the hidden gems and/or underrated films of the genre.
From low-budget gems like Primer and Timecrimes to big-budget blockbusters like Men in Black 3 and Deja Vu. From comedies to anime to the foreign arthouse, time travel keeps reliably cropping up. There's a lot of room to maneuver in this particular subgenre, so get ready to dive deep. Remember to vote up your favorite underrated films about time travel.
- 1113 VOTESPhoto: New Line Cinema
Does it count as time travel if the only thing traveling back and forth in time are voices? The answer is an unquestionable yes, and though Frequency uses its time travel to tell a by-the-numbers murder mystery, that doesn't make it any less worthy. Buoyed by grounded performances from Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel, Frequency ends up being more than the sum of its parts.
There's nothing wrong with a classic thriller, especially when there are time travel hijinks involved. And if you thought Quaid and Caviezel weren't enough, let's bring Andre Braugher and Noah Emmerich to the party. The fact that it was directed by Gregory Hoblit, a man responsible for two of the most underrated thrillers of the past 25 years (Fracture and Primal Fear) is just a bonus. If you're a fan of any of these Hollywood players or time travel in general, you should give Frequency a look.
- 2101 VOTESPhoto: Buena Vista Pictures
Upon release in 2006, Déjà Vu was a minor hit for Tony Scott, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Denzel Washington. Critics were mixed on the film, and it has ended up as a footnote in the career of one of America's most celebrated actors. But Déjà Vu deserves better. Every film that comes out of Hollywood doesn't have to reinvent the wheel, and sometimes you're just in the mood for a competent, well-made drama. This one happens to be about a man who travels back in time to stop a domestic terrorist strike from decimating New Orleans.
If you keep your expectations at a reasonable level, there's a lot to admire about Déjà Vu. With a cast that features Washington and a host of gifted performers like Val Kilmer, Paula Patton, and Bruce Greenwood as well as competent direction from Scott, Déjà Vu is the kind of big-budget filmmaking that has gone away in the wake of Hollywood's neverending hunt for the next blockbuster franchise. Besides, who doesn't like watching Denzel do his thing?
- 361 VOTESPhoto: Warner Bros.
At a fundamental level, using time travel as a storytelling device lets the audience suspend disbelief a little bit more than they usually would. Case in point: 1979's Time After Time. Based on the novel of the same name, this film follows famous British writer H.G. Wells - author of timeless novels like The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds - as he uses a time machine to pursue Jack the Ripper into the future of 1979 San Francisco. It sounds more like fantastical fan fiction than a Hollywood studio film, yet here we are.
Though this movie has largely been forgotten to time, it actually works! Obviously, the film isn't to be taken all that seriously, and that ends up working in its favor. With charismatic leads as affable as Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen, it's easy to see why it succeeds. It's just delightful. And it's clear to see some people have fond memories of Time After Time as Kevin Williamson, of Scream and Dawson's Creek fame, brought a television version to screens in March 2017.
- 479 VOTESPhoto: Buena Vista Distribution
It may be hard to imagine now, but there was a time not so long ago when the Walt Disney Company was floundering. Before Michael Eisner and Frank Wells came in to turn the company around in the mid-'80s, the House of Mouse was in serious financial straits and the creative side of the company wasn't faring much better. One of the first projects released during the duo's successful tenure was 1986's Flight of the Navigator. This was a few years ahead of The Little Mermaid and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids setting the box office on fire to bring Disney back to the top, but that doesn't make Navigator any less worthy.
Flight of the Navigator is more a story of accidental time travel due to time dilation more than anything else, as the 12-year-old protagonist travels to a planet 560 light years away, and back, causing him to age just over two hours in a span of eight years. He sets off on an adventure to return back to his own time, and family-friendly fun is had by all. To be frank, it's heady stuff for a kid's movie and the special effects were top-notch for the time. A remake has been rumored for years, but for now let's stick with the undeniable charm of the original, thank you very much.
- 562 VOTESPhoto: United Artists
A few years before the iconic '80s song was released, The Final Countdown hit theaters. The film is about a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that travels through time to the day before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. It also stars two titans of cinema, Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen, as they ham it up in a B-movie blockbuster. The Final Countdown doesn't take itself too seriously and it doesn't expect its audience to, either.
The real star of the show is the massive amounts of actual Navy aircraft aboard the real aircraft carrier the filmmakers got to use for the production. The USS Nimitz, which is astonishingly still in use to this very day, served as a shooting location for The Final Countdown and it is glorious to behold. There are more than a dozen genuine aircraft vehicles that appear in the film and it lends an authenticity that is hard to fabricate. Come for Douglas and Sheen, stay for some awesome Navy realism.
- 679 VOTESPhoto: HandMade Films
If you're in the mood for a kooky sci-fi fantasy featuring an all-star cast, Time Bandits has you covered. Co-written and directed by Monty Python's Terry Gilliam, Time Bandits features Sean Connery, John Cleese, Shelley Duvall, Katherine Helmond, and Ian Holm in an adventure that could only be dreamed up by the man who brought you films like Brazil and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Seriously, Time Bandits is nothing if not a whole mess of fun.
Made for kids (and everyone who used to be kids) with vivid imaginations, Time Bandits follows 11-year-old Kevin as he becomes embroiled in a loopy time travel escapade. You know what kind of film this is going to be when an armored knight on horseback comes billowing out of Kevin's closet. It is so much fun. And hopefully you like dark comedy, because the ending of Time Bandits has a grueling fate in store for Kevin's parents.