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102 voters

17 Underrated Sci-Fi Movies About Time Travel

Updated May 2, 2021 571 votes 102 voters 3.3k views17 items

List RulesVote up the time-travel movies you should definitely make the time to see.

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.

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  • 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?

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Bill & Ted's Excellent Excellent Adventure is the well-regarded original, while Bill & Ted Face the Music is the unexpected franchise revival. This means Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey is the unfortunate middle child too often dismissed as inferior. In many eyes, however, Bogus Journey is unfairly maligned by the movie-going masses. The screenplay may not be as tight as Excellent Adventure and it may lack the nostalgic punch of Face the Music, but don't go sleeping on Bogus Journey.

    It's a juvenile comedy that also spoofs The Seventh Seal - what more could you possibly ask for? It has something for everyone, provided you go into a viewing with the right mindset. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are as game as they were in Excellent Adventure, but it's ultimately William Sadler who steals the show as Death incarnate. Roger Ebert put it best in his positive review, saying it is for "lovers of fantasy, whimsy, and fanciful special effects. This movie is light as a feather and thin as ice in spring, but what it does, it does very nicely."

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