Science Fiction isn’t to everyone’s tastes. Described by Kuhn and Westwell in “A Dictionary of Film Studies” as “stories involving conflicts between science and technology, human nature, and social organization in futuristic or fantastical worlds, created in cinema through distinctive iconographies, images, and sounds often produced by means of special effects technology”, the mainstream sci-fi movie has proven, for many, a tough nut to crack… especially for the inexperienced filmgoer or those with preconceived notions moulded by the genre’s most famous offerings.
But, as any fan of the genre will tell you, elements of science fiction are prevalent across all genres in all forms of media, with film specifically looking to mold sci-fi to whichever other genre or sub-genre it can find, the results at times being spectacularly bad and at other times truly exceptional.
The concept of time travel is just one of the many ways that science fiction can be molded into something else, the very notion of travelling backwards (or far forwards) through time being inherently sci-fi but also lending itself to increasing the enjoyment of action movies, fantasy tales, comedies and even romantic dramas. Time travel is one of science fiction’s great means of philosophical exploration and presentation, and is therefore welcomed across all forms of cinema as a beacon through which films old and new can do the same.
It will be these films that we explore in this article; the very best of time travel outside of the straight sci-fi movie; some excellent examples of films that incorporate time travel without wholly immersing you in an entirely new world; a Top list of 5 Movies About Time Travel for People Who Don’t Like Sci-Fi.
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1. The Superhero Movie – Avengers: Endgame (2019)
If time travel movies are exceptional in any regard, it’s in the catharsis they can offer. There are arguably no more cathartic than Avengers: Endgame.
This slot could have gone to X-Men: Days of Future Past or even Deadpool 2, but no superhero movie has ever done time travel quite as effectively as Avengers: Endgame, Marvel Studios’ expectation-shattering series conclusion revisiting the franchise’s best moments in a time-hopping sequence relatable to Back to the Future and notably inspired by the same movie, the concept of time travel proving vital not only to the plot (the success of the Avengers’ mission), but just as important to character pay offs and gratification, stitching ten-plus years and twenty-plus movies into a cathartic conclusion for the franchise.
Time travel here is sci-fi, fantasy and action, all in the easy to digest but emotionally charged presentation Marvel Studios always offers, so while it may still be a little much to those against the very notion of science fiction, Endgame is undeniably a must-see touchstone of our culture and an unmissable time travel film.
Recommended for you: Every X-Men Movie Ranked
2. The Rom-Com – Groundhog Day (1993)
Few out and out romantic comedies have tested the waters of time travel, possibly due to the concept’s reliance upon taking certain themes seriously and therefore not making for the same snappy, throwaway goodness that most rom-coms strive for, but Groundhog Day is an outstanding example.
Bill Murray offers one of his very best, and certainly one of his most iconic, sarcastic leading men roles as a news reporter reliving the same day over and over again. There are many spiritual and religious theories that can be applied to the moral edge this film’s narrative takes, but at its heart Groundhog Day is a time travel rom-com about one man’s journey from bitter asshole to appreciative, loving asshole, and we all love Bill Murray just that little bit more for it.
A shout out also goes to 13 Going On 30 for its reverse-Big time travel amalgamation that won the hearts of millennials the world over.