25 Cult Time Travel Movies That Are Worth Your Time

9. Idaho Transfer (1973)

Idaho Transfer (1973)

“In the Earth Year 2029 there are only twelve young people left. They should be trying to start a new civilization… instead they’re trying to kill each other!” [14]. The government has been able to create a time travel device and have discovered that an ecological catastrophe will soon eliminate the whole population of earth.

The effects of the time travel on older people is too destructive, so they have created a team of young people under the age of 20 to try and repopulate 56 years into the future. The government shuts the program down and they end up becoming trapped in the future. Then things turn into Lord of the Flies as each of them is killed off.

A very strange and unusual low budget 1970’s film noted for being directed by Peter Fonda. The film was shot for around $150,000 and featured a bunch of unknown unprofessional actors. It is very reminiscent of the era of the 1970’s, and its bizarreness is something that will make you either love it or be bored to death. The end of the film has a pretty big twist.


10. Time after Time (1979)

Time After Time (1979)

“The Wildest Chase of the Century!” [15]. Combining two iconic figures of Britain, British author H.G. Wells (Malcolm Mcdowell) goes in pursuit of Jack the Ripper (David Warner), into 1979 San Francisco. Wells displays his time machine to a group of dinner guests in 1893, one of which is secretly Jack the Ripper.

Knowing that he is soon to be caught, John Leslie Stevenson, AKA Jack the Ripper, uses Wells time machine to escape to 1979. He does not have the non-return key and the time machine returns back to Wells, who goes in search of the infamous killer.

The film was written and directed by Nicholas Meyer, but is largely based on a then unpublished novel of the same name by Karl Alexander. Meyer would go on to direct several of the Star Trek films.

It also contains two great Brit actors in Mcdowell and Warner, who have combined to appear in almost four hundred movies and television shows. Warner has spent a majority of his career as a bad guy; he makes another appearance in this list later on in Time Bandits. Mcdowell is probably best known for his starring roles in Clockwork Orange and another cult nasty Caligula.

Wells and Stevenson’s characters play polar opposites, one hopes for a perfect utopian society and the other wants destruction. Warner is just the perfect actor to play the villain in this. Mcdowell has a decent performance as Wells, but Warner and some of his scenes and dialogue stand out.

The most notable is an interaction between Wells and Stevenson when they first meet in San Francisco. Stevenson tells him about how he belongs in this future and Wells doesn’t, he says “90 years ago I was freak, today I am an amateur.” There is also a great scene with Warner and Steenburgen where he pops into the scene and his face is right next to hers.

You should give this a chance if you’re a fan of The Time Machine, Jack the Ripper, or any of the main actors that appear in the film.


11. Final Countdown (1980)

The Final Countdown (1980)

“Nothing in the world can prepare you for …” [16]. One of the few alternate history time travel films, this star powered production is about a modern era U.S. super carrier that ends up in a time vortex on the day before the Pearl Harbor attacks. They must then decide whether to alter history, or let things happen the way they originally did. Starring Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen, this is one of the few time travel films that deal with the ethical questions of altering time.

The most impressive part of the film is the use of actual United States military stations, vehicles, and crew [17]. They were able to film at several naval air stations and on board the USS Nimitz [17]. Many of the Nimitz crew members were included in the production, with 48 being given actor credits in the film [17]. Then there is also a large number of World War II era aircraft that make an appearance in the film.

The film was expected to be a summer blockbuster, but did rather poorly. It has developed a cult following for a combination of the time travel aspect and the military genre fans.


12. Time Bandits (1981)

Time Bandits

“…they didn’t make history, they stole it!” [18]. A young boy’s room contains a time hole that six dwarves come out of. They have stolen a large blue worn out map from their boss, the Supreme Being. As they escape through another time hole, the boy named Kevin ends up becoming a reluctant member of this gang that is seeking the ultimate treasure.

In their search for treasure, they end up in some of the greatest places and events of history. They meet Napoleon in Italy, King Agamemnon in Greece, Robin Hood, and on board the Titanic. All of this while being chased by the Supreme Being and the ultimate evil.

This British production was written by Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam, both known for being members of the British comedy troupe Monty Python. Gilliam directed Time Bandits and many other memorable and possibly cult films; this includes Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Several of the Monty Python members make an appearance in the film, along with other well known British actors including John Cleese, Michael Palin, Shelley Duvall, Ian Holm, Ralph Richardson, Peter Vaughan, David Warner, Sean Connery, and Jim Broadbent.

The stars of the film though are the actors that play the six dwarves, most notably the leader of the group Randall (David Rappaport). Most of them have appeared in other films, but this is the one chance that they truly get to shine as the main characters. That is part of the charm of this film, that the main characters are a young boy and these six dwarves.

The characters of the dwarves are supposed to represent the Monty Python troupe; “The nice one, Fidgit, is said to represent Palin; the self-appointed leader, Randall, Cleese; the acerbic one, Strutter, Eric Idle; the quiet one, Og, Graham Chapman; the noisy rebel, Wally, Terry Jones; and the nasty, filth-loving one, Vermin, Gilliam himself” [19].

This is supposed to the first film in a trilogy from Gilliam that focuses on trying to escape from society through the use of imagination; Time Bandits is through the eyes of a child, the second Brazil is through the eyes of a thirty year old man, and third is Munchhausen through the eyes of an elderly man.

There are so many memorable moments and scenes in this film that almost everything that takes place could be listed. Often shown on the posters and DVD cover art is the Giant wearing a ship for a hat, in that scene the group end up on a ship with an ogre and his wife who plan to cook them in a soup.

They manage to push them overboard and then the boat starts moving all over the place. They come to find out that the ship is actually being worn as a hat by some kind of giant, and they have to put a sleeping potion into his skull so that they can escape once he falls asleep. That’s really one of many memorable moments that take place in this movie.

As with most Terry Gilliam films, your either going to love it or hate it. He has a style and uniqueness that stands out in everything he does. The theme of searching for some sort of ‘Grail’ object is touched on in this film and many of Gilliam’s.

In this one it is more physical than spiritual or ideological, as they are going through time holes in history looking for ‘the Most Fabulous Object in the World’ [20]. If you have not seen this before and love Python or one of his other films, then you really need to check this one out.


13. Yor, The Hunter From the Future (1983)

Yor, The Hunter From the Future (1983)

“He was a powerful warrior from the future, trapped in a prehistoric land, battling for the survival of his people” [21]. In a crazy mix of polar opposite genres, a prehistoric warrior named Yor searches for his true heritage and comes to discover that he is actually from the future.

This was an Italian production that is based on an Argentine comic book and directed by Antonio Margheriti, a well known B movie maker who also did Cannibal Apocalypse and Flesh for Frankenstein. You may recognize the actor that plays Yor, Reb Brown also starred as Captain America in two made for TV movies in the 1970’s.

This is an excellent example of a great bad movie. Its low budget and they try to throw everything and the kitchen sink in it, most likely reusing sets and costumes from other productions. The film moves quick and its amusing. If you like B movies, then you should get some enjoyment out of this. The music is great, especially the Yor theme song!


14. Trancers (1984)

Trancers (1984)

“His name is Deth. He hunts Trancers. Even in the 20th Century” [22]. A wonderful combination of Blade Runner, Terminator, and zombies wrapped up in some warm 1980’s goodness. Character actor Tim Thomerson plays Jack Deth, a cop/bounty hunter from the year 2247.

Deth looks just like Harrison Ford’s character Dekkard from Blade Runner. He is sent back to the year 1985, in the body of one of his relatives to hunt down an evil criminal named Whistler. Whistler inhabits one of his relatives who happens to be a detective. Oh and there’s these things called Trancers. They are kind of like zombies that Whistler can take over; people who have weak minds are the ones that are susceptible.

The film was produced by Empire Pictures, which eventually folded and was reformed as Full Moon Features. If you are familiar at all with the VHS era or these production companies, then you know that they were one of the kings of great low budget films. This includes the Trancers series, Re-Animator, Eliminators, Terror Vision, From Beyond, Ghoulies, Troll, Dolls, the Puppet Master series, and many others.

Thomerson also starred as another character for Full Moon features called Dollman, a twelve inch tall detective. Known for his distinctive looks, Thomerson has appeared in tons of movies and television series.

Look, if you love the 80’s or any of the above production companies then you will absolutely love this. There were five Trancer sequels made, along with a half hour sequel that takes place between the first two films.


15. Masters of the Universe (1987)


“From a distant galaxy… they have come to Earth.” [23]. Ok, so there may be a little bit of controversy with this one. Based off of the popular 1980’s He-Man cartoon series, this was the one and only attempt to bring a popular 80’s cartoon into a live action film.

G.I. Joe and Transformers stuck with animated movies and those did pretty well. Most He-Man purists are going to say that they absolutely hate this movie. If you fall somewhere in between, then chances are you may find it somewhat enjoyable.

The battle for Eternia has Skeletor and his evil minions breeching Castle Greyskull, with the use of a cosmic key that can open up portals. During the battle, He-Man and some of his friends teleport through a portal that takes them to earth. There they make friends with some earthlings. Skeletor eventually follows them and takes the battle to earth.

The film did poorly but has grown a cult following for several reasons. There are still fans of the cartoon that like the movie. There are also Dolph Lundgren fans, who played He-man in the movie. A pre-Friends Courtney Cox also stars in the movie. It also has a good combination of action and fantasy to please fans of those genres.


16. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

Bill & Teds Excellent Adventure (1989)

“History is about to be rewritten by two guys who can’t spell…” [24]. Its Fast Times at Ridgemont High meets Up in Smoke meets H.G. Wells The Time Machine, as a man is sent from the future in order to help two high school rockers pass a history test. If Bill and Ted fail, then it could change the course of history as their band has helped create a peaceful society in the future.

Their time machine is a telephone booth reminiscent of what is used in the Dr. Who TV shows. They end up bringing Napoleon, Billy the kid, Socrates, Genghis Khan, Sigmund Freud, Beethoven, Joan of Arc, and Abraham Lincoln into the future for their history class presentation, so they can describe what they think of life in present day San Dimas, California.

This is one of those films that you either love or hate. The situations and dialogue are very amusing. Bill and Ted use dialogue that is similar to surfer or stoner talk, like the dude from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Using phrases such as most heinously, be excellent, party on, most egregiously, bodacious, bogus, and Caesar is the salad dressing dude.

Bill’s step mom is four years older than him and there is some good dialogue in regards to that; in one scene Ted tells Bill that his dad is going for it in his own room, and then also said ‘remember when I asked her to the prom.’

The film did well enough to spawn a sequel called Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, along with a comic book series. There are some notable actors to appear in the film. Ted is played by Keanu Reeves, in one of his earlier roles. He would eventually end up becoming an action movie star with Point Break and Speed. The actress that played Joan of Arc (Jayne Wiedlin) became one of the main members of the rock band the Go-Go’s.

Well known comedian George Carlin makes an appearance as Rufus, the man from the future that helps Bill and Ted. Diana Franklin plays one of the princesses; she had appeared in several other cult like films, such as Better Off Dead, Terror Vision, and The Last American virgin.


17. Frankenstein Unbound (1990)

Frankenstein Unbound (1990)

Roger Corman’s return to directing in nearly twenty years begs the question, why would a studio finance so much money to a B movie maker? The premise of the story is that a device meant for peace has been created and ends up causing time rifts, sending one of the scientists back to 1817 Switzerland where he runs into Frankenstein. This pretty much sounds like an Abbott and Costello or Three Stooges pairing, but it’s meant to be serious.

The budget was $11,500,000 and it only grossed $334,748 domestically. It has a somewhat impressive cast of John Hurt, Raul Julia, Bridget Fonda, and Jason Patric starring in it. Possibly not quite ready for the time period, it has developed a strong cult following. It is a strange mix of high brow and low brow, with a decent amount of gore.

So if you’re a Frankenstein, Corman, or sci-fi fan than it’s worth giving this one a go.