18. The Spirit of ‘76 (1991)
“A close-up look at the most embarrassing decade in history.” . A comedy spoof poking fun at the 1970’s and also low budget films. People from 2176 travel are sent back in time to collect valuable American artifacts. They are supposed to go to 1776, but a time machine malfunction sends them to 1976.
It’s mostly notable for the Reiner and Coppola families being involved in the production, along with several 70’s personalities like David Cassidy. It also includes members of the bands Devo, Redd Kross, and the Kipper Kidds.
Don’t take this one very serious at all and you may find it somewhat amusing. It is silly and quite possibly downright idiotic at times, but it has its moments for a ridiculous 70’s spoof.
19. Free Jack (1992)
“Don’t let the future pass you by.” . Emilio Estevez plays Alex Furlong, a race car driver who apparently dies in a race crash. But seconds before his death, he is transported into the future so that his body can be used as a replacement for a dying billionaire. He manages to escape and is being tracked by bounty hunters, while trying to figure some way out of this mess.
The movie was a big budget failure, but it still has a cult following among fans of the sci-fi genre and the era. Despite being made in 1992, it still kind of feels like a 1980’s action movie with all of the wonderfully bad one liners. Plus it has some decent name recognition to at least warrant some attention, including Estevez, Anthony Hopkins, Mick Jagger, and Rene Russo.
20. Doctor Mordrid (1992)
Does anything else need to be said about this film besides this, it’s a Doctor Strange rip off made by Full Moon Features and stars Jeffrey Combs. Combs is most well known for being the main character in the Re-Animator series. So the basic premise is that an evil wizard named Kabal shows up on earth, with the plan of unleashing evil from the fourth dimension.
The sorcerer that is not named Strange is sent to earth in order to prevent Kabal from carrying out his evil plan. All kinds of crazy sorcery and low budget special effects wreak havoc in this, including the bones of dinosaurs in a museum.
Look, if you like B sci-fi films, direct to VHS films, comic book fan films, or any of the Full Moon movies, then you will absolutely love this one. This is a little bit of everything that was great about the age of video rentals.
21. Les Visiteurs (1993)
“They Weren’t Born Yesterday!” A 12th century knight (Jean Reno) and his servant (Christian Clavier) attempt to travel backwards in time to change a series of unfortunate events, instead they are accidentally sent forward into the 20th century. The knight enlists the help of his ancestors in order to figure a way back, all while coping with the drastic changes in time and technology.
This is a hilarious French comedy that was co-written by Clavier, and is a classic fish out of water tale. While the general premise has been done before, it’s the situations and the way both main characters deal with them that makes this movie so funny. It was a huge success in France; it was the number one film there in 1993 and remains the fifth highest grossing film of all time .
Since Americans don’t do too well with watching foreign films, this and a lot of other French comedies have been remade into an English version. Both main actors returned for Just Visiting (1998), but it is nowhere near as good as the original. Give it a chance if you like silly comedies or Jean Reno.
22. 12 Monkeys (1995)
“The future is history.” . This film focuses on the use of time travel in order to change what the future is like. A powerful virus has wiped out nearly all of the population by the year 2035, leaving most of the survivors to live underground. A group of scientists have been sending volunteers into the past, in order to gain information about the virus and the people responsible for it.
James Cole (Bruce Willis) is a convict that has been chosen to go back to 1996 to learn about the Army of the 12 Monkeys, the group suspected of creating the virus. He ends up being mistakenly sent back to 1990, where he gets arrested and sent to a mental institution.
The film is described as a neo-noir sci-fi film, similar to Blade Runner. It was inspired by the 1962 French short film La Jetee. If you are familiar with some of the French films of this era, you can see how they inspired some of the filmmaking style of 12 Monkeys. Two that come to mind are Delicatessen and City of Lost Children.
One of the themes dealt with is that of the different paradoxes involving time travel, and how the characters deal with it. They focus on how Cole deals with the logical ideas of time travel and whether it is real or if he is crazy. They also talk about whether you can actually change the past when you travel back in time.
The film did well at the box office and has just developed a strong cult following from fans of Director Terry Gilliam and the sci-fi genre. Gilliam does particularly well using disjointed camera angles in the future scenes and in the mental ward, to create tension and make it feel abnormal.
There is a good cast, with strong performances from Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, and Madeleine Stowe. Pitt was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting actor in 1996. Interestingly, Gilliam initially wanted to cast Nick Nolte and Jeff Bridges for the lead roles .
Roger Ebert said that the movie “is a celebration of madness and doom, with a hero who tries to prevail against the chaos of his condition, and is inadequate. This vision is a cold, dark, damp one, and even the romance between Willis and Stowe feels desperate rather than joyous” .
23. Donnie Darko (2001)
“Life is one long insane trip. Some people just have better directions.” . On October 2, 1988, Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhall) is led out of his bedroom in the middle of the night by a mysterious figure in a weird looking rabbit Halloween costume.
A jet engine crashes through his bedroom and Frank, the rabbit, tells him that the world is going to end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. Is the world really going to end, or is all of this a symptom of Donnie being a paranoid schizophrenic?
The movie didn’t fare well in the box office, but has gained a very strong cult following once it was released onto DVD. Without revealing too much of the plot or what happens at the end of the film, it mostly focuses on whether Donnie is crazy or if there is some type of time travel going on.
The main philosophy for this film as it relates to time travel is the idea of a primary and a tangent universe. That time is usually stable, but there are events that can cause the fourth dimension of time to be penetrated and a highly unstable tangent universe is created.
This is one of the more modern time travel movies where they can become fairly complex and really screw with your head. That is probably one of the reasons that this has become so popular. Another reason is that it has a strong script and a strong cast, most notably a young future star in Gyllenhall. The popularity of the film led to the release of an extended DVD edition, as well as a pseudo-sequel in S. Darko.
24. Primer (2004)
“If you always want what you can’t have, what do you want when you can have anything?” . This is a low budget sci-fi time travel movie written, directed, and starring Shane Carruth, shot on a budget of $7,000. It won the grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film festival in 2004 and has gone on to develop a very strong cult following.
Without trying to explain the complexities of the time travel theory, basically two friends have built a time travel device that allows you to travel six hours into the past. They test it out and the ethical consequences become an issue, and a cat-and-mouse game ends up happening between the two.
This film is not about fancy special effects but simply the story. It is about the idea of time travel and its moral implications, upon the people that created it and society as a whole. This is definitely a movie that you have to see if you are a fan of time travel or sci-fi films.
25. Timecrimes AKA Los Cronocrimenes (2007)
This is a Spanish produced time travel movie. It involves a normal man who is renovating a home and discovers a naked girl in the woods, along with a mysterious man wearing pink bandages on his head. This leads him to a building that contains a time machine that transports him back one hour and gets him caught in a series of disastrous events.
This is a pretty good lower budgeted foreign film that deals with time travel, with a budget that was around $2,600,000. It didn’t make very much money in the worldwide box office, but has a small cult following among sci-fi and time travel fans. It’s not as well known as some other films because it’s foreign.
It has a darker tone too it, similar to a film noir. Without giving away anything, the film mainly focuses on the repercussions of trying to change events in the past. There has been some talk of an American remake being done at some point.
If you like any of the newer and more serious time travel movies, then you need to give this one a chance.
All the works cited can be found here.
Author Bio: Raul J. Vantassle is a jazz musician whose key strokes move about the page creating an explosion of formlessness to form, or just total bullshit. His heroes include John Waters, Robert Crumb, Charles Bukowski, and the Cobra Commander. His Knowledge of film goes across the board but he specializes in Asian and cult cinema. He may be the filthiest person alive. You can visit his blog here.