Hollywood often reserves the subject of time travel for the sci-fi and superhero genres. However, some of the best films surrounding time travel actually have nothing to do with sci-fi at all. From romance to horror, the subject of journeying through the eras has successfully crossed genres to give us fun, thought-provoking stories that break the boundaries of Hollywood and provide something for everyone.
Whether you’re a romantic-comedy type or love watching torrents of blood and guts, the subject of time travel has plenty of cinematic gems you are sure to love. As a means of narrowing down our definition of time travel, we’ve refrained from listing movies that include science-heavy machines or devices, or a Doc Brown-type character who explains how the time travel is happening.
If you’re fascinated with time travel but not into sci-fi and superheroes, it’s OK. We’ve got your back. So without further ado, here is our list of the best non-sci-fi films to get you through the summer heat.
1. Army Of Darkness (1992) — Horror/Comedy
The cult classic is the third installment of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise. The laugh-out-loud horror film uses time travel to send its main character Ash (Bruce Campbell) back to the Middle Ages to battle the undead. It’s campy, loud and full of zombies, so if you’re a horror or Shaun of the Dead fan, this is right up your alley. The film series inspired the current show on Starz, Ash vs Evil Dead,starring the original Ash, Bruce Campbell.
2. Somewhere In Time (1980) — Romance
Somewhere in Time is a breathtakingly tragic romance about a pair of soul mates separated by time. The film stars two familiar faces, Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, as lovers born in different decades. You will fall in love with the classic tale, but fair warning: It leaves audiences ugly crying, Titanic style, in a very “I’ll never let go, Jack” kind of way.
3. Donnie Darko (2001) — Psychological Thriller
In one of the strangest and most heavily analyzed psychological thrillers to date, Donnie Darko starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Jenna Malone and Drew Barrymore, and amassed a huge cult following since its indie release. deals with time travel within multiple universes as well as a God theme. It’s twisted, confusing and will make you think, but paying attention won’t be an issue with all of the suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
4. Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) — Comedy
Directed by the famed Francis Ford Coppola, Peggy Sue Got Married is an Academy Award-nominated film starring Nicolas Cage in his glory days. The film follows Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner), as she prepares for divorce from her high school sweetheart Charlie (Cage). After fainting, she mysteriously finds herself sent back in time to her high school senior year. Throughout the film she attempts to separate herself from Charlie. However, the past helps Peggy see both the future and her young beloved in a new light.
5. The Butterfly Effect (2004) — Thriller
If you’re interested in watching awindy road of crazy that explores the effects of altering the past to save the future, then The Butterfly Effect might be right up your alley. The film deals with the concept of what is called the butterfly effect, defined as “small causes that have large effects,” in this case in relation to time travel. The altering of past events for the better creates massive consequences in Evan’s (Kutcher) future. But once he’s traveled down the rabbit hole, will he be able to find his way out?
6. 13 Going On 30 (2004) — Comedy
StarringJennifer Garner as an awkward 13-year-old girl who gets transported into her adult version, 13 Going On 30 is a sweet and genuine film that’s fun for the whole family. After briefly enjoying the freedom of adulthood, Jenna soon finds the 30-year-old self she thought she would become isn’t quite the dream come true. All in all, it’s a feel-good tale of self-acceptance and growing up.
7. About Time (2013) — Drama
About Time is a time travel drama following Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), a young man who discovers he has the ability to time travel and decides to use it to change the past for his ideal future, which involves going back to improve his love-life. In doing so, he meets his soul mate Mary (Rachel McAdams). Although About Time might sound like a run-of-the-mill romance, it’s so much more. This touching story deals with learning to live each day to its fullest and appreciating what you have while you can.
8. Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) — Comedy
John Cusack, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry relive a blast from the past in this hilarious time traveling saga. Hot Tub Time Machine follows three hapless high school friends as they take a weekend for themselves to reestablish their bond. Only, the trip takes a turn when they stumble upon a time traveling hot tub and the ability to relive their pasts. Think of this movie as the ultimate weekend away with your best friends where you can, in fact, know then what you know now.
9. Groundhog Day (1993) — Comedy
I got you babe! I got you babe! Every day, weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) finds himself waking up to his alarm playing Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe,” and living the same day over and over again. Groundhog Day, to be precise. Phil hilariously copes with repetition in one of Murray’s most beloved roles to date. is more than just comedy, with the theme of how living a good, honest life means more than personal gain.
10. The Lake House (2006) — Romance
Speed stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock are brought back together, only this time there are no bomb-ridden buses involved. In The Lake House, they play man and woman who share a lake house in Wisconsin — but two years apart. Having never met, their only means of communication is through the house’s mysterious mailbox. The film is a timeless romance that leaves the viewer thinking about all the what-ifs and maybes in life, and if they even matter.
11. Midnight In Paris (2011) — Romantic Comedy
Woody Allen’s Academy Award-winning Midnight In Paris will transport you back to the artistic renaissance of France, experienced through the eyes of a dreamer. The romance of the film is not reserved for just the characters, but also for the audience, who falls in love with the colorful incarnations of real-life literary and artistic greats in their natural habitat. Be prepared to experience magic on this trip into the past.
No Sci-Fi, No Problem!
You don’t have to subject yourself to complicated plots with CGI machinery in order to get your time travel fix. Now you can be the one to tell your sci-fi-loving friends more about films they should be watching. My bet is if they give this list a chance, they may realize that time travel as a plot device not exclusively for the sci-fi genre, and one they might actually enjoy themselves.
What are of your favorite time traveling films that don’t fit into the sci-fi category?
Twitter: @AmieBohannon So basically I fangirl, professionally. Also I assure you I am the droid you’ve been searching for. Milk was a bad choice.