bill ted time travel movies

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

The best time travel movies and how to watch them online

You don’t have to turn back time to watch these on repeat.

 

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Streaming

Published Jul 29, 2019   Updated May 20, 2021, 7:48 am CDT

Time travel is a staple of the sci-fi genre, but it’s tricky to get right. Never mind the physics; the story needs to feel logical to avoid confusing and annoying viewers. Genuinely great time travel movies are pretty rare, so we put together a list of the best—and how to stream them online. Ranging from cult indie hits to blockbuster classics like Back to the Future, the time travel movies on this list cater to every type of fan.

The best time travel movies and how to stream them

1) Back to the Future

Released in 1985, this is the ultimate time travel blockbuster. On the slim chance you haven’t seen it already, Back to the Future stars Michael J. Fox as a teenager who accidentally travels back to 1955, encountering his own parents and having to correct an error in the timeline to avoid being erased from existence. Funny, goofy, and exciting, it’s an undeniable classic.

back to the future time travel movies

Available to buy or rent on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and Google Play.

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2) Primer

Filmed on a microscopic budget of $7,000, Primer gained a cult following after winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2004. Directed, written by, and starring then-unknown filmmaker Shane Carruth, it’s a low-fi story about a group of young tech guys who develop a time machine. It’s also the most realistic time travel movie you’ll ever see. The acting is naturalistic and the film makes no attempts at flashy special effects, but the resulting time loop storyline is clever and thoroughly mind-bending. Even after watching the film, you may want to look up one of the many diagrams explaining how all the loops worked. It’s an excellent choice if you enjoy the more cerebral side of Inception. (Unfortunately Primer is not very good at female characters, but Carruth corrected this problem in his second movie, Upstream Color.)

time travel movies primer

Available to buy or rent on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and Google Play.

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3) Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Every Star Trek fan has their own opinion on the best Trek movie, and for my money, it’s The Voyage Home. Wrapping up the trilogy that began with The Wrath of Khan, it’s the kind of bizarre sequel that would never get made in today’s big-name movie franchises. Now in their fifties, the cast of the Original Series are on their way back from an epic mission when, through a sequence of ridiculous circumstances, they have to travel back in time to 1980s San Francisco. The result is a hilarious fish-out-of-water adventure/comedy where these futuristic heroes have to navigate everyday interactions in 20th century America—and disguise the fact that Spock is literally an alien. Avoiding the clunkier moments of other Trek movies, it gives great roles to every character, emphasizing the comedic talents of the ensemble cast.

time travel movies - star trek iv the voyage home

Available with Showtime subscription and to buy or rent on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and Google Play.

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4) Edge of Tomorrow

Cursed by a bad title and a marketing campaign that made it look like a generic action flick, this Emily Blunt/Tom Cruise vehicle is an unexpectedly great time-loop movie. In the midst of an alien invasion, Blunt plays a world-famous warrior hero while Cruise plays a military public relations officer with no survival skills. When Cruise gets stuck in a time loop, he has to learn how to fight from Blunt, who (naturally) forgets who he is at the start of every new day. (Trust me, it makes sense in context.) With great action scenes and an amusingly uncool role for Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow is an underrated gem.

edge of tomorrow time travel movies

Available with TNT subscription and to buy or rent on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and Google Play.

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5) The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Released in 2006, this heartfelt anime movie was a huge hit in Japan, telling the story of a girl who (you guessed it) can leap through time. A combination of sci-fi and teen drama, it explores how a normal kid might use this power, and subsequently learn from the consequences.

best time travel movies - the girl who leapt through time

Available to buy or rent on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Vudu, Google Play, and Funimation.

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6) Coherence

This obscure, low-budget sci-fi gem features an ensemble cast of characters at a dinner party, led by Swedish actress Emily Baldoni as the main character. Buffy alum Nicholas Brendan co-stars as a former TV actor, a darkly satirical riff on his own career. Coherence gradually transforms from an indie drama into a smart sci-fi thriller, featuring a time travel mystery that sets the characters against each other. Interestingly, the cast improvised much of the film, which makes it doubly impressive that the whole thing holds together so well.

time travel movies to watch - coherence

Free on Vudu; Available with Hulu subscription and to buy or rent on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Google Play.

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7) See You Yesterday

This unique teen time travel movie came out on Netflix in 2019, telling the story of two nerdy high school kids who build a time machine. They’re excited about the opportunities it will bring for college, but their priorities will change when someone close to them is killed in a racist police shooting, leading them to a moral dilemma: Should they use their invention to go back and save this person, thus risking their own lives and the integrity of the timeline?

time travel movies on netflix - see you yesterday

Available on Netflix.

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8) X-Men: Days of Future Past

Days of Future Past is one of the best-reviewed movies in the X-Men franchise, and for good reason. Combining the original trilogy cast with the heroes of the prequel franchise, the film sees Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) travel back to the 1970s from a dystopian future. Inspired by one of the most iconic X-Men arcs, it combines wacky time travel adventures with the deeper political themes of the X-Men, and is perhaps the best onscreen depiction of the comics’ more ambitious ensemble stories.

x-men time travel movies

Available to buy or rent on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and Google Play.

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9) Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

It’s amazing what you can do when you’re on a project deadline. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure follows its two titular slacker protagonists as they travel through time via phone booth to pluck historical figures from centuries past and bring them back for a history presentation. Just as Bill and Ted get a crash course in world history, Napoleon Bonaparte, Billy the Kid, Socrates, Sigmund Freud, and Abraham Lincoln get a lesson in navigating the local mall and waterpark. —Bryan Rolli

bill ted time travel movies

Available with Starz subscription and to buy or rent on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and Google Play.

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10) Looper

Directed by Rian Johnson, Looper stars Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt as older and younger versions of the same hitman, Joe. Set in a future where time travel is possible but illegal, criminal gangs use time machines to dispose of their enemies, sending people back 30 years to where “loopers” like Young Joe kill them off. It’s a lucrative job, but it comes at a price: After 30 years, he’ll have to close his own time loop by assassinating his older self. Old Joe has other ideas, however, leading to a unique game of cat-and-mouse. With Primer director Shane Carruth as a consultant, Looper involves some impressively inventive use of time travel. Earning widespread critical acclaim, it likely paved the way for Rian Johnson getting hired to write and direct The Last Jedi.

looper time travel movies

Available on Sony Crackle and to buy or rent on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and Google Play.

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11) The Terminator

One of the great icons of Hollywood blockbuster cinema, this early James Cameron movie stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as an evil android, sent back in time to kill a woman (Linda Hamilton) whose son is destined to save the human race. Spawning a franchise that continues to this day, the first two movies are still considered to be the best.

terminator time travel movies

Available with Hulu subscription (starting Aug. 1) and to buy or rent on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and Google Play.

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12) The Endless

The fact that The Endless is a time travel movie is kind of a spoiler, but if you’re looking for something truly brilliant you probably haven’t seen before, this is the one to pick. This low-budget indie horror movie earned rave reviews when it came out in 2017, starring its two co-directors (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead) as a pair of brothers who return to visit the rural cult where they used to live as teens.

best time travel movies streaming - the endless

Available with Netflix subscription and to buy/rent on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and Google Play.

TRY NETFLIX

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*First Published: Jul 29, 2019, 3:34 pm CDT