Film Review: Time Travel

By Shameelah Khan

When it comes to the genre of Time Travel, we are always bombarded with ideas of time machines, quantum physics, black holes or lengthy dream sequences featuring Leonardo DiCaprio. Although these films like Back to the Future, Donnie Darko or even Groundhog Day have set the standard for many of the Time Travel films we have come to know and even love, there are those that perhaps have completely missed us. Of course, I could not list all of them here, I have tried to focus on the one genre of Time Travel I find very interesting (however corny it may sound)- love. As of late, and in this godawful pandemic, I have been thinking about how rare it is to come across well-written cinematic narratives about love focusing on the genre of Time Travel. Also, Africa where your time travel films at? I need more non-American references to soak up on the topic of love. Here are ten of the ones I have personally come to love: 

(Please note: The Lakehouse did not make it to this list, for reasons obvious to those who have seen it. If I had a time machine… More importantly, if you would like to be equally bored then The Time Travelers Wife cuts it) 

1. La Jetée (1962), directed by Chris Marker 

The 28 minute Science fiction short film, that inspired yet another brilliant film on time-travel 12 Monkeys by Terry Gilliam, tells a story of war and love almost only through still frames. It follows the journey of one man’s post-apocalyptic narrative. His childhood memoirs make him the perfect subject in a Time Traveling experiment post WW2. Through a rigorous and quite frankly, violent process of conditioning, he is sent back into his past where he falls in love with a woman whom he once gazed at on a pier. He is then offered the opportunity to travel to the future but instead, he begs to return to the past to stay there with the one he loves. This film is an experimental haptic short where the poetry of visual storytelling is birthed on screen through a narration that moves the heart and guides the audience through the tragedies of war, loss and love. 

You can access the full film here: 

2. About Time (a clearly better version of The Time Travelers Wife), directed by Richard Curtis (2013)

This is undoubtedly one of my favourite romance Time Travel films ever. This film tells the story of Tim, who after discovering his ability for Time Travel as passed down and inherited by the men in his paternal lineage, uses it to find the woman he loves in his attempt at perfecting their growing life together. Domhill Gleeson and Rachel McAdams give a charming and whimsical performance in this rather “ordinary” story about two “extraordinary” people finding their way through love, loss and time. This film will stick with you in one way or another. It has a feel-good energy about it, making it almost impossible to forget.  

You can access the trailer here: 

3. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) directed by Mamoru Hosoda

This is one for the Anime lovers. A high-school student Makoto discovers her powers to time travel and uses it to preserve her friendships and more importantly to see her crush. In this charming Anime, we explore the whimsical life of a female protagonist in her heart-warming journey to preservation of friendship, goals and high school love. 

You can watch the trailer here: 

4. Je T’aime, Je T’aime (1968), directed by Alain Resnais

From one of my favourite directed films Hiroshima Mon Amour, Alain brings us yet another classic in Time Travel following La Ja’Tee. The Scientific landmark follows the narrative of a suicidal man selected by an organisation to return into his past to explore his own memories. This leaves the protagonist re-living endless memories with his passed on wife and their life in Paris in the 60s. The film, similarly to La Je’Tee, explores memory, forgiveness, hurt and loss. It is a self-exploration of memory and the past- what do we learn about ourselves when we travel back?

You can watch the trailer here: 

5. Meet The Robinson’s (2007) Directed by Stephen J. Anderson

This is one of my favourite animations and you know what- I am not even lying when I say- I did not see the plot twist coming and neither should you. The story follows Lewis, a brilliant inventor who meets a stranger who later on takes him into a time machine travelling through a series of unexpected twists and turns. This is a story about destiny, fate and love. 

You can watch the trailer here: 


6. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012), Directed by Colin Trevorrow

One of the more interesting films on Time Travel I have ever seen. This film follows three magazine journalists who head out to interview a man after he places an advert in a local newspaper seeking a companion for time travel. Hilarious at its core, well written and the most unlikely likeable characters, this film (similarly to Little Miss Sunshine), unpacks a creative and whimsical journey of characters caught in an unlikely event, forcing the audience to shift their views on make-belief and what seems to become- an unlikely reality.

You can watch the trailer here: 

7. The Netflix Original Russian Doll (2019) created by Leslye headland, Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler

This show had me binging from beginning to end. The short and succinct episodes make it easy to follow but also extremely to relive each repeated time travel with the brilliant Natasha Lyonne and Charlie Barnett. The series follows Nadia Vulvokov, a cynic who repetitively dies on her birthday only to relive it in many different ways, until she crosses paths with Alan- who also relives the same day over and over….This time loop, a more current Groundhog Day, leaves the audience with so many moments of self-reflection, laughing in stitches and crying at the thought of Nadia not getting her opportunities to become a better person in the end- she becomes the ultimate anti-hero crowd favourite. “Over and Over” on repeat…

You can watch the trailer here: 

8. The Netflix Original The Umbrella Academy (2019) Created by Steve Blackman and Jeremy Slater

A family of child heroes reunite in their fight to stop the world from wait for it- an apocalypse. The characters all unusual in their own right and fantastic to lead the narrative. Though it may not have been the strongest series plot-wise, these characters begin to live with you. They are imaginative and re-constructed through their powers. I am particularly moved by the never-ending humour, the brilliant sound score and the innocence- taking us back to the sort of nostalgia Stranger Things conjures up. I particularly think this is a show that you either love or hate. And you’re just in luck because the second season just premiered… and I hear- it is better. 

You can watch the trailer here: 

9. The German Original Series Dark (2017-2020) Created by Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese

Now I know I mentioned that we wouldn’t be looking at films involving dark matter, quantum physics or scientists- but DARK is a must-see. It is possibly one of the most calculated time travel series of all time (skipping everything that has ever happened to Jewish people- but this is a conversation for another time). This series albeit about physics, philosophy, mathematics, the notion of Adam and Eve…. And so much more. At its core, it really is about a boy who deeply loves a girl and would travel through multiple universes to be with her. What we get at the end of the trilogy seasons is a sense of relief and leaving with a less amount of questions than answers but- with a little reminder that we, as humans, can never really understand Time. 

You can watch the trailer here: 

10. See You Yesterday (2019) Directed by Stefon Bristol

A visually strong film and a socially important one. We enter the world of Racial America. Given the rise in awareness of police brutality and BLM globally increasing, this film is an important- if not the most important of all the films on Time Travel right now. Told through the eyes of two “dope ass” Brooklyn Teenagers, C.J.Walker and Sebastian Thomas. They build a makeshift time machine to go back in time and save Calvin, C.J’s brother, from being wrongfully killed by a police officer. 

You can watch the trailer here: 

Now, I know what you are all thinking, there are a ton of films on Time travel that still need to be mentioned and I wish I could mention all of them. So, I did the next best thing and will mention a few more anyway:

  • Primer (2004) 
  • 13 Going on 30 (2004) 
  • Sidenote (what was happening in 2004 anyway?) 
  • 12 Monkeys (1995) 
  • Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016) 
  • The Butterfly Effect (still one of my favz) (2004)
  • Midnight in Paris (2011)
  • Frequency (2000) 
  • Pleasantville (1998)
  • Somewhere in Time (1980)
  • Happy Accidents (2000) 
  • Stork Day (2004) 

Here is also an IMDB link to all the best films on Time travel: