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What Is The Best Time Travel Movie of All Time?

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Time travel remains a theoretical concept that involves moving between different points in time, analogous to movement between different points in space. It has been a widely explored theme in science fiction literature and films since the 19th century. The concept raises several paradoxes, and while it is not considered possible according to our current understanding of the laws of physics, its potential implications continue to fascinate scientists, writers, and filmmakers.

The concept of time travel is often depicted in two ways: traveling to the future and traveling to the past. Traveling to the future is theoretically possible according to Einstein’s theory of relativity, which states that time passes at different rates for people depending on their relative velocity or proximity to a gravity well. However, this form of time travel wouldn’t allow for a return to the present.

Traveling to the past is more complex and often involves the concept of a “wormhole,” or a shortcut through spacetime. However, the existence of such phenomena is purely speculative. This form of time travel also raises the issue of paradoxes, such as the “grandfather paradox,” where a time traveler could potentially prevent their own existence by altering past events. For more we recommend David Lewis’ free (as of now) text The Paradoxes Of Time Travel.

In the meantime, let’s talk about the actual movies dealing with time travel. Many have tried to make a great time travel movie and few have succeeded. Despite the litany of options, we have narrowed it down to the following options.

Film Release Date Budget Box Office
Back to the Future 1985 $19 million 388.8 million
Primer 2004 $7,000 $841,926
The Terminator 1984 $6.4 million $78.3 million
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991 $102 million $523.7 million
12 Monkeys 1995 $29.5 million $168.8 million
Looper 2012 $30 million $176.5 million
The Time Machine(1960) 1960 $829,000 $2.6 million

What Is The Best Time Travel Movie of All Time?
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VBOAT'S PICK: Primer

Of all the great science fiction movies, let alone those about time travel, Primer must be among the best.

Back to the Future

Back to the Future become a pop culture phenomenon almost immediately after the films release. The film is a whimsical and adventurous take on time travel. The narrative follows Marty McFly and eccentric scientist Doc Brown as they traverse different time periods in a DeLorean, facing unexpected challenges along the way. The trilogy’s blend of sci-fi, comedy, and memorable characters have cemented its status as an iconic piece of 80s cinema.

  • Year Released: 1985-1990
  • Budget: $99 million
  • Box Office: $965.5 million

Primer

Primer, a minimalist indie sci-fi, is renowned for its complex and layered depiction of time travel. The story revolves around two engineers who accidentally invent a time machine. What follows is a labyrinthine plot that requires multiple viewings to fully understand. Despite its low budget, Primer has been hailed for its intelligent screenplay and intricate narrative structure.

  • Year Released: 2004
  • Budget: $7,000
  • Box Office: $424,760

The Terminator

The Terminator is a classic sci-fi action film from director James Cameron. It introduces the iconic character of the Terminator, a cyborg assassin sent from a post-apocalyptic future. The film, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger’s breakthrough role, is widely recognized for its thrilling action sequences, gripping plot, and ground-breaking special effects.

  • Year Released: 1984
  • Budget: $6.4 million
  • Box Office: $78.3 million

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the sequel to The Terminator, builds on the success of the first film with more sophisticated special effects and a deeper exploration of its characters. Schwarzenegger returns, this time as a protector, in this action-packed blockbuster that’s often cited as one of the best sequels of all time.

  • Year Released: 1991
  • Budget: $102 million
  • Box Office: $523.7 million

12 Monkeys

Directed by Terry Gilliam, 12 Monkeys is a dystopian science fiction film that plays with the concept of time in a dark and twisted future. It stars Bruce Willis as a prisoner sent back in time to prevent a devastating plague. The film’s intriguing narrative and stark visuals have contributed to its status as a cult classic.

  • Year Released: 1995
  • Budget: $29.5 million
  • Box Office: $168.8 million

Looper

Looper, directed by Rian Johnson, is a smart and thrilling sci-fi action film that offers a fresh take on time travel. The film explores a future where time travel is used by criminal organizations to eliminate their targets. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as the same character in different timelines, Looper stands out for its compelling performances and thought-provoking plot.

  • Year Released: 2012
  • Budget: $30 million
  • Box Office: $176.5 million