The 5 Most Intelligent Time Travel Movies Ever

With the release of Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Bruce Willis Jr.’s new film Looper hitting the theaters, I was reminded that every so often Hollywood ends up making a time travel movie that actually has a bit of a brain behind it. Smart movies are few and far between, but smart time traveling movies are a rarity that springs forth once every hundred Timecops.

A smart movie about time travel is a different thing than a smart movie about, say, actual science. When a movie like ?The Core? comes out and just acts like the world can stop spinning without much consequence, or when ?The Day After Tomorrow? says you can walk from Philadelphia to New York in three days during the ice age, you’ve got a stupid movie. There isn’t really any science for time travel to be held up against. Instead, a smart time travel movie is a movie that at least pretends the subject is serious and realistic.

Plus that gives me an excuse to not put Back to the Future as number one like it is on every other list about time travel movies.

12 Monkeys

Speaking of Bruce Willis, it would make me feel dirty to not put 12 Monkeys on here. Despite having Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt though, the real star is Terry Gilliam and his controlled insanity. Time Bandits, another Gilliam film, just as easily could have been on here, but it suffered from having 100% less Bruce Willis than 12 Monkeys.


Triangle might be more of a time loop than a time travel film, but let’s not split paradoxes here. Time travel really isn’t something that gets used a lot in horror films, but in Triangle ? which I’m hoping by now you kind of figured is going to involve boats and water and junk like that ? they slot it all together well. You could almost say they triangulate the coordinates that lead to a great time travel movie.

Hah! I could totally write for Leno.

Groundhog Day

Did you know that based on the opinions of the people who actually made this movie, Bill Murray’s character would have spent thousands of years stuck in the time loop. Just think about how much murder and terror he probably committed in that time.

Just something to think about the next time you see this.

Time After Time

Decades before somebody went to a coke party and eventually stammered out ?wouldn’t it be great if we made a movie where Abe Lincoln fought vampires? somebody went to an acid party and blurted out ?HG Wells pursues Jack the Ripper through time and space? as the greatest high concept idea to ever get sold to a studio. Then they went and cast Malcom McDowell in it ? a young Malcom McDowell. I didn’t even know they had one of them.


If they had a litmus test for smartness in time travel movies, they would call it the Primer Test. Because of the movie named Primer. See what I did there? Anyway, this is the most realistic time travel movie ever made. And yes, I realize that is like saying something is the most historically accurate movie dealing with the Second Dinosaur Wizard-Space Viking War, but if time travel were a real thing Primer would be the movie that Neil deGrasse Tyson mentions on Twitter.

Which is probably why you have to take physics and mathematics classes at your local community college to follow the plot.

Back to the Future

Oh god damn it.