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The 10 Best Time-Travel Movies of All Time

July 1, 2010  |  7:00am

This is the 25th year since Back to the Future slipped time travel into the comfort of a sports car (it’s getting released on Blu-ray on Oct. 26), resulting in one of the best entries into the time-travel canon that began over a Millennium ago as the Hindi Mahabharata and the Japanese Urashima Taro imagined traveling through time. Stephen Hawking might have thrown a wet blanket over our time-shifting fantasies, but that hasn’t slowed down our explorations into the possibilities of overcoming the constraints of the linear. Even Johnny Depp may be getting in on the action in a big-screen adaptation of our favorite termporal explorer on TV, Doctor Who. Here are our 10 favorite time-travel movies.

10. Groundhog Day (1993)

Means of time travel: Unclear. Something to do with February 2nd.

This is a film that has become a cultural icon—at some point, the term “Groundhog Day” has become synonymous with déjà vu. Unfortunately, it hasn’t also become synonymous with favoring compassion over selfishness, even though that’s the real lesson viewers get from Bill Murray’s Phil Connors.

9. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Means of time-travel: Ghosts

Having a bunch of hyperactive puppets starring in a film version—a musical film version, no less—of a piece of literature as classic as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol sounds blasphemous. Yet Jim Henson’s Muppets (with the help of Michael Caine as a convincing Ebenezer Scrooge) is our sentimental pick, bringing warmth and humor to Christmases past, present and future.

8. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Means of time travel: A necklace with an hourglass inside

Leave it to J.K. Rowling to write about time travel in a way that is straightforward enough for kids to understand, devoid of plot holes and greatly educational. In her world, a time turner is so much more than just a nifty gadget—it’s a tool that allows justice to be served, reminds the Type-A Hermione of her priorities and helps Harry gain the confidence he hasn’t been able to find on his own.

7. Time Bandits (1981)

Means of time travel: Holes in time and a map

Like Bilbo before him, Kevin’s adventures begin when the dwarves show up. Stealing treasures throughout history, the ultimate goal is The Most Fabulous Object in the World, but they’re being chased by the Supreme Being and Evil himself. It’s a classic Terry Gilliam romp.

6. Star Trek: First Contact

Means of time-travel: The Borg create a temporal vortex, and the Enterprise rides its wake.

First Contact wasn’t the first Star Trek film incorporating time travel, though the plot device was used only sparingly on the show—it’s not really kosher with the Prime Directive. But we’ll take the Next Generation crew and The Borg over the whale watchers in the fourth movie, A Voyage Home.

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