Interior of DeLorean time machine.
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Time travel is a concept that’s been around since the 1800s. Countless movies and TV shows have featured time travel, but it’s not easy to pull off. Let’s flip the switch and look back at a few of the best.

What qualifies a TV show or movie as being about time travel? Many shows and movies use a single time jump or time loops to set up the main plot—time travel isn’t necessarily the focus. I tried to lean more toward shows and movies that make time travel an integral part of the story.

Note: This list is made up of five movies and five TV shows in no particular order. Some choices are based on my personal opinion, others are based on the general consensus.

Doctor Who

Doctor Who

We can’t talk about time travel TV shows without mentioning the one that features a main character who is literally called a “Time Lord.” Doctor Who kicked off in 1963 and ran until 1989, but was later rebooted in 2005.

The show is not only about time travel. The Doctor’s time machine—the TARDIS—can travel through both time and space. Each episode takes the characters to a specific time in history, often on different planets, and interacting with aliens and other creatures.

Primer

Primer is undoubtedly the most “realistic” time travel movie/show on this list. The story revolves around two engineers who accidentally discover time travel when researching electromagnetic reduction of an object’s weight.

This is a movie that demands your full attention if you want to follow what’s happening. Primer was made on a budget of only $7,000, and that low-budget feel really helps ground the movie in reality. It’s fascinating.

Timeless

Timeless is a TV series that aired on NBC from 2016-18. The show follows a history professor, soldier, and engineer as the work together to stop an organization that plans to rewrite history with a stolen time machine.

This show really dives into the historical aspect of time travel. You learn about different moments throughout history and meet historical figures along the way. It’s a bit of a cat-and-mouse chase through time, and you’ll be sympathetic to the bad guys at times.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Bill and Ted

If you’re looking for a comedy that heavily features time travel, there’s no better choice than Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. A man from the distant future is tasked with going back in time to make sure Bill and Ted pass history class.

Bill and Ted use his time machine to go back in time and talk to a handful of classic historical figures, then bring them back to the current day to help pass their history report. There are tons of time travel-related gags throughout, and it’s just a very silly, fun movie.

Travelers

Travelers is one of the more unique time travel shows on the list. In a post-apocalyptic future, special operatives attempt to go back in time and prevent the collapse of society.

The “travelers” travel through time by sending their consciousness to “host” bodies of people who are just about to die. Not only do they have to work on their mission to save society, but they also have to blend in as the person whose body they now inhabit.

About Time

About Time

It wouldn’t be a complete list without a love story. About Time is about a man, Tim, who has the ability to travel through time. However, he can only change past events and the future of his own life, not history.

The story follows Tim as he uses time travel to improve his life and those around him. He falls in love with a girl and uses time travel to fix his mistakes and marry her. However, he discovers things that can’t be changed along the way, and has to make some tough decisions.

Loki

Loki is very different from most Marvel movies and TV shows. Time is the core component of the show. At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Loki gets away with the Tesseract. In doing so, he created a new timeline.

He is captured by the Time Variance Authority, an organization tasked with maintaining the timeline. The TVA gives Loki the choice of being erased from existence or helping them fix the timeline. He chooses the latter.

The Time Machine (1960)

The Time Machine

We can’t talk about time travel without mentioning one of the very first time-travel stories, dating back to 1895. H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine has been adapted to film a few times, but the 1960 version is probably the best.

The Time Machine is about an inventor in Victorian England who creates a time machine. He uses the time machine to travel far into the future, where he finds a dark and very different society. If you prefer newer movies, there’s a remake from 2002.

11.22.63

11.22.63 is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. For those that don’t know, November 22nd, 1963 is the day John F Kennedy was assassinated. This story revolves around a man who is trying to prevent that from happening.

Time travel in this story works differently than most others. There’s no time “machine” or anything like that, just a mysterious spot that sends people back to a specific day in 1960. You get a fascinating look at the build-up to the assassination and a pretty good love story too.

Back to the Future

Back to the Future

For my money, there is no better time travel story than Back to the Future. Many people consider it to be a perfect movie, and I’d have to agree. Time travel is a core part of the plot, but it doesn’t get wrapped up in the technical aspects. The story is grounded in real life with relatable stakes.

An eccentric scientist, Doc Brown, builds a time machine out of a DeLorean. Through a string of events, his friend, Marty McFly ends up traveling back to 1955, when his parents were in high school. Marty then has to make sure his parents end up together to save his own existence. It’s funny, action-packed, dramatic, and easy to watch.


There are plenty of other time travel movies, TV shows, and books to enjoy. It’s one of the best plot devices for experiencing different time periods and taking a peek into the future. Now you just have to hope your favorite streaming service has them!

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Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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