Even before I became a Doctor Who fan a year ago, I've been fascinated by the idea of time travel, and therefor, interested in any time travel movies. I think the reason it most fascinates me is because it is simply impossible. That's why most movies do a horrible job of using it in their plots; they just can't make sense. However, there are some really smart movies that work time travel into their story and manage to keep it comprehensive. Even if it requires a second or third viewing for you to understand it. See if you can keep up and keep track of these time travel movies.
The Dark & Twisty: The Butterfly Effect
After I watched this movie for the first time, I had to sit on my bed in the dark for a while and just take it all in. (I can be a bit dramatic.) It really will blow your mind, if you're clever enough to keep up. Evan Treborn suffered from blackouts, when he remembers nothing, throughout his childhood. Years later, in college, reading from his old journals, it triggers a jump back in time, where he is back in his thirteen-year-old body living the time during one of his blackouts. Evan continues to trigger these mental time leaps, going back in time to figure out what happened during those blackouts, and then trying to do things differently to improve the lives of himself and his friends. However, this movie demonstrates the theory from which it gets its name, the Chaos Theory, often explained with the saying "Something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world." Which means we don't know what the consequences will be of even the smallest actions. This movie inspired me to want to learn more about the Chaos Theory and fun stuff like that.
The Romance: The Time Traveler's Wife
The problem with being in love with a time traveler; meeting in the wrong order. (*See Doctor Who, below.) Clare first meets Henry when she is a young girl and he is a grown man. When she meets him again, in college, she knows him very well, but he has not yet traveled back to those times when she was a child. Are you keeping up so far? They fall in love and all that, but all the while, he is- and here's what makes it different- involuntarily time traveling at random moments. It's a gift, it's a curse- Well, mostly it's a curse as it gets him into trouble most of the time and leaves her worried about him. You'll cry. Just warning you.
The 80's: Back to the FutureThis movie demonstrates the basic principle of why we know traveling back in time would not be possible: The Grandfather Paradox. The paradox is; if you were able to travel back in time and kill your own grandfather, you would never be born, so who went back in time to kill him? In this movie Marty McFly watches himself fade away as he tries to get his parents to fall in love so they can get busy and make him. Scientific flaws aside, I think we can all agree that, if time travel were possible, we would want a DeLorean to be the way to do it.
Some people may shun me for including the "continuation" S. Darko with the original masterpiece, Donnie Darko, but I don't care! I like it, okay?! They both use the same time travel principles which include worm holes, rewinds, countdowns, fate, and creepy dead messengers. In Donnie Darko, the titular character is guided by a guy in a creepy bunny mask named Frank, who tells him to do scary things, but it's only because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, so time got screwed up and he has to go back to fix it. Basically. Seven years later, Donnie's little sister, Sam (played by Daveigh Chase in both movies) is experiencing the same time travel symptoms as Donnie, but so are other characters. It takes the original principles and makes it even more complex, not necessarily making it a better, smarter movie, but I still enjoyed it. (Okay, it may be mostly because the first scene is really pretty and I have a crush on Daveigh.)
The Anime: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
I don't consider myself an anime fan (I really don't know much about the art form/pop culture.) but I can say that I am a fan of Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese writer/director of such moves as Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. Oh, wait. This isn't a Miyazaki movie. But if you're a Miyazaki fan, like I am, you will also love Mamoru Hosoda. In this anime feature, a girl accidentally discovers a device that allows her to, quite literally, leap through time. It features the typical time travel movie tricks such as re-doing scenes several times to try to get it "right" and dealing with the consequences of using time travel to mess with people's lives.
Doctor Who: There are two types of people in the world: Doctor Who fanatics and people who have never seen Doctor Who. For the latter, Doctor Who is a British series about a Timelord (called, simply, The Doctor) who travels throughout space and time usually just for fun but he also ends up saving the world (whichever one he's on). Go watch it right now or we can no longer be friends.
Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking: If you want to know the science behind these time travel ideas, watch episode two of this three-part documentary series. Stephen Hawking explains how time travel to the future is theoretically possible (if we could travel faster than the speed of light) and invites his future self to travel back in time to attend his own party (Spoiler Alert: It doesn't work.)