The Best Time Travel Movies of the 1990s

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One of the most fascinating concepts a director can tackle in the realm of cinema is time travel, with some filmmakers being known for their work in such regards, such as Christopher Nolan. While he doesn’t appear here, the films on this list were directed by the biggest names of the decade. And individually, most of the films boast incredible name value.

However, others may appear more unfamiliar. But rest assured, they’re all of notable quality to one degree or another, with the list also running a surprising gamut of genre. Don’t expect ten movies that are nothing but science fiction. All that said, these are the nine best time travel movies of the 1990s, ranked.

10 Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
Orion Pictures

With Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprising their respective, titular roles, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) is among the more famous films on the list right off the bat. It’s far from the best, but it’s still a decent entry in a well-known franchise. And it’s just the first of several comedies to be featured on the list.

For whatever reason, there are just as many comedies about time travel from the 1990s as there are science fiction films. The one at hand is funny enough, but at the same time, it’s hard to place it any higher because, well, it attempts to spoof The Seventh Seal (1957). You can’t make fun of Bergman. Despite the laughs and tandem name value it brings to the table, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey lands at the beginning of the list.

9 Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Heather Graham and Mike Myers in Austin Powers 2 The Spy Who Shagged Me
New Line Cinema

Utter absurdity from beginning to end is Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), with characters so ridiculous that they’re humorous in nature. Just their names are hilarious. Heather Graham as Felicity Shagwell, Seth Green as Scott Evil, and Mindy Sterling as Frau Far. But that’s hardly scratching the surface. There’s also Robert Wagner as Number 2, Robe Lowe as Young Number 2, and of course, Mike Myers leads the bunch as Dr. Evil, Fat Bastard, and the titular Austin Powers all together.

For many fans, this is the definitive title in the series that of course pokes fun at James Bond and other famous spy films. International Man of Mystery (1997), the original film in the franchise at hand is perhaps more well-made from a filmmaking standpoint. But The Spy Who Shagged Me brings the most laughs, and for that it without a doubt deserves a spot among the ranks of great time travel movies from the nineties.

8 A Chinese Odyssey

A Chinese Odyssey by Jeffrey Lau
Media Asia

A balancing act of genres, A Chinese Odyssey (1995) blends the realm of martial arts cinema with both fantasy and comedy, and it’s told in two parts. The first release is subtitled Pandora’s Box, while its sequel is called A Chinese Odyssey Part Two: Cinderella. Neither are well-known in the States, which is to be somewhat expected. This is one of two titles from international countries to appear on the list.

But both parts of A Chinese Odyssey should go down as high-quality films that revolve around the concept at hand. The protagonist Joker stumbles upon Pandora’s Box as its title may suggest, which doubles as a time portal. The second entry is just as fascinating in both premise and execution, and both should be added to your list of essential time travel movies from the nineties.

7 Army of Darkness

Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness 1993
Universal Pictures

Several entries from famous franchises appear on the list, with Bill and Ted already being touched on in tandem with Austin Powers. Now, it’s time for the undead. Written and directed by Sam Raimi, this is the third entry in his Evil Dead franchise of horror films. But now, Raimi brings a medieval twist as fan-favorite protagonist Ash Williams traverses time itself in Army of Darkness (1992).

This is among Raimi’s most underrated features, and easily the most overlooked of its series. And of course, these aren’t just horror films, as the Evil Dead series is among the most famous examples of a horror-comedy hybrid to ever exist. All three movies are essential: if you haven’t seen them, start with Evil Dead (1981), work up to Army of Darkness, and laugh the whole way through.

6 Back to the Future Part III

Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future Part III (1990)
Universal Pictures

Aside from perhaps the number one pick, this is the most famous franchise to ever feature time travel. And sure, Back to the Future Part III (1990) is often considered the weakest of the trilogy. But as Marty McFly traverses the wild west in 1885 while searching for a missing Doc Brown, fun times were had by all, and this fan-favorite franchise gave audiences a rare hybrid of genres: western and science fiction.

Related: Christopher Lloyd is Feeling Nostalgic for Back to the Future Part III: ‘I Love 1885’

The DeLorean from the Back to the Future films isn’t just the most famous use of a time machine in film, but also one of the most well-known cars in the medium’s history, as well. And as its passengers Marty McFly and Doc Brown are also two of the most iconic characters to ever grace the silver screen, Back to the Future Part III becomes an undeniable pick for this spot at number six. If one of the earlier entries released in the nineties, it might place even higher.

5 Galaxy Quest

galaxy-quest
DreamWorks Pictures

Perhaps the most star-studded cast on the list goes to Galaxy Quest (1999), with Tim Allen in the lead role as Jason Nesmith. He appears alongside Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman, with more supporting roles including performances from Tony Shalhoub, Daryl Mitchell, and Sam Rockwell. They all play members of the cast and crew of the fictional, titular science fiction show, Galaxy Quest.

For those unfamiliar: the film’s plot truly kicks off when a legitimate race of aliens mistake the production for a documentary, and then initiate an intergalactic battle. A time warp is involved near the climax, with Galaxy Quest undoubtedly meeting the qualifications for the list. It’s also one of the funniest films of the bunch, seeing critical acclaim upon release and building a tremendous legacy ever since. Considering stars of the original Star Trek series like Patrick Stewart and William Shatner sang its praises, you know it must be good.

4 Run Lola Run

Run Lola Run by Tom Tykwer
X-Filme Creative Pool

The second of two international films on the list is Run Lola Run (1998), written and directed by Tom Tykwer. A German-language feature, it follows the titular protagonist Lola as she’s given precisely twenty minutes to retrieve 100,000 Deutschmarks for her boyfriend. Otherwise, he’ll be killed. An interesting premise, and there’s a time-bending twist.

Related: The 21 Best Foreign Films of the 1990s

Anytime Lola (or her boyfriend Manni) is killed, or she fails the goal in general, events begin anew. Seeing this intriguing storyline into fruition is Franka Potente as Lola, with Twyker’s well-written script providing excellent pacing and intriguing character dynamics. Run Lola Run is one of the best international films of the 1990s, and one of the best international thrillers ever made. It’s also an essential piece about time travel that lands within the list’s top five.

3 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys by Terry Gilliam
Universal Pictures

Starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt, it’s worth noting off the bat that the latter actor defines 12 Monkeys (1995) from his first featured frame until the fireworks of the film’s finale. He plays Jeffrey Goines, the patient of a mental hospital and the secondary character to James Cole, played by Willis. The former proves prevalent to the plot later on in the film, while the latter is at its center the whole way through.

Directed by Terry Gilliam from a script by David and Janet Peoples, this entry features Cole as the time traveler, a prisoner from 2035 who is sent back to stop the onset of a deadly virus. With time travel at the heart of the story, 12 Monkeys is an essential pick for the list in premise alone. But considering the caliber of the film itself with one of the greatest performances of all time from Brad Pitt, this is easily top-three material.

2 Groundhog Day

Bill Murray in Groundhog Day
Columbia Pictures

The quintessential movie about time loops is Groundhog Day (1993), directed by Harold Ramis from a script he co-wrote alongside Danny Rubin. As weather forecaster Phil Conners covers the titular, annual event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, he awakens to find himself reliving the same day over and over. Perhaps not the most common premise for a comedy, but Groundhog Day is arguably the funniest movie ever made.

At least, it’s the most uproarious movie of the nineties, with this being Bill Murray’s definitive role. He was born to play Phil Connors, with other performers like Andie McDowell and Chris Elliott also providing memorable efforts. And as the longevity of Groundhog Day almost transcends the list itself, the film is a surefire pick for the penultimate spot.

1 Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 Judgment Day
Tri-Star Pictures

Perhaps the greatest movie ever made to feature the element of time travel is Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), directed by James Cameron from a script he co-wrote with William Wisher. The film of course stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a highly advanced killing machine who’s sent back in time to assassinate John Conner, the future leader of a human resistance against artificial intelligence. A scary thought nowadays.

And across the board of criticism and viewership, Judgment Day was deemed a success. It accrued half a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, and it garnered rave reviews upon release. It’s held in the highest regard even today, and justifiably so. It holds up perfectly, and it’s without a doubt the best movie from the 1990s that revolves around time travel.

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