Time travel as a genre is always fascinating in any medium, be that a book, movie, TV show or comic. The possibility of meeting anyone in existence, going to places long forgotten and uncovering secrets of well-loved icons of the past and maybe even the future gives a special allure to time travel movies. The fantastical direction this genre takes adds elements of magic, naivete, and touches of illusion appealing to older and younger viewers alike. Add into this the sprinkle of romance and you have me hooked. If I get the chance to watch Shakespeare wooing a girl from the 21st century using poems that have become cult classics, I’m grabbing the popcorn and switching my phone off.
Like most people, I grew up watching time travel movies. Consequently, they have become my favorites. For example, we can all appreciate Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure or watching Hermione travel back in time to see herself punch Draco in the face. (Not only a win for Harry Potter fans but for girls all around.) Meanwhile, Doctor Who (2005) is my first exposure to real romance and time travel. With the Doctor’s companions all falling for him, he only falls for Rose (Nine and Ten). As a result, it had millions of us hoping he would appear in our living rooms ready to take us on our own adventure. Since then, there was no going back. There’s just so many romantic time travel movies calling out to be binged.
Here is a list of my personal favorite romantic time travel movies that have thus far survived the test of time. However, I will admit this list is not exhaustive (limiting the films to 10 was a difficult task).
10 Romantic Time Travel Movies to Binge Watch
(In No Particular Order)
#1: ABOUT TIME (2013)
Without a doubt, a humorous and engaging retelling of a classic boy tries to win over girl story. Tim wishes to change his life and get a girlfriend. With this intention, enter Mary. Tom falls for her and is relentless and tenacious in his pursuit, all thanks to a family secret. The men in his family can travel through time! What a secret to have and at 21 your options are endless.
About Time beautifully captures the fun-loving side to romance. And, as viewers, we see the benefits of having such a gift but also just how painful the gift can be as well. For this reason, we not only see the love between a man and woman but also the close relationship between Tim and his father, played by the talented Bill Nighy. Have tissues ready as poignant scenes will get you teary-eyed.
Content Note: This film is rated 12A in the UK for mild profanity, nudity, violence, and moderate sex scenes. For the same reason, About Time is a mild rated R in the United States.
#2: THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE (2009)
This falls quite high in my list of must watch romance films in general as it has sweeping romance and not to mention swoon-worthy Eric Bana as the protagonist. The film beautifully interweaves through different phases of time, keeping the viewer enthralled. It follows the life of Clare (Rachel McAdams) and how she meets Henry (Eric Bana), or rather how he encounters her. Clare and Henry ‘meet’ in a library. Soon, they both know what Henry is and what he can do which is being involuntarily thrown through time, forwards or backward.
The most interesting aspect about this movie is, despite Henry being the traveler, Clare knows more about him. She’s even aware of their relationship during their ‘first meeting’.Without giving too much away, you can assume this is not the first time they have met. The story follows them through their life together, how his continued absence becomes a toll for Clare and over time it delves into the life of living with a time-traveler.
Could you live with someone who knows your future? They will know exactly where your life together could end up. Instead of going for the fated lovers’ angle, this looks at how fate may have brought them together, but should they have walked away?
Content Note: This film is rated 12A in the UK for mild sex, nudity, and profanity. In the US, the film is rated PG-13.
#3: SOMEWHERE IN TIME (1980)
If you prefer sweet innocent love stories with classic romance, Somewhere in Time will be perfect for you. Set in 1972, Christopher Reeve stars as student Richard Collier who travels to Mackinac Island to stay at the Grand Hotel where he sees a portrait of a woman who he becomes enamored with. He finds out she was a famous stage actress who has passed away. In this obsession with the picture, he finds a way to go back in time to meet her. Using methods of self-hypnosis, he is able to get back to 1900 and meet Elise McKenna, but what fate is in store for two people with such a big ‘time’ difference? Get ready to fall in love with the characters, cinematography, music and love stories all over again. Fun tidbit: Somewhere in Time was nominated for an Oscar for best costume design.
Content Note: This film is rated PG for mild profanity and sensuality.
#4: THE LAKE HOUSE (2006) AND IL MARE (2002)
The Lake House is a somber story, showing love with a facet of yearning, similar to Somewhere in Time. Both have protagonists who are trapped in different times. Kate Forrester (Sandra Bullock) moves to a new house, leaving behind a letter for the next tenant. The person who reads the letter, Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves), realizes some unusual things are happening. Events mentioned in the letter have yet to occur. They come to the realization that they are exactly two years apart writing from different times.
This charming movie weaves a beautiful story which will appeal to anyone in a long-distance relationship. You will be able to relate to the dates they attempt to go on, how they try and share experiences with each other. It will make you appreciate the fact that you are at least only a phone call away. The ending of the movie will have you on the edge of your seats, the revelations revealed will make you want to believe in fate, kismet take your pick. Special mention to the original movie called Il Mare (2002) which is a Korean production and equally a must watch if you don’t mind subtitles.
Content Note: This film is rated PG with mild profanity, alcohol, and drugs.
#5: BACK TO THE FUTURE PART III (1990)
If you are not familiar with this series, what are you doing? Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and the iconic DeLorean made a generation of kids dream about hoverboards and Nike trainers. This is the third installment of the series, giving more focus to the ‘Doc’ Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). Set against the backdrop of the 1885 old west (and true to the name), we get standoffs, brawls, and romance. Meanwhile, Marty travels to 1885 and is stuck because his car breaks down. Of course, he has a run-in with ‘Mad Dog’ Biff Tannen and his unruly gang. (Trying to send Marty back with the limited resources they have makes you appreciate a lot of amenities we take for granted.) In the process of this, Emmett meets a school teacher, Clara Clayton (Mary Steenburgen), who is a science geek just like him and soon a romance blossoms.
It is surreal and sweet to see Doc so enamored and unable to figure out how to act. Furthermore, the romance breathes new life into his character and shows an angle we never thought we needed. In the climax of the movie, there is a race against time to get the DeLorean fixed and Marty back to present day. Ultimately, even as a sequel, Back to the Future Part III is brilliant.
Content Note: This film is rated PG with moderate profanity, mild sex, nudity, and violence.
#6: MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (2011)
‘You’re in love with a fantasy.’
‘I’m in love with you.’
Woody Allen does it again, giving us a spellbinding movie, with sophisticated and witty characters. He portrays Paris in a way that will make you want to go there and explore. Winner of an Oscar, Midnight in Paris follows Gil (Owen Wilson) and Inez (Rachel McAdams) on vacation in Paris, where he wishes to move after they marry. However, his wife-to-be doesn’t see the magic of the city, hoping to settle in America instead. In the meantime, Gil struggles to write his first novel and takes a strange late night stroll through Paris, getting an invite to a party which includes guests such as Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Gertrude and many others who frequented the famous salon of Stein.
It is up to the audience to decide if this is time-travel or just the fantasy of a desperate writer who is in love with the golden era of the ’20s. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie because it gave a glimpse of how some of my favorite writers would interact. This is what other genres cannot do, transport and introduce characters, figures who we would love to meet. This charming film will have you falling in love with the characters and the dialogue. The superb acting by Wilson portrays an awe-struck, enthusiastic writer who meets his heroes. There is no real story to follow rather more events that unfold and how the characters react to them. But life is like this sometimes: we don’t know where things are going until later on.
Content Note: This film is rated 12A in the UK and PG-13 in the U.S. for mild profanity, sex, and nudity.
#7: 13 GOING ON 30 (2004)
13 Going on 30 is a reverse-coming-of-age time travel romantic comedy. Jenna (Jennifer Garner) makes a wish on her thirteenth birthday, wanting to be older after going through an embarrassing ordeal. Jenna makes the wish to make her older and magically it is fulfilled. She wakes up the next day to find she is weeks from her thirtieth birthday, has a dream job as a magazine editor, car, and a very attractive boyfriend. Everything that anyone could want, but she is still not happy, which pushes the story towards what she truly desires.
This approach is always fun to watch, including hilarious scenes where the protagonist tries to understand the new circumstances and her new body. I admit it’s nothing new in terms of what we can expect but Garner portrays the character’s innocence and naivete so well. We see beautiful shots of New York city which will make you want to book your flight and get over there. However, the surprise in this movie is Mark Ruffalo who plays Matt, the high school best friend. Seeing him in this role will be new and a fresh take for fans of the Marvel world. One of the best moments in the movie is the Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ dance which will leave you astounded and get you on your feet.
Content Note: This film is rated 12A in the UK and PG-13 in the U.S. for mild profanity and sexual content.
#8: WINTER’S TALE (2014)
Winter’s Tale is set in 1895 on the streets of New York and based on the novel of the same name. Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is a seasoned thief who enters the home of Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay). Beverly catches him in the act. They both fall in love and she tells Peter a story about how everyone is born with a miracle inside them. This is the theme for the whole movie so keep this in mind while watching. The movie boasts a lot of big stars: Russell Crowe, Will Smith, and William Hurt, who all play fantastical characters brilliantly. The story jumps to modern times showing us Peter again. But he has amnesia, setting the story for the rest of the movie. The search for his memories and lost story.
Romance like this is always beautiful to watch, even though the audience and characters know it will not be the happy ending we all hope for. Fans of Downton Abbey will recognize Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley, carrying off the character of Beverly competently, with a timeless beauty that is only enhanced because we know the fate of the character. Farrell is exquisite as always, playing his role as an Irish thief so convincingly. There are many twists and turns to keep you entertained during the second half, which is worth the effort.
Content Note: This film is rated 12A in the UK and PG-13 in the U.S. for violence and sensuality.
#9: IF ONLY (2004)
If Only uses the winning formula that led Groundhog Day (1993) to success, where the day is on repeat. We have Samantha (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Ian (Paul Nichols) who are a typical couple, showing the relationship and fights. Tragedy strikes when Samantha has a car accident leaving a heartbroken and grief-stricken Ian. But fate gives him another chance to back in time to try and change events. He lives the same day again and, of course, like any sensible hero he tries to alter the events that lead up to her death.
It’s a sweet story showing the importance of cherishing the people close to you. The film further makes you wonder about how you would react in this situation. Would you be able to change anything? The story moves at a good pace, keeping audiences on edge as to whether Ian will succeed. Very beautiful moments occur between the two as Ian knows what is to come. He tries his hardest to make everything perfect, take note guys (ahem, ahem). Tissues may be needed, you have been warned.
Content Note: This film is rated PG-13 for some sexual material.
#10: KATE & LEOPOLD (2001)
‘I’m not very good with men.’
‘Perhaps you haven’t found the right one.’
This story captures everyone’s heart because Leopold (Hugh Jackman) comes from 1876 and has a romantic, classic approach to love. He has purity dripping from every glance and every word he speaks. It would make any girl fall head over heels for the chivalrous Leopold. So, what chance does Kate (Meg Ryan) have? Leopold needs to marry someone for wealth, with a dwindling purse and big dreams to pursue. He enters a portal transporting him to modern times. This blows him away, to see the sights and progress. He meets Kate, a market researcher who is cynical but ambitious. They get close but inevitable differences arise and he returns back to his time.
Kate & Leopold also provides well-written comedic scenes with Kate’s brother, an actor assuming Leopold is deep in character. For fans of epic romantic movies from the ’90s, this 2001 film is equally awesome. Plus, any fan of Jackman will enjoy seeing him in this swoony role.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.
Did you find one of your favorite romantic time travel movies? If you had the chance at having one of these romances, which one would it be?
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