When you hear that a movie involves time-travel, it’s easy to assume that it’s just a sci-fi flick. It must be about evil geniuses, warped timelines, or a daring adventure through the centuries! It can’t possibly be an adorable romance movie… Right? Well, you’d be surprised! It turns out that “time-travel romance” is a pretty substantial romantic drama sub-genre! When you think about it, it makes sense. Having the ability to travel through time certainly would make dating someone very interesting – and probably quite complicated!
Time-travel romances have the ability to make you laugh, cry, or sit staring at the screen in confusion. They certainly add a new dynamic to the classic “boy-meets-girl” trope – and often in a good way! Here are just some of the movies in this genre that you absolutely have to see. Buckle down – you’re in for a wild ride through space and time!
1. Somewhere In Time
The time-travel romance genre is by no means a recent invention. Back in 1980, Somewhere In Time set the standard for this kind of film pretty darn high! Based on a bestselling novel by Richard Matheson, it follows a playwright who manages to travel back in time through self-hypnosis. He heads back to 1912 to romance an actress whose photograph captivated him, and the pair quickly falls in love. While the movie’s ending is bittersweet, it’s still a good watch that’ll make you believe in the existence of soulmates and true love. Legendary actors Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour portray the star-crossed lovers, with The Sound of Music‘s Christopher Plummer also making an appearance. What’s not to love?
2. Kate And Leopold
Meg Ryan is basically the queen of rom-coms, so it’s no surprise that she’s ventured into the genre’s time-travel based niche. Back in 2001, she starred opposite Hugh Jackman in Kate And Leopold, an incredibly cute movie about a 19th-century Duke who travels to modern-day New York City. There, Duke Leopold meets Kate, a cynical career woman who’s struggled to find love. Despite being born in different centuries, these two very quickly fall for each other… But will their fledgling relationship survive the pressures of their time difference? Well, you’ll have to watch and find out! If you’re not convinced already, this witty and warm movie also stars Liev Schrieber, Natasha Lyonne, and Viola Davis. Seriously. You need to watch it.
3. Back to the Future
Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 1985, you’ll have heard of Back To The Future. Even if you haven’t seen it, you’ll know it’s one of the most iconic time-travel movies of all time! While the film’s romance is more of a subplot compared to the main action of the film, it’s still worth mentioning in this list due to its general hilarity. When Marty McFly travels back in time to his parents’ teenage years, he accidentally prevents his mom and dad from ever meeting, essentially erasing his entire existence. Marty tries desperately to bring the pair together, but things are made substantially more difficult when his mom’s teenage self develops a crush on her future son. Talk about a forbidden love! Luckily, Marty fends off her advances and saves the day. Thank the Lord!
4. The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Time Traveler’s Wife marks seasoned time-travel movie veteran Rachel McAdams‘ first foray into the genre. As you’d guess from the title, she portrays a woman whose husband – portrayed by Eric Bana – has a genetic disorder that causes him to randomly time-travel with no warning. He tends to do so at very inconvenient times, such as just before his own wedding. As you’d imagine, this causes various complications in the pair’s relationship, although they try their best to make things work. McAdams and Bana’s romance is pretty adorable, but be prepared to shed more than a few tears throughout the course of this film. SO MANY EMOTIONS.
5. Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day is another iconic time travel movie that everyone has heard of, even if they haven’t seen it. It’s practically a cultural phenomenon: the movie is arguably more famous in some parts of the world than the day on which it’s set! For anyone that needs a reminder, the movie stars Bill Murray as a man who constantly relives the same day of his life again and again. While he initially uses this as an excuse to indulge in some pretty reckless and irresponsible behavior, he eventually realizes that he needs to put the time loop to better use. He falls in love, reevaluates his life’s priorities, and generally becomes a better person. How heartwarming!
6. Forever Young
Before Marvel’s Captain America made being frozen for decades ‘cool,’ Mel Gibson was doing it in the 1992 romantic drama Forever Young. He portrays Captain Daniel McCormick, a pilot who is cryogenically frozen in 1939 so that he doesn’t have to watch his ailing girlfriend die. He intends to stay in this state for a year. However, there’s a slight complication: the Second World War kinda distracts everyone. McCormick actually awakens 53 years later! After initially being totally terrified by the 1990s world – who wouldn’t be – he resolves to find his now-elderly love, who actually survived her apparently ‘fatal’ illness. A young Elijah Wood stars as one of the kids who discovers Daniel in the present day. Meanwhile, Jamie Lee Curtis steals the screen as his spunky single mother. This movie seriously has so much going for it.
7. Midnight in Paris
Guess what: there’s yet another time-travel romance movie that stars Rachel McAdams! Not that she’s been typecast or anything… Admittedly, her role in Midnight in Paris is fairly peripheral. She portrays Inez, the less-than-likeable fiancee of the lead character, Gil. Owen Wilson takes this main role, bringing his usual affable persona to the perpetually confused Gil. To be fair, his confusion is fairly understandable. Gil finds himself mysteriously time-traveling to the 1920s every night at midnight on the dot. He meets famous literary figures of the day, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. He falls for Adriana, the fictional lover of Pablo Picasso, and the cracks in his relationship with Inez begin to show. Midnight in Paris is charming, witty, and a fairly easy watch. If you’re a fan of all things vintage, it’s definitely for you!
8. 13 Going On 30
Every former teen of the 2000s has probably seen 13 Going On 30 at least once. It’s a fluffy and entertaining teen flick that brought both Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo to our attention back in 2004. One night in 1987, Garner’s character Jenna Rink is a 13-year-old being picked on by her mean-girl classmates. After an especially horrific birthday party, she wishes that she could just be 30 already… And the next morning, she wakes to find that she is! She has no idea what happened in the past 17 years and is horrified to discover she’s become kind of a jerk. Time-travel isn’t always as great as it seems! Luckily, Jenna’s transformation isn’t permanent. She learns not to wish her life away and falls for her teenage best friend – the future Mark Ruffalo – in the process.
9. Winter’s Tale
Admittedly, Winter’s Tale isn’t exactly the best time-travel romance out there. However, it’s worth a watch if you’re looking for something fluffy and a bit silly for a girls’ night in. Colin Farrell portrays Peter Lake, a man who doesn’t seem to age and is centuries old by the time the movie ends. Lake spends his very long life trying to fulfill his destiny of ‘saving’ a young, red-headed girl in need. He searches for this girl in various time periods, eventually finding her in modern-day New York. Along the way, he engages in a doomed romance with a Victorian woman dying of consumption. Will Smith stars as the actual Devil, and Russell Crowe is suitably creepy as one of his ‘dark’ angels. The movie can get a bit confusing at times, but it’s sweet nonetheless.
10. The Lake House
Former Speed co-stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock were reunited for this cute 2006 romantic drama. Based on the South Korean movie Il Mare, The Lake House follows two people who live in the same house in different years. Keanu’s character resides there in 2004, while Sandra’s is the owner in 2006. The two are mysteriously able to communicate through the house’s letterbox, despite living in slightly different time periods. They fall in love, but tragedy threatens to strike before the two can find a way to meet. While the premise of the time-traveling letterbox is a bit weird and nonsensical, the movie is undoubtedly super romantic. And really, can any movie about time-travel truly make sense since we haven’t discovered it in real life yet? Basically, The Lake House is worth a watch despite its slightly shaky science.
11. Peggy Sue Got Married
Back To The Future’s mid-1980s release clearly set a trend in the movie industry. Numerous films involving time-travel and romance began to crop up in the years following its release, including 1986 flick Peggy Sue Got Married. Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage star as a middle-aged couple who have just separated due to infidelity on the husband’s side. The two were once childhood sweethearts, and Turner’s character – the titular Peggy Sue – finds herself wondering if they should have ever dated in the first place. Next thing you know, Peggy Sue has been transported back to the 1960s to relive her teenage romance again! She initially decides that breaking things off with her future husband is for the best. However, nothing is ever that simple in a time-travel romance…
12. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Even if you’re not usually a fan of Japanese anime, you should make an exception for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. As you might guess from the title, it’s about a girl, Makoto, who gains the power of time-travel! While she initially uses her power frivolously, she later decides to use it to improve the lives of herself and her friends. She also falls for another time-traveler in the process. However, romance is made more complicated when neither party is in their ‘correct’ timeline! This critically-acclaimed anime luckily has an English dub – make the most of it! While it’s bittersweet at times, it’s ultimately a heartwarming watch.
13. Safety Not Guaranteed
If you’re a fan of sci-fi, comedy, or romance, Safety Not Guaranteed is the movie for you. Starring Parks and Recreation‘s Aubrey Plaza, it follows a magazine intern – Darius – who responds to a classified ad that offers the chance to time-travel. Darius ultimately joins Kenneth, the author of the ad in question, and tries to work out if he’s a time-traveler or just a bit insane. The two begin to fall for each other, despite these questions regarding Kenneth’s sanity. Various hilarious sub-plots add to the warmth and humor of this underrated movie. As for whether it actually involves any time-travel – well, that would be spoilers!
14. Happy Accidents
Once again, most of the movie Happy Accidents is spent establishing whether the male lead, Sam, is actually a time-traveler or not. He claims to be from the year 2470, but our heroine, Ruby, is understandably doubtful. Things get a bit weird when Sam declares he deliberately time-traveled to interfere with Ruby’s life. Like, that’s a bit stalkerish, let’s be real. However, he turns out to have had pretty understandable motivations. Poor Ruby has been unlucky in love in the past, and you watch this movie really hoping she gets a happy ending with Sam. There are emotional moments and plenty of twists and turns in this adorable early-2000s flick.
15. The Family Man
Peggy Sue Got Married isn’t Nicolas Cage’s only time-travel based romance movie. He also starred as the lead in 2000’s The Family Man! This time, he plays a single but financially successful man named Jack. After Jack rudely ignores his ex-girlfriend’s attempts to reconnect with him, a guardian angel appears to teach him a lesson about his priorities in life. He finds himself transported into an alternate future very different to his present reality. While Jack is now happily married with kids, all of his wealth has disappeared. What will he choose: the people he loves or his stacks of money? Is it too late for Jack to live a truly happy life? Well, that would be telling…
16. About Time
If you want a movie that’ll leave you both in a puddle of tears and with a renewed sense of hopeless romanticism, give About Time a watch. Domnhall Gleeson stars as affable Englishman Tim, who discovers that the men of his family all have the ability to time-travel. He decides to use this power to improve his love life, with varying success over the course of the film. While the time-travel aspect may initially just seem like a plot-enhancing gimmick, it actually adds a lot of emotional depth to the movie. At times, it feels more like a curse than a blessing to poor Tim. Rachel McAdams stars as Tim’s eventual wife, this being her third role in a time-travel romance movie.