Top 10 Time Travel Stories (Books, TV & Movies)

Presdestination movie poster.  Image of star Ethan Hawke.
Time Travel movie Predestination is one heck of a ride. Starring Ethan Hawke, image is courtesy of Pinnacle Films.

by Garry Murdock


Well, here it is.  My top 10 list of Time Travel Stories! It was tough to put together. It's hard to measure one against the other, not because of the different mediums (books, tv or movies), but because each of them are so very good individually. But weigh in. Tell me if there's one in here you feel strongly about, or one you felt should have been included on my list. 


10.  Somewhere in Time.  Movie (1980). Shot on a miniscule budget on Mackinac island in Michigan, I've always felt this Christopher Reeve/Jane Seymour movie was underrated.  A tragic love story, based on the excellent novel "Bid Time Return" by Richard Matheson. 


9.  The Final Countdown.  Movie (1980).  An aircraft carrier accidentally gets sent back in time and its stunned crew has the opportunity to prevent Pearl Harbor from ever happening.  Terrific star power with Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Charles Durning.  As a kid, I must have seen this at the Drive-in 50 times.

8.  Predestination. Movie (2014). Starring Ethan Hawke, this movie left me speechless.  I don't want to spoil it so the less said, the better.  Better to go in cold. 


Cover image of Stephen King's novel 11/22/63.  Image is of JFK's motorcade on day of assassination.
A Time Traveler in the Stephen King novel 11/22/63 attempts to stop the assassination of JFK. Cover image courtesy of Simon&Schuster.

7.  Time After Time.  Movie (1979).  What if HG Wells invented a time machine?  What if a colleague, who is also Jack the Ripper, stole it and escaped to present day San Francisco to continue his murder spree? That's the premise behind this adventure through time, starring Malcolm McDowell as Wells and David Warner as JTR.  Mary Steenburgen also stars.  ABC attempted a TV series in 2017 but it only made it one season.


6.  Time and Again.  Novel.  (1970).  Amazingly enough, I only read Jack Finney's masterpiece for the first time recently.  It's about a secret agency looking for 'special' people they think are capable of time travel, simply by using their mind in just the right conditions.  Very well done.  The sequel - "From Time to Time" was somewhat lacking but still worth reading.


5.  11/22/63.  Novel (2011).  I hadn't read Stephen King in years before this was published...and boy I'm glad I didn't miss this one.  It's about a reluctant time traveler journeying back to the grassy knoll to prevent one of the most famous assassinations in history. The mini-series adaptation with James Franco was not nearly as good, but I guess they never are, are they?



4.  Timeline.  Novel (1999).  The late Michael Crichton weaved a masterful tale of suspense with a race against the clock (literally) that unfortunately did not translate well to the big screen. But it's one heck of a book, and I love the explanation behind the time travel device.  Check out my full review of the novel


Still from Episode 28 of Star Trek called "The City on the Edge of Forever".  Still shows crew of USS Enterprise looking through the time travel device known as the Guardian of Forever, and seeing images of the past.
Star Trek, Episode 28 "The City on the Edge of Forever" played more like a movie than episodic television. Image courtesy of Paramount TV.

3. Star Trek The Original Series - The City on the Edge of Forever.  TV (Episode 28, 1967).  Arguably the best episode of any Star Trek series.  Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock find themselves in depression era New York, trying to set right an altered time line that has erased the existence of the United Federation of Planets.  When Kirk realizes that to do this, the love of his life must die (played by Joan Collins), he must fight the urge to save her or watch millions die.  Epic episode that played like a movie, with a tragic ending unusual for its time. Brilliant. 

Poster courtesy of Orion Pictures.
Poster courtesy of Orion Pictures.


2.  The Terminator. Movie (1984)  Need I say more?  This movie just never let up.  Michael Biehn was completely believable as an edgy and war-weary soldier sent back in time from an "impossible" future, to save Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor, who finds out her as yet to be born son is destined to one day save mankind. That is...if they live long enough to outwit the relentless hunting machine stalking them.  Superior to all the sequels that would follow, The Terminator still holds up today.  And look for great performances from Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen - who would both appear together later in Terminator director James Cameron's Aliens and (Cameron's ex-wife) Kathryn Bigelow's vampire cult classic Near Dark.


I am looking forward to seeing what they do with the Linda Hamilton/Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator "reboot", currently slated for a late 2019 release. 


Image courtesy of CBS.
Image courtesy of CBS.


1.  The Twilight Zone:  Profile in Silver.  TV (1986).  Originally this was not on my top ten list, and I can't for the life of me figure out why.  I was absolutely thrilled by this episode when I first saw it, and have since re-watched it a number of times.  A comment below reminded me of it, and I think it really deserves to be towards the top of this list.  So, now it's tied for #1! (thank you Kira, for the comment).  If you haven't seen it, it stars Lane Smith as Dr. Joseph Fitzgerald, a Harvard University professor living in 1963.  Only he's really a visitor from 2172, and is in fact a descendant of JFK.   Fitzgerald is here to watch events of the 1960s unfold, but on impulse, ends up preventing the assassination of the President on that fateful day in Dallas. Uh oh.  


There's a serious problem though. The time stream has been damaged beyond repair.  Things are happening now that did not happen before,that will result in the end of the world unless history is reset.  With a great script and excellent performances by both Lane as Fitzgerald and Andrew Robinson as JFK, this really is a great Twilight Zone episode.  There was some web chatter a few years ago about how "Profile in Silver" was going to be remade into a feature length movie, but disappointingly nothing since.   

Image of the 1985 poster of "Back to the Future". Images shows Michael J. Fox looking at his watch, standing beside the Delorean time travel machine.
Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.


Tied for first place with...



1.  Back to the Future. Movie (1985). Marty, Doc, George, Biff, Lorraine, Strickland!!!...was there ever any doubt?  I've often wondered what would happen if the Delorean had not stalled upon Marty's return to 1985, and if he had rushed into Twin Pines mall (er...Lone Pine Mall) and saved the Doc before the terrorists arrived.  Two Marty McFlys? In any event, well done. 


So are your favourites in here? Let me know!


Comments: 6
  • #6

    Emmanuel (Wednesday, 15 August 2018 16:03)

    Very cool list Garry! One new discovery I had is The Twilight Zone: Profile in Silver which I don't recall seeing but it's top of my list to see! I love that it tied Back to the Future which is one of my all time favourite time travel and feel-good films!

  • #5

    Eric (Sunday, 04 December 2016 12:18)

    Great list.
    What about Bill and Ted's?

  • #4

    Kira (Thursday, 24 November 2016 21:47)

    You've got to see "Twilight Zone: Profile in Silver"! It should definitely be on this list - maybe make it a Top 11 list? Check out this review:

  • #3

    Darin (Monday, 21 November 2016 20:30)

    Pretty good list but I think that Groundhog Day should have a place on it ... just saying

  • #2

    Andrew (Thornhill) (Sunday, 20 November 2016 07:08)

    When I saw the the heading I immediately thought of Back to the Future. My #1 and I see it's yours as well.

  • #1

    Joe (Toronto) (Friday, 18 November 2016 13:26)

    Great list! Where would Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure rank?