The Time Machine (1960: Amazon Prime VOD): This first cinematic adaptation of H.G. Wells's eponymous 1895 novella stars Rod Taylor as the writer Herbert G. Wells. What stands out most when revisiting this now fifty-year-old classic is just how well it holds up today. The completely entertaining yarn involves Wells' travel through time to a future where humans live in a post-Apocalyptic society and are treated almost as human cattle by the Morlocks, a competing race of underground-dwelling mutants that humans are terrified of. This version of The Time Machine won an Oscar for its special effects, which are quaint by todays standards, but hey, we're talking time travel here, so let your brain take a step back about a half century and just enjoy.
Time After time (1979: Amazon Prime VOD): This late '70s entry into the time travel milieu stars Malcom McDowell, who, like Rod Taylor in the 60's film, plays the author of the The Time Machine himself, H.G. Wells. Also like the '60s film, McDowells's Wells has built a machine capable of shooting him through time. Similarities between the two films end there though, thanks to a very clever script by Nicholas Meyer, who went on to have a hand in all three of the even-numbered Star Trek movies with the original cast. (Trust me, that's very important to the sci-fi nerds out there.) In this movie, not only does Wells build a time machine, but then Jack the Ripper (played so well here by awesome character actor David Warner) steals it and heads off for 1970s San Francisco to get his kill on. This sets off a chase through time as Wells struggles to capture the Ripper and return back to his own time. McDowell and Warner are fantastic in this film, and Mary Steenburgen holds her own as Wells' love interest.
Timecrimes (2007: Netflix Streaming): While not as technically deep as Primer, Timecrimes is so insanely time-loopy it's impossible to not enoy. In this movie, Hector (Karra Elejalde) and his wife are proud homeowners doing some renovations on their new place. Hector decides to take a break in the backyard and there he notices a woman stripping off her clothes in the bushes on the edge of his property. He goes to investigate but is attacked and stabbed by an attacker whose face is covered in pink gauze bandages. Hector escapes the madman and runs to a building where he finds a scientist working on a very big machine. The scientist tells him the only way to escape from the scissor wielding crazy person is to hide in the big machine, which Hector does. He evades a second attack, but when he steps out of the contraption he begins to realize that he may have triggered an event that upset the space-time continuum. This leads to multiple passes through the same events, multiple Hectors and multiple viewings for you as you try to unravel this trippy, tense, and darkly humorous jaunt.
Primer (2003: Netflix Streaming, Hulu Plus): I never said all these time travel movies would be easy and breezy, and here's the one that should probably come with a college course to help you decipher its insane (but apparently completely feasible) time travel logic. Primer involves a group of young men who are trying to make a go of a start-up tech company. Two of the men in the group, Abe and Aaron, are also trying to develop, as a side project, a machine that will make objects lighter. They succeed in building the device, and it seems to work, but there's a side effect: the machine is also a time machine. With this newfound knowledge, the two men set out to go through time and get rich on the stock market. Sounds simple enough, but nothing is simple about this movie, as multiple time loops start happening and multiple Abes and Aarons start showing up as well. I can honestly say I have never been so entertained by a movie I've had to watch multiple times and still don't quite "get." All the better: this mind twister was made on a $7,000 budget.
Somewhere in Time (1980: Netflix Streaming): Let's get serious here for a second. Is your special lady (or special man who loves romance pictures) mad at you? Did you wrong them in any way and are now looking for a low-impact way of getting back in their good graces? Look no further, because this little gem of a film is here to help. In SIT (Acronyms are so cool) Christopher Reeve portrays Richard Collier, a happening '70s-era playwright who, one night after a successful staging of his first production, is handed a pocket watch by an elderly woman in the audience who begs him to "Come back to me." A few years later he takes a trip to get away from the stress that comes with success. He ends up at a place called The Grand Hotel where he becomes intrigued by a photo of a young woman hanging on the walls. Turns out its the same woman who gave him the pocket watch. As he investigates this woman further he finds out she was a bit of a time-travel enthusiast as well, and this kicks off his adventure to go back in time to find her. He does manage to get himself back to 1912 and goo-goo eyes ensue with Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour), the love interest he goes back in time for. Oh, there's intrigue as well, with Elise's manager (Christopher Plummer) doing everything short of twirling his mustache to convey his vileness in trying to split the two up. But mainly it's goo-goo eyes.