Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
It may not be explicitly correct to call Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind a time travel tale, but Joel's (Jim Carrey) journey through his own brain - reliving memories of his ex-girlfriend before they are systematically erased - might as well be. And it's hard to think of anyone who would willingly choose to relive the good and bad moments of any relationship knowing that it would end in heartbreak (our memories tend to do a good enough job of that as it is).
Changing his mind halfway through the procedure doesn't matter (you can't change what already happened, after all) but the process of erasing the memories backwards - saving the best, earliest memories for last - is an added dose of cruelty. Why do we suddenly have an urge to travel to Montauk?...
Déjà Vu (2006)
Relying on director Tony Scott to bring a thrilling twist to time travel, Déjà Vu follows an ATF agent's attempts to find the man responsible for a shocking terrorist attack. But instead of using traditional time travel, the film introduces a means to look backwards in time, to the days leading up to the bombing. With time moving forward in the present and past, it's the only time travel story we know of to feature a chase scene between two cars - days apart.
As thrilling as the film's final act may be (with the agent in question sent backwards through time), the task of observing murder victims in their last hours seems like a job for a select few. After our first shift, we couldn't stop wondering if someone from the future was watching us this very second, waiting for us to make our last fatal mistake.
Groundhog Day (1993)
Admittedly, it might be more accurate to describe the endless loop endured by weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) in Groundhog Day is a curse, not time travel; though in the end, time travel is the curse. Like other films on our list, Groundhog Day asks the question of how much would be changed if given the chance to relive a day from start to finish. And then again. And again. And again.
As freeing as it may be to eat what we craved, say what we want, and do as we pleased, it's safe to assume that the endless loop of people and conversations would grow old fast. But according to director Harold Ramis, Phil was caught in the time between 30 and 10,000 years, since "it takes at least 10 years to get good at anything." We'll pass.
Run Lola Run (1998)
When the titular heroine of Run Lola Run (Franka Potente) must race the clock to save her boyfriend's life, the notion of 'the butterfly effect' is taken to extremes. Audiences are treated to not just one, but three different attempts and outcomes, with Lola's smallest actions (and sheer coincidence) spinning the lives of innocent bystanders wildly out of control.
None of the three bring 'good' results for all involved, but there are hints dropped that show Lola retains some of her knowledge of her previous attempts. Does that include knowing the fates that await those around her? Raising $100,000 in twenty minutes is enough of a challenge, but seeing how our smallest gesture can ruin a life... thanks, but no thanks.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
We know what you're thinking: who in their right mind would pass up the chance to become one of the most seasoned and battle-hardened soldiers in human history? A chance to strap on futuristic weaponry to defend Earth from an alien invasion - without the threat of death, merely restarting the day - is one that many, even most would take. But it's the parts of Edge of Tomorrow that aren't shown that have us worried.
The filmmakers are wise enough to start cutting to the chase - following every death of Major Cage (Tom Cruise) with him avoiding the death the next time around - but that's not the whole story. Think of it as playing an hours-long video game without a Save feature. You die? You start all over again. Nagging headache? That's your life now. Having trouble convincing a friend you're in a time loop? Prepare to have the conversation a few dozen times.
The movie never states how many times Cage relives the day - which in our minds, is a very, very bad sign. We'll stick with the video game version, if it's all the same.
Project Almanac - Every teenager has moments they wish they could redo (or adolescent fantasies they wish they could fulfill), so handing them the ability to travel time is going to come with a lot of risk, and little forethought. How could that go wrong? If we're talking about OUR teenage selves, that answer is 'all kinds of ways...' READ OUR REVIEW
Minority Report - Technically not "time travel," this Tom Cruise sci-fi cult-classic looks at a future where people are judged by actions they would have committed in an alternate reality, if not for the intervention of time-crime cops who view possible futures through the lens of a psychic brian trust. Jail time for what you might do? We'd be 25 to lifers in no time flat.... No thanks.
Terminator 1 & 2 - We've all played that game where we ask, "What if you could go back in time and kill Hitler?" Well, director James Cameron flips that question on its head with his sci-fi/action/horror films about an evil future A.I. who sends cybernetic assassins back in time to kill not a great destroyer (like Hitler), but rather a great savior (John Connor). Since Sarah and John Connor spent most of their time on the run from a horrific death - with an extinction-level event looming over them - we'd be cool sitting this one out.
Source Code - Like Deja Vu, Source Code uses a particular technology to allow law enforcement/military officials to observe and report on a horrific terrorist attack in the recent past. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) relives the last 8 minutes of a man named Goodwin's life multiple times trying to identify the terrorist - (SPOILER) only to ultimately discover that he himself is a fading consciousness in a broken comatose body. Getting out of that jam required some alternative timeline theory we don't fully understand, let alone want to rely on.
Looper - A more recent entry in the time travel movie genre, Rian Johnson's film takes the cause and effect consequences of time travel and brings it down to a more intimate level. Through the character of Joe (Joe Gordon-Levitt), we learn that changing the future isn't some grand mission; it can be as small (but important) as being humane and kind to a small child. But given how Joe ultimately "fixes" the future, we'd like to avoid this experience.
We wouldn't have expected an adolescent/murder mystery, episodic video game series to give us doubts about just how novel time travel would be in practice, but there you have it.
If you wish to experience the game (and the blend of satisfying, guilt-free cruelty and second chances it offers) yourself, Life is Strange's first episode is available now for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
Check out a trailer for the game below, and for more information head to its official website: