Christopher Nolan, one of the greatest blockbuster directors of all time, has a new film called Tenet, which seems to focus largely on time bending of some kind. But no one can see it yet, thanks. Is this a monstrous marshmallow test performed by the movie gods? Who should say? But I know it does the denied satisfaction of feels like small potatoes in comparison.
We may not get Tenet for(or more, if the last minute delays continue), but that does not mean you can not scratch the time-consuming itch you have felt . Here are 15 fantastic time-consuming movies and TV shows that are worth watching for the first time or visiting instead of Tenet’s big debut (easy spoilers to follow).
For movies that are not available on Netflix or their exclusive distributor (like Palm Springs on Hulu), we have included links to Amazon, where you can rent or buy.
The timeline subgenre
The story of the time loop, where characters are locked into a repetitive day (or so) and have to find out how to escape it, has practically become its own genre in 2020. Even after decades of these movies and TV shows, authors find still ways to make them feel fresh. Here are the best ones to see over and over and over again and … well, you get the idea.
Palm Springs is only a few weeks old, and it’s very nosy about its time loop impact (lead Andy Samberg mentions that he’s been caught in “one of the endless time loops you may have heard of” halfway through). While the film does not boast of the narrative creativity or thematic depth of any of the other items on this list, it does provide some really good laughs and a solid supporting role for the endless JK Simmons.
This Bill Murray and Harold Ramis classic gave birth to an entire genre and for good reason. Groundhog Day’s characters are compelling, Murray’s depressive performance is flawless and the sincere ending lands well – and this comes from someone who generally hates moralistic endings. If you have not seen this movie, do yourself a favor and watch it. You will never hear “Then put your little hand in mine, there is no hill or mountain we can not climb” in the same way again.
Natasha Lyonne’s Russian Doll is a smart miniseries that takes the format of the timeline. It stands out for its sharp breadth and surprisingly deep themes such as mental illness and childhood trauma. Lyonne is tragically funny in the lead role, and you can tell how she dominates the screen that no one else could have told this story.
A super low-budget sci-fi thriller from Spain. Timecrimes does not share the time travel mechanisms of other movies in the timeline subgenre, but I include it because it follows a character who relives a short time over and over. It becomes more interesting when he encounters other iterations of himself, relives the day and changes how he and the audience understand all the strange events that have come before (yes, it’s a bit confusing).
Stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Vera Farmiga joined sci-fi director Duncan Jones (fresh from the silent luminous moon) for this time-travel spell where a man tries to stop a terrorist attack (and anticipate the next) by reliving the eight minutes before train bombing over and over again. again. In short, source code a super fun, well-cast exciting tour that keeps you riveted from start to finish.
Warner Bros. Pictures
Another amazing sci-fi girl, this Tom Cruise vehicle sees a futuristic soldier accidentally thrown into a time loop during an alien invasion, and he must not only relive the same battle over and over again, but also try to find out how he can win major wars. Edge of Tomorrow is a good summer movie for a year with unreleased summer movies.
If you’re more of a fun horror girl than a summer blockbuster, Happy Death Day and its sequels offer a fun genre mix where the protagonist gets the satisfaction of delivering perfect comebacks to unsuspecting sorority girls and also has to investigate her own murder, which happens repeatedly. It ends up being smarter than it sounds, largely due to the protagonist’s development and the lead actress Jessica Rothe’s capable performance.
Time travel subgenre
OK, time loop movies start to feel a bit repetitive after a while – and more repetition is not always the best recipe when you are stuck in quarantine. Fortunately, more straightforward time travel movies and shows are plentiful and often provide fun doses of nostalgia to boot.
Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys often fall in love as a time travel classic, but I’m actually part of the much softer Time Bandits, in which an 11-year-old boy goes galivantly through the millennia with a crew of bumblebees. They stop to meet Napoleon, Agamemnon and passengers on the Titanic – all played by a wonderful role that includes John Cleese, Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall and the late, great Ian Holm.
It’s a weird, wonderful movie – and one of the few on this list that offers compelling viewing to a slightly younger audience (although children raised at Disney may find it too strange for their liking).
The fourth Star Trek movie’s light air and fast pace make it stand out as one of the funniest posts in the franchise’s long history. Directed by Leonard Nimoy himself, the film sets a much lighter tone than previous (also excellent) posts such as The Wrath of Khan. The company’s crew is stranded in San Francisco in 1986, the year the film was released, trying to catch a couple of whales to bring the future. It’s a popcorn drama with a charismatic cast, and if you love Star Trek, it’s one of the best incarnations of what you can find. Watch ads for free on Amazon IMDb-TV. Also available on CBS All Access (owned by CNET’s parent company, ViacomCBS).
Twentieth Century Fox
A personal favorite on the list, Days of Future Past is perhaps the best X-Men movie ever released – a feat in a series that both jumped on modern superhero movies and produced the excellent X2 and Logan movies.
In this, Wolverine must travel back from a dystopian future to change humanity (and mutant battles) by stopping the development of Sentinel technology. What makes this film good is its impeccable role-playing (Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian MacGregor, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender – the list goes on), a smart and character-driven story and a fun dose of 70s nostalgia. It’s a banger. Also available on Amazon.
In this underrated adaptation of Stephen King, an English teacher, played by James Franco, tries to travel back in time and stop the murder of JFK – thus the title, 11.22.63. Upon arrival, he becomes attached to the new life he creates, which complicates his central mission. The miniseries is a fast-paced arc with eight episodes and it works well as a period and sci-fi thriller.
HBO’s extension of 2019 to Watchmen mythos, which just received 26 Emmy nominations, was important and inventive. Watchmen’s showrunner Damon Lindelof has dipped much more than his toes in various sci-fi series over the years. He co-created Lost and HBO’s excellent The Leftovers and wrote blockbuster sci-fi movies such as Prometheus and Star Trek: Into Darkness.
Watchmen is better than all, and establishes itself as one of the best TV shows in recent memory in its too short nine episodes. But one episode in particular sends the protagonist back through memories of a mysterious figure to experience his life as a black police officer in New York in the early 40’s. The episode uses color and camera joinery to add layers of surrealism to the story and creates one of the most fascinating 60-minute televisions of the past decade.
The mind-bending subgenre
Time loops and time travel appear over lots of movies and shows, but some stories implement these mechanisms as more than a convenient framing device: They use time to build thematic complexity, to keep viewers in other ways guessing their assumptions about causality. These are often the best – and even the most complicated – of time-related stories, and it seems that Tenet will use time in an equally creative way. Here are some favorites.
20th century studios
Donnie Darko is one of the best when it comes to such thoughtful tickets. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the titular depressed teenager as he spirals through high school everyday life after a death experience. What follows is an sometimes trippy, sometimes scary, sometimes funny, always entertaining girl who will keep you guessing about what is coming (and what has already gone) until the iconic end. Watch ads for free on Amazon IMDb-TV.
Sony Pictures Entertainment
Rian Johnson is an interesting director who delivered a fantastic debut with Brick, a confused second film that no one remembers and one of the most divisive Star Wars films ever (which says a lot). Along the way, he also released Looper, a fun piece of time travel with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as versions of the same man in a cat and mouse hunt through … well, barley fields.
The film is not perfect and focuses less on time-raising mechanisms than many of the films on this list, but it has some moments of pure inspiration – including seeing a young man tortured when his older self gets scarred and begins to lose limbs years later. Oh, and the movie might be a little dark if you did not guess.
Speaking of Dark, the German TV series just dropped its third and final season on Netflix, and it stands as one of the best mind-boggling time stories in recent memory. The disappearance of children plagues a small town, and time travel seems to be the best explanation.
The following is a steady multiplication of timelines, characters and motivations – along with constant Russian on determinism, humanity, Freud and God. It’s a smart show, although characters always seem willing to make ill-informed decisions to make the interest more beneficial – but you will not even notice it because of the clever writing, constant revelations and a method that treats your viewing paradigm as a whirligig on a windy day.
Some bonus girls
Okay, there are a lot of shows and movies. Maybe it’s even enough to keep you going until Tenet really comes. But in this timeline, who knows when it might be? But if you need any bonus recommendations, check out the fun Ethan Hawke thriller,; grandfather of all nostalgic time travel, Back to the Future; The James Cameron Classic, ; Keanu Reeves comedy with one , ; Tarkovsky’s philosophical ; the much loved (by others than me) ; , if you somehow did not see it before now; and finally Christopher Nolan’s other time-consuming films, and (although time is really only used as a narrative trick in it) .
Did I miss? Let me know in the comments.
New film calendar for 2020 and 2021 after delays in coronavirus
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