Now I'm going to say right up front that Terminator, Back to the Future, Pleasantville and Peggy Sue Got Married are not going to make the list. I just don't think they're good enough and I don't possess the sentiment to include them. There are two honorable mentions though, and I'm going to put them right up top so I can feel a bit better about being jerky in my selection.
Donnie Darko: Because it's just a very good movie and I really don't want to get into it with its fans.
Star Trek: The Voyage Home: Because there are three or four drop dead lines, the best being with Commander Scott talking to a mouse.
10. Planet of the Apes
Of course I'm talking about the original here. Greatest surprise ending of just about any movie ever, next to The Usual Suspects, The General's Daughter and several caper films I can think of. But what a marvel. A classic to this very day. It gets on the list.
9. Source Code
This movie was way better than I expected and it throws in the kicker of being a countdown against the clock movie as well. I found it riveting.
You cannot be a fan of middlebrow science fiction and not love Michael Crichton. This is really a wonderful film in lots of ways, true enough to the book and the times. Just a lovely film.
7. Edge of Tomorrow
OK if things are going to be impossibly bad for humans in their fight against alien species, this story is the most plausible of them all, which is that humans don't come up with a giant bomb or well-placed sniper shot to the boss, but that the aliens' own tech gets used against them. What a super movie.
6. Deja Vu
This is a personal favorite. I've watched it at least 3 times, and it works on multiple levels. It's a mystery, a love story and a sci-fi action flick all at once. It has heroism, treachery and a great location. What more can you ask for?
5. 12 Monkeys
If there's a sentimental favorite here, this is the one. It's just so imaginative and plays so well in memory. It brings forth just the amount of crazy and absurdity to the time travel mission itself without going totally off the deep end.
4. Groundhog Day
There's really nothing else to say. If you haven't seen this movie, your life is incomplete.
Now we come to the movies that take the premise of time travel and work out the details in stunningly creative ways. Looper is darkly mysterious and very satisfying. Any film with gangsters in a nightclub and a young mother in a farmhouse has got to be extraordinary.
This is the reason for this list. This is the most extroardinary twist on time travel ever put to screen because it uses brilliant story telling to deal with the very paradox of going back in time. It's so extraordinarily well done without being overly intricate that you can get your mind blown three times in one sitting.
The reason this is the greatest time travel movie of all time is because it has time travel within time travel within time travel and accounts for every minute. It is superbly complex and brilliantly executed with that kind of malltown realism that makes the best independent films. It evokes perfectly the sense of young hotshot thinkers facing their own fears and daring to be great. It is by far the most realistic and gritty portrayal of the actual discovery of time travel and the devastating consequences that would issue from greed, power and revenge such an invention would open up in the world. Do not miss this one. It is the American History X of time travel movies.