When Movie Time Travel Goes Wrong

If time travel was possible, what would you do? Go forward a week and memorise the Euro Millions results? Go back to an argument you once had with the killer one-liner (normally ‘your mum’) that had eluded you at the time? Or perhaps you’d offer your younger self some sage council, like advising against purchasing that dodgy service station pasty on the way to Alton Towers which led to you shitting yourself on Nemesis when I was thirteen.

Throughout the history of cinema we’ve seen just about every reason to indulge in a spot of time travel, yet we’ve seen just as many ways that it can all go a bit June Sarpong. Here are ten examples of time travel going tits-up, and as ever if you don’t like spoilers, look away now.

The Butterfly Effect

The premise: Evan Treborn (professional MILF-fiddler Ashton Kutcher) discovers that reading excerpts from his childhood journals somehow allows him to travel back in time to alter traumatic events in his early life.

The problem: In doing so Evan has a remarkable tendency to make things worse: he wakes up as an amputee, as a stranger to the love of his life and, very nearly, on the gaggy end of a reluctant Nazi prison blowjob.

The Time Traveller’s Wife

The premise: Henry De Tamble (Eric Bana) has no control over his sporadic tendency to dart back and forth throughout the life of Claire, his non-linear love interest Rachel McAdams.

The problem: The not inconsiderable matter of paedophilia; seeing Henry court the infant Claire leaves a worse taste in the mouth than the aforementioned reluctant Nazi prison blowjob.

Back To The Future

The premise: Marty McFly finds himself in 1955 after using a DeLorian with some quite particular modifications to flee a group of very angry Libyan terrorists, who have taken the theft of their plutonium quite personally.

The problem: A period of time in which the courtship between your parents occurs is a poor choice for any time traveller who isn’t fond of being sick, yet not as poor as actually getting off with your own mum. Bleurgh. Bowk. Ick.


The premise: Christopher Smith’s melon-twisting thriller sees members of a sailing trip caught in a perpetually miserable time loop.

The problem: Triangle’s time loop only resets once everyone all members of the party are dead and, luckily, there’s a masked killer aboard the cruise liner who’s happy to assist in this regard. Masked killers, generally, do not a happy holiday make.

The Terminator

The premise: Computer mega-meany Skynet sends as hulking tin bastard from the future back to 1984 to kill the mother of the leader of the human resistance.

The problem: If The Terminator succeeds there will be no John Connor, and therefore no reason for Skynet to send a Terminator back through time, which means John Connor would be born, which means we have a paradox. Which means Skynet is an idiot.

Donnie Darko

The premise: Throughout Richard Kelly’s excellent little oddity we’re never too sure whether time travel’s real or whether Jake Gyllenhaal’s simply just a little bit mental.

The problem: It turns out it’s both, Nevertheless, the only reward Gyllenhaal receives for being right all along is a jet engine in the face, quickly followed by some death.

12 Monkeys

The premise: James Cole (Bruce Willis) is sent back in time to gather information about both the virus that wiped out mankind and the terrorist organization responsible.

The problem: He gets shot and killed. This is a fairly poor outcome in itself, but he also manages to do it in front of a child version of himself, meaning he’s also the cause of the recurring nightmares that have plagued him since adolescence. A double-whammy of fail.

Groundhog Day

The premise: Bill Murray’s droll and cantankerous meteorologist gets stuck in a day-long time loop, reliving the same 24 hours over and over.

The problem: With the possible exception of the day you discovered masturbation, there probably aren’t many days you’d like to repeat ad infinitum. Murray agrees, leading to an increasingly creative array of suicides. He also ends up wooing Andie McDowell, the poor wretch.


The premise: While in his garden Hector spies a naked young lady through his binoculars, and his efforts to follow her culminate in him travelling back one hour into the past. It makes more sense when you see it. Sort of.

The problem: Hector is shit at time travel. He’s stabbed, has a car accident, kills a woman who may or may not be his wife and makes a series of thunderously poor decisions, including almost killing himself on several occasions. Just stay indoors, Hector.

Planet Of The Apes

The premise: Gun-happy grump Charlton Heston’ group of hibernating astronauts blast through time and space to a distant planet in the year 3978, ruled by a race of intelligent, bipedal shit-throwers…

The problem: …only to discover, in one of cinema’s all time great twist endings, they were on a post-apocalyptic Earth all along. Meaning, in essence, they are now royally fucked.

Are there any other examples? Do let us know.