Who would’ve thought that manipulating time would forge some of the great love stories? Whether it’s found within the chivalry of the gentlemanly past or the future of civilization, cinema has shown that love has no bounds – even if it means traveling through time to get it. Where it may be a common trope for the sci-fi genre, romance flicks have also surprisingly used it to their advantage.

From classic rom-coms like 13 Going on 30 and The Lake House, to more hidden gems like If Onlythese movies use the phenomenon of time travel to intertwine greater levels of fantasy and magic. Not only does this increase the overall cinematic experience, but these time travel romance movies also make the love stories incredibly epic.

17 ’13 Going on 30′ (2004)

Directed by Gary Winick


After being humiliated on her 13th birthday, Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) wishes to escape her life of pre-teen unpopularity and become a well-adjusted grownup in this time travel rom-com. She’s shocked when she wakes up to find her wish has come true; somehow Jenna (Jennifer Garner) is now 30 and living in 2004. Soon she realizes how adulthood has its own set of struggles – one particularly being her love life.

As an iconic 2000s rom-com, 13 Going on 30 has warmed fans’ hearts for decades. Largely driven by Garner’s bubbly innocence, Jenna’s connection with Matt (Mark Ruffalo) is undeniably pure and one of the great depictions of friends-to-lovers. This movie also uses time travel to put forth the message of how time is precious; by choosing to only look towards the future, one would never absorb the milestones of the present.

13 Going on 30

Release Date
April 13, 2004

Gary Winick


16 ‘When We First Met’ (2018)

Directed by Ari Sandel

Alexandra Daddario as Avery and Adam DeVine as Noah leaning on a door in When We First Met (2018)
Image via Netflix

Having been friend-zoned by the girl of his dreams after meeting her at a Halloween party, Noah (Adam DeVine) remains close to Avery (Alexandra Daddario). Three years later, she’s now engaged to someone else. Suddenly, Noah stumbles on the opportunity to travel back in time to the moment they met, giving him the chance to alter his life, and get the girl.

In an almost Groundhog Day scenario (and it’s worth noting that film is a benchmark for romantic time-travel movie), When We First Met is a humorous film that’s filled with charm and charisma thanks to the talents of the cast, especially in the case of DeVine. Where the romantic connection is present between characters, it isn’t with whom you’d naturally expect as this is a classic tale that teaches audiences that everything happens for a reason.

When We First Met

Release Date
February 9, 2018

97 mins

15 ‘Kate & Leopold’ (2001)

Directed by James Mangold

Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman riding a horse in 'Kete & Leopold'
Image via Miramax Films

Kate (Meg Ryan) is a 21st-century woman who’s determined to focus on her career. She thinks she doesn’t need romance in her life at all, that is until she meets Leopold (Hugh Jackman), an English Duke from the 19th century who’s accidentally brought to the future via a portal made by her ex-boyfriend, Stuart (Liev Schreiber).

Where Kate & Leopold may be cheesy at times with the classic fish-out-of-water tropes, this movie is an underrated feel-good romance that will easily keep one warm and cozy. Don’t expect it to be anything groundbreaking, but it’s perfect for a chill night that needs a film that’s mildly entertaining. With the script’s quick wit and fun character dynamics, this twisted modern-day fairytale shows how love doesn’t always come to us in the most expected ways.

14 ‘The Fountain’ (2006)

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in The Fountain
Image via Warner Bros.

A moody think-piece that sees director Darren Aronofsky at his intense stylistic best, The Fountain is as awe-inspiring as it is mind-boggling as a dramatic and tragic love story told across time. It primarily follows Dr. Tommy Creo (Hugh Jackman), a scientist who discovers a tree with life-sustaining qualities and tries to use it to combat his wife’s brain cancer. Jackman also appears as a 16th-century Spanish conquistador on a mission to find the Fountain of Youth and as a futuristic space traveler nurturing the tree of life until arriving at the heart of a dying star.

While polarizing on account of its demanding and convoluted narrative, The Fountain is a brilliant, sprawling tale of heartbreak and longing across time. Technically, it doesn’t feature time travel as it is usually depicted on screen, but its three interwoven stories do lean heavily on each other to present a love story that transpires across centuries. – Ryan Heffernan

13 ‘The Lake House’ (2006)

Directed by Alejandro Agresti

Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock The Lake House

As lonely doctor, Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock), moves out of her beloved lake house, she begins to exchange letters with its newest resident, a frustrated architect named Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves). The two instantly spark a connection and form a budding romance. The only problem – she’s living in the year 2006, whereas he’s in 2004.

An epic love story where two are separated by time, this romantic flick is special in the way that it portrays the simplicities of intimacy. With only the written word to connect, Kate and Alex’s closeness is unlike any other in The Lake House. It’s also refreshing to see Keanu Reeves in a non-action role, which he pulls off with ease. The two main characters need not rely on physical attraction or physical needs, they’re brought together by a deeper connection – one built on stories, soul, and emotions.

The Lake House

Release Date
June 16, 2006

Alejandro Agresti


12 ‘If Only’ (2004)

Directed by Gil Junger

Struck with grief after the sudden loss of his girlfriend Samantha (Jennifer Love Hewitt), Ian (Paul Nicholls) is given the opportunity to relive the day she died and rewrite his wrongdoings. The repetition of time allows him to become a better partner and fix things before the impending tragedy, but it also brings some unexpected pain as he relives the best and worst moments of his relationship.

Despite being an emotional and bittersweet tale, If Only is filled with hope and true love. It sends a message to viewers about how important it is to treasure every moment, every milestone, and to treat every day as if it were your last. It’s not an innovative concept by any stretch, but with the palpable chemistry between Hewitt and Nicholls, fans will be moved by their devotion towards each other, even until the film’s final bittersweet twist.

Watch on Peacock

11 ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’ (1986)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

A woman stands on stage, wearing a crown and holding a bouquet of roses, as she speaks into the microphone.
Image via Tri-Star Pictures

A bold genre departure from Francis Ford Coppola, Peggy Sue Got Married is an inventive movie that combines comedy, romance, and fantasy together with aplomb. It focuses on Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) who, when attending her 25th high school reunion, grows bitterly regretful of her life to the point that she passes out at the event. When she wakes up as a teenager back in 1960, she decides to embrace life with a renewed sense of fervor and not make the same mistakes twice.

Rich with nostalgia and the profound desire to turn back time and live life differently, Peggy Sue Got Married delicately plays with universal themes of regret and the way love between two people changes over time. The focal relationship between Peggy and her high school beau and eventual husband, Charlie (Nic Cage), is beautifully realized, making for one of the best time travel romance films ever made. – Ryan Heffernan

Peggy Sue Got Married

Release Date
October 10, 1986

Francis Ford Coppola


10 ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ (2009)

Directed by Robert Schwentke

Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana in The Time Traveler's Wife

Henry Detamble (Eric Bana) is a librarian from Chicago who struggles with his rare genetic disorder that causes him to randomly travel through time, uncontrollably. His life becomes more complex when he meets and marries the love of his life, Claire (Rachel McAdams), as she must now learn to cope with her husband’s condition.

An interesting spin on star-crossed lovers, The Time Traveler’s Wife captures the struggles of fated love. Where Henry and Claire’s story is romantic and tender, it’s also incredibly bittersweet. With Henry’s condition, fans (as well as Claire) are never sure of when he’ll disappear. So when he does on occasions like their wedding, the heartbreak and tension are palpable. Their love story may be unconventional, but there’s beauty to it.

9 ‘Somewhere in Time’ (1980)

Directed by Jeannot Szwarc

Enamored and infatuated by a vintage portrait that hangs in a grand hotel, playwright Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve) finds a way to travel through time to 1912 to meet Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour), a stage actor. Where the two seem destined to be together, conflicts arise when Elise’s obsessive manager, William (Christopher Plummer), tries to stop them.

A great movie that’s severely slept on, Somewhere in Time tells the story of an unworldly and impossible love. With a brilliant concept and beautiful chemistry between Reeves and Seymour, this movie is one for the romantics and dreamers. It shows the sheer lengths someone is willing to go to find their soulmate – even if it means going through time itself.

Watch on Tubi

8 ‘Time After Time’ (1979)

Directed by Nicholas Meyer

A joyous fantasy romp realized with so much charm and light-hearted fun that viewers can’t help but be absorbed by it, Time After Time presents a wacky, time-jumping adventure of prominent historical figures. Having invented a time machine, author H. G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) plans to leave 1890s London and explore the distant future. However, when Jack the Ripper (David Warner) uses the contraption to escape the police, Wells must follow the notorious killer to 1979 San Francisco to apprehend him. On his journey, he befriends and falls for a bank employee, Amy Robbins (Mary Steenburgen).

While it contains a little violence, the film excels with its childlike sense of adventure and its wonderfully pure romantic beats. Bolstered by the fact that each of the three main actors look to be having the time of their lives, Time After Time is an infectiously fun time-traveling romance that also serves as a wonderful sci-fi adventure that is as inventive as it is delightful. – Ryan Heffernan

Rent on Apple TV

7 ‘Palm Springs’ (2020)

Directed by Max Barbakow

Nyles and Sarah drinking while floating on a pool in 'Palm Springs'
Image via Hulu

A critically acclaimed cult hit of modern comedy, Palm Springs breathes new life into a time loop formula with its unique rom-com premise and its all-conquering sense of charm. It follows Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti), two wedding guests who find themselves living the same day over and over. While the two are drawn to each other, rising problems and a series of revelations threaten to ruin their budding romance.

Samberg and Milioti are both phenomenal in their roles, balancing irreverent comedy with an underlying heart that has an uncanny knack for taking viewers by surprise. While there may be some discrepancy between time loop and time travel, Palm Springs deserves all the praise it gets for avoiding formulaic clichés with confidence and wit. It stands as one of the best romantic movies of the decade so far. – Ryan Heffernan

Palm Springs

Release Date
July 10, 2020

Max Barbakow

90 minutes

6 ‘Back to the Future Part III’ (1990)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Mary Steenburgen and Christopher Lloyd Back to the Future III

As the third and final chapter to their adventures, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) must travel back in time to 1885 to the Old West to save his friend, Doctor Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd), from his impending murder. Matters become more complicated when Marty realizes that Doc has fallen deeply in love with local school teacher, Clara Clayton (Mary Steenburgen).

Though not a typical romance movie, Back to the Future Part III, is a film spearheaded by the themes of love. Where there are romantic storylines in the previous installments, Doc and Clara’s is a breath of fresh air – mostly because Doc is a character that’s so determined to avoid the supposed banalities of love. And yet, here he is, willing to be stuck in a foreign time period for the sake of love, happiness, and true companionship.

Back to the Future Part III

Release Date
May 25, 1990

118 minutes

5 ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ (2006)

Directed by Mamoru Hosoda


A popular anime movie for beginners, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time tells the story of Makoto Konno (voiced by Riisa Naka), who learns that she has the ability to time travel. She soon uses her newfound power to fix the small things in her daily life, from schoolwork to friendships. When she meets another person who can time travel, the two develop an unconventional bond.

Chiaki Mamiya (voiced by Takuya Ishida) helps the protagonist realize and fix the consequences of messing with time, but soon reveals something heartbreaking to her. Their romance is complicated by the fact that Chiaki isn’t from Makoto’s present day, and eventually has to leave. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time will have fans rooting for the time-traveling duo’s success until the tear-jerking end.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)

Release Date
July 15, 2006

Riisa Naka , Takuya Ishida

98 minutes

4 ‘Midnight in Paris’ (2011)

Directed by Woody Allen

Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson walk through the streets of Paris together at night.
Image via Sony Pictures Classics

Whilst on a holiday in Paris with his fiancé and her family, Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) – a screenwriter and aspiring author – develops a habit of touring the city alone. One night he finds himself swept back in time to the 1920s where he meets his favorite cultural and artistic icons. By experiencing life in the past, he is forced to confront his dissatisfactions with the present.

As a romance movie, Midnight in Paris offers multiple romantic interests, each with its own qualities and individual purposes. From Inez’s (McAdams) 21st-century realism, to Adriana’s (Marion Cotillard) 1920s romanticized attitude to life, Gil is forced to reflect on what kind of love will give him true happiness. He’ll even come to terms with the dangers of escapism. It’s a severely underrated Owen Wilson movie, with the actor’s performance being a delicate and moving one that anchors the entire story.

3 ‘Groundhog Day’ (1993)

Directed by Harold Ramis

Phil Connors driving a car while holding a groundhog in Groundhog Day (1993)
Image via Columbia Pictures

The original time loop movie, one that has become an enduring American classic, Groundhog Day features Bill Murray in a career-best performance while meshing comedy, romance, and character drama together with astute deftness. Phil Connors (Murray) is a self-centered weatherman who is sent to Punxsutawney to cover the annual Groundhog Day celebration. When he becomes stuck in a time loop, however, he is forced to confront himself while falling in love with his new producer, Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell).

An inventive spin on rom-com cinema that remains one of the most sincere and intelligent stories that the genre has ever seen, Groundhog Day thrives with its manipulation of time and the way its central love story is incorporated into that. With its innate ability to make audiences smile while feeling a range of emotions, it continues to be revered as a hopeful story of love and inner growth over 30 years since its original release. – Ryan Heffernan

Groundhog Day

Release Date
February 11, 1993

Harold Ramis

101 minutes

2 ‘About Time’ (2013)

Directed by Richard Curtis

Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams as Tim and Mary about to kiss in About Time
Image via Universal Pictures

Life changed forever when Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) turned 21 as his father revealed an odd hereditary trait; all the men in their family have the ability to time travel. Though initially shocked, Tim decides to use his skill to alter his past to improve his future. His main goal – bolster his love life and win the heart of Mary (Rachel McAdams). He soon realizes that his power can have serious consequences if used incorrectly.

With a clever concept, a beautiful script, and a great cast, this poignant movie is one that masterfully tackles the topics of love, redemption, and loss. Where Gleeson and McAdams’ chemistry is incredibly sweet, About Time is a movie about more than a simple romantic story. It uses time to talk about the importance of living in the moment and the consequences of one’s choices. Viewers can expect its small-scale intimate story to move most to tears.

About Time

Release Date
September 4, 2013

Richard Curtis

123 minutes

1 ‘Your Name’ (2016)

Directed by Makoto Shinkai

Mitsuha Miyamizu and Taki Tachibana separated by a glowing star in 'Your Name'
Image via Toho

Your Name is a massively popular and beloved anime film that blends fantasy, romance, and sci-fi together. It tells the story of two high school students – Taki Tachibana (voiced by Ryunosuke Kamiki) and Mitsuha Miyamizu (Mone Kamishiraishi) – who inexplicably begin to swap bodies. The two characters have never met, but begin to improve each other’s lives. Before they know it, they slowly fall in love in the process of learning about each other’s realities.

It’s impossible to talk about the time travel aspect of Your Name without completely spoiling the plot, but audiences who enjoy emotional animated films should consider this essential viewing for its notoriously tear-jerking twist. The gorgeous visuals and heartbreakingly romantic story easily make it the best film to show the potential of combining love and time travel in film.

Your Name (2016)

Release Date
August 26, 2016

Makoto Shinkai

Ryûnosuke Kamiki , Mone Kamishiraishi


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