Top 10 Movies That Play With Time

One Day is hitting cinemas nationwide this week, allowing Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess to bring David Nicholl’s novel of the same name to life on the silver screen. It’s a love story. Two people meet, bed and become friends. Sounds pretty clichéd? Possibly, but it has an added twist; set over a span of twenty years, it shows our two destined-to-be lovers on the same day each year to show where they are in their little lives. Sometimes together, sometimes not, it’s a pretty unique way to examine a love story. There’s nothing like a movie that dabbles with time to get our interest piqued, so here comes a list of our favourite plot muddlers ever made…


#10 – Shutter Island

Aha, bet you weren’t expecting this! Sure, it’s a relative newbie to the genre, but it’s a damn goody too! Meet U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels, as depicted by the increasingly better-with-age Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s busy investigating the disappearance of a murderess in a hospital for the criminally insane; with huge walls, intense security, an island setting and the added obstacle of a hurricane, the case seems almost impossible to solve. And as Teddy throws himself into his work, he begins to doubt his own sanity. Memories that were never his, flashbacks to a past long forgotten and seeing things that aren’t really there… this movie doesn’t just mess with time, it messes with your head too!


#9 – High Fidelity

A love story from a guy’s point of view is always intriguing, but when that guy is music-obsessed Rob (John Cusack) it becomes a definite must-see. He’s just broken up with his girlfriend and, rather than move on, he’s decided to dwell on the past. I can identify with that. In fact, he compiles a list of his Top 5 break-ups. A little like your very own desert island list of despair! Where a single song can transport you back in time, or one word can cause Rob to disappear into a world of fantasy, this fun flick gives time games the indie-cool edge that inspired the (slightly weaker) 500 Days Of Summer.


#8 – The Matrix

You want a headmesser of a movie? You can’t go wrong with The Matrix, as Keanu Reeves is quick to find out. This one doesn’t just play games with time, it wipes out the concept completely. That’s right; our everyday lives are just dreams programmed into our brains by alien controllers. And, once you break out of the Matrix, you can even bend time to your will. Remember the cool scene where Keanu stops the bullets with his mind? That’s the one. Or, aptly, he’s The One. Watch it, be baffled by it, but do not try to understand it. Ever. There’s rumours that somebody tried to once and found their brain pouring from their nose.


#7 – Crash

Set over a single day, this award-winning movie follows several interweaving tales as the people of Los Angeles go about their (traumatic) daily lives. Specialising in the ‘ripple’ effect, we can watch how one person’s actions directly affect someone else’s life. Or, to put it more eloquently: “in L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.” Deep stuff.


#6 – Groundhog Day

Meet Bill Murray. And again. And again. Because, oh yes, Bill is living the same day over and over again! At first, it’s kind of fun. He can use it to his advantage, even! But, as time wearies on by, he realises that being stuck in a world where he watches everybody do the same thing again and again is a terribly lonely (and annoying) place to be. Cue a vast number of surprisingly inventive suicide attempts, none of which quite cut the mustard. I love this film mainly because I adore Murray’s self-deprecating humour, but watching him try to come to terms with the impending doom of repetition is absolutely unforgettable.


#5 – Spirited Away

Everybody loves a touch of animation, right? Well, when it’s as beautiful as this movie, you’d be crazy not to. Chihuro is your typical little girl… which basically means that she’s a sulky little so and so with some big opinions about the world. But that all has to change when her parents are transformed into pigs and locked up in a creepy hotel stockyard. Oh yes. Pigs. Why the hell not, eh? If this isn’t confusing enough, the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. In short, the plot has been fashioned in a circle. It will never end and it will never begin. It just always is. Does that mean that the events in the film never happen? Were they a dream, or a mental projection of Chihuro… or has she become trapped in a crease in time? Throw in some faceless spirits, witches and gods and you have definitely got something to keep your mind working long after the credits roll.


#4 – Memento

This film has such a lovely name, putting one in mind of an airy-fairy rom-com. Couldn’t be any further from the truth, if I’m honest. Leonard (Guy Pearce) suffers from short-term memory loss. The last thing he remembers is the murder of his wife (I told you it wouldn’t be pretty!). But how can he catch a killer when he can’t form any new memories? Tattoos and excessive note taking, that’s how. Two stories run towards each other, working backwards and forwards through time, revealing a little more of the crime with every scene and finally meeting for an outstanding climax. Some memories might just be best left forgotten…


#3 – Sliding Doors

Do you ever spend your life wondering ‘what if’? Then this is the movie for you. Gwyneth Paltrow’s life rests, unbeknownst to her, on whether or not she catches a train. Her love life and her future happiness are utterly dependent on choosing the right path… but we just won’t know which this is until the very last scene. Parallel timelines, two nifty hairstyles and some excellent performances from all make this an enjoyable way to really make the most of that ‘two sides to every story’ theory.


#2 – Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

If you could wipe your ex from your memories, would you? Don’t just blurt out a yes, I want you to think ab… oh, never mind. Jim Carrey opts to do wipe the wildly vivacious Kate Winslet from his mind after a particularly horrible break-up, throwing the doors of his mind open to a shuffle card of memories. And yet, as he watches each argument and romantic moment fade away to nothingness, he suddenly realises that he doesn’t want to lose his Clementine forever. Is it too late to stop the process? Can he hide her deep within the recesses of his mind? And, if two people are destined to be together, will love find a way? It sounds mushy, but it really isn’t, I promise. The concept is a bit out there, the wit is deliciously dry and the constant muddling overload of non-linear memories means that we never quite know if we’re at the beginning or the end of things. The ultimate romantic film for people who hate romance.


#1 – Pulp Fiction

As IF I could play time games and not mention Tarantino’s masterpiece! Stocked up with gratuitous violence, plenty of dark comedy and utterly sardonic characters, this film depicts four interwoven stories of seemingly unrelated characters. You might know the outcome before you know the origin, or you might see things through the eyes of one character and then have this image completely skewered by the outlook of another. Get the facts before you get the fiction, or vice versa. Plus, you get Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, John Travolta AND Uma Thurman! You couldn’t ask for a better line-up than that. And, with a bit of obligatory hip-shimmying from Travolta, this is without a doubt one of those movies you have to see before you die.


So which movie is your favourite time muddler? Let us know by posting below…

About The Author