Guy Cry Cinema

5 Time Travel Movies That Make Guys Cry

Guy Cry: Time Travel: social

Think time travel is all action and no tears? Think again.

The goal of this series is to show that being “manly” and being disconnected with your emotions do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. While the approach to these articles is one of comedy and satire, the emotional core of these movies is very valid. Manly movies make guys cry, for example:

Time Travel Movies

Time travel movies are always a source of contention in my household. My wife is a biology nut and I’m partial to quantum mechanics, so whenever a show or film starts talking about tachyons, she flies into a fit of rage. “Why focus on science that can only ever be theorized?” she says, directed both at the TV and myself simultaneously. As of yet, excluding global satellites that auto-adjust for time dilation, time travel is contained firmly within science fiction…for now. That doesn’t stop movies about time travel from being excellent, gripping, exciting, and a little emotional. Here’s a list of the top time travel movies that’ll make your eyes want to travel back to when they weren’t tearing up.

1. Looper
OMG Looper. It’s like a reduction, where all fluff has been removed and all that’s left is heartache and eyebrow makeup. You want innocent kids being killed for mistaken identity? It gives you that nice and slow. You want old men regretting their entire life’s choices? We’ve got that with the same person in multiple timelines. But the crowning achievement in gut-wrenchery is watching Uncle Ben (at least the actor who played him in the Sam Raimi films) getting tortured through time.

The bad guys (pretty much the definition of everyone in the film) get a hold of this poor sap’s younger self. First they carve a message into the young arm, so that the old guy sees the scar. Then fingers go missing. Then things get worse. The horrible sub-human creature that this old man becomes before he’s finally shot is bad, but the implied life that his younger self had to live is worse. Horribly mutilated yet painstakingly kept alive for decades so his older self would still exist but be barely alive…ouch.

2. Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Remember the original Planet of the Apes movie? The big twist was that time travel was involved! (Deal with it! The movie’s old enough that it’s not a spoiler.)

The second film was about how not all humans died, some just mutated and…oh no they blew up the planet. BUT WAIT! The two main apes escape in the human craft from the first film and reverse travel to present day, human-controlled 1970s Earth! Many couch commentators of the Ape series up till then had screamed that the Apes treated men horribly, and if the tables were turned things would be different. This third film of the series said “NOPE, humans are way worse,” and cemented in our minds that human domination of the planet is not deserved. The apes are initially celebrated, then once it’s revealed they kinda dominate and persecute humans in the future…well…a newborn ape gets shot several times. Try not to cry at that concept.

3. Source Code
One of the core concepts of this film is whether or not Jake “Donnie Darko” Gyllenhaal is actually time-traveling, hopping into alternate universes, or just making things up. Jake is a military man told he’s being sent into the last 8 minutes of Ensign Expendable’s life to determine who bombed the train he was on. There’s some back and forth on whether this is another universe, and can the future be changed, but skip to the end…yes it can be changed.

The sad part of this film is NOT that Jakey boy finds out he’s nothing but a head on a stick in a fishtank after being blown up in the line of duty. The sad part is that Jake successfully steals the life of Ensign Expendable. Sure that guy was going to die, but after saving the whole train, he just gets erased from existence. There’s no dead body to bury because Jake stole it, and any friends and family that person used to have gets no explanation for their missing person. Way to half-ass the saving, Jake.

4. Interstellar
If you haven’t seen this film, I highly recommend it. The visuals alone are worth several viewings, but the plot is much better than certain Bobs of the Movies would have you believe. I won’t go into that as it’s still in some theaters, but needless to say, whenever you have a male hero leaving his children to save the world, you’re gonna see guys tearing up.

As ambiguous as I can get without getting into plot, due to time dilation Matthew “Bongos” McConaughey outlives his two children. That’s pretty sad, especially since they die of old age. At one point he gets a collection of messages from them, spanning decades. We’re talking “Hey Dad, I met a girl! Hey Dad, we had a kid! Hey Dad, kid died.” The lifetime of ups and downs crammed into the time it takes to read an email is a gut-punch.

5. The Time Machine
I throw this one in almost out of obligation. How do you have a list about time travel movies without including a movie called The Time Machine, pray tell? Easy if we’re talking about the Guy Pearce one, but I’m talking the original. The film’s old enough that even if you haven’t seen it, chances are you’ve seen a spoof that gave you the gist of the plot. Guy creates titular machine, finds out humanity peaks and then devolves into blissful idiots on the surface, and mutated troll/cannibals underground. Fun times.

The sad part for me is the realization that things are going downhill. A scientist who invents a time machine is excited and wants to see how humanity progresses. What he finds out is not dissimilar to traveling 10 years into the future and trying to call yourself, only to find you died 9 years ago of cancer. Major bummer, but this is on the scale of humanity.

Special mention! 6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Remember when Sarah Conner busts in to shoot Myles Dyson, only to stop when his loving wife and son shield him? Remember when we were all relieved that she didn’t kill him, and instead launched an offensive on his office? He still dies in that office (taking Uncle Hank from “Breaking Bad” with him, I might add). The film completely glosses over that fact. That nice family lost their dad, and he’ll be remembered as a terrorist who killed a bunch of cops.

Plus that thumbs-up scene at the end…OH GOD THE FEELS!

Like what you see? Secure enough in your masculinity for more? Check out more Guy Cry Cinema or watch Dan on No Right Answer, the weekly debate show that knows what’s really important: Pointlessly arguing about geek culture.


About the author

Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.