When you talk about time-travelling films, everyone thinks of the Back to the Future series, which had a fairly coherent timeline, or the Terminator series, which has such a terribly inconsistent timeline that the original director, James Cameron, is coming back for the sixth movie in the instalment. In fact, he literally said that “We’re pretending the other films were a bad dream” and maybe he’ll put them in an alternate timeline.


But not all time-travelling films feature explicit, time-hopping characters who zip through the fourth dimension every other scene. Some time-travelling films have very little time travel by the characters themselves – but are still considered time-travel films.

Many of them are classified as romances rather than science-fiction.

So here are five famous time-travelling films that you never realised were actually time-travelling films.

1. Secret (不能说的秘密)

Secret (不能说的秘密) was Jay Chou’s directorial debut (which he also starred in) (and wrote the music for) which was technically a time-travelling film, with a big hitch.

In the film, Xiaoyu (played by Gwei Lun-mei) time travels to the future by playing a particular melody (the eponymous Secret) on a magical piano in the school – but only the first person that she sees can see her. She’s invisible to everyone else.

Naturally, she bumps into Jay Chou’s character, Xianglun, and the two fall in love. But remember, nobody else can see her, so this is more of a romantic drama which also happens to be a time travel film.

And of course, it has a pretty awesome score written by Jay Chou himself.


2. Frequency

Frequency came out 17 years ago, and the incredibly retro trailer shows. I mean, look at the pseudo-science explanations and cheesy sound effects.

But it was a fairly touching action film about a son who lost his father 30 years ago. Somehow, because of cosmic events, they manage to contact each other through a radio, and the son manages to change history by warning his father of events that will happen.

They’re not leaping through time portals, but it’s certainly a time-travelling film (although only their voices are time-travelling, if you think about it).


3. The Lake House

Ah, The Lake House. Few other films have such polarised responses – either you loved this romantic drama or you detested it for how silly the plot was.

It revolved around the characters of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock writing letters to each other – except that they lived in different eras. Their letters time travel via a mailbox, so the movie should really be titled The Mail Box rather than The Lake House.

In any case, this romance is actually a time travelling film with a bit of suspense, especially when Sandra Bullock’s character realises she has to change history (not going to spoil it for the 0.1% of you who haven’t watched it) for Keanu Reeves’ character.


4. Your Name

Last year’s hit anime Your Name will be made into a live-action film by none other than J.J. Abrams soon!

The anime sees a boy and girl from different ears constantly waking up in each other’s bodies. Although they never come face-to-face for 99% of the movie, they eventually fall in love, and like in The Lake House, history must be changed for love to prevail.

Although it’s clearly a romance, this anime had a very huge sci-fi element (that we won’t spoil in this article). Suffice to say, it’s the sort of occurrence that looks good in anime, but might not make such a logical transition as a live-action film.

But we’re eagerly waiting for it!

5. The Miracles of the Namiya General Store

Based on the 2012 novel of the same name (in case you’re wondering why it takes place in 2012), The Miracles of the Namiya General Store is a drama about a group of delinquents who enter an abandoned general store (a cross between a supermarket and a convenience store), only to find themselves dispensing advice to people who wrote in letters asking for help about what to do.

The twist? These letters come from 30 years in the past – and the replies that these teens write also somehow get sent back 30 years in the past.

It’s not really a The Miracles of the Namiya General Store Mail Box situation, because the letters are sent via a hole in a set of shutters, and replies come back through a mailbox. But we’re really eager to find out who’s the architect who makes all these time-travelling buildings and structures, like the one in The Lake House too.

The Miracles of Namiya General Store. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

The Miracles of the Namiya General Store. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Ryosuke Yamada, Toshiyuki Nishida, Nijiro Murakami, Kanichiro star in The Miracles of the Namiya General Store. General stores have been largely replaced by conbinis (convenience stores) in modern Japan, so it’s hard to find a film which depicts this sort of idyllic, suburban neighbourhood that’s in the film.

They manage to communicate people in the past via letters (you wouldn’t be able to send an SMS to 1980, after all), and learn more about themselves and the people they help in the film.

Do these wayward teenagers get to change history through their letters? Can they write legibly despite growing up in an age of smartphones? More importantly, do they manage to trade economic predictions for financial gain in the film (that’s what any sane person would do, right)?

Check out The Miracles of the Namiya General Store for the answers, and don’t forget your tissues.


Credits: Golden Village Cinemas, Golden Village Picture’s YouTube