Time travel can be tricky business as there’s always the looming threat of changing events too much and unintentionally changing the world for the worse. However, while most time travel movies keep this danger in mind throughout, others throw caution to the wind and have their protagonist interact directly with a past/future version of themselves. Whether the interaction is just for a second or for the whole movie, there’s always some interesting growth and possible conflict that comes from the main character coming across a younger/older version of themselves.
Recently, Ryan Reynolds came across a younger version of his character Adam, played by Walker Scobell, in Netflix’s The Adam Project and plenty of MCU fans are wondering which versions of Doctor Strange will appear in the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. So, before another time travel encounter happens on the big screen, it’s a good time to look at movies where the main character has an unexpected look in the mirror.
Updated on May 19, 2023, by Hannah Saab:
There’s no shortage of time travel movies that feature moments where characters confront their past or future selves, which often become unforgettable scenes and central aspects of the films themselves.
10 ‘The Kid’ (2000)
An unfairly overlooked film from the 2000s, Disney’s live-action film The Kid embodies the sweet, heartwarming impact that stories about meeting your younger self can have.
The film follows abrasive image consultant Russ (Bruce Willis) as he meets his eight-year-old self (Spencer Breslin) and develops a strong bond that makes him rethink his life and try to work towards a better future. Willis and Breslin have fun chemistry and make their growing bond easily touch your heart.
Watch on Disney+
9 ‘Zathura’ (2005)
Although the arrival of Dax Shepard’s Astronaut in Zathura seems like the sci-fi board game simply giving feuding brothers Danny (Jonah Bobo) and Walter (Josh Hutcherson) a mediator as they try to reach the end of the game, he ends up having a deeper connection to Walter.
As the Astronaut talks about his own experience in the game, he acts more as a personal mentor for Walter and the big heartfelt reveal of the Astronaut being an older version of Walter adds another surprisingly emotional layer to Zathura’s story.
8 ‘Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me’ (1999)
The second Austin Powers movie, The Spy Who Shagged Me, had plenty of fun antics with time-traveling, but none were as great as Austin (Mike Myers) working with himself to stop Dr. Evil (also Myers).
To save his partner Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham), from a terrible death, Austin jumps back in time to get some help from himself in saving his girl and the world. Although it’s short, two Austin Powers coming together (played by the same actor) is hilarious with how can’t resist each other’s “sex appeal.”
7 ‘The Adam Project’ (2022)
Netflix’s blockbuster, The Adam Project, sees Ryan Reynolds meet his comedic match in Walker Scobell as the two play older and younger versions of Adam, respectively, as they attempt to save the world.
Reynolds and Scobell show strong comedic chemistry with one another that makes them feel like the same person. The growth they each have in meeting one another, as well as their deceased father (Mark Ruffalo), lead to some surprisingly emotional conclusions.
Watch on Netflix
6 ‘Meet the Robinsons’ (2007)
Throughout Disney’s heavily underrated animated film Meet the Robinsons, you can’t help but hope that boy genius Lewis (voiced by Jordan Fry) eventually finds his older self as he meets his future family, and the moment he finally does, it’s genuinely special.
Lewis meeting his older self, who goes by the name Cornelius (voiced by Tom Selleck), causes him to rethink his life and ultimately not change the instance of him becoming an orphan that guided his life going forward. It’s truly the mentorship he needs and excellently reemphasizes the film’s central message to “keep moving forward.”
Watch on Disney+
5 ‘Looper’ (2012)
Rian Johnson’s 2012 hit sci-fi action thriller Looper was likely one of the first films to come to mind when thinking about characters coming face to face with themselves as it’s a central aspect of its iconic premise.
Looper sees its main hitman Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) pitted in a terrible twist of fate when he’s forced to eliminate his future self, played by Bruce Willis, to “close his loop.” The meeting between Joe and his older self certainly isn’t as happy as others on this list, but it’s a thrilling encounter that leads to one of the more original and tragic sci-fi thrill rides of the last decade.
Watch on Prime Video
4 ‘Deadpool 2’ (2018)
While Cable (Josh Brolin) does most of the time traveling in Deadpool 2, Marvel’s merc with a mouth gets his chance to rewrite history in the film’s post-credits scene.
Along his journey in taking out Ryan Reynolds before he becomes Green Lantern and stopping Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) from being killed, Deadpool (Reynolds) heads back to X-Men Origins: Wolverine to put a bullet in that film’s incarnation of the character and officially become the one and only Deadpool.
Watch on Disney+
3 ‘Star Trek’ (2009)
One of the best surprises of J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot was Leonard Nimoy‘s return as Spock as it leads to an amazing generational connection.
Nimoy and Zachary Quinto‘s Spock interacting with each other is a perfect passing of the torch moment that connects fans, past and present, in a heartfelt way. It pays great respect to Spock’s legacy and ends up playing a strong role in Spock’s character arc throughout the reboot series.
Watch on Paramount+
2 ‘X Men: Days of Future Past’ (2014)
X Men: Days of Future Past has plenty of moments X-Men fans still rave about, including the introduction to Evan Peters’ Quicksilver and watching Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine fight in the past, but nothing compared to watching both Patrick Stewart‘s and James McAvoy‘s Professor X share the screen.
It’s the quintessential moment of the past and present colliding in the film and it’s incredibly touching to see Stewart’s Xavier convince McAvoy’s Xavier to hope again and save mutant kind.
Watch on Disney+
1 ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)
Stanley Kubrick’s iconic 2001: Space Odyssey features a more horrifying and chilling look at scientist David Bowman (Keir Dullea) seeing his future self.
As Bowman makes his way to Jupiter to investigate the alien monolith, he’s eventually brought into a room that has him see a rapidly aging version of himself that he eventually becomes. There’s a kind of cosmic horror vibe to the scene: it’s haunting yet it feels like a fitting end to David’s harrowing journey.
Watch on HBO Max
NEXT: The Best Time Travel Movies, Ranked