These are the best time travel TV shows of all time to help you get your sci-fi fix.
Time traveling has been a popular science fiction topic since H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine in 1895 and has been a popular subgenre for sci-fi shows and movies since The Twilight Zone’s 1958 original pilot episode, “The Time Element.” And while these stories have spawned a multitude of time-hopping shows and movies, not all time travel TV series are created equal. That’s why we’ve taken it upon ourselves to gather the best of the best and have ranked them below in a handy list that you can reference the next time you want to dive into a time-traveling TV show.
15. Time After Time (2017)
This time travel TV series follows author H.G. Wells (the guy who wrote the sci-fi classic, The Time Machine) and speculates what might have happened if the author had built a real time machine and used it to follow Jack the Ripper into the future. The series chronicles Wells’ adventures through time.
Time After Time was created by Kevin Williamson, who based the concept on Karl Alexander’s book of the same name, who in turn, based his book on H.G. Well’s 1895 sci-fi novella. The series stars Freddi Stroma as Wells and also features Josh Bowman, Will Chase, and Genesis Rodriguez.
14. Tru Calling (2003-2005)
Fresh out of filming the final season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Eliza Dushku signed on to film another supernatural TV show, this time staring as the titular character, Tru. Tru Calling follows Dushku as a 22-year-old medical student who is completing an internship at a morgue when she discovers she has the strange ability to go back in time by one day in order to stop some untimely deaths from happening. She is assisted by her irresponsible younger brother (played by Shawn Reeves) and her boss/friend/confidante (played by Zach Galifianakis).
The series was enjoyed by audiences, though critics found it to be a bit cliché. Ultimately, this time travel TV show ran for two seasons before being canceled due to low ratings.
13. Counterpart (2017-2019)
The time travel TV show Counterpart is a science fiction thriller produced in the United States and created by Justin Marks, featuring J.K. Simmons in the leading role of Howard Silk. Silk is an unlucky UN worker who stumbles upon a startling revelation: the agency he toils for is concealing a portal to a parallel dimension embroiled in a tense cold war with our own world, and to make matters even more bizarre, Howard Silk’s parallel self is a renowned spy. The series builds up tension as Silk finds himself drawn into a dangerous web of intrigue and deceit.
12. Frequency (2016-2017)
Peyton List leads this time travel TV series as a detective in 2016 who discovers she can communicate with her father through a ham radio, despite the fact that he died in 1996. The Frequency series was inspired by the 2000 film of the same name and was developed by Doom Patrol creator Jeremy Carver, and it ran for 13 episodes before being canceled. However, an epilogue concluding the story was released a few days after the cancelation.
Despite criticism of being slightly confusing and following a predictable framework, Frequency was released overall to positive reviews. In addition to List, the show also features Riley Smith, Devin Kelley, Mekhi Phifer, Ada Breker, and Lenny Jacobson.
11. Continuum (2012-2015)
Similar to Time After Time, Continuum also follows someone who is traveling throughout time in search of a ruthless criminal. In this time travel tv series, Kiera Cameron is a detective from the year 2077 who must travel back in time to present-day Vancouver in order to find criminals from her timeline who escaped to the past.
The series was created by Simon Barry, and Rachel Nichols plays the futuristic Detective Cameron. Nichols is joined by Victor Webster, Erik Knudsen, and Stephen Lobo to round out the cast. The series ran for four seasons and was well received by both critics and audiences, who claimed the series was fun and entertaining, despite retelling a familiar story.
10. Outlander (2014-present)
One of the longest-running time travel TV shows, Outlander has run for eight seasons, having been on air since 2014, and has spawned a prequel series called Blood Of My Blood.
The show is based on the novel series of the same name by Diana Gabaldon and follows a WWII nurse who is mysteriously transported back in time to 1743. Trapped in the past, Claire Randall meets Jamie Fraser, a dashing Highland warrior, whom she falls in love with and marries. What follows is a whirlwind romance entangled in the violent Jacobite rising of 1745.
The series was created by Ronald D. Moore and stars Caitríona Balfe as Claire and Sam Heughan as Jamie. Sophie Skelton, Richard Rankin, and Duncan Lacroix round out the cast.
9. Ashes to Ashes (2008-2010)
Ashes to Ashes is a fantasy crime drama series that ran for three seasons and serves as a sequel to the time travel TV show, Life on Mars. Both series were named after David Bowie songs, and both series follow agents who are killed and mysteriously reawoken decades in the past. In Ashes to Ashes, DI Alex Drake is shot while on duty in 2008 and somehow reawakens in 1981.
Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah created the show, which stars Keeley Hawes as Alex Drake. The series was released to mixed reviews, with half of the critics praising it for the show’s creativity and great acting, while the other half criticized the episode’s direction, structure, and tone. However, critics on all sides appreciated the series’ costumes and art direction.
8. Legends of Tomorrow (2016-2022)
In the Legends of Tomorrow time travel TV series, Rip Hunter, a renegade time traveler, assembles a motley crew of heroes and villains to prevent an apocalypse that threatens not only Earth but also the entirety of time itself in Legends of Tomorrow. Developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Phil Klemmer, who also serve as executive producers alongside Sarah Schechter and Chris Fedak, the show premiered on The CW on January 21, 2016, and aired for seven seasons. Based on characters from DC Comics, the series is a spin-off set in the Arrowverse, featuring both familiar faces from Arrow and The Flash, as well as new characters.
7. Travelers (2016-2018)
In the science fiction time travel TV series Travelers, created by Brad Wright and starring Eric McCormack, Mackenzie Porter, Jared Abrahamson, Nesta Cooper, Reilly Dolman, and Patrick Gilmore, surviving humans from the future discover how to send their consciousness back in time to the present day in an attempt to alter the course of humanity. The first two seasons were co-produced by Netflix and Showcase, but after Season 2, Netflix became the sole commissioning broadcaster and worldwide distributor.
Despite being canceled after its third season, the series was critically acclaimed and considered attention-grabbing, enjoyable, fun, and different. Travelers even earned a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes for its first season, a feat that not many shows can claim.
6. Steins;Gate (2011)
Steins;Gate is a critically acclaimed Japanese anime television series created by White Fox based on the visual novel of the same name by 5pb. and Nitroplus. Directed by Hiroshi Hamasaki and Takuya Satō, and written by Jukki Hanada, the time travel TV series follows Rintaro Okabe and his friends as they accidentally discover a way to send text messages to the past, altering the present. It is part of the Science Adventure franchise along with Chaos;Head and Robotics;Notes, and is known for its character development and exploration of themes such as time travel, human nature, gender identity, and PTSD.
The series has spawned four original net animation episodes and a spinoff film and is considered one of the best anime series of the 2010s.
5. Timeless (2016-2018)
Timeless is an American science fiction time travel TV series that premiered on NBC in 2016. It follows a team, played by Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, and Malcolm Barrett, as they travel through time to prevent a mysterious organization from altering history. Created by Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke, the show stars Sakina Jaffrey, Paterson Joseph, Claudia Doumit, and Goran Višnjić. Although NBC initially canceled the series, it was quickly renewed following negotiations with Sony Pictures Television and ran for a total of two seasons.
The first season received positive reviews from critics who appreciated the kooky and fun take on science fiction entertainment, but the second season was lauded receiving a coveted 100 percent approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes.
4. 12 Monkeys (2015-2018)
12 Monkeys is an American science fiction mystery drama time travel TV series loosely based on the 1995 film of the same name, which in turn was inspired by the 1962 French featurette La Jetée. The show follows the story of James Cole and Dr. Cassandra “Cassie” Railly, who travel back in time to stop the enigmatic organization “Army of the 12 Monkeys” from destroying the world. The series premiered in 2015 and ran for four seasons, producing a total of 47 episodes.
While the first season received mixed reviews, subsequent seasons received consistently positive feedback. The show won two awards for its cinematography and was nominated for four more.
3. Quantum Leap (1989-1993)
The time travel TV show, Quantum Leap, was created by Donald P. Bellisario and starred Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett, a physicist who travels through time. The series follows his involuntary leaps through spacetime during experiments in time travel. In the show, Sam temporarily takes the place of other people to correct historical mistakes.
Admiral Al Calavicci, played by Dean Stockwell, is Sam Beckett’s hologram companion and friend who helps him research and form his opinions of the past in the science fiction show Quantum Leap. The series blends humor, drama, romance, social commentary, and sci-fi, and earned a spot at number 19 on TV Guide’s “Top Cult Shows Ever” in 2007. Recently, NBC ordered a revival series of the show, which debuted on September 19, 2022.
2. Dark (2017-2020)
Dark is a German science fiction thriller television series co-created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese that ran for three seasons from 2017 to 2020. The show follows characters from the fictional town of Winden, Germany, as they investigate the disappearance of a child, uncovering a sinister time travel conspiracy spanning generations.
This time travel TV series explores the philosophical and existential implications of time on human nature. It received widespread critical acclaim for its writing, visuals, music, and complex narrative, with the finale receiving particular praise. The show was ranked as the 58th greatest TV series of the 21st century by the BBC in 2021.
1. Doctor Who (1963-1989, 2005-present)
Doctor Who is a beloved British science fiction series that has been broadcast by the BBC since 1963. The time travel TV show follows the adventures of the Doctor, a Time Lord who travels through time and space in a ship called the TARDIS. Over the years, thirteen actors have played the Doctor, each bringing their unique portrayal to the character.
Over the years, Doctor Who has gained a cult following and has become a significant part of British popular culture. It has also been listed in Guinness World Records as the longest-running science-fiction television series and the most successful science-fiction series of all time. The show has spawned numerous spin-offs, including Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, K9, and Class.
- GFR Score calculated using averages of audience and critical reactions across multiple platforms.