Last week, on 13th May, a powerful storm struck the UK. The culprit? Everything Everywhere All At Once, the latest indie offering from red-hot production company A24, which has already smashed the US box office to the tune of over $50 million. The order is clear: batten down the hatches, because this monsoon of mayhem is taking no prisoners.
Hong Kong martial arts icon and ex-Bond girl Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Tomorrow Never Dies) stars as Evelyn Wang, an American-Chinese laundromat owner who can’t quite seem to do her taxes. Worse yet, an inter-dimensional shift throws her into the midst of a universe-threatening disaster. Suddenly, she’s forced to “verse-jump” with alternate versions of herself in order to collect a set of nifty skills, as she prepares to battle against the megalomaniacal villain Jobu Tupaki, whose god-like powers threaten to destroy… well, everything.
If you threw The Matrix (1999), The Holy Mountain (1973), Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and a bag of rainbow Skittles together, chucked in a glorious jumble of fights, fantasies and alternate realities, you’d get Everything Everywhere All At Once. One of the talking points of the year ever since its premiere at SXSW in Austin, Texas in March, it’s an off-the-wall sensory delight that does exactly what it says on the tin.
Basically, it’s an instant cult favourite from the guys who gave us that other cult favourite, Swiss Army Man (2016).
And if you loved the film, check out this list of other mind-boggling time warp flicks. Five films across five decades and five countries – a multiverse of madness in itself, we reckon. And they’re all classics. In our dimension, anyway.
La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962)
Where better to start this list than with a 28-minute black-and-white movie from early ’60s France, constructed entirely from still images and featuring no in-film dialogue?
La Jetée is a masterwork of experimental science fiction to be overlooked at your peril. It follows a nameless man living in the aftermath of World War III, who later becomes the subject of a series of strange experiments. After his captors discover his fixation with a “haunted memory” from his childhood, he’s sent first into the past and then the future, before finally arriving at the very scene of his trauma in a profoundly chilling climax.
Later an influence on the likes of David Bowie, cyberpunk novelist William Gibson and filmmaker Terry Gilliam (his ’90s sci-fi classic Twelve Monkeys acknowledges its debt to the short in the opening credits), La Jetée also frequently pops up in “greatest of all time” lists, despite its fiercely avant-garde nature.
The latter point, of course, is what makes it so captivating. The film’s gripping, still-image montage and lyrical narration exemplifies the power of intelligent storytelling – while also hinting that, had its surreal images only been shuffled in a different order or presented by a different voice, the protagonist might have met an entirely different fate…
Run Lola Run (Tom Tykwer, 1998)
At the end of the ’90s, as we approached the dawn of a new millennium, many filmmakers found themselves reflecting on history and meddling with the concept of time in their narratives. Among the most notable partakers in this trend were David Lynch, Wong Kar-wai, Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan. But arguably none did it with more style and verve than Tom Tykwer in Run Lola Run.
The film – built on dynamic camerawork, a throbbing techno soundtrack and adrenaline-fuelled, MTV-inspired editing – follows the titular, red-haired Lola (Franka Potente). She finds herself stuck in a time paradox in the heart of brutalist Berlin. Put simply, she must deliver 100,000 Deutschmarks on behalf of her bagman boyfriend before midday, or he’ll be killed.
The twist? She gets three spins of a mysterious wheel, as a 20-minute Groundhog Day-type cycle ensues with the fates of Lola and her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) hanging in the balance.
Run Lola Run competed for the top prize at the Venice Film Festival upon its release, later picking up the audience award at Sundance and becoming the highest-grossing German film in decades. A vibrant time capsule of Germany’s post-reunification cultural explosion, the film was later pastiched and parodied everywhere from The X‑Files to The Simpsons.
Timecrimes (Nacho Vigalondo, 2007)
Timecrimes protagonist Héctor (Karra Elejalde) obviously didn’t watch David Cronenberg’s 1987 sci-fi classic The Fly. There was a lesson to be learned in that film: if you meet a mad scientist in a secret lab which houses a dubious, man-sized mechanical device, don’t go inside it.
Héctor doesn’t suffer any gross physical mutations when he re-emerges from his hiding space in Nacho Vigalondo’s brilliant directorial debut, but he does find that he’s travelled back in time by an hour. This creates all kinds of problems as Héctor becomes tied up in a cat-and-mouse chase with multiple versions of himself.
The fatalistic approach taken in Timecrimes is what makes the film’s puzzle so rewarding, and multiple viewings of this time-looping treasure only add to the overall experience.
Coherence (James Ward Byrkit, 2013)
Low-budget horror cinema went through a funny phase in the mid-2010s, when dinner party-themed movies were all the rage. Films like The Invitation (2015), The Gift (2015) and You’re Next (2011) all belong to this canon. But the most chilling contribution to the quirky sub-genre was one that messed with the space-time continuum: James Ward Byrkit’s cosmic cult classic, Coherence.
Picture this: you’re hosting a dinner party with old friends on the same night that a comet passes the Earth. By the time you’ve finished your meal, the power’s gone out and nobody’s phone has any reception. You look down the street to find total darkness, bar one house in the distance that still has its lights on. You take a closer peek to find that, lo and behold, there’s another version of you and all your mates sitting inside.
Shot inside the director’s own home with a largely improvised script and minimal crew, Coherence offers a masterclass in cerebral horror by virtue of its realistic acting performances and Twilight Zone-esque narrative. In other words, if you’re into dimensional pathways, Schrödinger’s cat and quantum decoherence – and who isn’t, amiright? – there’s a good chance you’ll love this film.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (Junta Yamaguchi, 2020)
A café owner named Kato (Kazunari Tosa) returns to his apartment after a day at work, only to find his own face staring back from his computer monitor when he gets there. Via video link, this unexpected caller informs Kato that he’s transmitting from two minutes in the future. From the TV in the café downstairs, no less.
Hilarity ensues as Kato and his friends work with their future selves to try and take advantage of this bizarre situation. But the real clincher in Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is the film’s remarkable creativity. Not only is this mind-bending time warp tale scripted exquisitely down to the finest details, it’s also shot entirely in one take, making its construction that much more impressive.
The fact that it was shot for peanuts – on a sub-£20,000 budget – only amplifies the spectacle, and this super-independent work offers exactly the kind of zany narrative subversion we’ve come to expect from Japanese cinema. As far as hidden gems go, this multi-dimensional sensation is a tough one to beat.