"Loki," the Disney+ series focusing on the god of mischief himself, sends audiences down rabbit holes full of secret societies, time-traveling shenanigans, and all-powerful beings who make Thanos look like a wannabe. As viewers follow Loki (Tom Hiddleston) on his madcap quest to track down an evil "variant" and find his role in the Time Variance Authority, questions abound. What is the true nature of the TVA? Where do Loki’s actual allegiances lie? Does free will even exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, given the existence of the Time Keepers?
As entertaining as "Loki" is, the tropes and ideas it plays with are nothing new. Time travel, multiverses, and affably evil trickster types are regular staples of many movies and TV shows — some of them even boasting unexpected links to the MCU. Eager for more mind-bending shenanigans that weave sci-fi, surrealism, and wry humor together? Then dive into this list of movies and TV shows perfect for any "Loki" fan to watch next.
The Adjustment Bureau
Audiences loved seeing Matt Damon cameo in "Thor: Ragnarok" (2017) as an Asgardian actor playing Loki in a skewed portrayal of his allegedly heroic death. But Damon actually has an even weirder connection to Loki, thanks to his 2011 film, "The Adjustment Bureau."
Based on a 1954 short story by science fiction legend Philip K. Dick, this movie sees Damon’s David Norris meet his soulmate Elise (Emily Blunt) in a chance encounter. Unfortunately, their romance is deemed unacceptable by the Adjustment Bureau, a secret society that manipulates time and space to force humans into following the paths they want them to take.
According to the Bureau, David could become president if he’s not with Elise — and failure to comply could result in David being "reset" and having his mind erased. Fortunately, David gets help from a sympathetic Bureau agent, Harry (a pre-Falcon Anthony Mackie), who shows him how to sidestep the Bureau’s manipulations.
With all the A-list talent the MCU attracts, it’s not surprising that multiple Marvel actors show up in this film (John Slattery, a.k.a. Howard Stark, even shows up as an antagonistic Bureau agent). Still, it’s remarkable that both the TVA and the Adjustment Bureau use such similarly heavy-handed tactics to determine fate. Maybe Damon’s death scene in "Ragnarok" isn’t a coincidence, but a warning to Loki not to screw with the TVA?
Catch Me If You Can
Brilliant con artist who gets by with wit and charm? Check. Law man who wants to recruit him to his side? Check. Gorgeous vintage set design? Check. "Loki" may belong in the realm of myth, but Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film classic "Catch Me If You Can" is based on the real-life story of legendary con man Frank Abagnale. That’s right: Our world has its own version of the god of mischief.
Played by Leonardo DiCaprio, Abagnale takes audiences on a whirlwind adventure in which he impersonates a substitute French teacher, an airline pilot, a Secret Service agent, a medical doctor, and a lawyer — all while cashing millions of dollars in forged checks. Pursued by FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks), Abagnale manages to evade the law for years. Eventually, he finds a new calling: Helping the FBI catch people like him.
Michael Waldron, the head writer of "Loki," freely admits "Catch Me If You Can" was the inspiration for the relationship between Loki and Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson). Interestingly, the movie was later adapted into a Tony Award-nominated musical comedy. Could that mean we’ll be seeing "Loki: The Musical" soon?
Silence of the Lambs
For those who like their helpful criminals on the sinister side, "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991) reveals that before he became Odin, Anthony Hopkins could have given Loki lessons in manipulation. As the cannibalistic-yet-brilliant Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Hopkins offers his expertise in criminal profiling to Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), an FBI trainee tracking down the serial killer "Buffalo Bill" (Ted Levine). As Starling continues visiting Lecter in his cell, however, it’s clear the scheming doctor is getting inside Starling’s head and extracting information from her.
Foster and Hopkins’ scenes together are the film’s highlight, and fans have noticed similarities between Lecter’s interrogation and Loki’s interaction with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in "The Avengers" (2012). Much like Lecter, Loki is stuck in a glass prison (designed for the Hulk) when Natasha visits him to uncover his scheme. But while Loki attempts to play his own head games with Natasha, she’s even better at manipulation, and quickly gets him to give up crucial info. Maybe Loki should have listened more to his dad when Odin was teaching interrogation tactics …
The TVA may devote itself to keeping the "sacred timeline" from splintering into a multiverse, but what happens when a multiverse needs policing? In that case, you might need to employ the services of the MultiVerse Authority, an organization introduced in the 2001 Jet Li film "The One." Although Li’s character Gabriel Yulaw was once an agent of this police force, he goes rogue when he discovers he can gain superhuman abilities by killing off his multiversal variants, absorbing their energies, and evolving into the god-like "One."
By the time the movie starts, Yulaw has already killed 123 of his variants, and only needs to murder one more — a police officer named Gabe Law — to achieve his ultimate goal. Thankfully, Gabe also possesses superhuman abilities, thanks to Yulaw’s actions. He teams up with another MultiVerse agent (Jason Statham) to take down his interdimensional doppelganger.
A rollicking adventure with a sci-fi twist, "The One" includes a hilarious scene in which the MVA shows images of every variant Yulaw has killed, giving Jet Li an excuse to wear blond wigs and dreadlocks. Sounds a lot like the scene in "Loki" Episode 2, "The Variant," in which the TVA reveals all the Loki variants they’ve been after, right?
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Loki and Agent Mobius passionately debate free will in "Loki," a theme also deeply explored in "The Time Traveler’s Wife" (2009). While the film is a romantic drama and not an action-adventure, it has multiple actors from Marvel movies. Most prominently, it stars Eric Bana (Bruce Banner from 2003’s "Hulk") as Henry, a man with a genetic condition that causes him to travel through time involuntarily.
This odd ability isn’t all bad — especially since Henry’s future self has traveled back in time to establish a relationship with Clare (Rachel McAdams), a beautiful artist who’s already madly in love with him when they first meet in his present. But being a time traveler’s wife isn’t easy, and Henry and Clare must make peace with the fact that they can’t change the good or tragic aspects of their destiny.
This movie marks the beginning of a unique Hollywood trend — namely, Rachel McAdams’ tendency to appear in films where she falls in love with time travelers. Following "The Time Traveler’s Wife," McAdams appeared in the time traveling films "Midnight in Paris" (2011), "About Time" (2013), and the MCU’s "Doctor Strange" (2016). Strangely, McAdams never gets to actually time travel with her lovers. Maybe, when she reappears in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" (2022), she’ll be able to convince Stephen to take her to some historical hot spots?
Midnight in Paris
Why do Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson have such great chemistry in "Loki"? Probably because they had a chance to develop it in "Midnight in Paris" (2011). In this fun romp through history, Wilson plays Gil Pender, a Hollywood screenwriter obsessed with nostalgia. His dreams of becoming a novelist are dismissed by his materialistic fiancé Inez (Rachel McAdams), who scoffs at his desire to move to Paris.
During a vacation in Paris, however, Gil discovers a car that transports him back to the 1920s, where he gets to party with luminaries including Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston). He even falls in love with Pablo Picasso’s ex-lover Adriana (Marion Cotillard). But when he’s faced with the opportunity to travel even farther back in time, he starts reassessing his idealization of the past.
While Hiddleston and Wilson’s scenes are sparse, it’s a whole lot of fun to see Wilson play the fish-out-of-water time traveler and Hiddleston take on an American accent. The film also reunites Wilson and McAdams, who displayed great chemistry in "Wedding Crashers" (2005), though her character doesn’t believe him when he shares his time traveling secret. If only Inez knew about McAdams’ long list of time traveling movie lovers …
The Mystery of D.B. Cooper
Be honest: After watching Episode 1 of "Loki," you Googled the name "D.B. Cooper" to learn more about the infamous 1971 plane hijacker who remains the only person to successfully commit an unsolved act of air piracy.
Revealed to be one of Loki’s many aliases in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the actual D.B. Cooper remains an enigmatic figure whose story has been revisited in multiple films and TV shows. The comedy "Without a Paddle" (2004) follows a group of friends trying to find Cooper’s missing loot, while "Prison Break" reveals mild-mannered inmate Charles Westmoreland (Muse Watson) to be D.B. Cooper, who shares the location of his missing money before he dies.
For those interested in a factual exploration of the mysterious hijacker, the HBO documentary "The Mystery of D.B. Cooper" (2020) offers multiple interviews with people involved in the actual case. When it comes to suspects, however, Cooper’s identity becomes more complicated. Was he aircraft hijacker Richard Floyd McCoy Jr.? Or was he insurance agent Duane Weber, who claimed to be Cooper on his death bed? Frankly, by the end of the documentary, it might be easier to believe Cooper was Loki after all.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Loki might be building up a long list of variants, but even he can’t match the alternate selves of Marvel’s other multiversal champion — Spider-Man. Regarded as a breakthrough in animation, the Academy Award-winning film "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" (2018) reminds everyone that anyone can wear the mask.
For Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), superheroes are icons kids like him only watch from the street. But that’s before he’s bitten by a dimension-hopping spider and charged with protecting the multiverse. Fortunately, Miles gets plenty of help from multiple spider-heroes from alternate universes, including middle-aged Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). Under the mentorship of his new friends, Miles must discover how to become his own version of Spider-Man and save all of reality.
Amid the eye-popping visuals and fantastic soundtrack, "Into the Spider-Verse" offers a truly heartfelt story about following a proud tradition and forging your own path. Loki may fuss about which of his variants is truly superior, but the spider men, women, and pigs of the universe know they all have a part to play in the multiversal web.
The TVA may frown on rogue variants and branching timelines, but one MCU alum once gleefully forged two separate destinies for herself just by chasing after a subway car. 1998 romantic fantasy film "Sliding Doors" sees Helen (a pre-Pepper Potts Gwyneth Paltrow) slip into two parallel realities when she alternately catches and misses the subway, allowing the movie to tell two separate tales about her life.
In the reality where Helen rides the subway, she gets home early, finds her boyfriend in bed with another woman, and decides to restart her life with handsome new love interest James (John Hannah). In the reality where Helen misses the subway, she remains unaware of her boyfriend’s lies and ends up working multiple part-time jobs as her boyfriend tries frantically to cover his infidelity.
The movie proved popular, and its "alternate paths" premise has been used in episodes of many different TV shows, including "Frasier," "Scrubs," "Community," "Psych," and "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." Basically all of the one-season show "Awake" borrows the premise, in which Jason Isaacs stars as a detective shifting back and forth between a reality where his wife is alive but his son is dead, and another where his son lives but his wife is dead. Clearly, the TVA has its work cut out for them.
"Sliders" is a five-season series in which our heroes jump from one parallel universe to another on a journey to return to their home reality. Starring Jerry O’Connell (who later voiced Superman and Shazam in various DC animated movies) and John Rhys-Davies (Gimli from "The Lord of the Rings"), the cast also includes Cleavant Derricks, Kari Wuhrer, and Sabrina Lloyd.
When Quinn Mallory (O’Connell) builds a machine that opens wormholes into other dimensions, he convinces his friends to go "sliding" into alternate worlds. They visit realities where Spain won the Spanish-American War, penicillin was never invented, and dinosaurs failed to go extinct. Unfortunately, sliding is dangerous. Soon enough, nearly the entire cast gets replaced by a new lineup after the originals are either killed or lost.
"Sliders" episodes run the gamut, from "Twilight Zone"-style stories in which gender roles are switched to long-running storylines showing the Sliders battling an alien race of "Kromaggs" who use sliding technology to strip-mine alternate worlds. It’s a bit uneven, but it does allow the series to explore all sorts of story possibilities, much like "Loki" does.
The Good Place
Fans of "Loki" debate fiercely whether or not the TVA is truly the benevolent organization it claims to be — something fans of the television show "The Good Place" are very familiar with. When Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) dies and wakes up in a seemingly paradisiacal afterlife, she realizes a mistake has been made, since she’s lived the exact opposite of a good life. But when Eleanor learns there are other "bad" souls like her in this heavenly realm, she starts to wonder if "The Good Place" is really what it seems to be.
Displaying the same clever writing fans expect from "Loki," "The Good Place" offers its own spin on time travel, morality, and free will. Considering how difficult Eleanor and her friends find it to become better people and fit into the Good Place, it’s possible Loki would find this place just as tedious as the TVA. Then again, considering the show’s constant twists, he just might thrive there.
The TVA might appear to be the greatest power in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but their agents could face some major competition from the Time Lords of BBC’s long-running "Doctor Who" series — particularly if they met up with the Doctor. Since 1963, the Doctor has been taking companions to virtually every point in history using the time traveling TARDIS police box. Thus empowered, the Doctor issues justice against those who would threaten the timeline or harm innocent people.
It’s easy to see "Loki" as the MCU’s love letter to "Doctor Who." Like the Doctor, the TVA refers to "fixed points in time" (like Frigga’s death) that need to happen again and again. The reveal that the "evil" Loki variant the TVA is chasing is a Loki-ish woman also draws comparisons to the Doctor’s enemy, the Master, who regenerates into a female antihero, as well as the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), the first female Doctor. And, just as Loki gets to perform some guilt-free acts of chaos before Mount Vesuvius erupts in "The Variant," the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) pays his own visit to Pompeii in AD 79 (or as he calls it, "Volcano Day!") in "The Fires of Pompeii."
Granted, it’s difficult to see Loki as a version of the usually moral Doctor … but then again, he does share the Doctor’s flamboyance.
Well known in practically every country except the United States, Japan’s "Doraemon" is a long-running franchise that has enjoyed success as a manga, anime, and film series. The premise is simple: Doraemon is a robot cat from the 22nd century who has traveled back in time to help his owner’s ancestor Nobita become a better version of himself. Unfortunately, Nobita is a lazy 10-year-old boy who frequently uses the futuristic gadgets Doraemon loans him to impress others, much like a young Loki does.
That said, Doraemon and Nobita also accomplish a great deal of good — not just in Nobita’s time, but in other centuries and realms as well. Since Doraemon has a time machine, many stories see Nobita and his friends journey to points in history where they must perform heroic deeds. One storyline even sees Nobita rescue stray dogs and cats who form an advanced civilization and worship him as a god.
Although it’s marketed toward children, many "Doraemon" anime episodes and feature films deal with heavy subjects like animal cruelty and environmentalism, and aren’t afraid to place their characters in ethically challenging positions. Many an adult has shed a tear watching "Doraemon," and rightfully felt no shame.
What’s better than one god of mischief serving on the side of the angels? How about five con artists — each with a unique skill — performing Robin Hood-style con jobs on white collar criminals? That’s the premise of "Leverage," which shows what can happen when a professional hacker, thief, grifter, fighter, and civic-minded genius join forces.
Much like Agent Mobius recruits Loki to work with the TVA, "Leverage" has an "honest man," Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton), who plans out elaborate heists on unscrupulous corporations that steal from ordinary citizens, giving their victims the leverage needed to gain justice. Along the way, Nate helps bring out the best sides of his criminal partners, even as their larcenous ways rub off on him — by Season 2, he’s serving time in prison.
Often compared to other classic con artist shows like "Mission: Impossible" and "The A-Team," "Leverage" boasts great chemistry among its cast, which includes madcap characters like the kleptomaniac Parker (Beth Riesgraf) and cyberthief Hardison (Aldis Hodge). One celebrated Season 5 episode, "The D.B. Cooper Job," even has the team uncover the real identity of the infamous hijacker. Hint: It’s not Loki.
Okay, okay, including a DC television show on an MCU recommended viewing list might be sacrilegious. But honestly? "The Flash" (and, frankly, the entire Arrowverse franchise) has so much fun with time travel and alternate universes that it would be a disservice not to mention it.
Drawing from a rich comic book history, "The Flash" offers multiple stories in which Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) visits parallel realities where the main cast gets to play against type. Episodes like Season 2’s "Welcome to Earth-2" and Season 5’s "Elseworlds Part 1" are particularly stunning. "The Flash" also establishes The CW’s "Supergirl" as an alternate world in the wider Arrowverse in the "Supergirl" episode "Worlds Finest" — until her world merges with his during the ambitious "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover event, that is. Is it wacky? Yeah. But that’s the wonderful thing about superhero fiction!
"Crisis" also allows the showrunners to pay homage to practically all the DC TV shows and movies that came before the Arrowverse. Multiple worlds are briefly shown (and temporarily destroyed), from the 1960s "Batman" realm to Richard Donner’s "Superman" film series. Even the DCEU’s Flash (Ezra Miller) pops in briefly to say hi to his TV counterpart. The MCU appears to be dipping its toes into similarly multiversal storytelling, but in this one instance, DC beat Marvel to the punch.