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It is very possible I am mixing up a couple of movies from my childhood in my memory but I am trying to identify one or maybe 2 movies I remember seeing as a child.

I would have seen the movies some time between 1992 and 1994 on VHS. It had an American cast and was set in America.

The key aspects I remember were time travel with a villain attempting to change the past. Something also made peoples heads explode; it may have been the villain or something he attached to people; he may also have been able to control thoughts. I am pretty sure an early plot point was a historian looking at a picture from the wild west and seeing a man with a gun that was far to modern for the age of the picture. I think the villain was trying to change the future by killing specific people from the past.

It has been suggested to me that one of the films I am thinking of is Scanners but I am pretty sure this does not have a time travel element?

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    In Timestalkers (1987), suggested by the Wandering Dev Manager, people from 1987 get involved with time travelling criminals and police from the future and end up about a century in their past in the west trying to foil the villain who plans to assassinate a US president and prevent his enemy in the future, descended from that president, from ever being born. One of the 1987 persons does identify a modern gun in a photo from the Wild West. But as far as I remember the exploding heads would be from a different movie. – M. A. Golding Nov 5 '18 at 16:14
  • A villain controlling thoughts and time travel were featured in "Trancers" (1984) and it's sequels. – the guest Nov 5 '18 at 17:11
  • It is Trancers I am thinking of, Timestalkers had also been caught up in my memory but Trancers is the film I was trying to remember. I think the head exploding was also bleed through of Scanners. I am pretty sure I was watching all 3 films around the same time. – Richard C Nov 6 '18 at 10:28
  • @Richard C. I never actually saw Trancers, but remember reading an article in Fangoria magazine in which make-up fx artist John Buechler described a head getting blown up and describing how he acheived it. I think it was a trancer getting shot in the head. – the guest Nov 7 '18 at 19:23
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Trancers (1984). Identified by the guest and confirmed by the OP in comments. Summaries below taken from Wikipedia.

"The key aspects I remember where Time Travel with a villain attempting to change the past... I think the Villain was trying to change the future by killing specific people from the past."

Whistler plots to eliminate the future governing council members of Angel City (the future name of Los Angeles), who are being systematically wiped out of existence by Whistler's murder spree of their own ancestors.

"...it may have been the villain or something he attached to people he may also have been able to control thoughts."

Jack Deth ... has been hunting down Martin Whistler, a criminal mastermind who uses psychic powers to turn people into mindless "trancers" and carry out his orders.*

"I am pretty sure an early plot point was a Historian looking at a picture from the wild west and seeing a man with a gun that was far to modern for the age of the picture."

This part is from Timestalkers and described in the other answer. The exploding head thing is most likely from Scanners (1981).

Private security firm ConSec plans to showcase a powerful new potential weapon: "scanners"; psychics with powers including telepathy/mind-control, empathy, biopathy, cyberpathy/technopathy, and psychokinesis/telekinesis. However, when ConSec's scanner demonstrates his powers, the volunteer - Revok - turns out to be a more powerful scanner, who causes the ConSec scanner's head to explode, via hydrostatic shock from biopathically-increased blood pressure.

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Could it be Timestalkers (1987)?

Under photo enhancement, McKenzie notices Cole in the background of the picture and identifies the gun Cole is carrying as a .357 Magnum from the 1980s. Despite this, chemical and spectroscopic testing indicates that the photograph is at least 100 years old. McKenzie becomes convinced that Cole is a time traveler.

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