Timelines: time travel in popular film & tv

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Here’s a visualisation of time travel plots in various films and TV programs. I had a lot of fun doing this!

It was particularly cool to highlight potential plotlines for “meta movies” where time travellers from different plots could meet and paradox it out. Charlie Kauffman are you reading this??

(By the way, I allowed myself a +1 / -1 year fuzz around the paradoxes. So knives away nerds!)

This is a straight data visualisation, rather than information design. That is, it’s not particularly useful, nor useable, nor meaningful. The inspiration was the coolness of the idea, really. I was excited to see what shape all the plots would make, and whether it could be shaped into something beautiful.

What I really love about this image, though, is the idea that this information has never been seen before. Despite the fact that it exists, in some way,somewhere, wrapped in various plots, it’s never been given form. I have to say, it was a joy to untangle it all :)

Big thanks to talented designers Alice Cho and Dominic Busby for their invaulable contributions. And Jeremy MacLynn for essential art direction.

Getting Ridiculous

I guess it’s no surprise that there are a helluva lot of time travel plots centered around our tranche of time (1900-2100). But does it have to be this ridiculous?

Timelines II: Time travel in popular film and tv

Here’s a zoom in.

Timelines II: Time travel in popular film and TV

This concentration of temporal dislocation is why the final image for the book took four months, 34 drafts and the work of three designers.

Timelines: Time travel in popular TV and film

So who wants to work with me on the Dr Who one? I’m serious. Email me.

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Show Comments ( )

  • nyped

    amazing idea, but what about “idiocracy”? that’s definitely a time travel.

  • regularg0nz0

    Where’s the tangled ball-o-string for Dr. Sam Beckett (and one strand for the Admiral)?

  • Ettegoom

    What about Dr Who!?

  • Liza

    Actually Back to the Future 3 ends in 1985 rather than 1995. It is set not even a day apart from film Back to the Future 1.

  • Daniël

    This obviously did not include the Brittish show “Doctor Who”, since he flew to the beginning of time and back again.

    But awesome chart non-the-less :D

  • Dave

    It’s pretty and fun, but I’m glad I don’t have to use this for anything. WIth its necessarily variable time scale and wavy main timeline, some of the departures and landings are at awkwardly low angles, and it’s all so spindly and teeny.

    Also, just in time for revision 37, why is there a line going off the top of the image, labeled “The Time Machine (2,300)”, when the year 2300 is very much in scope?

  • MrKpuah

    My four year old niece scribbled crazily *all over* a printout poster of this infographic in blue pencil. All I had to do was add a label. Presto! Infographic now includes Doctor Who. :P