Most movies depict a few days to a week's worth of real-time. What movie depicts the longest amount of time?

  • This might possibly work better as two separate questions. Though, a signficant problem might be how to factor in flashbacks and stuff. Many movies include snippets of a much earlier time, even if not showing a long continuous timeline (e.g. The Fellowship of the Ring depicted at least 2500 years worth of timespan even if the "real" action didn't take more than a year).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Nov 10, 2014 at 9:43
  • I would gladly accept longest by any definition. Nov 10, 2014 at 9:48
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    Well, then I guess 2001 might be a start, from stone age to future in a single movie.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Nov 10, 2014 at 9:49
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    Prometheus?? If we count flashback kind of scene then how can we sort? Even new transformer shows stone age. So many scifi movie shows futuristic time even with stone age.
    – Ankit Sharma
    Nov 10, 2014 at 9:59
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    Why stop at the stone age? What about any film that depicts dinosaurs and then switches back to modern day? What about The Tree of Life that even goes back to the big bang?
    – Walt
    Nov 10, 2014 at 10:14

2 Answers 2


Although the fantastical plots of TV shows like Dr. Who and Futurama might trump it, The Tree of Life from 2011 must be a serious cinematic contender. Its story spans the beginning of the universe until present day (showing us along the way the big bang, the creation of the solar system and the extinction of the dinosaurs), which means approximately 13.8 billion years.

However, near the end of the movie this happens:

In the present, adult Jack leaves work. Riding the elevator up, he experiences a vision of following a young girl across rocky terrain. Jack tentatively walks through a wooden door frame erected on the rocks and sees a view of the far distant future in which the sun expands into a red giant, engulfing the earth and then shrinking into a feeble white dwarf.

The ending is open to interpretation, but if we take Jack's vision at face value, then this would add around 6 billion more years to the tally (which is when it's estimated that the sun will become a red giant). This would mean that The Tree of Life spans around 20 billion years and covers all of our existence.

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    When I read the question, I was going to suggest "A.I." (2000 years). After reading your answer, I started thinking about "Lucy" (3.2 million years). Then I remembered "A Sound of Thunder" (about 140 million years). But yeah, yours is the best answer ... until "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" (over a trillion years) is made into a movie!!! Nov 10, 2014 at 18:27
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    Yeah in that Futurama episode they go to the end of the universe, and then it loops around on the beginning, and then they go through the whole thing again, it loops around again, and then they FINALLY get back to their starting time. Two full loops! Sep 2, 2015 at 21:41
  • There are at least two episodes of Dr Who that deal with vast spans of time. In one recent one, the doctor is incarcerated in a prison which takes him billions of years to escape having been repeatedly reincarnated by the prison. In another he takes the Tardis to the end of the universe accidentally. That has to be a long timespan, possibly in the trillions of years.
    – matt_black
    Apr 13, 2016 at 10:06

The winner would probably be "The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy" from 2005.

At the end of the movie, we see the main characters travel from (approximately) the present day to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, a span of some 1010120 years into the future.

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    Er, do we actually see them reach it? (I forget. Wiki says Marvin tells them they're going the wrong way).
    – Walt
    Nov 10, 2014 at 18:34
  • @walt - We see them disappear, then the credits roll. We can be reasonably sure that they made it because it's in the novelisation.
    – user7812
    Nov 10, 2014 at 18:37
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    @Richard Still the movie didn't actually depict it, it seems.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Nov 10, 2014 at 18:45
  • The Restaurant wasn't in the movie. It was in the TV show though.
    – slebetman
    Mar 7, 2016 at 3:07

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