Time leaps are like magic tricks in movies. They transport us to different points in the story, leaving us in awe of their wizardry. Some films start off with a sneak peek, giving us a taste of what’s to come before whisking us away to the main event. And just when we think it’s all over, some movies surprise us with an encore, showing us what happens “one year later.” It’s like getting a bonus round, tying up loose ends and giving us a juicy peek into the characters’ futures. These time flips have become part of the movie routine, something we eagerly await.
But then there are those rare gems that take time jumps to a whole new level. They don’t just dabble with the timeline; they dive headfirst into the future, leaving us gasping in astonishment. These films catapult us years or even decades ahead, picking up the characters’ stories when they’re all grown up. It’s like we’re time travelers, witnessing their journey unfold from afar. It’s no easy feat, but these movies pull it off with finesse. They use their time leaps to deliver deeper messages and create a truly mind-blowing cinematic experience.
1. A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Before the Jump: Meet David, a robot who not only looks like a human boy, but also has the incredible ability to experience love. Unfortunately, his adoption by a married couple goes sour, and his mother abandons him in the woods, forcing him to fend for himself. Along his journey, David befriends another robot named Gigolo Joe, and together they embark on a quest to find the elusive “blue fairy” who can grant David’s wish to become real. However, their hopes are shattered when they discover that the fairy is nothing more than a statue on Coney Island. David’s desperate attempts to make his wish come true drain his internal battery, leaving him powerless.
How Long Is the Jump? Brace yourself for a 2,000-year leap.
After the Jump: Fast forward to a frozen Manhattan, where humanity has been wiped out. Among the icy ruins, a group of advanced robots known as the Specialists stumble upon David. Although they cannot make him a real boy, they offer him a chance to relive a special memory for just one day. Desperately longing for love, David requests that they create a version of his mother from his memories. Finally, after 2,000 years of waiting, David gets to experience the joy of a happy memory, which carries an overwhelming emotional weight due to the excruciatingly long wait.
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Before the Jump: Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic begins in prehistoric times as a tribe of Neanderthals stumble upon a mysterious alien monolith. This enigmatic object grants them knowledge on how to use a bone as a weapon, enabling them to protect their water hole from a rival tribe. The section concludes with a powerful shot of one Neanderthal throwing the bone into the air, captured by the camera.
How Long Is the Jump? Quite literally, 4 million years have passed.
After the Jump: In what is arguably one of the most iconic “match cuts” in cinematic history, the bone transitions abruptly into a satellite with a strikingly similar shape. This clever editing technique suggests that both the bone and the satellite represent advanced technology in their respective eras. It also signifies the immense leap forward in time that 2001: A Space Odyssey takes. Following this transition, the story shifts to astronaut David Bowman and his colleagues, who embark on a mission to investigate another monolith’s discovery. However, their efforts are unexpectedly hindered by their on-board computer system, HAL 9000. Much like the bone weapon, technology in this future era proves to have a dark side that matches its usefulness.
3. Cast Away
Before the Jump: In the movie “Cast Away,” Tom Hanks portrays Chuck Noland, a systems engineer for FedEx. He has plans to propose to his girlfriend Kelly, played by Helen Hunt, on Christmas. However, an unexpected work trip to China disrupts his plans. Unfortunately, the plane he is on crashes during the journey, leaving him stranded on a desert island. Chuck’s only companions are the packages that have washed ashore, including a volleyball that becomes his newfound best friend.
How Long Is the Jump? The story takes a leap of four years.
After the Jump: “Cast Away” continues with a visual indicator that emphasizes the extensive time Chuck has spent on the island. He appears a mere shadow of his former self, extremely thin and completely disheveled. Eventually, he is rescued from his ordeal and brought back home. Naturally, his thoughts revolve around Kelly, whom everyone believed to be deceased. However, in a heartbreaking revelation, Chuck learns that she has moved on with her life. Kelly is now married and has a daughter. This time jump reinforces one of the movie’s central themes: life relentlessly moves forward, and no individual has the power to halt its progression.
4. Flight of the Navigator
Before the Jump: Meet David Freeman, a 12-year-old kid residing in sunny Florida. One fine day, he sets off to fetch his little brother from a friend’s place. As they chat their way through the woods, a misstep leads David to tumble into a ravine, rendering him unconscious.
How Long Is the Jump? A whopping eight years.
After the Jump: When David finally regains consciousness, it’s no longer 1978 but 1986. To his astonishment, everyone around him has visibly aged, while David himself remains unchanged. In a bizarre twist, a NASA scientist stumbles upon evidence of a UFO, and it seems that David might have some peculiar connection to it. Curiosity piqued, they subject the boy to a battery of tests, uncovering that his lost time was spent on an entirely different planet. Remarkably, for David, it felt like a mere two-and-a-half hours, while back on Earth, a whole eight years had flown by.
After a fortuitous encounter with Max, the robot commander of the UFO, David manages to escape the clutches of the scientific facility. In a daring move, he shares the alien knowledge stored in his brain with Max. Together, they embark on a mission to transport David back to 1978, his rightful time. Brace yourself for the incredible journey this young boy embarks on through time and space.
5. Avengers: Endgame
Before the Jump: The world has undergone a significant transformation. Thanos, with all the Infinity Stones in his possession, used their power to wipe out half of the world’s population, including several of the Avengers. To make matters worse, he destroyed the stones afterwards, leaving the remaining heroes unable to use them against him.
How Long Is the Jump? Five years
After the Jump: Ant-Man emerges from the Quantum Realm, having narrowly escaped. After discovering the devastating events that occurred during his absence, he devises a plan to utilize the Quantum Realm to travel back in time. The goal is to retrieve the Infinity Stones from Thanos, undoing the damage he inflicted. Remarkably, the plan succeeds, resurrecting all the fallen heroes and leading to an epic battle against Thanos. This five-year time jump becomes a pivotal element in future Marvel movies, as various characters grapple with the personal consequences it has wrought. In the context of Endgame, it solidifies the notion that Thanos achieved a significant victory that has left a lasting impact on the world.
6. Full Metal Jacket
Before the Jump: JT “Joker” Davis (Matthew Modine) is a wisecracking Marine recruit who lands at Parris Island for training. He gets paired up with Leonard “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence (Vincent D’Onofrio), an overweight soldier who struggles with basic training. Their drill instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey), constantly berates and punishes Lawrence. The tension escalates to a breaking point when Lawrence shoots and kills Hartman before taking his own life, witnessed by Joker.
How Long Is the Jump? The length of time isn’t specified, but it appears to be at least a couple of years.
After the Jump: Joker, now a sergeant, works for the Stars and Stripes newspaper, feeling safe in his position. However, his sense of security is shattered when his base comes under attack. Suddenly, he is thrust into battle, witnessing the gruesome deaths of his comrades and later hunting down a sniper. The movie concludes with Joker narrating in voiceover, reflecting on the messed up nature of the Vietnam War. Despite the horrors he has experienced, he declares that he is no longer afraid. His journey from Parris Island has toughened him, not just due to the toll of war, but also the tragic loss of his friend Lawrence.
Before the Jump: The Zodiac Killer, known for his brutal killings in San Francisco, has been taunting law enforcement with cryptic codes. Detective David Toschi is determined to identify and apprehend the elusive culprit. Reporter Paul Avery and cartoonist Robert Graysmith join the efforts to crack the codes.
How Long Is the Jump? Seven years.
After the Jump: The murders suddenly cease, indicating that the Zodiac Killer remains at large. Despite the case being considered “cold,” Graysmith becomes consumed by it. He uncovers potential clues that were overlooked by the authorities and becomes convinced that Arthur Leigh Allen, a hardware store employee, is the killer. Graysmith confronts Allen in person, but the evidence falls short of proving his guilt. The real-life investigators and journalists involved in the case were tormented by their inability to apprehend the culprit. The seven-year time jump accurately reflects the emotional toll and enduring obsession of these men with the unsolved murders.
8. A Ghost Story
Before the Jump: “C” (Casey Affleck) tragically passes away in a car accident. Instead of heading to the Great Beyond, his spirit lingers in the house, keeping a watchful eye on his grieving widow, “M” (Rooney Mara). Even when she moves out, he stays behind, either by choice or because he is unable to leave. He simply observes the new occupants of the house.
How Long Is the Jump? Though no specific timeframe is mentioned, it is safe to assume that it spans several decades.
After the Jump: As various people occupy the house over time, it eventually gets demolished and replaced with a towering skyscraper. From one of the higher floors, C takes a leap and finds himself transported back to a field in the 19th century. This is yet another time jump, but in reverse. In this era, he witnesses a family preparing to build a house on the same land where his home will eventually stand. Tragically, they are killed by Native Americans before completing the construction. The conclusion of A Ghost Story sees C jumping forward in time again, landing on the day that he and M decided to sell the house – the day right before his untimely death. These time jumps serve as a way for C to process his life, his marriage, and his connection to the concept of home before his soul can find peace and move on.
9. The Place Beyond the Pines
Before the Jump: Motorcycle stunt rider Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) discovers that he fathered a son named Jason to his ex-girlfriend Romina (Eva Mendes). He decides to stick around and try to be a good father. Finding work is difficult, so when he gets an offer to commit a string of robberies, he accepts. Unfortunately, a bank job goes wrong, and while hiding inside a stranger’s house, Luke is shot by police officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). Tragically, Luke falls out the window and dies.
How Long Is the Jump? 15 years
After the Jump: Jason (Dane DeHaan) is now a teenager. He forms a friendship with a peer named AJ, unaware that AJ is actually the son of the cop who shot his father. When this secret is revealed, Jason’s anger boils over. He first beats up AJ and then holds Avery at gunpoint. Just when things seem like they’re about to take a turn for the worse, Avery apologizes. Surprisingly, Jason decides not to pull the trigger. He is still troubled, but this apology brings him some small semblance of healing for the loss of his father. The Place Beyond the Pines uses its time span to show how a parent’s actions impact the child and how the child struggles to escape the burden of that influence.
10. The Natural
Before the Jump: Roy Hobbs, a hopeful baseball player, takes a train ride to Chicago with his cherished bat, “Wonderboy,” made from a tree struck by lightning on the day his father passed away. During the journey, he encounters a captivating woman named Harriet, unaware that she is a psychopath targeting top athletes for murder. Intrigued by Roy’s claim of becoming the greatest baseball player, Harriet changes her plans and instead shoots him, abandoning her previous target.
How Long Is the Jump? 16 years.
After the Jump: Roy joins the New York Knights, fulfilling his prophecy as a formidable slugger. His exceptional skills turn the team’s fortunes around, but challenges arise, including a hitting slump and the pressure to fix a couple of games. Over time, the bullet lodged in his body begins to inflict severe damage, jeopardizing his career. However, before his potential exit from the sport, Roy smashes a home run so powerful that it shatters the stadium lights, securing his team’s victory in the National League pennant. The Natural narrates a tale of redemption, with Roy hitting rock bottom before ultimately rising from it during his time with the Knights.