Millions of years ago, in a distant galaxy...The Distant Prologue is a short introduction scene that takes place a significant amount of time before the main plot starts. Bonus points if it has subtitles in visual media: for example, "8,000 Years Ago", followed by "Present Day" after the Time Skip to the period when the majority of the work takes place. Can overlap with When It All Began. Supertrope to A Minor Kidroduction. Contrast of course Distant Finale.
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- The Stargate Verse loves doing this, in both movies and TV series.
- The original Stargate movie had two distant prologues: one in Egypt in 8,000 BC, followed by Egypt in 1928, and finally the United States of the "present day" (which is somewhere in 1994-1996 — the franchise is somewhat inconsistent about this).
- Stargate Atlantis starts with a flashback to "several million" years ago, when the Ancients left Antarctica for the Pegasus galaxy in the titular city-ship.
- The Ark of Truth starts with a Distant Prologue in an even earlier time period, when the Ancients left their home galaxy for the Milky Way galaxy. The specific wording also sounds like a parody of Star Wars.
Anime and Manga
- Mai-Otome, to 14 years ago, when all three main characters were infants (and the series is intentionally misleading on which one of them appears in the prologue).
- Flame of Recca has the prologue take place 400 years earlier.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S begins with Nanoha rescuing a child Subaru before fast-forwarding to the present time with a now teenage Subaru preparing for her qualifying mage exam for B-Rank. According to the lore, four years pass in-between.
- One Piece starts with the execution of Gold Roger on the first page, time skips to Luffy's childhood for the rest of the first chapter, then time skips another 10 years to when Luffy becomes a pirate. (In the anime, Gold Roger's execution was exposition put in the start of the opening theme and Luffy's backstory became a Whole Episode Flashback just after Zoro joined the crew.)
- The AKIRA film starts with a very short prologue set in 1988 (basically showing the destruction of Tokyo with what initially appears to be a new kind of bomb) and quickly cuts to the year 2019.
- The Silent Mobius TV series opens with Project Gaia going awry in 1999 and then cuts to somewhere around 2029 or 2030.
- Dragon Ball Kai opens with the final scenes of the Dragon Ball Z TV special Bardock: The Father of Goku, set 23 years before the start of the series.
- Tegami Bachi begins with Gauche Suede taking Lag to Cambel Litmus to live with his aunt after his mother is abducted. A few years later, Lag sets out with the goals of becoming a Letter Bee, meeting Gauche again and finding his mother.
- Y: The Last Man does this in some issues.
- ElfQuest starts with the arrival of the first elves, trolls and preservers on the World of Two Moons and their fateful meeting with humans, and then jumps forward about ten thousand years between two panels!
- Immortal Iron Fist starts in the 13th century with one of the early Iron Fists defending his home; from this point on the story takes place in the modern day.
- An inversion of this trope: the beginning of "Days Of Future Smurfed" in Empath: The Luckiest Smurf takes place in the early 21st Century, with Empath and his great-grandson Polaris Smurf (who would soon become Traveler) as the last two Smurfs alive. The rest of the story cuts between that time period and the medieval Europe time period that the entirety of the series takes place in, as Polaris!Traveler's purpose is to create a Stable Time Loop.
- The prologue of the Medaka Box fanfic World As Myth is split up into three parts. One kicks off the plot. One happens fifteen years before. And one happens one hundred and fifty years before.
- In the Total Drama fanfic, Courtney and the Violin of Despair, the prologue is set roughly 230 years before the beginning of the main story.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey starts out at "The Dawn of Man", and then flashes forward to 2001
- The first The Lord of the Rings movie during its prologue flashes to various events, the oldest of them five thousand years ago, and the youngest the 60-years-past events of The Hobbit.
- Night Watch starts in 1992 and cuts to 2004. Its sequel Day Watch starts with Tamerlan (Timur)'s assault on Samarkand.
- Rules of Engagement opens with a jungle. Obviously it's going to be Vietnam, and it is. It's a prologue to establish Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson's characters.
- Demolition Man starts out in 1996 and then John Spartan and Simon Phoenix are frozen and thawed out in 2032.
- Stardust has this, in both forms, where it depicts the father of the actual protagonist crossing the Wall and eventually meeting up with the mother of the protagonist.
- Genesis II (1973) starts in 1979 with scientist Dylan Hunt taking part in an experiment in suspended animation. A collapse covers him up, and he's awakened 154 years later in the year 2133.
- A deleted opening of The Mask had Vikings rowing to America to throw the mask "off the edge of the world".
- Jumanji has the first minute of the film taking place in 1869, the next ten minutes taking place in 1969, and the majority of the film taking place in 1995.
- The Fifth Element starts in c.1900 when aliens take artifacts from an archaeological dig. The story then jumps forward to the far future, where we meet the main characters... and they end up needing to look for the artifacts.
- The Final Sacrifice has the opening scene, the opening credits, and then "Seven years later." In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, they ask, "Seven years after the credits?"
- Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek (2009). The former shows the launch of the USS Enterprise-B and its encounter with the Nexus to set up Picard and Kirk's meeting; the latter shows Nero's initial appearance at Kirk's birth to set up pretty much the entire film.
- The Disney films The Jungle Book and Tarzan all start off with the discovery of an orphaned or otherwise abandoned child. Hercules goes back much farther; the Muses talk about "Back when the world was new".
- Atlantis The Lost Empire starts with the fall of Atlantis, several millennia ago. There was originally supposed to be a second one after that, with a group of viking explorers searching for the place where Atlantis was, but it was cut from the theatrical version.
- The Viking sequence was intended to be the prologue; they replaced it with Atlantis' destruction near the end of production.
- G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra opens with Destro's ancestor getting a mask glued to his face (which is referenced when the villain's head becomes metallic).
- The Hot Chick begins in Abyssinia 50 B.C. and tells the story of Princess Nawa and the curse of the body switching earrings
Narrator: This is the Earth at a time when the dinosaurs ruled a lush and fertile planet. A piece of rock just six miles wide changed all that.65 MILLION YEARS LATER
- The Tree of Life starts at the Big Bang and goes on from there.
- At first, it looks like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade opens with a pair of boy scouts stumbling upon one of Indiana's archaeological digs. Then the man in the fedora looks up and we see that he's not Indiana Jones. It's then revealed that the scene takes place in 1912 (twenty-six years before the rest of the movie) and one of the boy scouts is a young Indy.
- The Radix: The story is set in modern times, but the prologue takes place in 1502, featuring Cesare Borgia and Niccolo Machiavelli.
- Good Omens has three. Genesis, sealing the garden, and twelve years ago.
- Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds, maybe (it appears at first to take place in the distant future, but it doesn't take too long for the main action of the book to move into the even more distant future).
- The Wheel of Time starts with Lews Therin Telamon finding out that in his madness he killed his wife. He kills himself and the story picks up 3,000 years later where Lews Therin is reborn as Rand al'Thor.
- The Way of Kings has a timejump after each of the first few chapters, getting progressively smaller. Starting with thousands of years, then 5 years, then a few months...
- Death Day has a prologue set about 500 years before the main story..
- Almost every book in The Belgariad and its sequel series, The Mallorean. Most of the time these prologues are told in the style of a historical document or legend
- Going Postal has "The 9000 Year Prologue" and "The One Month Prologue". The former is from the point of view of a golem stuck on the bottom of the ocean.
- Stranger in a Strange Land begins with the first ship to Mars taking off, along with some information on the crew before it crashes. It picks up again years later when the next ship to Mars is sent out and Michael is found.
- Several Warrior Cats books have prologues which take place long before the main story. The most notable ones are Firestar's Quest and Sky Clans Destiny, which take place about 20-30 years before the story begins (and seeing as the characters are cats, none of them were born yet back then).
- Also notable is Dark River, which takes place at least twice as early as those.
- Although the prologue in The Fall of the Sea People is set nearly 900 years before chapter 1, it is a character's childhood example rather than an ancient history example: Éirime is an immortal by the time she returns home.
- Lightweights all. The prologue to The Silmarillion takes place before the Creation.
- Malazan Book of the Fallen: Done in several books, either in the form of The Time of Myths or conventionally. Memories of Ice, for instance, starts at -320,000 something years prior to the series' timeline, jumps forward to about -120,000, then jumps to the "current" date.
- The first chapter of the first book of the Harry Potter series, "The Boy Who Lived", takes place right after Voldemort's attempt to kill baby Harry backfires and Harry is left on the Dursleys' doorstep. The next chapter takes place right before Harry's eleventh birthday.
- Every novel in the Numa Series starting with Raise The Titanic! features one, sometimes two. Sometimes, the plot point established in the prologue doesn't come into play until about halfway through the main story.
- Greg Egan's Schild's Ladder has a slight subversion. The book opens with a group of scientists accidentally creating the Sphere of Destruction that drives the plot, and then jumps about six hundred years forward to the beginning of the main story. But since most of humanity is immortal (bordering on Starfish Aliens), six hundred years isn't considered a particularly long time.
- Empire from the Ashes: The first book starts out 50,000 years ago.
- A few episodes of The X-Files have prologues that take place years after the actual episode is set, such as Duane Barry and Young At Heart. The opening scene of The Movie actually opens in prehistoric times and then flashes ahead to 1998.
- Gerry Anderson's UFO begins one year in the future (ie 1970) with Colonel Straker witnessing a UFO attack. The rest of the series takes place 11 years in the future (1980) when Straker is head of the anti-UFO organization SHADO.
- LOST's "The Incident" begins in a period that's at least a couple hundred years prior to either main plot.
- Red Dwarf starts off in 2180 (though that date has changed several times. Only the first book and Ourobourous have confirmed this, with the first two series saying late 21st century and series 3/4 saying 23rd). Skip three million years once Lister enters stasis.
- Fresno starts with Spanish explorers entering the area of land that would become the city of Fresno. They also think the grapes taste nasty.
- Inverted in the Star Trek: Voyager series finale "Endgame", where the story starts off in the year 2404, about 17 years after the current time-period where Voyager is still in the Delta Quadrant, and Admiral Janeway travels back to the past to help her self and her crew get back home sooner to avoid certain personal catastrophes such as Tuvok becoming mentally ill and Seven of Nine's death leading to Chakotay's.
- Also inverted in the episode "Timeless", where Chakotay and Harry Kim discover Voyager buried and frozen in ice 15 years after the quantum slipstream accident had caused the ship to crashland on a barren planet in the Beta Quadrant.
- Air Crash Investigation: The China Airlines Flight 611 episode opens 22 years before the crash, showing the tailstrike that eventually led to the plane's breakup.
- The pilot of Defiance opens in 2013, showing the Votan Ark fleet descending into the atmosphere as the astonished people look up. The view then shifts to 33 years later. The ending of the pilot flashes back to the arrival, showing that the scene was taking place in St. Louis, which returns to the "present" to show the town of Defiance, built atop the ruins of that city, with the Arch still in the same place but slightly damaged. Additionally, the opening shows a teenage boy looking up in awe at the Votan ship. The ending makes it fairly obvious that Nolan was that boy, and he is looking at what has become of his hometown.
- Better Call Saul opens with an inversion: it shows what happens to Saul long after the end of Breaking Bad, which ended in-universe around 2010, then skips back to 2002 long before Saul met Walt.
- If used in videogames, it's often a Justified Tutorial. For example, in Final Fantasy XII, the prologue puts you in the shoes of a rookie soldier caught in an unexpected ambush, having to quickly learn the ropes. Afterwards, you flash forwards to his younger brother, in another time and place, and the game proper begins.
- Also used in the little-known Steambot Chronicles, where the tutorial shows a young boy being taught how to maneuver one of the titular Steambots, prior to a lengthy boat-trip. The game proper begins with another boy waking up with Easy Amnesia after a shipwreck.
- The intro from Freelancer picks up where Starlancer ends, with an "800 years later" separating the two.
- Homeworld, as seen here. This turns out to be just a taste, as the backstory of the video game is extended further, later.
- Dragon Quest III has a prelude showing bits and pieces of your father Ortega's journey, leading up to his fateful confrontation with a dragon atop a volcano. After he vanishes, the king declares that you, his then-infant son or daughter, must continue his journey once you're old enough. The game proper begins on your Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday.
- Dragon Quest V starts with the main character's birth.
- Xenogears has an opening cutscene set several thousand years before the main plot. Its connection to the plot only becomes apparent many hours in.
- Xenosaga opens with the discovery of a mysterious artifact on Earth. The games take place a long long time later, after Earth has been lost.
- Dreamfall: The Longest Journey starts with Brian Westhouse (a side character from The Longest Journey) in a Tibetan monastery in 1933. Chapter one is about Zoe Castillo, resident of Casablanca in 2219. DF then tops it by having a reverse-Distant Finale: The Stinger is about Briant Westhouse before he arrives at the monastery in the prologue.
- Max Payne starts off with a scene from the ending, then jumps back three years, to the day Max's wife and daughter were murdered, then forward to the start of the game proper.
- The intro to Return to Castle Wolfenstein shows the sealing of Heinrich I in 943 AD. The actual game is set in 1943, with the player attempting to halt the Nazi SS Paranormal Division's attempts to bring Heinrich back.
- At the start of Dead Space 3, you control Private Caufman, a rookie soldier of the Sovereign Colonies Armed Forces, sent to retrieve a MacGuffin on a crashed ship apparently vital to stopping the Necromorph infestation. Once you get the MacGuffin stolen by General Mahad, he shoots you in the face, then kills himself. Then the game skips 200 years in the future, back to the familiar setting and characters from the past 2 games.
- Inverted in A New Beginning—the intro takes place almost six centuries after the main game thanks to time-travel shenanigans.
- Lunar: Silver Star Harmony opens with the final battle of the Four Heroes, several decades before the story begins.
- The original Lufia starts with Maxim and his allies battling the Sinestrals. The main plot starts 99 years later, with his descendent Wein as a small child. (The prequel's final battle is the opening battle of the original.)
- The opening text scrawl in Dungeon Maker II: The Hidden War tells the story of a war from 70,000 years ago.
- System Shock 2 opens with a cutscene setting up the game's main premise, then jumps back four years previous to when the player character enrols in the armed forces. He then spends the next four years in training before the main story begins.
- Errant Story opens with a scene involving a pregnant Sarine and her human husband, then skips to 2000 years later for all the rest of the action, except of course Sarine's painful flashbacks.
- The pilot of Futurama starts off in 1999, and the rest of the season takes place in the year 3000.
- The Storybook Opening of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic pilot tells of Princess Celestia sealing away her sister, Luna, corrupted into Nightmare Moon, 1000 years ago.
- Batman: The Animated Series:
- "Joker's Favor" has an introduction scene taking place two years before the main plot starts.
- "The Clock King" introduction scene takes place exactly seven years before the main plot starts.
- The debut episodes of the Riddler, and Lock-Up also begin at their Start of Darkness before skipping ahead to their actions as supervillains.
- Batman Beyond: The first episode begins with Bruce Wayne's final night as Batman, twenty years prior to the rest of the story.