"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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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 StrikerS 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 Möbius 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.
- The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Chapter Zero takes place a thousand years before the main events of the story.
Films — Animation
- 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.
Films — Live-Action
- 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. Which would hardly be the first time Star Wars got brought up on the show.
- 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.1914 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.
- Hocus Pocus opens with the hanging of the Sanderson sisters in 1693 and then flashes forward to 1993, the year the film is set.
- X-Men Film Series:
- The Wolverine opens with the atomic bomb being dropped on Nagasaki in 1945, where Wolverine was a POW. Logan then wakes up in 2013 somewhere in the Yukon wilderness.
- X-Men: Apocalypse: The caption of the introductory scene reads, "Nile Valley, 3600 BCE." The opening credits sequence is a time tunnel which takes viewers to Ohio, 1983.
- 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.
- Pineapple Express:The movie begins in the year 1937 where the military conducts a secret experiment on "Item 9" also known as the smoking pot before declaring it ‘Illegal’.
- Prometheus starts with an Engineer drinking some liquid and dissolving into primordial goo, thus kick-starting life on Earth billions of years ago. The events then move to the future.
- Hellbound: The movie opens during The Crusades, then flashes forward to the twentieth century.
- V for Vendetta: The movie starts with Evey Hammond narrating the story about Guy Fawkes' failed Gunpowder Plot and his execution.
- The Sorcerer's Apprentice has several. The first one takes place in 740 AD, with Merlin and Morgana's final battle. Merlin is killed (due to one of his apprentices betraying him), and Morgana (along with Balthazar's Love Interest) is trapped in a Soul Jar. We then see several short flashes of Balthazar traveling the world throughout history, trying to find the Prime Merlinian, a good sorcerer who is destined to become equal to Merlin in power. The plot then moves to the year 2000, where a 10-year-old boy named Dave finds Balthazar's antique shop during a field trip. Dave accidentally releases Balthazar's rival Horvath from the Soul Jar. During the resulting battle, both sorcerers end up being trapped in a different Soul Jar for 10 years (to the day). Time Skip to 10 years (to the day), and the now free sorcerers start looking for Dave, who is now in college.
- Underworld: Evolution starts in 1202, showing the capture of the Lycan Elder William by his twin brother Marcus (the first vampire), Viktor, and the other vampires. Viktor then betrays his word to Marcus and has William hidden away in a secret dungeon, far away from his brother. The events then shift to shortly after the end of the first film, with Selene and Michael fleeing after the fight in the catacombs of Budapest.
- All three films of The Mummy Trilogy start with a retelling of the origin for the film's Big Bad, which takes place in 1290 BC, 3067 BC, and the 200's BC, respectfully, before shifting to 1923, 1933, and 1946, respectfully.
- The Last Witch Hunter has the prologue set in the times of Black Death plague, then jumps forward eight hundred years to the present day.
- 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 (first book of The Stormlight Archive) 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 several generations before the story begins, long enough that SkyClan - the Clan featured in the prologues - has been forgotten by the modern Clans.
- Also notable is Dark River, which takes place at least twice as early as those: before the Clans were formed, and before even the Tribe of Rushing Water was formed.
- 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.
- Done in several books in the Malazan Book of the Fallen, either in the form of The Time of Myths or conventionally.
- The prologue of 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 prologue of Midnight Tides takes places at an unnnamed point during The Time of Myths, in this case during the Sundering of the Realm of Kurald Emurlahn in the Time of the Elder Gods, and is continued as the prologue of Reaper's Gale.
- 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 Dirk Pitt Adventures 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.
- Eagle Strike, the fourth novel in the Alex Rider series, begins with a prologue set some two decades before the main plot of the book.
- One of the novels in The History of the Galaxy series starts with a Space Battle nearly a thousand years before the setting of the novel itself. Naturally, the novel deals with the consequences of said battle. Another novel has the prologue take place 3 million years ago, which is trumped by yet another novel with the prologue set a billion years ago.
- The Wrong Side of Goodbye: Starts with a soldier going down in a helicopter crash in Vietnam, before jumping 2016. Harry Bosch's investigation eventually leads him to find out who that boy was and who his daughter was.
- 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 (i.e. 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.
- Power Rangers Dino Charge: The series' distant prologue begins 65 million years, at the end of the Cretaceous period (to be precise, on the day that marked the asteroid impact that kicked off the K-T boundary).
- 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.
- The Flash (2014) starts when Barry is a boy, witnessing the Man in the Yellow Suit killing his mother, resulting in his father being imprisoned for the murder. The story then moves to the present day, with Barry working as a crime lab tech for the Central City Police Department, while secretly looking for anything "weird" that might be related to his mother's murder. In a twist, Barry ends up going back to that night in the season 1 finale in an attempt to prevent the murder, only to be stopped by his future self. He does get to say goodbye to his mother this time, though. At the end of Season 2, he goes back to that night again and saves his mother, creating the Flashpoint timeline. At the end of the Season 3 opener, he allows the Reverse-Flash to go back there again and put things back the way they were... sort of.
- In Timeless, episodes frequently start with certain historical events being showcased (e.g. the Hindenburg crash, the Lincoln assassination, a V2 launch, the Moon landing, the killing of Bonnie and Clyde). The protagonists then have to go back to those events and try to keep Flynn from changing them. Most of the time, the events do end up changing at least a little, such as the Hindenburg crash killing only two people, Lincoln being shot by Flynn instead of Booth, the V2 exploding, Neil Armstrong's speech delayed, and Bonnie and Clyde being killed a few hours earlier in their hideout instead of on the road.
- If used in video games, 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.
- 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 almost a century after Starlancer ends, with an "800 years later" separating the intro from the game proper (making the total gap between games about 900 years).
- Homeworld, as seen here. This turns out to be just a taste, as the backstory of the video game is extended further, later, and a prequel game fleshes it out even more.
- 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 16th 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.
- Lufia & The Fortress of Doom starts in the shoes of Maxim and his party fighting and defeating the Sinistrals. The main game proper starts 99 years later with Maxim's descendant.
- 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 enrolls in the armed forces. He then spends the next four years in training before the main story begins.
- The intro reel for X3: Terran Conflict starts in 2146, with the Hopeless Robot War against rogue terraformer ships ravaging Earth. The game takes place almost 800 years later, with an advanced Earth State still smarting about the Terraformers, now known as the Xenon.
- The first few levels of Red Faction 2 start on Mars with the player controlling a Commonwealth soldier sent to recover a piece of Ultor nanotech. The game then Time Skips to several years (or decades) later and shifts the setting to the Commonwealth on Earth. The recovered tech was used by the dictatorial Chancellor Sopot to make a squad of nano-enhanced Super Soldiers (the player now controls one of them). Thinking he made a mistake, he orders them killed, resulting in them joining the local Red Faction in order to take out the tyrant.
- The beginning of Fallout 4 takes place on October 23, 2077, the day of the Great War. It also serves as a tutorial and character creation stage in the first part. The second part involves you running towards the Vault, getting there just in time before a nuke hits. Inside the Vault, you get stuffed into a tube in order to get "decontaminated". You wake up briefly 150 years later to witness Kellogg killing your spouse and kidnapping your son before being put back to sleep and woken up in 2287 by a system failure that killed everyone else in the Vault. The game begins there.
- In Dishonored, both Corvo and Daud's prologues involve the assassination of Empress Jessamine, 6 months before the story continues for either.
- Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse opens with Marques leaving Castell del Sants with his mother to escape from fascists during Spain's civil war of 1936-39. Then we cut to present day Paris.
- 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.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: The prologue takes place mostly Just Before the End, while the later part of it and the main story take place 90 years After the End.
- 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: