"The following takes place between Midnight and 1 AM on the day of the California Presidential Primary. Events occur in real time."There are no artificial attempts to show time compression, everything is occurring as it is happening. One minute onscreen equals one minute in show time. The Super Trope to this is Extremely Short Timespan. Compare Back to Front, Anachronic Order, and Comic-Book Time. All examples of The Oner not involving over- or undercranking are in real time by nature. Sometimes, TV series will do a low-key Bottle Episode entirely or mostly in real-time. Not to be confused with HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. But yes, granted, the trope does apply there as well. Also not to be confused with the Real-Time Strategy genre of video games, as very few (if any) of them actually fall under this trope. Contrast Magic Countdown.
— Jack Bauer, introducing the 24 pilot
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Variation: The Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch manga was released in Real Time, except in chapters that were tied too closely together to be a month apart.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion has many scenes that are drawn-out pauses, with no attempt to "speed up" the action: sometimes this is actually realistic. In one episode, Rei and Asuka are in an elevator and both are completely still for about 30 seconds, the length of a long elevator ride. Presumably this is to make the awkwardness of their interactions more prominent; it is also very cheap to film. NGE also shot the final battle of the ninth episode in real time (and synced it to music).
- The Maison Ikkoku manga also ran in real time, as the series, which was published from 1980 to 1987, spanned seven years in the characters' lives.
- Some of Attack on Titan's manga is in real time. Volumes 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 span only two days in-universe time.
- Jeff Smith's third Bone graphic novel, Eyes of the Storm has a chapter which was designed to get readers to read it at a rate similar to the time in-universe.
- The DC Comics series 52 is a year-long weekly series where each issue covers a week of story time; the name refers to (among other things) the number of weeks in a year, and is a Shout-Out to 24.
- In the famous The Spirit story "Ten Minutes", about the last ten minutes of a man's life, Will Eisner times the comic to take approximately ten minutes of the reader's time. This was in 1949.
- Marvel Comics' The New Universe was supposed to run in real time, but due to the whole line being canceled after only three years, the intended effects could hardly be noticed.
- Y: The Last Man generally kept time passing at the same rate as it did for the reader. It generally had a few issues covering a set few days, and then a time skip filling the difference.
- Judge Dredd. Dredd canonically ages in line with the strip itself (one year's worth of published stories equals one year passed within the comics).
- Marvel Comics' The Nam was billed as "an 8 year limited series," for how long the Vietnam War took after the US got involved. Each story takes place one month after the previous one did.
- The sequel of the German screwball crimedy Der Wixxer is "set in real time. Only much faster".
- The film Nick of Time (starring Johnny Depp), while not the first example of real-time storytelling, was probably the first to make such a big deal about it.
- The film Timecode combined it with cinema verité; its action was shot in a single take, by four steadicam operators. The film was a four-frame Split Screen, like a security monitor, and sometimes action took place on more than one camera at a time.
- In United 93, the entire film plays out in this way for the most part, albeit the plane spends a slightly longer amount of time in the air during the film than it did in real life. The actual plane was in the air for approximately one hour and 21 minutes.
- Alfred Hitchcock's Rope not only unfolds in real time but was actually filmed in single continuous takes, each the length of a reel of film, with reel changes disguised by having the camera pass behind an obscuring object for a second as one reel ends, and emerging again as the next reel begins.
- 12 Angry Men takes it even further, with not only almost all of the movie taking place in real time, but almost all of that period is set in one room. Even more remarkably, it had to be shot four times, each from a different angle with one of the walls removed to accommodate the camera, with the jurors getting progressively more sweaty and dishevelled. When all four angles were cut together it worked perfectly in continuity.
- High Noon is arguably the most famous cinematic use of this trope. The film takes place between 10:35 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.
- Phone Booth takes place in real time. Interestingly, the antagonist was played by Kiefer Sutherland, the star of 24.
- Reservoir Dogs is an hour of real-time in one location with 30 minutes of flashbacks.
- Run, Lola, Run
- The Man from Earth takes place in real time, except for the final shots. And almost completely in one room.
- My Dinner with Andre takes place mostly in real time, what with most of the film being Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- The entire film Real Time takes place in, well, real time.
- Running Time is another one that not only takes place in real time, but looks like it is done in one continuous take.
- Titanic (1997): Everything from the Iceberg hitting to the boat fully submerging is in real time.
- Russian Ark is a single take. All 93 minutes of it. Since it was shot digitally, there was no need to stop and change reels.
- Whilst it was certainly shot in one take, that was the fourth attempt at the shot. We'll never know if that fourth take is the movie or portions of the first three takes were used (the film has three editors credited, which should be unnecessary)
- Conspiracy. Like the German original, the events within the conference room strictly follow the minutes of the meeting that took place, which was over in less than 90 minutes.
- The climax of Tim Burton's Batman. The Joker tells his crew to meet him with their helicopter on the top of the cathedral in ten minutes. They arrive during the fight in the belltower, which is almost exactly ten minutes later.
- Before Sunset takes place in the hour-and-a-half following Jesse's appearance at the bookstore. Before Midnight is basically four, five long scenes of conversation in Real Time, with some time passing between those scenes.
- In the climax of The Avengers, two minutes and thirty seconds of screen time actually pass between the deployment and explosion of the nuke intended for Manhattan.
- The events of the boxing film The Set-Up correspond almost exactly to its 73-minute runtime, which is emphasized by shots of a clock at the beginning and end.
- Victoria (2015) plays out in real time due to the fact that it's been shot in a single take.
- I, an Actress (1977) is a ten-minute improvised short film that was done in one take.
Live Action TV
- 24 is the most notable example of "real-time", with the script writers conveniently forgetting that if the show were really happening in Los Angeles, Jack Bauer would be spending the majority of each show stuck in traffic. The very first episodes of the program featured Kiefer stating at the beginning "Events occur in real time." The show was not very rigorous about this, ignoring the limitations of the Real Time format constantly and generally using it simply to build suspense.
- Take Morris' introduction. Did he just teleport to CTU as soon as they mentioned they were going to re-hire him?
- The SitCom Watching Ellie was initially shot entirely in Real Time. This format was ditched after the first season.
- The episode "Life Time" on M*A*S*H.
- The Dead Zone's episode "Cabin Pressure".
- Friends episode "The One Where No One's Ready"
- Seinfeld's famous "The Chinese Restaurant" episode was in real time. The commercial break is spanned by a Long List that Jerry rattles off.
- A number of action-adventure shows over the years have attempted real time or near-real time in relation to some critical event, usually a bomb.
- The American Gothic episode "The Beast Within", although with a bit of cheating at the climax.
- Frasier did two real time episodes, Season 1's "My Coffee With Niles" and Season 6's "Dinner Party". In each, the real time even continues during the commercial break, as Frasier goes to the bathroom just before the break and returns straight afterward. In the latter, he's on hold for the first intermission, giving Roz the opportunity to go down, get her dry-cleaning, and come back up. However it does not hold true for the second intermission.
- Titus was designed to imitate a play. Thus, most episodes take place on a single set in Real Time. It was even filmed in order, for the benefit of the studio audience.
- The Doctor Who episode "42" supposedly takes place in Real Time, however there are a few conspicuous breaks from the gimmick. Here, the title refers to the number of minutes the protagonists have in their Race Against the Clock, and is a Shout-Out to both 24 and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
- In "Mummy on the Orient Express", all scenes in which the Foretold attacks are timed to take exactly 66 seconds, as per the legend. There's even an on-screen countdown shown.
- "Face the Raven" is built around a countdown. The final 15 minutes or so of the episode take place in real time. Although this is not explicit, one can work this out by comparing dialogue with the episode timing, though this only works when watching the DVD or the non-commercial BBC broadcast. This is a good example of how much can be accomplished, dialogue-wise, within just a few minutes.
- A first-season My Three Sons episode has Steve and the boys racing to get out of the house and off to work and school after Bub mistakenly sets the clocks ahead an hour instead of turning them back at the end of Daylight Savings Time. The action unfolds against the background of a televised NASA satellite launch.
- The aptly-named Stargate Atlantis episode "Thirty-Eight Minutes" has been the only Real Time episode in the Stargate Verse''.
- The Babylon 5 episode "Intersections in Real Time" plays out in real-time, but only between commercials. During commercial breaks (the "intersections"), it is assumed that much time passes.
- Most of Starsky & Hutch's "The Shootout", in which the restaurant our heroes happen to be at is taken over by two Mafia hitmen; Starsky is seriously injured and Hutch has to keep him and everyone else alive while the clock ticks away.
- ER, "Time of Death"
- Most episodes of The Royle Family before "The Queen of Sheba" appear to take place in real time, and entirely within the Royles' house. Since then they've used a more conventional format.
- There was an episode of the 1970s British kid's drama Ace of Wands where a character had been poisoned and had 23 minutes (the length of the episode minus titles) to find the antidote.
- Numerous Reality Shows have dabbled with 'Real Time' episodes, ranging from live tasks (say, for shopping budgets or other prizes) all the way up to 24-hour streaming.
- Honda once broadcast a live TV advert in the UK, taking an entire ad break to broadcast a parachute display team form the letters to spell out HONDA in mid-air. They succeeded.
- The first season finale "Johnny B Gone" of Married... with Children takes place in real time, it is basically one long scene. This concept was reused ten years later for the penultimate episode "The Desperate Half-Hour".
- In the NUMB3RS episode "One Hour", the cast have one hour to resolve a kidnapping—minus Don, who's spending the hour in a therapy session and has turned off his phone at the insistence of the therapist.
- Roger And Val Have Just Got In is a bittersweet SitCom featuring two characters in a house, and every episode not only takes place in real time, but (as the title suggests) at the same time of day, as the two each get home from work.
- Rachael Ray's "Thirty Minute Meals", this is the whole point of the concept.
- The "Triangle" episode of The X-Files is set in real time or close to it. It switches between 1939 and 1998 and covers roughly the same amount of time in each period. The episode is comprised of four 11 minute shots.
- The All in the Family episode "Mike the Pacifist", which takes place on a subway car.
- Subverted in the KiKa teen drama Allein gegen die Zeit (Alone Against The Clock), which has thirteen episodes per season, each covering one hour in thirty minutes (thus, each season lasts little more than half a day). Despite making two hours one, there is a frequent clock focus, the essence of urgency and (reasonable) passing of time is always present, and the plot is furthered greatly by various timespans and deadlines.
- The Flash (1990) used this in the episode "Beat the Clock", where Flash had an hour to save an innocent man from death row.
- Each episode of Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? began with a 2-minute introduction sequence, followed by the Chief telling the contestants "you've got 28 minutes to get it back, or history will change forever." They always succeeded, since it happened at the end of Round 2, and catching Carmen was just the icing on the cake.
- Roger Waters' The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. The first song is titled "4:30 AM (Apparently They Were Traveling Abroad)" and the last song is "5:11 AM (The Moment of Clarity)." While the events don't unfold this way, the album runs 42:07 and the time when each dream starts is in the title of each song.
- The three comics by Bill Holbrook - On The Fastrack Kevin & Kell and Safe Havens all rund in approximately real time. Single storylines may use up a several days to portray the events of a few minutes, but then there are periods of inactivity again, so that we get regular scheduled real life events spilling over into their world, such as Valentine's, summer camp or Christmas. Safe Havens followed school kids through their school years, Safe Havens and On the Fastrack have a common 'Mars Mission' plotline that evolves in real time, too.
- One iconic episode of radio drama Dragnet, "City Hall Bombing" (July 21, 1949), gave Sergeant Joe Friday and his partner Ben Romero less than thirty minutes to stop a bombing at city hall.
- In the 1990s BBC Radio produced an adaptation of Len Deighton's Bomber that not only took place in real time, but over the course of an entire day. In other words, it comprised several acts which were broadcast at various times during the entire day's schedule, with the events of each act taking place at the time of day they were actually broadcast.
- Orson Welles' broadcast of The War of the Worlds was initially presented as a live news program, with real-time breaking reports streaming in. Notably, however, while the broadcast was skillfully produced to encourage suspension of disbelief, it would be wholly impossible for the events portrayed to all occur (including, e.g., the mobilization of large numbers of troops, government cabinet meetings, and several major battles) within its mere one hour running time. Jack Bauer's ability to reach any location in 10 minutes is downright plausible by comparison.
- The Cabin Pressure Bottle Episode "Limerick" is all done as one scene in real time. Unlike most other examples, though, virtually nothing actually happens in the episode - they fly over a really boring bit of Russia, have Seinfeldian Conversation and play word games, and cook a pie.
- Among single-player video games that have an In-Universe Game Clock, few also have Real Time, and simulate what happened while the game was off. One that does is Animal Crossing.
- Jordan Mechner's The Last Express is set in real time, and the ending changes based on where you are at certain times, meaning that the player must very carefully manage where they are to get certain endings. The only time this is broken away from is when the player character is knocked out or goes to sleep.
- Thanks to some coding, Oracle of Tao has both real time, and an in-game clock. This Is Reality sets in, when the party insists that the clock that shows the real time is off, and has no problems accepting the game time.
- Also from Mechner, Prince of Persia (the 1989 original); the protagonist of the game has one hour to rescue the Distressed Damsel, and you have one real-life hour to beat the game. The 1992 sequel does the same, but gives you slightly more time.
- The SNES game SOS follows this concept. In the middle of a fierce storm, a luxury liner capsizes. In one real time hour, the ship will sink. The player character must reach the exit before then (and preferably bring a few other survivors with him). "Dying" advances the clock five minutes.
- Impossible Mission. You get infinite lives, but the clock keeps on ticking.
- While not entirely in real time, Fable II has the player receiving rent from owned properties in real time, even when the Xbox isn't on.
- Which of course, means it's laughable easy to become a gazillionaire by simply setting the clock on your Xbox forward a few hundred years. Not that there's anything to buy with the real estate money anyway except...more real estate.
- Half-Life 2 has the player in control continuously from the opening to the ending, and so everything is in real-time. There is one incident where what was supposed to be an instant teleport takes a week, and this allows a Time Skip without breaking from the format. It was still real time from Gordon, Alyx, and the player's perspective. Relativity: it's awesome!
- The same can be said of Portal, from start to finish barring some long elevators. Portal 2 has some timeskips and periods of unconsciousness in both the single player and co-op, so they don't pass.
- Metal Gear Solid has only a single time skip while Snake is knocked out and taken to be interrogated. The second game plays in two chapters that are set several months apart, but also are continous without any breaks.
- Except when Raiden gets knocked out and taken to a recreation of the same interrogation room from the first game. Shortly after it is revealed that the entire situation was set up to see what happens to Raiden when he is put into the same circumstances that Snake went through in the first game.
- It's pretty easy to forget that King's Quest IV is a Timed Mission because of this.
- Oddly enough, the Webcomic Narbonic used this, as opposed to Webcomic Time - while certain storylines actually did take weeks to play out for the viewers, there was considered enough 'fluff' between events that Christmas, Valentine's Day, and particularly New Years' Eve wound up being bracketed by storylines around those time frames. Most notably, it was actually 6 years between Davenport moving into Narbonic Labs and breaking up with Helen, both IRL and in the comic.
- Sluggy Freelance had a parody of 24 that took place over 24 hours. Of course, since the comic updates once every 24 hours, the parody started with the strip for January 17th... and ended exactly one strip later on January 18th, with the characters talking about how exciting it was.
- The long-running Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan was supposed to be set exactly 1,000 years in the past, but that notion was eventually dropped due to Schedule Slip, so that by 2011 the characters were living about 1005.
- Karin-dou 4koma: Outside of a few story arcs, most of the strips' events happens roughly when the strips are released. The series started in 2008, so this is reflected with Tamaryu slowly growing from a 8 year old girl to a 13 year old middle schooler.
- The BBCi and Big Finish jointly produced illustrated Doctor Who Audio Play "Real Time".
- In We Are All Pokémon Trainers for the most part, a day IRL equals a day IRP, which means that characters age as the RP goes on. For example, Tagg aging in real time from 19 to 22 over the course of the RP.
- The Great War follows World War One week by week, exactly one hundred years after the events depicted, as an ambitious four year project.
- The South Park parody of 24's format.
- Also the episode "The New Terrance and Philip Movie Trailer" from the sixth season.
- The "24 Minutes" episode of The Simpsons, with a crossover appearance of some of 24's cast no less.
- The Justice League episode "Wild Cards" takes place in real time, with Joker's timer in the corner of the screen keeping track for most of the events. In between part 1 and part 2 there's a minor "rewind".
- Lampshaded by The Joker when the clock starts at 22:51. "Oh what were you expecting from me? A round number?" The creators obviously designed the number to be the exact time between the timer's appearance and the Flash dealing with the final bomb, rather than trying to forcibly edit the length of that time to an exact number.
- Similarly, the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Appointment in Crime Alley" took place in real time, with frequent shots of clocks counting down to a dramatic explosion. The episode came to be because the network wanted to see an episode showing a day in the life of Batman, hence the numerous events that pile up in the fifteen minutes of the countdown.
- An episode of Garfield and Friends, in which Garfield has to not eat anything for five minutes. (Complete with a clock counting down in the corner of the screen.)
- In the pilot episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the speedy pegasus Rainbow Dash claims she can clear the sky of clouds in "10 seconds flat". She lives up to her word; in exactly 10 seconds real time the sky has been cleared.
- Also, in a later episode, Rainbow ends up in hospital, and there is a one minute-long montage of her trying kill time. Then she looks back at the clock, only to notice that the whole montage took place in Real Time.
- The unfinished episode "Ten Minutes to Doom" of Invader Zim invokes this when Zim gets his PAK taken and has 10 minutes to get it back, or else he dies.
- Futurama vaguely uses this. Seasons are pretty consistently set 1000 years after their air dates, and the periods between being canceled and The Movie became a Time Skip.
- The Angry Beavers is unique in that all the clocks update in real time. That is, if 5 minutes pass between one scene and the next, the clocks will have advanced by exactly 5 minutes.