The History of Time Travel is a 2014 sci-fi docu-fiction movie written and directed by up-and-coming film student Ricky Kennedy about the history behind the invention of time travel as framed as a network TV documentary on the subject.
The movie's plot involves an Alternate Timeline where a letter by Albert Einstein to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, warning FDR of the potential Nazi time travel program and urging him to start one as well, resulting in the creation of the Indiana Project with the express purpose of creating time travel before Those Wacky Nazis can. It chronicles the life of Edward Page, a scientist working on the Indiana Project and his son Richard who continues his work after his death and the process which resulted in the creation of the time machine and the younger Page's attempt to save his mother from dying from Polio when he was a child.
And that's when the movie goes Off the Rails along with history itself.
This film provides examples of:
- Alternate History: The film begins in an alternate history where the Nazis begin experimenting in creating a time machine, inspiring a US government research project into time travel called the Indiana Project. Resulting in Richard Page's success in creating a time machine in the 1980s. Which in turn results in several more alternate timelines as Page alters history.
- Bland-Name Product: "You're watching History Television"
- Dramatic Irony: In one of the altered timelines where the Soviets use a stolen time machine to handily win the Cold War, one of the interviewees comments that time travel must be the only explanation for how the Soviets were able to get Sputnik into orbit before anything American-made, despite the fact that in actual history, Sputnik was the first unmanned space satellite, without the aid of time travel. Of course, the interviewees don't know this due to not having Ripple Effect-Proof Memory, as detailed below.
- Foreshadowing: The Soviets winning the Cold War is foreshadowed by a globe in the background of an interview altering as the film goes on to have more and more nations shaded in red, implying that each successive alteration of the timeline resulted in the USSR-aligned bloc getting bigger and bigger.
- Mockumentary: The film is presented as an in-universe history documentary about the events and people surrounding the creation of time travel.
- Giving Radio to the Romans: Richard attempts to help his father expedite his research in the 1940s by leaving him a prototype and all necessary notes. Unfortunately part of Edward's inability to make a breakthrough was that 1940s technology wasn't sufficiently advanced for his needs and Edward is unable to recreate his success after the KGB steals the prototype and destroys the Indiana Project facilities.
- He Knows Too Much: Edward Page is tailed by the CIA and KGB in one timeline because of his knowledge of time travel; both he and his wife are eliminated when Edward attempts to use facilities at MIT to replicate his 1940s work with the Indiana Project.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Richard and Aden attempt to alter history by giving their father their completed time machine and the research used to build it during WWII in an attempt to alter their family history after their mother kills herself. The end result is KGB infiltrators stealing the prototype and the research papers, destroying the Indiana Project to prevent the Americans from building another one and then the Soviets use the time machine to effectively win the Cold War, the implication being that in the altered 2014, the USA is one of the few if not the last remaining capitalist nation on Earth.
- No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Averted completely. Edward Page's hidden research notes allow Richard to build a working time machine in two different timelines. Ultimately invoked in the end when Richard makes one last trip to the past to completely destroy the Indiana Project, break his father's obsession with time travel research in order to save his family, and deny success to the KGB agents who had infiltrated the project.
- Our Presidents Are Different: at least from 1960 onwards in one timeline, with Nixon beating Kennedy and then subsequently being assassinated, with the implication that the Soviets orchestrated the assassination. A segment taking place in 2014 has the picture on the wall switch from Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton repeatedly.
- Reset Button Ending: The film ends with history being altered by the Page Brothers so that time travel was never invented, the Page family earns their (mostly) happy ending and the documentary goes from being a history documentary to a sci-fi documentary where the stillborn Indiana Project is mentioned as a point where time travel could've been invented in real life but wasn't.
- Ret-Gone: In his attempts to save his mother's life through time travel, Richard manages to unwittingly pull this on one of the people currently being interviewed about the story. After preventing his mother from dying in a car crash, a newspaper reveals that the crash instead claimed the lives of a couple with the same last name as an older man being interviewed in the present, who we can presume are his parents. The next time that interview location is shown, the man has been completely replaced by a younger woman, who remains there until the end of the movie where the time-travel machine prototype in the 40's is destroyed, thus preventing the story from ever happening in the first place, at which point the man returns.
- Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: Averted. Changing the past results in the time traveler lapsing into a 3-day coma upon returning to the present, from which they emerge with their memories altered to match the new timeline and only vague recollections of the old one. It's taken Up to Eleven when the whole documentary crew and all the interviewed talking heads likewise lose all memories of the original timeline and treat the new one as if it was always the history they knew mid-movie, with their clothes, hairstyles and interview locations changing as well (in one case, the interviewee changes completely from an older man to a younger woman) and the same title cards appearing multiple times as different versions of the same events are recapped and discussed.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The whole movie chronicles successive attempts to do this beginning with Richard Page attempting to save his mom from dying from Polio when he was young and ending with his cosmic retconed-in brother traveling back to destroy the Indiana Project in order to prevent time travel from ever being invented.
- Sequel Hook: It's implied by the ending in the Time Travel-less timeline that someone will eventually figure out time travel.
- Stupid Jetpack Hitler: The in-universe justification for the creation of the Indiana Project, create time travel before the Nazis can. Which leads to Soviet Superscience when KGB agents infiltrate the Indiana Project and steal the prototype time machine, allowing the Soviet Union to beat the US to the Moon, stay one step (or more) ahead of every advance in US military technology, and change the geopolitical picture for the remainder of the 20th century completely.