Real time within the media is a method where events are portrayed at the same rate at which the characters experience them. For example, if a movie told in real time is two hours long, then the plot of that movie covers two hours of fictional time. If a daily real-time comic strip runs for six years, then the characters will be six years older at the end of the strip than they were at the beginning. This technique can be enforced with varying levels of precision. In some stories, every minute of screen time is a minute of fictional time. In other stories, such as the daily comic strip For Better or For Worse, each day's strip does not necessarily correspond to a new day of fictional time, but each year of the strip does correspond to one year of fictional time.
Real time fiction dates back to the climactic structure of classical Greek drama.
Film and television
Often, use of split screens or picture-in-pictures are used to show events occurring at the same time, or the context in which various subplots are affecting each other. Examples include the television series 24 and films Timecode and Phone Booth. On-screen clocks are often used to remind the audience of the real-time presentation.
- The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
- Blackmail (1929)
- Night Flight (1933)
- Scrooge (1935)
- A Christmas Carol (1938)
- Odd Man Out (1947)
- Rope (1948)
- Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
- The Set-Up (1949)
- Detective Story (1951)
- Scrooge (1951)
- High Noon (1952)
- Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
- 12 Angry Men (1957)
- Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)
- The Sadist (1963)
- It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
- Fail Safe (1964)
- Scrooge (1970)
- Rabid Dogs (1974)
- Inserts (1975)
- Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
- My Dinner with Andre (1981)
- A Christmas Carol (1984)
- Clue (1985)
- Scrooged (1988)
- Seinfeld episode "The Chinese Restaurant", first aired May 23, 1991
- The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
- Nick of Time (1995)
- Frasier, episodes "My Coffee With Niles" (1994) and "Dinner Party" (1999)
- 12 Angry Men (1997)
- Running Time (1997)
- Run Lola Run (1998)
- Rear Window (1998)
- The X-Files episode "Triangle", first aired November 22, 1998
- The Royle Family (sitcom, 1998-2000)
- Space Ghost Coast to Coast episode "Waiting for Edward", first aired December 25, 1998
- A Christmas Carol (1999)
- Timecode (2000)
- 24 (TV series, 2001-2010)
- 24: Live Another Day (TV miniseries, 2014)
- 24: Legacy (TV spin-off, 2017)
- Tape (2001)
- Russian Ark (2002)
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Conversations with Dead People", first aired November 12, 2002
- Watching Ellie (TV series, 2002-03, first incarnation only)
- 11:14 (2003)
- Phone Booth (2003)
- Before Sunset (2004)
- Blue Heelers episode, "Reasonable Doubts" (2004) - Not only it was set in real time, it was also aired live.
- Nine Lives (2005)
- The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)
- United 93 (2006)
- 16 Blocks (2006 film)
- Crank (2006 film), where the protagonist is on an energetic cat-and-mouse game to avoid his poisoned heart losing adrenaline.
- Numb3rs episode "One Hour" (2007)
- 11 Minutes Ago (2007 film) - An indie drama that plays out in 11 minutes increments of reverse-chronological real-time. It was filmed in just 17 hours.
- 88 Minutes (2008)
- Real Time (2008)
- An American Carol (2008)
- Exam (2009)
- A Christmas Carol (2009)
- Stargate Atlantis episode "Thirty-Eight Minutes" (without advertisements)
- Justice League episode "Wild Cards" features a real-time bomb hunt; the countdown clock is visible throughout the episode.
- 30 Minute Meals
- Mad About You episodes "Our Fifteen Minutes" (1995) and "The Conversation" (1997)
- Roger & Val Have Just Got In
- Him and Her
- Cherry Tree Lane (2010 film) about two parents' horror as their home is invaded by a local gang looking for their teenage son.
- Silent House (2011 film)
- Neighbours (2011 - "Episode 6188")
- Carnage (2011 film)
- Logistics (2012 film)
- Locke (2013 film)
- Cyberbully (2015) The film takes place entirely in the bedroom of British teenager Casey Jacobs, and happens in real time.
- Archer episode "Vision Quest", first aired February 5, 2015
- Victoria (2015 film)
- Unfriended (2015 film)
- Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo (2016 film)
- U - July 22 (2018 film)
In a real-time computer game or simulation, events in the game occur at the same rate as the events which are being depicted. For instance, in a real-time combat game, in one hour of play the game depicts one hour of combat.
Comic books and strips
In comic books, the use of real time is made more complicated by the fact that most serial comics are released on a monthly basis and are traditionally 20 to 30 pages long, making it difficult to tell a story set in real time without overlooking important events from one month to the next. Another explanation is the prevalence of the super-hero genre in American comics, and the iconic status attached to such characters : it is often considered that such mythological, sometimes godlike heroes cannot age in real time without losing the characteristics that make them special. Hence the more common use of floating timelines in Marvel Comics or DC Comics. Exceptions include Marvel Comics' New Universe line of books, Erik Larsen's long-running Savage Dragon ongoing series, John Byrne's Superman & Batman: Generations (three non-canon miniseries exploring the notion of "what if Superman and Batman could age?"), and Ben Dunn's Ninja High School.
Comic strips which feature characters aging in real-time include:
In the Inspector Rebus series of detective novels (17 as of 2010) by the Scottish writer Ian Rankin, characters age in step with the publication date. Rebus is stated to have been born in 1947; in the 2007 novel Exit Music he reached 60, and retired.
The Mandie series of children's mystery novels by Lois Gladys Leppard are exactly one hundred years from the present real time and ended by the eighteenth year (or one hundred and eighteenth year) of the main protagonist in 2006 at the reader's end of childhood and adolescence.
In A Christmas Carol the entire story takes place in real time.