12 Monkeys: A Timeline of the Events of the Movie

  • June 28, 2003
  • James Skemp
  • article

Notes: See also my paper titled Pulp Fiction: A Timeline of the Events of the Movie.

I brought you the timeline for Pulp Fiction (see my paper titled Pulp Fiction: A Timeline of the Events of the Movie), now I bring you the timeline for the movie 12 Monkeys, another interesting, and time-wise 'weird', movie.

As I see it, it's something like this. Well, first, note that this is the timeline in terms of real time, not in terms of movie time.

  1. Cole 'participates' in World War I, and is shot in the leg.
  2. Kathryn is born.
  3. Cole is born.
  4. Cole and Kathryn meet via the Sanitarium (1990).
  5. Cole and Kathryn meet for the second time after her lecture (1996).
  6. Cole and Kathryn meet while she is painting the side of the building.
  7. Cole is shot and killed, and Kathryn sees Cole as a boy.
  8. Kathryn dies (?).
  9. Cole goes back in time (to 1990) to meet Kathryn for the first time.
  10. Cole comes back and then goes back to WWI, and then to 1996, to meet Kathryn after her lecture.
  11. Cole comes back and is healed, after which is goes back again to meet Kathryn so as to remove his 'divergence'.

In terms of movie time, it's going to be slightly different and a whole heck of a lot harder to diagnose. After all, we never really are at a time during which we know that Cole or Kathryn are born (we of course assume they are), contrary to the fact that we know when Cole died. That is, we see Cole die, and can place that in the movie timeline, but do not see him born, and cannot, therefore, place him in the movie timeline. How can we say that Cole was born when we didn't see it? So, what this all boils down to is that I will not be placing a movie timeline, since it cannot be done like the Pulp Fiction one, where each timeline matched (point for point that is).
Interesting stuff from the movie:

  • Notice how the guard changes during Cole's attempted escape from the asylum?
  • "I am insane and you are my insanity" - Cole
  • Notice how we never see 'Bob's' (that is, the guy that calls Cole 'Bob' all the time) teeth the second time he meets Kathryn (while she is painting the building)? Is this the same Bob, or is it Bob from a different time? But, if it's Bob from a different time, what does that mean?
  • In a wacky kind of way, Kathryn really did meet Cole at an age earlier then she first met him. That is, while at the theatre she talks vaguely about how she has known him before. At the airport, she sees his younger self. In a weird, 'time travel will make you go insane' kind of way, if time is linear, and we can only be in one point in time, then there must have been a time in which the airport incident had not occurred. Yet, that would be impossible, and therefore, well, it's hard to explain… :(


Created: June 28th 2003
Modified: July 12th 2003; October 24th 2003