The Law of Time Travel

32 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2017 Last revised: 14 Jun 2017

See all articles by Akiva Miller

Akiva Miller

New York University School of Law; Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law

Date Written: May 14, 2017


Even as time machines remain as fictional as ever, time-travel stories hold important lessons for legal reasoning. Starting from the ancient paradigms of prophecy, the article explores the key features of the genre. Considering four key time-travel themes — the self-fulfilling prophecy, predictive policing, evil time-travelers, and getting one shot to undo a fateful moment — the article discusses how time-travel movies express subtle (and not-so-subtle) critiques of cornerstone legal concepts such as mens rea, culpability, obedience to law and individual freedom, regulation of information asymmetries, and negligence. Through this analysis, the article aims to introduce time-travel movies into the broader field of law and film studies.

Keywords: Law, Time Travel, Literature, Film, Tort Law, Law and Film, Criminal Law, Law and Culture, Popular Culture, Prophecy, Law and Philosophy, Philosophy, Science Fiction, Legal Theory

Suggested Citation

Miller, Akiva, The Law of Time Travel (May 14, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Akiva Miller (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Scopus
Mount Scopus, IL 91905

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