Multiple Timeline Structure
This is perhaps one of the most complicated structures in screenwriting. You take a few otherwise linear stories and mix them up together.
Films like Intolerance, The Fountain, Cloud Atlas, and even The Godfather Part II embrace the multiple timeline structures.
Most of the time the stories are blended together peppered with the same themes, emotions, and messages, but aren’t always specifically and directly connected. One story’s causality doesn’t always affect the others. The sole connection between them is the shared themes, emotions, and messages—beyond production choices like using the same actors to portray different characters, showcasing the same locations in different time periods, etc.
The magic of this structure is that it can give the audience the sense that all life in the universe is somehow connected.
If you do decide to connect the storylines somehow—as Francis Ford Coppola did in The Godfather Part II—each story can have an even deeper meaning. When we see the rise of Michael Corleone’s power…
…matched with the more subtle rise of his father’s power…
… we begin to feel the duality of the two stories that could have otherwise been movies of their very own.
However you do or don’t connect these multiple timeline stories, this structure offers writers a way to go beyond conventional storytelling.