The film begins in medias res as a time travelling agent is trying to disarm a bomb that explodes and burns his face. Someone approaches and helps him to grasp his time travelling device, then brings him to a hospital in the future. While the agent is recovering from facial reconstruction, we learn that he has been trying to prevent the "Fizzle Bomber"'s attack on New York, in 1975. After his recovery he receives his last assignment.
The agent moves to 1970 New York. As a bartender, he starts a conversation with one of the customers. The customer, John, writes true confession articles under the pen name "The Unmarried Mother". This pseudonym is explained by his own life story, which he tells the bartender. The customer grew up as "Jane" in an orphanage. She excelled in her studies but had difficulty fitting in. Jane decided any children she had would be raised in a proper family, and thus avoided relationships. As an adult she applied for a program called "Space Corp", which promised women the chance to go to space while providing astronauts R&R, but she was later disqualified because of a medical condition which she was not informed of, which a man named Robertson was interested in. Jane later met a man who said he was waiting for someone. The two fell in love with each other, but later the man disappeared. Robertson approached Jane, revealing that Space Corp worked for the Temporal Agency, and this agency now wanted to recruit her. They broke off contact when it was discovered that Jane was pregnant with her ex-lover's baby. While performing a Caesarean section, doctors discovered she was intersex, with internalized male sex organs as well as female sex organs. Complications during the birth forced them to remove her female sex organs, and she had to undergo a gender reassignment and begin living as a man. Furthermore, the baby was stolen by a mysterious man. Since then, John has been living a bitter life as "The Unmarried Mother".
The agent offers to take John back to the day that Jane met the lover who left her, so John can take revenge and kill him for ruining her life. In return, John will take over the agent's job for whatever duration he wishes. The agent reveals his time travel device and the two jump to that day in 1963. John prepares to kill his past lover before he can meet Jane. While waiting, he encounters Jane, and when they begin talking, John realizes that Jane's lover was him. The baby born from this "self-fertilization" is stolen by the agent and brought to the orphanage 18 years earlier, in 1945. Therefore, Jane, John, and their baby are the same person, revealing a predestination paradox.
The agent goes to 1975 New York, where he helps the burned man from the beginning of the film. The agent returns to 1963, a few months after he dropped John off. John has to leave Jane behind and is brought to the Temporal Agency. He now takes over the job so the agent can retire in 1975 New York, close to the day of the Fizzle Bomber's attack. The agent's time-travel device does not decommission itself as planned and can still be used. He has been ordered to check a launderette at the moment the Fizzle Bomber will be there. The Fizzle Bomber turns out to be the agent's own future self, now suffering from psychosis as a result of excessive time travel. The Fizzle Bomber insists that his actions have saved and will save more lives than the lives lost, and that they ultimately lead to the reinforcement of the Temporal Agency. He tries to convince the agent that the only way to end the cycle is to spare his life, unlike the Fizzle Bomber did in his past. The agent denies he will ever become the Fizzle Bomber and kills his future self.
The film finally reveals that in 1975, John is the man who travelled to New York and was burned while disarming a bomb. His subsequent facial reconstruction significantly changes his appearance, and it is now clear that Jane, John, the agent, and the Fizzle Bomber are the same person. This agent's creation was orchestrated by Robertson to create an agent who has no ties to time. This "perfect" temporal agent was responsible for both his own conception and death; he has driven the predestination paradox to its limit.
On 14 May 2012, the Spierig brothers—who had already written a screenplay—were announced as the directors of Predestination. Peter Spierig explained in August 2014 that they remained close to Robert A. Heinlein's 1959 short story. They did not try to take apart the logic of the more than 50-year-old narrative: "... so we [Spierig brothers] worked on the logic that if there was a way to pick apart the logic, over that time it would have been done by now. We kind of say, 'let's trust the short story and trust that logic', so we stuck very closely to it."
Hawke was selected for the lead role, while Wolfhound Pictures and Blacklab Entertainment collaborated to produce the film. Hawke explained in November 2014 that he is a longtime fan of the science fiction genre, but prefers its human elements, rather than special effects:
Whether it's Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, H. G. Wells or whoever ... that kind of mind-bendy science-fiction where you can really attack themes in a new way. And when I read Predestination it was like: "What the fuck did I just read?!"
Arclight Films had bought the international rights to the film, and on 18 May 2012, Tiberius Film attained the German rights to the film from Arclight. On 23 May 2012, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions acquired the American and some international rights to the film.
On 5 September 2012, Screen Australia announced that it would finance the film as part of a A$5.5 million (US$5.6 million) investment in three feature films.
On 28 February 2013, Snook signed on to star in one of the film's lead roles, followed by Taylor, who joined the cast of the film on 13 May 2013. Also in 2013, Pinnacle Films secured the Australian and New Zealand distribution rights to the film.
On 19 February 2013, pre-production was scheduled to begin on 25 February 2013, while shooting was scheduled to begin on 8 April 2013 in Melbourne, Australia, for a duration of six weeks. By 13 May 2013, filming was underway. Filming predominantly took place at the Docklands Studios Melbourne facility, located approximately 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) from the city of Melbourne's Central Business District (CBD). Scenes from the film were shot at the Abbotsford Convent, located in the inner-city Melbourne suburb of Abbotsford, and at the RMIT Design Hub.
In regard to Snook, the brothers explained to the media that they always seek to cast a lesser-known actor in their films. Michael Spierig later compared Snook's acting ability to that of fellow Australian actress Cate Blanchett. They also said that they prefer to film in Australia, with its rebates and incentives, but will film in any geographical location.
On 5 February 2014, some images from the film were released, and on 21 July 2014, the first Australian trailer for the film was released. On 25 September, another official trailer was released.
The film's global premiere was held on 8 March 2014 at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, United States (US). The film was then selected for the opening night gala of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), held at the Hamer Hall venue on 31 July 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. The MIFF promotional material described the film as a "distinctive blend of sci-fi, noir and crime fiction with a Bukowskian streak." The Sydney, Australia, premiere of the film, which also featured a live Q&A session with the directors, occurred on 6 August 2014 at the Palace Verona cinema.
The film went on general release in the United Kingdom on 13 February 2015. Following the release of two trailers, and a seven-minute excerpt that was published on 3 December 2014, the film premiered on 9 January 2015 in the United States.
On Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, the film has a score of 84% based on 100 reviews with an average rating of 6.9 out of 10. The site's critical consensus states: "Fun genre fare with uncommon intelligence, Predestination serves as a better-than-average sci-fi adventure -- and offers a starmaking turn from Sarah Snook." The film also has a score of 69 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 28 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Variety magazine's review of the film called it an "entrancingly strange time-travel saga" that "succeeds in teasing the brain and touching the heart even when its twists and turns keep multiplying well past the point of narrative sustainability." In anticipation of the MIFF opening night's screening, the Sydney Morning Herald's National Film Editor Karl Quinn called Snook's performance a "career-making role". In terms of the plot, Quinn states that it is "intriguing" even though it could "unravel at the slightest tug on a thread of loose logic."
The lead character was variously described as transgender or intersex in different media articles. Hawke told the UK's Guardian publication prior to the film's UK release date that transgender issues are not the focal point of the film, but rather that the narrative is relevant to all people: "There's something about Predestination that actually does get at identity, for me".
The film is based on the 1959 short story "—All You Zombies—" by Robert A. Heinlein.