1933 – Born on the 14th of January as Robert Sanders in an orphanage in Kansas City, Missouri. Three weeks after his birth, he was adopted by Ludwig and Clara Brakhage and given the name James Stanley Brakhage.
– As a child, he appeared on radio as a boy soprano before going to high school in Denver, Colorado and then dropping out of Dartmouth College after several months to make films.
1952 – His first film, Interim, was in the neo-realist style and had music by James Tenney.
1953 – Brakhage moved to San Francisco where he associated with poets such as Robert Duncan and Kenneth Rexroth.
1954 – He moved to New York City where he met a number of contemporary artists, among them Maya Deren, Marie Menken, Joseph Cornell, and John Cage.
1961-1964 – Dog Star Man, perhaps his most famous work, features a man climbing a mountain, shots of stellar objects and more footage of his wife giving birth.
1963 – For Mothlight, he taped moth wings, twigs, and leaves onto clear film and made prints from it.
1963-2003 – Brakhage wrote a number of books, including Metaphors on Vision, A Moving Picture Giving and Taking Book, and the posthumously published "Telling Time: Essays of a Visionary Filmmaker".
1969 – He taught film history and aesthetics at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
1981 – Taught at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He taught because, despite being the best known American avant-garde filmmaker, he could not make a living from his work.
1987-2002 – Works from his later periods include the four-part "Faust Series", the four-part "Visions in Meditation", "Passage Through: A Ritual", and "The Vancouver Island Quartet".
1991-1998 – He also completed several more collaborations with musicians, including two more works with music by James Tenney, "Christ Mass Sex Dance", and "Ellipses #5".
1996 – Brakhage was diagnosed with bladder cancer, and his bladder was removed.
2002 – He retired from teaching and moved to Canada, settling with his second wife Marilyn and their two sons in Victoria, British Columbia.
2003 – Brakhage died there on the 9th of March, having made almost four hundred films in all.