THE Comprehensive Marvel Cinematic Universe Timeline
Ever wonder how the MCU Timeline works, especially with confusing timeline "burps" with Spider-Man: Homecoming? Wonder no more! Here is a timeline assembled out of references made by the films themselves!
I know what you came here for...so let's not waste any more time.
Captain America: The First Avenger – Main Parts
Pretty self-explanatory—the movie provides the audience with all these dates. We saw that the first part of the main body of the film starts in March of 1942 and Captain America goes under prior to D-Day in 1944. The entirety of the film seems to be a time-hopping adventure across that two year period.
Iron Man Part 1 (December)
In Iron Man 2, Pepper Potts makes a reference to the fact that Tony Stark slept with Christina Everheart “last year”. However, given later references to Iron Man’s events, and subsequent timeline references to The Avengers would place these movies two years apart if we were to place the entirety of the events of Iron Man in one year. Thankfully, we know that there is a three-month-period where Tony Stark is in captivity. That is more than enough time to fully place the two events (Christine Everheart’s misadventure with Stark and Stark announcing himself as Iron Man) in two separate years. In order to make the event of Tony Stark’s reveal as close to The Avengers as possible, I have placed Everheart’s misadventure in December and given Tony Stark’s big reveal as Iron Man enough space to be pushed further into the next year as possible.
Iron Man Part 2 (January to April)
The Incredible Hulk (September to October)
We know that the events of The Incredible Hulk are only approximately halfway through their completion by the time Iron Man 2 ends. We know this because the screens on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s are demonstrating Hulk’s destruction of Culver University. If it were later, one would assume that the thing on the screen would be Hulk’s destruction of Harlem.
Iron Man 2 (October)
We can see that Tony Stark’s Expo takes place in 2010—given that it is the Stark Expo 2010. This would place both The Incredible Hulk and Thor in 2010 along with it, given that Thor shows up with Coulson leaving Stark halfway through Iron Man 2 to visit the site of Thor’s hammer’s arrival.
Given the windiness of New Mexico’s desert setting and the dress of the characters, we can safely assume that this takes place in the latter part of the year, which would line up perfectly with the October setting and the six-month time jump from Iron Man’s end in Iron Man 2.
Captain America: The First Avenger – Book Ends (October)
This is just kind of assumed given that the only “official” timeline provided states that this happens all within the same week as the three previous films. However, much of that original timeline seems to be contradicted by timeline references that occur later on the universe. Still, there doesn’t seem to be a clear contradiction of any of the material regarding where the book ends of this film take place relative to the other films. As of right now, we’ll just leave this here.
The Avengers (March)
Nick Fury makes a reference to the events of Thor, suggesting that it was the previous year in which they occurred. Given future timeline references, and the need to keep Iron Man’s end and The Avengers roughly in the same year, and that the foliage in Manhattan is pretty well bloomed by that point, we’re going to have to place The Avengers in late March.
Iron Man 3 (December) *
Aldrich Killian makes the reference to the fact that Tony Stark had been approached about Extremis “thirteen years ago”. Given that we know it is New Year’s Eve in 1999 when that event occurred, we can either safely assume that the film takes place in 2012 or 2013. Assuming Killian is being roughly more accurate in his estimation, rounding up only slightly, and given that The Avengers has to take place in 2011, given Iron Man 2’s Stark Expo, we have to say that Iron Man 3 probably doesn’t take a huge time jump. It also doesn’t actively reference how long since The Avengers it has been. Given these two things, we can actually safely assume that a year and a half has passed since The Avengers. We also know, for sure, that Iron Man 3 takes place in December, given its Christmas setting. It also allows Tony plenty of time to develop all of the new toys that he has by this point.
Thor: The Dark World (November) *
Other than the fact that we know very little about where this is placed, because there aren't any direct references (from what I could see) made to The Avengers at least in terms of where it would fall in the timeline. All we know is that Thor: The Dark World has to occur before both Guardians of the Galaxy films. Given we know the dates for these (at least the year), we can assume, safely that Thor: The Dark World takes place between The Avengers (in 2011) and Guardians of the Galaxy (in 2014). Past that, I'm not really sure. If you guys recall any references made to the time that particular events transpired, please let me know, and I will update this timeline accordingly. Otherwise, I think putting this one in the month of release is a solid time period.
Guardians of the Galaxy (May)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (August)
Both Guardians of the Galaxy movies are clearly set in 2014. They both have very specific “years later” segments where it jumps from a prior date in Missouri to the year 2014. This is one of the rare times where Marvel establishes a firm date for their films. We can only guess as to which months these take place in, especially given the fact that there is no real way to evaluate which place each planet would be in its seasonal orbit, but we can assume that they are separated by a few months. Given this, I’ve just placed them in the middle of the year for now.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (May)
Captain America: Civil War retroactively places Captain America: The Winter Soldier two years before it with Falcon stating that both Rogers and himself have been looking for Bucky for two years and “found nothing”—given the multiple other references to the timeline in Captain America: Civil War, and subsequent films, we have to place Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 2016.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (July) *
Avengers: Age of Ultron is retroactively slotted two years prior to Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War. Now, this might seem like a bit of a placeholder, but it is rooted in a few pieces of information that we know for sure. Feige has said that the second Spider-Man film will pick up in Peter’s Junior year. Feige says that is, in fact, where the newest Avengers films pick him up in. Given that we know that Spider-Man: Homecoming takes place in Peter’s Sophomore year (at the beginning no less), we can assume that Thor: Ragnarok, leading into Avengers: Infinity War, takes place at the start of Peter’s Junior year. Given this, and the reference by Bruce Banner that he has been the Hulk for two years (since Avengers: Age of Ultron) leads us to the conclusion that Avengers: Age of Ultron must be set in 2017. However, this can change, given that there were no direct timeline references to Avengers: Age of Ultron in Captain America: Civil War (other than Tony Stark saying that the child that was killed in Sokovia was spending his summer building sustainable housing for the poor therein). However, it seems unlikely that Captain America: Civil War would take place immediately after Avengers: Age of Ultron given that some time has to have passed at the new facility (as Ant-Man shows up there) and there would’ve had to have been missions searching for Crossbones. We also know, from Spider-Man: Homecoming, that Captain America: Civil War also takes place at the beginning of the summer time. With all this, it is safe to say that Avengers: Age of Ultron fits snuggly here.
Doctor Strange Part 1 (November to December) *
Doctor Strange Part 2 (January to May) *
Ant-Man (April to May)
One of the things that we can rightfully guess is that Ant-Man leads directly into Captain America: Civil War. Given the Falcon story, we can safely guess that Ant-Man's end sequence would be roughly during the recrutiment phase that both Iron Man and Captain America undergo before the third act of that film. As a result, I would say that Ant-Man probably fills out the gap between the beginning events of Captain America: Civil War in Lagos and the one-month time jump until the Sokovia Accords arrive on the Avengers table. It is probable that the Avengers have done other things in that one-month time jump (MSNBC news reports state that the explosion in Lagos was "last month"), which would leave Falcon at home, probably with Scarlet Witch. It's not entirely perfect but I think it is likely the best we got. Or, heck, the events of Ant-Man that bring him to that compound could've happened just before the very beginning of Captain America: Civil War. Most of this rests, though, on Falcon trying to find Ant-Man.
Captain America: Civil War (April to June)
For most of these films, there seem to be relatively few direct references to how long ago a particular event was. Most references seem to be pretty vague about time. However, Vision’s reference in Captain America: Civil War to Tony Stark revealing himself as Iron Man is pretty clear—it seems like eight years have in fact transpired in in-universe time as well. Given where we ended up setting that event, we can figure that Captain America: Civil War takes place in 2018, two years after it actually came out. Still, Captain America: The Winter Soldier had to be pushed back two years itself from the initial date it came out in order to work properly in the timeline (it would make sense for a year to transpire before the Avengers got to finally mop up Hydra and another year before the Sokovia Accords finally got drawn up by the United Nations, at the behest of the current president—from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we can assume it is still the same guy given that he has stuck around…leaving us to think that he must’ve taken office in 2013, right before Iron Man 3 but following the Battle of New York).
Black Panther (June)
This is another clear example of where Black Panther falls in the timeline. It is stated that it takes place a week after T’Challa’s father is killed in the bombing at the United Nations. This means that this film must only take place a couple days after the end of Captain America: Civil War, given there was still three more days of story following those events (at least) in that film alone. This is a fairly quick turnaround but, hey, at least we know where this film takes place.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (June to October)
Spider-Man: Homecoming does bring up some fairly big question marks about how the rest of the universe’s timeline works but it does a fairly good job of letting the audience know where it is. For one thing, it says that it takes place “eight years” after the events of The Avengers. Frankly, given Vision’s reference to Tony Stark’s reveal of himself as Iron Man, we’re probably going to have to assume that this title card rounds up from roughly seven and a half years. We are also going to probably have to assume that the events in the film before the Marvel logo take place after the two-month time jump from Captain America: Civil War’s events. This makes the round-up make even more sense, since we are likely past eight years by the time Vision says that Tony Stark announced himself (probably eight years and two months) and that will allow for The Avengers to have occurred seven and a half years ago with the two-month time jump. We, also, are going to have to take that two-month time jump a little more flexibly. Given New York’s schools don’t start until September, it would make sense that it is more like two and a half months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, ending Peter’s Freshman year and going into the beginning of his Sophomore year. Especially given that there are direct date references (like that academic decathlon takes place in October in D.C.) that make it clear that it is towards the beginning of the new school year and end of the current year, which helps inform where Captain America: Civil War ultimately ended up on this timeline.
Thor: Ragnarok (September to October)
Thor: Ragnarok is clearly set two years after Avengers: Age of Ultron, given Banner’s reference to having been Hulk for two years. There really aren't any more references to Earth-shaped events that have occured since then because, obviously, it has been quite a while since Thor has been on Earth. Still, as always, if there is a timeline reference I'm missing, perhaps to Thor: The Dark World, please let me know.
Avengers: Infinity War (October) **
Thor: Ragnarok makes it clear that Avengers: Infinity War has to at least start two years after the last Avengers movie, given that Thor: Ragnarok directly leads into it. After the Asgardians get away on their ark, Thanos arrives to take the Tesseract (we assume, probably rightly).
*Please be sure to let me know if I missed any references or anything therein about where these might take place in the timeline.
**Obviously Avengers: Infinity War hasn’t come out yet so we don’t know for sure where this movie falls in the timeline but this is a pretty good guess if ever there was one.
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