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The Entire Marvel Cinematic Universe Timeline Explained

Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios

It was a warm July day when I bought my ticket to Spider-Man Homecoming. I remember settling myself in my seat in the theater when Marvel’s The Avengers theme suddenly blared. I adjusted my seat forward and grinned as a damaged Stark Tower, recently ravaged by the Chitauri invasion, came into view. Finally: everything had come together. Spider-Man was back in the MCU.

Image: Marvel Studios

8 Years Ago. My face fell. 8 years ago?

For the rest of the movie, that line stayed in the back of my mind. The Avengers came out in 2012. Spider-Man Homecoming came out in 2017. I’ve never been good with math, but I knew one thing: those numbers didn’t add up.

After leaving the theater, I scoured the internet to see if there was any explanation. Unfortunately, everybody seemed just as confused as I was. And so it remained, until Feige finally came on the scene last October:

Avengers, Marvel Studios
Image: Marvel Studios

“It wasn’t meant to flummox anybody exactly, and I’m not sure I’d do it again the same way, but it does all connect to where we placed it. Other than very particular instances where there’s a newspaper, or verbal reference to years, we never date the films. And I think there’s a presumption, ‘Well if the movie came out in November 2017, it must take place in November 2017’ — which is not the case.”

Alright… It wasn’t an exact explanation. However, it did give me and many others some direction: The Avengers and Spider-Man Homecoming didn’t necessarily take place in the years they were released.

Avengers, Marvel Studios
Image: Marvel Studios

Since this statement by Feige, he’s gone on to say that they’re working on an official MCU timeline, to clear all questions. However, as of now, there’s no word on when we might actually get to see it. So, what is an impatient Marvel fan to do?

Over the past few months, I’ve been compiling bits and pieces of lines from the films, to figure out exactly where everything lands (sorry — I just don’t have the time to go through all of the shows, and figure out where those take place). It might not be perfect but, all things considered, it should do for now:

Marvel, Marvel Studios
Image: Marvel Studios

*Early comic tie-ins are rendered semi non-canon, as they contradict

  • Beginning of time:
    — The universe, the celestials, and the singularities known as the infinity stones emerge.

Pre-modern era: 

  • 2,000 B.C.E:  
    — By this time, Odin and Hela have begun their conquest for the Nine Realms.
    — Malekith and his Dark Elves are defeated by the Asgardians in a battle for the Aether.
    — The Asgardians trap the Aether in a pocket dimension, and the Dark Elves retreat into suspended animation.
  • 965 C.E:  
    — The Asgardians fight a war with the frost giants on Earth over the Casket of Ancient Winters. The Asgardians claim the tesseract, and Odin adopts Loki.
    — By this time, it’s presumed that Odin had already realized the error in waging war against the Nine Realms and banished Hela from Asgard in hope to reignite peace.
  • July 4, 1918:
    — Steve Rogers is born.
  • Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel Studios
    Image: Marvel Studios

    — Professor Erskine injects a failed attempt at a super soldier serum into Johann Schmidt — creating the Red Skull.

  • 1942: 
    — In March, Red Skull obtains the Tesseract, and Hydra begins creating weapons with it.
    — Steve Rogers successfully undergoes the super-soldier serum treatment from Professor Erskine’s “Project Rebirth”. However, Professor Erskine is killed by a Nazi spy, and the serum is lost with him.
    — By the middle of the year, Steve Rogers has started his tour to sell war bonds as “Captain America”.
    — Near the end of the year, Steve Rogers goes on a covert rescue mission to a Hydra base. This is the first time “Captain America” is seen in action. Captain America receives a Congressional Medal of Honor, an official uniform, and a Vibranium shield (specially gifted by Howard Stark).
  • Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel Studios
    Image: Marvel Studios

    — Captain America and the Howling Commandos form as a special-ops unit, devoted to dismantling Hydra bases.

  • Mid-1945: 
    — The Howling Commandos intercept a Hydra train and discover the final Hydra base. Bucky Barnes goes MIA in the process.
    —The Howling Commandos then narrowly thwart Hydra’s plans to bomb the Allies. Captain America goes MIA in the process. Red Skull also disappears, and is presumed dead.
  • Late-1945:
    — WWII ends, and a search mission is made for Captain America by the first members of S.H.I.E.L.D (including people from Operation Paperclip). Captain America is not found, but the Tesseract and Bucky Barnes are recovered. Bucky Barnes’ discovery is kept secret by Arnim Zola, and he’s turned into the assassin “Winter Soldier”.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel Studios
    ‘Captain America: the Winter Soldier’, starring Chris Evans as the first Avenger, Captain America. Image: Marvel

    — S.H.I.E.L.D gains prominence, in joint effort from Howard Stark and Peggy Carter.
    — Peggy Carter reaches the peak of her espionage career during this time-period.

  • 1960-1970: 
    — Howard Stark diverts his attention from S.H.I.E.L.D, and begins putting emphasis on Stark Industries. During this time period, Howard Stark creates shaky alliances with Vanko and Obadiah Stane.
    — Howard begins his relationship with Maria Carbonell (Tony Stark’s future mother).
    — Howard invents the Arc Reactor, and discovers a new element.
    — Arnim Zola also transfers his consciousness to a computer.
  • Avengers, Marvel Studios
    Image: Marvel Studios

    May 29, 1970:
     Tony Stark is born.

  • 1970-1987: 
    — Hank Pym discovers Pym Particles.
    — Pym begins going on covert Cold War-related missions for S.H.I.E.L.D with his wife, the wealthy socialite Janet Van Dyne. They don the titles “Ant-Man” and “The Wasp”.
    — The Winter Soldier and the Russian Super Soldier experiments reach their height during this time.

    Image: Marvel Studios
  • 1980:
    — Peter Quill is born.
  • 1987:
    — Janet Van Dyne “dies” after going sub-atomic, in an attempt to disarm a missile. Pym retires the Ant-Man costume, and uses Van Dyne’s remaining wealth to found Pym Technologies.
  • 1988:
    — Meredith Quill dies from cancer, and Peter Quill is taken to space by Yondu.
  • 1989:
    — In attempt to create new super-soldiers, Howard Stark tries and fails to attain Pym Particles.
  • December 16th, 1991:
    — Howard and Maria Stark are killed by the Winter Soldier while trying to deliver an unfinished super soldier serum to S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • New Year’s Eve 1999:
    — Tony Stark blows off Aldrich Killian.
  • Early-2008: 
    — Tony Stark is captured by the Ten Rings Organization during a missile test, and is ordered to build them a missile. He escapes in the first Iron Man suit.
    — Stark then arranges a press conference where he announces his intent to change the direction of Stark Industries.

    Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel Studios
    Image: Marvel Studios

    — Pietro and Wanda Maximoff’s parents are “killed” by a stolen Stark Missile (however, in light of the recent Disney-Fox merger, it’s possible that their father survived to become Magneto).

  • Late-2008:
    — In a catastrophic attempt to recreate the success of Project Rebirth by using Gamma Radiation in place of Vita Rays, Bruce Banner makes his first transformation into the Hulk. He then goes into hiding.
  • Late-2009:
    — Hulk fights the Abomination in Harlem. Banner returns to hiding, and Blonsky is imprisoned.
  • Early-2010: 
    —After spending the past two years developing new Iron Man armors and sabotaging terrorist attacks, Tony Stark fights the Iron Monger in Malibu.
    — Following the fight, Tony Stark reveals to the world that he’s Iron Man.
    — Nick Fury makes his first attempt to get Tony Stark to join the Avengers.
    — Ivan Vanko and Justin Hammer begin developing competing technologies.

    Image: Marvel Studios
  • Mid-2010: Fury’s Big Week occurs.
    — Thor arrives in New Mexico, and fights the Destroyer.
    — Tony Stark reintroduces Stark Expo.
    — Tony Stark discovers a new element, to replace the palladium core of his old Arc Reactor.
    — James Rhodes steals one of Tony Stark’s armors for the Air Force, and becomes War Machine. — Tony Stark thwarts Whiplash and Justin Hammer’s raid at Stark Expo, with the help of War Machine and Black Widow. Peter Parker has his first introduction to Tony Stark.
    — Stark is enlisted to sabotage the government’s attempts to release Emil Blonsky from imprisonment.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel Studios
    Image: Marvel Studios

    — Captain America is discovered in the Arctic, and brought back into the modern world.
    — Loki raids a S.H.I.E.L.D facility, prompting Nick Fury to enlist the help of Captain America, Tony Stark, and Bruce Banner to track him down.
    — Thor comes from Asgard to help S.H.I.E.L.D fight Loki.
    — Tony Stark hacks S.H.I.E.L.D’s files, and discovers their corrupt intentions with the Tesseract. Captain America begins to question his allegiance with the government.
    — Loki’s stages an invasion on New York with the Tesseract and Chitauri.
    — World Security Council elects to send a missile for New York, to stop the invasion. This is the first global sign that the government is untrustworthy in controlling superhuman affairs.
    — Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye unite as “The Avengers” to disarm the missile and stop the invasion.

    Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel Studios
    Image: Marvel Studios

    — Phil Coulson and several dozen New Yorkers die in the process, but all of New York is saved.
    —  The Avengers temporarily disassemble. Tony Stark works on revamping Stark Tower. Bruce Banner gets a job working in Stark’s labs. Captain America joins S.H.I.E.L.D, with Black Widow and Hawkeye. Thor returns to Asgard, with an imprisoned Loki and the Tesserract.
    — Hydra and several other villainous organizations steal remaining Chitauri weapons for personal gain.
    — Many private contractors, including Adrian Toomes, work to clean up the New York catastrophe. Though, “Damage Control” is ultimately formed by Tony Stark to clean up the mess, leaving private contractors defunct.
    — Kingpin’s criminal organization takes root.

    Image: Marvel Studios
  • Christmas-2012:
    — Tony Stark destroys his forty-two Iron Man armors, stops A.I.M from kidnapping the President, and removes his chest reactor with the help of the Extremis virus.
  • Late-2013:  
    — The nine realms realign, unleashing the Aether and reawakening Malekith and the Dark Elves.
    — The Dark Elves lay siege on Asgard, stealing the Aether and killing Thor’s mother.
    — Thor releases Loki from prison to save the Earth from being destroyed by the Dark Elves and the Aether.
    —The Aether is given to the Collector.
    — Loki hides Odin in New York and ascends to the throne of Asgard.
  • Early-2014:  
    — Peter Quill is imprisoned, after stealing the Power Stone.
    —Peter Quill escapes prison with the help of Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot.
    — The group unites to stop Ronan from using the Power Stone to destroy Xandar, and become the Guardians of the Galaxy.
    — The Power Stone is repossessed by the Nova Corps.

    Image: Marvel Studios
  • Mid-2014: 
    — S.H.I.E.L.D prepares to launch “Project Insight” from Washington D.C: three Helicarriers designed to monitor the world’s superhuman activities.
    — Captain America is blacklisted after discovering that the Bucky Barnes is still alive as the Winter Soldier, and that S.H.I.E.L.D has been infiltrated by Hydra.
    — Enlisting the help of Sam Wilson (who dons the title of “Falcon”) and Black Widow, Captain America destroys S.H.I.E.L.D’s “Project Insight”.
    — S.H.I.E.L.D files are leaked in the aftermath, and Nick Fury decides to create an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D agency.
  • Late-2014:  
    —  The Guardians of the Galaxy unite to stop Peter Quill’s father, Ego the Living Planet, from possessing the entire universe.
    — Yondu dies.
    — Nebula, Mantis, and Kraglin join the Guardians.
    — The Avengers officially reunite, without government supervision, to take out remaining Hydra bases. Global unrest grows toward the Avengers.
  • Early-2016:  
    Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel
    James Spader as Ultron in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ was brilliant. Image: Marvel

    — The Avengers destroy Strucker’s Hydra base, and obtain Loki’s scepter.
    — Tony Stark uses the mind-stone to create the Ultron
    — Ultron begins plans to exterminate humanity by stealing the world’s supply of Vibranium, and causing the Hulk to raid an African city. The Hulk is narrowly stopped by Stark’s Veronica Armor.
    — Ultron attempts to create a new body for himself, and Tony Stark uses the mind stone and Jarvis to create “Vision”. After Ultron unleashes a robot army, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Quicksilver, and the rest of the Avengers unite to stop his plan.
    — In the aftermath, Ultron and Sokovia are destroyed, Quicksilver dies, Hulk flies to Sakaar, Hawkeye retires, and Thor returns to Asgard.
    — The world-renowned surgeon, Stephen Strange, damages his hands in a car crash. He begins soul-searching, and stumbles upon the temple of the Ancient One.

  • Doctor Strange, Marvel
    Image: Marvel

     The Avengers relocate to an old Stark Warehouse in upstate New York. Captain America forms a new Avengers team out of Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, War Machine, and Vision. He devotes them to a two-year mission of taking out remaining Hydra members, and finding Bucky Barnes.

  • Late-2016:
    — Scott Lang becomes Ant-Man, and fights Yellow Jacket. Doctor Strange emerges to stop Dormammu with the time-gem.
  • Mid-2018:
    — After a disaster on the Wakandan border caused by Crossbones, the United Nations prepares to ratify the Sokovia accords. The meeting is bombed, and the Winter Soldier is made the primary suspect.

    'Captain America: Civil War', Marvel
    Captain America’s team in action in ‘Captain America: Civil War’. Image: Marvel

    Believing Bucky Barnes to be innocent, and a larger conspiracy to be at play, Steve Rogers rejects the accords, and flies the Quinjet to Germany to find Bucky. The Avengers have a “Civil War” at an airport in Lupzieg, Germany. This divides the team into two factions: one led by Steve Rogers (containing Hawkeye, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man, and Bucky), and a public team led by Tony Stark (containing War Machine, Black Widow, Spider-Man, Vision, and Black Panther). In the aftermath, Rogers and bucky escape for a rumored super soldier prison in Siberia, Rhodey is paralyzed, and Rogers’ team is arrested and put in the RAFT.
    — In Siberia, Zemo is revealed to be the mastermind behind the United Nations bombings. Rogers and Stark have a falling out, after Stark discovers that the Winter Soldier killed his parents.
    — Zemo is arrested.
    — Steve Rogers leaves his shield with Stark, adopts the mantle of “Nomad”, and breaks his fellow Avengers out of the RAFT prison.
    — Bucky Barnes is put into a cryogenic sleep in Wakanda.
    — Tony Stark creates robotic legs for Rhodey.

    Image: Marvel Studios
  • Late-2018:
    — Almost eight years passed since the Avengers first assembled, and the Avengers Tower is sold. Spider-Man fights Adrian Toomes’s Vulture, successfully stopping him from stealing Avengers Technology. Tony Stark proposes to Pepper Potts.


So, there you go. Do you guys agree with the complete Marvel timeline? Disagree? Leave your thoughts down in the comments below.