Ever since it kicked off in 2013 with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has competed with Marvel for box office supremacy. The results have been mixed, to say the least, but in the aftermath of 2017’s Justice League, the DCEU continues as popular heroes embark on their own adventures even as the question of whether they’ll ever team up again remains unanswered.
As the films begin to take place in their own continuities, such as the upcoming Wonder Woman 1984, the timeline of the DCEU may get a little muddy. Thankfully, there are way fewer properties to consider — the “Arrowverse” on The CW, with shows like Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow, are disconnected from the films — so it’s much easier to keep track of it all.
But for those curious about when exactly Superman and Batman do stuff, here’s a guide to the chronological order of the World’s Finest.
1. Wonder Woman — World War I
The majority of Diana Prince’s (Gal Gadot) origin is set in the early 20th century, in the middle of World War I.
As an Amazonian from the island of Themyscira, Diana’s metahuman DNA makes her age much more slowly than humans, allowing her to look the same even after almost one hundred years (which is why Bruce Wayne freaked out about her vintage photograph in Batman v Superman).
It was in World War I when Diana meets Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy embedded with the British. The two fell in love, and although their time is short, their time together influences Diana to bring peace among humans.
2. Unseen: Bruce Wayne’s transformation into Batman, and the life and death of the Batman Family
As we learn in Batman v Superman, Bruce Wayne had a 20-year career as Gotham City’s Dark Knight before the arrival of Superman in Man of Steel.
In the Batcave, a Robin costume with graffiti (“HA HA JOKE’S ON YOU BATMAN”) hangs as a reminder of Bruce’s (Ben Affleck) losses. Comic experts know that the Robin outfit must belong to Jason Todd, the second protege of Batman, who was killed by the Joker (in Batman: A Death in the Family) but later returned as the dark vigilante Red Hood. There’s no sign of Red Hood’s existence in the DCEU, except for one line Bruce says to Jeremy Irons’ Alfred:
“Twenty years in Gotham, Alfred. How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?”
Still, if the DCEU is following this trajectory of the Batman Family, then Dick Grayson — the original Robin — must now be Nightwing, who is presumably operating in either New York or his special domain: the crime-ridden, working-class slum city of Blüdhaven. A Nightwing movie was in the works, though its fate is currently in flux as the entire DCEU continues to reshape itself.
3. Wonder Woman 1984 — 1984
Around the same time Bruce Wayne begins training to fight crime as Batman, Wonder Woman has another chapter in Wonder Woman 1984, which hits theaters on July 5, 2020. As the film’s title implies, the film will take place in 1984, as Diana witnesses the human world in turmoil over the Cold War.
4. Aquaman (Prologue) — 1985
In 1985, a strange woman washes up on the shore of a Maine lighthouse run by Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison). The woman, it turns out, is Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) of Atlantis, who ran away from home to escape a loveless arranged marriage. There, on that shore in Maine, she fell in love with the human, birthing Arthur Curry, the true heir of Atlantis.
3. Man of Steel — Modern Day
Fast forward years after Wonder Woman 1984, and 30-something Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) from Kansas reveals himself to the world as Superman. The events of Man of Steel take place explicitly in our contemporary era of GPS, smartphones, and social media, though an exact year is not revealed.
In the Big Bang for the DCEU, Zack Snyder’s Superman origin had a lot of heavy lifting to do to set up a new cinematic universe. The final fight with Zod (Michael Shannon) in Metropolis is enough to start a war with someone who is far more dangerous, and also happens to have a taste for black…
4. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - 18 Months Later
The opening of Batman v Superman takes place at the end of Man of Steel, but the rest of the movie happens 18 months later. With the emergence of “The Superman,” the world is grappling with a lot: the arrival of a god, their dependency on the kindness of a stranger, their place in the universe, and their newfound crisis as an insignificant species.
In comes billionaire Bruce Wayne — the Batman. Fearing Superman’s unchecked power, and vengeful after the destruction of Metropolis, Batman challenges Superman to a no-holds-barred match that ends in a draw because both men have severe mommy issues.
Then, Superman dies.
5. Suicide Squad — Post-Superman
Not long after Superman’s sacrifice in Batman v Superman, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) forms Task Force X in Suicide Squad. Hoping to ensure the next Superman isn’t a free agent and operates under supervision, Amanda Waller recruits the world’s most dangerous criminals to serve as government agents in exchange for reduced sentences.
The origins of each of the Suicide Squad are vague, so it’s anyone’s guess how a guy from New Orleans became a killer crocodile. But they all receive their first mission: Save the world from Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), an archaeologist possessed by an ancient witch.
6. Justice League
With Superman dead and a danger that outclasses the Suicide Squad, Batman and Wonder Woman assemble a new alliance: The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) form the Justice League to stop Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons from taking over Earth.
7. Aquaman — Post-Steppenwolf
In James Wan’s Aquaman, Mera (Amber Heard) brings up Steppenwolf as a reason for the aloof Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) to return to Atlantis. “That had nothing to do with Atlantis,” Arthur insists.
It seems that even after making new friends, Aquaman still prefers to work alone, patrolling the seas from dangerous threats and criminal pirates. There is no other mention of Justice League other than this reference to Steppenwolf, which is kind of refreshing for a DC movie.
8. Shazam! — ???
On April 5, 2019, Shazam! will be released in theaters. While the film does take place in the DC cinematic universe, it is currently unknown when exactly the events unfold. However, we can presume it will take place after the events of Justice League, based on all the Justice League merch in Billy Batson’s room in the orphanage in the trailer.
Aquaman swims into theaters on December 21. Shazam! will be released on April 5, 2019.
This article was updated on December 17, 2018.