Explaining the Full Timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

From 'The First Avenger' to 'The Defenders.'

Marvel Entertainment

Cinematic universes: They’re all the rage now! DC and Warner Bros. are working overtime to establish the DC Extended Universe, and with the unstoppable juggernaut that is Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman and the forthcoming Justice League, those efforts are finally paying off. Meanwhile, Universal is tapping into its own history with its rebooted Dark Universe, which kicked off in June with The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise.

But the master of the interconnected film continuity is still Disney-backed Marvel. 2017 marks nine years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off with Iron Man, which opened the doors to The Avengers and beyond. If the timeline of the MCU is getting complicated, fret not: Below is a nifty timeline to the everlasting MCU, all the way from Captain America: The First Avenger (set during World War II) to Iron Fist, the most recent MCU entry in regards to continuity.

1942: Captain America: The First Avenger

There’s a reason why the fifth film in Marvel’s movie franchise has that subtitle: The First Avenger. Set right in the middle of World War II,, in 1942, skinny Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is selected by the U.S. Army for the experimental Super Soldier program — led by the charismatic Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) — so the Allies can escort Adolf Hitler right to the gates of hell. That’s when the world sees the birth of Captain America, the world’s first superhero.

Steve’s pal Bucky (Sebastian Stan) also goes missing, and for the next few decades is turned into the living weapon known as the Winter Soldier.

1946: Agent Carter (Seasons 1 and 2)

Four years later,, after the sacrifice of Steve Rogers and the end of World War II, Agent Peggy Carter of the SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve) fights domestic terrorists like the Secret Empire,, who weaponize new alien technology for their own goals. In Season 1, Peggy dashes around New York, whereas in Season 2 she continues her adventures in sunny Los Angeles.

1980: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Flashback

Young Ego seduces Peter Quill’s human mother while they listen to Looking Glass in early ‘’80s Missouri.

1989: Ant-Man (Prologue)

Fast forward nine years to 1989, and it’s the prologue to Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D. after he learns they’ve been trying to replicate his shrinking technology.

From 'Captain America: Civil War' (2016)


1991: Captain America: Civil War (Scene With Death of Tony Stark’s Parents)

Mission Report: December 16, 1991. The catalyst that brings Iron Man and Captain America to blows at the end of Captain America: Civil War is the murder of Stark’s parents at the hands of the Winter Soldier, who is, who is under control of Hydra. While the events of Civil War transcend Stark’s personal tragedy, their horrific murder is what makes the fight so personal.

2008: Iron Man

In 2008, Tony Stark is on top of the world as the CEO of Stark Industries. But when Stark is kidnapped and sees the damage Stark Industries’s weaponry does firsthand, Stark vows to end his war profiteering and becomes Iron Man. Unmasking himself at the end of the film, Stark is approached by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) for something called “The Avengers Initiative.”

2008: The Incredible Hulk

Just months after Iron Man, Louis Letterier’s The Incredible Hulk rebooted the big green monster into the MCU with Edward Norton in the role. While Bruce Banner sorts through his own issues in his solo film, Stark appears at the end to approach General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) about a proposal for a team.

2010: Iron Man 2

Stark continues to enjoy his celebrity status as both philanthropist, futurist, and superhero but is challenged by a villain known as Whiplash (Mickey Rourke). That’s when he’s joined by his best pal, Rhodey (Don Cheadle), who suits up in one of Stark’s unused armors and becomes War Machine.

2011: Thor

The first step the MCU took into the cosmos, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is the spoiled prince of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and is banished to Earth for being unworthy. Teaming up with scientists from Arizona who proves to them that the impossible is possible, Thor awakens the world to otherworldly threats, forcing Nick Fury’s Avengers project into overdrive.

2011: Captain America: The First Avenger (Epilogue)

At the end of The First Avenger, Steve Rogers is thawed from the Arctic ice and wakes up in 2011. It’s too bad: He had a date.

2012: The Avengers

There was an idea, an old fashioned one, to bring together a group of remarkable people to fight the battles that normal humans never could. In the spring of 2012, the Battle of New York ravages midtown Manhattan, with the Chitauri fleet — led by Thor’s misfit,, adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) — against the newly-formed Avengers. Captain America, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Iron Man all band together to save New York. It was only just the beginning.

2013: Iron Man 3

A year after the Battle of New York, Tony Stark is having nightmares. Fearing his own mortality as a man in a tin can, Stark battles a terrorist,, dubbed the Mandarin, who leads the mysterious Ten Rings organization.

2013: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 / Thor: The Dark World

A year and a half after The Avengers, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) returns from “Tahiti” for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to lead a new spec-ops group of agents within S.H.I.E.L.D. Along with Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), and two scientists,, Fitz and Simmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge), a hacker named Skye (Chloe Bennet) becomes a part of something bigger than herself, kicking off a personal journey of discovery.

Meanwhile, roughly around the same time, Thor returns and does battle with the dark elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), who has come into possession of one of the Infinity Stones, the Aether. Although Thor never appears in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the action of Thor: The Dark World crosses over in the Season 1 episode “The Well.”

2014: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Two years after The Avengers, Captain America has been performing black ops missions for S.H.I.E.L.D. But the modern world is scary to Steve Rogers, he of the Greatest Generation, and the nightmare of a surveillance state brings forth a horrible truth: Hydra had infected S.H.I.E.L.D. for decades. Along with Black Widow and a new ally, Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Captain America seeks to bring down the organization that essentially created him — and turned his best friend into a nightmare.

And yes, Captain America’s actions do affect the second half of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., forcing the organization to go underground throughout its second and third seasons.

2014 (?): Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

As it takes place in the Andromeda Galaxy, it’s difficult to place an accurate timestamp on James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies. But the second film does contain a “34-year” time jump from 1980, so, do the math.

2014/2015: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 2)

Forced to go underground after the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson leads the most secret of secret missions as S.H.I.E.L.D. encounters its first Inhumans, led by a monkish mentor named Jiaying (Dichen Lachman),, who has a deeper connection to Skye than she knows. Later in the season, the show crosses paths with the movies, where Phil Coulson secretly orders a dormant S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier (dubbed “Theta Protocol”) to rescue Sokovians as the Avengers fight Ultron.

2015: Daredevil (Season 1)

In Marvel’s Daredevil, blind attorney Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) opens up his law firm in law firm in Hell’s Kitchen with longtime pal Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). He also begins his secret vigilante career as the “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen,” dueling with crime lords Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho).

2015: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Independent from S.H.I.E.L.D., the Avengers have been performing clean-up missions to wipe out Hydra for good. In their latest mission, Stark finds Loki’s stolen scepter and is compelled to create an A.I. to protect the world (“Isn’t that the mission?” Stark asks Steve, “so we can end the mission, so we get to go home?”). His efforts backfire in creating Ultron (James Spader), who devastates the Eastern European nation of Sokovia.

At the end of Age of Ultron, Hulk leaves the team (and the planet) on a Quinjet while Thor also leaves to learn more about the mysterious Infinity Stones. Tony Stark, feeling responsible for Ultron, also takes off, leaving Steve Rogers to form his “New” Avengers: Black Widow, War Machine, Vision (Paul Bettany), Wanda/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and the Falcon.

2015: Ant-Man

Months after Age of Ultron, in San Francisco, ex-con Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) returns home from jail, hoping to get back on the straight and narrow. But when he steals a mysterious suit from Hank Pym, Pym takes him under his wing to become the Ant-Man, to stop his ex-prótegé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), from successfully selling his too-powerful new weapon, the Yellowjacket.

2015: Jessica Jones (Season 1)

Back in Hell’s Kitchen, the hard-drinking private investigator Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) becomes determined to destroy the maniacal, sociopathic man in purple Kilgrave (David Tennant), who made her life — and countless others — a living hell. She finds kinship in a bartender named Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and gets closer to her estranged adoptive sister, Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), who hasn’t quite yet adopted the identity of Hellcat.

2016: Daredevil (Season 2)

Things are heating up in Hell’s Kitchen. With Matt Murdock settling into the groove as Daredevil, he runs right into the crosshairs of the ex-soldier and vengeful vigilante Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) who adopts the moniker of the Punisher. As the two butt heads, Matt’s old flame Elektra (Elodie Yung) returns while the Hand begins making their final move to take over New York.

2016: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 3)

S.H.I.E.L.D. slowly crawls back into the public eye as it battles rogue Inhumans like Lash and welcomes new members like Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley). The team also has its final showdown with Grant Ward, who turned out to be a double agent for Hydra (Season 1), and whose body is used by the alien parasite Hive.

And when it’s time for Captain America: Civil War, Inhumans become burdened with the Sokovia Accords.

2016: Captain America: Civil War

As Steve’s “New Avengers” perform independent missions around the world, the consequences of their actions blow up in their faces when collateral damages cause the deaths of innocents in Lagos. This prompts the United Nations to wrangle the world’s enhanced humans — including Inhumans — under the Sokovia Accords. Captain America objects, causing infighting amongst the Avengers. New heroes make their appearance, including Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and young Spider-Man (Tom Holland).

Eight years after Tony Stark became Iron Man, the Avengers have broken apart.

2016: Luke Cage

A year after losing his bar in Jessica Jones, Luke Cage hides out in Pop’s Barbershop in Harlem. Opportunistic councilwoman Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) and her cousin, a nightclub owner named Cornell Stokes, aka “Cottonmouth” (Mahershala Ali), seek to overrun the neighborhood while Luke Cage’s half-brother and arms dealer, Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey) joins the fray. In the fall of 2016, Luke Cage becomes Harlem’s Captain America.

2016: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Although Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming hits theaters this July, its events are set just a few months after Captain America: Civil War. Young Peter Parker learns to grow as a hero under the tutelage of “Mr. Stark” and in his first major battle against the Vulture (Michael Keaton).

2016: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 4)

With the Sokovia Accords now law, Coulson steps down as the director of S.H.I.E.LD., allowing the Inhuman Jeffrey Mace (Jason O’Mara) to step in as its public face. Meanwhile, a demonic vigilante known as the Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna) makes his presence known, and an android (“Life Model Decoy”) named Aida (Mallory Jansen) begins plotting something big.

2016: Doctor Strange

Around the same time, arrogant surgeon Dr. Stephen Strange is humbled when a car accident destroys his hands. Desperate for a cure, Strange travels to Nepal to seek out the Ancient One, whose strange methods can heal him. What Strange encounters is a totally new dimension to reality, and soon succeeds as the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange, and defends the Earth against Dormammu — with a bargain.

2017: Iron Fist

Not far from Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum in New York, Danny Rand returns after 15 years away in K’un-Lun to resume his rightful position as CEO of his family’s company, Rand Enterprises. While in K’un-Lun, Danny Rand earned the power of the Iron Fist after defeating Shou-Lao the Undying, an otherworldly dragon who guards K’un-Lun. In Iron Fist, Danny Rand slowly becomes a hero when he defends his city — and his new friends — from the terror of the Hand.

To be determined: The Defenders (Netflix), Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel’s Inhumans (ABC), Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War.

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