Every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been leading up to Avengers: Infinity War, but Marvel has been a little fast and loose with how, exactly, the timeline of the films works out. While the movies are mostly arranged in chronological order over the course of a decade, there are exceptions. Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 took place only a couple months after the first Guardians movie, so the events of vol. 2 happened before Civil War. Luckily, Infinity War doesn’t mess with the established timeline nearly that much, though there are a couple questions about how it relates to the two most recent MCU movies, Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther.
There are no Infinity War spoilers in this post, although the setting of the movie’s first scene is discussed.
The first of Thor: Ragnarok’s two post-credits scenes sees Thor and Loki on the spaceship that they used to evacuate Asgard prior to its destruction. Everything seems pretty good as they head for Earth, until, that is, a giant spaceship looms over them. This is Thanos’s ship, and he’s presumably after the Space Stone (a.k.a. the Tesseract) that we’re led to believe Loki swiped from Asgard’s vaults.
This is how Avengers: Infinity War begins, and it’s not a spoiler to say that his presence is bad news for Thor and the gang. Timeline-wise, the Ragnarok post-credits scene is essentially the first scene of Infinity War, so it’s safe to assume Infinity War takes place immediately after Ragnarok.
Where does that leave Black Panther, which came out after Ragnarok? The events of Black Panther are largely self-contained, so T’Challa’s adventures don’t have any connections to Thanos’s imminent invasion. However, the conclusion of Infinity War takes place in Wakanda, and it’s clear that the events of Black Panther have already transpired (T’Challa has opened the country up to the rest of the world, for instance).
From this we can infer that Black Panther also took place before Infinity War, and that the events of the film either occurred before or during the events of Thor: Ragnarok. It makes sense that the plots of two movies could be happening at the same time, especially since one took place in Africa/South Korea and the other on a planet that’s light years away.
Figuring out where Ant-Man and the Wasp fits into the MCU’s timeline after Infinity War, though, is going to be really, really complicated.
Avengers: Infinity War opens on April 27.