The Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it is coming to an end in Avengers: Endgame. But how did it begin? In fact, when did any of the series’ major events actually happen? With more than 20 movies, there’s a lot to keep track of.
We know Steve Rogers was frozen in 1945, the Winter Soldier killed Howard and Maria Stark on Dec. 16, 1991 and T’Chaka killed his brother N’Jobu in 1992; but when it comes to the “present day” Marvel has been notoriously coy.
But fear not, true believers: Our crack team of Marvel experts spent way too much time watching every single MCU film looking for blink-and-you’ll-miss-it clues to create what we believe is the closest to a definitive timeline of Earth-199999. (Beware spoilers below.)
If you’re wondering why we believe The Avengers is set in 2010 even though it was released in 2012, then blame Spider-Man: Homecoming. The 2017 reboot of our favorite wall-crawler was our key to unlocking the mysteries of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Homecoming was firmly set eight years after the events of The Avengers, and the majority of the film takes place two months after the events of Captain America: Civil War.
Homecoming also features a video of Captain America saying he was frozen for 65 years. We already know Steve Rogers was frozen in 1945, and if he was frozen for 65 years, that means he awoke in 2010. And since The Avengers is set in 2010, it means that Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming are all set in 2018.
Avengers: Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo have publicly disagreed with the “eight years later” time jump, but there’s been nothing onscreen so far that disproves our theory.
But what about when the other films take place?
Marvel Studios has issued a few chronology-related statements over the years. Right before the release of The Avengers, Marvel published a timeline of events leading up to the crossover. The timeline not only showed that Iron Man took place over the course of nine months, it also detailed “Nick Fury’s Big Week” — the overlapping events of Iron Man 2, Thor and The Incredible Hulk — all of which took place six months after Tony Stark said “I am Iron Man.”
And writer-director James Gunn publicly stated both Guardians of the Galaxy films take place in 2014.
For the rest of the films, we looked for clues spread out across the series.
For example, Captain Marvel establishes that Carol Danvers was taken from Earth in 1989 and returns six years later in 1995. That’s also the year Nick Fury lost his eye to a Flerken named Goose.
Iron Man 3’s opening is set on New Year’s Eve 1999, and when Maya Hansen visits Tony Stark around Christmas in “the present day” he asked her if there was a 12-year-old in her car.
Maya corrects him that the child would be 13, as a baby theoretically conceived that night would have been born around Sept. 30, 2000.
That means, Iron Man 3 takes place in December 2013.
In Civil War, former General “Thunderbolt” Ross tells that Avengers they’ve been acting unsupervised for four years, which means the destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Winter Soldier occurred in 2014.
In Thor: Ragnorak, Thor tells Bruce Banner that the Battle of Sokovia was two years ago, meaning Age of Ultron was most likely set in 2016.
Doctor Strange seems like it should take place after Civil War thanks to a throwaway line about an Air Force pilot with a broken back, but based on plaques in Strange’s apartment, we believe the film begins in 2016 and ends in 2017, with the post-credits Thor: Ragnarok scene taking place in 2018.
And since we determined Civil War also occurred in 2018, that means the Snapture and its aftermath takes place in 2020 since Rhodey comments that Captain America’s ex-Avengers have had “a rough couple of years” in Infinity War.
Suffice to say, our timeline is by no means perfect, but it’s in all likelihood the closest we’re going to get to accurate until Marvel Studios reboots the MCU.
Put another way: This is all correct, until it’s completely undone by time travel.
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