MCU Timeline Explained: From Infinity Stones to Infinity War, Endgame, and Beyond
Any Marvel fan worth their vibranium could tell you that the MCU as we know it launched in 2008 with Jon Favreau's Iron Man. A tougher task by far is to deliver a blow-by-blow retelling of the events that occurred within the MCU, from the Jotunheim invasion of Earth, to the foundation of the Arena Club, to the next wave of technological innovations on display at the Stark Expo, and the futuristic nation of Wakanda. So with that in mind, we've put together a list of the major events of the MCU timeline up to and including the latest releases. We'll be updating this list as more films and TV series are released.
If you're all caught up on every installment of the MCU so far and are curious about the upcoming releases (including those outside the MCU), you'll want to check out our superhero release date calendar here. And if you've got a lock on the history of the MCU but are interested in just where on Earth the events occur, reddit's MrRLopez has you covered with this interactive map. MrRLopez's own timeline helped to fill out our own, in addition to assistance from the super-detailed Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki. Keep in mind, this is a fictional universe with lots of characters and a different timeline from those established in comics, etc.; take it as a general guide not a written-in-stone, be-all-end-all document.COLLIDER VIDEO OF THE DAY
Here's a refresher on the chronological timeline of the MCU's films and TV series in the order they were released:
Be aware that there are spoilers ahead:
Ancient Times: Infinity Stones, Celestials, and Frost Giants
Before the Universe Began:
After the Universe Began:
Several Million Years Ago:
Thousands of Years Ago:
"Centuries" Before the Current Time:
1900-1950: Captain America, Peggy Carter, and S.H.I.E.L.D.
1950 - 2000: Nick Fury, Tony Stark, and Phil Coulson
(The main story takes place over roughly 22 hours, in 1995.)
21st Century: Phase One - Avengers Assemble
21st Century: Phase Two - The Rise of Ultron
21st Century: Phase Three - Infinity and Beyond
Here's the official synopsis (for now):
In Marvel Studios’ action-packed spy thriller “Black Widow,” Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger. Scarlett Johansson reprises her role as Natasha/Black Widow, Florence Pugh stars as Yelena, David Harbour portrays Alexei/The Red Guardian, and Rachel Weisz is Melina. Directed by Cate Shortland and produced by Kevin Feige, “Black Widow”—the first film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—hits U.S. theaters on May 1, 2020.
Believe it or not, the events of Black Panther occur roughly one week after Zemo's apprehension at the end of Captain America: Civil War. That means that the action in Wakanda took place before the events of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Doctor Strange. There's a little bit of wiggle room regarding when Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes arrived, and when Barnes was apparently cured and thawed, but we're still waiting for an official MCU timeline to be released.
Roughly June 23, 2016 into July 2016:
Two Years after the Battle of Sokovia
(Roughly the Summer of 2017, Earth-time)
'Ant-Man and the Wasp'
Ant-Man and the Wasp is a prequel to Avengers: Infinity War, though its conclusion dovetails directly into the final, pivotal moments of that movie. But like Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok, this movie's post-credits scene takes place after an unspecified amount of time following the conclusion of the main plot. In other words, the MCU's baked in some wiggle room as far as the timeline goes.
'Avengers: Infinity War'
Red Skull reminder: After disappearing from his contact with the Tesseract in 1945, he was transported to the distant realm of Vormir in order to escort those who sought the Soul Stone as the Stonekeeper, eventually including Thanos himself.
Sometime after Thanos’ kidnapped/adopted Gamora and Nebula, he traveled to Nidavellir, traditionally one of the Nine Realms and, in this case, home to a massive forge surrounding a neutron star which acts as a heat source. There, Thanos sought out Eitri, a master forger among the dwarves who inhabit Nidavellir. (Peter Dinklage plays the part, though Eitri stands nearly twice as tall as Thor himself.) Under threat by Thanos, Eitri crafted the Infinity Gauntlet with the hope that Thanos would take his prize and leave his people. Instead, Thanos took the gauntlet, cast Eitri’s hands in molten metal, killed the rest of the dwarves, and shut down the forge to prevent any future weapons from being made or unmade.
Sometime after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Ben & Jerry’s named flavors of ice cream after Tony Stark (Stark-Ravin’ Nuts) and The Hulk (Hulka-Hulka Chunka Chocolate). [Or something like that?]
Thanos’ forces attacked Nova Corps on Xandar, defeating them and taking his first Infinity Stone, the purple Power Stone.
*The following events take place within roughly 24-48 hours*
Directly after the Asgardian refugees find themselves face to face with Thanos’ mothership, the Mad Titan’s forces lay waste to it and a massive battle ensues in which Thor and Heimdal lie broken and defeated amidst many of their fallen brethren. The Hulk attacks Thanos but is soon dispatched rather easily, a fact that terrifies and embarrasses the Hulk. Before he can be killed, however, Heimdall draws on his last ounce of power to activate the bifrost and send Banner to Earth with a warning that Thanos is coming.
Thanos and his Black Order hold court with Loki and demand the Tesseract, which holds the blue Space Stone. Loki hands it over, attempting to form an alliance with Thanos and act as his guide on Earth, but seeing his brother defeated, Loki tries to assassinate Thanos. His treachery is repaid with death at Thanos’ hands, a death which seems likely to stick this time. Thanos then destroys the refugee vessel with his newfound power before teleporting away to safety.
Bruce Banner, whose Hulk persona is now too afraid to emerge, crashlands in Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum in time to warn him, Wong, and Tony Stark about the approaching threat of Thanos. As he does, Thanos’ Black Order members Cull Obsidian and Ebony Maw attack New York City. Spider-Man joins the fray and inadvertently travels aboard Ebony Maw’s spaceship with Iron Man in order to rescue Doctor Strange—who’s protecting the Time Stone by will and magic spell alone—while Wong remains behind the man the Sanctum Sanctorum.
Meanwhile, the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive to answer the Asgardian refugee ship’s distress signal too late, but just in time to rescue a barely alive Thor. Aboard the Milano, Thor meets the Guardians, obtains a replacement cybernetic eye from Rocket, and joins up with the “rabbit” and an adolescent Groot in order to travel to the dwarven star-forge in Nidavellir in search of a new weapon that will fell Thanos.
The remaining Guardians opt to travel to Knowhere and pay a visit to the Collector who is in possession of the red Reality Stone … only to find out that Thanos has beat them to it. Through use of an illusion, Thanos defeats the Guardians, takes Gamora prisoner and teleports away.
Aboard Thanos’ flagship, Gamora learns that her sister Nebula is being tortured, taken apart piece by piece for eternity in order to used as leverage against Gamora, who knows the location of the Soul Stone. Thanos and Gamora head to Vormir where the Stonekeeper—a time-flung Red Skull—leads them to it. Thanos sacrifices Gamora by throwing her off a cliff (a call back to Gamora doing the same to her own sister years earlier), trading her soul for the power of the stone itself. Gamora’s soul becomes trapped here in the form of her childlike self.
At the same time, the Guardians of the Galaxy head to Thanos’ home planet of Titan with the hopes of rescuing Gamora and defeating her kidnapper, only to run into Tony Stark, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, who crash-landed one of Thanos’ ships aboard the same planet. Together, they formulate a plan to draw Thanos out, subdue him, and remove his Infinity Gauntlet, thus defeating him without having to kill him.
While the plan seems like it’s going to work, Star-Lord gets distracted by his realization that Gamora has been killed, thus breaking Mantis’ psychic connection to Thanos, who shakes Iron Man and Spider-Man off his gauntlet before they can pry it free. A fierce surprise assault from Nebula follows, but Thanos is beyond harm at this point. Broken and defeated, Doctor Strange—who has seen only one future out of millions of possibilities in which the Avengers actually win—gives up the green Time Stone in order to save Tony Stark’s life. Thanos retreats, leaving the team defeated and stranded.
During the Maw and Obsidian’s attack on New York City, Black Order members Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight attack Vision and Scarlet Witch in Edinburgh, Scotland in order to retrieve the yellow Mind Stone. They’re stopped by the combined efforts of those heroes and Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon. With Earth’s mightiest heroes now aware of Thanos’ plan and the fact that they must defend Vision at all costs to keep the Mind Stone out of the villain’s grasp, they head to Wakanda to seek allies there and prepare to defend themselves. Bruce Banner and James Rhodes / War Machine join them, teaming up with Black Panther and his forces, which include the White Wolf, Bucky Barnes.
With Ebony Maw thrown into the cold vacuum of space during the rescue of Doctor Strange, Corvus Glaive, Cull Obsidian, and Proxima Midnight lead thousands of Outrider soldiers in an all-out assault on Wakanda’s defenses. With the Avengers and Wakandan warriors as the last line between Thanos’ forces and the Mind Stone—with Shuri attempting to use her superior science to separate the sentient android from the infinity stone—this is the final stand. And they struggle mightily.
While the battle rages in Wakanda, Thor is forced to bear the brunt of the rays of a neutron star in order to restart the forge of Nidavellir which was snuffed out by Thanos. The dwarven forge-master, Eitri, is able to cast the blade of Stormbreaker, a mighty weapon, but it’s Groot who sacrifices a piece of himself to form the handle. Thor, proven worthy, is able to summon the weapon and rejuvenate his god-like abilities.
Despite Thor arriving in Wakanda in the nick of time, laying waste to the army of Outriders, Thanos also arrives on the scene and quickly dispatches the other solo heroes. Scarlet Witch holds him at bay, having defended both her teammates and Vision from the Black Order elite, and is able to destroy the Mind Stone with her incredible power. Unfortunately, Thanos’ mastery of the Time Stone allows him to rewind time, reform the stone, and pluck it from Vision’s head, killing him and completing his Infinity Gauntlet in the process.
A moment of hope arises with Thor smashing Thanos in the chest with the Stormbreaker, but Thanos survives and snaps his fingers. He disappears off to some place in order to recover, but the more important result is that half of the universe’s sentient population is seemingly snuffed out. This includes Spider-Man, Black Panther, Mantis, Bucky Barnes, Doctor Strange, Star Lord, Scarlet Witch, Groot, Drax, and Falcon.
Back on Earth in the devastation left behind in New York City, Nick Fury and Maria Hill arrive on the scene, only to get caught up in the fallout of Thanos’ ultimate attack. Driverless cars slam into each other, a pilotless helicopter crashes into a building, and both Hill and Fury themselves start to turn to ash. In his final seconds, before he can utter an expletive, Fury pages Captain Marvel.
Around the same time as the Avengers are battling Thanos, Glenn Talbot (of all people) infuses himself with the volatile gravitonium (along with the material's previously absorbed Dr. Franklin Hall and Ian Quinn), becoming incredibly powerful as the MCU's version of Graviton. Talbot kills the Remorath scavengers and takes Coulson to confront their leader Qovas. Becoming mad with power (thanks in part to HYDRA's mind-breaking), Talbot takes control of Qovas ship, forces Coulson and Melinda May into his services, and dons a costume with the intention of saving the world from Thanos. Meanwhile, Daisy is taken prisoner by one of Kree ruler Kasius' entourage.
Later, Thanos is seen recuperating, his Infinity Gauntlet melted and seemingly almost destroyed by Stormbreaker, as he watches a sunrise over his own little plot of land…
In a mid-credits scene for Captain Marvel, it's revealed that Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff, Bruce Banner, and James Rhodes found Fury’s pager (somehow) and have been trying to keep it powered up by creating an energy source for the Kree-improved communications device. However, despite the battery performing just fine, the alert has stopped working.
While they try to figure out a work-around, Captain Marvel suddenly arrives in the room, asking, “Where’s Fury?”
*Due to the time-travel nature of this movie's story, we'll be integrating the events into the main timeline at a later date. For now, please enjoy this recap/timeline of the events in their own dedicated section!
While the Avengers were battling Thanos and his armies, Clint "Hawkeye" Barton (on house arrest) was having a family picnic and teaching his daughter Lila in archery. Clint was the only surviving member of Thanos' "snap."
Post-snap, survivors Tony Stark and Nebula were left isolated and abandoned far from Earth. They managed to stay alive for 22 days, adrift aboard the Guardians' ship, the Benatar. Stark records a final message for Pepper Potts, but Captain Marvel arrives and escorts the spacecraft safely back to Earth, landing at the new Avengers facility.
There, Stark and Nebula reunite with Natasha Romanoff, Bruce Banner, Steve Rogers, Rocket, Thor, and James Rhodes. Despite Stark's anger with the team's (and his own) failure and refusal to help them locate Thanos, the combined knowledge of Nebula and the technical know-how of Rocket allow the team to find the Mad Titan's hideout.
They fly to Thanos' unguarded planet to find him alone and gravely injured, having used the Infinity Gauntlet to destroy the stones themselves, foiling the Avengers' plan to use them to restore the lives of those who were lost. In grief, anger, and frustration, Thor beheads Thanos.
Back on Earth, the next five years are transformative for the Avengers:
Five Years Later (c. 2023)
Scott Lang, who has been trapped in the Quantum Realm for what felt like five hours to him, escapes thanks to a wayward rat that activates the device.
After coming to terms with the reality of the last five years (and the fact that five years have passed without him even realizing it), he reunites with his now-teenaged daughter, Cassie. He then travels to the Avengers compound to explain his theory that the quantum realm allows time travel. Stark refuses to help them at first, as a way to protect his family and not risk losing them, but eventually works with Banner to figure out how to stabilize time travel in the quantum realm.
Banner and Rocket travel to New Asgard to recruit Thor while Natasha goes to Tokyo to bring Clint back into the fold. Once they're all reunited, the team (with their new Quantum Realm/Time Travel suits and limited allotment of Pym Particles) splits up in order to travel back to the right time and locations to nab the Infinity Stones before Thanos ever gets his hands on them.
Banner, Rogers, Lang, and Stark travel to New York City in 2012, during the first assault on the city by Thanos' forces in the original Avengers movie. Banner manages to convince The Ancient One that Doctor Strange had a reason for giving up the Time Stone to Thanos. She grants Banner the Stone in this time after he promises to return it to this moment and close off the loop, preventing the creation of multiple alternate universes.
Rogers successfully retrieves the Mind Stone, in the form of Loki's scepter, by not only fighting his former self but pretending to be a HYDRA agent in league with Brock Rumlow and Jasper Sitwell.
Lang and Stark fail to retrieve the Space Stone, in the form of the Tesseract, and Loki manages to escape captivity with it (possibly spinning off an alternate universe from which the new Disney+ Marvel limited series will grow from). Sending Lang back to their future time, Rogers and Stark travel to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters on April 4, 1970 to steal the Tesseract from an earlier point in time. Stark runs into his father, Howard Stark here, while Rogers steams Pym Particles from a young Hank Pym.
Meanwhile, Rocket and Thor travel to Asgard in 2013, during the events of Thor: The Dark World, to retrieve the Reality Stone by extracting it from an "infected" Jane Foster. Thor has a heart to heart with his mother before her untimely death and manages to summon his former weapon, Mjolnir, discovering that he's still worthy.
On Morag in 2014, during the events of the original Guardians of the Galaxy film, Nebula and Rhodes take the Power Stone in its Orb container before Peter Quill can do the same. Rhodes returns to the present with the Power Stone but Nebula trapped; he cybernetic implants begin interacting with those of her 2014 self, causing that time period's Thanos to learn of his future success and also the Avengers' plans to negate it. Future Nebula is captured by Thanos and Gamora, and is subjected to torture by Ebony Maw. While the Avengers gather the Infinity Stones from across time and space, Thanos sends his disguised daughter Nebula to the future in order to claim them for him.
At the same time, Barton and Romanoff travel to Vormir and meet the Soul Stone's keeper, the Red Skull. After a back and forth battle of sorts, Natasha ends up sacrificing herself so that Clint can bring the Soul Stone back to the future.
With the Infinity Stones gathered in the present, and a new gauntlet created to wield them, Banner uses it to restore everyone killed by Thanos. (He tries to restore Natasha as well, but that is not within his power.) The feat severely damages his right arm and face, limiting his abilities throughout the rest of the film.
Before the Avengers can enjoy their victory, the Past Nebula brings Thanos and his warship to the present using the Avengers' time machine. He destroys the Avengers compound and waits to do battle with the survivors, planning to regain the stones, wipe out all life in the universe, and start from scratch.
Meanwhile, the heroic version of Nebula convinces Gamora to turn against Thanos; she manages to kills the 2014 version of herself.
Thanos holds his own against Thor and his dual-wielded weapons, Captain America (wielding Mjolnir for the first time) and Iron Man, even without the Infinity Stones. It's Captain America who holds the ground against the summoned forces of Thanos' vast army, from Chitauri, to Leviathans, his Black Order, Outriders and more.
At the last second, an unsnapped Doctor Strange and his fellow sorcerers transport the restored Avengers, Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, armies of Wakanda, Asgardians, and even the Ravagers to fight against Thanos' horde. Captain Marvel returns to lend some cosmic power to the fight.
Despite managing to play keep-away with the new Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos is able to seize it, temporarily. Stark steals the Stones back and uses them to decimate Thanos and his own army, but the cost of the effort claims his life. The Earth is saved, but Tony Stark is dead.
The Avengers gather for Stark's funeral.
Meanwhile, Thor appoints Valkyrie as the king of New Asgard and joins the Guardians of the Galaxy, where Quill begins searching for 2014 Gamora, but it's unclear whether or not she survived Stark's "snap."
Rogers, who uses Hank Pym's original time machine to return the Infinity Stones to their original places in time, closing the loop, opts to stay in the past to marry Peggy Carter and live out the rest of his life.
He returns to the present as an elderly man in order to pass his shield on to Sam Wilson as Bucky Barnes looks on.
'Spider-Man: Far From Home'
Some time after Tony Stark's funeral in the Fall of 2023, Nick Fury and Maria Hill travel to the Mexican town of Ixtenco to investigate a powerful storm presumably caused by the Earth Elemental. Up to the task, a super-suited fighter from another reality by the name of Quentin Beck arrives to battle the monstrosity. (Two bits of misdirection here: Not only is Quentin Beck a villain in disguise, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are not actually Fury and Hill but rather the husband-and-wife Skrull duo Talos and Soren, also in disguise.)
At some point, May Parker and Happy Hogan begin dating, though just how serious their relationship is remains to be seen.
Roughly eight months later, the Midtown School of Science and Technology in New York City restarts its school year in order to let the students who missed time to the Snap/Blip catch up. Part of this catch-up is a planned two-week trip to Europe for Peter Parker, Michelle/MJ, Ned Leeds, Eugene "Flash" Thompson, Betty Brant, and Brad Davis, among others.
After arriving in Venice, Peter Parker assists the new superhero Quentin Beck, whom they dub Mysterio, in battling the Water Elemental.
Just after this, Nick Fury tracks Parker down and gifts him with a pair of glasses from Stark which contain the the new, high-tech artificial intelligence known as E.D.I.T.H. (Even Dead, I'm The Hero); this A.I. also grants access to all of Stark's databases and an orbital weapons satellite, as you do.
Fury also attempts to recruit him for S.H.I.E.L.D. but Parker refuses. Undeterred, Fury reroutes the class trip to Prague in order to get Parker/Spider-Man to help Mysterio take down the Fire Elemental before it can destroy the world, along with a new super-suit to help out in the process. Their success leads to Fury and Hill suggesting a team-up, but Parker opts to gift the E.D.I.T.H. glasses to Mysterio instead.
Here, it's revealed the Beck/Mysterio is the leader of a team of disgruntled scientists who are eager to take down Stark's legacy and surpass him by becoming an even greater hero. They use a swarm of drones to both project holographic monsters and destroy things in the environment that are damaged in battle, while a behind-the-scenes crew keeps Mysterio's narrative, costume, and special effects in tip-top shape.
At around the same time MJ figures out that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, they also team up to deduce that Mysterio is a fraud and playing a dangerous game. Spider-Man tries to take down Mysterio but is outmatched by his opponent's perception-altering technology and superior tactics.
After a bizarre and unintentional side trip that lands Peter in a jail in Netherlands, he escapes and makes his way to London by reconnecting with Happy Hogan. On the Stark jet, Peter discovers one of Tony's suit-making machines; he designs his own custom suit to wear into battle.
While Beck and his team organize a large-stage fight that sees the Elementals fusing into one massive monster--in part to fake an attack on London and in part to eliminate Peter's classmates who know his secret--Spider-Man is able to save everyone, break through Beck's illusions, and regain control over E.D.I.T.H. But a wayward shot from a drone mortally wounds Beck; Peter is torn over the man's death.
With Beck dead, his assistant Riva manages to escape with his drones and their recorded footage. And although the class returns safely to New York City, where Peter and MJ commit to their new relationship, a big change is in store for Spider-Man: J. Jonah Jameson, a mouthpiece for sensationalist news blog TheDailyBugle.net, claims that Spider-Man is actually a menace and is responsible for the Elementals attacks. Doctored footage reveals that Spider-Man gave the order to kill Beck, but not before he could out Peter Parker's true identity.
The last thing we see from this story is the reveal of the Skrulls disguised as Fury and Hill, while the real Fury is aboard a Skrull ship in space. And this is where we close out Phase Three of the MCU and the "Infinity Saga" as a whole.
WandaVisionTV's Best Redemption Arcs: From 'Buffy's Spike to 'Stranger Things' Steve Read NextShareTweetShareEmail Related TopicsAbout The AuthorDave Trumbore(9255 Articles Published)
Senior Editor - Games | Former Editor of Animation, Streaming Content |Author of "The Science of Breaking Bad" from MIT Press | Twitch Affiliate: twitch.tv/drclawmd | Co-host of the Saturday Mourning Cartoons podcast | Community manager for Ironface Studios | Former science freelance writer for Nerdist.com |MoreFrom Dave Trumbore
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