The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one of the very few long-term attempts to successfully create a continuity between multiple movies, shows and genres under a single franchise. While the “experiment” has got audiences deeply invested in the ongoing storyline, it can be difficult to keep track of all those connections, especially since many films and shows feature flashbacks and references outside of the linear narrative. Plus, there are also a few story inconsistencies here and there.
With the abundance of Marvel films released lately and planned for the next few years, the MCU is only getting bigger and much more confusing for those who aren’t die-hard fans. To help viewers who wish to dive deeper into the Marvel world, let’s take a brief look at the MCU chronology.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe Timeline illustrates connected MCU movies and series displayed in our preferred viewing order, so as to make the most sense of the intertwined narratives and the overall storyline. For better clarity and simplicity, the graphic does not include short films or other granular Marvel properties, keeping mostly to major releases. Since the franchise has plenty other films and series planned, it is likely that the timeline will change in the future. We’ll do our best to update it as new movies or seasons come out.
Clarifications regarding the timeline (may contain spoilers)
1. Recommended viewing order
The movies and TV shows are arranged on the graphic considering the in-universe chronology, not the release dates. The timeline is recommended to those who have at least some knowledge about the MCU or to viewers who want to re-watch all major Marvel properties from a new perspective, by the order the events occurred in. For those who are not at all accustomed to any of the MCU characters, the simplest and safest way to watch the shows would be by release dates.
2. Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The First Avenger was placed first on the timeline as 90% of the action takes place in the ‘40s, before any other story in the MCU (so far). Some may argue that the whole movie is just a flashback and that its modern-day narrative would fit best after Thor. Although this is certainly a valid viewing order too, we preferred watching Captain America first as learning how the sickly Steve Rogers came to be a superhero is a great way to begin a Marvel marathon and get some context about the MCU right from the start.
3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
When Spider-Man: Homecoming came out, it sparked quite a lot of confusion among MCU enthusiasts: viewers were lead to believe that the story was set a few months after Civil War (which means 2016), but a title card at the beginning of the movie stated that the action took place 8 years after The Avengers (which adds up to the year 2020, after the events of Infinity War).
With the release of Infinity War (set in 2018), the timeline seems to have been “fixed.” Parker is seen wearing the Iron Spider suit in Infinity War, which was revealed by Tony Stark only at the end of Homecoming, so it is clear that the events in Spider-Man can’t possibly happen after the latest Avengers movie. In addition, during the Infinity War press tour, co-director Joe Russo declared that the title card in Homecoming was an error, so now we know that, most probably, Spidey’s story is indeed set close to Civil War.
4. Avengers: Infinity War and S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5
Avengers: Infinity War and the last four episodes of S.H.I.E.L.D. (S5) take place roughly at the same time, according to references within the TV show and to statements made by screenwriter Joss Whedon. Considering that the series’ season 5 finale didn’t address Infinity War’s earth-shattering ending as fans frightfully expected, we can assume it ends before the movie’s climax. Therefore, we’ve placed the full season (including episodes 19-22) before the movie on the timeline.
The Marvel chronology was created with the help of Office Timeline, an add-in for PowerPoint that allows users to quickly build timelines and Gantt charts for business or academic communications. The tool is available in two versions, Free and Plus. While the free edition is fully functional and great for creating and editing simple visuals fast, the paid version comes with powerful extra features, such as the ability to import data from Excel, update it instantly, and customize graphics down to the smallest detail.
To edit or update the Marvel Cinematic Universe Timeline, download the PowerPoint slide here.
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