A Complete Timeline of Every Movie and TV Show in the MCU
There. Are. A. Lot. Of. Them.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe—just like any universe, really—is constantly expanding. At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel introduced the studio’s Phase Five, which will run from 2023 to 2024, and we can be certain that there’s no stopping the MCU for the time being. What started with Iron Man in 2008—a relatively smaller superhero origin story somewhat based in reality—has evolved: More than 20 movies and several TV shows later, the MCU has become a sweeping story of different planets, magic, cosmic powers, gods, and monsters of all kinds. Some of these offerings have been amazing, while others, not so much (given the vast amount of content you expect some duds).
And while it’s true that each movie in the MCU can (somewhat) stand on its own legs, they’re clearly meant to be experienced as part of a greater, overarching story. Some tie into the continuity more successfully than others, of course, but they’re all designed to interact with each other—as all the easter eggs and various blink-and-you-missed-it references clearly suggest.
The more the universe grows, the more complicated it gets to keep track of all the storylines—and that’s before you even consider the time travel, which Avengers: Endgame just had to go and throw into the mix. With that in mind, here’s a complete rundown of all the titles in the MCU so far—movies and TV shows, but not digital series—arranged chronologically on the in-universe timeline.
(Note: I didn’t include a few of the “young adult” television series—Cloak & Dagger, Runaways, and Hellstrom—on the list since their MCU tie-ins are quite small when compared to other productions.)
Captain America: The First Avenger
Released in 2011, Captain America: The First Avenger is technically the fifth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the last origin story being told before the official assembling of the Avengers in 2012. However, in-universe, everything started with Captain America, which takes place in the 1940s during World War II. The movie sets the basis for several plot lines that would later become central in the MCU—particularly, the threat of HYDRA.
One Shot: Agent Carter
This direct-to-video short picks up immediately after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger, and follows Agent Peggy Carter at the SSR—the precursor to what would become S.H.I.E.L.D. Marvel produced a grand total of five of these One-Shot shorts, but the popularity of Agent Carter convinced the studio to order a series that would expand on Peggy Carter’s story.
Agent Carter ran for a total of two seasons, from 2015 to 2016. Hayley Atwell is obviously back playing Peggy Carter, so this is important origin viewing, plus James D’Arcy plays the supporting role of an actual human butler named Jarvis, who would later inspire Tony Stark in the naming of his AI.
Another movie that takes place way before its release date, Captain Marvel came out in 2019—smack in the middle of the MCU’s Phase Three, and between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. The story, however, is set in the 1990s and sets the basis for Carol Danvers’ presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as what inspired Nick Fury to create the Avengers Initiative.
From this point on, movies are set more or less around the same time they were released. Iron Man, which started this whole behemoth of a narrative universe, was released in 2008 and is a very textbook origin story of how a genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist named Tony Stark turned from weapons merchant to hero in a metal suit.
The Incredible Hulk
There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture …
The Incredible Hulk, released in 2008 as well, is a bit of an outlier in the MCU. While falling perfectly in line with the rest of the Phase One movies as an origin story for one of the heroes who would end up on the first Avengers team, the fact that Bruce Banner is played by Edward Norton and not Mark Ruffalo—who went on to play Banner in all of the subsequent MCU appearances—is definitely something that might confuse audiences.
Iron Man 2
Now, is Iron Man 2 a good film? Not particularly. But I absolutely love Sam Rockwell to bits, and because of that, I will endure it. The second installment in Iron Man’s three-movie story is still part of Phase One and starts to lay some groundwork for Tony Stark’s character and his internal conflicts. This film actually plays a big part in his decisions in later movies.
One Shot: The Consultant
Another Marvel One Shot, The Consultant follows Clark Gregg’s beloved S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson and Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark as they scheme to keep Emil Blonsky (a.k.a. Abomination) in jail and out of the Avengers Initiative.
One Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer
Two One Shots in a row connect Iron Man 2 and Thor, so here’s the second one. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer is a comedic short that sees Phil Coulson encounter a slight mishap on the road to Albuquerque, New Mexico—where he was headed to study the next big plot point, which had quite literally fallen from the sky.
Another Phase One origin story, Thor (released in 2011), was tonally distinct from the other MCU movies that had come out at the time. It’s much more epic and Shakespearean—let’s blame Shakespeare extraordinaire Kenneth Branagh, who directed it, and Tom Hiddleston, who played the role of the movie’s villain, Loki. In the in-universe timeline, Thor rounds out the introductions to the original Avengers.
Or, well, not really—at this point we are technically still missing a proper introduction to both Hawkeye and Black Widow, and an explanation of what actually happened in Budapest, but, you know. Not holding a grudge about it. Never held a grudge in my life. Absolutely not. Totally have let go of this.
The Avengers was the movie event of 2012. Marvel’s first big crossover definitely was a watershed moment in the history of both the MCU and modern blockbuster movies, and it set the basis for the interactive and interconnected stories that would populate the franchise later on.
One Shot: Item 47
Another Marvel One Shot, Item 47 centers on a New York City couple, Bennie (Jesse Bradford) and Claire (Lizzy Caplan), who find a Chitauri gun after the attack that Loki led on the city in Avengers. They use it to rob some banks, drawing the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents Sitwell and Blake are dispatched to retrieve it—and invite the couple to join them at S.H.I.E.L.D. in the process.
Thor: The Dark World
Phase Two introduces some new characters while exploring more of our main character’s motives and reasoning. Thor: The Dark World sees Thor reuniting with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster and teaming up with his brother Loki to face the threat of the Dark Elves—as well as starting to throw some Infinity Stones around.
Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 is, in my honest opinion, the worst Iron Man movie of the lot, but it’s also the one that does the best job at truly getting at Tony’s fears and motives, which basically convinces him to create the Ultron project—all leading him to sign the Sokovia accords and ultimately sacrifice himself in Endgame. Both Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3 came out in 2013, and are set in the universe pretty much at the same time.
One Shot: All Hail the King
The last of the first wave of One Shots, All Hail the King is set after the events of Iron Man 3 and centers on Trevor Slattery, also known as the “false” Mandarin. He gives an interview in his prison cell to Jackson Norriss, whom Slattery thinks is a filmmaker interested in his story—until Norriss reveals himself as a member of the Ten Rings and kidnaps Slattery to bring him to their actual leader. It will be a few years, but this plot line will pop back up in Phase Four.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the first television series to actively interact with the MCU movies. The placement of series—which ran for a total of seven seasons from 2013 to 2020—on the MCU timeline is somewhat fuzzy. While it started out as very connected to the events of the movies—namely the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Winter Soldier—there were some concerns about where the series’ storyline could clash with what was planned for the movies.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The jewel in Phase Two’s crown—as well as one of the best MCU movies Marvel ever produced—the 2014 sequel to Captain America sees Steve Rogers trying to adapt to modern life with the help of Natasha Romanoff and Sam Wilson. His semblance of peace is subsequently thrown into complete disarray by the revelation that HYDRA survived and has been burrowing inside of S.H.I.E.L.D. ever since World War II. On top of that, it has taken Steve’s childhood friend, Bucky Barnes, and twisted him into the fearsome Winter Soldier. Tough break.
The first of the “Marvel Knights” television series, Daredevil star Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, a lawyer by day and vigilante by night in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. The show ran for three seasons on Netflix, but Matt Murdock also appeared in Spider-Man: No Way Home as Peter’s lawyer—which prompted Marvel to start working on a new Daredevil series (which will most likely be released on Disney+).
Guardians of the Galaxy
Released in 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy was one of two Phase Two movies that introduced new characters to the MCU—and this time they were far, far away from Earth. This first movie tells the story of how the team of Guardians was born from the union of some of the galaxy’s worst criminals, and introduces yet another Infinity Stone.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
While 2016’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a Phase Three movie, the story it tells picks up immediately where the first Guardians left off. This time, the gang is off to discover the truth about Peter “Starlord” Quill’s parentage and stop a catastrophe from happening in the process, of course.
I Am Groot
The first season of I Am Groot consists of five animated shorts that follow the life of Baby Groot between the events of Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. His adventures include taking a mud bath, breaking his pot, and causing a glitter explosion in the Guardians’ ship.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
In the second major team-up of the MCU, the original Avengers team returns in Avengers: Age of Ultron to bring down an AI created by Tony Stark with the aim of defending the world—before it turned murderous, of course. The movie also introduces the Maximoff twins, Pietro and Wanda, also known as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. While Pietro’s appearance is sadly short-lived, Wanda will go on to have a major role in upcoming MCU movies.
The second Phase Two movie to introduce new characters, Ant-Man serves as the origin story of the titular superhero. Scott Lang is a (newly released from jail) thief who gets entangled with the father-daughter duo of Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne, and their invention of a suit that allows the wearer to shrink down to the size of an ant.
Another of Netflix’s “Marvel Knights,” Jessica Jones follows a super-powered woman who quits her brief superhero career when she ends up causing someone’s death. As it turns out, she was “pushed” to do so by David Tennant’s villainous Kilgrave—who she’ll obviously have to face again once he pops his head back on.
The character of Luke Cage first appeared in Jessica Jones before getting his own solo series on Netflix —with two seasons rather than three—as part of the “Marvel Knights” series. Funnily enough, Mahershala Ali stars as the villain of the very first season, Cottonmouth, but he will appear again in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Blade, whose solo movie is scheduled for a 2023 release.
Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War inaugurated Marvel’s Phase Three in 2016 by pItting the heroes we had come to know and love against each other as they were divided over whether or not they should sign the Sokovia Accords—the government’s plan to limit their activity. The movie also introduced Black Panther, played by the late and much-beloved Chadwick Boseman, and the third rendition of Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland.
The last of the “Marvel Knights” to get his own origin story, Danny Rand, a.k.a. Iron Fist, is a trust fund baby who was presumed dead for 15 years before returning to New York with newly acquired mystical powers—hellbent on getting his family company back.
A smaller, television version of The Avengers, The Defenders sees the four Marvel Knights team up to defend New York City from a common enemy, the supervillain known as the Hand, who is threatening—you guessed it—to destroy it.
The first of three movies starring Tom Holland’s version of Peter Parker, Spider-Man: Homecoming came out in 2017 and is set pretty much immediately after Captain America: Civil War. Homecoming centers on Peter’s struggle to balance his normal high school life with his desire to become a full-fledged member of the Avengers.
While not technically one of the Marvel Knights, The Punisher was part of Marvel’s Netflix deal. The series stars Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle, known throughout New York City as “the Punisher”—a morally gray man seeking revenge for the murder of his family. The character first appeared in the second season of Daredevil, and the series ran on Netflix for two seasons.
Released in 2016, Doctor Strange is another origin story, this time for a character who will come to be immensely important in the MCU, especially as we move further and further into the multiverse. We follow Benedict Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange after a car accident, as he tries to regain use of the hands that made him a world-class surgeon—only for him to discover the Mystic Arts.
Black Panther’s beginning also stems directly from the end of Captain America: Civil War: T’Challa returns home as the new king of Wakanda after the death of his father, T’Chaka. The film follows T’Challa as he deals with his father’s complicated legacy and battles an equally complex villain.
A movie that was years and years in the making, Black Widow finally gave Natasha Romanoff the chance to shine as the star of her own solo story. Released in 2021 as part of Phase Four—in the chunk called “The Multiverse Saga,” which started with the end of “The Infinity Saga”—Black Widow is not an origin story, but a separate adventure that sees Natasha teaming up with members of her family to take down the Red Room once and for all. Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, Natasha’s “little sister,” was an absolute scene-stealer—so much so that she returned in another MCU project and is set to appear in more.
Together with the Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series, Inhumans is part of “Marvel Heroes”—the first batch of television series produced by Marvel before the onslaught of Marvel Studios productions released directly on Disney+. The eight episodes of Inhumans weren’t met with stellar reviews, but they were popular enough among fans that Marvel had Anson Mount reprise his role as Black Bolt in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
The first of three mockumentaries written and directed by Taika Waititi—and later added to the One Shot canon—Team Thor is set pretty much at the same time as Civil War. The short follows Thor after the end of Age of Ultron as he settles in Australia with a human housemate named Darryl, who tries to teach him how to send emails and has to suffer through his massive investigative corkboard concerning the Infinity Stones.
Team Thor: Part 2
The second installment of the Waititi mockumentaries continues to keep track of Thor and Darryl’s domestic life, as Thor tries to pay rent with Asgardian currency and attempts to convince Darryl to get a superhero outfit.
Thor was notably absent from Civil War, and Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok lets us know what he was up to while everybody else was busy punching each other at that airport in Berlin. The story of Ragnarok provides some important background on Asgard while giving Thor what would have been some very significant character development—had the Russos not thrown it out of the window or played it for laughs in Infinity War and Endgame, that is.
The third and final installment of the Taika Waititi mockumentaries, Team Darryl is set after the events of Thor: Ragnarok, and this time, Darryl has gotten himself a stranger roommate—the Grandmaster, who bosses him around and threatens to melt him.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
The sequel to Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp serves to properly introduce Hope Van Dyne’s superhero, the Wasp. The movie’s main storyline, in which Hank and Hope try to rescue Janet Van Dyne—their wife and mother, respectively—from the Quantum Realm might seem pretty detached from the massive war we’re barreling toward, but the end scene ties everything together and prepares the ground for the ultimate resolution.
Avengers: Infinity War
The first of two parts that mark the end of the first major narrative arc in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Infinity War was set up to be a tragedy in the most Greek of ways, and it ended up being just that. The Avengers try everything they can to stop Thanos from collecting all of the Infinity Stones, but the Snap happens anyway—immediately erasing half of every single life form in the universe.
Avengers: Endgame’s first minutes pick up immediately where Infinity War left off—with the Avengers chasing Thanos through the universe, this time with the aim of making him reverse the Snap. When they find out that’s impossible, they kill him and the movie skips ahead five years—making the entire MCU timeline move slightly ahead of our actual one. Thanks to the brilliance and sacrifices of several of the characters we’ve come to know and love, though, the Avengers ultimately manage to restore all the lives that were lost.
Hands down the best Marvel Studios series so far, WandaVision is the story of how Wanda Maximoff deals with the grief she has been carrying on her shoulders pretty much since her childhood—grief that skyrocketed following the events of Endgame and the death of Vision. Wanda unleashes her power to trap a small American town in an alternate reality inspired by classic television series, where she controls the minds and lives of everyone so she can live in a perfect world where nothing is wrong.
The first four Marvel Studios series, released on Disney+ in rapid succession, are set more or less at the same time to expand on the post-Endgame events. Loki sees Tom Hiddleston return to his iconic role—even though this Loki isn’t technically the same Loki who was killed by Thanos. Instead, he’s from an alternate reality the Avengers traveled to when trying to retrieve the Tesseract. Loki finds himself tangled with the TVA, the Time Variance Authority, and ends up unleashing the multiverse—while introducing us to the MCU’s next major villain: Kang the Conqueror.
What If …?
A series of anthology episodes that are more or less detached from one another—except for the final few—What If …? does exactly what the title suggests. Each episode presents a scenario that diverts from the MCU’s canon and explores how things might have gone while introducing us to The Watcher.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
The first origin story of Phase Four, Shang-Chi follows Simu Liu’s eponymous protagonist as he travels from San Francisco to China to face his legacy as the son of the infamous Xu Wenwu, the holder of the legendary 10 rings and the leader of the terrorist organization of the same name. And yes, that’s the same group that kidnapped Tony Stark in the first Iron Man movie and Trevor Slattery, a.k.a. the Mandarin, in Iron Man 3.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
As the name suggests, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier explores how Sam and Bucky are doing after Steve officially gave his shield to Sam and chose to stay in the past in Endgame. Sam and Bucky team up with former Civil War villain Zemo to stop a group known as the Flag Smashers—and try their best to adapt to their new reality in the meantime.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Spider-Man: Far From Home marked the end of the Infinity Saga and paves the way for the next chapter by introducing Peter Parker to the concept of the multiverse. It turns out that Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio was playing Peter all along, but the multiverse idea was there to stay. Oh, and let’s not forget that Peter’s civilian identity is revealed right at the end of the movie!
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Now, Spider-Man: No Way Home was definitely the most anticipated movie of Phase Four, and probably another watershed moment in pop culture. With Loki officially introducing the multiverse to the MCU, who’s to say that the other two iterations of Peter Parker—Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield—couldn’t make an appearance? And appear they did, to massive cheers from audiences all over the world.
Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao’s debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Eternals introduces a whole group of new characters: the titular Eternals, creatures sent from outer space to eradicate a dangerous species of monster called Deviants and accompany humanity through all the eras of their civilization.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
The newest Marvel Studios series on Disney+, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law follows Tatiana Maslany as the eponymous character—a.k.a. Jennifer Walters—who also happens to be an attorney specializing in cases involving superhumans.
Hawkeye marked the beginning of the second wave of the Marvel Studios series, this time following Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton. Hawkeye explores what Clint did during the Blip, when he was known as “Ronin” and had pretty much lost his moral compass, which finally catches up to him. The miniseries also introduces Kate Bishop, played by Hailee Steinfeld, who Barton trains to take up the mantle of Hawkeye.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
The Doctor Strange sequel delves further into the multiverse as Stephen Strange helps America Chavez, a character capable of traveling the multiverse. America is trying to escape Wanda Maximoff, who’s lost in her grief following the events of Infinity War and WandaVision and still trying to reach her children—even in a completely different reality. The movie has a distinct horror feel and features the stylistic trademarks of director Sam Raimi.
After joining Disney in Star Wars, Oscar Isaac decided to takes over the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well, playing the titular role in Moon Knight—or better yet, roles, since he plays Marc Spector, a mercenary with dissociative identity disorder who has two alters, Steven Grant and Jake Lockley. They all get entangled in a deadly mystery involving Egyptian gods, leading him to become the avatar for the moon god Khonshu.
The latest Marvel Studios series to be released, Ms. Marvel is the story of teenager Kamala Khan (played by Iman Vellani), a massive Avengers and Captain Marvel fangirl who ends up gaining the power to harness cosmic energy and embarking on her very own hero origin story.
Thor: Love and Thunder
In the closing stage of Phase Four, the fourth Thor movie sees Ragnarok‘s Taika Waititi returning to the director’s chair. The story follows Thor, Valkyrie, and Korg as they fight the god-killing villain Gorr—helped by Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, who returns wielding Mjolnir.
Werewolf by Night
Released in October 2022, the black-and-white television special Werewolf by Night follows a group of monster hunters hard on the trail of a dangerous monster— among them is Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal), a man cursed to turn into a werewolf.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Wakanda Forever is the last movie—although not the last project—in the MCU’s Phase Four, which wraps up in 2022. The second Black Panther installment brings us all back to Wakanda as the country and its inhabitants—mainly Princess Shuri, Queen Ramonda, Okoye and Nakia—deal with the loss of T’Challa, which sadly reflects the real world passing of Chadwick Boseman.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
The project to officially wrap up Phase Four was this short holiday special directed by James Gunn. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special premiered on Disney+ in November 2022 and follows the Guardians of the Galaxy as they debate the best gift to get Peter Quill for Christmas to help cheer him up—and the shenanigans they get into once they all agree that their best option is to retrieve Peter’s childhood hero: Footloose star Kevin Bacon.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
The official start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Five, the third instalment of the adventures of Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne takes place inside the Quantum Realm— where Scott and Hope are dragged together with Hope’s parents and Scott’s daughter Cassie. The movie also features the big-screen introduction—even though we had already met him in Loki—of Kang the Conqueror, who is shaping up to be the Next Big Villain™ after Thanos’s final demise.
PHEW. Done. Did I forget any? Let me know after I take a very, very long nap.
(featured image: Marvel Studios)
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