What Is the Chronological Order of the Marvel Movies?
First off, let’s start with a disclaimer: working out the exact chronological order of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU for short) is hard. Really, really hard. Why, you might ask?
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Well, for one thing, the MCU was not planned out in exacting detail from the start. It had a tentative start: at the end of the first Iron Man movie, Tony Stark has just announced to the world that he is Iron Man. When he gets home that evening, we got our first glimpse of a bigger world of superheroes, when SHIELD Director Nick Fury appears in Tony’s house.
Since this scene, and the follow up at the end of The Incredible Hulk, where Tony Stark chats briefly with General Ross about a new team that’s in the works, the shared world has only grown. However, problems started to creep in as more directors and screenwriters got involved.
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Considering that there are now 22 movies and 11 TV shows in Marvel’s mega-franchise, and that it came about in a somewhat piecemeal fashion, it’s actually quite impressive that it makes as much sense as it does.
According to Jon Watts, director of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Marvel has an impressively huge timeline in the form of a scroll that is longer than a conference table. This incredible artifact of geekdom has never seen the light of day, but it supposedly covers the history of the MCU from the beginning of time, and plots out every event of note to have taken place, on screen or off.
You’d think that having this would help to prevent timeline inconsistencies, but sadly that’s not the case. The clearest example is from Spider-Man: Homecoming, where a title card erroneously states that the movie takes place some 8 years after The Avengers. Fans were quick to point out that this was inconsistent with Avengers’ supposed 2012 setting.
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The fans’ obsession with trying to puzzle out the correct chronological order was enough to raise a response from the architect of what is now being called ‘The Infinity Saga’. Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios and a producer on every MCU movie to date, promised that Marvel would release an official timeline to help clear things up.
It didn’t. In fact, it made things more complicated for fans to piece together. Iron Man, for example, was originally believed to have taken place in 2008, the year it was released. Then fan theorists found evidence to show it took place in 2009. According to the Marvel’s official timeline, released in November 2018, it takes place in 2010.
The official timeline did clear up one thing at least, revealing that despite what the film itself said, Spider-Man took place only four years after The Avengers, not eight. This is actually rather odd because before the timeline was released, Kevin Feige insisted that the eight-year timeframe was correct. If even the man in charge isn’t sure what’s going on, how can we ever know for sure?
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The official version creates other wrinkles elsewhere in the timeline too. The events of Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor apparently all take place over about seven days, a period that’s become known as Fury’s Big Week. This intense week for SHIELD’s Director was pushed back a year from the original estimations (although The Incredible Hulk wasn’t placed in the official timeline, previous information from Marvel places it in this time frame).
Despite all these issues, or perhaps because of it, fans have worked all the harder to produce a definitive chronological order for the Marvel movies. According to our research, this is the closest we are going to get to the truth of it, at least until the consequences of the time-traveling shenanigans of Endgame are revealed over the course of the next few films.
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And so, without further ado, here is our best effort at putting the MCU’s movies into chronological order. It’s a combination of fan research and the official Marvel timeline, so it’s worth taking it with a pinch of salt.
- 1943-1945: Captain America: The First Avenger
- 1995: Captain Marvel
- 2010: Iron Man
- 2011: Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor
- 2012: The Avengers, Iron Man 3
- 2013: Thor: The Dark World
- 2014: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- 2015: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man
- 2016: Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther
- 2016 to 2017: Doctor Strange
- 2017: Thor: Ragnarok
- 2018: Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man & the Wasp
- 2019: Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home
And there we are! After all that, it almost seems to make sense. That said, the chronological order isn’t necessarily the right order to view it in. Captain Marvel, for instance, is much more satisfying to watch with the context of the entire series to make its reveals more meaningful.
Do you think our timeline is out of whack? Where do you think the future of the MCU lies? Give us your best theories in the comments below!