Everything has been leading to this, Infinity War is finally here.
If you need a moment to brush up on the MCU’s decades of lore though, I’ve got you covered. Below is a decade/year-by-year breakdown of the biggest moments in the timeline, all leading up to Thor: Ragnarok‘s arrival of Thanos.
As a quick note though, the dates are accurate… for now. Marvel plays a little fast and loose with specific plotting of the timeline, so they may shift down the line if necessary. The chronological order should remain intact regardless though.
1940 – 1960s
Steve Rogers Is Transformed into Captain America
- Steve Rogers volunteers to undergo Dr. Abraham Erskine’s experimental Super Soldier Serum treatment, which enhances his body to superhuman proportions.
- Acting as “Captain America,” Rogers assembles a squad called the Howling Commandos and fights against HYDRA, a Nazi offshoot led by Johann Shmidt.
- In the course of one of these missions, Rogers’ childhood friend Bucky Barnes is apparently KIA.
- Shortly afterwards, Rogers successfully stops Shmidt, who is transported to an unknown destination by the Tesseract. To do so, Rogers crashes the HYDRA plane Valkyrie into the Arctic with him in it, and is presumed dead.
S.H.I.E.L.D. Is Formed
- Howard Stark, Peggy Carter, and General Chester Phillips collaborate to form an organization called the Strategic Homeland Intervention and Logistics Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.).
- Some former Nazi and HYDRA scientists (including Armin Zola) are recruited by the United States as part of Operation Paperclip.
The Winter Soldier Is Born
- Sometime after the end of WWII, Bucky Barnes (who had survived his apparent death) is handed over to HYDRA agents working within S.H.I.E.L.D. and experimented on. His mental and physical conditioning turn him into a HYDRA operative called the Winter Soldier.
1970 – 1980s
Hank Pym Develops the Pym Particle
- A scientist named Hank Pym develops a method for shrinking objects. He and his wife Janet Van Dyne work alongside S.H.I.E.L.D. as secret agents for some time, before Janet becomes trapped in the “quantum realm” during one of their missions.
- A few years later, Hank Pym leaves S.H.I.E.L.D. after he discovers that Howard Stark was attempting to replicate his formula.
Peter Quill Is Kidnapped
- Peter Quill is abducted by Yondu, a space pirate who was hired by Peter’s father (and a celestial), Ego. Yondu chooses not to return Peter to Ego though, and Peter becomes a member of Yondu’s crew instead.
Howard and Maria Stark Die
- Howard and Maria Stark are killed by the Winter Soldier, who was sent to retrieve an experimental attempt at replicated Dr. Erskine’s original Super Soldier Serum.
- Obadiah Stane becomes the interim CEO of Stark Industries, with Howard and Maria’s son Tony taking over a few years later.
King T’Chaka Kills His Brother
- King T’Chaka of Wakanda is forced to kill Prince N’Jobu, who had worked with arms dealer Ulysses Klaue to smuggle vibranium out of their nation.
- Prince N’Jobu’s son, Erik Stevens, is orphaned.
Bruce Banner Gets Angry
- An unsuccessful attempt to use gamma radiation to recreate Erskine’s Super Soldier Serum goes horribly wrong, and Bruce Banner is turned into a monster later dubbed The Hulk.
- General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross begins a manhunt for Banner, who goes on the run, eventually making his way to South America.
I Am Iron Man
- Tony Stark is kidnapped by the Ten Rings terrorist organization, but escapes after successfully miniaturizing his father’s Arc Reactor technology.
- Stark uses the Arc Reactor to design a suit of powered armor, and eventually reveals himself to the world as “Iron Man.”
The Stark Expo
- Tony Stark organizes the Stark Expo in New York City, while secretly dealing with potentially lethal palladium poisoning.
- Natasha Romanoff, AKA Black Widow, infiltrates Stark Industries.
- The U.S. military takes one of Tony Stark’s suits, and adapts it into “War Machine,” piloted by Colonel James Rhodes.
- Building off of his father’s work, Tony Stark synthesizes a new element, which he uses to cure himself of the palladium poisoning.
- Stark and Black Widow stop a plot orchestrated by Ivan Vanko, who hijacks Iron Man-esque drones to attack the Stark Expo.
Thor Is Banished to Midgard
- After disobeying Odin’s orders, Thor is banished to Earth. Meanwhile, Thor’s adopted brother Loki schemes to take the throne of Asgard.
- With the help of scientists Jane Foster and Erik Selvig, Thor successfully thwarts Loki’s plan. In the process though, he destroys the Bifrost, stranding himself in Asgard.
Captain America Is Found
- Captain America’s frozen (but still living) body is discovered in the Arctic. He is taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody to recover.
Chitauri Invasion and the Battle of New York
- Loki strikes a deal with Thanos to retrieve the Tesseract from Earth. In return, Thanos provides Loki with a powerful weapon, and an army to invade the planet with.
- Nick Fury activates the Avengers Initiative, bringing together Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye.
- The alien invasion is successfully stopped, the Tesseract is returned to Asgard, and Loki’s scepter, which secretly contains an Infinity Stone, is taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody.
- The Avengers temporarily go their separate ways.
- Damage Control, a branch of S.H.I.E.L.D., is formed to clean up New York and recover any alien technology.
The Mandarin Emerges
- The Ten Rings expand their operations, under the leadership of an enigmatic figure known as the Mandarin.
- The Mandarin is revealed to be a ruse though, and is secretly controlled by Adrian Killian of A.I.M. Killian has been using the Mandarin’s “terrorist activities” to cover up his dangerous work with Extremis, unstable nanotechnology that can grant superhuman powers. Killian is defeated by Iron Man and War Machine.
The Dark Elves Return
- After thousands of years in hibernation, Malekith returns with his army of Dark Elves, in a bid to destroy the universe with an Infinity Stone.
- Thor returns to Earth to defeat him, and later rejoins the Avengers.
- The Aether, containing an Infinity Stone, is given to the Collector on Knowhere for safekeeping.
Ronan the Accuser Attacks Xandar
- Thanos works with the Kree extremist Ronan to retrieve an Infinity Stone. Ronan betrays Thanos and keeps the stone for himself, using it to attack the planet of Xandar.
- Ronan is defeated by the recently formed Guardians of the Galaxy, a team comprised of Peter Quill (AKA Star-Lord), Rocket, Groot, Drax the Destroyer, and adopted “daughter” of Thanos, Gamora.
- An Infinity Stone is given to the Nova Corps on Xandar for safekeeping.
Ego Attempts to Transform the Universe
- The Celestial Ego enacts a plan thousands of years in the making, attempting to recreate the universe in his image.
- He is stopped by the Guardians of the Galaxy, including his son, Peter Quill.
- HYDRA sleeper agents within S.H.I.E.L.D. and the U.S. government attempt to activate “Project Insight,” a system that would algorithmically wipe out millions of their potential enemies.
- The Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes, reunites with Steve Rogers, and begins to break free of his HYDRA mind control.
- Steve Rogers recruits Sam Wilson, AKA the Falcon.
- HYDRA is stopped, but S.H.I.E.L.D. is officially disbanded. Nick Fury fakes his own death, and goes into hiding.
Ultron and the Vision Are Born
- The Avengers reunite to take down the remnants of HYDRA. At the last HYDRA base, they discover an Infinity Stone, which had been used to enhance Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.
- The Falcon hunts down leads on the Winter Soldier.
- Using the Infinity Stone, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner attempt to finish their “Ultron” project, an AI that would coordinate peacekeeping around the world. They inadvertently birth a much more hostile AI.
- The Vision is created, formed from combining Tony Stark’s Jarvis AI with the power of the Mind Stone.
- Ultron attempts to wipe out humanity, and is stopped in Sokovia, at great cost of life.
Scott Lang Becomes Ant-Man
- Hank Pym recruits Scott Lang to help stop Darren Cross, who has replicated the Pym Particle with the intent of selling it to organizations like HYDRA and the Ten Rings.
- In the process, Lang tangles with the Falcon, putting himself on the Avengers’ radar.
- Following civilian casualties during an Avengers mission, the U.N. drafts the “Sokovia Accords,” legislation that would regulate Avengers operations.
- Bucky Barnes is framed for a terrorist attack that kills King T’Chaka of Wakanda.
- Disagreement over the Accords and Bucky splinters the Avengers, with one side led by Tony Stark and the other Steve Rogers.
- Tony Stark travels to New York to recruit the teenage Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man.
- Steve Rogers and his allies are forced to go underground to avoid imprisonment.
Spider-Man Defeats the Vulture
- Peter Parker, equipped with a new suit given to him by Tony Stark, stops the Vulture from stealing technology heading to the Avengers HQ.
- Parker turns down an invitation to become a full-time member of the Avengers.
T’Challa Takes the Throne
- After making peace with Bucky Barnes, T’Challa (AKA Black Panther) returns to Wakanda and is crowned king.
- T’Challa is forced to contend with a usurper, his cousin Erik Stevens, son of Prince N’Jobu.
- After reclaiming the throne, T’Challa decides to open up Wakanda’s borders to the world.
Doctor Strange Becomes… Doctor Strange
- Doctor Stephen Strange’s career as a surgeon comes to an end after a car crash.
- Strange travels to Kamar-Taj to learn the mystic arts.
- He and his allies stop a rogue magic user named Kaecilius from allowing an apocalyptic being known as Dormammu from destroying Earth.
- Strange officially becomes the protector of the organization’s New York Sanctum.
Asgard Is Destroyed
- Thor and Loki are assisted by Doctor Strange in tracking down Odin on Earth.
- Hela, Odin’s long-lost daughter, returns to take control of Asgard.
- Thor and Loki stop her, but in the process Asgard is destroyed as part of the prophesied Ragnarok.
- Before its destruction, Loki retrieves the Tesseract from Asgard’s vault, apparently drawing Thanos to them.