When the current era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe wraps up with the followup to Avengers: Infinity War in 2019, it will have been over a decade since Tony Stark first donned a suit of armor, and kick started the most expansive superhero story ever put to screen. With 19 films, 18 seasons of TV, and dozens of supplementary stories in comics and marketing to date, the MCU is a virtually unparalleled example of shared universe storytelling.
In this post, I’ll be breaking down the MCU timeline by individual story, and outlining how each installment connects to the larger universe and narrative.
But first, a few caveats:
- This is NOT a recommendation for a viewing order if this is your first time through the MCU, it’s simply a broad look at the timeline so far. If you’re looking for a more enjoyable way to take in these stories, I’d recommend watching the films in release order, peppering in the various TV seasons as you see fit.
- I’m cataloging films as a whole, not by individual scenes. For the stories that involve flashbacks, I’m placing them into the order based on when their “core” storyline takes place.
- I’m also including quasi-canonical material, including the One-Shots, viral marketing, and the various TV shows. As time goes on, the TV shows in particular seem to be more and more disconnected from the films, but as far as we’re being told, they’re still technically part of the MCU.
- I will fully admit that my recollection of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a little bit fuzzy, so the placement of specific episodes might not be 100% accurate. If you see any revisions that could be made for further accuracy, please send them my way.
- And it should probably go without saying, but there’s no shortage of spoilers below.
[Update] I’ve adjusted the placement Jessica Jones to the timeline below thanks to the keen eye of some of our readers!
[Update] After receiving some requests, I’ve also added the MCU tie-in comics. It’s important to note that Marvel has gone on record to say that this material is not hard canon, and may clash with the core canon of the feature films. Still, they’re fun bits of universe expansion, and worth checking out if you want a really deep dive into the MCU.
[Update] The list is now up-to-date through Thor: Ragnarok, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5, and Runaways.
[Update] The list has been updated for the Black Panther, the Avengers: Infinity War Prelude comics, and the release dates for the Ant-Man and the Wasp Prelude comics.
[Update] The list is now completely up-to-date sans next week’s Infinity War. I have not added Ant-Man and the Wasp Prelude however, as it is purely a recap of the movie, and doesn’t contain any new events.
[Update] I’ve added a relatively spoiler-free placement for Infinity War, will add a bit more to it once more people have had a chance to see it.
[Update] A reader has asked me to add the “Road to Avengers: Infinity War” novels. I had previously opted not to, as Marvel’s messaging on them has been a little confusing, but I think they’re fine to include with the caveat that they are very likely soft canon, maybe even just canon adjacent.
[Update] Updated through Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Phase 1: Avengers Assembled
Captain America: The First Avenger
Aside from a few Asgard-centric flashes to the distant past, Captain America is our first real stepping stone into the MCU timeline. Taking place in 1942, the film introduces some major MCU cornerstones, not the least of which were Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes, and Peggy Carter. The Super Soldier Serum that transformed Rogers into Captain America has also been hugely influential, forming the basis for the Bruce Banner and Emi Blonsky’s transformations in The Incredible Hulk, the Centipede Project in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Winter Soldier initiative revealed in Civil War. Not to mention, the film introduces our first Infinity Stone, the Tesseract, and the organization HYDRA.
Agent Carter (Seasons 1 & 2)
Following the end of World War II, the two seasons of Agent Carter follow Peggy Carter during her career as a member of the Strategic Scientific Reserve.
Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter
Set after the events of Agent Carter, Peggy has returned to New York to continue her work with the SSR. The One-Shot finds her tracking down a bioweapon called “Zodiac” (which would appear once more in a Winter Soldier tie-in comic), and receiving an invitation from Howard Stark to help found S.H.I.E.L.D.
Nick Fury: Spies Like Us
This digital comic bridges the gap between the post-war era of Agent Carter and the modern era of the Phase One films. It follows Nick Fury during his time as a CIA agent at the height of the Cold War. There aren’t many MCU connections in this one, aside from a brief cameo by Dum Dum Dugan.
Ant-Man: Larger Than Life
This comic follows Hank Pym as he attempts to create the ant communication device we saw in Ant-Man.
This comic takes place while Hank Pym was a consultant for S.H.I.E.L.D., and features one of his early missions.
The film that started it all also takes us forward into the modern era. It charts the transformation of Tony Stark into Iron Man, introduces S.H.I.E.L.D., and teases Nick Fury’s Avengers Initiative.
Black Panther Prelude
This tie-in comic explores how T’Challa became the Black Panther, and takes place about a week before the end of the first Iron Man film.
Iron Man Comics
Chronologically following Iron Man are a series of standalone comic book issues that connect it to Iron Man 2. They mainly follow various S.H.I.E.L.D activities, including some operations involving the Ten Rings, and also introduce Justin Hammer’s relationship with the US government, and Black Widow’s placement undercover at Stark Industries. These are honestly very tenuously canon at best, but I’ve listed them below in chronological order below for the die-hard completionists.
- Iron Man: Security Measures
- Iron Man: Fast Friends
- Iron Man 2: Nick Fury: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Iron Man 2: Phil Coulson: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Iron Man 2: Fist of Iron
- Iron Man 2: Public Identity
- Iron Man 2: Security Breach
- Iron Man: Will Online Evils Prevail?
- Iron Man 2: Black Widow: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 takes place roughly six months after the events of the first film, with Tony Stark continuing his superhero activities. The film introduces James Rhodes’ War Machine suit, features the first on-screen appearance of Black Widow, and teases Nick Fury’s development of the Avengers Initiative.
The Incredible Hulk
The introduction of Bruce Banner/The Hulk (albeit played by Edward Norton instead of Mark Ruffalo) takes place shortly after the events of Iron Man 2, with Tony Stark now acting as a consultant for S.H.I.E.L.D. While this particular storyline are not directly referenced in any of the other movies, it eventually connects back in a big via General Thaddeus Ross in Civil War.
Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer
This One-Shot bridges the gap between The Incredible Hulk and Thor, following Phil Coulson on his way to New Mexico.
Thor provides us with our first look at the cosmic side of the MCU. We’re introduced to Asgard, one of the “Nine Realms,” nine planets (including Earth) located in various regions of the universe, and connected by a cosmic phenomenon known as the “Yggdrasil.” Aside from worldbuilding, Thor also introduces a ton of major characters. Thor and his brother Loki are the big ones of course, but a number of them, Lady Sif and Erik Selvig in particular, play prominent roles outside of the Thor films. We also get our first (albeit very, very brief) appearance by Hawkeye, and the setup for the partnership between Loki and Thanos that will drive the events of The Avengers.
Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant
This One-Shot takes place during the formation of the Avengers Initiative, with Phil Coulson and Jasper Sitwell endeavoring to make sure Emil Blonsky (from The Incredible Hulk) is not allowed to join.
Ant-Man – Scott Lang: Small Time
Set three years before the Ant-Man movie, this digital comic follows Scott Lang while he is still an employee at Vistacorp, as well as the crime that sends him to prison.
The Avengers: The Avengers Initiative
This short comic introduces the Helicarrier, with Hawkeye working to test its security systems.
The Avengers Prelude: Black Widow Strikes
This comic is set after the events of Iron Man 2, with Black Widow undertaking a S.H.I.E.L.D. mission involving the Ten Rings.
The Avengers Prelude: Fury’s Big Week
This expansive 8-issue comic book follows Nick Fury as he works behind the scenes of each of the MCU films to date, linking moments such as his confrontation with Tony Stark at Randy’s Donuts, assigning Phil Coulson and Hawkeye to New Mexico, sending Black Widow to track down Bruce Banner, witnessing Thor fighting the Destroyer, and learning that Captain America’s body had been found in the Arctic. As a fun bonus, the miniseries also wraps up the Samuel Sterns storyline from The Incredible Hulk, which was originally planted as a teaser for a sequel that never happened.
It’s hard to understate just how pivotal the first Avengers was in terms of establishing the course of the MCU. Not only did we finally get to see all of the major players (so far at least) on-screen together for the first time, but we’re also introduced to Thanos, the big, big bad whose arrival will signal an end to this era of the MCU. Furthering that plot along are two Infinity Stone appearances: the return of the Tesseract, and the introduction of Mind Stone in Loki’s scepter. Unsurprisingly, the alien attack on New York would prove to be a major historical event in the MCU’s version of Earth, and is frequently referenced in subsequent films and TV series.
Iron Man 3 Prelude
This comic book 2-issue comic has Tony Stark rebuilding the War Machine suit following the events of Iron Man 2. James Rhodes then emarks on a mission to investigate the Ten Rings, and returning just a bit too late to help out during the Battle of New York, instead finding the gang at the shawarma restaurant.
Iron Man: The Coming of the Melter
Set in between Iron Man 3 Prelude and Iron Man 3 proper, this standalone comic book issue has Tony Stark battling the inventor of one of the copycat armors alluded to in the second movie. It also has Stark inventing a system that allows each of the pieces of his suits to function independently, which comes into play quite a bit in future Iron Man appearances.
Marvel One-Shot: Item 47
Set just after the Battle of New York, this short follows a couple who use a Chitauri weapon they’ve recovered to rob banks. They’re eventually captured and persuaded to join S.H.I.E.L.D., although sadly, they haven’t appeared again since.
Phase 2: The Age of Miracles
Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 kicks off Phase Two, and finds Tony Stark dealing with PTSD after the Battle of New York in The Avengers. Outside of that, the film is surprisingly self-contained, especially after the reveal that the Ten Rings organization featured in the story is actually a separate entity from the one we saw in the original Iron Man. We do get one prominent piece of worldbuilding though with the introduction of the current POTUS, Matthew Ellis, who continues to serve as the president through at least Civil War.
Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King
This short film finds Trevor Slattery (aka the Mandarin) in Seagate Prison after the events of Iron Man 3. It’s revealed that the fake Ten Rings organization he pretended to lead was in fact based on a very real terrorist group, which stages a break out to bring Slattery to the actual Mandarin. It also features a brief cameo from Justin Hammer, who’s imprisoned in Seagate himself for his criminal activity in Iron Man 2.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 1, Episodes: Pilot – The Hub)
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is where the viewing order begins to get a little bit complicated, as the first season takes place over the course of several Phase Two films. The first episode (reintroducing Phil Coulson after his apparent death in The Avengers) through “The Hub” however take place just prior to the events of Thor: The Dark World.
Thor: The Dark World Prelude
This comic book lead-in to The Dark World jumps around the timeline quite a bit, chronicling Odin, Thor, and Frigga’s search for Loki after his fall from the Bifrost, explaining how Thor was able to return to Earth in The Avengers, and showing the repair of the Bifrost and the start of Thor’s new mission to restore order to a Nine Realms in chaos.
Thor: Crown of Fools
This standalone comic book issue features a fairly self-contained adventure starring Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three set before the events of Thor: The Dark World.
Thor: The Dark World
Thor and his companions endeavor to restore order to the Nine Realms after the destruction of the Bifrost in the first Thor plunges them into chaos, while Loki is imprisoned in Asgard for his attempted invasion of Earth. Meanwhile, Malekith, the leader of the Dark Elves and enemy of Asgard, has emerged from suspended animation in time for a celestial event known as the Convergence, wherein the connection between the Nine Realms grows much stronger. This story introduces a new Infinity Stone, the Reality Stone contained in the Aether, and also sets up Loki’s impersonation of Odin subsequent rule over Asgard for the next two years. The mid-credits scene reveals that the Aether has been given to the Collector on Knowhere for safekeeping.
Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite Comic – Dangerous Prey
This digital comic links the mid-credits scene of The Dark World with the events of Guardians of the Galaxy. With the Aether in his possession thanks to the Asgardians, the Collector turns his attention to acquiring the Orb, and hires Gamora to retrieve it for him.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier Infinite Comic
This digital comic features the return of Zodiac, the bioweapon first introduced in the Agent Carter One-Shot. Captain America, Black Widow, and Brock Rumlow are assigned to stop a terrorist group from using it.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 1, Episodes: The Well – End of the Beginning)
“The Well” finds the team dealing with the aftermath of Malekith’s attack in Greenwich from The Dark World. “The End of Beginning” meanwhile sets the stage for The Winter Soldier, and finds S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell assigned to the Lemurian Star.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Chase
This comic one-shot takes place shortly after the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode “Seeds.”
Captain America: Homecoming
This standalone comic book issue takes place just prior to The Winter Soldier, and features a fairly self-contained S.H.I.E.L.D. mission undertaken by Captain America and Black Widow in Brooklyn.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Set two years after the Battle of New York, Captain America is now a full-fledged S.H.I.E.L.D. operative. His old friend, Bucky Barnes, is revealed to have survived his apparent death in The First Avenger, while a long-running HYDRA plot to infiltrate the organization is finally unveiled. The events of the film all but destroy S.H.I.E.L.D., and its former members scatter. Nick Fury goes underground, Maria Hill takes up work at Stark Industries (while secretly feeding intel to Fury), while Cap and Black Widow decide to focus on the Avengers. The film also features the debut of Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, who would later go on to become a full-fledged member of the Avengers as well.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 1, Episodes: Turn, Turn, Turn – Beginning of the End)
The first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. closes out with the aftermath of The Winter Soldier, as Coulson’s team struggles to deal with HYDRA betrayals, and the end of the organization they work for.
Avengers: Operation Hydra
This comic one-shot follows the beginnings of the Avengers’ anti-HYDRA operations following the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude
Part of this comic book storyline takes place an undetermined amount of time in the past, as Thanos recruits Gamora and Nebula, training them to become his personal assassins. Years later, Thanos is on the trail of the Orb, sending Gamora, Nebula, and Kree allies led by Korath to track down a lead. Meanwhile, Rocket and Groot get up to some criminal shenanigans on a space station known as the Hub.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Galaxy’s Most Wanted
This comic features one of Rocket and Groot’s adventures on the Hub, and is otherwise pretty self-contained.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy opens up the MCU’s cosmic side in a huge way, with the introduction of planets, aliens, and technology far beyond anything we saw in the Nine Realms of the Thor movies. It also introduces a brand new team, the Guardians, who will play a big role in Infinity War. The film’s specific placement in the timeline isn’t incredibly important, but Thanos’s big role in the story is critical to the overall narrative, as is the introduction of a new Infinity Stone: the Power Stone contained in the Orb. For now, the Orb is being held in a secure facility on Xandar, protected by the Nova Corps.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
While technically a part of Phase Three, the second Guardians film takes place just a couple of months after the first one, placing it ahead of the start of that phase: Captain America: Civil War. The story is relatively self-contained, adding a new member to the Guardians team, and expanding that side of the universe a bit more with teases to Adam Warlock, and other Ravager factions.
Daredevil (Season 1)
The first of many MCU shows on Netflix, Daredevil takes place roughly two years after the Battle of New York from The Avengers. It does a lot to build out the setting of its own small corner of the universe, but like the rest of the Netflix series that followed, it’s more or less completely absent from the movie side of things. Still, there’s no shortage of links to other MCU stories, including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Incredible Hulk.
Jessica Jones (Comic)
This one-shot comic takes place roughly concurrently with Daredevil Season 1. After Turk Barrett is hospitalized following his encounter with the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, he’s visited by Jessica Jones who was hired to collect his missing child support payments.
Thanks to some of our very observant readers, we’ve pegged this show as taking place in early 2015, starting in winter. That means it takes place either during or just after the events of Daredevil. Alongside the rest of the Netflix stories, there’s a ton of interconnectivity with each other, but not much when it comes to the movies.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 2, Episodes: Shadows – The Dirty Half Dozen)
Following the HYDRA plot to take over S.H.I.E.L.D., the former agents are operating on their own. This batch of episodes is notable for introducing the concept of Inhumans to the MCU, although there’s surprisingly little of a connection to the eventual Inhumans TV series. The episode “The Dirty Half Dozen” in particular provides a big lead-in to the next film, Age of Ultron, with Phil Coulson providing Maria Hill with the intel that leads to the Avengers’ raid on the Sokovian HYDRA base.
Avengers: Age of Ultron Prelude – This Scepter’d Isle
This comic explores how Loki’s scepter fell into HYDRA’s hands, and was eventually moved to Wolfgang von Strucker’s base in Sokovia.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Tony Stark plays with fire and everyone gets burnt as the team confronts the rogue AI Ultron, brought to “life” through the power of the Mind Stone. The Mind Stone is eventually used to create Vision, who joins the team alongside Wanda Maximoff, and Ultron is defeated. In the aftermath, the Avengers form a permanent base of operations, staffed by Maria Hill, Dr. Helen Cho, and Dr. Erik Selvig. Thor departs Earth though in search of more Infinity Stones, leading to his absence during the events of Civil War. Black Panther’s appearance in that story is also teased though, through the introduction of arms dealer Ulysses Klaue, while Thanos makes another appearance in the mid-credits scene, preparing to go after the Infinity Stones himself.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 2, Episodes: Scars – S.O.S. Part Two)
The remaining episodes of Season 2 deal with some of the Age of Ultron fallout, including the reveal of where the Helicarrier used in the climactic battle came from. For his role in the Sokovian evacuation, Coulson is reinstated as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. The season also tackles the culmination of the Inhumans arc. Terrigen Crystals, the substance that activates the dormant powers of Inhumans, are inadvertently exposed to the public through contaminated fish oil pills.
WHiH Newsfront (July 2015)
This is the first installment of WHiH Newsfront, a series of videos released on YouTube that act as clips from the in-universe news show of the same name. The show is hosted by Christine Everhart (a reporter who previously appeared in both Iron Man 1 and 2). This batch of four “episodes” discuss the fallout from the Battle of Sokovia, the release of Scott Lang from prison, and an interview with Darren Cross, CEO of Cross Technologies.
Captain America: Road to War
This comic is set between Age of Ultron and Civil War, and follows Captain America and Black Widow as they train their new Avengers recruits (Scarlet Witch, Vision, Falcon, and War Machine). The team confronts Ultimo, a giant robot built by HYDRA from Ultron tech recovered from Sokovia.
Ant-Man is set shortly after Age of Ultron, and references that story a few times, including a visit to the new Avengers base. The film of course introduces the current Ant-Man himself, Scott Lang, who will later become an ally of Captain America. In an introductory flashback sequence, we also see a younger Hank Pym during his time a S.H.I.E.L.D. consultant, alongside appearances by Howard Stark and Peggy Carter, the heads of S.H.I.E.L.D. at that time. In a smaller, but still interesting connection, we also see brief cameos from both HYDRA and Ten Rings operatives.
Daredevil (Season 2)
Daredevil‘s second season greatly expands the mythology behind the Hand and its machinations in New York City, and also introduces the MCU’s Punisher. Aside from the usual interconnectivity with the rest of the Netflix shows, the season also features a small tie to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. via the Dogs of Hell motorcycle gang, and an appearance by the Roxxon Energy Corporation, which has appeared throughout the MCU.
The timeline of the Netflix shows can get a little bit murky, but Luke Cage definitely takes place after the events of Jessica Jones, and at least part of it plays out concurrently with Daredevil Season 2. In terms of connectivity, there’s a quick reference to the Battle of New York, and tech developed by Hammer Industries, the company formerly run by Iron Man 2‘s Justin Hammer.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 3, Episodes: Laws of Nature – Failed Experiments)
The bulk of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 is fairly self-contained, and mainly deals with the fallout from the Terrigen-tained fish oil pills that have led to a new wave of Inhumans. Phil Coulson begins recruiting some of these newly powered individuals, forming a team known as the Secret Warriors.
Captain America: Civil War Prelude Infinite Comic
This comic book lead-in to Civil War expands a bit on a few of the scenes we saw towards the end of The Winter Soldier, including where Bucky went after the fight at the Triskelion, and Brock Rumlow’s escape from the hospital a few months later. On the trail of the Winter Soldier, the Avengers inadvertently track down Rumlow in Nigeria, who is now going by the codename “Crossbones.”
WHiH Newsfront (April – May 2016)
Three more episodes of WHiH Newsfront, again hosted by Christine Everhart, discuss the collateral damage various Avengers operations have caused, and if they should be held accountable by the US government. It also brings back President Ellis, who discusses the nomination of Thaddeus Ross for Secretary of State. The final episode of the show actually takes place shortly into the events of Civil War, reporting “live” from Lagos after the Avengers’ operation there.
Phase 3: Infinity War
Captain America: Civil War
The bulk of the third Captain America film takes place sometime after the events of Ant-Man, and centers around the Sokovia Accords, legislation that would make the Avengers accountable to the United Nations. This, alongside a plot hatched by Helmut Zemo, whose family was killed in Sokovia, tears the Avengers into two factions led by Captain America and Tony Stark. Alongside a huge cast of returning team members, the film also includes the first appearance of Peter Parker as Spider-Man, a connection back to The Incredible Hulk with the reintroduction of Thaddeus Ross (who has left the military to serve as the U.S. Secretary of State), and the official introduction of Wakanda (it was teased as far back as Iron Man 2) and its soon-to-be ruler T’Challa, aka Black Panther.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 3, Episodes: Emancipation – Ascension)
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. picks up again after the signing of the Sokovia Accords, with a disagreement brewing over whether Inhumans should have to be registered. Outside of that connection, the final episodes of Season 3 mostly deal with the team’s fight against Hive, a powerful and ancient Inhuman with ties to the predecessor of HYDRA. By the end of the season, the Hive threat has been ended, and Daisy Johnson (aka Quake) has left the team to strike out on her own.
Avengers: Infinity War – The Heroes’ Journey
This junior novel features a series of vignettes, set after Civil War and in the lead-up to the events of Avengers: Infinity War.
Avengers: Infinity War Prelude (Part 1)
The Infinity War prelude comic is set in the weeks following the end of Civil War. It chronicles Captain America freeing his team from imprisonment on the Raft, Clint Barton and Scott Lang returning home, Shuri treating Bucky Barnes in Wakanda, and Cap continuing his global vigilante efforts.
Black Panther takes place shortly after the events of Civil War, with T’Challa returning home to Wakanda to take up the throne after his father’s death (a big thanks to Disqus commenter Kiki Fogg for the correction!). By the end of it, T’Challa has opened up Wakanda’s borders, ending a centuries-long policy of isolationism. The movie’s second stinger scene also reveals that Bucky Barnes is still recovering in Wakanda, and appears to be in much better health after the treatment he was undergoing in Civil War and the Infinity War Prelude comic.
Doctor Strange Prelude
Kaecilius, Wong, Tina Minoru, and Daniel Drumm track down a stolen magical artifact in London and bring it back to the Sanctum Sanctorum. Meanwhile, Mordo and the Ancient One confront a Chinese criminal organization called the Dragon Raiders, who are using a powerful artifact called the Arrow of Apollon.
Marvel’s Doctor Strange Prelude Infinite Comic – The Zealot
This short one-shot comic follows Kaecilius before the events of Doctor Strange.
Doctor Strange actually begins prior to the events of Civil War, but the bulk of the story takes place after. It follows Stephen Strange (previously referenced by name in The Winter Soldier) on his journey from surgeon to Sorcerer Supreme. The film introduces a new “mystical” side to the MCU, including the “Sanctums” that protect the Earth from inter-dimensional threats.
Doctor Strange: Mystic Apprentice
This comic one-shot takes place during the events of Doctor Strange, while Stephen Strange is training in Kamar-Taj.
This story relies heavily on the groundwork set by The Avengers, with Adrian Toomes (aka Vulture) choosing a life of high-tech crime after his salvage company is bankrupted following the Battle of New York. Peter Parker, originally recruited by Tony Stark during Civil War, stops a plot by Toomes to hijack a Stark Industries plane carrying equipment from Avengers Tower to the team’s new headquarters. This one has a ton of MCU connections, both big and small, including a little cameo from Captain America. The film also features the first appearance of the Department of Damage Control, an organization that was going to be the focus of a new MCU TV show announced in 2015 (and has since apparently fizzled out).
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot
This 6-episode webseries follows Elena “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez as she undertakes a S.H.I.E.L.D. assignment. Aside from the obvious connections to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the series also features the Sokovia Accords in a pretty substantial way.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 4)
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s fourth season expands the universe in some very interesting ways, but for the most part, stays well clear of the movie side of things. Instead, we get an interesting connection to Agent Carter, with the reveal that Momentum Energy Labs’ roots as Isodyne Energy (both owned by Roxxon, which has made many, many MCU appearances). There aren’t any overt connections to Guardians Vol. 2, but in terms of Doctor Strange, the season introduces Ghost Rider and explores his supernatural, magical origins. That character is last seen departing through a portal that looks quite similar to the ones that Strange uses.
Iron Fist Viral Videos
Ahead of the release of Iron Fist, Netflix released two short videos set in the MCU. The first is a New York Bulletin special report featuring Joy and Ward Meachum. The second is a commercial for Colleen Wing’s dojo.
The final piece of the Netflix puzzle before The Defenders arrived, Iron Fist doesn’t have much in the way of MCU movie connections, but it’s deeply rooted in the worldbuilding established by previous seasons of the Netflix shows.
In the proud tradition of the Avengers, The Defenders provides a big culmination for the storylines and characters established in the previous four Netflix series. There’s again a small reference to The Avengers, but for the most part, this one focuses on its own corner of the world, in particular the Hand introduced in Daredevil, and the mythical dragons introduced in Iron Fist.
It’s not entirely clear when exactly the latest Netflix show takes place. However, a hint from actress Deborah Ann Woll who plays Karen Page seems to imply that it takes place shortly after the end of The Defenders, with Matt Murdock still missing.
Despite the Inhumans playing a big role on previous seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the actual Inhumans TV series doesn’t make much of a connection to the larger MCU. The alien writing and Terrigen crystals from S.H.I.E.L.D. are consistent, but outside of that, Inhumans is really far removed from anything else in this universe. Chronologically, I’m basically only placing it here given Marvel’s general tendency to move the timeline forward with each new release, but there’s not much in the actual series that concretely dates it.
The newest MCU TV series marks their first collaboration with Hulu. While it’s technically an MCU story, the show is intentionally disconnected from the larger universe, and so far, hasn’t made any big links outside of its own story. The one small, and extremely tenuous, connection is the character Tina Minoru, who also appears in the Doctor Strange Prelude as the Master of the Hong Kong Sanctum That seems to contradict the character we see in the TV show, and to make things even messier, Minoru actually appears in Doctor Strange, although she’s only identified by name in the credits. Before you try and wrap your head around all that, it’s worth reminding ourselves again that the comics are soft canon at best, and maybe we can assume, the credits of a movie are as well.
Jessica Jones (Season 2)
The second season of Jessica Jones takes place after The Defenders. Rachael Taylor, who plays Trish Walker on the show, has stated that the new episode stake place about six months to a year since that team-up event.
Avengers: Infinity War Prelude (Part 2)
The second half of the Infinity War tie-in comic takes place during the events of Ragnarok. It focuses on Doctor Strange learning about the existence of Infinity Stones, and hints that the still unaccounted for Soul Stone may be the most powerful of them all.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 5, Episodes: Orientation Part 1 – The One Who Will Save Us All)
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s fifth and current season opens with the team waking up on a mysterious space station that’s somehow nearly a century old. The first major MCU connection is the reappearance of the Kree, an alien species that has played a prominent role in previous seasons of the show, as well as in Guardians of the Galaxy. Episode 20, “The One Who Will Save Us All,” takes us right up to the events of Infinity War, with Thanos’s attack on Earth being referenced directly.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Most of Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place about two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War.
Two years after Thor’s journey began with his departure from Earth in Age of Ultron, he’s found himself in Muspelheim, kicking off an adventure that takes him from Asgard, back to Earth, and eventually to the planet Sakaar (we’ve previously seen Sakaarans in Guardians of the Galaxy, but this is the first appearance of the planet proper). There’s a ton of MCU connections in this one, including an appearance by Doctor Strange (first teased at the end of that movie), and the reemergence of the Hulk, who went missing after Age of Ultron.
The Cosmic Quest Volume One: Beginning
This novel follows the Collector as he rebuilds his collection following the events of Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s visited by his brother, the Grandmaster, who has likewise faced some recent setbacks. As stated up top, the canon status of this book (along with the rest of the “Road to Avengers: Infinity War” line) is very uncertain. For what it’s worth though, the author has stated that this story is canon.
Avengers: Infinity War
The “beginning of the end” starts just moments after the mid-credits stinger of Thor: Ragnarok.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 5, Episodes: The Force of Gravity – The End)
The episode, “The Force of Gravity,” takes place concurrently with the events of Infinity War.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (Stinger)
The post-credits scenes for Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place concurrently with the end of Avengers: Infinity War.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe never stops expanding, and with the culmination of Phase Three next year, there’s still a whole slate of planned projects to look forward to.
Cloak & Dagger
This upcoming Freeform TV series follows two teenagers who find out they have superpowers, and will be set in and around New Orleans, a region of the US that hasn’t been much explored in the MCU so far. So far, we know of at least one small connection back to the larger universe: the ever-ubiquitous Roxxon Energy Corporation makes an appearance in the trailer. The 10 episode series will premiere on June 7, 2018.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
This follow-up to Ant-Man will finally have Hope van Dyne suiting as the Wasp, and will further explore the “Quantum Realm” introduced in the first film. Its placement in between the two installments of Infinity War is certainly interesting, and one has to wonder how much of an impact it will have on the larger narrative going into that final installment of Phase Three. The film will hit theaters on July 6, 2018. You can watch the first trailer here.
Thanos: Titan Consumed
This novel will focus on Thanos’s life before becoming the Mad Titan. It apparently isn’t canon, however another novel from the “Road to Avengers: Infinity War” line might be, so things are a little unclear at this point. It will be released on November 20, 2018.
The Cosmic Quest: Volume Two
This novel will follow Dr. Erik Selvig as he researches the Infinity Stones. It will be released on November 20, 2018.
A planned Freeform TV series titled New Warriors is currently slated for 2018, and will introduce Squirrel Girl and Mister Immortal to the MCU. It is tentatively planned for a 2018 premiere.
Daredevil (Season 3)
The third season of Daredevil has been confirmed for a 2018 release window.
Luke Cage (Season 2)
The second season of Luke Cage is expected to arrive sometime in 2018.
Iron Fist (Season 2)
The second season of Iron Fist is expected to arrive sometime in 2018.
In a surprising twist, the final film before Avengers 4 closes Phrase Three will actually be set quite a while before it, taking place in the 1990’s and introducing Carol Danvers as the titular heroine. It will also feature a two-eyed Nick Fury, and will bring the alien Skrulls into the MCU. One has to imagine that Danvers will make an appearance in Avengers 4, so expect to see some kind of modern era “bookending” in the film proper or in the credits. Captain Marvel is currently scheduled for March 8, 2019.
Previously referred to as “Infinity War Part 2,” the currently untitled final film of Phase Three will wrap up the Thanos storyline, paving the way for a brand new era of the MCU. Beyond it, we have at least a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming and a new Guardians of the Galaxy, alongside a long-rumored Black Widow movie. The final film of the Thanos arc will hit theaters on May 3, 2019.