Ever since Nick Fury appeared in Tony Stark’s mansion eight years ago, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has exploded into a web of events that spans 13 movies and five TV series, with several more tales in the works. As Marvel fans count down to the release of “Doctor Strange,” here’s a running chronological timeline of all the major events in the MCU.
When the universe was created with the Big Bang, six powerful Infinity Stones were created: Space, Mind, Reality, Power, Soul, and Time.
At the dawn of mankind, an alien race called the Kree arrived on Earth and gave certain humans genetic enhancements that would grand them special powers. These special humans would become known as Inhumans
A powerful Inhuman named Alveus overpowers the Kree and banishes them from the Earth to end their plans. However, Alveus soon becomes mad with power, resulting in his fellow Inhumans banishing him from the planet.
The few that followed Alveus come to worship him as a deity called Hive, whom they hope will return to Earth and rule the planet. This cult of Hive followers becomes known as HYDRA.
965 AD: Odin, King of Asgard, prevents the Frost Giants of Jotunheim from conquering Earth. After the battle, he adopts the Frost Giants’ prince, Loki.
1934: HYDRA member Johann Schmidt convinces the Nazi High Command to allow HYDRA to conduct research and develop weapons for the Third Reich. Schmidt captures scientist Abraham Erskine and forces him to continue work on a super-soldier serum for the Nazis.
1940: Schmidt injects himself with a prototype of Erskine’s serum, which gives him powers but transforms him into the disfigured villain Red Skull. Fortunately for Erskine, he is rescued by British secret agent Peggy Carter, who invites Erskine to continue his work on the serum in America with Howard Stark, famed inventor and founder of Stark Industries.
1943: Erskine recruits Steve Rogers into his project and uses his serum to successfully transform Rogers into Captain America before being killed by a HYDRA agent. Captain America quickly becomes a major figure in World War II, rescuing his friend Bucky Barnes and several other American soldiers from a HYDRA facility.
1945: Captain America and his team successfully capture HYDRA scientist Arnim Zola, but Bucky Barnes is presumably killed in the operation. Two months later, Captain America thwarts Red Skull’s plan to bomb the U.S. by crashing Red Skull’s bomber plane into Greenland, where he was frozen for 66 years. Howard Stark recovers the object that was the key to Red Skull’s plans, the Tesseract, which is one of the six Infinity Stones.
1948: After several years of field work, Agent Carter receives an offer from Howard Stark to create the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, also known as SHIELD.
1949: Armin Zola is released from prison seemingly reformed and joins SHIELD. However, he devises Project Insight, a plan to rebuild HYDRA with sleeper agents that would take over SHIELD from within. As part of his plan, he recovers Bucky Barnes’ body and keeps him in cryostasis, aiming to turn him into a super weapon for HYDRA known as The Winter Soldier.
1960s: The Winter Soldier is regularly taken out of stasis to perform covert operations for HYDRA, including the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
1984: SHIELD scientist Hank Pym invents a suit that allows him to shrink to an insect’s size and an EMP communication device that allows him to command ants. He becomes known as Ant-Man, while his wife, Janet, makes a suit of her own and becomes The Wasp. The two embark on covert SHIELD operations against HYDRA.
1987: During a mission to disarm a Soviet ballistic missile, The Wasp shrinks small enough to enter the missile and disarm it. However, this assumedly kills her, as it is impossible to return to normal size when one shrinks to the subatomic level. Hank hangs up his Ant-Man suit and later resigns from SHIELD after he discovers the organization is trying to replicate his technology.
1988: Following the death of his mother, Peter Quill, who would soon be known as Star-Lord, is abducted by the Ravagers, who were sent to Earth to take him for unknown reasons.
1991: Under HYDRA’s control, The Winter Soldier kills Howard Stark and his wife, making the death look like a car accident. Howard’s son, Tony Stark, inherits Stark Industries.
1993: A young boy named Matt Murdock saves an elderly man from being hit by a truck, but the truck crashes and splashes hazardous chemicals on Murdock’s eyes. The chemicals blind him but heighten the rest of his senses. A few months later, Murdock’s father is killed after refusing to throw a fight for the mafia.
1998: Natasha Romanoff completes her training at the ruthless KGB training facility, the Red Room. Given the code name Black Widow, she becomes a top name on SHIELD’s hit list. SHIELD Agent Clint “Hawkeye” Barton is sent to kill Black Widow, but he instead makes her an offer to defect to SHIELD, which she accepts.
1999: Jessica Jones survives a car crash that kills her family and gives her superhuman abilities. Her family’s car collided with a truck that had the same chemicals that blinded Matt Murdock.
2005: Dr. Bruce Banner joins a government project to recreate Abraham Erskine’s super-soldier formula. When he begins experimenting on himself, a gamma radiation accident turns him into The Hulk. Banner goes on the run looking for a cure.
2009: SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson is appointed the head of Project TAHITI, which aims to save people who are mortally wounded. Test subjects on agents with terminal illnesses caused them to behave erratically. Coulson resigns from the project and moves on to monitor future members of the Avengers.
2010: Tony Stark is attacked and captured in Afghanistan. A fellow captive scientist named Yensin creates a device that keeps his heart functioning. Stark eventually escapes and becomes Iron Man.
Upon his return, Stark defeats his father’s business partner, Obadiah Stane, who was responsible for Stark’s capture. Afterwards, Stark reveals to the public that he is Iron Man and gets an offer from SHIELD Director Nick Fury to join the Avengers Initiative.
2011: Tony Stark becomes a worldwide celebrity for his exploits as Iron Man, but discovers that the element powering the Arc Reactor that keeps his heart beating is slowly killing him. After getting drunk out of despair of failing to find a way to fix the reactor, Stark is subdued by his friend, James Rhodes, who took one of his prototype suits. Rhodes then brings the prototype suit to the military to be upgraded into a new suit called War Machine.
May 29-June 4, 2011: A series of events known as “Nick Fury’s Busy Week” advances the MCU towards the creation of the Avengers. All the climactic events from “Iron Man 2,” “Thor,” and “The Incredible Hulk” play out in this week, including the following:
Mjolnir lands on Earth, along with Thor, who has been banished from Asgard by Odin. After bonding with Jane Foster and Eric Selvig, Thor regains his powers and stops Loki’s plans to destroy Jotunheim. SHIELD learns of Thor’s existence and brings Selvig on to research the Tesseract, which came into SHIELD’s possession after the death of Howard Stark.
Iron Man defeats Ivan Vanko, the son of Howard Stark’s former business partner, with the help of Black Widow and War Machine.
After being discovered in South America, Bruce Banner returns to New York. Unfortunately, his hopes of finding a cure and remaining secret are both dashed when he is forced to turn into the Hulk after the military attempts to apprehend him.
April 2012: Captain America is discovered frozen in the ice, with Erskine’s serum keeping him alive and preserved. He is awakened by SHIELD and discovers that he has been asleep for 66 years.
May 2012: A few weeks later, Loki attacks New York in an attempt to retrieve the Tesseract and conquer Earth. In response, Nick Fury calls forth the Avengers, bringing superheroes into the public eye for the first time. Loki is defeated and sentenced to eternity in Asgard’s dungeons.
After he is killed by Loki, Agent Coulson is revived by Nick Fury using Project TAHITI. He is given false memories about his role in the Battle of New York to prevent the psychological damage that the TAHITI test subjects suffered. Coulson is then put in charge of his own special team in SHIELD.
December 2012: A traumatized Tony Stark defeats Aldritch Killian, a scientist who planned to use the Extremis virus to enact a plan that would end with the U.S. President being killed and replaced with a puppet ruler through which he could monopolize the War on Terror.
August 2013: While Hell’s Kitchen continues to rebuild after Loki’s attack, Matt Murdock decides to open up a private law office with his Columbia Law School roommate, Foggy Nelson. Meanwhile, Jessica Jones is convinced by her friend Trish to use the powers she gained in the crash that killed her family to fight crime.
Unfortunately, Jessica Jones encounters Kilgrave, who becomes enamored with her powers and takes over her mind to make her his personal slave. Kilgrave uses his powers over the next several months to force Jones to commit violent acts and have sex with him.
November 2013: After freeing Loki from his dungeon cell, Thor and his friends defend Earth from the Dark Elves, who look to take control of the Aether, one of the Infinity Stones. During the attack, Loki fakes his death and disguises himself as Odin, allowing him to take the throne of Asgard.
January 2014: Under Kilgrave’s influence, Jessica Jones kills Seagate Prison psychologist Reva Connors. Jones then is able to rebel against Kilgrave’s control, and in the confusion, Kilgrave is hit by a bus. Kilgrave recovers, but lets Jones think he died in the bus accident.
April 2014: With the help of Nick Fury, Black Widow, and his new friend Sam “Falcon” Wilson, Captain America uncovers Armin Zola’s plan to destroy SHIELD from the inside and expose the secret takeover of the organization by HYDRA. Along the way, Cap has to fight The Winter Soldier, whom he discovers is his old friend, Bucky Barnes. With Cap’s help, Bucky regains his memories.
Meanwhile, Agent Coulson and his team at SHIELD deal with the HYDRA Uprising, including the discovery that one of the team members, Grant Ward, was recruited to HYDRA several years before joining Coulson’s team. After quelling the uprising, Coulson was named the new director of SHIELD by Nick Fury.
At some point that same year, Peter Quill — now known as Star-Lord — forms the Guardians of the Galaxy with Drax, Gamora, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon. Together, they stop the vicious outlaw Ronan and retrieve one of the Infinity Stones, which they leave in the care of the Nova Corps.
January 2015: Matt Murdock decides to use his powers to become a vigilante in Hell’s Kitchen, taking on the identity of Daredevil. Around the same time, Jessica Jones starts a new career as a private investigator. In the year since breaking free of Kilgrave’s control, she has turned to alcohol to cope with the trauma.
February 2015: Daredevil confronts the kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen’s criminal underworld, Wilson Fisk.
March 2015: Jessica Jones meets Luke Cage and has a one-night stand with him, but discovers that he was Reva Connors’ husband and that he has bulletproof skin. She also discovers that Kilgrave is still alive and has recently manipulated a woman into killing her parents. She vows to find Kilgrave and kill him.
April 2015: Decorated U.S. Marine Frank Castle goes for a walk with his family in Central Park, but they are caught in a gunfight between competing mob members. Castle’s wife and daughter are killed, and Castle is hospitalized in critical condition.
That same month, Jessica Jones manages to snap Kilgrave’s neck and end his killing spree. But before that, she is forced to reveal to Luke Cage that she killed his wife. Cage leaves her and ends up under Kilgrave’s control, forcing Jones to fight him. The battle results in Cage suffering heavy brain swelling, which local nurse Claire Temple saves him from by sticking an IV through his eye to drain the fluid. Cage flees from Hell’s Kitchen and travels to Harlem.
May 2015: The Avengers inflict a major blow against HYDRA by raiding their main research lab and retrieving Loki’s Scepter, which contains an Infinity Stone. They then are forced to fight Ultron, a peacekeeping system designed by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner that turns on humanity. They defeat Ultron in the city of Sokovia, but the battle kills many humans.
After the battle, the Avengers get two new members: Wanda “Scarlet Witch” Maximoff, a telepath with scionic abilities, and Vision, an android brought to life by a mix of Iron Man’s old computer interface JARVIS, Thor’s Asgardian magic, and the Mind Stone found inside Loki’s scepter. Hulk, meanwhile, flies off to an unknown destination.
July 2015: Computer whiz and reluctant thief Scott Lang breaks into Hank Pym’s residence to get money to pay for child support. Instead, he finds Pym’s Ant-Man suit and tries it on, only to discover its capabilities. Pym convinces Lang to become the new Ant-Man. Lang agrees and takes on Pym’s former protege Darren Cross, who planned to create a copy of the Ant-Man suit called Yellowjacket and sell it to HYDRA.
December 2015: Frank Castle, furious over the death of his family in Central Park, begins ruthlessly killing criminals in New York and becomes known as The Punisher. This leads to a complicated relationship with Daredevil, as the two battle over their conflicting philosophies on crime fighting while occasionally teaming up to take on greater threats.
January 2016: The remnants of HYDRA are successful in returning their god, Hive, to Earth. Hive takes over HYDRA and plans to build an army of Inhumans to take over the Earth. Agent Coulson and SHIELD defeat Hive and, with intel provided by HYDRA’s former leader, are able to eradicate HYDRA’s core leadership and bases.
June 2016: Following their battle in Sokovia, the public begins to grow resentful of the Avengers and the destruction they leave in their wake. This leads to the signing of the Sokovia Accords, which makes the Avengers a government organization subject to regulations and oversight. The Accords lead to a schism within the Avengers, particularly between Captain America and Iron Man.
Meanwhile, Bucky Barnes reemerges after he is framed for bombing the UN summit where the Sokovia Accords were signed, a bombing that kills the president of Wakanda. The president’s son, T’Challa, assumes the identity of Black Panther and goes hunting for The Winter Soldier, while Captain American moves to protect Barnes.
Eventually, the Avengers engage in a civil war that results in War Machine suffering major spinal cord damage. In addition, all the Avengers who joined Captain America in opposing the Sokovia Accords are arrested. Stark realizes that the Avengers have been manipulated by Helmut Zemo, who wanted revenge on the Avengers after his family was killed in Sokovia.
Black Panther apprehends Helmut Zemo, but not before Zemo reveals to Iron Man that Bucky Barnes killed his parents. After a brutal fight with Iron Man, Captain America flees and breaks his teammates out of prison. He later writes a letter to Iron Man apologizing for their feud and brings Barnes to Black Panther’s base to hide away from the authorities.
Meanwhile, the world is introduced to two more heroes. Peter Parker, a teen from Queens, takes the identity of Spider-Man and gets the attention of Tony Stark. Stark gives Parker a new Spider-Man suit and upgraded web-shooters, which include a special holographic signal.
In Harlem, Luke Cage moves on from his experiences with Jessica Jones and Kilgrave and becomes an icon to the black community with his bulletproof skin and hoodie. He defeats Harlem crime lord Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes and Luke’s evil half-brother, Willis “Diamondback” Stryker. Unfortunately, Cottonmouth’s cousin, Mariah Dillard exposes that Cage is a (falsely) convicted criminal, which leads to authorities taking him back into custody.