Warning: Spoilers from Captain Marvel are ahead.
With so many characters and decades spanning the Marvel Cinematic Universe, sometimes it can be difficult to figure out where each film falls on the timeline (especially with all the time travel in X-Men). Captain Marvel adds another complex layer to the superhero world. Captain Marvel’s (Brie Larson) standalone origin film takes places in the ‘90s, but when Carol Danvers shows up in Avengers: Endgame, the date will be closer to present day. To help eliminate some confusion, we’ve broken down the order of Marvel movies before and after Captain Marvel. Her appearance explains multiple unknowns in the MCU. Turns out, we have been awaiting her arrival much longer than we thought.
The basic premise of Captain Marvel is that she travels from planet Kree-Lar, home of the Kree people, to Earth and tries to piece together the parts of her past that she cannot remember while working with Nick Fury. When Captain Marvel arrives on Earth, it is clear she has entered the grunge decade. From the Blockbuster and Radioshack stores to the payphones and flannel tied around waists, the latest Marvel movie will definitely have you feeling nostalgic. But, Captain Marvel is not the first Marvel film to occur predominantly in the past. In fact, here's the order of Marvel movies, now that we know so much more:
1. Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The First Avenger, which was released in 2011, is the first entry on the MCU timeline. Captain America, of course portrayed by the brilliant Chris Evans, gains his superhuman strength in 1942. At the end of the film, he crash lands his plane and is frozen for nearly 70 years. He wakes up in the present, 2011 at the time, and is approached by Nick Fury and the government organization S.H.I.E.L.D.
2. Captain Marvel
Since Captain Marvel is the only other period film, is it the next entry on the timeline. In the flick, we see Fury in the earlier days of his work with S.H.I.E.L.D.
3. Iron Man
The first MCU movie and our introduction to the one and only Tony Stark.
4. The Incredible Hulk
We just pretend there wasn't a time when Bruce Banner wasn't played by Mark Ruffalo. (Sorry, Edward Norton.)
5. Iron Man 2
This film was released in 2010 but takes place in 2011, is when Fury first recruits Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) to work with the Avengers.
The first time we meet Chris Hemsworth's Thor also delivers a post-credits scene introduces Loki to the Tesseract. Which pretty much connects everything.
7. The Avengers
This 2012 movie marks the first time Nick Fury gets his fighter force, inspired by Carol Danvers, officially assembled.
8. Iron Man 3
Tony Stark loses everything in this movie. It's also known at the point in the MCU timeline when things got dark.
9. Thor: The Dark World
The darkness continues in this Thor sequel, which finds the Asgardian watching his brother Loki die. (For the first time.)
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Things get even more dire when Cap is forced to face his best friend, Bucky, who's been turned against him as The Winter Soldier.
11 & 12. Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 1 & 2
Ronan and Korath, who also appear in Captain Marvel, are the main villains in Guardians of the Galaxy, which was released in 2014 and occured in 2014. Another important connection introduced in these movies? Thanos, who just happens to the father of the greenest Guardian, Gamora.
13. Avengers: Age Of Ultron
In case you thought these movies were kidding with all this death and destruction, the Avengers are forced to confront the cost of busting up bad guys for the greater good in this one.
A temporary moment of comic relief starring Michael Peña and Paul Rudd precedes the point of no return in the Marvel movie timeline...
15. Captain America: Civil War
The devastating Captain America sequel gives Ant-Man a reason to join the fray. It also completely divides The Avengers into Team Cap and Team Iron Man when the two take opposing sides of the debate over regulating superheroes, which changes the entire future of the MCU.
16. Doctor Strange
The keeper of the time stone (and the guy who utters the line in Avengers: Infinity War that became the title for its sequel — "We're in the endgame now") first learns how to manipulate time and space in this 2016 movie.
17. Spider-Man: Homecoming
This movie may be distributed by Sony Pictures, but it's still canon: Here teen Spider-Man, who we first met in Civil War, gets to come into his own (Well, mostly. He is still in high school.).
18. Thor: Ragnarok
This movie serves up Thor's Infinity War challenges by seeing Loki take the Tesseract (the thing Thanos comes for in Infinity War) and by destroying Thor's hammer at the hands of his sister Hela.
19. Black Panther
This smash hit which introduced us not only to T'Challa (Black Panther), but his genius scientist sister Shuri, was the amuse-bouche to Avengers: Infinity War, just like Captain Marvel is for Avengers: Endgame. But chronologically, there is a little something that happens between this movie and the end of Infinity War.
20. Ant-Man & The Wasp
Technically this movie is happening right up until the events of Infinity War. Ant-Man never shows up to help his friends out, and this movie helps to explain why.
21. Avengers: Infinity War
That brings us to the most recent, and devastating, Marvel entry: Avengers: Infinity War, which came out in 2018 but technically occurs in 2017. Captain Marvel does not appear in Avengers: Infinity War but her logo does pop up on a pager Fury uses before he disappears.
22. Avengers: Endgame
The end credits in Captain Marvel suggest Carol Danvers will arrive to save the day in Avengers: Endgame by bringing her to Avengers HQ with Rhodey, Black Widow, & Cap.
So Why Put Captain Marvel So Far Back?
When explaining why Captain Marvel’s story is set the past at the world premiere of the film, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said, “It was something we hadn’t done before. We wanted to explore this section of the MCU.” He added, “We also wanted Carol to have her origin all to herself. We wanted to have this section of the MCU, this Kree-Skrull war from the comics which we hadn’t touched on at all, up until this point, to have this entire section of the universe for her to inhabit before coming in and joining the rest of the team.”
While the ‘90s angle gives audiences a chance to reminisce about the past, it also makes Captain Marvel’s role in the Avengers mean so much more important and doubles as a mini backstory for Fury. Although Captain America’s story begins in the 1940s and he is “technically” the first Avenger, he does not interact with the man behind the superhero squad, Fury, until 2011. Captain Marvel has the distinction of not only being the first person to meet Fury and inspire him to form the superteam, but she is also the person who informs him about threats outside of Earth.
Avengers: Endgame will indicate the end of the era as it will be the last time many of the superheroes work together. With Captain Marvel’s nearly 20 year absence from Earth, her return brings potential for new villains and heroes that she battled during that time to enter the MCU.
Basically, Captain Marvel being set in the '90s allows the MCU timeline to expand forwards and backwards. Which means she is ushering in a new Marvel era.