In 2018, Marvel Studios released a book titled 'The First 10 Years' which includes a timeline of when each of the MCU films is supposedly set after fans called for clarification on the matter due to several inconsistencies in the films themselves. But with 21 movies now released in the MCU, it's always been a complex matter in specifying exactly when each film is set.
However, the book doesn't clear up every blunder made in the timeline so this list will be an approximation rather than clear fact.
For the most part, films in the MCU are set in the year they release. However, there are a few outliers in the huge series of blockbuster movies that are set years or even decades apart from the film's actual release date, that's where we'll start.
Cap's first adventure as a superhero takes place during the latter years of WWII, with the climax of the film resulting in the patriotic superhero being frozen in ice for nearly 70 years and ends with him waking up in 2011 America, ready for his appearance in 2012's Avengers.
According to Marvel's 10-year guidebook, Iron Man - which was released in 2008 - was apparently set in 2010. However, in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, Vision mentions in conversation that Tony Stark revealed himself as Iron Man eight years ago, which would make it 2008, told you it gets confusing.
Despite releasing in 2008, the Incredible Hulk, starring Edward Norton as Bruce Banner rather than Mark Ruffalo, is supposedly set in 2011. That's all well and good but due to the recasting of Bruce Banner in later films, this movie is sometimes disregarded by certain MCU followers.
The second Iron Man film was released in 2010 but that didn't stop Marvel claiming the film is actually set in 2011.
The first film we come to on this list that's actually set in the year of its release. According to the First 10 Years book, the Hulk, Iron Man 2 and Thor movies all took place at roughly the same time as each other.
Being such a seismic event, not only in the MCU but in cinematic history, it's for the best that the first Avengers film is set in the year of its release.
The third Iron Man film focuses heavily on Tony Stark's PTSD from the horrific events of the previous film. So despite its 2013, the 2012 setting of Iron Man 3 makes sense.
Being set in outer space, it's a difficult task to place just where the Guardians movies sit in the MCU timeline.
But according to their First 10 Years book, Marvel believes that both 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy and 2017's Vol. 2 are both set months apart in 2014.
That does make a degree of sense actually as Baby Groot would have grown much larger if the film was set in the year of its release.
Both of 2015's MCU movies are both set, thankfully, in the year of release.
Once again, this makes sense as Ant-Man features a segment set at the new Avengers HQ after Stark Tower is compromised in Age of Ultron.
As mentioned earlier, Civil War is responsible for a gaff relating to the first Iron Man movie but the third Captain America film itself is set in the year of its release, aside from a small flashback scene at the start that's set in 1991.
As we all know, the first Avengers movie was set in 2012 and that's where Spider-Man opens, with Michael Keaton's character helping with the clean-up operation after the invasion of New York. However, when the film flashes forward to its main setting, it says '8 years later' which would set the film in 2020, which just messes up the whole timeline. It's surprising that such a well thought out entity like the MCU would allow for a mistake like that. Unless it was actually intentional?
Huge timeline error aside, Spider-Man: Homecoming is actually set directly after the events of Captain America: Civil War in 2016.
While Doctor Strange may start in 2016, it ends in 2017 as Stephen Strange undergoes months of training to become the master of the mystic arts we all know in Avengers: Infinity War.
As half of the world's population hasn't been wiped out yet in Ant-Man and the Wasp it's safe to say that Thanos hasn't yet unleashed his evil plan. However, the very last scene of the film confirms that Ant-Man took place at the exact same time as Infinity War, leaving an intriguing cliff-hanger to be picked up in Endgame.
As Thor: Ragnarok ends with the sighting of Thanos's warship and Infinity War begins with the aftermath of the attack that followed, it's safe to say that, despite its 2018 release, Infinity War actually takes place in 2017 as well.
And there we go, we're all caught up.
Chances are, 2019's Avengers: Endgame will begin in the immediate aftermath of Infinity War but we'll just have to wait and see where the plot of that film takes us.
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