The massive scope of the MCU has allowed Marvel Studios to create a sprawling, interconnected universe built on a shared continuity, and much like the comics the movies are based on, that means things can get pretty complicated.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn't start with Tony Stark getting kidnapped in 2008, Carol Danvers being taken to Hala in the '90s, or even with Steve Rogers volunteering for the Super Soldier program in the '40s. Instead, like most universes, this one starts at the Big Bang.
Going chronologically, the first event we see in the MCU is the creation of the Infinity Stones. As the Collector explains in Guardians of the Galaxy, they were formed from the "six singularities" that caused the universe to explode into existence, before being scattered across the universe.
That, of course, was billions of years ago, but "millions of years" before we get to the present-day MCU, Ego the Living Planet comes into existence and starts seeding worlds with his essence in an attempt to create another Celestial being like himself.
Watch the video to see the entire MCU timeline explained!
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In the beginning... | 0:13 A long, long time ago... | 1:00 Life during wartime: the 1940s | 2:32 The Silver Age: the mid 20th century | 4:00 Recent history: the late 20th century | 5:09 Meanwhile… | 6:51 Only '90s kids will remember the Kree-Skrull War: 1990s | 7:28 The Marvel Age of Cinema: 2008 | 9:20 Phase One: 2009 - 2011 | 11:09 Assembly: 2012 - 2013 | 12:38 Phase Two and aftermath: 2014 - 2016 | 14:22 Disassembled: 2015 - 2017 | 16:28 Three very different homecomings: 2017 - 2018 | 18:16 The Infinity War(s): 2018 - 2023 | 19:45