There never used to be so much focus on the timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but then Spider-Man: Homecoming came along and threw a wrench into the works with an "8 years later" title card. Since then, fans have been trying to make what sense they can of the timeline. But now Marvel Studios has stepped in to end the debate by releasing an official timeline of the MCU.
1943-1945: Captain America: The First Avenger
2010: Iron Man
2011: Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor
2012: The Avengers, Iron Man 3
2013: Thor: The Dark World
2014: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
2015: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man
2016: Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming
2016 through to 2017: Doctor Strange
2017: Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War
Prior to Spider-Man: Homecoming, it was accepted that the MCU films take place in "real time." For example, The Avengers was released in 2012, so the events of the film take place in 2012. Pretty simple, right? Well, it was -- until Homecoming, which was released in 2017, said that The Avengers took place eight years prior, meaning either The Avengers happened in 2009 or Homecoming was in 2020.
Director Joe Russo himself said that the time jump was "highly incorrect," and Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige promised they would release an official timeline clearing this up soon. That time is now, because the timeline was released as part of the Marvel Studios: The First 10 Years sourcebook (via ScreenRant). The timeline contains all the films up to Avengers: Infinity War and reveals the year each took place.
The gesture is much appreciated, but this doesn't really clear things up. Everything checks out once we get to 2017, and then things get screwy. The timeline says Black Panther takes place a year after Captain America: Civil War...but Black Panther is set one week after Civil War. That film deals with the fallout from T'Chaka's death and T'Challa assuming the throne, which I don't think people usually wait a full year to do.
On top of that, Tony Stark explicitly says that The Battle of New York has been on his mind for the past six years. If Infinity War is set in 2017, then The Avengers was in 2011, contradicting the timeline. Infinity War immediately following Thor: Ragnarok makes sense, so then shouldn't Ragnarok have been in 2018? Well, there's another contradiction because Bruce Banner has been Hulk for two years straight at that point, which wouldn't work if Ragnarok was in 2018.
The MCU is an increasingly growing network of films with continuity, and it's only natural that specific details like this get muddled or lost in translation. Does it impact the enjoyment of movies at all? Absolutely not, but it's one more thing to obsess over.
Let's see if Avengers 4 throws it further out of whack when it hits theaters on May 3, 2019.