Phase 4 of the MCU has had more material than any other phase, with multiple storylines. Here’s how to watch in chronological and release order.
November has seen the conclusion of Marvel's Phase 4 with the dual releases of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. What was originally set to premiere in 2020 and conclude in 2021 was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic meaning not only was the entire phase pushed back a year but entire projects were moved around on the release schedule. This has led to some feeling this phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been lacking something the previous phases were not.
Phase 4 has been the MCU phase with the most divergent storylines, with stories taking place at different points in the timeline and some even during earlier phases. With the addition of superhero television series and Disney+ specials, there was more MCU than ever before, but that also meant there was a lot to keep up with. Here is a breakdown of Phase 4 of the MCU in chronological order; if you'd prefer to watch them in order of release, click here.
Black Widow was the first film released in Phase 4, however, the events of the film actually take place during Phase 3 between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. For anybody looking for a specific timeline, it would be directly following Captain America: Civil War and before Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
The film's after-credit scene takes place in the present MCU, with Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine recruiting Yelena Belova at Natasha's grave site, giving her a primer on Hawkeye setting up her involvement in that series.
Loki follows the variant of the trickster god that escaped during the events of Avengers: Endgame, meaning the series starts during the events of Avengers: Endgame. While Loki's location in the TVA (Time Variance Authority) means time is relative, the season one showdown with Loki and Sylvie against He Who Remains indicates this kicks off much of the issues with Phase 4.
With He Who Remains dead, the sacred timeline starts to branch off with many multiverses being born. It also sets the stage for Kang the Conqueror, who will be the primary villain of the Multiverse Saga the same way Thanos was for the Infinity Saga. Loki is the series that truly kicks off the Multiverse Saga.
While an animated project, What If…? features the involvement of many MCU actors and its visuals in the opening title is close to the various timelines in Loki. This means that the events of What If…? and infinite possibilities open up because of what happens in Loki, placing the animated series next in the timeline. It is not directly connected to the main storyline of the MCU but shows just how vast Loki's impact was on the wider multiverse.
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WandaVision takes place roughly three weeks followings the events of Avengers: Endgame. In it, Wanda takes control of a town in New Jersey using her chaos magic. She creates her own perfect world based on the sitcoms she watched as a child including a resurrected Vision and her two kids Tommy and Billy. The series ends with Wanda flying off with the Darkhold, setting up her role in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
The series also establishes many upcoming MCU projects, including giving Monica Rambeau superpowers and setting up her role in The Marvels. White Vision will play a role in the upcoming series Vision Quest, and the series shows the first impacts of the post-Blip world in the MCU that will play a major role in projects like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier takes place six months after the events of Avengers: Endgame and WandaVision. In it, the series establishes that the US Government has made its own Captain America in the form of John Walker.
The series ends with Sam Wilson officially becoming Captain America, while John Walker is recruited by Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine in a shadowy organization that sets the stage for Thunderbolts. The series also establishes that in the years since her last appearance in Captain America: Civil War, Sharon Carter has become the mysterious villain the Power Broker.
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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings takes place in 2024, shortly after The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Much of the film's placement can be determined by the character's age. It is established that his parents met in 1996, meaning Shang-Chi would have to be born after that. At the age of 14, he was sent by his father to kill the leader of the gang that murdered his mother. He then assumed the life of a normal American teenager when he meet his best friend Katy in high school. This means Shang-Chi was likely born in 2000 and came to America in 2014 (allowing for the Gangham Style, reference as the song came out in 2012).
This also lines up with taking place shortly after the events of Iron Man 3, which are set in the Christmas of 2012. Wenwu had given up his time as the leader of the Ten Rings, not only allowing for the splinter cell that kidnapped Tony Stark in Iron Man but also for Aldrich Killian to appropriate Wenwu's image and create the Mandarin. Since then, Wenwu has held the actor that played the fake Mandarin, Trevor Slattery, a prisoner for all these years.
By the end of the movie, Shang-Chi and Katy are brought by Wong to meet fellow Avengers Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers to inspect the ten rings, putting Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings before the events of both She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and The Marvels.
Eternals revealed a great deal about the MCU. There are segments of the film that take place far before any other MCU project and even details about the creation of the universe. It is a massive story with far-reaching implications. Yet the main timeline, where the Eternals are reuniting to stop the emergence of a Celestial from Earth takes place after Avengers: Endgame and sometime shortly after Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Spider-Man: No Way Home occupies an interesting place in the MCU timeline. It immediately picks up after Spider-Man: Far From Home, which itself was a film that took place almost a year after Avengers: Endgame, meaning Phase 4 stories like WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings take place before the final film in Phase 3. Spider-Man: No Way Home picks up immediately after Mysterio has exposed Peter Parker's identity to the public in the summer of 2024.
The movie then moves forward a few months to the end of 2024, with the primary action taking place around the Thanksgiving/Christmas season (as indicated by MJ's boss telling her to take down the Halloween decorations and a department store playing Christmas music). The movie ends around Christmas, with Spider-Man swinging into action by Rockafeller Square with the Christmas tree still standing. Indicating it takes place one week before Hawkeye.
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Hawkeye takes place over the span of six days before Christmas in 2024, about a year after Avengers: Endgame. The season finale sees Hawkeye and Kate Bishop take down the Rockafellar Center Christmas tree, clearly putting it after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home. The presence of Yelena Belova going after Hawkeye also puts it shortly following the end-credit scene for Black Widow.
There is no direct indication of where Moon Knight takes place within the larger MCU, but the Disney+ app puts Moon Knight after Hawkeye. This would mean Moon Knight takes place in early 2025. It is worth noting that Marc Spector has a passport dated late 2018 meaning he would have survived Thanos' snap and was serving as Moon Knight during the five years between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness builds off many plot points throughout Phase 4. The death of He-Who Remains in Loki allows for the multiverse to be easily accessible, while the powerful Scarlet Witch, Wanda Maximoff, goes off with the Darkhold in WandaVision, setting her up as the primary villain in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Doctor Strange references helping Spider-Man with a multiverse problem, clearly setting the sequel after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home.
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She-Hulk: Attorney At Law spans a large amount of time and intersects with many Phase 4 projects. The first episode flashback to Jennifer Walters getting her powers from her cousin Bruce Banner take place shortly after the events of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings as indicated by Bruce Banner being in his human form. It also takes place after Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings as the fight between Abomination and Wong in that film becomes an important aspect in one episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. Then the series jumps forwards to Jennifer Walters having lived with her powers for a bit, and a few Phase 4 projects have probably occurred since then.
One episode references the giant Celestial growing out of the Indian Ocean in Eternals placing it after that film. Interestingly, the Disney+ app page list She-Hulk: Attorney at Law as taking place before Ms. Marvel despite premiering after it.
Ms. Marvel takes place two years after Avengers: Endgame in the year 2025. The series reveals that the reason so many people know the intimate details about the battle with Thanos and even how a character like Captain Marvel is known is that Scott Lang revealed it all on his podcast and his newfound celebrity will be a major part of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
The Ms. Marvel series also takes place after Spider-Man: No Way Home as the Department of Damage Control has now taken complete control of the Stark Tech drones they seized from Peter Parker and used them to help hunt down and track various super-powered humans. The after-credit moment of the final episode also is a scene from the upcoming Phase 5 film The Marvels, with Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan swapping places.
Werewolf by Night is very clear to never specify when the events are happening within the larger MCU. While the opening does make reference to the Avengers, the project is a stand-alone adventure and theoretically could take place at any point during Phase 4.
The Marvel tab on Disney+ does place it right after Thor: Love and Thunder, yet later comments about other projects by Marvel Studios creatives may now move Werewolf by Night around. Director Michael Giacchino has hinted he has an idea of where the ode to classic werewolf movies takes place in the timeline but has not discussed it with Marvel.
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Thor: Love and Thunder take place sometime after the events of Avengers: Endgame as Thor has lost weight and has been operating with the Guardians of the Galaxy for some time. Thor: Love and Thunder also show how New Asgard has been prospering on Earth, after being alluded to in small background easter eggs in films like Spider-Man: No Way Home.
The film's placement after Werewolf by Night is because of comments regarding Black Panther: Wakanda Forever which suggests it and Thor: Love and Thunder are closely linked.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever features a devastating prologue where Shuri and the audience find out that T'Challa has passed away due to a mysterious illness. The movie then jumps forward one year to show how Wakanda has been dealing with the loss of its king as well as the pressure from other nations to obtain Vibranium. The year-long gap suggests that T'Challa passed away in the year 2024 and the majority of the action takes place in 2025.
Marvel Studios producer Nate Moore suggested the events of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever could be happening concurrently with the events of Thor: Love and Thunder and the upcoming Phase 5 film Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. This would be similar to how Phase 1 featured Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor all happening within the same week.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special takes place after Thor: Love and Thunder, and it appears a bit of time has passed. Not only has the team purchased Knowhere from the Collector and are using it as a base of operation, but they now have a new member in Cosmo the Space Dog. Groot is also considerably bigger and bulkier than the teenage version of him that was last shown in Thor: Love and Thunder. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special makes for a great end to Phase 4 and a segue into Phase 5, where Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be the second feature film of the new phase.
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Richard Fink is a writer who graduated from Arizona State University in 2016 with a degree in Film and Media Production. He loves the finer things in life, like cold Diet Coke on a hot summer day. Richard is a fan of all things Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and Film History.