Phase 1: Avengers Assembled
The Marvel Cinematic Universe first began with the movie Iron Man in 2008 in which they teased the Avengers Initiative. Iron Man, and its sequel Iron Man 2 in 2010, formally introduced S.H.I.E.L.D. and several of it agents.The next hero to receive a movie release was the Incredible Hulk (a reboot of the 2003 Hulk movie) in 2008.
In 2011 Marvel added two more films to the continuity, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. Thor introduced Loki, with Hawkeye making a cameo appearance. In Captain America, HYDRA was introduced as was the Tesseract, which would become an important plot device in The Avengers.
In 2012 The Avengers movie was released in which Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye were brought together by S.H.I.E.L.D. to fight an alien invasion lead by Loki and Thanos.
Most movies in the continuity had post-credit scenes which set up future movies and story lines. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been met with commercial and critical success.
2013 saw the release of Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World. In Thor: The Dark World the cosmic entity the Collector as well as the Aether were introduced.
In 2014, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released. The movie saw the return of HYDRA and left S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray. Guardians of the Galaxy was also released introducing the team as well as the Power Stone.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron is set for a 2015 release.
On September 24, 2013 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered on television. The show deals with a small team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, lead by agent Phil Coulson, whose job is to handle strange cases. The show has seen the introduction of other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents as well as some other characters from the original Marvel universe.
Phase 3 and Beyond
The confirmed movies in Phase 3 are Ant-Man (2015), Captain America 3 (2016), Doctor Strange (2016), Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017), and Avengers 3 (TBA).
Characters like Black Panther, Nighthawk, Ka-Zar, The Runaways, Power Pack, Ms. Marvel, Blade, and the Inhumans have all been rumored to be potentials for movies.
In November 2013, it was announced that Netflix would have live-action mini-series based on Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage, leading up to a miniseries based on the Defenders.
In April 2014, Kevin Feige and Marvel announced they had films and story lines planned out through 2028.
The Dark Elves and Malekith ruled the Nine Realms until Bor defeated them. The Dark Elves appear once every 5,000 years to unleash the Aether.
The Frost Giants of Jotunheim attempt to conquer Midgard/Earth. Their invasion point in Tønsberg, Norway becomes the site of an epic battle as Asgard's ruler, Odin, leads an army to repel the invasion and protect the planet. Odin and his forces push the Frost Giants back to Jotunheim where the All Father discovers an abandoned Frost Giant infant whom he adopts, names Loki and raises as his own alongside his son, Thor. A truce is negotiated between Odin and the Jotun king, Laufey.
Odin hid the Tesseract in Norway.
Odin tells Loki and Thor about the battle with the frost giants in Tønsberg.
Howard Stark is born.
Jim Morita is born.
Joseph Rogers is killed in a mustard gas attack while serving with the 107th.
(Steve Rogers) Captain America is born.
World War II begins.
Howard Stark demonstrates the vibranium.
Johann Schmidt found the Tesseract.
Steve Rogers was tested the super serum.
Bucky Barnes was presumed killed during a mission to capture Arnim Zola. In reality, he was actually captured by agents of HYDRA, who used a series of surgeries and brainwashing regiments to begin his transformation into the Winter Soldier.
Steve Rogers planned to take down Schmidt on his plane. Steve, the Tesseract and Schmidt's plane fell on the arctic. Steve Rogers slept for about 70 years.
Howard Stark finds the Tesseract. World War II ends with the defeat of Japan.
During the closing days of the war, Peggy Carter led the Howling Commandos on a raid of one of the last remaining HYDRA facilities. The Commandos recovered a Kree corpse, as well as an obelisk of seemingly alien origin.
Months after the war, Peggy later clashed with the Zodiac organization.
Obadiah Stane was born.
Nick Fury was born.
Stark World Exposition begins and stays for the whole year.
Anton Vanko works with Howard Stark on the Arc Reactor technology as "The Unity Project".
Stark World Exposition
Phil Coulson was born in Boston, Massachusetts.
After the death of his mother, Meredith, Peter Quill was abducted by Yondu and the Ravagers and taken into deep space.
At the 1999/2000 new years eve celebration, Tony Stark met Maya Hansen and Aldrich Killian who is a handicapped scientist for A.I.M. Maya tells Tony she is working on the Extremis project.
Tony Stark wakes up and breaks up with Maya Hansen. Maya and Aldrich upgrade the Extremis.
Thaddeus Ross convinced the military to reincarnate the Bio Force Enhancement Project inspired from Project Rebirth on World War II. Bruce and Betty work on the project for 3 years.
Bruce Banner tested the same serum that Steve Rogers used with gamma radiation. He later became the Hulk. Bruce Banner was mistaken as a "green sasquatch" by local Canadians.
S.H.I.E.L.D. believed Hulk was a threat.
Tony Stark was captured by a terrorist group in Afghanistan known as the Ten Rings. Yinsen helped Tony work on an armor so Tony can get back to America. Bruce Banner met Nick Fury who was disguised in a bar. Bruce Banner retreated to Rio de Janeiro to work on a cure with Samuel Sterns. Nick Fury declared that Hulk is a minor threat. Tony Stark battled Iron Monger and declared that he is Iron Man. Nick Fury later approaches Tony and wanted Tony to join the Avengers Initiative. Tony declined the offer. Nick Fury sent Natasha Romanoff to convince Tony again.
Bruce Banner mistakenly left a hint of his blood on a soda bottle, when he sent a sample to Samuel Sterns to work on a cure. Stark realizes that other countries are using his technology. Stark lets Pepper Potts as his CEO. General Ross' armies traced Bruce to the soda factory. Jane Foster found an aurora in New Mexico. Bruce Banner makes his way to Culver University.
Captain America's crash site was discovered by an oil team. Studies continued on Vanko's Whiplash/Hammer technology, on Jane Foster's Nine Realms Theory, on Stern's mutation and transforming the Destroyer into a handheld weapon. Hawkeye was sent to the Mojave to help Selvig to assist work on the Tesseract. Steve Rogers was thawed and sent to New York City. Steve wakes up and escapes from a S.H.I.E.L.D. building. He was stopped by Nick Fury. Nick Fury told Steve he had been asleep for almost 70 years.
Thor was banished to Earth after almost renewing war with the Frost Giants, where met and fell in love with Jane Foster. With help from Sif and the Warriors Three, Thor managed to unravel a plot by Loki and defeat the Destroyer. Loki was believed dead after falling into a void below the Bifrost Bridge.
Loki activated the Tesseract with the help of The Other and Thanos, and was given command of the Chitauri military. Nick Fury reactivated the Avengers Initiative to battle the alien invasion after Coulson died at the hands of Loki. Coulson was later revived by S.H.I.E.L.D. through unknown means. During the Battle of New York, Col. James Rhodes used the War Machine armor to combat the Ten Rings in China. After sending a bomb to the Chitauri's mothership, Tony Stark suffered PSTD. Loki and Thor returned to Asgard and gave the Tesseract to Heimdall. With the Tesseract, Heimdall fixed the Bifrost bridge. Extremis discharges happened at various locations including California, claimed to be attacks by Mandarin (a persona created by Aldrich Killian which is portrayed by Trevor Slattery, a British drug addict and actor).
Tony Stark had a therapy session with Bruce Banner about the Extremis idea. Bruce Banner slept since he heard about the 1999 new years eve story. James Rhodes was given the upgraded Iron Patriot armor, which had been refurbished by the A.I.M. think tank group.
A revived Phil Coulson was tasked with heading up a new S.H.I.E.L.D. team and recruited the mysterious hacker Skye.
After Malekith's death, Sif and Volstagg gave the Aether to Taneleer Tivan, The Collector because the Tesseract was already returned to Asgard. It would be very unwise to keep both Infinity Stones at the same place. Once Taneleer got the Aether, he said, "One down, five to go".
Alexander Pierce was revealed to be a a mole working for HYDRA, who had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. in the decades since the end of World War 2. With help from the Winter Soldier, Pierce attempted to use a new fleet of Helicarriers to take over the world, but was stopped by Steve Rogers, Nick Fury, Natasha Romanoff, and their new ally, Sam Wilson (The Falcon). Rogers and Wilson later headed off for parts unknown to track down the Winter Soldier, while Romanoff went into hiding. During this time, Baron von Strucker was revealed to be the new leader of HYDRA, with teenagers Pietro and Wanda Maximoff working as volunteers for his genetic experiments. Strucker was also shown to be in possession of Loki's staff Phil Coulson and his team later succeeded in taking down another HYDRA cell led by John Garrett, which had tried to sell Deathlok technology to the military as part of a plan to conquer the United States. Agent Grant Ward was also revealed to be a HYDRA sleeper, and was defeated by Melinda May.
Nick Fury tasked Phil Coulson and his team with rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. while Fury went to Europe on a covert mission to eradicate the remaining HYDRA cells.
After the official dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D., Maria Hill began working with Tony Stark on a new plan to protect the world by using the Avengers and Stark's Iron Legion drones.
After a peace treaty was signed between the Kree and the people of Xandar, Ronan the Accuser partnered with Nebula and Gamora to find a rare silver orb for the women's father, Thanos, who agreed to wipe out Xandar in exchange for the orb. After Ronan discovered that the sphere contained one of the Infinity Stones, he attempted to kill Thanos and wipe out Xandar by himself. Gamora betrayed Ronan and partnered with a now adult Peter Quill to form the Guardians of the Galaxy, who killed Ronan and turned over the Stone to Nova Corp leader Irani Rael.
A new HYDRA cell led by Daniel Whitehall later emerged. The group was soon infiltrated by Bobbi Morse and Jemma Simmons, but not before a mission to retrieve an alien obelisk resulted in the death of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Isabelle Hartley and Idaho.
Due to the fact that 20th Century Fox and Sony were making licensed Marvel movies well before Marvel started making its own films, a number of properties are deemed off-limits to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Among the most prominent would be the X-Men and Fantastic Four, as well as most characters associated with them. Director James Gunn has also stated that the Badoon are off-limits as well, thanks to having their film rights owned by Fox. Any and all Spider-Man characters are also barred from appearing, thanks to Sony producing the Spider-Man films. The films are also forbidden from reference the term "Mutants", which is why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. developed the term "Gifted" to describe people with superpowers.
Curiously, there are a select few characters who thanks to murky legal statuses, can be used by both studios. Quicksilver appeared in both Fox's X-Men: Days of Future Past and Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron, in both cases played by completely different actors and with completely different roles. This is often chalked up to the fact that despite primarily being associated with the Avengers, the hero originated during the Silver Age X-Men run. Film rights to the Skrulls are also confirmed to be owned by both studios.
Rights to the Daredevil franchise were previously owned by Fox, but the rights reverted to Marvel after Fox failed to enter a reboot into production before the designated deadline. This meant that film makers behind The Wolverine were forced to abandon plans to use The Hand, and instead opted to use a similar group of ninja known as the Black Clan. In 2015, Marvel will be rebooting the character by introducing their own version of Daredevil in a live-action mini-series show set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Netflix. A similar fate nearly befell the Fantastic Four, but Fox was able to start production on the reboot, The Fantastic Four, in time to block Marvel's attempt to regain the property.
There were plans for Sony and Marvel to crossover their universes by having the Oscorp building from The Amazing Spider-Man appear in The Avengers, but this idea never made it to fruition.
It has been widely suggested by many (including longtime X-Men writer Chris Claremont) that Disney's sudden interest in the Inhumans was spurred by their desire to create substitutes in the MCU for mutants, and that Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch may be depicted as Inhumans in Marvel's films.