When does Black Widow take place on the Marvel timeline?

Black Widow
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Black Widow has finally arrived, after a series of pandemic-induced delays – and an 11 year gap between Natasha Romanoff's debut in Iron Man 2 and her first solo movie. While the film answers some burning questions we had about the Avenger's past, it might leave you a little bit confused about where the movie falls on the timeline.

We're here to explain exactly when Black Widow takes place on the Marvel timeline, including the in-universe year. Unlike the other Marvel films, Black Widow is a prequel, though that doesn't mean that it pre-dates the first MCU movie Iron Man, or Natasha's first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

If you want a complete rundown of what order the Marvel movies are in chronologically, you can check out our guide to the entire Marvel timeline.

When is Black Widow set?

Black Widow in Civil War

(Image credit: Disney/Marvel)

When we first see present day Natasha in Black Widow, she's hiding out from General Ross, who informs her she has no allies left – multiple Avengers have been imprisoned. If you don't remember the events of Civil War, that might seem a bit random.

In the third Captain America movie, the Avengers have an all-out bust up in an airport. Natasha starts on Team Iron Man, but switches sides to incapacitate Black Panther and let Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes escape. The rest of Team Cap are arrested and taken to the supermax prison the Raft, and T'Challa informs General Ross that Natasha helped Steve and Bucky get away. Shortly after this, Natasha vanishes from the movie entirely, leaving what she did next a big question mark.

Black Widow picks up after Natasha drops out of the events of Civil War, revealing her intentions were to go off the grid and into hiding, evading Ross, who's after her for breaking the newly introduced Sokovia Accords. 

In-universe, Civil War is set in 2016, which is also the year the movie released – so that means Black Widow is set eight years prior to the current events of the MCU, and seven before Natasha's death in Avengers: Endgame (which spans 2018 to 2023).

When does Black Widow end? *SPOILERS*

Black Widow in Avengers: Infinity War

(Image credit: Disney/Marvel)

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Black Widow! If you haven't caught up with Natasha Romanoff's solo movie, head to the theater or Disney Plus Premier Access, then come back!

Instead of catching all the way up to the MCU, which has moved on to 2024, Black Widow ends with a freshly blonde Natasha headed off to help free her teammates. She's rocking her Avengers: Infinity War look, complete with Yelena's vest, and her comment about a prison break means the movie probably ends right before the final scene of Civil War, which saw Steve break into the Raft to rescue the captured Avengers (presumably with Natasha's help).

So, Black Widow starts and ends during Civil War's runtime, meaning it takes place entirely in 2016, pre-Infinity War.  For more spoiler-filled analysis, check out our pieces on:

If you're up to speed with Black Widow, check out how to watch Marvel movies in order for an MCU marathon, and find the best Disney Plus prices and deals

Molly Edwards
Entertainment Writer

I'm an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things film and TV for the site's Total Film and SFX sections. I previously worked on the Disney magazines team at Immediate Media, and also wrote on the CBeebies, MEGA!, and Star Wars Galaxy titles after graduating with a BA in English.