James Gunn brings his cosmic MCU trilogy to a spectacular close with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and it’s one of the most satisfying conclusions we’ve seen to date in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sweeping colors, breakneck action, an excess of emotion, and plenty of laughter, make this heartfelt quest a film that you’re not soon to forget. But beyond the film’s obvious merits, we’re here to review its timeline, both within the Guardians Saga and its overall placement in the wider MCU. Because this is dropping before the film actually arrives in theaters, we’ll be keeping spoilers to a minimum. That said, the film does provide us with just enough information to help us place Guardians 3 on our MCU Timeline.
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The Guardians of the Galaxy team have been put in a weird spot. The original ending to the trilogy that Gunn had intended was subverted to some degree to make room for Infinity War, Endgame, and later Thor: Love and Thunder. Gamora was sacrificed by Thanos to procure the Soul Stone, but later an earlier variant of Gamora from 2014 was brought into Endgame’s 2023 – one who didn’t have a history with Quill and the Guardians. Later the Guardians were briefly encumbered by Thor and Korg’s presence. Disney+ would suggest that Thor was with the Guardians for close to 2 years, though we explain how that is impossible in this video, and how most likely he was only with them for several months. By the start of the Guardians Holiday Special, we see some time has passed since Thor was with the Guardians as they’ve now bought Knowhere and are working out of the severed celestial head as their base of operations. Due to the lack of growth that Groot had between Endgame and Love and Thunder, and the huge growth spurt Groot had between Love and Thunder and the Holiday Special, we surmised in this video at least a year and a half had passed between the two titles, and that the Holiday Special occurred in December of 2025, at the earliest.
This left us with the presumption that Guardians 3 must occur sometime in 2026 at the earliest. While there’s nothing within the film that explicitly says we’re in 2026 like the years featured in previous films, the movie does drop some crumbs that will help lead us to determining our rough timeline estimate. Early on in the film, Nebula claims that it’s been a few years since Gamora was with the Guardians. A few means that at the very least two years have now passed since the events of Endgame in October 2023. Now Guardians 3 does of course occur after the Guardians Holiday Special, so my initial thought upon hearing that date range is that we’re probably around 2 and a half years out at this stage. It’s a stretch, but the film doesn’t give us much more than that for the majority of its runtime.
I have to imagine that this timeline ambiguity is partially by design on Gunn’s part. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, he ties all the loose threads of his corner of the MCU into a tight, sometimes messy bow, and timeline accuracy is the least of his worries. As he’s now moving on to his new role as co-CEO of DC Studios, this film isn’t about setting up future Guardians stories or spin-offs. It’s about closure. For the Guardians he’s grown to love. For these actors that have become his friends. And of course, for him. So I understand that the timeline isn’t as neatly defined as it could have been, as this film is very much about severing himself from this universe in one big fantastic thank you to the fans.
But somewhere along the lines, James Gunn, or someone overlooking the script, was paying attention to the timeline. There’s a point near the end where Peter Quill ages himself at 45 years old. If he was born in late 1980, he won’t turn 46 until late 2026. There’s also a short scene where Earth is visited in the movie. No, not Counter-Earth like we see in the trailers. Actual Earth. And the foliage in that Earth scene best fits around Summer. So if Peter isn’t 46 years of age yet, and we see Summer foliage on Earth, it’s safe to assume we’re in either Spring or Summer of 2026.
This does pose a small issue in that Peter Quill was Blipped for just over 5 years, meaning he’d probably be biologically only 40 years old. Would that make his aging himself at 45 years old incorrect? Well, this isn’t a totally unheard of thing for people to add on the 5 years they missed to their age. While Peter Parker chooses not to count those 5 years he went missing into his total age, we know Bucky Barnes does count them into his total age. So Peter Quill calling himself 45 when he’s biologically only 40 is just a preference thing for the character, it seems. I’m sure age preferences got really confusing after people came back from the Blip.
Before we do you the honors of placing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 on the MCU Timeline, let’s first touch on some other date ranges and ages we learn about in the film. Cosmo is given a small bit of backstory, in that the Soviet Union sent her into space in 1966, making her at least 60 years old. It’s undetermined whether she developed her psionic powers in space or was given those powers through Soviet experimentation. All we really know at this stage is that she is in fact a good dog.
Another fun confirmation is that with the Zune mp3 player they’ve acquired, it seems the cutoff for new music is around 2009. There’s a shot of Rocket Raccoon looking at the Zune and we see music sectioned off into decades, from the 1950s or 60s, all the way up to the 2000s. This means that all the diegetic music played by the Guardians within the movie was released on or before 2009, with Florence + the Machine’s ‘Dog Days Are Over’ being the most recent song. What I love about how the film handles music is that, thanks to their proximity to Peter Quill, we see a culture of reverence for Earth-music that transcends to the rest of the crew in a way that feels natural and earned over the course of this trilogy and their appearances in the Avengers films and the Holiday Special.
Much of the film is written around Rocket’s origin, as we learn more about the High Evolutionary’s plot and overall goals. The High Evolutionary has utilized the company Orgacorp to place patents on his evolutionary creations for over 300 years, meaning he’s been at this game of attempting to create a perfect society for longer than America has had independence. He does base some of his creations on a relatively recent trip to Earth, as we see Counter-Earth has some similarities to 1980s Americana, and the humanoid hybrids are based on Earth animals.
Along the way the High Evolutionary also gave life to the Sovereign, and Adam Warlock, who was released from his cocoon earlier than intended. This explains why Adam has a particularly childlike personality, though it’s understood that he’ll grow out of that eventually.
Without getting any more spoilery, these are all the references to time and season within Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. I place the film in early Summer 2026, the first MCU title to inhabit that year on my timeline. Patrons get exclusive access to download a massive updated PNG of the entire MCU Timeline, so if you’re interested in getting your hands on this graphic, check out my Patreon! Thank you as always to my patrons for making timeline content like this possible. You guys are amazing.
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4 thoughts on “MCU Timeline Breakdown | GUARDIANS of the GALAXY Vol. 3”
Peter Quill doesn’t actually age himself at 45. The dialogue is pretty mumbled, but he is actually talking about his next door neighbor being 45. You can see the scene here: https://youtu.be/HwJxq-srq5w. So I feel what gives the best indication of timing is the newspaper article in that same scene which gives the easter egg that Kevin Bacon told his story about the kidnapping. That would happen relatively soon after the event, I am guessing the timing is more in Spring of 2026.
Thanks for the comment. And yeah, I’m in agreement. Spring works for me. As for Quill’s age, I’ve gone back and forth both ways with if he’s talking about himself or the neighbor’s son. Both work, depending on how you read the sentence. But I agree the Bacon cameo was the better signifier. I didn’t mention it as this was written before the film was released publicly.
Yeah, I wasn’t sure about the dialogue at first either. But if you watch that YT clip I shared, it has closed captioning on, and that helps clarify that Quill is talking about his neighbor’s age. Hope that helps. Great work on your vid as always!
Yeah, I watched the scene about 10 times. Makes sense both ways. It’s just a matter of where you place the punctuation that changes the meaning. English is fascinating lol.