The Justice League heroes may be the stars of the DCEU, but the history that brought them together stretches back thousands of years. Across the planet Krypton, through ancient Greek mythology, and to a time when Atlantis was the most advanced society above water, the timeline of the DC movies may seem too ancient to identify using specific years. But Man of Steel, Wonder Woman, and Justice League have all given enough evidence to create one massive chain of events. And with Aquaman and Shazam! adding the final pieces of the puzzle, a solid DCEU timeline is taking shape.
Fans may be suspicious of a concrete DCEU timeline, since many of the films never actually make their exact year known, let alone relevant to the story. But as the movies multiply, the approximate dates have been narrowed down. Even if it feels like any ancient empire or dynasty in the DCEU is measured in “thousands of years” to be intentionally vague, Wonder Woman and Aquaman have locked in a more complete picture. And surprise: some of that history is nowhere near as ancient as fans might assume.
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For now, the DC movie universe is easy enough to lay out from beginning to end, at least where the films’ “modern” periods are set. So to start with dates everyone can agree on before diving into the past, the modern Era of the DCEU and its biggest events are confirmed to take place in the canon timeline as such:
- 1918: Wonder Woman
- 1984: Wonder Woman 1984
- 2013: Man of Steel
- 2015: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
- 2016: Suicide Squad
- 2016: Justice League
- 2016-2017: Aquaman
- 2019: Shazam!
That’s the DCEU timeline so far, but every new movie is guaranteed to bring new events and parallel storylines to light. And if the newly released Shazam! is any indication, the mythology of DC’s biggest heroes is going to be expanded in not only the present day, or the future, but in the ancient history, with new figures and formative events being introduced only when their stories are necessary. Based purely on the films already released, and ones reportedly in development, the history of the New Gods, Apokolips, New Genesis, Atlantis, Themyscira, and perhaps even Krypton are still subject to change.
What makes it so difficult to accept one timeline as canon is that films like Man of Steel, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman have all relied on the “accepted story” being revealed as not the whole truth. That being said, putting together a concrete timeline based on what Aquaman adds to the history of King Atlan, the Atlantean Empire and the sinking of the city is no easy task. Which is why we’re breaking it down into one DCEU timeline for fans who need to know.
- This Page: The Movie Events in The DCEU Timeline
- Page 2: The Ancient History of the DCEU
- Page 3: The Modern DCEU Takes Shape
- Page 4: The Age of The Justice League Begins
Page 2 of 4: The Beginning of The DCEU Timeline
DC’s movie universe has taken shape thanks to a variety of different heroes, writers, and directors, but one thing remains the same in every single one of them. Not a structure, style, or even tone, but an overwhelming sense that the film’s hero is almost instantly out of their depths. Their journey to greatness may only be beginning, but the conflicts and enemies they encounter have been in motion for thousands of years, long before the current DC heroes were even born. And while that approach has given the impression of a massive, epic, and nuanced timeline stretching back into ancient history… it also means fans may have a hard time remembering whose ancient people went to war with whom, first.
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Thankfully, the first wave of the DCEU still fits together fairly well – whether or not Zack Snyder, Patty Jenkins, David Ayer, or anyone else at Warner Bros. was actually connecting the dots along the way. So with Superman explaining the timeline of ancient Krypton, and Wonder Woman handling the gods, mankind, and the Amazons, it falls to Aquaman to fit in the last piece of the puzzle. And fit in it does, with the ancient legends of King Atlan, his trident, and Atlantis above water helping complete the picture.
From Steppenwolf to Suicide Squad, here is the best approximation we have of the timeline of the ancient DCEU:
- 200,000 BC – Zeus Creates Mankind on Earth: As explained to Diana by her mother in Wonder Woman, the creation of human beings was the first task of Zeus, who created them in the image of the Olympian Gods. Before long his son Ares corrupted mankind with hatred and violence, leading Zeus to make his second creation: the beautiful and noble Amazons, blessed with enough of Zeus’ own divinity to protect and guide mankind to their better destiny. And to defend Earth alongside them, should the need arise.
- 28,000 BC – The Earth Unites Against Apokolips: While the year in which Zeus created mankind is largely a placeholder (tied to the scientific estimates of when “humans” emerged), the year in which Apokolips first attempted to invade Earth comes from the DCEU specifically. More than once during production and in accompanying marketing materials, the ancient prologue seen in Justice League is said to have occurred “thirty thousand years ago.” That number might be rounded for convenience, but it’s as exact as we’re going to get. Presumably, the Amazons allied with mankind despite their past betrayals, and the Atlanteans existed because… well, unless Poseidon copied his brother’s creation, let’s just brush that question aside for now.
- 18,000 BC – Supergirl Comes to Earth: This news will be a shock for fans hoping to see Kara Zor-El in a Supergirl movie, but a prequel comic already confirmed that the DCEU’s version of Supergirl lived thousands of years earlier. She was chosen to lead a Kryptonian Scout Ship during her planet’s age of expansion, but through a sinister betrayal, ended up crashing into Earth. That ship would be frozen in ice and eventually discovered by Kal-El as his Fortress of Solitude giving an exact date for its arrival.
- 15,000 BC – The Fall of Krypton Begins: The planet Krypton may only have exploded a lifetime ago for the modern DCEU, but its decline began in antiquity. Jor-El’s artificial intelligence gives Kal the account, marking this period as the time when Krypton began to engineer children, abandoned expansion, and lost the ‘soul’ of their civilization. But on Earth, things were going swimmingly.
- 10,000 BC – The Deserters Leave Atlantis: The Aquaman movie takes over the timeline at this point, with Vulko’s history lesson claiming that a tribe of Atlantis referred to as “Deserters” decided to leave the rest of their people, and head to an inland sea. When their lands dried up into what would become The Sahara Desert, they perished. Science tells us that Earth’s orbital ‘wobble’ led to the Sahara becoming lush with water for a few thousand years, beginning in 10,000 BC.
- 5,000 BC – The Trident of Atlan is Forged: This date is approximate, since it’s near the end of the window in which the Deserter Tribe would still have been alive to forge King Atlan’s Trident (a final artifact to immortalize their talents).
- 4,300 BC – The Enchantress is Born: The file on Enchantress shown in Suicide Squad provides her age, confirming she was ‘born’ as a god figure in South America around this point in history. Which parallels with the emergence of the Norte Chico, among others, as one of the first spontaneous creations of civilization around the world.
- 3,000 BC – The Alliance of Man, Atlantean & Amazon Ends: The fact that the storylines involving the Olympian Gods and sinking of Atlantis have yet to appear is going to be a main topic next, but for now, this Golden Age of the DCEU comes to a close. Justice League informs viewers that the great Warning Fire of The Amazons – lit by the Amazons after Steppenwolf’s attack – has not burned for “five thousand years.” While some have taken that as a milestone for the War of The Gods, evidence conflicts it. All we know for sure is that from 3,000 BC forward, the alliances between humans, Amazons, and Atlanteans was over.
- ???? BC – The Wizard Shazam Ends The Age of Magic: The exact year is never given, but presumably thousands of years prior to the present day, the fallen champion of The Council of Wizards (otherwise known as Black Adam) rebelled and destroyed them. The Wizard Shazam withdrew all magic to The Rock of Eternity, along with the Seven Sins.
Page 3 of 4: The Modern DCEU Takes Shape
As we alluded to before, here is where the timeline of the DCEU gets seriously interesting. Because as much as Justice League‘s ancient prologue established the story of Mankind, Atlanteans, and Amazons as one of ancient history – and Wonder Woman’s own tale of the Olympian Gods did the same – both films have begun to walk back their ancient time scale. With Aquaman, it’s explicitly stated that the worlds of Atlantis and the Amazons may have fallen long before the modern world began to form… but could still have been around less than two thousand years ago. Humans have even shorter memories than some would believe, it seems.
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The 20th Century events that planted seeds for the coming Justice League universe are easy enough to track, and won’t cause too much confusion (although seeing how closely key events in the Leaguers’ lives overlap will be a bit of a thrill). It’s the first centuries and the first two millennia of the Common Era that will prove a bit controversial.
Some of our dates may seem to contradict existing fan timelines, but as we said above, the assumed dates and spans of centuries are starting to be corrected faster than some fans might like. We’re basing our timeline purely on what the storytellers themselves have explained, what the characters offer up for timeline details in-universe, and what the films’ mythology states about its own ancient (or Middle Ages) happenings.
In other words, prepare to have some of your assumptions about the DCEU’s more recent history blown away, in our compiled timeline:
- 800 – Enchantress & Incubus Imprisoned: Beyond confirming that Enchantress and her brother, Incubus, hail from pre-Columbian South America, the specifics of exactly who worshipped the pair as gods is unclear. Their is some evidence in the film and its accompanying material that form a link between them and both the Inca and Maya people. Combine that with the fact that the pair were eventually overthrown and imprisoned in magical bottles (until June Moon opened one), and a link can be made between the fall of these civilizations, and the Suicide Squad villains’ disappearance. For history nuts, the fact that the golden age of the Mayans came to an abrupt halt, and collapsed by 900 AD seems a perfect connection to the (temporary) disappearance of Enchantress and Incubus.
- 1000 – Atlantis Sinks: Yes, believe it or not, the Aquaman movie reveals that the city/empire of Atlantis existed in all its glory, above the surface, far longer than most will expect. Vulko’s claim that Atlantis had unlocked the secrets of unlimited energy “when the rest of the world still thought the Earth was flat” doesn’t exactly narrow the window, but he suggests that the fall of Atlantis due to King Atlan’s pride coincided with the monarch’s self-imposed exile. So when the Karathen guarding Atlan’s remains claims it has guarded the relic from the unworthy for 1,000 years, fans have to ask: how soon after Atlantis’ sinking did Atlan disappear? If it’s immediate, as makes the most sense, then Atlantis fell beneath the waves just as the vikings began to make their way across the North Atlantic. And this isn’t the only change fans will need to accept, either.
- 1100 – Ares Slays The Olympian Gods? Some fans point to the mention of the Amazon beacon not being lit for “5,000 years” as an indication of The War of The Gods, when Ares finally revolted, killing the rest of his kin until Zeus fought back, and created Themyscira to safeguard the Amazons. But that’s not a one-to-one deduction, and since Zeus fathered Diana with Hippolyta around the same time, it would make Wonder Woman 5,000 years old, too. Since director Patty Jenkins has given her opinion that Wonder Woman is only 800 years old, it puts the vanquishing of the Olympians and the disappearance of the Amazons closer to the year 1100.
- 1918 – Steve Trevor Comes to Themyscira: The dates of The Great War make Steve Trevor’s arrival easy to place, and kicks off what will turn out to be the last great DC superhero adventure for much of the century. Until Steppenwolf decides to try again…
Page 4 of 4: The Age of The Justice League Begins
At long last, we can leave the earliest, prehistoric (for the rest of the world) days of the DCEU behind, and shift from a time when key events were millennia apart to the modern age, when entire world-changing events happen in the span of months, not years. It is here, in the wake of wonder Woman putting an end to Ares and giving mankind their future back, that the DC heroes we know best begin to emerge. And for those who prefer their timelines confined only to the times in which the movies release, it’s the point at which the major, movie-featured moments start dropping left and right. It may have taken the history of the world to unite the Justice League, but the time spent building out the past of DCEU’s cosmic side was worth it.
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It wasn’t Superman’s intention to trigger a new wave of heroes just by stepping into the spotlight, but if general Zod’s hope was to prove Earth was weak, his insistence on Superman announcing himself to the world certainly backfired. Wonder Woman stopped hiding from her true calling, The Flash, and Aquaman were all next to follow suit, being drawn out due to their lineage as the descendants of those ancient tribes who fought off Steppenwolf the first time around. The biggest moments from this section of the timeline will be most familiar to movie fans, since a majority of them are shown on-screen.
That being said, the films only show one character at a time, without highlighting how one formative moment or trauma in the life of a future Justice League hero falls in relation to their future teammates. Some satisfying, possibly even poetic comparisons and contrasts become visible when folded into one massive narrative. We’ll spare details where these dates are clear, but see for yourself how the last half-century of the DCEU took shape, step by step:
- 1974 – Thaddeus Sivana Summoned & Rejected By Shazam
- 1980 – The Death of Krypton, Kal-El Survives
- 1981 – The Death of The Waynes, Bruce Survives
- 1982 – STAR Labs Acquires The Mother Box: “US Gov Object 61982” accepted as the year of acquisition.
- 1984 – Wonder Woman Discovers a New Threat
- 1985 – Arthur Curry is Born
- 1988 – Clark Kent Discovers His Powers
- 1994 – Victor Stone is Born
- 1995 – The Batman is Born: Based on Bruce’s claim of “twenty years” as vigilante.
- 2004 – Billy Batson is Born
- 2010 – Harley Quinn & Joker Kill Robin: As shown on Harley’s Suicide Squad rap sheet.
- 2013 – Superman Kills General Zod
- 2015 – Superman is Killed
- 2016 – The Suicide Squad Saves Earth From Evil Gods
- 2016 – The Justice League Saves Earth From New Gods
- 2016 – Aquaman & Mera Save Earth From Ocean Master
- 2019 – The Shazam Family Saves Earth From The Seven Sins
Looking at the bigger picture developing here, the stakes have certainly been elevated with the coming of this age of heroes. We can only hope that the future of the DCEU will somehow return to a period of relative calm after so many threats to life on Earth as we know it. But somehow… we doubt that Warner Bros. and DC Films are going to take their foot of the pedal any time soon.
This timeline is sure to be adjusted, expanded, and hopefully locked into place as more films are released within DC’s shared universe. When they are, we’ll do our best to keep the DCEU Timeline complete, and updated with the latest canonical information for the comic book fans who share Bruce Wayne’s own affection for a paper trail.
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