This article contains spoilers for Zack Snyder’s Justice League and other DC movies.
The timeline of the DC Extended Universe began in a fairly clear manner, with most of the events of Man of Steel set in 2013. As more films were released, containing flashbacks, or lacking a clear chronological setting, things became increasingly complicated. And by the time we got to Birds of Prey film, its precise placement in the DCEU is downright murky. But there are contextual in-universe clues in the form of media, gravestones, mugshot photos, or throwaway lines of dialogue that provide some clarity.
With the long-awaited release of the Snyder Cut of Justice League hitting HBO Max, it’s a good time to break down what we know so far about when some significant moments in DCEU history took place.
- The Kryptonian Expansion: Krypton begins interstellar exploration and launches scout ships into the void of space. They colonize and flourish for 100 thousand years until artificial population control is introduced. (Man of Steel)
- A Kryptonian scout ship crash lands on Earth; one Kryptonian escapes the craft, leaving behind an empty pod. (Man of Steel) According to a Man of Steel prequel comic that may may not still be canon, her name was Kara Zor-El.
Thousands of Years Ago
- Darkseid seeks to conquer Earth, but is foiled by the combined forces of man, Atlanteans, Themyscirans, Olympian gods, and at least one member of the Green Lantern Corps, Yalan Gur. Three Mother Boxes are hidden across the planet: in Atlantis, on Themyscira, and with mankind. (Zack Snyder’s Justice League)
- Millennia after the Amazons are created, Ares goes to war with the Olympian gods, and kills all of them, including Zeus. Themyscira is created with Zeus’ remaining power. Somewhere during this period, Atlantis sinks beneath the waves. (Wonder Woman)
- The ancient wizard Shazam imbues a champion with the powers of six mythological figures, only for him to become corrupted by the power. (Shazam!)
- Diana of Themyscira, daughter of Queen Hippolyta, grows up on the hidden island, and trains to become a warrior under General Antiope. (Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman 1984)
- Diana saves Steve Trevor who has crashed on Themyscira. He warns her of the great war, World War I, raging across the globe. She joins him in the world of man, and together they seek to stop the evil Dr. Maru and General Ludendorff (who Diana incorrectly believes is the God of War, Ares). Steve Trevor dies. (Wonder Woman)
- Thaddeus Sivana is magically transported to the Rock of Eternity and fails the test of worthiness conducted by the wizard Shazam. (Shazam!)
- After the explosion of his homeworld, Kal-El of Krypton crash lands on Earth, and is taken in by Jonathan and Martha Kent of Smallville, Kansas. This date is approximate, but while being interrogated in Man of Steel, Superman says he’s been on the planet for 33 years. (Man of Steel)
- Thomas and Martha Wayne are murdered in Gotham City, leaving their young song Bruce an orphan with a serious grudge against criminals. (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
- Diana Prince operates in secret as the heroine Wonder Woman, while also working by day at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. After unwittingly using the Dreamstone, she resurrects Steve Trevor (who inhabits another man’s body). Barbara Ann Minerva, also through the use of the Dreamstone, gains superpowers and is ultimately transformed into Cheetah. Businessman Max Lord wishes to become the stone itself, and uses his powers to create global chaos. (Wonder Woman 1984)
- Lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry rescues and falls in love with Atlantean queen Atlanna; Arthur Curry, aka, Aquaman is born shortly thereafter. (Aquaman)
- Bruce Wayne begins operating in Gotham as the vigilante Batman.
- Jonathan Kent dies in a tornado after discouraging Clark from using his powers to save him. (Man of Steel)
- This is a bat-signal in the dark, but this is a reasonable estimate on when both Dr. Harlene Quinzel becomes Harley Quinn, and when Dick Grayson, Batman’s partner Robin, is murdered. Suicide Squad lists Quinzel’s date of birth as July 1990. It seems unlikely she would have become a psychiatrist, and assigned to the Joker in Arkham before age 23. Still, Robin is dead by October 2014 (and presumably dead by the Black Zero Event in late 2013, as shown in Man of Steel). This allows for about a year for Harleen to help Joker escape Arkham, take a transformational acid bath, and help the Clown Prince kill Grayson.
- Batman apprehends Floyd Lawton, aka the hitman known as Deadshot, while he’s Christmas shopping with his daughter. (Suicide Squad)
- General Zod invades Earth, and Superman reveals himself to the world. Bruce Wayne witnesses the battle between the two, and sees the Wayne Financial Building in Metropolis collapse. (Man of Steel)
- Harley Quinn is captured by Batman after Joker drives their car into the harbor, and abandons her. When she is introduced in Suicide Squad, she is listed as an accomplice to Robin’s murder, which is what leads to her arrival at Belle Reve prison. (Suicide Squad)
- Victor Stone and his mother are in a car accident which kills her, and puts him on death’s door. Victor’s father uses Mother Box technology to keep him alive and transform him into an incredibly powerful cyborg. (Justice League)
- The holy trinity of DC meet! Batman and Superman duke it out before joining forces against Lex Luthor’s Doomsday creature. Meanwhile, Diana joins the action, and dons her Wonder Woman suit in battle. Sadly, Superman dies, but Bruce and Diana decide to form a league of heroes. (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
- Amanda Waller establishes the government sanctioned Task Force X, also known as the Suicide Squade, to respond to metahuman threats (and following the death of Superman). Enchantress enslaves Midway City, but is ultimately thwarted by the squad. (Suicide Squad)
- Bruce Wayne and Diana assemble a team including Barry Allen, Vic Stone, and Arthur Curry to battle Steppenwolf, who has returned to Earth. Superman is resurrected, and ultimately joins the fight. Shortly after Superman’s return, Lex Luthor breaks out of Arkham and reveals Batman’s secret identity to Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke. (Justice League)
- After defeating his half-brother Orm and stopping a war between the underwater kingdoms and the surface world, Arthur Curry ascends the throne as king of Atlantis, wielder of the Trident of Atlan, and ruler of the seven seas. (Aquaman)
- Billy Batson is granted the powers of Shazam, and thwarts Dr. Sivana’s evil plans. While this could take place a little earlier, it is pretty well established within the film the events occur after those of Justice League, so we’ll just default to year of release here. (Shazam!)
- Barry Allen encounters a parallel universe version of himself in STAR Labs. Though it is unclear when in his timeline the encounter occurs, it is before he has adopted the moniker of The Flash — which is given to him by the Arrowverse’s Barry. Based on his reaction to the meeting, it can be assumed this takes place before Barry has explored other realities via the Speed Force. (Crisis on Infinite Earths)
- Harley Quinn and Joker break up, and she establishes a new life in Gotham. She goes to war with Roman Sionis, and the Birds of Prey are formed. The events of Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) take place after both Suicide Squad and Justice League — and at a time when Batman has gone missing. (Birds of Prey)
As seen in the epilogue of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, in a potential future, Superman has succumbed to Darkseid’s anti-life equation following the death of Lois Lane. As a result, he becomes a powerful weapon wielded against humanity, and his former teammates, including Batman and Flash, as well as Mera, Slade Wilson, and Joker. Many heroes of the past, meanwhile, have perished. (Zack Snyder’s Justice League)