Summary

  • Time travel has been a key element in various Marvel movie franchises, allowing characters to learn new information, affect their own futures, and even save the entire universe.
  • The MCU, Fox’s X-Men Universe, and Marvel Television’s
    Agents of SHIELD
    have all utilized time travel in a variety of storylines, with many different characters having traveled through time.
  • Loki, Wolverine, Deadpool, Ms. Marvel, and Kang the Conqueror are just a few of the iconic Marvel characters who have used time travel to complete various missions.

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Time travel has been used by various characters in the MCU and other Marvel movie franchises, with many different means of traveling through time having been introduced into Marvel’s live-action superhero universes. While many early projects in Marvel movie franchises dealt with smaller-scale stories and introductions to now-prominent superheroes and villains, larger concepts have been introduced in recent years, expanding the worlds of these franchises beyond belief. The complex concept of the multiverse has been explored in the MCU and Sony’s Spider-Man Universe, but the idea of time travel has also been used as a vehicle to drive the overarching narratives of these franchises forward.

Although most prominently seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Fox’s X-Men Universe also included several time travel narratives. While exploring the idea of time travel had the potential to feel like a gimmick in some instances, it has always been used organically in storylines, allowing characters to learn new information, affect their own futures, and, in some cases, save the entire universe. Time travel has been a crucial element in the storylines of many characters, both in the MCU and other Marvel franchises, and studios have often found clever and unexpected ways to throw their characters through time.

Outside the main MCU continuity and Fox’s X-Men Universe, time travel was used throughout Marvel Television’s Agents of SHIELD, as Phil Coulson and his team journeyed to a variety of different timelines, particularly in the series’ epic final season.

Related: Avengers: Endgame’s Time Travel Explained (Properly)

10 Time Travel Was A Huge Part Of Loki’s Storyline

Loki Season 1 (2021) & Loki Season 2 (2023)

Time travel was never a key element in the original storyline for Tom Hiddleston’s Asgardian God of Mischief, Loki, but the Loki series on Disney+ explored the concept in great detail. After escaping from the Avengers during Endgame, the MCU’s current variant of Loki was taken captive by the Time Variance Authority, an organization that exists outside of time and is able to travel to any time period through the use of TemPads and Time Doors. Loki season 1 also saw Loki travel to the end of time, coming face-to-face with the creator of the TVA, Jonathan Majors’ He Who Remains, a variant of Multiverse Saga villain Kang the Conqueror.

Loki season 2 expanded on this idea even further, as Loki himself was imbued with a time traveling ability known as “time-slipping”. Initially, this was shown to be a violent and unpredictable process, shifting him between the past, present, and future seemingly randomly. However, Loki soon learns to control his time-slipping ability, which becomes paramount in him saving the multiverse in Loki season 2’s finale. After using his time-slipping to revisit He Who Remains before his death, and say a final farewell to Mobius and Sylvie, Loki transforms into the God of Time, taking his final position at the end of time, watching over the infinite branches of the multiverse.

9 Doctor Strange Used The Time Stone In The MCU’s Infinity Saga

Doctor Strange (2016) & Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Doctor Strange using the Time Stone to turn back time in Doctor Strange

Benedict Cumberbatch’s MCU debut in 2016’s Doctor Strange saw him quickly harness the power of the Time Stone, an Infinity Stone that had command over the concept of time. Using the stone, Strange turned back time to thwart the invasion efforts of Dormammu and his zealots, and later stuck himself and Dormammu in a time loop in an effort to bargain with the ruler of the Dark Dimension. Later, in Avengers: Infinity War, Doctor Strange uses the Time Stone while waiting for Thanos on Titan in order to look forward in time to see possible futures and try and plan a way to defeat the Mad Titan.

8 Wolverine’s Consciousness Was Sent To 1973 In Days Of Future Past

X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014)

Kitty Pryde sending Wolverine's consciousness back in time in X-Men Days of Future Past

2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past was the first project in Fox’s X-Men Universe to explore the concept of time travel, but rather than an entire individual being thrown back in time, Kitty Pryde uses her ability to send Wolverine’s consciousness back into his body in 1973. This allows Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine to retain the knowledge of the future, and enlist the help of the younger Professor X, Magneto, Beast, and Mystique in stopping the development of the Sentinel robots at the very start, preventing a destructive future war. When Wolverine returned to the present day, he still remembered the war that never happened, having changed his own timeline.

7 Cable Traveled From The Future To Save His Family

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Josh Brolin's Cable in the future in Deadpool 2

Taking place in the new rebooted version of Fox’s X-Men Universe, 2018’s Deadpool 2 saw Josh Brolin’s Cable travel back in time from the future in an effort to prevent the deaths of his family at the hands of a dangerous mutant. Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool had inadvertently formed a partnership with said mutant, young Russell Collins, so initially butted heads with Cable. Even so, Cable eventually sacrificed his only means of traveling home in order to save Deadpool’s life, safe in the knowledge that the future had already been changed, and his family would be safe. Cable time traveled using a futuristic device that resembled a wristwatch.

Josh Brolin also portrayed the Mad Titan Thanos in the MCU proper. It’s possible that he could return in Deadpool 3 or beyond to portray Cable alongside Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, having previously signed a four-picture deal with Fox, but Marvel Studios has yet to confirm his involvement in future MCU projects.

6 Deadpool May Have Caused Many Problems With His Time Traveling

Deadpool 2 (2018)

While Cable’s time traveling device had been exhausted, Yukio and Negasonic Teenage Warhead fixed the device in Deadpool 2’s post-credits scene, allowing the Merc-with-a-Mouth himself to travel back through his own history. Deadpool used his new time traveling power to save Vanessa from her death at the beginning of the film, avoid human X-Force member Peter’s gruesome death, repeatedly shoot the version of Deadpool from 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and meet Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine for the first time, and shoot Ryan Reynolds in the head moments after reading the script for 2011’s reviled Green Lantern. This is sure to have repercussions for Reynolds’ upcoming MCU debut in 2024’s Deadpool 3.

5 Ms. Marvel Broke The MCU’s Time Travel Rules In Phase 4

Ms. Marvel (2022)

Kamala Khan time traveled to 1942 in Ms. Marvel

The MCU’s time travel rules were laid out fairly clearly in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, suggesting that a character time traveling would create a branching timeline, rather than affecting their own personal timeline. However, Phase 4’s Ms. Marvel broke this rule, as Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan was transported back in time by her mystical bangle. Kamala found herself in 1942 during the Partition of India. There, Kamala used her hard-light ability to guide her grandmother back to her great-grandfather, ensuring her own birth many decades later. This causal loop broke all of Endgame’s rules, but provided an exciting story for Ms. Marvel in her MCU debut.

2023’s The Marvels confirmed that Kamala Khan’s bangle is one of two Quantum Bands in the MCU, adapted from the powerful Marvel Comics devices wielded by Nova, Phyla-Vell, and Wendell Vaughn, a.k.a. Quasar.

4 Thanos & The Black Order Came Forward In Time To Battle The Avengers

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

2014 Thanos in the future in Avengers Endgame

While the majority of Avengers: Endgame’s time travel focused on the Avengers themselves traveling through time to collect the Infinity Stones, the epic Phase 3 film also saw a major MCU villain travel through time. In an alternate 2014, the Mad Titan Thanos caught wind of the Avengers’ actions, and, after capturing the future version of Nebula, used Pym Particles to transport himself and his entire army into the future of the MCU’s 2023. Once there, Thanos immediately attacked and destroyed Avengers HQ, and fought the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in an effort to retrieve the completed Infinity Gauntlet, though he and his fleet were ultimately eradicated by Tony Stark.

3 Kang The Conqueror Is The MCU’s Master Of Time Travel

Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

Kang the Conqueror before his transformation in the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man and the Wasp Quantumania

After Thanos’ demise, Marvel Studios introduced Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror as the MCU’s next primary supervillain. In Marvel Comics, Kang is a master of time travel, having used his time traveling equipment to create many different versions of himself throughout time. In the MCU, his story has been slightly changed, as Kang uses his machinery to travel between various different timelines and realities, though there are still an infinite number of Kang variants posing a huge threat to the future of the MCU. Recent controversies surrounding Jonathan Majors have thrown Kang’s MCU future into jeopardy, but currently, he is still set to appear in 2026’s Avengers: The Kang Dynasty.​​​​​​​

Kang the Conqueror’s backstory and motivations have yet to be explored in detail, but 2023’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania revealed that he has already obliterated many alternate timelines and realities in the MCU, proving he is a major threat to the franchise’s heroes.

2 The Avengers Saved The Universe By Time Traveling

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Perhaps the most notable use of time travel in the MCU’s history occurred during Avengers: Endgame, which picked up five years after Thanos snapped his fingers and wiped out half the population of the universe. Realizing time works unpredictably in the Quantum Realm, Scott Lang revealed to the surviving Avengers that the Quantum Realm could be used to travel through time, allowing the heroes to collect the Infinity Stones from the MCU’s history, and use them to bring their fallen friends back. This plan ultimately succeeds, with the Avengers traveling to key moments in the MCU’s past, though it came at the cost of Black Widow and Iron Man’s lives.

During Avengers: Endgame’s Time Heist, Scott Lang’s Ant-Man, Bruce Banner’s Smart Hulk, Steve Rogers’ Captain America, and Tony Stark’s Iron Man journey to 2012’s New York to acquire the Time Stone, Mind Stone, and Space Stone. Rogers and Stark later travel to 1970’s Camp Lehigh after failing to retreive 2012’s Tesseract. Thor and Rocket travel to 2013’s Asgard and collect the Reality Stone from Jane Foster, while Nebula and Rhodey’s War Machine collect the Power Stone from 2014’s Morag before Peter Quill can. Natasha Romanoff’s Black Widow and Clint Barton’s Hawkeye travel to 2014’s Vormir for the Soul Stone, with Romanoff sacrificing herself to Barton can return with the stone.

1 Captain America Retired By Time Traveling To The Past

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Steve Rogers in the past with Peggy Carter at the end of Avengers Endgame

After the Time Heist and the Battle of Earth, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes took a moment to memorialize their fallen friends, Natasha Romanoff, Vision, and Tony Stark, before Steve Rogers embarked on his final mission: returning the collected Infinity Stones to their original timelines. Rogers set out on this mission alone, returning each stone to where they came from, but instead of returning as planned, he decided to retire as Captain America and remain in the past with his long-lost love Peggy Carter. This was the perfect ending for Steve Rogers’ Captain America in the MCU, and proved just how valuable time travel was in completing his Marvel journey.

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