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The Entire Men In Black Timeline Explained

The first film in the "Men in Black" franchise hit cinemas in 1997, and it has gone on to become one of the most successful comic book to big-screen adaptations in Hollywood history. The original trilogy consists of "Men in Black," "Men in Black II" (2002), and "Men in Black III" (2012) and stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones who play Agents J and K respectively, two secret agents working for the fictional, top-secret "Division Six" of the federal government that deals with extraterrestrial life.

In the fourth film, "Men In Black: International" (2019), Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth take over as the new protagonists, portraying Agents M and H in the new era of MIB. Other stars who appear throughout the series include veteran actors such as Vincent D'Onofrio, Rip Torn, David Cross, Tony Shaloub, Rosario Dawson, Emma Thompson, and Liam Neeson.

While "Men In Black" is undoubtedly one of the most popular film series of all time, it can also be somewhat confusing. There are a ton of twists and turns in each film, as well as constant flashbacks to the past, so we're here to put it all together for you. This is the entire "Men in Black" timeline, explained.

In the beginning

The first "Men in Black" film establishes the foundation for the rest of the franchise. The film begins with Agents K and D (Richard Hamilton) attempting to apprehend an extraterrestrial monster named Mikey (John Alexander). It is quickly revealed that K and D are simply cover aliases and that they work for a secret organization of the government. In addition to an array of alien technology, the Men in Black also possess a gadget known as a neuralyzer, which they use to erase a person's memory.

After Agent D concedes he is getting too old for the job and laments the isolation of being an agent, K neuralyzes him, allowing him to live out his life in ignorance and bliss. K immediately sets out to find D's replacement, and he stumbles upon James Darrell Edwards II (Smith), an NYPD officer. Edwards is incredibly brash and outspoken, but K can also see his intelligence, street smarts, and potential.

After putting Edwards through a series of tests, K offers him the job at MIB, but he cautions him that doing so will cost him his family and friends, as no one can ever know about his contributions to the secret organization. Edwards accepts the offer and becomes Agent J, MIB's newest agent.

K and J save Earth from a bug

While Agent K is recruiting and training Agent J, a dangerous alien (D'Onofrio) crash lands on Earth. He quickly murders a farmer named Edgar and starts wearing his skin as a disguise, which K discovers after reading the tabloids. While on the way to interview the farmer's widow, Beatrice (Siobhan Fallon Hogan), J becomes an unlikely hero after he helps deliver an alien baby in the backseat of a car. After doing some soil testing K learns that the alien is a "bug," and he immediately calls the head of MIB, Zed (Torn), to warn him.

Meanwhile, Edgar seeks out another alien posing as a store owner, Gentle Rosenberg (Mike Nussbaum), who is revealed to be a member of the rival Arquillian royal family. Edgar kills the Arquillian trying to find "Orion's Belt," a mysterious but powerful object. Both Edgar and Agents K and J try to recover the belt from the Arquillian's body at the morgue, but Edgar gets there first and escapes with the medical examiner, Dr. Laurel Weaver (Linda Fiorentino), and the belt in tow.

The Arquillians get word of the murder and give Earth an ultimatum — arrange the return of Orion's Belt or face total destruction. K and J manage to track Edgar all the way to the observation towers at the New York State Pavilion. The towers are revealed to actually be spaceships, which Edgar wants to use to escape Earth.

Agent K walks away

After tracking Edgar to the observation tower, Agents K and J narrowly stop him from leaving, and in a final battle, K and J defeat Edgar and save Earth from destruction. However, the celebration is short-lived. After cleaning the alien goo off themselves, K sits down with J to have a heart-to-heart talk. K reveals to J he hasn't been training a future partner for himself, but rather he has been training J to be his permanent replacement.

K tells J that he is tired of the incredible isolation that comes from being a MIB secret agent as well as the horrific memories of alien battles, and that he is ready to retire from the organization for good. A saddened J neuralyzes K and erases his memories from his time in Men in Black, allowing him to return to his wife, who was led to believe he had been in a 35-year coma.

J takes over as K's replacement at MIB, with Dr. Weaver– now dubbed Agent L — as his new partner. J reveals that basketball player Dennis Rodman is secretly an alien, to which L replies "not much of a disguise." As the credits start to roll the camera zooms out on Earth, revealing it to be but a tiny part of a marble that aliens are playing a game with.

Agent J recruits Agent K

At the beginning of "Men in Black II," Agent J finds himself constantly shuffling through partners after the retirement of Agent K. While J is trying to fight off a giant worm attack in the New York City subway system, an alien named Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) lands on Earth. Serleena and her two-headed assistant Scrag-Charlie (Johnny Knoxville) then go to a pizza parlor and kill the owner, a disguised alien, after he refuses to give them the mysterious Light of Zartha.

While investigating the scene, J becomes attracted to one of the employees, Laura Vasquez (Dawson), and doesn't neuralyze her, leaving her with the memory of the incident — and himself — intact. Later, J goes to the park to investigate Serleena's landing site, which is now an MIB crime scene, where he learns about Serleena and the Light. The head of MIB, Zed, informs J that they have dealt with Serleena before and has him seek out former Agent K.

K had worked the case when Serleena previously made contact, but he is now living as a postal worker after J neuralyzed him at the conclusion of the 1999 film. J makes contact with K at the post office who is at first reluctant to follow him as he doesn't believe in aliens or the Men in Black.

The Light of Zartha, explained

After Agent J is able to get Agent K's neuralyzation reversed using alien Jack Jeebs' (Tony Shaloub) illegal machine, most of K's memories come back, but he still doesn't remember anything about Serleena or the Light of Zartha. After following a series of clues K eft for himself in case he ever needed to remember, they are forced to go to a creepy video store run by Newton (Cross) and Hailey (Colombe Jacobsen). There they watch a low-budget video showing them what had happened. As the video starts to play, K's memories begin flooding back, and he remembers what went wrong.

Decades prior, Agent K had hidden the Light of Zartha  — which was thought to be a bracelet — on Earth in an attempt to save Princess Laurana, his love interest, and her planet from complete destruction at the hands of Serleena. He convinced Serleena that the Light was flown off Earth, prompting her to chase after it, but not before she killed Lauranna. However, once Serleena realized the Light had never left Earth, she returned to find it and destroy the Zarthanians once and for all.

In the end, it is revealed that the Light of Zartha is not a bracelet, but is instead Laura — the witness to Serleena's original murder in the pizza parlor. Laura is revealed to be the daughter of Lauranna and K, and she holds the secret to the survival of the Zarthanians.

The Light of Zartha returns home

While Agents K and J are investigating the origins of the Light of Zartha, Serleena ambushes the Men in Black headquarters trying to find information about the whereabouts of the Light. However, K is the only one who knows where it is, so no one at MIB is of any help. She sends a team of henchmen she frees from the MIB jail to track down K and J, and they almost capture them inside Jeebs' shop before K regains his memory and they are able to escape.

J stashes Laura at a hideout with his alien worm friends, but Serleena finds the location and sends Scrag-Charlie to capture her and bring her back to MIB. J heads there himself where he battles his former nemesis Jarra (John Alexander) while saving Laura. K, J, and Laura all follow the Light on her bracelet to a space shuttle ready to take her back to her home planet. At the shuttle, K reveals that Laura herself is the Light, and she barely escapes with K and J's help as Serleena tries to kill her.

At the end of "Men in Black II," K reminisces about his time as a civilian as they return to headquarters for a debriefing with Zed. While in the locker room, K, Zed, and Frank the Pug give J unsolicited advice about his love life, which he hastily rejects.

Agent K and Boris the Animal

At the beginning of "Men in Black III," we are immediately introduced to the new villain, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), a boglodite alien who is imprisoned in the high-security LunarMax prison. Boris is able to escape and he goes to confront Agent K who had originally imprisoned him and shot off his arm in 1969. Meanwhile, Agents K and J begin to experience a rift in their partnership. J is upset that K shows virtually no emotion in his daily life, including when giving a eulogy to the recently deceased Agent Zed, one of K's supposed longtime best friends.

While at a restaurant, Boris and his henchmen attack K and J, with Boris cryptically warning K that he is "already dead" after he fails to kill them. J suggests they go after Boris to track him down and put him back in prison, but K suspends him for a month and tells him to forget the Boris situation because it is above his pay grade. 

While at home that night, K calls J, seemingly wanting to "share the secrets of the universe," but he is unable to get the words out. Moments later, K gets mysteriously sucked into a wormhole and vanishes from Earth.

Agent J time travels to the past

When Agent K gets sucked into the wormhole, Agent J's timeline is also affected. Nobody else in the world remembers K except him, including everyone at the MIB headquarters. He realizes this means that someone else has traveled through time and altered the past, concluding that it was Boris the Animal traveling back to 1969 to kill K. In an effort to save him, J also travels back to the same year.

J is able to find the 1969 version of K (played by Josh Brolin), and finds him surprisingly likable and pleasant. J is slowly able to convince K that he is his partner from the future, and they work together to track down Boris and deploy the ArcNet, a massive shield that will protect Earth from a boglodite invasion. In order to convince K to work with him, J reveals that the true reason he came back is to stop Boris from killing him.

Agents K and J work with Griffin (Michael Stulhbarg), who gives them the ArcNet, which they plan on putting on the Apollo 11 rocket to deploy into space. All three travel to Cape Canaveral, Florida, to the site of the Apollo 11 launch.

The final confrontation with Boris

While trying to make it onto the launch site to strap the ArcNet to the Apollo 11 rocket, Agents K and J and their companion Griffin are stopped by military police officers patrolling the area. Just when it seems like they will be thwarted and thrown in jail, Griffin communicates a vision to the Colonel in charge (Mike Colter) who allows them to proceed and head toward the rocket. Meanwhile, present-day Boris has successfully tracked down his 1969 self and together they attempt to confront K at the launch.

At the site, K takes on 1969 Boris while J battles the present-day version. J is able to successfully vanquish his foe, using time travel to trick him. K is also able to shake off the 1969 Boris, and he successfully plants the ArcNet on the Apollo 11, allowing it to be sent into space and save Earth.

The heartbreaking ending of MIB III, explained

While Agent K and the army Colonel are watching the ArcNet deploy into space, the 1969 Boris suddenly reappears. The Colonel sacrifices his life to save K, who immediately kills Boris once and for all in retaliation. Unknown to K, Agent J is watching the interaction nearby. As K is standing over the fallen military officer, the Colonel's son steps out of a car parked behind him. K walks over to the young boy, who introduces himself as James, and shows him a pocket watch in his hand.

Agent J is then shown holding the same pocket watch, and he realizes that he is watching a younger version of himself and that the Colonel who had just been murdered was his father. A heartbroken K, not realizing future J is watching, neuralyzes the young James and tells him that the only thing he ever needs to remember about his father is that he is a hero. A shocked J now realizes why K's personality changed: his lack of emotion is due to deep-seated pain rather than indifference.

Returning to the future, K and J mend their relationship, with K becoming visibly emotional at the site of J's pocket watch. The original trilogy ends with Griffin declaring it his new favorite moment in human history.

Molly's alien encounter

The fourth movie in the series, "Men in Black International," is for the most part a standalone film. It takes place in the same MIB universe as the previous three movies but is otherwise disconnected from them in terms of plot.

In 1996, the Wright family is enjoying a quiet night at home when they start to hear strange noises coming from out the front of their house. When the father goes to confront whoever is there, he sees an alien. MIB agents immediately show up at the Wright home and neuralyze the parents, but they fail to realize that the Wright's daughter, Molly (Mandeiya Flory), also encountered an alien. Molly helps the creature escape and avoids neuralyzation, forever holding the memory.

As an adult, Molly (played by Thompson) grows up to be an intelligent and hardworking person, who attempts to get jobs at various federal agencies like the FBI and CIA. However, at every interview, she brings up the MIB branch, which immediately gets her disqualified. Determined to join MIB, she develops a system for tracking potential alien landings. After successfully doing so and breaching a hidden portal, Molly follows a pair of agents to the MIB headquarters.

Molly becomes Agent M

As soon as Molly attempts to infiltrate the MIB headquarters she is quickly arrested. Under interrogation from MIB head Agent O (Thompson), Molly reveals her previous alien encounter and persuades O to make her a probationary agent instead of erasing her memory. Transferred to the London branch and given the alias of Agent M, she quickly manages to finagle her way into working with Agent H (Hemsworth). H used to be one of the best agents in the entire organization, but has not been the same since defeating an alien race known as the Hive the year prior with High T (Neeson), the head of the London branch.

H and M take alien Vungus the Ugly (Kayvan Novak) out to a club for a good time, but he ends up getting killed after they are attacked by two mysterious aliens that can seemingly turn into balls of energy. H and M soon find themselves in Marrakesh, Morocco, where they befriend Pawny (Kumail Nanjiani), a tiny alien who was also attacked by the same mysterious extraterrestrials but survived.

Back at MIB headquarters, Agent C (Rafe Spall) begins to suspect H and M are traitors, and a team is sent to Marrakesh to take them into custody. They narrowly escape with Pawny, and they discover a mysterious crystal that Vungus had given M is in fact a powerful alien weapon.

Agents M and H save the day

While Agents M and H are still in the desert, the weapon that Vungus had given M is stolen by Bassam (voiced by Novak), an alien who had secretly traveled with them. Bassam takes the weapon to Riza (Rebecca Ferguson) — an intergalactic arms dealer and H's ex-girlfriend — prompting the agents to travel there to try and recover it. After confronting Riza, M and H are narrowly able to escape when M reconnects with the alien she had met as a child, Luca Brasi (Spencer Wilding), who is now working as Riza's security. 

High T and MIB show up to rescue M and H from the same aliens who had attacked them before, and the Vungus case is seemingly wrapped up. However, M and H soon start to suspect that High T might be a traitor after learning that he had deleted previous files relating to the Hive and had not returned evidence. While on the way to confront High T, M asks H about their previous battle with the parasitic group, who realizes he can't remember what had happened because he had been neuralyzed.

They discover that High T has been corrupted and turned into one of the Hive, and they have one final epic battle where M and H defeat the faction for good. In the end, M becomes a full MIB agent while O assigns H to take over High T's former position as the head of London MIB.