The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a sprawling, gargantuan series of comic-book movies that can be viewed in a number of ways. From release order, to character-specific arcs, to the good old-fashioned chronological method. Lets explore the best Marvel movie viewing order!
Disney and Marvel have done a fantastic job in crafting a lived in Marvel universe that neatly includes easter eggs and references while crafting a galaxy so huge that it gives Star Wars a run for its money.
Today we’re going to show you how to watch every single MCU movie in the order that they were released and then how to navigate the MCU timeline in the order that the events occur. The best thing is, when Disney release Avengers: Infinity War and Ant Man and the Wasp, you’ll be able to binge every single one on Disney Plus (with the exception of The Incredible Hulk and the two Spider-Man movies, sadly).
How to watch every Marvel movie in the correct order
It’s actually pretty difficult to find a complete list of the MCU films in the order that they were released, so here you go Marvel fans. If you want to tackle the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the way that Disney – Marvel Studios intended, here you go.
- Iron Man (2008, Jon Favreau)
- The Incredible Hulk (2008, Louis Leterrier)
- Iron Man 2 (2010, Jon Favreau)
- Thor (2011, Kenneth Branagh)
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011, Joe Johnston)
- The Avengers (2012, Joss Whedon)
- Iron Man 3 (2013, Shane Black)
- Thor The Dark World (2013, Alan Taylor)
- Captain America The Winter Soldier (2014, Anthony and Joe Russo better known as the Russo Brothers)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, James Gunn)
- Avengers Age of Ultron (2015, Joss Whedon)
- Ant-Man (2015, Peyton Reed)
- Captain America: Civil War (2016, Anthony and Joe Russo better known as the Russo Brothers)
- Doctor Strange (2016, Scott Derrickson)
- Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2017, James Gunn)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017, Jon Watts)
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017, Taika Waititi)
- Black Panther (2018, Ryan Coogler)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018, Anthony and Joe Russo, better known as the Russo Brothers)
- Ant Man and the Wasp (2018, Peyton Reed)
- Captain Marvel (2019, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck)
- Avengers: Endgame (2019, Anthony and Joe Russo better known as the Russo Brothers)
- Spiderman: Far From Home (2019, Jon Watts)
- (Black Widow) (2020, Cate Shortland)
Use Disney Plus to binge-watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga in order
The advent of Disney Plus has made watching the Infinity Saga a much less arduous process (cheers Disney). No longer will you have to switch discs between Iron Man 2 and Thor, or Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange.
It also means that you can see Thanos’ long term plan to find every infinity stone play out in the MCU timeline one Marvel film at a time. If you’re super hardcore, you can also work in the Marvel tv shoes, such as the Netflix shows; Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders. However, with Disney Plus quashing the Marvel Netflix dream, it’s unclear how canonical these are anymore.
What certainly are canon, however, are the official Marvel Universe tv shows like Agent Carter and Marvel‘s Agents of Shield. If you’re talking an in universe Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline, Agent Carter comes just after Captain America: The First Avenger, while Agents of Shield splits depending on which season you’re watching.
Different ways to spice up your MCU viewing order
Not content with watching your Marvel movies and tv shows by Marvel phase? Well, this Marvel superfan decided to cut together every MCU movie by scene, painstakingly coming with an MCU viewing order that is completely chronological.
Watching each MCU film in the order that they were meant to be seen in is a must for any Marvel fan. There’s something so fun about switching on Disney Plus, starting with Iron Man and spotting all the easter eggs and little details that you may not have seen the first time around. Move over Star Wars and Harry Potter, there’s a new series of movies to binge watch, and it’s called the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
However, we’re also going to give you our recommendation for the best way to view the Infinity Saga: chronologically. Our MCU viewing order will follow a simple A to B structure, by trying to work out what year each movie is set in. From there we’ll order each Marvel movie downwards to show what the most complete way to view this cinematic universe is. Many sites have given their own take on the best MCU viewing order such as the famous official concession stand order. However, we’re going to start with Captain America: The First Avenger in 1942 and move all the way up to that iconic moment in Avengers: Endgame where Cap smacks Thanos with Thor’s hammer and shouts ‘Avengers Assemble!’ Let’s do this MCU fans!
How to watch the MCU in chronological order
We’ve done our best to work out, or at least give our best guess of the chronology of the MCU. Some scenes are obviously set in the past and one or two films use flashback, so we’ve only gone for entire movies that feature in a specific year. It’s worth stating that most MCU movies don’t confirm which year they’re set in, so we’ve had to make some educated guesses!
We’ve also only mentioned some of the TV shows, as this is a cinematic viewing order. However, shows with characters from the movies like Agent Carter and Agents of Shield seem to be more directly tied into the wider story, so we’ve put them down as ‘suggested viewing’ where appropriate. We’ve also included the Marvel Netflix shows as ‘extra reading’, as despite not featuring any Marvel movie characters, they occasionally allude to the Battle of New York as well as tenuous references to characters like The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man.
So, without further ado, here is our attempt at putting the Marvel movies in the order that they occur, to create a full Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline that features every film. If you have any comments, including where other tertiary shows like Cloak and Dagger or the Marvel one shots like All Hail the King fit in, please let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!
Captain America: The First Avenger
Suggested TV viewing: Agent Carter
Though a flashback in Guardians of the Galaxy technically places the beginnings of the MCU billions and billions of years ago with the forming of the infinity stones, we’ll start with this movie, thank you very much. The 1940s introduce us to Steve Rogers, Peggy Carter, Howard Stark, Red Skull, and Bucky Barnes, who all return in later movies. If you’re a real sucker for continuity you can pause the post-credits scene where Steve wakes up in the modern world and play it directly before The Avengers. We don’t recommend that, though unless you’re trying to spot signs that the movie predicted the events of 2020.
This MCU movie also marks the first time in the Marvel Universe that we see an infinity stone, (though we don’t know that it is one at the time).
Agent Carter picks up four years later in 1946, and features Stark and Carter in a post-Captain America world, setting up the beginnings of S.H.I.E.L.D.
This surprise prequel explores the origins of Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel. We know its the 90’s because of the various littered references, including a Blockbuster – thanks, Disney. We also meet a young Nick Fury and Phil Coulson. Fun!
The Incredible Hulk
Here’s where things become a little more obvious, for now. The Incredible Hulk is clearly set after the events of Iron Man as it features a post-credits scene where Tony Stark approaches General Ross about the Hulk joining the Avengers. Iron Man 2 and Thor presumably follow in their respective years.
Iron Man 2
There’s nothing too notable here in Tony Stark’s second adventure, bar the introduction of Black Widow. If you’re using our order, you’ve already met Nick Fury in Iron Man.
Marvel‘s The Avengers
Suggested TV viewing: Agents of Shield and The Marvel Netflix Shows
We know for a fact that The Avengers is set in 2012, and it’s made explicitly clear in Avengers Endgame. All straightforward so far, providing you accept that The Incredible Hulk is now far more Mark Ruffalo looking. In the now iconic Marvel post-credits scene, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (as it’s known in the UK) also marks the first appearance of (a non-Josh Brolin) Thanos.
Agents of Shield picks up not long after The Avengers, though it catches up with the movies at various points, so switch off when they start talking about Hydra towards the end of season one.
The Marvel Netflix shows (Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, The Defenders) also allude to the battle of New York, and can therefore, be enjoyed concurrently. Quite obviously, 2012 is notable for marking the first time that the Avengers assemble as a team; a landmark date both in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and our own. Avengers also introduces Loki’s scepter which contains the second infinity stone: the mind stone.
Iron Man 3
Thor: The Dark World
Iron Man 3 marks the beginning of Marvel phase two, but otherwise this period is pretty self-explanatory. Thor: The Dark World introduces a third infinity stone and is confirmed to be set in 2013 by Avengers Endgame while Iron Man 3 deals with Tony Stark’s anxiety directly after the Battle of New York.
Iron Man 3 does feature a flashback to New Years Eve 1999, however, but we’re not mad enough to factor that into our MCU timeline.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2
James Gunn confirmed that Guardians vol 2. is set a mere two months after the ending of the first, which is supported by the presence of the adorable Baby Groot. It’s worth mentioning that Guardians 1 marks the first time that Thanos speaks on-screen and we also meet our fourth infinity stone; the power stone.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Age of Ultron features the one and only appearance of Ultron, which represents a big step in Tony Stark’s personal character arc. Agents of Shield also ties into this one with the titular agents helping out at the Battle of Sokovia while Ant Man shows us a de-aged Hank Pym and Howard Stark in a flashback that’s set before Captain Marvel, but after Captain America. Phew.
Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War kicks off Marvel phase 2 with a bang and marks the second time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline that the Russo brothers direct. It’s also notable for being the closest Marvel film to an Avengers movie without bearing the name.
Black Panther and Spider Man Homecoming directly follow characters introduced in Civil War with reference to the events of that movie as if it happened recently. It seems more recent in the mind of Peter Parker, so we’re going to say that Spider Man Homecoming comes before Black Panther. Not to mention the fact that significantly more time needs to have passed for Bucky to become the White Wolf in Wakanda.
As for Doctor Strange: it was released in 2016 and needs to come before 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok for Benedict Cumberbatch’s cameo to make sense, so placing it in this part of the MCU timeline is obvious.
Ant Man and The Wasp
Avengers: Infinity War
Thor Ragnarok ends with the cliffhanger that leads directly into Infinity War, so it definitely at least ends in 2018 and obviously takes place earlier, before the Asgardians settle into their new life as ship dwellers. With Ant Man and the Wasp and Avengers Infinity War itself; they occur around the same time, though Ant Man and the Wasp quite clearly takes place a few weeks/days before the conflict in Infinity War before catching up to Thanos’ climactic snap at the end. This is a lot neater, as Infinity War works better heading straight into Avengers Endgame, than randomly digressing with the slightly less universe ending adventures of Scott Lang and co.
When Black Widow releases, it’s likely to fit in somewhere between these three as it takes place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers Infinity War. Thor: Ragnarok is also notable for including the destruction of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, which wouldn’t be recovered until the events of Avengers: Endgame.
2018 / 2023
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Avengers: Endgame obviously picks up directly after Infinity War, then time skips five years. Spider-Man Far From Home deals with Peter’s grief at the loss of Iron Man and both Thanos’ and The Incredible Hulks’ snaps are directly referenced as well as the ‘deaths’ of Captain America and Black Widow. Simples.
Watching the MCU in chronological order
Putting each film in our chronological MCU viewing order creates a tidy MCU timeline that covers every movie but omits the Marvel tv series, lest we be here all night.
You can also place the upcoming Black Widow somewhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, but that should become more clear when the movie is finally released.
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Captain Marvel
- Iron Man
- The Incredible Hulk
- Iron Man 2
- The Avengers
- Iron Man 3
- Thor: The Dark World
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Ant Man
- Captain America: Civil War
- Spider Man Homecoming
- Black Panther
- Doctor Strange
- Thor: Ragnarok
- Ant Man and the Wasp
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Avengers: Endgame
- Spider-Man: Far From Home
When the Marvel Studios – Disney Plus shows like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and the Tom Hiddleston led Loki launch, this is going to get even more complicated. Not to mention upcoming movies like The Eternals and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. If you’re a complete Marvel fanatic, you can expand past the world of film and make your own list including the Marvel tv series.
Netflix shows Daredevil season one and the first Jessica Jones season pick up shortly after the events of the Avengers, while Agents of Shield season one also starts shortly after the Battle of New York, but soon becomes entangled with the HYDRA conspiracy that forms the basis of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Iron Fist, The Defenders, and Luke Cage also follow on directly from Daredevil season one, though all five are only tenuously linked to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with few vague references to Thor’s hammer and no conflict on the scale of a battle for an infinity stone.
Regardless of how you want to watch the MCU, there’s nothing better than sitting down with a load of friends and binging your favorite Marvel movies. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll get even more hyped for the release of Black Widow.
Thank you Disney and Marvel for creating this incredible Marvel universe! We can’t wait to see what comes next.
Still need more MCU content? Find out what huge X-Men / Fantastic Four Marvel Cinematic Universe news has been leaked, who Chris Evans’ favorite superhero is, or watch a montage of every time Cap gets punched in the MCU.
Have we made any errors in our MCU viewing order? Which MCU film is your favorite? Did you spot any easter eggs that might change our MCU timeline? Give us all of your Marvel Cinematic Universe comments below. Excelsior!