The Marvel Cinematic Universe has now been going on for more than 10 years. As these movies (including Avengers: Infinity War, Guardians of the Galaxy and captain Marvel) have gone on, they’ve also become ever-more interlinked, featuring regular cameos, references, and Easter eggs to other installments. For newcomers to superhero movies, the amount of material to watch can be overwhelming. But for those wanting to persevere, there are two watching orders.
Now, with added TV shows – including Loki – there are even more adventures for you to enjoy.
Now, you could watch these movies in release order, starting the journey with Iron Man and moving onto The Incredible Hulk, then Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and finishing Phase One with Avengers Assemble.
This order works well in terms of the post-credit scenes setting up the next movie, plus this gives the series the intended rhythm formed by producer Kevin Feige.
However, many fans have taken to watching the movies in chronological order.
This might be a little convoluted, but that should not put you off: to make the TVA (Time Variance Authority) proud, below is every piece of MCU viewing material mapped out in chronological order, including movies, Netflix shows, one-shots (those mini-films you will find in the DVD extras), and other TV shows. In brackets are the years the films officially take place in, as confirmed by Marvel Studios.
Here’s the chronological viewing order of the Marvel movies:
- Captain America: The First Avenger (takes place during WWII)
- Captain Marvel (takes place in 1995)
- Iron Man (takes place in 2010)
- Iron Man 2 (takes place after Iron Man)
- The Incredible Hulk (time unspecified, pre-Avengers)
- Thor (takes place six months before Avengers)
- The Avengers (takes place in 2012)
- Iron Man 3 (takes place six months after The Avengers)
- Thor: Dark World (post-Avengers, pre-Ultron)
- Captain America: Winter Soldier (post-Avengers, pre-Ultron)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (sometime in 2014)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (after Guardians)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (takes place in 2015)
- Ant-Man (takes place in 2015)
- Captain America: Civil War (post-Ultron, pre-Infinity War)
- Black Widow (takes place right after Civil War)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (post-Civil War, pre-Infinity War)
- Doctor Strange (takes place in 2016)
- Black Panther (takes place in 2017)
- Thor: Ragnarok (post-Ultron, pre-Infinity War)
- Avengers: Infinity War (takes place in 2017)
- Ant-Man and The Wasp (ambiguous, but fits nicely between IW and Endgame)
- Avengers: Endgame (starts in 2017, finishes in 2022)
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (eight months post-Endgame)
Marvel movies in order: release date
Want to watch the MCU movies in release order instead? Try this list. Watching the Marvel movies in this order is how Marvel Studios intended you to see the story play out, and you’ll get to enjoy how the movies got bigger and better over the years – especially as Disney took over ownership and started pumping up the budgets. You’ll also find Marvel movies release dates for Phase 4 and beyond below, which is accurate as of the publication time at the top of this article.
Phase One (2008 to 2012)
- Iron Man (2008)
- The Incredible Hulk (2008)
- Iron Man 2 (2010)
- Thor (2011)
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
- Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
What’s it all about?
Billionaire arms-dealing playboy Tony Stark has a life-changing experience in the desert and builds himself a hero suit. He fights a number of other tech-industry figures and meets Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, and her SHIELD boss Nick Fury.
Earnest science guy Bruce Banner has a life-changing experience in the lab and becomes a confused, angry green giant.
Alien god-type guy Thor is exiled to Earth and learns about sacrifice in a life-changing experience before defeating some frost giants.
Weedy 1940s shrimp Steve Rogers has a life-changing serum pumped into him and becomes a Nazi-bashing – sorry, Hydra-bashing – demigod in blue tights, then gets frozen for 70-odd years before thawing out in 2011.
Together they all join forces (with some archery guy called Hawkeye who no one really cares about) under Nick Fury’s aegis to take down Thor’s naughty half-brother Loki and his alien hordes.
New York bears the brunt of it.
There are also some moments you may have forgotten about…
Phase Two (2013 to 2015)
- Iron Man 3 (2013)
- Thor: The Dark World (2013)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
- Ant-Man (2015)
What’s it all about?
A (briefly) traumatized Tony Stark steps back from the action, only to be drawn back into it by another tech-industry figure and his puppet villain, an actor called Trevor who was the toast of Croydon.
Thor has some trouble with a red McGuffin and some Dark Elves. Captain America is forced to turn against his own corrupt government when his old pal Bucky turns up as a brainwashed supersoldier.
The Guardians of the Galaxy are a bunch of alien ne’er-do-wells who have trouble with a purple McGuffin and the alien warlord Thanos, and we also meet petty criminal Scott Lang, who inherits shrinking technology and becomes Ant-Man.
But neither the Guardians nor Ant-Man have anything to do with the Avengers, who team up again to take down the cyber-consciousness Ultron, wrecking the country of Sokovia in the process.
Phase Three (2016 to 2019)
- Captain America: Civil War (2016)
- Doctor Strange (2016)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
- Black Panther (2018)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
- Captain Marvel (2019)
- Avengers: Endgame (2019)
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
What’s it all about?
The Big One. The Phases to end all Phases, until Phase 4.
We meet Doctor Strange. He’s a surgeon who can do magic, and his real name actually is Doctor Strange. (Of course, if he were British, like the actor who plays him, he would be Mr. Strange, FRCS.)
Captain America, his flying friend Falcon, Bucky, Ant-Man and Black Widow team up against Tony Stark, his buddy War Machine, his former cyber-butler Jarvis (now a demigod called Vision), Stark’s teenage protégé Spider-Man and his new royal African friend Black Panther in a dispute over whether superheroes should answer to the world’s governments or not.
From the scale of it and the size of the cast, you might think this is Avengers 3, by the way, but it isn’t.
Cap’s guys are variously captured or go into hiding, while Thor and Hulk are busy battling Thor’s sister, the goddess of death. They win, but fall foul of Thanos at the end (that guy again!).
The Guardians have more fun in space unconnected to anything else, until they meet up with Thor. Everyone we have mentioned so far apart from Thanos teams up against Thanos, who is collecting all the McGuffins in order to wipe out half of all life in the universe for ill-considered reasons.
THANOS (spoilers) WINS and kills half of all life in the universe.
Phase Four (2021 to 2024)
- WandaVision (TV show)
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (TV show)
- Loki (TV show – now releasing)
- Black Widow (2021)
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (September 3, 2021)
- The Eternals (November 5, 2021)
- Ms Marvel (TV show – late 2021)
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (December 17, 2021)
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (March 25, 2022)
- Thor: Love and Thunder (May 6, 2022)
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (July 8, 2022)
- The Marvels (November 11, 2022)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp Quantumania (February 17, 2023)
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 (May 5, 2023)
Best Marvel Movies According to IMDb
Another factor that might help you decide which order to watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies is their review scores, which have varied a little over the years.
We’ve ranked the franchise below according to their IMDb scores, decided by the consensus of a large number of fans, and it’s little surprise to see the two most recent Avengers films come out on top.
- Avengers: Endgame (IMDb score: 8.4)
- Avengers: Infinity War (IMDb score: 8.4)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (IMDb score: 8)
- Avengers Assemble (IMDb score: 8)
- Iron Man (IMDb score: 7.9)
- Thor: Ragnarok (IMDb score: 7.9)
- Captain America: Civil War(IMDb score: 7.8)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (IMDb score: 7.7)
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (IMDb score: 7.6)
- Spider-Man: Far from Home (IMDb score: 7.5)
- Doctor Strange (IMDb score: 7.5)