The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been keeping us company since 2008, when the first Iron Man was released. Back then, none of us had any idea that the films to come in the next 2-3 years will make up what we now know as Phase One. Neither did we know we would need, at some point in time, full lists to help us figure out how to watch the Marvel films in order of story.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is also made up of TV series, all of which are linked together by plot elements that eventually bring them all together, even if it might not seem so at first glance.
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As far as the films go, while the offer is rich, the Marvel Studios’ releases rarely, if ever, respect the temporal order of events. And neither do the TV series, most of them having been made to fill in the gaps between various significant events.
While all this might not be as confusing for an avid Marvel fan that has some knowledge of the main plots in the comic books, the casual viewer might find some events and characters confusing.
If you haven’t really been interested in the comics, haven’t watched all the films, were a little confused or if you were simply wondering where to start, we’ve made up a list that will help you watch all the movies in order.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
While Captain America is the fifth film in the order of release, it’s actually the first one you should watch, as the events take place during the Second World War.
The film starts with Steve Rogers as a frail and weak young man who enlists to fight the Nazis.
He agrees to participate in a program that, thanks to a serum, transforms him into a super soldier. Flanked by his best friend, Bucky, and assisted by Peggy Carter, Steve fights against a group of Nazis led by Red Skull.
In this film, we discover the origins of Captain America and we see the Tesseract (one of the Infinity Stones) for the first time.
Captain Marvel (2019)
Yes, the second film to watch is actually one of the more recent ones. Captain Marvel is set in 1995 and, in it, we meet Carol Denvers, a US Air Force Pilot who gains superpowers after she is hit by a wave of radiation.
She loses her memory and joins an elite group of Kree aliens but, upon return to Earth, she discovers not only her past, but also that that the enemies of the Kree, the Skrulls, plan to invade her home planet.
Iron Man (2008)
Within the Marvel timeline, Iron Man takes place in 2010 and focuses on Tony Stark and his journey to get Stark Industries to develop technologies for civilian, and not military purposes.
With the help of his assistant, Pepper Potts, he creates an advanced version of the Iron Man exoskeleton and the rest is history.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
The second Iron Man picks up where the first left off: Tony Stark is a crime-fighting multimillionaire with an armor of his own design, who calls himself Iron Man.
After publicly disclosing his dual identity, the United States government wants to get hold of his armor so it can be adopted by the army special forces.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Bruce Banner is trying to find an antidote for the genetic mutations that have turned him into a monster. He also has to watch his back because he is being hunted down by the army led by General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, who wants to capture him for study.
At the same time, Bruce also has to deal with an enemy creature called Abomination.
Note: In this movie, the Hulk is played by Edward Norton but, as of 2012, the character has been entrusted to Mark Ruffalo, who soon became a fan-favorite.
The god of thunder, Thor, is the son of Odin, king of the gods of the city of Asgard.
In this movie, Thor’s arrogance risks unleashing a war between the people of Asgard and their enemies, the Frost Giants.
In order to punish Thor, Odin exiles him to Earth, without his trusted hammer, Mjolnir, which is the source of his power.
Here, Thor fights a creature of almost unlimited power but on Earth is also where Thor meets his love interest, the brilliant Jane Foster.
The Avengers (2012)
Based on the Marvel comic of the same name, The Avengers officially closes Phase 1 of the MCU.
The story sees all the superheroes we’ve met before come together to defeat a common and very powerful threat.
Here we will see Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow fight side by side for the first time.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
In Thor’s second standalone series, he returns to Asgard and fights against a dark enemy that threatens to plunge the entire universe into darkness.
The film reunites Thor with Jane Foster and his half-brother, fan-favorite Loki.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
The third Iron Man film takes place six months after the massive fight that took place at the end of The Avengers.
The memories of that fight make Tony Stark build an Iron Man armor army so that he will never be caught unprepared. In this movie, Tony must face an opponent whose power seems limitless.
When Stark sees his world destroyed by his enemy’s hand, he embarks on a desperate search to locate the one responsible. As he fights, he finds the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him for years: does the man make the armor, or does the armor make the man?
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
After the apocalyptic events in New York in The Avengers , Captain America: The Winter Soldier shows us Steve Rogers living a quiet life in Washington, DC where he tries to adapt to the modern world.
Soon enough though, he finds himself entangled in a situation that yet again, threatens to put the world in danger. He joins forces with Black Widow and a new friend and ally: Falcon.
In this movie, Captain America has to face an unexpected enemy: The Winter Soldier, Steve Rogers’ best friend, who was believed to have died in the Second World War.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy expands the Marvel Studios universe into space, where adventurer Peter Quill becomes the target of a manhunt after he steals a mysterious sphere a villain called Ronan planned to use to destroy the universe.
Quill makes up a ragtag team of outsiders in order to escape Ronan. However, once he discovers the true power of the sphere, he realizes that instead of running, they will have to fight to save the galaxy.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
This movie takes place a few months after the events of the first film.
Here, Quill is falling more and more in love with his alien crewmate, Gamora. At the same time, he has to confront a figure from his past: a divine entity called Ego.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Still haunted by nightmares caused by the final battle of the first Avengers, Tony Stark, alongside Bruce Banner, creates a new weapon that aims to protect the Earth and act as a helping hand for The Avengers.
However, this weapon gains sentience, turning against them and the entire world. The Avengers have to work together once again against this new threat.
In this movie, we are introduced to new characters that will become popular in the franchise through the years, such as the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and Vision.
Ant-Man is the movie that ends Phase 2 of the MCU and it follows Scott Lang, a thief that has recently been released from prison and is getting ready to rebuild his life.
Dr. Hank Pym, his mentor, is willing to offer him a second chance and here, thanks to new villains, we are introduced to the costume that gives this minuscule superhero its name.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Following Age of Ultron, The Avengers begin to divide.
Steve Rogers discovers that the US government does not see The Avengers as a completely safe option for the protection of the world and wants to have more control over them.
This in turn, creates the Sokovia Accords, which wants for every superhero to register and act under government control. Of course, not everyone agrees with this.
To further complicate the matter, we also have Bucky Barnes in the mix, the former Winter Soldier who is now a fugitive. The Black Widow is ordered to arrest him following a bomb attack on a UN meeting. However, Steve Rogers gets in the way and, as you can imagine, this causes a huge clash between The Avengers.
Black Panther and Spider Man are also introduced in this film, albeit in very small roles.
Black Widow (2020)
In her first standalone film, Natasha Romanov (Black Widow) is seen in the aftermath of the previous film, Civil War.
In this film, she runs into a dangerous conspiracy related to her past as a spy. During her adventure, she will meet old friends and family, her father figure included, a hero known as the Red Guardian, the Soviet Union’s answer to Captain America.
Black Panther (2018)
After the events of Captain America: Civil War, the hero of Wakanda returns to his homeland as King, following his father’s death.
However, not everyone is happy about it.
This film sees him fight new enemies who threaten the fate of Wakanda and question his leadership.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
In this movie, Peter Parker, soon after his appearance in Civil War, explores his identity as a superhero.
Here, he is put against Vulture, a black market trader who resells the alien weapons recovered in the ruins of New York, after the battle in The Avengers movie. But Peter is not alone: he has none other than Tony Stark by his side.
Doctor Strange (2016)
This movie is a standalone that introduces us to neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, who, after a terrible accident, discovers a world he never knew existed and develops powers he never even dreamed of.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Following the Battle of Sokovia in Age of Ultron, Thor has wandered the Universe in search of the Infinity Stones.
Upon returning to Asgard, he finds Odin has fallen into a deep sleep, akin to death, while Thor’s brother, Loki, has taken over Asgard.
The two are told by a vision of Odin that they also have a sister, Hela, the Goddess of Death. She makes an appearance almost immediately after Odin’s passing, and demands the throne of Asgard.
After the two attempt to fight her, Hela destroys Thor’s hammer and throws the two on a ‘junk’ planet. There, they meet Hulk again and join forces with another Asgardian, Valkyrie, in order to destroy Hela.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
After the events recounted in Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang must face the consequences of his choices as both a superhero and a father. As he struggles to manage his family life and his responsibilities as Ant-Man, he is given a new and urgent mission by Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym.
Scott has to put on his suit once again and fight alongside the Wasp as they try to rescue Hope’s mother from her imprisonment in the Quantum Realm.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
The Avengers and their allies now have to face their worst enemy yet: Thanos, an intergalactic villain that has been orchestrating getting his hands on the Infinity Stones for years.
The Avengers, scattered all over the world and the galaxy, have to team up with their friends as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy to try and stop Thanos from fulfilling his plan to wipe out half of the Universe.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
After Thanos’ plan is successful, the whole universe is in chaos. Half of The Avengers are gone but those who are left, are working on a plan to make things right again.
Five years after Infinity War, Steve Rogers has to reunite The Avengers for one last time, in one final push to bring the world back together.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
This is the last movie of Phase 3 and in it, Peter Parker takes a trip to Europe with his school, promising to himself he will be just a high school kid this time, at least for a few weeks.
He soon has to break his promise when Nick Fury asks for his help. When an ally called Mysterio comes to his help, Peter is delighted to have a helping hand, but soon enough, he proves to be a very dangerous enemy.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
The events of this movie start immediately after the final scene of the previous movie.
Spider Man’s identity is revealed to the public and, since Mysterio has placed the responsibility of the disastrous events from Far from Home on him, everyone considers Peter Parker to be a criminal.
Desperate, Peter goes to Doctor Strange for help, asking him to make a spell that will get the world to forget his real identity. Unfortunately, Peter changes his mind in the middle of the spell, which causes a rift in the Multiverse.
Shang-Chi And The Legend of The Ten Rings (2021)
This movie starts with events from hundreds of years in the past, up to 1996, and then finally, in the present time, which is the year 2023, not long after the events of Endgame.
In the film, we follow the titular Shang-Chi warrior who has to face the past he thought he left behind and the mysterious Ten Rings organization, his father leads with an iron fist.
This film also takes place post-Thanos, though it follows events that have happened as early as 5000 B.C as we follow beings called Eternals that have lived on our planet ever since.
They have been sent by creatures called Celestials to fight monsters named Deviants, which planned to eradicate humans.
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Ever since, they have lived in our midst throughout history. But of course, they soon find out more is at stake than they have ever thought possible.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
This film, at the time this article is being written, is not out yet, but we know that it follows the events of Spider Man: No Way Home.
Doctor Strange is the protagonist of this movie and we see him using his magic to manipulate time and space. In turn however, he opens the door to the Multiverse and, as you can imagine, it’s not good news at all.
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He enlists the help of his ally and friend Wong and the Scarlet Witch to deal with this situation but there’s more danger to this situation than he initially thought.
Now all we have to do is wait for this last movie on the list to be released, in order to find out more. It will definitely not be the last; so get your hand on this list and get to (re)watching before the movie drops in the cinemas, so you can be up to date with the whole story, as well as the easter eggs we’ll most likely see scattered through the film.