This is our chronological guide to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in order
Since 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has graced the big screen, captivating audiences and bringing some of our favorite comic book superheroes to life. As the popularity has grown, the premieres of the films have become global phenomenons. They are some of the highest-grossing films in the history of cinema and have tied together some of the best storylines Marvel Comics has written. It is never a bad time to start watching Marvel movies.
Many people watch them over and over again, trying to follow the complex stories. You’ll see them on Disney Plus. But rather than just pick up at a random time, are you trying to figure out how to watch the Marvel movies in order?
You could start at the beginning of how the films were released chronologically. Then you’d be starting with Iron Man, where we got to see Robert Downey Jr. bring Tony Stark to life. A different way to watch the Marvel movies in order would be to watch them chronologically based on storylines.
Then, you won’t have to worry about going back and forth when the films jump from place to place. Of course, this also offers up a new way for people who are returning to the films to get a fresh perspective on it all. Some of the films released are set before other ones than you’ve already seen so far.
There are 25 films in the MCU so far. In this guide, we’ll show you different ways to watch Marvel movies in order. We do want to warn you that some spoilers will follow below. We mostly stuck to background info or things you’ve seen in trailers.
Why wouldn’t you watch Marvel movies in the order they were released?
Well, there is certainly a case for that. You’ll be getting the same experience that millions of other viewers have who have watched them all in movie theaters since 2008. You’d see jumping back and forth between the beginning of the Avengers, the backstories for many of the principal superheroes, and just how in the world different galaxies and planets are linked to the storylines we’ve seen on Earth.
But it does cause you to go back and forth in time a lot, creating some confusing trends.
If you want to watch all 25 movies in a row, you very well may be able to keep track of the storylines because they’d be fresh in your mind. But the fact that these have rolled out over the span of 16 years gives you the indication and proof that it is a lot of information.
Even people who work at Marvel have a hard time remembering things. With storylines this complex, you should consider watching the Marvel movies in order with how the events unfolded. Following along with the Infinity Saga (the first three phases of the MCU) is fun but there is a lot thrown at you.
How to watch Marvel movies in chronological order
If you just want to get right to it, here’s the full list of all Marvel movies in chronological order:
- Captain America: The First Avenger (1942)
- Captain Marvel (1995)
- Iron Man (2010)
- Iron Man 2 (2011)
- The Incredible Hulk (2011)
- Thor (2011)
- The Avengers (2012)
- Iron Man 3 (2012)
- Thor: The Dark World (2013)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
- Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2014)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
- Ant-Man (2015)
- Captain America: Civil War (2016)
- Black Widow (2016)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2016)
- Doctor Strange (2016-2017)
- Black Panther (2017)
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2017)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (2017)
- Avengers: Endgame (2017-2022)
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2023)
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2023)
How to watch Marvel movies in release order
Want to see all the Marvel movies and Disney Plus TV series broken out into release order by MCU phase? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. You’ll find each MCU Phase down below. Anything that hasn’t yet been released is listed in bold with release dates, when available.
MCU Phase 1
- Iron Man (May 2008)
- The Incredible Hulk (June 2008)
- Iron Man 2 (May 2010)
- Thor (May 2011)
- Captain America: The First Avenger (July 2011)
- Avengers Assemble (May 2012)
MCU Phase 2
- Iron Man 3 (May 2013)
- Thor: The Dark World (November 2013)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 2014)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (August 2014)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 2015)
- Ant-Man (July 2015)
MCU Phase 3
- Captain America: Civil War (May 2016)
- Doctor Strange (November 2016)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 2017)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 2017)
- Thor: Ragnarok (November, 2017)
- Black Panther (February 2018)
- Avengers: Infinity War (April 2018)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 2018)
- Captain Marvel (March 2019)
- Avengers: Endgame (April 2019)
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 2019)
MCU Phase 4
- Wandavision (TV series)
- The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (TV series)
- Loki (TV series)
- Black Widow (July 2021)
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (September 2021)
- The Eternals (November 5, 2021)
- Hawkeye (TV series) (November 24, 2021)
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (December 17, 2021)
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (March 25, 2022)
- Ms. Marvel (TV series)
- Thor: Love and Thunder (May 6, 2022)
MCU Phase 5
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (July 8, 2022)
- The Marvels (aka Captain Marvel 2) (November 11, 2022)
- The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special (coming during the holidays in 2022)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (February 17, 2023)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (May 5, 2023)
- Blade (release date TBD)
- She-Hulk (release date TBD)
More movies and shows that might be in MCU Phase 5
- Loki season 2
- Fantastic Four
- Deadpool 3
- Armor Wars
- I Am Groot
- Moon Knight
- Secret Invasion
What are Marvel movies about?
A reminder that if you don’t want to know more about plot lines, you can avoid the trailers and the descriptions and look at the order of the films. It only makes sense to start back with the earliest developments in the stories. That, of course, would be with Captain America.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Steve Rogers’s storyline starts in 1942 during World War II, as he becomes a super soldier to help the United States fight against Hydra. Captain America: The First Avenger came out in 2011 but is the farthest back in time, storywise.
In the film, you follow Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) from getting rejected from World War II recruitment to taking part in a trial that creates super soldiers through injection. As the trailer shows, you see Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) offering up that injection, based on technology created by Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper).
You meet Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Steve’s best friend, as well as Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), a U.S. Army officer. This gives you background on Steve Rogers and how he became the “first Avenger.”
Amazingly, the MCU covers the 1940s and then jumps all the way to the 1990s when it comes to chronology. Captain Marvel, which came out in 2019, is the next movie up, as it takes place in 1995. The film lands in the middle of the MCU’s “Phase 3”. You get the backgrounds of both Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who you meet in Captain America: The First Avenger, and Carol Danvers (Brie Larson). You learn how exactly a fighter pilot from the United States becomes a superhero and part of an intergalactic war.
This story is much more important for the latter MCU movies, as Captain Marvel comes to the rescue to help out many in later films. It is a 90s buddy cop movie vibe of sorts and you learn a lot about Fury’s rise. You get to meet Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) as well, who you’ll see in many different films. The post-credit scenes for this movie will not make sense to you if you are watching the Marvel movies in this order. But you will see that in the case of all of these, so when it comes to post-credit scenes, take them in and revisit them later.
We come to where the MCU officially began. 2008’s Iron Man is where it all started. As we mentioned above, you first meet Tony Stark (RDJ) escaping a terrorist cell and building a technologically advanced suit to become the superhero, Iron Man. Surprisingly, it was the #8 highest-grossing movie of that year but set a precedent for what would become a juggernaut of entertainment.
The film takes place in 2010 and was the beginning of Marvel’s “Phase 1”. You meet Virginia “Pepper” Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Tony’s personal assistant, as well as James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Terrence Howard), the liaison between Stark Industries and the United States Air Force. Agent Coulson also appears as does Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), Tony’s driver and bodyguard. Paul Bettany premieres as J.A.R.V.I.S., the artificial intelligence that Stark uses at his home and in his technology, as well. This helps set the stage for much of the storylines heading from 2010 forward.
Iron Man 2
Next up is the first sequel to Iron Man. Iron Man 2 came out in 2010 and portrays events set right after the first movie. It follows Tony Stark’s refusal to give the government information on his Iron Man technology. He battles with people trying to get their hands on his suit and the evil Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who wants revenge of a more personal nature.
This film introduces Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a rival weapons manufacturer, and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), a S.H.I.E.L.D. spy. Don Cheadle takes over the mantle of Rhodes and we see him become War Machine. Fury, Potts, Happy, and Coulson all are back in action again. This is also the first time in the modern story we see multiple Avengers working together.
What’s next while watching Marvel movies in order?
The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk gives us our first peek at the big green superhero. Universal Studios made Hulk in 2003, starring Eric Bana, and it received mixed reviews. So Marvel Studios reacquired rights to the character while Universal kept distribution rights. Edward Norton took over the role of Bruce Banner from Bana and the events in this film are set around the time of Iron Man. The film premiered in 2008, about a month after Iron Man.
We find out more about how Dr. Banner becomes The Hulk because of the military “Super-Soldier” program that Steve Rogers was a part of. In this film, we see Hulk learn how to potentially control his transformations and use them for good while being hunted by the military, led by Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt). Ross’s daughter, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), is Banner’s former girlfriend. It should be noted that this is the lowest-grossing MCU film and, after Norton fought with Marvel about the editing of the film, was subsequently replaced in the role of Banner.
Your next trip is to Asgard for Kenneth’s Branagh’s Thor. Released in 2011, the events of the film take place around the same time as the previous two films. This movie tells the story of the god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who, after reigniting a war between worlds, is banished to Earth by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). He must prove himself worthy to return after his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), tries to take over the throne of Asgard.
Important characters that you meet in this movie are Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), a scientist and Thor’s love interest, Dr. Erik Solveig (Stellan Skarsgård), a scientist who discovers Thor, and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), Foster’s intern, on Earth. This movie sets the stage for the next few Thor films and a fourth one is upcoming. Agent Coulson is back again in this one, so you may start to be realizing a pattern. We also get our first look at Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) in this one.
Thanks to the events of Thor, we come to the finale of “Phase One” of the Infinity Saga. The Avengers came out in 2012 and is set in that year. Joss Whedon directed it and it shows us what exactly Nick Fury was culminating and assembling all this time. This movie grossed $1.5 billion and became the third highest-grossing film of all time. It brought together the main superheroes from the previous films to all work together to save Earth.
Loki, who you may know has a long storyline in the MCU, including his own TV show, tries to become the ruler of Earth and the Avengers have to try and stop him. Mark Ruffalo takes over as Bruce Banner. Stark, Banner, Romanoff, Thor, Barton, and Rogers, under the guidance of Fury, lead the charge. Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), a high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, makes her debut. The post-credit scene for this introduces the villain that will reign over the rest of the Infinity Saga.
Phase 2 begins here when watching Marvel movies in order
Iron Man 3
“Phase 2” of the Infinity Saga brings us to Iron Man 3. This film was released in 2013 and takes place six months after the events of The Avengers. This is a more internal film as Tony battles the consequences of the previous film. It grossed over $1.2 billion worldwide.
Iron Man 3 expands on Rhodes, Potts, and Stark’s arcs as well as brings us more Happy Hogan. Tony must battle the Ten Rings terrorist cell from the original Iron Man film again. This is the first Iron Man film that Favreau decided not to direct.
Thor: The Dark World
The second Thor film, Thor: The Dark World, follows the events of The Avengers as well. It was released in 2013 with Hemsworth and Hiddleston reprising their roles as Thor and Loki. It is the first Thor film written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley, who wrote Captain America: The First Avenger, and went on to write many more MCU films. Thor must team up with Loki to stop the Dark Elves from taking over the Nine Realms.
Portman, Dennings, and Skarsgård all return, as do Idris Elba as Heimdall, Rene Russo as Frigga, Hopkins as Odin, and Jaimie Alexander as Sif. Ray Stevenson is back as Volstagg and Tadanobu Asano returns as Hogun. Zachary Levi takes over as Fandral, another member of the Warriors Three. The post-credit scenes for this movie are particularly important in setting up a few of the next movies.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
As you may have imagined, we checked in with two of the Avengers in stand-alone sequels. Now we get Captain America’s turn in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This also follows the events of The Avengers and is set in 2014. Rogers has joined S.H.I.E.L.D. and works alongside Romanoff/Black Widow and Sam Wilson a.k.a. Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to uncover a conspiracy in the agency. The film is the first in the MCU directed by Joe and Anthony Russo.
Trying to stop them is The Winter Soldier, but there is more than expected with that. Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo) and Sharon Carter (Emily Van Camp) both play S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Robert Redford stars Alexander Pierce, a senior official at S.H.I.E.L.D. Fury, Hill, Peggy Carter, and Barnes all return, as does Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones). Check out these post-credit scenes for some important cameos.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Changing from Earth to space, the Guardians of the Galaxy gives us the best understanding of what exactly all of the galactic villains are after: the Infinity Stones. This was released in 2014 and was written and directed by James Gunn. While the Guardians of the Galaxy were not as well known as, say, Captain America was back in 2014, they certainly made names for themselves. This follows a crew of outer space criminals trying to outrun villains who want what they have stolen.
Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is the leader of the group. His crew includes Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel). You will notice in the trailer that Quill is a human and the others, well, are not. Yondu (Michael Rooker), the leader of another criminal group, Nebula (Karen Gillan), the lieutenant to Ronan (Lee Pace), and The Collector (Benicio del Toro) are amongst those who make their full-time debuts in the MCU. You’re sure to love the soundtrack of this movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Speaking of soundtracks, the title of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 gives off a second album vibe. While the movie premiered in 2017, it follows the 2014 events of the first GOTG. This outgrossed its predecessor, raking in $863 million worldwide. Again, we follow the Guardians of the Galaxy who must save the galaxy again and learn more about Star-Lord’s lineage.
The main change to the crew is that Groot is now Baby Groot. The rest stay the same. Nebula and Yondu have more expanded roles in this film as well. Ego (Kurt Russell) is Star-Lord’s father. Mantis (Pom Klementieff) lives with Ego and Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) is the leader of the Sovereign people.
The Avengers meet up again while watching Marvel movies in order
Avengers: Age of Ultron
In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Avengers must come together once again to save the world. Written and directed by Joss Whedon, this movie premiered in 2015 and is set in that year. This film introduces the villain Ultron (James Spader) to the fray. It is an artificial intelligence created to eliminate mankind. The story brings together many of the characters we have gotten to know on Earth.
Thor, Black Widow, Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Hulk, are joined by Falcon, Fury, Selvig, and Hill to fight to take down Ultron. We see Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) in their full film debuts. Wanda, like Loki, got her own show this year. Bettany returns as J.A.R.V.I.S. as well as becomes Vision in this film. We continue to learn more about Thanos (Josh Brolin), the overarching villain of the Infinity Saga.
Wrapping up “Phase 2” of the Infinity Saga is Ant-Man. This came out in 2015 and is set in that year, so shortly after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. It has notably smaller stakes than the epics that are the Avengers movies. We meet Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) as well as Evangeline Lilly as Hank’s daughter Hope.
Hank was a former S.H.I.E.L.D. employee who worked on shrinking technologies in a suit. Lang is a former criminal who Pym recruits to help with a heist. Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has shrinking technology of his own and battles Ant-Man. In the post-credit scenes, you find out more about this film’s sequel and how these stories can connect to the Avengers.
Opening up MCU Phase 3
Captain America: Civil War
With such massive ramifications after Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War jumps right in to how the Avengers have to deal with what happened. Set shortly after the last Avengers film, the film was released in 2016. The Avengers are split on how to handle the responsibilities they have. This is the second film directed by the Russo brothers for the franchise and also the fifth script worked on by Markus and McFeely.
Filled with some fantastic fight scenes and plenty of “which side are you on?” dialogue, this brings back most of the main characters and introduces some more. The story boils down to Rogers wanting to protect Barnes while Ross and Stark feel the Avengers need some governing. This movie is built on conflict.
Massively delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Widow wasn’t released until 2021 but takes place in 2016. Technically a part of the MCU’s “Phase 4”, this gives us the backstory on Natasha Romanoff that we hadn’t had before. You don’t find out much of her history until this film. Johansson stars again and this film is directed by Cate Shortland and written by Eric Pearson with a story by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson. Schaeffer created WandaVision.
It shows us Romanoff’s childhood and how she became Black Widow. You meet her sister, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), as well as her childhood guardians Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz). Thaddeus Ross is also in this film. There is a post-credit scene that jumps forward in time quite a bit.
After meeting Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in Captain America: Civil War, he gets his first stand-alone MCU movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming. Set in 2016, the same year as Civil War and Black Widow, this film premiered in 2017. We get our first background story of how Peter Parker became Spider-Man and how Tony Stark helped him become the web-slinger.
Parker must battle being a high school student with the trials of also being a superhero. He has to keep his identity a secret. Happy Hogan, Pepper Potts, and Stark guide him and his want to save the world. In this film, you get more from Parker’s Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), and you meet Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), Liz (Laura Harrier), a love interest of Peter’s, Michelle (Zendaya), a classmate of Peter’s, and more. Rogers has arguably his funniest cameo in any of the films in this.
Whisked away into a world of mystic arts, Doctor Strange tells the story of Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). This movie came out before Spider-Man: Homecoming (2016) but is set before it and during the same time (2016-2017). It was directed by Scott Derrickson and made $677.7 million at the box office.
Shaping realities and manipulating time are key components of this film’s storyline. The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) takes Strange under her tutelage. You meet Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong), fellow Masters of the Mystic Arts, as well as Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), the love interest of Strange. Mads Mikkelsen portrays Kaecilius, another Master who has gone down the wrong path.
Black Panther brings one of the most beloved Marvel Comic characters to life for his first standalone film. This brings the origin story of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the King of the African nation, Wakanda. After meeting T’Challa in Civil War, you will follow his story before and after the events of that film for the Marvel movies in order. The film was directed by Ryan Coogler and debuted in 2018 with the events set in 2017. This film grossed $1.3 billion worldwide.
The film introduces us to Eric “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), who tries to take over the throne from T’Challa, Okoye (Danai Gurira) the head of the Dora Milaje, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), a Wakandan spy, Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s sister, to name a few. Martin Freeman reprises his role as Everett K. Ross. Also, John Kani reprises his role as T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka.
We head back off into the universe with the third Thor film, Thor: Ragnorok. This film was directed by Taika Waititi and premiered in 2017. The events of the film occur at the same time as Black Panther and some of Doctor Strange. This is two years after Age of Ultron. It reunites Thor and Hulk in space.
In the film, Thor must escape one planet in order to go home to Asgard and save it from Hela (Cate Blanchett). Loki returns to fight alongside Hulk and Thor. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) joins the team to take up the fight as well. The soundtrack for this movie is great and many of the characters we’ve seen in previous Thor films also pop up. Jeff Goldblum steals the show though. Also, the mid-credits scene sets up the next film.
Avengers: Infinity War
Thanos’s quest for the Infinity Stones is in full force in Avengers: Infinity War. This film came out in 2018 and was directed by the Russo brothers once again. The script was written by McFeely and Markus and the film is the fourth-highest grossing film of all time. It raked in over $2.1 billion at the box office worldwide.
Due to the scope of this film, almost every hero we have come to meet so far is in this. The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy battle Thanos in an intergalactic fight for control. Thanos wants genocide all over the universe. This is arguably the most epic film in the MCU. The spoilers after this film showed us so much leading forward.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Set in 2017, the same time as Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place mostly in San Francisco again. This film brings Hope Van Dyne as Wasp with her own shrinking technology suit. The film debuted in 2018, just under three months after Infinity War. Peyton Reed returned to direct his second Ant-Man film.
Hank Pym returns and the film discusses the Quantum Realm. Lang’s crew of Luis (Michael Peña), Dave (Tip Harris), and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) all return. Also, a few new characters show up as well. The mid-credits scene is massively important moving forward.
Dealing with the repercussions of Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame spans between 2017-2022 on the film’s timeline. The film was released in 2019 and was once again directed by the Russo brothers and written by Markus and McFeely. Avengers: Endgame grossed $2.79 billion worldwide and broke the record for the highest-grossing film of all time until March 2021.
Not to give away too much, but the superheroes pick up the battle once again to try and set things straight after the previous Avengers film. They have to do “whatever it takes”. Also, as you see in the trailer, Captain Marvel joins the fight.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
The final film of “Phase 3” of the Marvel movies in order is Spider-Man: Far From Home. Jon Watts returned behind the camera for his second Spider-Man film. It was released less than three months following the premiere of Avengers: Endgame.
This deals with Peter Parker dealing with the ramifications of Endgame while still trying to live a normal-ish life in high school. The film shows us Parker on a trip to Europe with his classmates. The film also discusses the multiverse.
MCU Phase 4 is underway
Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings
Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings premiered in 2021 and is set in the year 2023. It is the second film in “Phase 4” of the MCU. Black Widow is officially the first MCU Phase 4 movie, but it takes place earlier in Marvel’s timeline. Shang-Chi tells the story of Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), a martial artist with a past he is trying to comprehend and deal with. The film deals with family secrets and was directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.
Shang-Chi is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization. You also meet Katy (Awkwafina), Shang-Chi’s best friend, Wenwu (Tony Leung), Shang-Chi’s father, Ying Li (Fala Chen), Shang-Chi’s mother, and Ying Nan (Michelle Yeoh), Shang-Chi’s aunt, amongst others. This also helps set up future films in the MCU.