Marvel movies in order: the MCU timeline

What order should the MCU be watched in? Nearing three dozen movies in length, not including the growing number of direct TV tie-ins, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is starting to get a tad unruly. From battling the Nazis in WWII, to fighting living planets, bargaining for humanity’s existence against cosmic entities, and enjoying the internet speeds of 1995, the franchise of Earth’s mightiest heroes stretches across time and space, and then some.

As fun as all of this is – and gosh, is it fun – it does make catching up on it all a bit of a job. Whether you’re new to the rivalry of Iron Man and Captain America, or just need to be reminded what’s up with the Guardians of the Galaxy, knowing exactly where to start, or at what point in the universe you are, isn’t always as simple as reading the synopsis.

That’s where we come in, and using our handy viewing order, you know the best way to watch the many instalments of the MCU. Our list flows chronologically, starting from the earliest point in earth’s history depicted thus far, going right up to present day. We’ve included the films, as well as the TV shows that directly overlap with the movies, including a shared cast. Unfortunately, that means no Agents of SHIELD, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Daredevil, Iron Fist, or Inhumans.

How do I watch the Marvel movies in order?

  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • Agent Carter (Seasons 1 and 2)
  • Captain Marvel
  • Iron Man
  • Iron Man 2
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Thor
  • The Avengers (aka Avengers Assemble)
  • Iron Man 3
  • Thor: The Dark World
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Ant-Man
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Black Panther
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Doctor Strange
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Avengers: Endgame
  • WandaVision
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

The introductions of Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes, the Red Skull, and Agent Carter, in a period movie about Captain America helping to stop the Nazis from harnessing an Infinity Stone for nefarious use. We’re sure nobody involved quite understood what they were helping kick off, but the lively energy here makes a perfect way to start the universe.

Agent Carter (Seasons 1 and 2) (2015-2016)

In the first season of Agent Carter, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), and Howard Stark (Dominic West) investigate a possible Soviet terrorist attack. Though the second season is less immediately pertinent, together they help flesh out the post-Steve Rogers, pre-Tony Stark world.

Captain Marvel (2019)

The birth of the Avengers Initiative, or at least, what inspired Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to start putting it together. As a stopgap between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel was a playful throwback to earlier movies, and as the second film in the series, it fuels lots of speculation with the shapeshifting Skrulls, while also lining up some new heroes.

Iron Man (2008)

The Marvel film, directed by Jon Favreau, that started it all still holds up. What more can be said about Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, and the eccentric world his fortune bankrolled? Even now, when Nick Fury pops up in that post-credits scene, it’s spine-tingling stuff.

Iron Man 2 (2009)

In its earlier years, Marvel Studios struggled with sequels, and Iron Man 2 is a casualty of that. Mickey Rourke in a superhero flick is a novelty, of course, and let’s not forget Don Cheadle taking up the mantle of James ‘War Machine’ Rhodes from Terrence Howard. Other than that, this is one of the more frivolous entries.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Speaking of frivolous, William Hurt’s Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross reappearing later is just about all that still ties this to the MCU as a whole. Studio politics mean we may never see Mark Ruffalo get to lead a Hulk movie like Edward Norton does here, which is a shame, and any further significance has been downplayed since this came out.

Thor (2011)

Like Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor does a lot of work in setting up the overall mythology of the MCU. We get the tesseract, multiple dimensions, and, of course, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, the latter becoming an early fan-favourite. It doesn’t hurt Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, and Kat Dennings are involved, either.

The Avengers (aka Avengers Assemble) (2012)

Maybe the most important blockbuster this century? Certainly not far off. Watching the heroes come together for the invasion of New York does everything you expect it to, turning everyone into household names in the process. The changing of leadership from Stark to Rogers starts here, and the upcoming Loki spin-off draws from these events.

In another timeline: Watch the X-Men movies in order

The 360-degree shot of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, and Black Widow rallying together for the first time still absolutely rules, and we get our first look at Thanos in the post-credits scene. Cinema.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

The end of Tony Stark’s trilogy is contentious among the fanbase, but it’s a crucial piece of character work that separates Tony from the suit. Indeed, the guilt and resentment that would lead Tony astray in later movies is established, and we get some great action scenes besides.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Down beside The Incredible Hulk for least consequential MCU movie. The reveal of the Reality Stone, and Benicio Del Toro’s first appearance as The Collector give it some substance, but on the whole, it doesn’t add much.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Bucky Barnes returns as The Winter Soldier in the MCU sequel that reshapes the universe as we know it. SHIELD turns out to be Hydra, which is then dismantled by Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff, and Sam Wilson. Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, this was a turning point for Marvel Studios, and in proper order, it still ramps up the action.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Next, we take to the stars for a space-bound team of misfits, lowlifes, and thieves who’d become crucial in the war against Thanos. It’s hard to pick favourites, of course, but Groot (Vin Diesel) and Drax (Dave Bautista) do have a tendency to steal the show. We get another Infinity Stone, and Josh Brolin’s first appearance as Thanos, who’s the adopted father of Gamora (Zoe Saldana). We are Groot.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Sticking to space, James Gunn’s follow-up has Kurt Russell as Ego, The Living Planet, so you know it’s going to be good. The second volume contains more personal drama than the first, and the familial conflict between Gamora and Nebula (Karen Gillan) directly ties into the oncoming face-off against Thanos. In the post-credits scenes, we learn cosmic Marvel hero Adam Warlock is on the way, from the gold-skinned Sovereign race – exciting times ahead.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Back down to Earth for the team’s fight against Ultron, and the start of their unraveling. Tony Stark makes it clear he’s looking for a way out of the avenging business, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff join the fray, and Vision is born via the Mind Stone. Very much a setup for the third phase of the universe.

Ant-Man (2015)

Away from the planet-threatening stakes of the Avengers is Ant-Man, led by Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang. Some of the 70-odd year gap between The first Avenger and now is explored, showing Hank Pym’s separation from SHIELD, and the tech market away from the shadow of Stark Industries. Not all superhero stories need to be about the end of the world, and Lang’s story of a dad trying to do right by his daughter grounds the franchise, before we head into even grander territory.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

The rift between Stark and Rogers tears the Avengers apart, Bucky’s dark past as the Winter Soldier is exposed, and Spider-Man and Black Panther are introduced. Civil War covers a lot of ground, and delivers on the action to boot. Spidey takes on Captain America, The Falcon tests Vision’s accuracy, and Iron Man and War Machine have to wrangle Giant Man in the central hero-on-hero fight. The big second act tragedy heading into Thanos showing up.

Black Panther (2018)

The Ryan Coogler-directed Black Panther begins just a week after Civil War. Newly crowned King T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, reckons with Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) challenging him for the throne. The vibrant kingdom of Wakanda, now a crucial region of the MCU, is brought to life in all its glory.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Fresh from web-slinging through Civil War, Tom Holland, the MCU’s Peter Parker, gets his own movie. Everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, hellbent on becoming an Avenger, learns balancing heroism with being a decent student isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Not all heroes wear capes: The best action films

Vulture’s plan may be thwarted by the webhead, but Michael Keaton’s performance as the working class crook gives Holland a real run for his money.

Doctor Strange (2016)

After getting an offhand mention in The Winter Soldier, Doctor Strange finally enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film shows his complete origin story, from world famous surgeon to master of the mystic arts and, like Guardians of the Galaxy, it widens the palette for Marvel Studios productions. Characters flow in and out of cascading realities, and physics becomes a kaleidoscope, controlled by those who have done the appropriate training. The Time Stone is revealed, and Strange takes his place in New York’s Sanctum Sanctorum as a protector of Earth.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

The energy of Taika Waititi’s threequel for the God of Thunder is best exemplified by Thor exclaiming “He’s a friend from work!” when he finds Hulk is his challenger for space gladiatorial combat. Silly, madcap, eccentric, and thrilling, Thor: Ragnarok’s burning of Asgard is the cosmic equivalent of Civil War, throwing characters to the wind for the burgeoning showdown. Appearances by Doctor Strange, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) only add to the spectacle.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

The second Scott Lang adventure pairs him up with Hope Pym, the titular Wasp, against the elusive Ghost. Some very comic-book-y science is deployed to explain the Quantum Realm, a microscopic layer of reality that Hope’s mother vanished into, and more of SHIELD’s shady underbelly is exposed. By the end, the Pym family is reunited, but just before Thanos’ snap vanishes all but Lang.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

The first of a massive two-parter brings many of the hanging threads together. Thor, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Hulk, and Captain America join Wakanda against an invasion of Thanos’ Black Order, while Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy challenge Thanos himself on his ruined homeworld, Titan. Ultimately, it’s all for naught when the Mad Titan manages to gather all the Infinity Stones, ripping the last from Vision’s head, and performs the Snap, removing half of all life in the Universe.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

The climax to the MCU’s three phase journey features our heroes learning to cope with a world in which they lost. Some moved on, like Tony Stark, others, like Hawkeye or Thor, not so much. Building a second gauntlet out of Infinity Stones gathered from throughout time allows those lost in the snap to be brought back for the final showdown, a fists-in-the-air battle that gives everyone a second to shine. One that’s always worth a fresh bag of popcorn.

Loki, wearing their golden horns, and a three-piece suit, with two armed guards

Loki (2021)

This can go a couple of different places in the timeline, but the easiest – for now – is right after Avengers: Endgame. Loki joins the Time Variance Authority to investigate crimes against the timeline, and learns he might not need to be a complete baddie along the way.

WandaVision (2021)

Disney launching its own streaming service, Disney Plus, has led to some miniseries becoming part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the first of which is WandaVision. A broadly surrealist piece of sci-fi, the six episodes show more of Wanda’s backstory, and her struggling with Vision’s death. More than a couple of new faces are brought into the universe, as well as some welcome returns, and a foreboding future is teased at the end.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021)

Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) takes up the mantle of Captain America in this quasi-buddy cop action series. Wilson’s forced to work with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) to stop a mysterious terrorist cell, all the while contending with John Walker, a US Government-appointed replacement for Steve Rogers. Amid all of this, Wilson learns of the racially unjust history of the Captain America moniker, vowing to do better by what it stands for.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

The final movie in the MCU timeline for the time-being is Tom Holland’s Spider-Man sequel, where he tries to win over MJ’s heart, but gets interrupted by Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio. The death of Tony Stark looms large, in more ways than one, forcing Peter to create resources of his own to outwit the baddies that confront him. An affirmation of a bright future, and one that’s still full of surprises, if a certain last-minute cameo’s anything to go by.

Phew – that’s it, how to watch all the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in order. Of course, we’ll be updating this when more come out, so check back if you want to stay up to date. For a little more whimsy, here’s the best Disney movies.

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Anthony McGlynn

Staff writer

Updated: Jun 10, 2021


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