Not sure which order you need to watch the Marvel films in? We’ve got you covered with our comprehensive guide on how to watch the films in chronological, MCU timeline order.
Let’s face it, whether you’re a fan of the series or a total newcomer, having all this extra time on our hands certainly feels like the best opportunity to blast through the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). There’s only one problem there – where on earth do you start?
Related: Our in-depth Disney Plus review
At present, there are 23 movies within the MCU, and a 24th – Black Widow – currently in limbo due to the current coronavirus pandemic, but with a newly slated release date of November 6th. Of course, this is without even touching upon the numerous complimentary TV series that surround the MCU films. To keep things simple, and avoid causing any headaches, this list will focus solely on the cinematic side of the MCU.
Every Marvel movie in chronological, MCU timeline order:
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
- Captain Marvel (2019)
- Iron Man (2008)
- Iron Man 2 (2010)
- The Incredible Hulk (2008)
- Thor (2011)
- Avengers Assemble (2012)
- Iron Man 3 (2013)
- Thor: The Dark World (2013)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
- Ant-Man (2015)
- Captain America: Civil War (2016)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
- Doctor Strange (2016)
- Black Panther (2018)
- Black Widow (2020)
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
- Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
- Avengers: Endgame (2019)
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
1. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
To kickstart your binge through the MCU, look no further than Captain America’s origin story. As its title implies, The First Avenger is the first film in the MCU timeline and takes places decades before any of the other entries on this list. It sees a young Steve Rogers is drafted into the US Army during World War Two, leading him down a path to eventually becoming the leader of the Avengers.
2. Captain Marvel (2019)
If you haven’t seen any of the trailers for Captain Marvel, you could easily be fooled into thinking that it’s set in the present day – relative to the MCU timeline anyway. After all, the first 20 minutes of the movie is spent in a futuristic alien planet run by an all-knowing AI. It’s only once Carol Danvers falls to earth and lands in a Blockbuster Video store that you realise Captain Marvel is set in the 1990s, taking second place in the MCU timeline. The film also serves as a mini origin story for Nick Fury, with a significantly de-aged Samuel L Jackson tearing up downtown LA.
3. Iron Man (2008)
The one that started it all, in a matter of speaking. As the first MCU film to be released, Iron Man set-up the present-day storyline in the MCU, placing it squarely in the number three spot where the overall MCU timeline is concerned. According to Marvel’s official timeline, Iron Man is set in 2010 (a whole two years after it was released in cinemas). It’s hard to say exactly sure why Marvel Studios decided to future proof the MCU in this way, but given the number of storylines the company’s juggled over the years, I’m willing to cut it some slack.
4. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Everyone loves Iron Man, but very few people enjoy Iron Man 2. At the time, Iron Man 2’s existence seemed to be based solely on the notion of keeping the MCU hype-train going ahead of Avengers Assemble. This opinion has only solidified over the years, especially as MCU fans are privy to a certain level of quality when it comes to sequels, as each one now greatly ties into the overarching narrative shared between all the MCU flicks.
5. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Remember when Edward Norton was Bruce Banner? Yeah, me neither. Even though Norton’s departure has caused The Incredible Hulk to become the black sheep of the MCU flock, the film still offered a thoughtful take on the green giant’s origin story, and one that’s a sure sight better than the horrendous pre-MCU flick from Ang Lee, simply titled Hulk.
6. Thor (2011)
The sixth film in the MCU timeline was the first MCU film released to take the audience away from earth and into space. Thor gave us a glimpse of what the expanded universe could offer in the years to come. Looking back, Thor is still a fun origin movie, and it absolutely nailed the awe-inspiring design of Agard, but it strikes an odd tone of having a pre-Avengers sensibility, with Chris Hemsworth playing the God of Thunder as more of a royal troglodyte and less like the humorous character we know him as today.
7. Avengers Assemble (2012)
There’s only a handful of movies throughout history that can be described as truly generational events, but in 2012, we got ours. Being the first crossover project of its kind, Avengers Assemble was unprecedented. Still, it proved to the world that the MCU was a force to be reckoned with – the process had taken years of planning, but Marvel Studios had finally found a formula that worked.
By comparison to the grander scale of later Avengers films, Avengers Assemble does seem twee today, but it’s still just as entertaining as ever. If you stick around until the after credits, you’ll also get your first glimpse at the MCU’s big bad: Thanos.
8. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Arguably more so than any other MCU flick, Iron Man 3 has fans split down the middle. You have those – like myself – who think it’s the best Iron Man film to date and others who believe that its central twist regarding the Mandarin makes it too much of a departure from what made the Iron Man films beloved in the first place (they’re wrong). Either way, it’s fascinating to see a different side of Tony Stark here, one who’s affected by severe PTSD following the events of Avengers Assemble.
9. Thor: Dark World (2013)
Before the comedic shift of Ragnarok, Thor had to take one more plunge into the more serious tone of its source material, which, in a post-Avengers Assemble world, made for a very dated watch. With that said, however, the film has now become an essential piece in the MCU puzzle for the role that it later plays in Avengers: Endgame.
10. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)
An absolute fan-favourite amongst MCU aficionados, Winter Soldier is the tenth film in the MCU timeline. It showed that the MCU could take on established genres outside of the typical superhero fare, with Cap’s sequel being a clear homage to classic spy movies of the 70s. The film follows Captain America and Black Widow as they unearth a dark conspiracy, that SHIELD itself has been infiltrated by Hydra – the same organisation spearheaded by Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Throw in a villain that can match Cap’s strength beat for beat, plus a new secret password that would become the source of much hilarity for years to come, and you’re looking at one of the MCU’s best.
11. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
With Guardians of the Galaxy, director James Gunn managed to do the one thing that previously seemed impossible – make us care about a computer-generated racoon. Starring an oddball cast of characters that weren’t quite as established as the likes of Iron Man or Captain America, Guardians was a gamble for Marvel Studios, but one that paid off massively and cemented the MCU’s split between comedy and action for years to come.
This is also the second time we catch a proper look at Thanos, as the Mad Titan himself plays a key role in influencing Ronan the Accuser.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Another Guardians movie I hear you cry – so soon? Yes, even though Vol. 2 was released after Age of Ultron hit the cinemas, it actually takes place just a few months after events of Guardians of the Galaxy, meaning that there’s a sizeable gap in the MCU timeline between Vol. 2 and Avengers: Infinity War where the Guardians have yet to be accounted for. I’d like to imagine that they spent all that time looking for intergalactic ice cream.
13. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
How do you up the ante to one of cinema’s biggest crossovers? Simple, just throw in a few extra characters and this time have the action sprawl into numerous locales throughout the world. Despite all that effort, Age of Ultron doesn’t quite hit the same heights as its predecessor, but the film’s final battle in Sokovia creates a huge ripple effect that can be felt all the way until Avengers: Endgame.
The film’s opening also serves as a nice conclusion to the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier, as the Avengers storm the last known Hydra outpost, only to find more than they bargained for.
14. Ant-Man (2015)
Hey, if a talking racoon could be a superhero (no offence Rocket), then why not Paul Rudd? If Guardians of the Galaxy found the perfect balance between comedy and action, then Ant-Man is definitely the MCU’s first take on a full-blown comedy – and a heist movie at that. From Luis’ ridiculously inflated stories to a giant Thomas the Tank Engine crashing through the side of a house, Ant-Man is an absolute riot from start to finish – a much-needed palate cleanser after Age of Ultron.
15. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Largely considered as Avengers 2.5, Civil War deals with the repercussions of Age of Ultron by looking at the human cost of what a worldwide fight against evil actually looks like.
Adopting a far more sombre tone this time around, Civil War pits most of the MCU’s best against each other, while introducing Black Panther and Spider-Man ahead of their first solo films. Civil War causes a huge split amongst the Avengers, seeing several members go into hiding while others are brought in for house arrest by the film’s climax.
16. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Given that Sony Pictures currently owns the rights for cinematic depictions of Spider-Man, any hope of one day seeing him appear in the MCU seemed like a pipe dream. And yet, Sony and Marvel managed to put aside their differences to have the web-slinger appear in several MCU films, starting with the aforementioned Civil War.
With an intro picking up almost immediately after Civil War, however, Homecoming sees Peter Parker adjusting to his brand new life as a bona fide superhero, all while navigating the usual pitfalls associated with adolescence.
17. Doctor Strange (2016)
Take it from me; Doctor Strange is not a film you want to watch after you’ve had one too many drinks. Alongside its titular character, the film also introduces the Mirror Dimension, which, aside from sounding like a terrific band name, also brings reality crashing in on itself to create some mind-bending set pieces.
The fight through Manhattan, for instance, seems to take serious inspiration from the technical wizardry of Inception, as buildings wobble and fold with ease. It’s also the first glimpse we get at the Time Stone, one of the more crucial Infinity Stones to Thanos’ grand plan.
18. Black Panther (2018)
Wakanda forever! Black Panther’s debut in Civil War was widely praised, but his first solo film sent shockwaves through the industry, becoming the first (and only) MCU film to date to be nominated for ‘Best Picture’ at the Academy Awards.
The film sees T’Challa takes the reigns as the new king of Wakanda, following the death of his father T’Chaka at the hands of the Winter Soldier in Civil War. Alongside being a cultural milestone, Black Panther is just a cracking movie all-round, with the nation of Wakanda being beautiful realised on screen, while Michael B Jordan’s Killmonger ends up being one of the MCU’s best villains with ferocious determination and a backstory that holds a mirror to real-world prejudice.
19. Black Widow (2020)
Before you dive on to Twitter and ask for my immediate resignation, let me assure you that Black Widow’s presence in this list is purely conjecture at this time. As we all know, the film’s release date has been delayed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, but we do know from the film’s trailers (and of course the elephant in the room of Natasha Romanoff’s death in Endgame) that Black Widow takes place sometime between Civil War and Infinity War.
As it’s hard to imagine Black Widow immediately jumping from one adventure to another without any respite, we’re guessing that this film occurs roughly a year after the events of Civil War, with Natasha still on the run but a sizeable amount of time before she’s recruited by Captain America once more to defend earth from Thanos.
20. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Coming in twentieth in the MCU timeline is Thor: Ragnarok. Taking place some two years after the Battle of Sokovia in Age of Ultron, Thor’s been on a mission to prevent ‘Ragnarok’, the prophesied downfall of Odin and all of Asgard. Along the way, Thor discovers that Loki is still alive, crosses paths with Doctor Strange and even finds out that he has a long-lost sister named Hela who’s hell-bent on bringing a tyrannical rule to Asgard.
There’s a lot going on here, but with Taika Waititi in the director’s chair, Ragnarok quickly became one of the MCU’s best offerings. The film could also be watched in a double bill with Avengers: Infinity War, as Ragnarok, leads directly into the opening moments of the next big crossover.
21. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
This here’s a tricky one. By all accounts, Ant-Man and the Wasp take place just slightly before the events of Avengers: Infinity War, and so the majority of the can easily be watched prior to the crossover.
The only thing you can’t watch until after having also watched Avengers: Infinity War is Ant-Man and the Wasp’s post-credits scene, as it lets you know which characters survive Thanos’ snap. Plus, for anyone who hasn’t seen Infinity War, the last thing you want is to have its ending spoiled for you in a post-credit sequence. I repeat, do not watch the post-credit sequence before Infinity War.
22. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
It only took ten years to get here, but Infinity War finally united the ongoing stories in space and on earth for a crossover of epic proportions, fuelled by the Mad Titan Thanos as he enacts his plan rid the universe of 50% of its population. Of course, in order to have so many of the MCU’s main players come together against a common enemy, Infinity War takes place during the present day of the MCU.
In fact, the start of Infinity War picks up just moments after the ending of Thor Ragnarok, as we see the gruesome aftermath of Thanos’ rampage through the very same ship transporting Thor and the Asgardians through space.
23. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
We’re in the Endgame now. Jumping ahead just over 20 days since Thanos wiped out 50% of all living creatures, Endgame starts with a wounded and severely malnourished Tony Stark stranded in space with no one but
the Blue Meanie Nebula to talk to.
After the film’s opening, Endgame gives the MCU its first major time jump, leaping a whole five years into the future to show us what a post-snap world looks like and how it’s affected each of our heroes. Endgame is also considered to be the conclusion of the Infinity Saga, which encompasses all of the movies previously featured on this list.
24. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
The most recent film in the MCU timeline is Spider-Man: Far From Home. Some time has now passed since the events of Avengers: Endgame, with the return of those previously lost now being referred to as ‘the blip’. It’s a strange world where those who were left untouched have aged as expected, but anyone who’s returned from the blip is now the exact same age they were over five years ago.
It’s a wacky premise for a post-Endgame world, but the perfect set-up for some high-school hijinks throughout Spider-Man: Far From Home, which sees Peter Parker not only dealing with the death of Tony Stark but also trying to profess his love for MJ amidst a European school trip.