Eleven years ago, the Marvel Cinematic Universe did not exist. There was just a mediocre Hulk movie. It wasn’t until 2008 that Robert Downey Jr had the mother of all comebacks as Tony Stark in Iron Man. And even in post-credits, when Nick Fury showed up in Tony Stark’s living room for a chat, no one expected that it would kickstart the most lucrative and hyped film franchise in Hollywood history.
Fast-forward to 2020, the MCU now includes over 23 movies with three still to come, 10 TV shows with four more to come, and several one-off web series & movies. All the MCU movies collectively make up The Infinity Saga.
While the franchise officially started in 2008 with the release of Iron Man, that doesn’t mean that’s the first film you should watch. Instead of watching the multitude of Marvel movies in the order they were released, we’ve created our own handy guide to viewing the MCU in the right chronological order.
- 1 1. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
- 2 2. Iron Man (2008)
- 3 3. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
- 4 4. Iron Man 2 (2010)
- 5 5. Thor (2011)
- 6 6. The Avengers (2012)
- 7 7. Iron Man 3 (2013)
- 8 8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
- 9 9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
- 10 10. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
- 11 11. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
- 12 12. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2014)
- 13 13. Ant-Man (2015)
- 14 14. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
- 15 15. Black Panther (2018)
- 16 16. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
- 17 17. Doctor Strange (2016)
- 18 18. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
- 19 19. Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)
- 20 20. Captain Marvel (2020)
- 21 21. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
- 22 22. Avengers: Endgame (2020)
1. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Even though it is the fifth movie in the MCU franchise release order, Captain America: The First Avenger should be the first movie you watch since it takes place ages before Iron Man and The Avengers. The movie introduces the viewers to the first Avenger – Captain America aka Steve Rogers – a vital character in the universe. The Tesseract, which is the containment vessel for the Space Stone, was also introduced in this movie.
2. Iron Man (2008)
This flick introduces Tony Stark aka Iron Man, a billionaire playboy who builds himself a suit of powered armor. This is also the first time the viewers come across Agent Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. In the post-credits, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury visits Tony Stark’s home, informs him that Iron Man is not the only superhero in the world, and explains that he wants to discuss the “Avenger Initiative” with him.
3. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The events of The Incredible Hulk take place concurrently with those of Thor and Iron Man 2. The movie also features a pre-credit cameo from Tony Stark as he confronts General Ross in a bar and talks about a team being formed. And, in the alternative opening sequence found on The Incredible Hulk Special Edition DVD, Captain America is shown frozen in ice in a blink and you miss cameo.
4. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Iron Man 2 showcases Tony Stark to a world that knows his superhero identity thereby complicating matters and jeopardizing his security. It also brings Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow into the picture as Natalie Rushman, Tony Stark’s assistant who is sent by S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep an eye on the eccentric billionaire. In the post-credits, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson reports the discovery of a large hammer aka Thor’s hammer in a desert in New Mexico.
5. Thor (2011)
The first Thor movie introduces the god of thunder and crown prince of Asgard – Thor – to the viewers. The film also marks the first appearance of Dr. Erik Selvig – an astrophysicist, Thor’s brother Loki, Sif, The Warriors Three: Volstagg, Fandral, & Hogun and Clint Barton aka Hawkeye. In the post-credits, Selvig is shown being taken to a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, where Nick Fury asks him to examine the Cosmic Cube, which may hold hidden powers. An invisible Loki prompts the astrophysicist to agree, and he does.
6. The Avengers (2012)
This Avenger movie brings the entire superhero squad together for the first time. In response to the Destruction of Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S., The Avengers collaborate to fight and defeat Loki and the Chitauri in the Battle of New York. Technically, Avengers also introduces Loki’s scepter, which is a staff weapon that served as the original containment vessel for the Mind Stone and Thanos.
7. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Iron Man 3 is set six months after the events of The Avengers. In the film, Tony Stark is still coping with PTSD-like symptoms following the Battle of New York. The flick also introduces James Rhodes, as the Iron Patriot with the War Machine armor.
8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
The Dark World is set one year after the events of The Avengers and it introduces the Reality Stone aka Aether. In a mid-credits scene, Volstagg and Sif visit Taneleer Tivan aka The Collector and entrust the Reality Stone in his care, stating that with the Tesseract already in Asgard, having two Infinity Stones so close together would be imprudent. As they leave, the Collector discloses his desire to acquire the other five Stones.
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The second Captain America movie takes place two years after the Battle of New York. In the film, Captain America aka Steve Rogers — now working with S.H.I.E.L.D. — teams up with Falcon and Black Widow and to stop the Winter Soldier, who was once Steve Rogers’ best friend Bucky Barns.
10. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy introduces the Power Stone and elucidates on the origin of the Infinity Stones, which are pivotal plot points for the following Avengers films. The movie also introduces some significant MCU characters namely Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Mantis, and Ronan the Accuser.
11. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
Vol. 2 is set three months after the first film, with Groot still a baby. The Guardians fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Star-Lord aka Peter Quill’s true parentage. In a series of mid and post-credit scenes, Kraglin take possession of Yondu’s control-fin and telekinetic arrow; Ravagers leader Stakar Ogord reunites with his ex-teammates; Baby Groot has grown into a teenager; Sovereign race leader Ayesha creates a new artificial being Adam; a group of uninterested Watchers abandon their informant and the Grandmaster is seen dancing.
12. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2014)
This ensemble action flick once again brings The Avengers together to ward off the HYDRA Uprising. It also acquaints the viewers with Vision and the Maximoff twins Wanda and Pietro, aka Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. The movie culminates with the Battle of Sokovia – a major battle between the Avengers and Ultron. In the post-credits, we see Thanos who, dissatisfied by the incompetence of his pawns, dons the Infinity Gauntlet and vows to retrieve the Infinity Stones himself.
13. Ant-Man (2015)
This film focuses on master thief Scott Lang who armed with the Ant-Man suit helps his mentor, Doctor Hank Pym who is ex S.H.I.E.L.D., in protecting the secret behind his spectacular his shrinking technology. Set months after the events of Age of Ultron, the film includes a scene showing Lang trying to break into an Avengers facility to steal the Signal Decoy until he’s interrupted by Falcon.
14. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Set one year after Age of Ultron, Civil War finds the Avengers split into two opposing factions. One is led by Steve Rogers and his wish for the Avengers to remain free from government interference while they defend humanity. The other led by Tony Stark supports the system of accountability and the formation of a governing body to oversee and direct the Avengers. Civil War also introduces the viewers to Black Panther and Spider-Man.
15. Black Panther (2018)
Immediately following the events of Civil War, new King T’Challa aka Black Panther returns to Wakanda. To protect his country from Erik Killmonger and Ulysses Klaue, and prevent a world war, Black Panther must team up with members of Wakandan special forces, the Dora Milaje, and CIA agent Everett K. Ross. In a mid-credits scene, King T’Challa appears before the United Nations to reveal Wakanda’s true nature to the world. In a post-credits scene, King T’Challa’s sister Shuri helps Bucky Barnes with his recuperation.
16. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Homecoming is set just a few months after Captain America: Civil War. After being told by his mentor Tony Stark that he is not quite ready to be a full Avenger, Peter Parker returns home. Desperately trying to help his friends and neighbors, Peter struggles with his new sense of responsibility. The movie also introduces Adrian Toomes aka Vulture. Following the Battle of New York, Adrian Toomes’ salvage company is contracted to clean up the city, but the Department of Damage Control. Enraged at being driven out of business, Toomes steals the already salvaged Chitauri technology. Using it, Toomes equips himself with a flying exo-suit and takes the identity of Vulture.
17. Doctor Strange (2016)
Stephen Strange is the world’s best neurosurgeon until a horrifying car accident robs him of the ability to use his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, Strange is directed to Kamar-Taj a secret compound in Kathmandu. Before long, the Doctor who is now the most powerful sorcerer in existence is forced to choose whether to return to his life of luxury or leave it all behind to protect the world as. This flick also introduces the Time Stone which is inside the Eye of Agamotto that Doctor Strange wears. In a mid-credits scene, Strange decides to help Thor and Loki search for their father Odin.
18. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Thor: Ragnarok takes place immediately following the end of Doctor Strange, as the sorcerer helps Thor and Loki locate their father. Later, as they attempt to flee Hela – the goddess of death, Thor and Loki get trapped on the planet of Sakaar by the Grandmaster. However, with Loki’s, Hulk’s and 142’s help, Thor overthrows the Grandmaster, destroys Asgard and kills Hela. Aboard the Grandmaster’s spaceship, Thor, decides to take his people to Earth. In a mid-credits scene, they are intercepted by a large spacecraft aka Sanctuary II, which belongs to Thanos. In a post-credits scene, the defeated Grandmaster is confronted by his former subjects.
19. Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)
Ant-Man and The Wasp takes place in the aftermath of Civil War, but before Infinity War. In a mid-credits scene, Hank Pym, Scott Lang, Hope van Dyne aka The Wasp, and Janet van Dyne plan to produce quantum energy to help Ava Starr aka Ghost remain stable. While Lang is in the quantum realm doing this, the other three disintegrate (because of Infinity War ending), leaving Lang stranded. In a post-credits scene, a huge Ant is seen playing the drum set in Lang’s house while the television is broadcasting a state of emergency.
20. Captain Marvel (2020)
Set in the 1990s, Captain Marvel follows the journey of Carol Danvers as she becomes one of the MCU’s most powerful heroes and reportedly hold the key to defeating Thanos. In a mid-credits scene, set in the present day, the pager (given to Fury by Captain Marvel), which Fury activated prior to his disintegration in Infinity War is being monitored by Natasha Romanoff, Steve Rogers, James Rhodes, and Bruce Banner, and when Danvers appears and demands to know Fury’s whereabouts.
21. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
This sequel to Age of Ultron is set four years after the events of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. The Avengers and the Guardians team up to fight Thanos, who is trying to acquire the powerful Infinity Stones, including the Soul Stone, introduced here. The movie ended with Thanos snapping his fingers and vaporizing half of the Earth’s population, including some of our favorite heroes, who decimated into dust.
22. Avengers: Endgame (2020)
Avengers: Endgame will be the finale of 10+ years of superheroes and villains of the MCU and based on theories, predictions, and trailers at least some Avengers are likely to be gone forever.
Keeping this chronological order in mind, binge watch these MCU movies before the release of Avengers: Endgame on 26th April, 2020
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