The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is the highest grossing film franchise in the world. “The Infinity Saga” started with Iron Man in 2008 and ends in 2019 with Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home. A total of 23 movies of pure action and fan service scenes. But, how should we watch them to understand the MCU timeline? On this page, we are telling you how to watch the movies in both chronological and release orders.
The franchise is based on a series of independently produced superhero films from published Marvel comics. But, even though each movie has each own plot and characters, they all share a common universe. In other words, they all share a common timeline, all characters end up appearing and meeting up (even the actors / actresses are always the same, except in the case of Hulk of course), and they all share an ultimate plot.
Although there are plans to keep the franchise growing, these first 23 movies are divided into three phases and are collectively known as “The Infinity Saga”.
The First Phase gathers six movies aimed to introduce the main universe in which the films are set, as well as the core characters: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Nick Fury, and organizations such as S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA.
The Second Phase gathers also six films. It starts after the events of The Avengers (2012) and also introduces more superheroes, including Falcon, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Ant-Man, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Mainly, this part is focused on further explaining the origin of the Infinity Stones and shows the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D. agency and a deep division (a civil war) among our heroes.
The Third Phase is set during a time of discord generated from the aftermath of Ultron’s attack against the Earth. With public opinion of superheroes becoming increasingly divided, the Avengers become more fragmented. A number of new heroes are introduced, such as Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Mantis, Spider-Man, Valkyrie, and Captain Marvel. And finally the main goal or ultimate plot that involves all of the characters, follows a shared timeline and goes by all of the movies is revelaed: Thanos’ plot to collect all of the Infinity Stones and decimate the humanity.
If you love action and special effects, you should at least give this franchise a try. And if you want to deeply enjoy the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as a whole, you should start setting up a marathon to watch each movie in the correct order.
Here is the chronological viewing order of the Marvel movies. The most common order if you have not watched any of them to completely understand and correctly go through the MCU timeline:
- Captain America: The First Avenger (takes place during WWII)
- Captain Marvel (takes place in 1995)
- Iron Man (takes place in 2010)
- Iron Man 2 (takes place after Iron Man)
- The Incredible Hulk (time unspecified, pre-Avengers)
- Thor (takes place six months before Avengers)
- The Avengers (takes place in 2012)
- Iron Man 3 (takes place six months after The Avengers)
- Thor: Dark World (post-Avengers, pre-Ultron)
- Captain America: Winter Soldier (post-Avengers, pre-Ultron)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (sometime in 2014)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (after Guardians)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (takes place in 2015)
- Ant-Man (takes place in 2015)
- Captain America: Civil War (post-Ultron, pre-Infinity War)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (post-Civil War, pre-Infinity War)
- Doctor Strange (takes place in 2016)
- Black Panther (takes place in 2017)
- Thor: Ragnarok (post-Ultron, pre-Infinity War)
- Avengers: Infinity War (takes place in 2017)
- Ant-Man and The Wasp (ambiguous, but fits nicely between IW and Endgame)
- Avengers: Endgame (starts in 2017, finishes in 2022)
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (eight months post-Endgame)
And, for those who want to watch the MCU movies in release order, here you have another alternative order. It is the best option for those who want to realize how the MCU films get better over time with increased budgets and better casts.
- Iron Man (2008)
- The Incredible Hulk (2008)
- Iron Man 2 (2010)
- Thor (2011)
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
- Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
- Iron Man 3 (2013)
- Thor: The Dark World (2013)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
- Ant-Man (2015)
- Captain America: Civil War (2016)
- Doctor Strange (2016)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
- Black Panther (2018)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
- Captain Marvel (2019)
- Avengers: Endgame (2019)
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
The future of the MCU
As said before, the MCU is still growing. And, up to know, we already know Marvel’s approach to shape the next phase of the franchise. The Forth Fase gathers all of the Marvel Studios productions set to be released from 2021 through 2023. These are the movies that will follow The Infinity Saga, presenting a new universal plot but continuing the timeline.
- WandaVision (TV show – January 15, 2021)
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (TV show – March 19, 2021)
- Black Widow (May 7, 2021)
- Loki (TV show – May 2021)
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (July 9, 2021)
- The Eternals (November 5, 2021)
- Ms Marvel (TV show – late 2021)
- Untitled third Spider-Man movie (December 17, 2021)
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (March 25, 2022)
- Thor: Love and Thunder (May 6, 2022)
- Black Panther 2 (July 8, 2022)
- Captain Marvel 2 (November 11, 2022)