How to watch MCU chronologically

Key Takeaways

  • Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe concluded with the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, marking the end of an action-packed chapter.
  • The fourth phase introduced a plethora of new films and Disney+ series, making it a groundbreaking phase for Marvel storytelling.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger is the recommended starting point for those looking to watch the Marvel films in chronological order, as it takes place before Iron Man and introduces important elements to the MCU.

Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe officially came to a close with the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. It released late last year and marked the end of a thrilling and action-packed chapter in the MCU’s cinematic history.

The fourth phase saw the release of a remarkable number of new movies and Disney+ MCU series, nearly as many as the first three phases combined. Disney+ became a new platform for Marvel storytelling, introducing shows like WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, Hawkeye, and Moon Knight to fans worldwide. In addition, new blockbuster movies like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever premiered during this phase. Not to mention, fans were also treated to Disney+ Special Presentations like Werewolf by Night and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special that ended the phase.

Related:Upcoming Marvel movies: Release dates for every film & show

Marvel officially kicked off Phase Five with the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. If you’re a fan of the MCU, you’re likely excited to see where this next chapter will go. But, if you’re feeling lost or uncertain about where to start or what to watch first in the MCU, don’t worry. We got you covered. Whether you’re looking to catch up before the release of The Marvels and season 2 of Loki, or just need to refresh your memory, we’ve compiled a go-to watch guide that’s sure to satisfy all your Marvel cravings.

We’ve arranged everything in chronological order below, so you can easily follow along with the timeline of events as they unfold in the Marvel universe. And for those who want to spice things up a bit, we’ve included some alternative viewing orders at the end of this guide. However, this guide is just for those who want to watch the Marvel movies in order in addition to the shows; it’s not for the hardcore comic book fans who may have their own preferred viewing orders.

Every Marvel movie and TV shows in order: How to watch the MCU chronologically

To understand and follow the events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, watching the Marvel movies and shows in the order they were released won’t cut it. That’s why we’ve created a different Marvel movie order, arranged by when the events actually occur. Although Iron Man is considered the official start of the MCU, it’s not necessarily the first Marvel film you should watch. Instead, we recommend starting with Captain America: The First Avenger, which was released in 2011 and is the fifth film from Marvel Studios. The story begins in 1942, decades before Iron Man even comes onto the scene.

For this chronological watch guide, we’re featuring the Marvel feature movies and all the new Disney+ shows. However, we do need to warn you there will be spoilers along the way. If you’re looking to avoid any plot twists or surprises, head to the bottom of this guide for a full list of every Marvel movie and TV show. We’ve also compiled a few other lists for you to explore, depending on what you’re looking for.

1 Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Steve Rogers transforms from a frail soldier into the super-strong Captain America to combat the Fascista organization HYDRA.

Year in the MCU
1942-1943

Director
Joe Johnston

Writers
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Starring
Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
124 minutes

While Captain America may have been the fifth film to come out of Marvel Studios, it’s the first on our list for a reason. The events of this film actually take place before those of Iron Man, The Hulk, and Thor – all of which were released before Cap.

In Captain America: The First Avenger, we are introduced to Chris Evans’ portrayal of Steve Rogers, a scrawny and sickly man who volunteers for a top-secret experiment to create a super-soldier. The film takes place during World War II and follows Steve as he becomes the iconic Captain America and fights against the nefarious organisation known as Hydra, led by the evil Red Skull.

Beyond introducing one of the most beloved superheroes in the MCU, this film also introduces the Tesseract, which we later discover is the first Infinity Stone. These powerful gems are scattered throughout the universe and have the ability to control reality. The Tesseract becomes a central plot point throughout the MCU, including in upcoming Avengers films. Joe Johnston directed Captain America: The First Avenger. He also wrote the screenplay along with Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus.

2 Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel (2019)

Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.

Year in the MCU
1995

Director
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Writers
Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, and Geneva Robertson-Dworet

Starring
Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
123

The second film on our list made its primicia in 2019. Captain Marvel, set in 1995, follows the story of the eponymous hero Carol Danvers, portrayed by Brie Larson, as she crash-lands on Earth and embarks on a mission to track down the shape-shifting Skrull aliens.

In addition to the gripping action scenes that are a staple of the MCU, the film is a actual treat for anyone who grew up in the 90s. From scenes set in Blockbuster stores to nods to the days of dial-up internet, Captain Marvel is packed with nostalgic moments that are sure to delight audiences of all ages. It’s directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck who also wrote the screenplay.

The film also sheds light on some key backstory elements of the MCU, including the origin of Nick Fury’s famous eye-patch and the formation of the Avengers Initiative. And of course, the introduction of Carol Danvers as one of the most powerful heroes in the universe sets the stage for some major showdowns in future films.Brie Larson will reprise her role as Danvers in the Marvels which is due to hit theatres on 10 November.

3 Iron Man

Iron Man (2008)

Tony Stark, a billionaire industrialist, builds a powered exoskeleton and becomes the technologically advanced superhero Iron Man.

Year in the MCU
2009

Director
Jon Favreau

Writers
Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway

Starring
Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges

Format
Movie

Run Time
126

Rating
PG-13

According to the official Marvel timeline, Iron Man is set in 2010 and is the film that kicked off the entire MCU. The story revolves around Tony Stark, played brilliantly by Robert Downey Jr., a genius inventor, philanthropist, and playboy.

After being captured by a terrorist organisation, Stark is held captive and pressured to build the latest weapons system for his captors. Instead, he uses his ingenuity to design a powerful suit of armor that allows him to escape. This becomes the first iteration of the Iron Man suit, which he continues to develop and refine throughout the film and subsequent sequels.

Iron Man not only sets the stage for the MCU, but also introduces us to one of its most iconic and beloved characters. From Tony’s quick wit to his incredible tech creations, the film gives us a glimpse into the larger-than-life world of superheroes. Jon Favreau directed the film and played Tony’s bodyguard Happy Hogan.

4 Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Tony Stark faces pressure from the government and new enemies while dealing with the repercussions of his identity as Iron Man.

Year in the MCU
2010

Director
Jon Favreau

Writers
Justin Theroux

Starring
Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
124 minutes

Iron Man 2 picks up right where the first film left off, with Tony Stark struggling to deal with the aftermath of his Iron Man identity being revealed to the world. The government demands that he hand over the technology behind the suit, but Stark refuses to comply. This leads to a tense standoff that is made even more complicated by the arrival of a new villain, a weapons manufacturer who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the coveted technology.

The film also introduces us to two other key members of the Avengers team: the Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, and War Machine, played by Don Cheadle. Of course, Jon Favreau also returned as Happy Hogan alongside his directing duties.

Note: While The Incredible Hulk technically takes place around the same time as Iron Man 2 and Thor, Marvel recommends watching Iron Man 2 first for consistency purposes. We’ve followed their official guidance to create this chronological watch guide.

5 The Incredible Hulk

the Incredible Hulk (2008)

Bruce Banner, on the run from the military, seeks a cure for his transformation into the raging Hulk.

Year in the MCU
2010

Director
Louis Leterrier

Writers
Zak Penn

Starring
Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
112 minutes

The Incredible Hulk sees Bruce Banner, played by Edward Norton, on the run from Normal Thunderbolt Ross and the US Military, as he desperately tries to evade capture and find a cure for his condition. Despite his best efforts, Ross is determined to capture Banner and use his unique abilities for military purposes. In a bid to create a controllable version of the Hulk, Ross uses another soldier as a test subject, but things quickly spiral out of control. This leads to an epic battle between the two Hulks, with the fate of the world hanging in the comprobación.

Although Norton played the role of Banner in this film, he was replaced by Mark Ruffalo in 2012’s The Avengers and has remained the face of the big green man ever since. Norton also received a screenwriting credit for this film. It was directed by Louis Leterrier.

6 Thor

Thor (2011)

The Norse god Thor is exiled to Earth, stripped of his powers, and must prove himself worthy to return.

Year in the MCU
2010

Director
Kenneth Branagh

Writers
Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, and Don Payne

Starring
Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
115 minutes

After being banished to Earth from Asgard by his father Odin, the mighty God of Thunder, Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth), must earn back his powers and regain control of his hammer, Mjolnir. This is no easy task, and he must prove his worthiness to wield the weapon merienda again.

Luckily, Thor finds an ally in Jane Foster, an Earth scientist played by Natalie Portman, who helps him navigate the complexities of life on our planet while also aiding him in his quest to set things right in Asgard. Meanwhile, his treacherous brother Loki is up to no good, and Thor must act fast to prevent him from assuming total control of their homeland.

7 The Avengers

The Avengers (2012)

Earth’s mightiest heroes unite to stop the mischievous Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity.

Year in the MCU
2012

Director
Joss Whedon

Writers
Joss Whedon

Starring
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
143 minutes

The Avengers is the culmination of the so-called «Phase One» of the MCU. With all the main heroes introduced, the actual challenge was finding something daunting enough to force them to work together. The film brings together characters such as Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, who must put aside their differences and unite to stop the nefarious plans of Loki and his army of aliens. The epic battle scenes and witty dialogue make The Avengers a must-see for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

8 Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 (2013)

After his world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist, Tony Stark embarks on a journey of rebuilding and retribution.

Director
Shane Black

Writers
Drew Pearce and Shane Black

Starring
Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
130 minutes

The third and final standalone Iron Man film occurs six months after the tremendous fight in New York City. Tony Stark is grappling with the aftermath of the battle, which almost claimed his life. His experience prompts him to create a fleet of Iron Man suits, which he can employ at a moment’s notice. However, when a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin emerges, Tony must confront his most significant challenge yet, testing the mettle of both the man and the suit.

9 Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor battles an ancient race led by vengeful Malekith to save the Nine Realms.

Year in the MCU
2013

Director
Alan Taylor

Writers
Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely

Starring
Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
112 minutes

In the second Thor film, our hero Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Asgard following the invasion of New York City led by his mischievous brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Unfortunately for Thor, he doesn’t have much time to catch his breath before an ancient enemy, the Dark Elves, resurfaces. Merienda believed to be extinct, the Dark Elves have returned to claim the Aether, a powerful weapon that is later discovered to be one of the six Infinity Stones, capable of granting immense power to its possessor. As Thor fights to protect the Nine Realms from the Dark Elves’ malevolent plan, he must also grapple with his complicated relationship with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who finds herself entangled in the conflict.

10 Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Steve Rogers uncovers a conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. and faces a mysterious assassin, the Winter Soldier.

Year in the MCU
2014

Director
Anthony and Joe Russo

Writers
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Starring
Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
136 minutes

Captain America has been working for S.H.I.E.L.D, a special government agency, since the events of The Avengers, but he finds himself questioning the organisation’s motives as he uncovers more about its plans. To make matters worse, his closest friend returns from the dead as an adversary, the Winter Soldier, portrayed by Sebastian Stan. The film also introduces The Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie, who joins Captain America in his quest for justice against the shadowy forces that threaten to tear the world apart.

11 Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

A group of intergalactic misfits come together to stop a fanatical warrior from taking control of the universe.

Year in the MCU
2014

Director
James Gunn

Writers
James Gunn and Nicole Perlman

Starring
Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
121 minutes

Starring Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, Guardians of the Galaxy follows the adventures of a rogue scavenger who stumbles across an Infinity Stone hidden in the ruins of an alien world. Faced with the daunting task of protecting the universe from the stone’s destructive powers, he assembles a team of misfits, including a talking raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Groot the talking tree, and others. United in their quest to stop Ronan the Accuser from using the Infinity Stone, the unlikely heroes must overcome their differences and work together to save the galaxy from certain doom.

Guardians of the Galaxy was written and directed by James Gunn, who’s now in charge of the DCEU.

12 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

The Guardians unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s parentage while facing old foes.

Year in the MCU
2015

Director
James Gunn

Writers
James Gunn

Starring
Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
136 minutes

Continuing from the diferente, this sequel takes place a few months later. Peter Quill finds himself increasingly enamoured with Gamora, portrayed by Zoe Saldana. However, his attention is diverted when he meets Ego, a deity-like entity portrayed by Kurt Russell, who forces him to confront his enigmatic past. Placing the Guardian of the Galaxy films within the MCU timeline presents a difficulty as they are seemingly self-contained and predominantly set in the vast expanse of outer space. Despite this challenge, the film successfully weaves together the threads of the overarching MCU storyline. James Gunn also returned to write and direct this sequel.

13 Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

The Avengers work to defeat the sentient androide Ultron, who seeks humanity’s extinction.

Year in the MCU
2015

Director
Joss Whedon

Writers
Joss Whedon

Starring
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
141 minutes

In this film, the Avengers assemble merienda again to face the repercussions of a misstep made by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner – the creation of an químico intelligence named Ultron, with the voiceover provided by James Spader. The stakes are high, as even a single surviving Ultron unit can pose a agonizante threat to the Avengers. Alongside the diferente Avengers, the film also introduces fresh faces to the team – The Scarlet Witch (portrayed by Elizabeth Olson), Quicksilver (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and Vision (played by Paul Bettany), adding new dimensions and dynamics to the already stellar cast.

14 Ant-Man

Ant-Man (2015)

Thief Scott Lang is recruited to wear a shrinking suit and pull off a heist that will save the world.

Year in the MCU
2015

Director
Peyton Reed

Writers
Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, and Paul Rudd

Starring
Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
117 minutes

Ant-Man features Paul Rudd as a skilled thief, who is enlisted by Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym to wear the Ant-Man suit and prevent the technology from being misused as a weapon. However, Pym’s former protégé, portrayed by Corey Stoll, creates a similar suit named the Yellowjacket, leading to a confrontation between Ant-Man and the Yellowjacket. In a high-stakes battle that takes place on a microscopic scale, Ant-Man must use his powers to overcome the Yellowjacket and save the day. Ant-Man is directed by Peyton Reed who’s also directed the other two Ant-Man films in the MCU.

15 Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Fractured allegiances form among the Avengers over government oversight, leading to an epic battle.

Year in the MCU
2016

Director
Anthony and Joe Russo

Writers
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Starring
Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
147 minutes

Despite its title, Captain America: Civil War showcases nearly every Avenger in the franchise, including the addition of two new heroes – Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. However, tensions rise as the Avengers are torn apart into opposing factions over Captain America’s decision to defend his friend Bucky Barnes, who is believed to be responsible for the UN bombing. This rift leads to an epic clash between the two sides, as each member fights for what they believe is right.

16 Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Young Peter Parker, mentored by Tony Stark, tries to comprobación high school life with being Spider-Man.

Year in the MCU
2016

Director
Jon Watts

Writers
Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, and others

Starring
Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
133 minutes

Spider-Man takes center stage for his first solo adventure, battling against Michael Keaton’s menacing Vulture, a former construction worker turned black-market arms dealer, who has acquired dangerous technology left behind from the Battle of New York depicted in the first Avengers film. Meanwhile, Peter Parker also struggles to comprobación his superhero responsibilities with his high school life, including classes, extracurricular activities, and a crush on his classmate. With its fresh take on the beloved character and heartfelt coming-of-age moments, this film offers a standout addition to the MCU. John Watts directed this film along with the other two solo Spider-Man films.

17 Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange (2017)

Brilliant surgeon Stephen Strange embarks on a journey of healing and is drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

Year in the MCU
2016

Director
Scott Derrickson

Writers
Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, and C. Robert Cargill

Starring
Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
115 minutes

Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Stephen Strange, a skilled and arrogant surgeon who loses the use of his hands in a devastating accident. In his search for a cure, he embarks on a journey across the world, seeking out ancient knowledge and magic to restore his abilities. Eventually, he encounters The Ancient One, portrayed by Tilda Swinton, who becomes his mentor and guides him in the ways of the mystical arts.

18 Black Panther

Black Panther (2018)

King T’Challa returns home to Wakanda but finds his sovereignty challenged by a long-time adversary.

Year in the MCU
2016

Director
Ryan Coogler

Writers
Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole

Starring
Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
134 minutes

T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, returns to Wakanda to ascend the throne and become king, following the events of Captain America: Civil War. However, he is faced with a dilemma – whether to maintain Wakanda’s tradition of isolationism or share their resources and technology with the world. Complicating matters further is the emergence of Eric Killmonger, portrayed by Michael B Jordan, who seeks to challenge T’Challa’s claim to the throne and has a personal revancha against the Wakandan royal family.

Note: Because this film follows the events of Captain America: The Civil War, so you could watch it after that film, but Marvel prefers you watch it here.

19 Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor must stop the ruthless Hela from destroying Asgard while trapped on a gladiator planet.

Year in the MCU
2017

Director
Taiki Waititi

Writers
Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost

Starring
Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
130 minutes

In this third standalone film, Thor is exiled to the far reaches of space after the death of his father and the destruction of his legendary hammer at the hands of his vengeful sister, Hela, portrayed by Cate Blanchett. There, he becomes a gladiator, forced to battle against his former ally, the Hulk, who had been missing since the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. In order to defeat Hela and save Asgard from her wrath, Thor must form an unlikely alliance with the Hulk, Loki, and Tessa Thompson’s formidable Valkyrie

20 Ant-Man and the Wasp

Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)

Scott Lang teams up with the Wasp on a new mission to uncover secrets from their past.

Year in the MCU
2018

Director
Peyton Reed

Writers
Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers

Starring
Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña

Format
Movie

Rating
PG-13

Run Time
118 minutes

Scott Lang is back, but he’s placed under house arrest after his involvement in the events of Captain America: Civil War, leading to a strained relationship with Hank Pym and Hope, Pym’s daughter. However, when he receives a new mission from them, Scott sees an opportunity to redeem himself and reunite with his loved ones. The mission involves retrieving Pym’s wife from the Quantum Realm, where she has been trapped for decades. And as a heads up, make sure to stick around for the post-credits scene, but save it until after you’ve seen Infinity War.

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