Thinking of watching the Marvel movies in chronological order? Here’s your bitesized guide to the correct way to experience the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the order that events happen.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s story begins in the 1940s and ends in the presence. However, the films weren’t released in the order that their stories occur.
For example, the first release in this huge franchise was Iron Man in 2008 which takes place in its present. However, Captain America: The First Avenger arrived in theatres three years later but its story takes place over 60 years in the past.
Indeed, Captain Marvel, released in 2019, also takes place before the events of Iron Man with its “present” being sometime in the 1990s.
How to watch the Marvel movies in the order that events take place?
In this bitesize guide, we’ll tell you how to watch the Marvel movies in the right order. If you scroll down you’ll also find a quick guide to factoring in how the TV shows complement the events of the movies.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
The title says it all really as Captain America makes his Marvel bow in this origins story set around the Second World War. It’s a good place to start as Marvel hasn’t found its feet at this point. Following (based on release dates) a couple of forgettable entries (Thor and Iron Man 2) in what would become known as the “Infinity Saga”, Captain America’s first outing is a significant upgrade while still being a few levels below some of the MCU’s best films.
Captain Marvel (2019)
Released almost a decade after Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain Marvel takes place in the mid-1990s. It’s an origins story that reveals the beginnings of the film’s eponymous character while introducing us to the development of S.H.I.E.L.D, showcasing Nick Fury’s early career, setting up Guardians of the Galaxy with details about the Kree, and subtle background to an object which becomes an important part of Marvel’s Phase One.
Iron Man (2008)
The film that kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe should be the third film on your viewing list. Iron Man’s introduction – which boasts one of many brilliant performances by Robert Downey Jr. in the title role – is a thrilling, funny and efficiently orchestrated superhero action movie that remains a highlight of the film franchise. Nick Fury’s appearance here also captures a subtly different meaning than it had prior to seeing Captain America and Captain Marvel’s origins stories.
Iron Man 2 (2010), The Incredible Hulk (2011) & Thor (2008)
A completist must make his or her way through Iron Man 2, Thor and The Incredible Hulk despite them being some of the MCU’s weakest efforts. They have their highlights amidst some uneven storytelling (I’m looking at Thor director Kenneth Branagh when I say that). Follow Iron Man with Iron Man 2 (where Nick Fury gets a bigger role, we begin to get a better understanding of S.H.I.E.L.D’s operations, and Iron Man is recruited to the Avengers) before The Incredible Hulk (an origins story for the superhero with Edward Norton in the title role before he was replaced by Mark Ruffalo) and Thor (where Coulson and Hawkeye get bigger roles and a post-credits sequence sees Loki discover the Tesseract).
The Avengers (2012)
Finally, it’s time to see these superheroes together in The Avengers. With Loki as the chief villain, it makes sense to follow Thor with The Avengers. Familiar story arcs are continued while Thor’s post-credits sequence seeing Loki finding the Tesseract takes on significant meaning here. There’s a lot of egos and chest-pumping to fit into this action-adventure of epic scale but director Joss Whedon does a decent job of ticking the right boxes.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
If you’d prefer to stay on earth after The Avengers, it would make sense to watch Iron Man 3 afterwards even though the chronological preference may favour Thor: The Dark World, Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. A strong character study as Mr Iron Man himself, Tony Stark, tries to come to terms with the destruction of New York and his battle with Loki’s army. Iron Man 3 is the Empire Strikes Back of the MCU, both in its qualities as a film and its shift to a darker tone.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
With his fellow Avengers taking a rest, Thor is off exploring cosmic villainy in an entry that importantly introduces us to the Infinity Stones. By getting away from earth we also move towards the otherworldly adventures of the Guardians of the Galaxy. A significant upgrade on Thor’s first film, Thor: The Dark World, which explores the Asgardian god’s relationship with his deviant brother Loki in more detail, is an underrated entry in the MCU.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) & Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Time to step on board a spaceship with Peter Quill and the Guardians of the Galaxy. One of the MCU’s truly exceptional entries, the first film further underlines the significance of the Infinity Stones while also introducing us to villain, Thanos. The second film, set a short time after the first, adds a compelling origins element to Quill while naturally progressing the franchise’s cosmic sensibilities alongside a wonderful, offbeat humour.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Back on earth we see what Steve Rogers has been up to since The Avengers. While Tony Stark has been enduring his own inner turmoil (and a run-in with Mandarin), Captain America is tasked with facing his old best friend turned foe as Bucky emerges as the psychologically controlled Winter Soldier. The development of Falcon begins here so it’s the ideal precursor to The Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
It’s here that Thor has a vision about a threat bigger than any of the superheroes have faced before. The attack on a Hydra base links the film neatly to Captain America: The Winter Soldier while also naturally continuing the emotional turmoil felt by Tony Stark in Iron Man 3. This entry in the series also brings together the cosmic elements of Marvel’s universe with its earth-bound complications.
Directly following the events of Age of Ultron, Ant-Man should be watched immediately after the ensemble adventure. It’s a satisfying change of pace – in style and scale – with a witty sense of humour complemented by Paul Rudd’s brilliant introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Largely self-contained – and offering temporary relief from the series’ darker tone – Ant-Man is one of the best Marvel movies.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Watching Ant-Man directly before Captain America: Civil War makes sense as Paul Rudd’s miniaturised superhero makes a notable appearance alongside another superstar superhero. Watching these films back to back also reveals Marvel Studios at its very best with one of its finest films followed by arguably the best of them all. Civil War, with its power struggle between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, sees battle lines drawn and a fight that drives a potentially fatal wedge in the relationship between Captain America and Iron Man.
Black Panther (2018)
Not all will agree putting Black Panther after Civil War – you could go for Doctor Strange next – but given the presence of Wakandan themes, the death of King T’Chaka, and the emergence of the eponymous superhero, it makes sense to put it here as a natural follow-on.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Set a couple of months after Civil War – and being a continuation of Spider-Man’s story arc which was established in the Captain America sequel – watching the web-slinging hero’s full entry into the series at this point is as good as any.
Doctor Strange (2016)
A natural precursor to Thor: Ragnarok thanks to a post-credits scene, Doctor Strange delves a little deeper into the significance of the Infinity Stones and references the Quantum Realm.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Very different in tone to Doctor Strange, this offbeat comedy sees Thor forced into gladiatorial games. However, he meets Doctor Strange at the beginning of the film.
Ant-Man And The Wasp (2018)
Given that its events occur before the devastation of Infinity War, it’s natural to watch this before the Avengers battle Thanos.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) & Avengers: Endgame (2019)
The concluding chapters of the Avengers’ adventure brings together all the characters we’ve come to know and love in an epic battle of good versus evil.
But I’m a completist who needs to consider the TV shows as well
Okay, so you want to enjoy the Marvel Cinematic Universe in chronological order with the TV shows factored into the timeline. Well, with a little help from Digital Spy (which alters the chronology slightly), here’s the order to watch the Marvel films and Marvel TV show episodes…
1. Captain America: The First Avenger
2. Agent Carter (season 1)
3. Agent Carter (season 2)
4. Agent Carter (one-shot on Iron Man 3 DVD)
5. Captain Marvel
6. Iron Man
7. Iron Man 2
8. The Incredible Hulk
9. The Consultant (one-shot on the Thor DVD)
10. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer (one-shot on the Captain America: The First Avenger DVD)
12. Avengers Assemble
13. Item 47 (one-shot on the Avengers Assemble DVD)
14. Iron Man 3
15. All Hail the King (one-shot on the Thor: The Dark World DVD)
16. Agents of SHIELD (season 1, eps 1-7)
17. Thor: The Dark World
18. Agents of SHIELD (season 1, eps 8-16)
19. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
20. Agents of SHIELD (season 1, eps 17-22)
21. Guardians of the Galaxy
22. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
23. Daredevil (season 1)
24. Agents of SHIELD (season 2, eps 1-10)
25. Jessica Jones (season 1)
26. Agents of SHIELD (season 2, eps 11-19)
27. Avengers: Age of Ultron
28. Agents of SHIELD (season 2, eps 20-22)
29. Daredevil (season 2, eps 1-4)
30. Luke Cage (season 1, eps 1-4)
31. Daredevil (season 2, eps 5-11)
32. Luke Cage (season 1, eps 5-8)
33. Daredevil (season 2, eps 12-13)
34. Luke Cage (season 1, eps 9-13)
36. Agents of SHIELD (season 3, eps 1-10)
37. Agents of SHIELD (season 3, eps 11-19)
38. Iron Fist (season 1)
39. Captain America: Civil War
40. Agents of SHIELD (season 3, eps 20-22)
41. The Defenders (season 1)
42. Agents of SHIELD (season 4, eps 1-6)
43. Doctor Strange
44. Black Panther
45. Agents of SHIELD (season 4, eps 7-8)
46. Agents of SHIELD: Slingshot (season 1, eps 1-6)
47. Agents of SHIELD (season 4, eps 9-22)
48. Spider-Man: Homecoming
49. Thor: Ragnarok
50. Inhumans (season 1)
51. The Punisher (season 1)
52. Runaways (season 1)
53. Agents of SHIELD (season 5, eps 1-10) – allowing for time travel craziness
54. Jessica Jones (season 2)
55. Agents of SHIELD (season 5, eps 11-18)
56. Cloak & Dagger (season 1)
57. Cloak & Dagger (season 2)
58. Luke Cage (season 2)
59. Iron Fist (season 2)
60. Daredevil (season 3)
61. Runaways (season 2)
62. The Punisher (season 2)
63. Ant-Man and the Wasp
64. Avengers: Infinity War
65. Agents of SHIELD (season 5, eps 19-22) – Concurrent with Infinity War
66. Avengers: Endgame