Watching Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies in order can seem like a daunting task. That’s mainly because there are 24 MCU movies to weave your way through (if we factor in the recent premiere of Black Widow).
But perhaps we should back up a bit and understand what the phrase “in order” actually implies here. For some movie aficionados, the term “in order” means in the chronological order of events. For others, it implies by release date.
Interestingly, MCU movies’ release dates do not correspond with their chronological order of events. And the same can be said about many other serialized films. For instance, Iron Man, which was set and released in 2008, is the first movie in the MCU franchise. However, some of the events in Iron Man happen much later than the events in subsequent MCU films.
Therefore, the best way to watch MCU movies in order is to determine whether you wish to take the ‘chronological timeline’ or the ‘release date’ approach.
If you’re wondering how to watch Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in order, we’ve got you covered. In this post, we explore the various ways to watch MCU movies by release date as well as by order of events.
Watching MCU Movies by Release Date
Iron Man is the first-ever movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. The movie was released on May 2, 2008.
As the first movie in the MCU series, Iron Man’s storyline is mostly linear, with minimal backs and forth. But like most MCU movies, Iron Man still contains certain events that predate or postdate the film’s main historical setting.
The following is a list of all MCU films by release date. We’ve broken down the list into phases used by Marvel Studios to denote smaller story arcs that make up the larger MCU arc.
• Iron Man – May 2, 2008
• The Incredible Hulk – June 13, 2008
• Iron Man 2 – May 7, 2010
• Thor – May 6, 2011
• Captain America: The First Avenger – July 22, 2011
• Marvel’s The Avengers – May 4, 2012
• Iron Man 3 – May 3, 2013
• Thor: The Dark World – November 8, 2013
• Captain America: The Winter Soldier – April 4, 2014
• Guardians of the Galaxy – August 1, 2014
• Avengers: Age of Ultron – May 1, 2015
• Ant-Man – July 17, 2015
• Captain America: Civil War – May 6, 2016
• Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016
• Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017
• Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017
• Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017
• Black Panther – February 16, 2018
• Avengers: Infinity War – April 27, 2018
• Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018
• Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019
• Avengers: Endgame – April 26, 2019
• Spider-Man: Far from Home – July 2, 2019
1. Recently Released Films
• Black Widow – July 9, 2021
2. Upcoming Films
• Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – September 3, 2021
• Eternals – November 5, 2021
• Spider-Man: No Way Home – December 17, 2021
• Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – March 25, 2022
• Thor: Love and Thunder – May 6, 2022
• Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – July 8, 2022
• The Marvels (aka Captain Marvel 2) – November 11, 2022
• Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – February 17, 2023
• Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – May 5, 2023
Watching MCU Movies by Chronological Timeline
1. Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The First Avenger is the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film by chronological order of events. The movie starts in 1940 and ends in 1945.
2. Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel may be one of the most recent MCU movies by release date. However, it’s the second-earliest by chronological timeline. The events in Captain Marvel take place between 1989 and 1995.
3. Iron Man
The first-ever MCU film released happens to be the third film in chronological order. Iron Man takes place in 2010, two years after the movie was released.
4. The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk is set hot in the heels of Iron Man. The events in the two movies are only months apart.
5. Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 is set in 2011, a year after the film’s first instalment. However, note that the movies are two years apart in terms of release date.
Considered one of MCU’s most iconic films, Thor is set in 2011, around the same time as Iron Man 2. But unlike Iron Man 2, Thor has several flashbacks to events that go back centuries.
7. The Avengers
The Avengers is set in 2012, just one year after the events in Iron Man 2 and Thor.
8. Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 also takes place in 2012. The movie’s storyline is punctuated with post-traumatic stress disorder episodes from The Avengers.
9. Thor: The Dark World
Although not as sensational as the first Thor instalment, Thor: The Dark World is still worth watching. The movie’s events take place in 2013.
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is set in 2014. The film is centered on the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D., an organization that helped form The Avengers.
11. Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy also takes place in 2014, around the same time as the events in The Winter Soldier.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The events in this Guardian sequel follow almost immediately after the film’s first instalment.
13. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron is a team-up MCU film that takes place in 2015, a year after the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Ant-Man is also set in 2015, with the events almost overlapping with those in Age of Ultron.
15. Captain America: Civil War
Although set in 2016, Captain America: Civil War incorporates numerous flashbacks of events that take place between The First Avenger and Iron Man.
16. Black Widow
Scarlett Johansen’s blockbuster, which is the most recently released MCU movie, is the 16th film by chronological order of events. The movie takes place right after the events of Captain America: Civil War.
17. Spider-Man: Homecoming
MCU’s first Spider-man movie occupies the 17th position by chronological order. Spider-Man: Homecoming is set in the fall following the events in Captain America: Civil War.
18. Black Panther
The highly acclaimed Black Panther also takes place in 2016.
19. Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange takes place between 2016 and 2017. The film chronicles Stephen Strange’s mysteriously slow transformation into a superhero.
20. Thor: Ragnarok
Thor: Ragnarok comes hot in the heels of Doctor Strange.
21. Ant-Man and the Wasp
The events in Ant-Man and the Wasp take place in 2018. But like most MCU films on this list, there are several flashbacks to events that happened earlier in other MCU movies.
22. Avengers: Infinity War
This is the shortest MCU film so far, chronologically speaking. The events in Avengers: Infinity War take place within a 24 – 48-time period in 2018.
23. Avengers: Endgame
Avengers: Endgame is set in 2023, but with flashbacks to 2014, 2013, 2012, and 1970.
24. Spider-Man: Far from Home
Spider-Man: Far from Home is the most recent MCU film, chronologically speaking. The movie is set in 2023.
For movie lovers out there, it’s delightful to know that there are several ways to enjoy the epic stories in Marvel Cinematic Universe films.
If you’re yet to watch any MCU movie, we’d recommend adopting the chronological watch order. That way, you can follow the storylines easily without getting lost in the often complex plots.