As my long-suffering family and friends can attest, I adore Marvel in every way shape and form. From actual paper comics to crappy animated shows made for children.
But if I had to choose one form of ‘Marvel media’ as my favourite it would have to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
The MCU is a staggeringly ambitious interconnected web of TV shows and movies, where all your favourite superheroes can hang out and interact.
But with twenty movies (and more on the way), dozens of colourful heroes, villains and civilians, I’m willing to admit that the whole thing can be a bit confusing, especially if you’re trying to watch them in the right order.
Thankfully though there are nerds like me in the world who are more than happy to explain in excruciating, mind-numbing, detail exactly how you should watch all the movies in the MCU.
Now if you’re some ‘scrub’ you could watch them in release order, but let’s be honest if you’ve clicked on this article then you want the good sh*t, you want to know how to watch them in chronological order.
So without further ado, here’s the definitive way to watch the MCU in chronological order, not including TV shows and one-shots, unfortunately, because there are only so many hours in the day and I’m on deadline.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Good old Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America is both the first Avenger chronologically and the first film you’ll watch when you set out on this incredible journey through the history of the MCU.
Captain America: The First Avenger sees a sickly Steve Rogers transformed by the miraculous super soldier serum into Captain America, and follows his battles with the evil Red Skull, and his deadly army of HYDRA soldiers, during World War II.
In the end, Cap manages to beat the Red Skull and he sacrifices himself to save America, crash landing in the Arctic where he promptly freezes.
The MCU’s first official release, Iron Man is one of the most important films in the entire series, laying the groundwork for all the films to come, and introducing us to one of the coolest characters in fiction, Tony Stark.
Iron Man tells the story of Tony Stark, a rich conceited douchebag who learns the error of his ways when he’s captured by terrorists in Afghanistan and forced to build a high-tech suit of battle armour to escape.
Returning from his capture Tony sets out to right old wrongs and builds a new, even more, advanced suit of armour with which to fight his mentor turned mortal enemy, Obadiah Stane.
Tony of course triumphs but learns from the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division (S.H.I.E.L.D) chief, Nick Fury, that he’s entered into the wider world of superheroes and about something called ‘The Avengers Initiative’.
Iron Man 2
After his successful first outing, the Golden Avenger returned in a slightly less successful sequel which saw Tony face demons from his past in the form of Whiplash.
Aside from introducing Black Widow and explaining how exactly S.H.IE.L.D operates the film’s pretty underwhelming, not necessarily bad just not a patch on the original.
The Incredible Hulk
The black sheep of the MCU, The Incredible Hulk reintroduces the world to Bruce Banner a nebbish scientist who, when he gets angry, transforms into the indestructible Hulk; a not so jolly green giant known for his incredible strength and fury.
Unfortunately for everyone involved in this film, with the exception of William Hurt who plays Thunderbolt Ross, Marvel is pretty keen for everyone to forget this one.
Presumably, because Edward Norton left the MCU after it but also because it’s possibly the second worst film in the series.
An underrated gem, Thor took the MCU to a new dimension literally and kicked off a whole new trilogy following the adventures of the titular god of thunder.
In this first film Thor’s humbled by his father Odin and must reclaim his godly powers and hammer, Mjolnir, so he can stop his mischievous brother Loki from stealing the crown of Asgard.
Not only that, we get a cameo from Hawkeye, the most underrated Avenger.
Marking the end of Marvel’s first phase of superhero movies Avengers Assemble is in my humble opinion the best superhero movie ever made (Come at me Dark Knight fans).
Tying together several dangling plot threads from across Phase One, the film sees Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and a brand new Hulk, team up to save the Earth from Loki and his army of evil aliens.
We’re also introduced to Loki’s mysterious benefactor, the enigmatic Thanos. A villain who’ll become a major thorn in the side of the Avengers in the movies ahead.
Iron Man 3
Iron Man’s third film and his first since the events of Avengers Assemble, Iron Man 3 sees Tony struggle with crippling anxiety following a near-death experience.
Just when it seems Tony may be recovering he’s attacked by The Mandarin and forced to confront who he is when you take him out of the armour.
Spoiler: he’s still Iron Man.
Thor: The Dark World
Hands down the worst film in the MCU, I’m not even going to bother with a proper synopsis beyond Thor goes back to Earth after his girlfriend Jane accidentally gets involved in some war with some elves.
It’s proper rubbish and not worth the rewatch, trust me.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
A contender for the best film in the MCU, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a tight political thriller dressed up like a superhero film.
As you’d expect the movie focuses on Cap and his struggle in adapting to the modern world.
Things get really exciting though when his old friend Bucky, now the brainwashed Winter Soldier, is sent to assassinate Nick Fury and we learn that something sinister is slithering inside S.H.I.E.L.D.
In the end Cap, Black Widow and his new friend Sam Wilson (The Falcon) manage to expose the corrupt elements within S.H.I.E.L.D. but Bucky escapes before Steve can get through to him.
Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
Two of the strangest films in the MCU next, Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel Vol 2. follow directly on from each other and take place in SPACE!
Both films follow the self-proclaimed Guardians of the Galaxy, a team of morons, jackasses and ne’er-do-wells, who basically bum around the universe doing a little bit of good and a little bit of bad.
The first film sees the team, Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Racoon and Groot assemble to stop a rogue agent of Thanos from using an Infinity Stone to destroy the Nova Corps.
Meanwhile, the second film catches up with The Guardians just a few months after their first adventure together as they battle Star Lord’s surprisingly evil deadbeat dad, Ego.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Next up the Avengers reassemble in Age of Ultron, this time to take down a rogue A.I. known as Ultron who wants to destroy the team and save humanity from itself.
Along the way, the original team are joined by a whole host of new super-powered people including the psychic Scarlet Witch, the lightning fast Quicksilver and the absurdly powerful Vision.
In the end they beat Ultron but Tony and Thor decide to retire from active Avengers duty.
Closing Marvel’s second phase is the smallest hero of all Ant-Man, aka Scott Lang, a former thief who’s recruited by Hank Pym and his daughter Hope to steal a piece of dangerous technology.
In order to save the day Hank and Hope train Scott to become Ant-Man using a miraculously advanced suit which allows him to control his size and talk to insects.
It’s better than it sounds and features some of the most impressive visuals in the whole MCU.
Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War or Avengers 2.5 opens with The Avengers bungling a mission and the world waking up to the fact that a group of unsanctioned super beings policing the world might be a bad idea.
Iron Man and Cap come to blows over proposed regulation of superheroes and both men put together their own team of Avengers to settle things the old-fashioned way, with their fists.
Civil War expands the MCU in new and exciting ways and introduces us to two new heroes: Black Panther and Spider-Man.
Possibly the most ‘comicbooky’ of all the films in the series, Civil War is a treat from start to finish and is yet another contender for the best film in the MCU.
Here’s where things start getting a bit complicated. The next film chronologically to take place is Black Panther but parts of Doctor Strange are happening concurrently with it.
Because the entire events of Black Panther happen before the end of Doctor Strange we’re going to say this one’s up next.
Set just one week after the fallout of Civil War, Black Panther follows T’Challa, the new king of Wakanda, as he struggles with his responsibilities as a ruler and the ambitious Erik Killmonger who seeks to steal his throne.
Another confusing one, Homecoming opens during the events of Civil War but goes on to take place over six months, long after the events of Black Panther.
Again Doctor Strange is also happening concurrently in the background, but the end of that film probably doesn’t happen until later in the year so Spidey’s next.
Doctor Strange as discussed takes place after Civil War and Stephen Strange’s journey to become the sorcerer supreme are estimated to have taken a year.
That presumably means that Doctor Strange didn’t go to bargain with Dormammu until long after Killmonger and the Vulture were dealt with and puts the movie behind Spider-Man and Black Panther.
We’re on the home stretch now with Thor: Ragnarok the third of the Thor films and the funniest MCU movie to date.
Thanks to the appearance of Doctor Strange this one’s relatively straightforward to place in the chronology although some people have argued it takes place concurrently with Civil War.
They’re wrong, although there may be some debate about it happening at the same time as our next film.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
For the last two films, things get confusing again, especially as at the time of writing Ant-Man and the Wasp hasn’t been released in the UK thanks to the World Cup.
Anyway as far as I can tell from Wikipedia and Reddit, Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place before or during the events of Infinity War but its post-credit sequence, which happens at an unknown time after the movie, happens concurrently with Thanos getting the last Infinity Stone.
Avengers: Infinity War
Finally, for now, is Infinity War, which takes place directly after Thor Ragnarok but before the main part of Ant-Man and the Wasp, is the last film to take place in the current MCU.
In Infinity War Thanos finally gets off his space throne and tears a path across the universe collecting the Infinity Stones as he goes. It’s epic.
Of course, all of this will be wrong next year when Captain Marvel, set in the nineties comes along and breaks the timeline again and let’s not even get into the Avengers 4 time travel rumours.
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More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism.
Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV.
He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.