Mental Floss
ENTERTAINMENT

Conquering the MCU: How to Watch the Marvel Movies and TV Shows in Order

Ellen Gutoskey
Letitia Wright in ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ (2022).
Letitia Wright in ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ (2022). / Courtesy of Marvel Studios
facebooktwitterreddit

So, you’ve decided to watch every movie and TV show in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The only thing now separating you from understanding a lot of previously meaningless memes is more than 100 hours of screen time (and counting). But the chronological timeline of all that content doesn’t match the order of the release dates—and it’s best to choose one viewing path and stick to it.

Much like some aficionados recommend watching the original Star Wars trilogy before the prequels, sequels, and spin-offs, there are plenty of Marvel fans who think first-time viewers should watch all the programs in the order in which they were released. That way, they’ll experience the evolution of the universe the way longtime fans did. On the other hand, you might have an easier time keeping track of Marvel's many characters and plotlines if things are unfolding in a (mostly) linear fashion.

Below are two separate lists: one with the programs ordered by release date, and another ordered chronologically. The latter list also includes the year (or years) in which each story is generally believed to be set, though there’s quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the exact chronology. Disney+ does lay out a timeline on its platform, but it has some issues. For one thing, it deviates slightly from the one published in the book Marvel Studios: The First 10 Years. It also doesn’t include the three Tom Holland-starring Spider-Man movies or 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, which aren’t available to stream on Disney+ at all. 

Moreover, as the universe has expanded in recent years, Marvel has gotten increasingly vague about when each new program takes place. Not to mention that some of them hop around in time—or literally transcend it, in the case of Loki. Fans pretty frequently disagree with Disney+’s watch order, supporting their own theories with references in certain scenes or even quotes from the directors themselves.

Our chronological breakdown mostly follows Disney+’s, with the occasional exception or addition whenever necessary. Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, for example, supposedly take place around the same time; and without a more concrete timestamp, we just decided to put Thor: Love and Thunder first because it was released earlier.

In short, the chronological timeline below is up for debate and also subject to change in the future. The important thing is that it should steer you clear of spoilers, so the discrepancies are relatively negligible. What will put you at risk of spoilers if you’re watching chronologically is a couple pivotal post-credits scenes—look out for asterisks in our list so you know which ones to save for later. All TV shows (and one TV special: Werewolf by Night) are bolded; the rest are movies. Because the I Am Groot shorts were released as one series, they occupy a single spot on the top list; chronologically, however, they take place in two separate time periods, so are noted twice in the second list.

Also, don’t expect to see any sign of Daredevil, the X-Men, or other characters based on Marvel Comics. Many of them do now fall under the MCU umbrella thanks to various Disney acquisitions and licensing deals—and some of those superheroes have even shown up in recent MCU content—but their own programs were released before they joined the MCU, so we didn’t include those.

Marvel Movies and TV Shows in Order of Release Date

  1. Iron Man (May 2008)
  2. The Incredible Hulk (June 2008)
  3. Iron Man 2 (April 2010)
  4. Thor (April 2011)
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger (July 2011)
  6. Marvel's The Avengers (April 2012)
  7. Iron Man 3 (April 2013)
  8. Thor: The Dark World (November 2013)
  9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (March 2014)
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy (July 2014)
  11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (April 2015)
  12. Ant-Man (July 2015)
  13. Captain America: Civil War (April 2016)
  14. Doctor Strange (October 2016)
  15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (April 2017)
  16. Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 2017)
  17. Thor: Ragnarok (October 2017)
  18. Black Panther (February 2018)
  19. Avengers: Infinity War (April 2018)
  20. Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 2018)
  21. Captain Marvel (March 2019)
  22. Avengers: Endgame (April 2019)
  23. Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 2019)
  24. WandaVision (January–March 2021)
  25. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (March–April 2021)
  26. Loki (June–July 2021)
  27. Black Widow (July 2021)
  28. What If...? (August–October 2021)
  29. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (September 2021)
  30. Eternals (November 2021)
  31. Hawkeye (November–December 2021)
  32. Spider-Man: No Way Home (December 2021)
  33. Moon Knight (March–May 2022)
  34. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 2022)
  35. Ms. Marvel (June–July 2022)
  36. Thor: Love and Thunder (July 2022)
  37. I Am Groot (August 2022)
  38. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (August–October 2022)
  39. Werewolf by Night (October 2022)
  40. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (November 2022)

Marvel Movies and TV Shows in Chronological Order

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) // 1943-1945
  2. Captain Marvel (2019) // 1995
  3. Iron Man (2008) // 2010
  4. Iron Man 2 (2010) // 2011
  5. The Incredible Hulk (2008) // 2011
  6. Thor (2011) // 2011
  7. Marvel's The Avengers (2012) // 2012
  8. Thor: The Dark World (2013) // 2013
  9. Iron Man 3 (2013) // 2012
  10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) // 2014
  11. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) // 2014
  12. I Am Groot: Groot's First Steps (2022) // 2014
  13. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) // 2014
  14. I Am Groot: The Little Guy, Groot's Pursuit, Groot Takes a Bath, Magnum Opus (2022) // 2014
  15. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) // 2015
  16. Ant-Man (2015) // 2015
  17. Captain America: Civil War (2016) // 2016
  18. Black Widow (2021) // 2016*
  19. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) // 2016
  20. Black Panther (2017) // 2017
  21. Doctor Strange (2016) // 2016-2017
  22. Thor: Ragnarok (2017) // 2017
  23. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) // 2017**
  24. Avengers: Infinity War (2018) // 2018
  25. Avengers: Endgame (2019) // 2018-2023
  26. Loki (2021) // Outside of time
  27. What If...? (2021) // Across various alternate timelines
  28. WandaVision (2021) // 2023
  29. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021) // 2023
  30. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) // 2023 or 2024
  31. Eternals (2021) // 2024
  32. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) // 2024
  33. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) // 2024
  34. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) // 2024
  35. Hawkeye (2021) // 2024
  36. Moon Knight (2022) // 2025
  37. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (2022) // 2025
  38. Ms. Marvel (2022) // 2025
  39. Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) // 2025
  40. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) // 2025
  41. Werewolf by Night (2022) // 2025

*Don’t watch the Black Widow end-credits scene until after you’ve seen Avengers: Endgame. (Best understood if you’ve also already seen The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.)
**Don’t watch the Ant-Man and the Wasp end-credits scene until after you’ve seen Avengers: Infinity War.

A version of this story ran in 2021; it has been updated for 2022.

facebooktwitterreddit