Conquering the MCU: How to Watch the Marvel Movies in Order
So, you’ve decided to watch every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The only thing now separating you from understanding a lot of previously meaningless memes is roughly 52 hours of screen time (and counting).
With the recent premiere of Black Widow, there are 24 films in the MCU (and many others on the way). But the chronological timeline doesn’t match the order of the movies' release dates—and it’s best to choose one viewing path and stick to it.
Much like some Star Wars aficionados recommend watching the original trilogy before the prequels, sequels, and spin-offs, there are plenty of Marvel fans who think first-time viewers should watch all the movies 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 all the characters and plotlines if things are unfolding in a (mostly) linear fashion.
Below are two separate lists: One with the films ordered by release date, and another ordered chronologically. The latter list also includes the year (or years) in which each film is set, but there is some debate surrounding the exact chronology. Basically, certain movies take place around the same time, and the timeline Marvel Studios published in the book Marvel Studios: The First 10 Years deviates slightly from the timeline Disney+ lays out on its platform. Both steer you clear of spoilers, so the discrepancies are pretty negligible. What will put you at risk of spoilers if you’re watching chronologically is the occasional end-credits scene—look out for asterisks in our list so you know which ones to save for later.
Since we’re just covering programs specifically in the MCU, you won’t see any sign of Venom, X-Men, or other characters based on Marvel Comics. Their stories are separate from all the MCU action, but you can see where they would fall in the timeline via GamesRadar+.
We did, however, include a section beneath the lists explaining what to do with Disney+’s recent miniseries—WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki. They are in the MCU, and you can accidentally spoil some pivotal events by watching them before you’ve seen certain movies.
Marvel Movies in Order of Release Date
- Iron Man (2008)
- The Incredible Hulk (2008)
- Iron Man 2 (2010)
- Thor (2011)
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
- Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
- Iron Man 3 (2013)
- Thor: The Dark World (2013)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
- Ant-Man (2015)
- Captain America: Civil War (2016)
- Doctor Strange (2016)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
- Black Panther (2017)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
- Captain Marvel (2019)
- Avengers: Endgame (2019)
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
- Black Widow (2021)
Marvel Movies in Chronological Order
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) // 1943-1945
- Captain Marvel (2019) // 1995
- Iron Man (2008) // 2010
- Iron Man 2 (2010) // 2011
- The Incredible Hulk (2008) // 2011
- Thor (2011) // 2011
- Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) // 2012
- Iron Man 3 (2013) // 2012
- Thor: The Dark World (2013) // 2013
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) // 2014
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) // 2014
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) // 2014
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) // 2015
- Ant-Man (2015) // 2015
- Captain America: Civil War (2016) // 2016
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) // 2016
- Doctor Strange (2016) // 2016-2017
- Black Widow (2021) // 2017*
- Black Panther (2017) // 2017
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017) // 2017
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) // 2017**
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018) // 2017
- Avengers: Endgame (2019) // 2018-2023
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) // 2024
*Don’t watch the Black Widow end-credits scene until after you’ve seen Avengers: Endgame. (Best understood if you’ve also already seen 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.
Where Do the MCU Shows on Disney+ Fit In?
So far this year, Disney+ has released three TV miniseries: WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki. If you’re watching the MCU programs in order of release date, you can tackle these after you’ve seen all the movies (Black Widow was originally meant to premiere in 2020.)
If you’ve chosen the chronological viewing experience, you should watch WandaVision right after Avengers: Endgame, since it follows Wanda Maximoff’s story just weeks after the events of that movie. Then, knock out Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which is set a few months after WandaVision but slightly before Spider-Man: Far From Home. Loki is a little tougher. Technically, it begins directly after Marvel’s The Avengers in 2012. That said, not only does the show mostly exist outside of time, but it also harbors major spoilers for several other MCU movies. If you’re watching everything for the first time through, we recommend saving Loki for last (or at least until after you’ve seen Avengers: Endgame).