Over ten years ago, the Marvel Cinematic Universe started with one man, a metal suit of armor, and an unconventional self-rescue. But the earliest dates of the Marvel timeline predate the heady days of 2008. So, we looked into the timeline to work out just how you should watch the series if you want the story in chronological order.
It’s not perfect, as some movies have flash-forwards while others span long gaps of time. But based on how much the bulk of the movie takes place, the teasing post-credit scenes and Marvel’s official timeline, here is our recommendation on how to watch all MCU movies in chronological order (with dates)!
Captain America: The First Avenger
When? 1943 – 1945
If you truly want to watch these Marvel movies in order of their story, start with The First Avenger.
At the height of the Second World War, HYDRA, the scientific arm of the Third Reich has gone rogue with plans to usurp Germany and take over the world. The only thing standing in the way of the sinister superman Red Skull is Steven Rogers – an American patriot who takes an experimental procedure to become a super-soldier. The film’s post-credit scene might feature an Avengers trailer but according to the chronological timeline, those events don’t occur until years later…
Although released in 2019 following all the major MCU events, Captain Marvel actually takes place way, way, way before any titan giant blew the world to dust.
In 1995, the nefarious Skrull Empire have designs for Earth. Intending to stop them and deny an advantage, the Kree Empire sends a human agent and veteran star-cop, Carol Danvers, to foil them. But Carol has memories of Earth and when encountering a young Nick Fury, she must discover who she is in order to save the planet.
This might have been the first of the MCU movies to hit the silver screen, but in fact, it comes third if you plan on watching these movies in order of events.
On a business trip to Afghanistan, billionaire playboy Anthony Edward “Tony” Stark is captured by terrorists and forced to make weapons for them. Designing a powered suit of armour to escape, Tony returns to America with a new outlook on life and a plan to change his company for the better. Something is rotten within Stark Industries however, as Tony finds out during his first heroic misadventure.
The Incredible Hulk
For several years now, Bruce Banner has been on the run. Hiding as a line worker in Mexico, Bruce’s cover gets blown when the American military find him, and he must continue his mission to find a cure for his Jekyll-and-Hyde condition. Were that not a problem enough, General Ross has a new ace: America’s newest super-soldier, Emil Blonsky.
Iron Man 2
Tony’s newfound limelight gets him in trouble when his Arc Reactor idea gets noticed by an old rival of his father’s. Compounding his issues are some rather drastic side effects of the metal reactor in his chest, which Tony must find a fix for before he poisons himself to death. That is if Ivan Vanko, a former engineer and son of the old friend doesn’t end him first.
Keep your eyes peeled for the post-credits scene in Iron Man 2 as it leads directly into Thor and its events which take place almost a year later.
After a rather disastrous stunt adventure nearly causes a war between Asgard and the planet Jotunheim, Thor, son of Odin Allfather is banished to Earth. Although told he can only come back when he learns what it means to be a king, his brother Loki has other plans that threaten the peace and the future of Asgard…excuse us as we wait for the Avengers to assemble…
Having become fairy acquainted with the lead Avengers in earlier films, viewers should now be ready to dive into The Avengers.
Loki has arrived on Earth. With the power to take over the minds of others, SHIELD must gather a better counter – a team of exceptional people to hunt him down and stop him before he begins his plan of world conquest. A god from the sky (Thor), a living legend (Captain America), a genius engineer (Iron Man) and a great green colossus (Hulk) must work together if they are to become Earth’s mightiest heroes.
Iron Man 3
An old adversary comes to haunt Tony Stark. The Ten Rings, initially thought to have fallen into obscurity, have returned. The airwaves are hijacked by the sinister “Mandarin” with a plan to collapse the United States. Meanwhile, an old acquaintance of Tony’s returns with a brilliant idea that may have something dark behind its miraculous presentation…
Thor: The Dark World
Asgard is still rebuilding from the foiled efforts of the Frost Giants. But from the shadows of time and space, the sinister Dark Elves have returned. Thought defeated during the early eras of Asgard, these aliens have the Aether, a mysterious substance with which they plan to plunge the universe into eternal night.
The end-credits scene of this film may tease a character from Guardians of the Galaxy, but hold on – don’t stream that one just yet. Captain America’s got a few issues to deal with first…
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Steve is adjusting to life in the modern world and as an agent of SHIELD. But something is rotten when Nick Fury finds himself hunted by the Winter Soldier, an urban myth among spies. It’s up to Steve and Black Widow to get to the bottom of what’s going on at SHIELD, and work out just who this mysterious assassin is.
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Guardians of the Galaxy
If you want to break up this Marvel movie timeline with a bit of a laugh, or even a dance to awesome songs, turn on Guardians of the Galaxy.
Space pirate and treasure hunting abductee from Earth, Peter Quill finds his life taking a turn for the hairy when a very valuable artefact brings all kinds of attention on to him and a Kree zealot named Ronan the Accuser is on the pursuit. A rag-tag team including an alien tree, a cybernetically enhanced raccoon, a bitter warrior and the most dangerous woman in the universe must stop Ronan before he goes on a bitter rampage across the planet Xandar.
The chronology of the MCU gets a little less confusing around this time as you can watch the sequel to GotG straight after the first!
After offending the aloof Sovereign, the Guardians are rescued by Ego – an ancient man with great power and a special connection to Peter Quill. But there’s more to the ancient than he lets on. Yondu meanwhile has his secret deal outed and gets banished from the Ravagers. As one of the few people who knew about Ego, he’s got to trust Rocket and Groot to get to Ego’s planet and save his adopted son.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
For the last few years, the Avengers have been searching the globe for the remnants of Hydra. The final blow in the Eastern European country of Sokovia becomes the seed for a greater crisis when a paranoid Tony Stark creates Ultron, a sinister AI with a low opinion of humanity and an even lower desire to do what his creator planned for him. Ending one threat, the Avengers assemble to stop another.
Scott Lang, a disgruntled tech turned to crime wants one last job to stay out of prison. Very few thieves get to actually do good for good pay, but Scott finds himself earning both when he tries to rob the house of Henry “Hank” Pym – a former colleague of Howard Stark who doesn’t like the headway being made in shrink technology by the less-than-reputable Cross Industries. It’s up to Scott to pull one last big caper and keep Hank’s technology out of evil hands.
Don’t skip the after-scenes! You’ll miss out on the teaser for the next movie in the MCU timeline…
After a botched mission in Lagos, Nigeria, the United Nations and Tony Stark hand the Avengers an ultimatum. When Bucky Barnes resurfaces and bombs a UN summit in Vienna, the team is split in two. Steve, determined to clear his friend’s name, goes rogue while Tony gathers his resources to bring Captain America in. Little do they know, there is a third player in the shadows.
Civil War keeps viewers watching beyond the credits as secret scenes tease Spider-Man’s solo movie and Black Panther’s, too!
Six months after his trial run in Germany, Peter Parker is coming to terms with being the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. His luck couldn’t be better (or worse) when he stumbles across an underground arms trade in alien technology. Tony Stark doesn’t seem interested, so it’s up to the Web-Head to expose the arms dealer in charge before he causes too much havoc.
Calling all web-heads! Check out our list of Spider-Man trivia and find out all there is to know about Marvel’s popular hero!
Steven Strange is a neurosurgeon at the top of his game. But when a moment of carelessness costs him his career, he travels the world looking for a cure. In doing so, he stumbles across the mystical sorcerers of Kamar-Taj, and finds himself in the middle of a secret war that could doom the world into an extra-dimensional terror.
This is where things get super complicated. Many have debated Doctor Strange’s position in the MCU timeline considering he’s mentioned briefly in The Winter Soldier. We’ve decided to place the film here because a) it’s been confirmed that the events took place in 2016 and b) a brief shot of the Avengers Tower can be spotted in the movie.
Like we said, nailing down these Marvel movies in chronological order is a challenging task. It’s believed that Black Panther is happening at the same time as Homecoming and the events of Doctor Strange, but to make the viewing order less complicated and more enjoyable, we’ve decided to place the Wakanda blockbuster here in our list.
After the incident in Vienna (Civil War), T’Challa has been adjusting to his new role as the Panther King, and what it means for him. The true test however comes with the emergence of Erik “Killmonger”, an American-born claimant for the throne with a desire to see revenge for T’Chaka’s murder of his father. Since T’Challa is the son of T’Chaka, that puts him in the Killmonger’s crosshairs.
Odin’s never been the honest sort. But after going missing for several years, the Allfather father reveals a deadly secret – that the Son of Odin has a sister who would very much like to see a new Asgardian empire. The fight to stop her sends Thor to the planet Sakaar, where he must convince an old “friend” that they need to escape and save not just Asgard, but the Nine Realms once again.
Stay awake for the post-credit scene – it leads directly into Infinity War (kinda)!
Pat yourself on the back – you’ve almost made it to the end of this complicated chronological timeline! And after watching several solo superhero movies, you’ll be pleased to know that every Marvel character is in this mega blockbuster!
The final series comes for Team Hero. Thanos has ravaged Xandar and now heads to Earth with his armies, the Infinity Stones are under threat and the Avengers are still disassembled. They’re not ready for a showdown with the Mad Titan but he’s not going to wait until they are. The stones must be protected for the sake of the whole universe.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Let’s pro-con Scott’s life after Civil War. Pro – he’s now merely under house arrest. Con – he’s not contacting Captain America any time soon. Pro: Hank and Hope have been busy building a private security firm and Scott can help. Con: There’s a ninja using phasing technology to steal Hank’s stuff. Pro: Janet van Dyne might not be entirely dead. Con: The ghost-lady isn’t helping.
Bear in mind that Ant-Man and the Wasp is taking place simultaneously with the events of Infinity War. Watch the post-credits scene and you’ll realise why…
When? 2018 & 2023
Prepare for endgame – the curtain closes for the fantastic, Marvel-ous Avengers series. The most recent mega-blockbuster of the Marvel saga is of course, Avengers: Endgame which sees Earth’s Mightiest Heroes try to turn back time and bring back those who fell in Infinity War. They go up against Thanos, say goodbye to a few beloved faces and fight what is possibly Marvel’s largest and most epic battle yet.
Our tip? Grab a box of tissues – this is the end of an era, after all!
Our sequence is great to follow should you ever be brave enough for a timeline-happy marathon. What would your chronological viewing order be? Let us know how where you would place each movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline…
Want more from the MCU? Find out who the top 12 richest superheroes are in the Marvel Universe in our super-cool list!