How to Watch the Marvel Movies in Order

If you’re stuck in quarantine, watching all the Marvel movies in order is definitely one surefire way to pass the time. Should you decide to undertake this (super)heroic task, you’re in for a long and entertaining haul. What began with 2008’s “Iron Man” has since become an entire universe unto itself, a Marvel Cinematic Universe, if you will.

For all the hardcore fans, there’s precious little we can tell you that you don’t already know. Everyone else might be surprised to discover that watching the Marvel movies in order isn’t as simple as it first appears. That’s because there are actually multiple ways to do it, including the famous “spaghetti order” (which we’ll explain below).

Hence, before you even load up that streaming service, you should ask yourself: what’s the best order to watch Marvel movies in? By order of their release dates? By story chronology? Like we said, the process isn’t as simple as it may seem. And if you need a veritable shortcut, consider watching the Avengers movies in order instead, as they tend to encompass the MCU as a whole.

On the other hand, you’re not here to watch the Avengers in order—you’re here to watch the MCU movies in order. Right? Either way, we have you covered. Buckle up!

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What Are the MCU Phases?

The MCU continues to unfold in carefully-planned segments or “phases.” Spanning years, each phase represents a block of specific and often interrelated stories. The main throughline tends to culminate with an Avengers film, even if that film doesn’t necessarily close out the respective phase. Phase Four includes both upcoming movies and upcoming TV shows on Disney+.

Here’s a brief breakdown of just the films:

  1. Phase One: Starts with the first “Iron Man” and ends with the first “Avengers” movie.
  2. Phase Two: Starts with “Iron Man 3” and ends with the first “Ant-Man” movie.
  3. Phase Three: Starts with “Captain America: Civil War” and ends with “Spiderman: Far from Home.”
  4. Phase Four: Starts with “Black Widow.”

For this reason, the list of prospective MCU movies only takes into account those that fit within the phases. Thus, films like Eric Bana’s ‘Hulk’ and the original Tobey Maguire ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy have not made the list.

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MCU Movies in Chronological Order

Amongst the different ways to watch the Marvel movies in order, chronologically might be the best. In this variant, you watch each film not in accordance with its release date, but in accordance with its place in the overarching storyline. Here we go.

1. Captain America: The First Avenger (1942)

Audiences first met Captain America in this somewhat underwhelming debut, which takes place during WWII. Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers, a determined patriot who gets rejected from military service. What’s a patriot to do but take an experimental “super-soldier” serum? Captain America is thus born.

Release date: 28 June 2011 (Australia)
Director: Joe Johnston
Box office: 370.5 million USD

2. Captain Marvel (1995)

The Earth is caught in the midst of a galactic war and only former US Air Force pilot Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) can save it. Discovered by an alien race, Danvers takes on limitless power and the Captain Marvel moniker. It all goes down in the mid-1990s.

Release date: 7 March 2019 (Australia)
Director: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Box office: 1.128 billion USD

3. Iron Man (2010)

The first “Iron Man” kicks off a harrowing saga and blockbuster franchise with brilliant precision. Robert Downey Jr. stars as wealthy and outspoken defense contractor Tony Stark, who proves that necessity truly is the mother of invention. While not made entirely clear in the actual film, the story was later determined to take place in 2010.

Release date: 1 May 2008 (Australia)
Director: Jon Favreau
Box office: 585.3 million USD

4. Iron Man 2 (2011)

Tony Stark aka Iron Man and his cohorts are back in this sprawling sequel. Grappling with health issues, the iconic superhero squares off against new enemies. That includes an electricity-wielding maniac named Whiplash, played by Mickey Rourke.

Release date: 29 April 2010 (Australia)
Director: Jon Favreau
Box office: 623.9 million USD

5. The Incredible Hulk (2011)

Before Mark Ruffalo, actor Edward Norton starred as scientist Bruce Banner and his unbound alter-ego, the Incredible Hulk. On the run from the government, Banner looks to cure himself of some serious anger management issues. As with “Iron Man,” this story was retroactively dated so as to fit in with the overarching timeline.

Release date: 12 June 2008 (Australia)
Director: Louis Leterrier
Box office: 264.8 million USD

6. Thor (2011)

Cast out of Asgard, the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must cohabitate with us petty humans in this Phase One instalment. We also meet Thor’s mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who plays an important role as the franchise unfolds. Shakespearean actor and director Kenneth Branagh directs.

Release date: 21 April 2011 (Australia)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Box office: 449.3 million USD

7. The Avengers (2012)

If you’re watching just the Avengers in order, your journey starts here. Awash with spectacle, the film pits the world’s foremost superheroes against Loki and his alien army. Suffice it to say, Phase One went out with a bang.

Release date: 25 April 2012 (Australia)
Director: Joss Whedon
Box office: 1.519 billion USD

8. Iron Man 3 (2012)

Still recovering from the events of “The Avengers,” Tony Stark squares off against his most formidable opponent yet. Along the way, he struggles with issues of identity and heroism. And thus begins Phase Two.

Release date: 24 April 2013 (Australia)
Director: Shane Black
Box office: 1.215 billion USD

9. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Dark Elves are on the attack and the fate of the universe lies in the balance. Who can save the day but the mighty Thor and his all-powerful hammer? While not a critical darling or fan favourite, the film plays an important role in the overarching MCU.

Release date: 31 October 2013 (Australia)
Director: Alan Taylor
Box office: 644.8 million USD

10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Heralded for its fusion of sub-genres, Captain America’s second outing improves by leaps and bounds over its predecessor. Set against a backdrop of political conspiracy, it gives way to the ultimate showdown between the titular superhero and a worthy foe. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D. make up a big part of the story, which has close ties to the Avengers saga. This also marks the first time that Anthony and Joe Russo (aka The Russo Brothers) direct an MCU film.

Release date: 3 April 2014 (Australia)
Director: The Russo Brothers
Box office: 714.4 million USD

11. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

A welcome surprise and unexpected smash hit, “Guardians of the Galaxy” centers on a group of intergalactic mercenaries. Leading this motley crew of misfits is former earthling Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), occasionally known as Star-Lord. Ultra-villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) looms over the action and makes brief cameos.

Release date: 31 July 2014 (Australia)
Director: James Gunn
Box office: 772.8 million USD

12. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2014)

Picking up soon after its predecessor, this hotly anticipated sequel once again mixes action and comedy to superb effect. In the midst of all kinds of conflict, Star-Lord comes face to face with his long-lost father. See the film and then buy the mixtape.

Release date: 25 April 2017 (Australia)
Director: James Gunn
Box office: 863.8 million USD

13. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions and this blockbuster sequel might very well prove it. In their effort to create world peace, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner unleash a global catastrophe.

Release date: 23 April 2015 (Australia)
Director: Joss Whedon
Box office: 1.403 billion USD

14. Ant-Man (2015)

Like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” this fan favourite provides an extended dose of comic relief. Paul Rudd stars as the title character, who cranks massive heroics out of his microscopic alter-ego. Who knew that someone so small could save such a big world?

Release date: 16 July 2015 (Australia)
Director: Peyton Reed
Box office: 519.3 million USD

15. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

If you’re watching just the Avengers movies in order, you’ll still need to catch this pivotal chapter (which is basically an Avengers film in all but name). Featuring most if not all of the major players, it centers on a disastrous rift between Captain America and Iron Man.

Release date: 28 April 2016 (Australia)
Director: The Russo Brothers
Box office: 1.153 billion USD

16. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2016)

Spider-Man finally came home to Marvel in the mid-2010s, even if Sony shared character rights. High school student Peter Parker (Tom Holland) doubles as the web-slinging superhero, who balances classroom drama and big-city crime.

Release date: 6 July 2017 (Australia)
Director: Jon Watts
Box office: 880.2 million USD

17. Doctor Strange (2016-2017)

In the wake of a tragic car accident, Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) embarks on a journey of dimension-spanning proportions. And so the MCU expands even further than we previously imagined.

Release date: 27 October 2016 (Australia)
Director: Scott Derrickson
Box office: 677.7 million USD

18. Black Widow (2017)

Avengers stalwart Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) gets a movie of her own and it jumps back a few years in time. Here’s hoping the film still meets its intended release date in November.

Director: Scott Derrickson

19. Black Panther (2017)

Take a trip to the nation of Wakanda in this massive hit, set on the heels of “Captain America: Civil War.” Chadwick Boseman stars as Prince T’Challa, who moonlights as Black Panther and faces adversaries on all sides.

Release date: 15 February 2018 (Australia)
Director: Ryan Coogler
Box office: 1.344 billion USD

20. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Arguably Thor’s best outing, this one comes bursting to life with cheeky humour and vivid colour. Cate Blanchett plays the ruthless goddess Hela and she’s got Asgard in her crosshairs.

Release date: 24 October 2017 (Australia)
Director: Taika Waititi
Box office: 854 million USD

21. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2017)

If you think this is just another side-hustle for the franchise, then you haven’t seen all the MCU films in order yet. Ant-Man teams up with the Wasp to uncover long-buried secrets. His micro-sized adventures pick back up in “Avengers: Endgame,” making this film more important than it may first appear.

Release date: 5 July 2018 (Australia)
Director: Peyton Reed
Box office: 622.7 million USD

22. Avengers: Infinity War (2017)

Thor is on the hunt for six Infinity Stones and if he finds them, life as we know it will come to an end. More than another Avengers instalment, this film is everything that makes the MCU great.

Release date: 25 April 2018 (Australia)
Director: The Russo Brothers
Box office: 2.048 billion USD

23. Avengers: Endgame (2018-2023)

With a little help from Ant-Man, the remaining Avengers unlock the secrets of time travel. That allows them to jump back five years to set things right. While not the official closing chapter of Phase Three, this record-breaking smash might as well be.

Release date: 24 April 2019 (Australia)
Director: The Russo Brothers
Box office: 2.798 billion USD

24. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2023)

Characters are still adapting to the consequences of time travel in this proverbial denouement, which still brings plenty of blockbuster action. Hoping to get a taste of that care-free teenage life, Peter Parker takes a class trip to Europe. As he soon discovers, superheroes don’t get time off.

Release date: 1 July 2019 (Australia)
Director: Jon Watts
Box office: 1.132 billion USD

MCU Movies in Release Order

In lieu of chronological order, you can watch the MCU movies in order of their respective release dates. That list looks a little something like this:

  1. Iron Man (May, 2008)
  2. The Incredible Hulk (June, 2008)
  3. Iron Man 2 (May, 2010)
  4. Thor (May, 2011)
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22, 2011)
  6. Avengers Assemble (May 4, 2012)
  7. Iron Man 3 (May, 2013)
  8. Thor: The Dark World (November, 2013)
  9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April, 2014)
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy (August, 2014)
  11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (May, 2015)
  12. Ant-Man (July, 2015)
  13. Captain America: Civil War (May, 2016)
  14. Doctor Strange (November, 2016)
  15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May, 2017)
  16. Spider-Man: Homecoming (July, 2017)
  17. Thor: Ragnarok (November, 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)

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MCU Movies in Spaghetti Order

Some say the best way to watch all the Marvel movies in order is the way that writer and spaghetti-lover Jonathan Sim watched them.

Here’s how it works. Each Marvel movie has a post-credits scene. If and when that scene makes reference to an upcoming MCU film, that’s the film you should watch next.

Why spaghetti, you ask? Because like we said, Jonathan Sim loves the ubiquitous pasta dish. No, we’re not kidding. Here’s the spaghetti order:

  1. Iron Man (2008)
  2. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  3. Iron Man 2 (2010)
  4. Thor (2011)
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  6. The Avengers (2012)
  7. Iron Man 3 (2013)
  8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  9. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017)
  11. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  12. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  13. Ant-Man (2015)
  14. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  15. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  16. Black Panther (2018)
  17. Doctor Strange (2016)
  18. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  19. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  20. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
  21. Captain Marvel (2019)
  22. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
  23. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

You’ll also like:
50 Best Action Movies Of All Time, Ranked
10 Best Martial Arts Movies
How to Watch the Star Wars Movies in Chronological Order

General FAQ

How many Marvel movies are there?

To date, 23 Marvel movies have been released. 'Black Widow' will be the 24th MCU film and it's slated to arrive in November.

What movie starts the MCU?

The MCU—meaning Marvel Cinematic Universe—kicked off in 2008 with the first Iron Man. Chronologically, however, one could say that the saga began with the first Captain America movie.

Is it better to watch the Marvel Movies in chronological order?

The MCU jumps all over space and time and not necessarily in accordance with each film's release date. To retain a sense of narrative cohesion, you should probably watch them in chronological order.