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MCU timeline: How to watch the Marvel movies in order

Nick Baker, Broadband and TV expert
Written by Nick Baker, Broadband, TV, gaming and mobiles expert

31 March 2022

*Spoiler alert: While we won’t be writing in explicit detail about the films in the MCU, there will be some spoilers if you’re not all caught up.
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Superhero movies have always been popular. From Christopher Reeve’s first outing as Superman, there’s always been some sort of comic book adaptation in the works. For decades, the biggest superheroes on our big screens were Batman and Superman. But that all changed in 2008 when Robert Downey Jr donned his armour for the first time. Since then, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (affectionately referred to as the MCU) has become the biggest movie franchise of all time. Spanning 27 films (at the time of writing), five TV shows and over a decade of hype and action, Marvel movies have earned over $25 billion dollars around the world.

Where to watch Marvel movies

The interconnected nature of the MCU makes watching and re-watching all the movies part of the fun. And the launch of Disney Plus means that all the MCU films (apart from the three Tom Holland Spider-Man films) are available to stream on the same platform. But the big question is, which order do you watch them in? 

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Do you prefer to watch all the films as they were originally released, starting with Iron Man and finishing with Spider-Man: Far From Home? Do you want to watch the events as they would have happened and watch the Marvel films in chronological order? Do you watch all the Marvel movies or just watch the best ones and get to Endgame as quickly as possible?

You don’t have to decide right now. Check out our guide on how to watch Marvel movies in order to see which you like best.

How to watch the Marvel movies in chronological order

There’s a fair amount of time-jumping in the MCU, with some films set in the past, some in the future, and some jumping around between both. In fact, it’s pretty much the basis for the entire plot of Endgame. After having watched all the films at least once, some fans prefer to watch the Marvel films in chronological order, starting with Captain America: The First Avenger and ending with Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Watching the MCU films in chronological order is a fun way to see all the callbacks, Easter eggs and foreshadowing you may have missed the first time you watched the films. For example, Nick Fury calling in Captain Marvel after the events of Infinity War has added impact when you’ve already watched them meet in the Captain Marvel solo film.

This isn’t 100% accurate thanks to Marvel’s famous mid- and post-credits causing some overlap, specifically in Captain Marvel, Black Widow and Ant-Man and The Wasp. Not to mention the flashbacks in Eternals taking place a few thousand years ago. But for the most part, here’s how to watch the Marvel movies in chronological order:

  • Captain America: The First Avenger (1942)

  • Captain Marvel (1995)

  • Iron Man (2008)

  • Iron Man 2 (2011)

  • The Incredible Hulk (2011)

  • Thor (2011) - six months before Avengers

  • The Avengers (2012)

  • Iron Man 3 (2012) - six months after The Avengers

  • Thor: The Dark World (2013) - after Avengers but before Ultron

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) - after Avengers but before Ultron

  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

  • Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2014)

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

  • Ant-Man (2015)

  • Captain America: Civil War (2016) - after Ultron and before Infinity War

  • Black Widow (2016, excluding post-credits scene) - right after Civil War

  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2016) - after Civil War and before Infinity War

  • Doctor Strange (2016-2017)

  • Black Panther (2017)

  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017) - after Ultron, and before Infinity War

  • Avengers: Infinity War (2017)

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (2017) - takes place at the same time as Infinity War since the post-credit scene takes place during the snap.

  • Avengers: Endgame (2017-2022)

  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2023)

  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2023)

  • Eternals (2023, excluding flashbacks)

  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (2024)

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How to watch Marvel TV shows in MCU timeline

If you want to go one step further, you could integrate the Disney Plus Marvel TV shows in your next rewatch. While WandaVision was released first, Loki begins during the events of Endgame, which themselves take place in 2012. So here’s how to watch the MCU movies and TV shows in chronological order:

All the Marvel movies in chronological order.
Image: Nick Baker / Uswitch

  • Captain America: The First Avenger (1942)

  • Captain Marvel (1995)

  • Iron Man (2008)

  • Iron Man 2 (2011)

  • The Incredible Hulk (2011)

  • Thor (2011) - six months before The Avengers

  • The Avengers (2012)

  • Loki – begins after The Avengers in 2012, but is still best watched after Endgame.

  • Iron Man 3 (2012) - six months after The Avengers

  • Thor: The Dark World (2013) - after Avengers but before Ultron

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) - after Avengers but before Ultron

  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

  • Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2014)

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

  • Ant-Man (2015)

  • Captain America: Civil War (2016) - after Ultron and before Infinity War

  • Black Widow (2016, excluding post-credits scene) - right after Civil War

  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2016) - after Civil War and before Infinity War

  • Doctor Strange (2016-2017)

  • Black Panther (2017)

  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017) - after Ultron, and before Infinity War

  • Avengers: Infinity War (2017)

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (2017) - takes place at the same time as Infinity War since the post-credit scene takes place during the snap.

  • Avengers: Endgame (2017-2022)

  • WandaVision (2022) – three weeks after Endgame

  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2023) – six months after Avengers: Endgame

  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2023) – eight months after Endgame

  • What If...? (xxxx) – as this spans the entire multiverse there’s no set date, but it's best watched after Endgame.

  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2023)

  • Eternals  (2023) - excluding flashbacks over almost 7,000 years ago

  • Hawkeye (2023)

  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (2024) 

How to watch Marvel movies in order of release

Like me, you might prefer to watch the Marvel movies in the order in which they were intended, that is the order they were originally released. This is how to watch the Marvel movies in release date order:

MCU timeline
Image: Nick Baker / Uswitch

MCU Phase 1 

  • Iron Man (2008)

  • The Incredible Hulk (2008)

  • Iron Man 2 (2010)

  • Thor (2011)

  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

  • The Avengers (2012)

MCU Phase 2

  • 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)

MCU Phase 3

  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)

  • Doctor Strange (2016)

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

  • Black Panther (2018)

  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

  • Captain Marvel (2019)

  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)

  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

MCU Phase 4

  • WandaVision (Disney Plus show, 2021)

  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney Plus show, 2021)

  • Loki (Disney Plus show, 2021)

  • Black Widow (2021)

  • What If...? (Disney Plus show, 2021)

  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

  • Eternals (2021)

  • Hawkeye (Disney Plus show, 2021)

  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

  • Moon Knight (March 30th, 2022)

  • Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness (May 6, 2022)

  • Ms Marvel (Disney Plus show, Summer 2022) 

  • Thor: Love And Thunder (July 8, 2022)

  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (November 11, 2022)

  • The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (December 2022)

  • She-Hulk - Disney Plus show (2022)

  • The Marvels (February 17, 2023)

  • Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 (May 5, 2023)

  • Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania (July 28, 2023)

  • Secret Invasion (Upcoming Disney Plus show)

  • Ironheart (Upcoming Disney Plus show)

  • Armor Wars (Upcoming Disney Plus show)

  • I Am Groot (Upcoming Disney Plus show)

  • Fantastic Four (July 28, 2023 - unconfirmed)

  • Blade (November 10, 2023 - unconfirmed)

  • Black Panther (Upcoming Disney Plus show)

  • Agatha: House Of Harkness  (Upcoming Disney Plus show)

  • Echo (Upcoming Disney Plus show)

  • Marvel Zombies (Upcoming Disney Plus show)

  • Spider-Man: Freshman Year (Upcoming Disney Plus show)

MCU Phase 5

At the time of writing there still isn’t an official statement on which projects are slated for MCU Phase 5. So for the moment, we’ll just include films and TV shows that are still unconfirmed or only rumoured as appearing in Phase 5.

  • Deadpool 3 (May 3, 2024 - unconfirmed)

  • Captain America 4 (February 16, 2024 - unconfirmed)

  • Spider-Man 4 (July 26, 2024 - unconfirmed)

  • Shang-Chi 2 (November 8, 2024 - unconfirmed)

  • World War Hulk (Rumored)

  • X-Men (Rumored)

  • Nova (Rumored)

  • Thunderbolts (Rumored)

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The best order to watch Marvel movies for the first time

If you're brand new to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and want to catch up on the movies without having to watch all 27, here's a shortlist of MCU films that you need to watch in order for it all to make sense.

The best/most-important MCU movies to watch to catch up
Image: Nick Baker / Uswitch

  • Iron Man

  • Avengers Assemble

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier

  • Guardians of the Galaxy

  • Captain America: Civil War

  • Thor Ragnorok

  • Black Panther

  • Avengers: Infinity War

  • Avengers: Endgame

  • Spider-Man: No Way Home

There will be characters that pop up that you're not immediately familiar with (Captain Marvel and Dr Strange), and the odd reference that you'll miss, but on the whole, you'll get the gist of what's been happening in the MCU and get to watch the best, funniest and most impactful moments throughout.

How to watch Marvel movies in order of best rated

Some hardcore Marvel fans have gone as far as wanting to watch the 27 MCU films in order of their rating on review platforms like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. Though this would mean you’re watching the films completely out of order, it could be a nice way to save the best for last as it were. If you started your MCU binge with The Incredible Hulk – a movie that many of us don’t really consider as part of the MCU – and work towards the final two instalments of the Avengers.

MCU IMDB scores

*Accurate as of 5th April 2022

  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (IMDb score: 8.5)

  • Avengers: Infinity War (IMDb score: 8.5)

  • Avengers: Endgame (IMDb score: 8.4)

  • Guardians of the Galaxy (IMDb score: 8.1)

  • Iron Man (IMDb score: 7.9)

  • Thor: Ragnarok (IMDb score: 7.9)

  • Captain America: Civil War (IMDb score: 7.8)

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (IMDb score: 7.8)

  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (IMDb score: 7.6)

  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (IMDb score: 7.5)

  • Doctor Strange (IMDb score: 7.5)

  • Spider-Man: Far from Home (IMDb score: 7.4)

  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (IMDb score: 7.4)

  • Black Panther (IMDb score: 7.3)

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (IMDb score: 7.3)

  • Ant-Man (IMDb score: 7.3)

  • Iron Man 3 (IMDb score: 7.2)

  • Avengers Assemble (IMDb score: 7.0)

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (IMDb score: 7.0)

  • Thor (IMDb score: 7.0)

  • Iron Man 2 (IMDb score: 7.0)

  • Captain America: The First Avenger (IMDb score: 6.9)

  • Captain Marvel (IMDb score: 6.8)

  • Thor: The Dark World (IMDb score: 6.8)

  • Black Widow (IMDb score: 6.7)

  • The Incredible Hulk (IMDb score: 6.7)

  • Eternals (IMDb score: 6.4)

This, however, is a very subjective list, I personally would never have put Dr Strange above Black Panther. So you might want to tweak this particular list to suit your own opinion.

How long is the MCU timeline?

The events that take place in the MCU universe span thousands of years, and the time taken to watch all the movies in this universe is fairly long too. With 27 films released over 13 years, each phase of the MCU seemed to introduce longer and longer movie runtimes, with the epic Avengers finale clocking in at just over three hours long.  So how long would it take for you to watch all the MCU movies? Here are all the MCU films in order of shortest to longest:

  • The Incredible Hulk: 1 hour 52 minutes

  • Thor: The Dark World: 1 hour 52 minutes

  • Thor: 1 hour 55 minutes

  • Doctor Strange: 1 hour 55 minutes

  • Ant-Man: 1 hour 57 minutes

  • Ant-Man and The Wasp: 1 hour 58 minutes

  • Guardians of the Galaxy: 2 hours 2 minutes

  • Iron Man 2: 2 hours 4 minutes

  • Captain America: The First Avenger: 2 hours 4 minutes

  • Captain Marvel: 2 hours 4 minutes

  • Iron Man: 2 hours 6 minutes

  • Spider-Man: Far From Home: 2 hours 9 minutes

  • Iron Man 3: 2 hours 10 minutes

  • Thor: Ragnarok: 2 hours 10 minutes

  • Shang Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings: 2 hours 12 minutes

  • Spider-Man: Homecoming: 2 hours 13 minutes

  • Black Panther: 2 hours 14 minutes

  • Black Widow: 2 hours 14 minutes

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: 2 hours 16 minutes

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: 2 hours 17 minutes

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron: 2 hours 21 minutes

  • The Avengers: 2 hours 23 minutes

  • Captain America: Civil War: 2 hours 27 minutes

  • Spider-Man: No Way Home: 2 hours 28 minutes

  • Avengers: Infinity War: 2 hours 29 minutes

  • Eternals: 2 hours 36 minutes

  • Avengers: Endgame: 3 hours 1 minute

This means that, as of now, the total MCU runtime is 59 hours 29 minutes. So if you wanted to watch the entire MCU timeline, non-stop, back-to-back, it would take you nearly two and a half days.

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So which is the best way to watch all the Marvel movies?

Call me old fashioned, but I think it’s best to watch the Marvel movies for the first time in the order they were released. With all the post-credit teasers, plot twists and character development, the release order gives you the best introduction to each Marvel character and their place in the wider MCU.

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Frequently asked Marvel movie questions

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