If you’ve decided to do a Marvel movie marathon, you need to know the best order to watch the Marvel movies and series. It’s important to understand the timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and TV shows so you can get the most from the story and avoid spoilers.
I explain below why I think it’s best to watch in chronological order, but I also list the Marvel movies and series in release order at the end of this post.
Note: If you are looking for information on Netflix’s Marvel series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, The Punisher, Iron Fist, and Defenders), I have another post dedicated to the best order to watch the Netflix Marvel shows. While these shows take place in the MCU, they are independent story lines and do not directly connect to the Marvel movies listed here.
Marvel Movies: Release or Chronological Order?
There are two recommendations for watching the Marvel movies in order: release and chronological. Release order means the order the movies and shows were released in theaters and on Disney+. Chronological order follows the MCU timeline. For example, Captain Marvel was released in 2019, but it takes place in the 1990s and is one of the first movies in the timeline.
I recommend watching the Marvel movies in chronological (timeline) order to maximize your understanding of the Avengers saga. I first wrote down this order in 2018, and now that Disney+ has its own recommendation for how to watch the MCU movies in timeline order, I’m happy to say that they (mostly) agree with me.
Best Order to Watch the Marvel Movies and Shows
1. Captain America: The First Avenger
Set in the 1940s, this movie sets up the entire Marvel Universe. The story follows Steve Rodgers as he is accepted into an experimental program that turns him into the super-soldier Captain America.
This movie introduces the SSR, a heroic group that later becomes the concept for S.H.I.E.L.D. You’ll also be introduced to HYDRA, a Nazi-backed group that is fought by Captain America and his allies, and the main villain organization throughout the Marvel movies.
And remember, most Marvel movies have an end-credits scene — so stick around for those! They’re important.
2. Captain Marvel
This story kicks off a lot of connections to other Marvel movies. Although released in 2019, it is thought of as a Phase One movie and is set in the mid-90s.
Captain Marvel follows an extraterrestrial warrior, Carol Danvers, who is unaware of her true identity at the start of the movie. With the help of Nick Fury, (and his newly assembled group, S.H.I.E.L.D.) she is set to fight off the evil Skrulls while trying to recover the memories of where she came from.
Without giving spoilers, this story introduces the Kree, who later make an appearance in Guardians Of The Galaxy, and features an object that becomes very important to the Marvel Universe later on! Be wary of this movie’s end-credits scene though, since it may contain slight spoilers to movies ahead such as Infinity War and Endgame.
3. Iron Man
Set in the late 2000s, Iron Man follows Tony Stark, a billionaire genius inventor who must fight off crime and terrorism using his high-tech weaponry and defense inventions.
While Iron Man was the first movie released in the MCU back in 2008, it has much greater significance when watched after Captain America and Captain Marvel. Watching in this order, you will already know who Howard Stark is and find a greater connection with Tony Stark when watching him take his first steps into this universe.
Additionally, you will have a deeper understanding of the final scene when Nick Fury makes an appearance, since you’ll have already seen his plans in Captain Marvel.
4. Iron Man 2
In the next Iron Man installment, taking place soon after the first, Tony Stark reveals Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. to the world. This puts tons of pressure on Tony to share his technology, but he is reluctant to do so in fear that it will fall into the wrong hands. This movie also gives you more information about Nick Fury, Howard Stark, and their legacies.
5. The Incredible Hulk
Occurring during the same time frame as Iron Man 2, this only makes sense to come next in the story. Scientist Bruce Banner struggles to find a cure for whatever has contaminated his cells to turn him into The Hulk.
This movie is mostly an origin story, and does not have a large connection to the rest of the MCU until the end-credits scene, where Tony Stark is hinted at becoming further involved with S.H.I.E.L.D. Honestly, you could skip this movie and not really have missed anything.
It’s also important to note that the actor who plays Bruce Banner in this movie, Edward Norton, was replaced by Mark Ruffalo in all future movies.
Introducing another realm – Asgard! King Odin, who is preparing to turn the throne over to his son Thor, banishes said son to Earth after he makes a careless mistake that caused harm to their realm. Upon landing in modern-day earth (early 2010s), Thor soon finds himself involved with none other than the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson, and a new hero to be introduced – Hawkeye.
7. The Avengers
This first Avengers movie is an outstanding crossover featuring Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, and newcomer Black Widow.
When villainous Loki becomes a threat, Nick Fury decides to gather the heroes he’s come in contact with and form an all-powerful group to stop him. This movie also explores an object called the Tesseract, which has been hinted about in previous movies and is extremely important in stories to come.
8. Iron Man 3
We proceed with our focus on Earth in the third and final installment of Iron Man. This story shows Tony Stark in the aftermath of the Avengers battle, and mentally he isn’t doing so well.
While battling his PTSD, he is forced to find his last bits of strength to fight the Mandarin, who has put Tony and his loved ones in danger. This movie is the start of Marvel’s Phase Two, and although it may seem like it – it is certainly not the end of the story for Tony Stark.
9. Thor: The Dark World
Shifting focus back to other-worldly storylines, this Thor sequel focuses on a battle between the Asgardians and a new enemy. But pay close attention to the brief introduction of the Infinity Stones! It’s fascinating to see how this connects in future movies.
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
After the Avengers’ battle, Steve attempts to adjust to the ways of the modern-world. But when an unexpected enemy arises, he must join forces with Black Widow and a new ally, Falcon. This movie brings a lot of backstory and plot twists to the Captain America story arc, as well as a very interesting hint to future movies within the end credits scene.
11. Guardians of the Galaxy
Back in outer space and far-away realms, we are introduced to a bunch of misfits that reluctantly form a mutually-beneficial alliance. Guardians of the Galaxy is widely regarded as one of the funniest (behind Thor: Ragnarok), and definitely campiest, of all the Marvel movies.
The Collector, who is seen briefly in Thor: The Dark World, makes a second appearance, giving viewers an increased awareness of the importance of the Infinity Stones. You may also recognize this movie’s main villain from a past film, so keep an eye out for that connection too.
12. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
Set closely after the first installment, this movie follows the Guardians in a standard battle plotline. There aren’t a lot of MCU connections here, but GOTG2 does introduce the characters Nebula and Thanos, who both become extremely important in later movies.
13. Avengers: Age Of Ultron
We are once again headed back to Earth for the second alliance of the Avengers! When Tony Stark makes a technological error in his programming, the result is a robotic villain named Ultron who is hellbent on the destruction of human life.
Not only must the heroes work together again, but they gain help from newcomers Pietro and Wanda in fighting Ultron. The movie also features another Infinity Stone, further connecting the Earthly and spatial storylines.
Set almost immediately after Age Of Ultron, this movie is the gateway between Marvel’s Phase Two and Three. Recently released from jail, Scott Lang becomes Ant-Man to stop new villain Yellowjacket from using certain technology for evil purposes. Along the way he meets Falcon in an unfortunate event, but it leads to Ant-Man’s greater connection in the universe from that point on.
15. Captain America: Civil War
Known as the first movie of Phase Three, this film is action-packed! The team of Avengers are harshly divided over the choice between working with or without the government on their side. Their loyalties divided, our heroes must fight one another before coming to a resolution.
Though there was a lot of division, Civil War also brought together a lot of new characters. Remembering Falcon’s interaction with Ant-Man, he is called to their side of the war – while Tony Stark calls another newcomer, Spider-Man, to his side. On top of this, T’Challa and the Wakandans are introduced, and more of Bucky Barnes’ story is explored.
16. Black Panther
Set only a week after the Avengers’ fight in Civil War, Black Panther is a perfect continuation of the story. T’Challa returns home to Wakanda to take his rightful place as King, but is challenged by a powerful enemy that must be defeated in order to take his place and protect his people.
While most of the other MCU connections do not occur until the end-credits scenes, this is an incredible movie with a fantastic plotline that is critical to the future of the saga.
17. Spider-Man: Homecoming
The first of the Spider-Man movies from the Marvel franchise takes a fresh approach to the story of Peter Parker that has been told many times already. It takes place after Peter’s fight in Civil War. He has already discovered his powers, so the movie does not waste any time explaining how he got them. Instead, we are taken on his continuing journey with Tony Stark, and shown how he feels about being just your “friendly-neighborhood Spider-Man.”
18. Doctor Strange
Jumping into new territory, we have an almost-ethereal new character who brings the concept of magic, time warping, and the quantum realm into play all within one movie. This one’s a bit of a wild ride, but it does bring another glimpse of the Infinity Stones, as well as an interesting end-credits scene that brings Doctor Strange together with Thor – a great setup for what’s to come.
19. Thor: Ragnarok
With the help of Doctor Strange, Thor locates his dying father Odin and learns that he has a sister that will be freed from her prison upon the time of his death. He and his not-so-trustworthy brother Loki work together to try to defeat Hela with the help of Hulk, an old friend Valkyrie, and the Asgardian people.
While packed with action, this movie is arguably the funniest of all the Marvel movies! And the end-credits scene sets up something big for the final few movies of Phase Three.
20. Avengers: Infinity War
By now, you’ll have figured out the significance of the Infinity Stones and just how much these movies have been building toward their importance. In this Avengers film, the team works frantically to collect all six stones before their biggest threat, Thanos, does.
The entire world’s fate rests in the hands of the Avengers, and they’re going to need all the help they can get. The movie features one of the most epic battles, and ends in a massive cliffhanger for the upcoming part two, Endgame.
21. Ant-Man And The Wasp
I kinda wish this movie hadn’t been made. It’s your standard (and not that great) team-up battle plotline, but the end-credits scene causes a serious dilemma when trying to place it in the MCU timeline.
This movie takes place at the same time as Infinity War. And while I really feel that watching Infinity War and Endgame back-to-back is most powerful, the end-credits scene could be a major spoiler. It’s also important to Endgame to know where Ant-Man is, so I have to place it in this order for maximum effect.
22. Avengers: Endgame
After Infinity War’s devastating events, the remaining Avengers must find a way to go on. This movie truly ties in everything we’ve been building towards from the beginning of Phase One, and every piece just seems to finally fall into place.
23. Spider-Man: Far From Home
Following the events of Endgame, Peter is dealing with grief, but just wants a break from his heroic duties to enjoy his school trip to Italy. Unfortunately for him though, Nick Fury needs him for a mission. Amidst his crime-fighting, a new hero, Mysterio, shows up to help.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is the official end of Marvel’s Phase Three.
After a looooong year and a half (thanks 2020), we finally have some new Marvel universe content to enjoy! WandaVision is now streaming on Disney+ and will consist of nine 30-ish minute episodes. While we don’t know the exact plot of the show at this time, we know that Wanda is dealing with her grief in her own special way.
Where to Stream All the Marvel Movies and Shows
All the Marvel movies are available for streaming on Disney+ except The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Spider-Man: Far From Home. These three movies are not fully owned by Marvel/Disney.
The Incredible Hulk (which, honestly, you can skip and really not miss a beat) is owned by Universal Pictures and is available for rent on YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, and Amazon Prime.
The Spider-Man movies are owned by Sony and are available on Starz or for rent on YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, and Amazon Prime.
Marvel Movies and Shows in Release Date Order
If you are a purist and want to watch the Marvel content in the exact order they were released, here is the list:
- Iron Man (2008)
- The Incredible Hulk (2008)
- Iron Man 2 (2010)
- Thor (2011)
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
- 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 (2018)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
- Captain Marvel (2019)
- Avengers: Endgame (2019)
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
- WandaVision (2021)
What’s Coming Up For Marvel?
Moving forward, there are at least 15 more Marvel movies and TV shows in the works.
This post was originally published November 24, 2018 and is continually updated with current information.