There are currently 23 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and counting, all of them taking place in the same universe and connected by characters, events, and settings. So you’d be forgiven for being a little confused as to how, exactly, they all fit together and which order to watch them in. Marvel broke new ground with 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers, which brought together disparate heroes from their own individual movies (Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Evans’ Captain America, and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor) into one team-up movie, before then splitting them off again into their own sequels. Of course this way of telling stories had been done in comics, but telling a serialized story across many, many films with diverse tones and characters was brand new, and continues to be a gold mine of compelling stories and characters.
But as the MCU has grown in quantity, it’s also grown in complexity. Some films take place worlds away but at the same time as events that are occurring on Earth. And some films take place in the far past.
If you’re wondering how to watch the Marvel movies in order, we’ve got you covered. Below we’re offering two viewing options: the Marvel movies in order of chronological events, and the Marvel movies in order of when each film was released in theaters. Both are highly recommended and are the ideal ways to view this series if you’re in the mood to binge-watch a franchise.
The order of these lists also pull heavily from our own comprehensive MCU timeline, which gets into the nitty gritty of when every event happens in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Marvel Movies in Chronological Order of Events
Image via Marvel Studios
Captain America: The First Avenger
Chronologically speaking, the film that is set the earliest in the MCU timeline is Captain America: The First Avenger. The Steve Rogers origin story begins in the year 1940 with Steve (Evans) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) enlisting and ends in 1945 with Steve’s plane crashing and him being frozen for the next half century.
Next up we have Captain Marvel, which is actually one of the most recent Marvel movies but whose events precede those of the main MCU timeline. Brie Larson’s pilot character crashes her plane in the year 1989 and is subsequently trained as a Kree before returning to Earth in 1995, which is the year in which most of Captain Marvel takes place.
The first Marvel movie released is third in chronological order, and believe it or not—according to Marvel’s own timeline—it actually takes place in the year 2010 and not 2008 when it was released.
The Incredible Hulk
The events of the Edward Norton Hulk movie take place shortly after the events of Iron Man.
Iron Man 2
The Iron Man sequel is set in the year 2011.
The events of Thor also take place in 2011, around the same time as the events in Iron Man 2, although there are flashback to events that go back centuries.
The team-up finally occurs in the year 2012.
Iron Man 3
The underrated Iron Man 3, which deals heavily with Tony Starks’ PTSD from the events of The Avengers, take place in the year 2012.
Thor: The Dark World
The forgettable sequel is set in the year 2013.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The big fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. is set a couple years after the organization helped form The Avengers, set in 2014.
Guardians of the Galaxy
The events of Guardians of the Galaxy also take place in 2014, around the same time as The Winter Soldier.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The Guardians sequel takes place a couple of months after the events of the first film.
Image via Marvel Studios
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The second Avengers team-up film takes place in the wake of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s dismantling, in the year 2015.
While the Avengers are fighting off ol’ Ultron, Scott Lang is busy becoming Ant-Man in 2015.
Captain America: Civil War
The Captain America sequel that’s also kinda-sorta an Avengers movie takes place in 2016, bringing additional characters into the fold to set the table for Infinity War and Endgame. But it also contains flashbacks that take place between The First Avenger and Iron Man, revealing the circumstances that surrounded the death of Tony Stark’s parents.
The first MCU Spider-Man movie takes place the fall after the events of Captain America: Civil War, with Tom Holland’s Peter Parker struggling to become his own hero.
2016 is a busy year in the MCU, as it’s also when Black Panther takes place over in Wakanda.
Doctor Strange bridges the gap between 2016 and 2017, as Stephen Strange’s transformation into a superhero takes a bit of time.
Thor: Ragnarok takes place in 2017 shortly after the events of Doctor Strange, as we see Thor visit Doctor Strange on Earth to try and track down his father.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Despite being released after Avengers: Infinity War, the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp take place in 2018 right before Thanos arrives on Earth and the film ends with the infamous Thanos Snap. Although there are flashbacks to Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) in the late 1980s.
Avengers: Infinity War
The events of Avengers: Infinity War take place over a very compressed time period—just 24-48 hours—in 2018.
The second have of the Infinity Gauntlet storyline begins shortly after the Thanos snap in 2018, but after Thor cuts Thanos’ head off, the film flashes forward and is set primarily in the year 2023—although it also sees the characters traveling back in time to events in the years 1970, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Spider-Man: Far from Home
The most recent MCU movie, Spider-Man: Far from Home, takes place shortly after the events of Avengers: Endgame and is set in the year 2023.
Marvel Movies in Order of Release
Image via Marvel Studios
And here are all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in order of when they were released, broken up into “phases” that Marvel Studios uses to denote smaller story arcs within the larger MCU arc.
Iron Man – May 2, 2008
The Incredible Hulk – June 13, 2008
Iron Man 2 – May 7, 2010
Thor – May 6, 2011
Captain America: The First Avenger – July 22, 2011
Marvel’s The Avengers – May 4, 2012
Iron Man 3 – May 3, 2013
Thor: The Dark World – November 8, 2013
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – April 4, 2014
Guardians of the Galaxy – August 1, 2014
Avengers: Age of Ultron – May 1, 2015
Ant-Man – July 17, 2015
Captain America: Civil War – May 6, 2016
Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017
Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017
Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017
Black Panther – February 16, 2018
Avengers: Infinity War – April 27, 2018
Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018
Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019
Avengers: Endgame – April 26, 2019
Spider-Man: Far from Home – July 2, 2019
For more on the MCU, check out our ranking of all the films from worst to best.
Image via Columbia Pictures
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About The Author
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Adam Chitwood is the Managing Editor for Collider. He’s been working for Collider for over a decade, and in addition to managing content also runs point on crafts interviews, awards coverage, and co-hosts The Collider Podcast with Matt Goldberg (which has been running since 2012). He’s the creator and author of Collider’s “How the MCU Was Made” series and has interviewed Bill Hader about every single episode of Barry. He lives in Tulsa, OK and likes pasta, 90s thrillers, and spending like 95% of his time with his dog Luna.
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