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How to watch all the Marvel films in order before 'Avengers: Infinity War'

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Mike Rampton
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Don’t know where to start with the Marvel Cinematic Universe but want to watch ‘Infinity War’? Then this is what you need to do

There’s a small indie film coming out this week. Not sure if you’re likely to have seen any adverts for it or anything - they’ve kept its release pretty quiet, with only a decade-long buildup consisting of several hundred hours of material, an extraordinarily massive cast of unfeasibly attractive superstars and a bus advert or two. It’s called Avengers: Infinity War and god DAMN, yo. It’s a big deal. 

With an event like this, you don’t want to go in blind. Missing out on the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe up to this point is fairly unlikely, and the goodies tend to look like goodies while the baddies look like monsters, but still, there’s a hell of a lot of backstory - this is film number 19 in the series. If you went in knowing nothing at all, it’d probably still be fun due to the bright colours, loud noises and good-looking actors saying funny one-liners, but to get the most out of it, you want to know your Marvel Cinematic Onions. 

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There are two ways of doing this: the essential version and the hardcore version

For the essentials we’ll stick to the movies, while the hardcore option can (and shall, damn it) include TV shows, Netflix shows, short films included on DVDs, web-only shows, the whole shebang. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

How long is this going to take, you might be wondering? Well, based on some time-consuming, biro-finishing maths, we estimate the just-the-films option to come to 40 hours and 48 minutes, the hardcore extras to come to an additional 181 hours and two minutes, and therefore the full hardcore option to take somewhere in the region of 221 hours, 50 minutes. Do it all back-to-back and you;re looking at just over nine days straight, or stick to eight hours a day of bingeing and you’re done in a cool four weeks.

There’s a lot of it, isn’t there? So let’s not waste any more time.

Phase One (essential version)

Captain America: The First Avenger

The fifth film released is the first chronologically, following Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) transformation into Captain America and his Nazi-punching adventures in World War Two. The first half of it can genuinely be called “a romp”, which is high praise indeed.

Iron Man

The one that started it all and solidified Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr) as the centre of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and brought Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in after the credits, laying the groundwork for getting a let’s-bring-the-whole-gang-together thing going on..

Iron Man 2

Not the best of entries if we’re all completely honest with ourselves, this nonetheless introduced Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.

The Incredible Hulk

Edward Norton’s sole outing as Bruce Banner is one of the less celebrated entries, both due to the subsequent recasting leading people to forget about it and its release mere weeks after the first Iron Man.

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Thor

The first film to bring bonkers space magic into the MCU, Thor also brought Chris Hemsworth smashing coffee cups while reciting faux-Shakespearean dialogue, so it somehow all worked. It also introduced us briefly to Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, who isn’t anyone’s favourite.

Avengers Assemble 

The first massive ensemble piece, with Mark Ruffalo taking on the Hulk, Avengers Assemble is a sequel to everything that had come before it both individually and collectively, and marks the point where it all becomes completely giant.  

Phase One (hardcore version)

Captain America: The First Avenger

Agent Carter season one

Hayley Atwell stars in the ABC series about her character from Captain America: The First Avenger and her escapades as a spy in the 1940s. It remains, shockingly, the only female-centred project in the MCU, until 2019’s Captain Marvel.

Agent Carter season two

Agent Carter (short film on the Iron Man 3 DVD)

When people still bought DVDs, all the Marvel films came with a short film called a “Marvel One-Shot”. The sucess of this one, and Atwell’s performance, is what led to the ABC series. Watch it here

Iron Man

Iron Man 2

The Incredible Hulk

The Consultant (short film on the Thor DVD)

An exploration of the bureaucratic side of S.H.I.E.L.D, this integrates recycled footage from the two films preceding it. Watch it here.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer (short film on the Captain America: The First Avenger DVD)

A showcase for Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson, this shows there’s more to him than meets the eye. Watch it here.

Thor

Avengers Assemble

Item 47 (short film on the Avengers Assemble DVD)

In the aftermath of the attack on New York, a couple find an alien weapon and use it to rob banks. This short both sets up Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D and makes it clear that the events in these movies don’t end with the credits - they cast shadows over everything that comes after them. Watch it here.

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Phase Two (essential version)

Iron Man 3

IM3 features a polarising take on the iconic comic book villain The Mandarin (it’s really good, don’t @ us but if you don’t like it but know you are wrong) as well as the only instance (so far) of Iron Man calling a young boy a pussy. Also, Martin Škrtel’s in it.

Thor: The Dark World

One of the, shall we say, less good chapters in the canon, this is particularly notable for featuring the most infuriating scene ever set on the London Underground.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

A Cold War-esque conspiracy thriller co-starring the great Robert Redford, this excellent entry also features one of the MCU’s best ever fight scenes, taking place between Chris Evans’ Captain America and a dozen or so baddies in a lift. It’s really good.

Guardians of the Galaxy

This made Chris Pratt a megastar, introduced the world to Dave Bautista’s awesome comedy skills and propelled Hooked On A Feeling back into the charts. Distant-ass, dangerous-ass space never looked like so much fun.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Despite coming out several years after the first one, the second GOTG is set mere months later. Infant, sentient space-tree Baby Groot steals every scene he/it is in, and the last scenes with Yondu could bring a tear to the eye of the most robotic of individuals. 

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The second company-wide pile-on brings everyone together (bar the Guardians) to battle James Spader’s Ultron, a big old high-tech shitbag hellbent on destroying humanity. 

Ant-Man

A troubled production (original director Edgar Wright left due to creative differences) somehow resulted in one of the more charming films in the series, thanks hugely to co-writer Paul Rudd’s effortlessly likeable lead performance. A lot smaller than Ultron in many ways, it’s arguably the first full-on comedy in the MCU. 

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Phase Two (hardcore version)

Iron Man 3

All Hail the King (short film on the Thor: The Dark World DVD)

The longest one-shot at a staggering 14 minutes (who has that kind of time?), this delves further into the backstory of IM3’s Mandarin, as well as bringing IM2’s Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) back for a cameo. Watch it here.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season one, episodes 1-7

Starring Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson, the ABC show Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D integrates plot points and minor characters from the films, both showing the aftermaths of events within them and introducing ideas beforehand.

Thor: The Dark World

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season two, episodes 8-16

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season one, episodes 17-22

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Daredevil season one

Premiering on Netflix and starring Charlie Cox as superpowered blind lawyer Matt Murdock, Daredevil took advantage of the freedoms of the streaming platform, featuring a lot more grisly violence than Agents of SHIELD could ever get away with. It also featured one of television’s best ever fight sequences, a knock-down, drag-out hallway punchfest that is exhausting even to watch. Oof

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season two, episodes 1-10

Jessica Jones season one

Krysten Ritter (Jane from Breaking Bad) stars in Netflix’s second show as a superhero turned detective dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder after her treatment at the hands of a hypnotic supervillain, played by former Doctor Who David Tennant.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season two, episodes 11-19

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (season two, episodes 20-22

Daredevil season two, episodes 1-4

Luke Cage season one, episodes 1-4

Introduced in Jessica Jones, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is a former convict with indestructible skin. The Harlem-set series pays homage to blaxspolitation films of the past, as well as hip-hop culture, and features an incredibly impressive, predominantly black cast.

Daredevil season two, episodes 5-11

Luke Cage season one, episodes 5-8

Daredevil season two, episodes 12-13

Luke Cage season one, episodes 9-13

Ant-Man

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season three, episodes 1-10

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Phase Three (essential version)

Captain America: Civil War

Pretty much Captain America Vs Iron Man, as the Avengers split into two opposing teams, torn over how the government wants to regulate superhumans. This both introduces Wakanda (the world of Black Panther) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man to the MCU.

Doctor Strange

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the cool-named Stephen Strange, a neuroscientist who acquires mystical powers and finds himself having to protect the world from interdimensional menace.

Thor: Ragnarok

The MCU’s funniest film to date thanks to the influence of director Taika Waititi, this technicoloured space romp sees Thor and the Hulk competing as gladiators for Jeff Goldblum, who is essentially playing Jeff Goldblum.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

The product of years of legal wrangling due to contractual clashes in terms of who had the rights to the characters, Homecoming (the title of which might be a bit of a nod to that) sees Parker juggling life as a teenager with trying to protect his city. 

Black Panther

The third highest-grossing film ever in the US (beaten only, at the moment, by Avatar and The Force Awakens) and the most critically-acclaimed entry in the MCU yet, Black Panther follows new Wakandan king T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) as he deals with an old rivalry that could lead to global catastrophe.

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Haven’t seen it yet. Looks good though!

Phase Three (hardcore version)

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 3, episodes 11-19

Iron Fist season one

The fourth of Netflix’s shows is centred on Danny Rand (Finn Jones), the heir to a fortune returns after a fifteen-year absence with mystical Buddhist powers and is torn between his duties to both the ancient forces he’s inherited and the drama going on with his family.

Captain America: Civil War

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season three, episodes 20-22

The Defenders season one

Defenders is to the other Netflix shows as Avengers is to the other individual films: a whole-gang team-up uniting characters we’ve already got to know well. Plus it has Sigourney Weaver in it, who is the best.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 4, episodes 1-6

Doctor Strange

Thor: Ragnarok

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season four, episodes 7-8

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Slingshot season one

An online spinoff from the ABC series, this centres on Yo-Yo Rodriguez (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), although features the brunt of the cast of the main show. It is all available to watch on ABC’s YouTube channel.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season four, episodes 9-22

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Black Panther

Inhumans season one

Despite being a TV show, the first episode of Inhumans was debuted in IMAX cinemas. The show follows a royal family from the Moon who are forced to flee and end up in Hawaii. It’s got a really good massive dog in it, and some very ropey wigs, and isn’t very good, but you’ve come this far, you can make it through eight crap episodes.

The Punisher season one

Frank Castle (John Bernthal), one of Marvel’s most violent and morally grey antiheroes, was introduced in the second season of Daredevil (and the most violent two minute-sequence you’re ever likely to see). His solo series is no less full-on, as Castle employs his shoot-people-in-the-head-and-ask-questions-later approach to everything that arises.

Runaways season one

Co-created by The O.C. creator Josh Schwartz, this teen-oriented Hulu series follows a group of supervillains’ teenage offspring who decide not to follow in the footsteps of their parents. It’s got a dinosaur in it!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season five, episodes 1-10

Jessica Jones season two

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season five, episodes 11-15

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

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It’s not going to end, either - in the next few months, there are new seasons of Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Punisher hitting Netflix, and the debut of teen superhero romance series Cloak & Dagger. Then over the next year or so there’s Ant-Man & The Wasp, Captain Marvel, the Avengers sequel, a Spider-Man followup and a third volume of Guardians Of The Galaxy. Eventually there’ll be more stuff in the Marvel Cinematic Universe than the actual universe.

That’s all still to come though. For now, it’s all about Avengers: Infinity War. And a fucking nap.

(Pics: Marvel, ABC)