With the world waiting for Phase 4 of Marvel's grand plan to kick in, there's never been a better time to watch Phase 1-3 all over again. But, how to watch the Marvel movies in order, we hear you cry? Well, it's not always as simple as watching them in the order they came out on the big screen as there is a lot of timey wimey stuff to consider.
That's because there's now a decade-long buildup of several hundred hours of material, that consists of more than 20 movies, an extraordinarily massive cast - remember to vote for the
best Avengers characters - and a whole host of TV shows and shorts.
Don't let that put you off, though, as we wait for the delayed Black Widow, it's a perfect time to either rewatch everything that came before, whether you have seen it all or are coming to Marvel's Cinematic Universe fresh.
We'll admit that if you went into Avengers: Infinity War / Endgame knowing nothing at all, they'd probably still be fun movies due to the bright colours, loud noises and good-looking actors saying funny one-liners, but to get the most out of it, you need to know your Marvel Cinematic Onions.
There are two ways of doing this: we have labelled them, the Essential version and the Hardcore version.
For the Essential 'how to watch the Marvel movies in order' version, 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 around 50 hours, the hardcore extras to come to an additional 190 hours and therefore the full hardcore option to take somewhere in the region of 240 hours. Do it all back-to-back and you're looking at 10 days straight of watching.
There’s a lot of it, isn’t there? So let’s not waste any more time.
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Stream Disney Plus now How to watch the Marvel movies in order MCU: 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.
Strictly speaking Phase 3 but set in 1995 so takes place in the Phase One timeline, when Nick Fury still had an eye and No Doubt was playing in Blockbuster's, this is a fun movie that feels a little like filler in places. But it does have a great lead in Brie Larson and (kind of) explains why she's been missing all this time.
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
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.
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.
MCU: 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 success of this one, and Atwell’s performance, is what led to the ABC series.
Captain Marvel Iron Man Iron Man 2 The Incredible Hulk (short film on the The Consultant 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.
(short film on the A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer 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.
Thor Avengers Assemble (short film on the Item 47 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.
MCU: 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.
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.
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.
MCU: Phase Two (hardcore version) Iron Man 3 (short film on the All Hail the King 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.
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 season two, episodes 8-16
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Captain America: The Winter Soldier season one, episodes 17-22
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Guardians of the Galaxy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 season one
Premiering on Netflix and starring Charlie Cox as super-powered 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.
season two, episodes 1-10
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D 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 season two, episodes 11-19
S.H.I.E.L.D Avengers: Age of Ultron season two, episodes 20-22
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season two, episodes 1-4
Daredevil season one, episodes 1-4
Jessica Jones, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is a former convict with indestructible skin. The Harlem-set series pays homage to blaxploitation films of the past, as well as hip-hop culture, and features an incredibly impressive, predominantly black cast.
season two, episodes 5-11
Daredevil season one, episodes 5-8
Luke Cage season two, episodes 12-13
Daredevil season one, episodes 9-13
Luke Cage Ant-Man season three, episodes 1-10
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D MCU: 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.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the cool-named Stephen Strange, a neuroscientist who acquires mystical powers and finds himself having to protect the world from inter-dimensional menace.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
The second Ant-Man is a breezy, fun addition - it ups Evangeline Lilly's Hope Van Dyne into pole position with Paul Rudd's Ant-Man and introduces a rather one-note villain Ghost. But Water Goggins is in it so that makes everything okay.
The MCU’s funniest film to date thanks to the influence of director
Taika Waititi, this stylish space romp sees Thor and the Hulk competing as gladiators for Jeff Goldblum, who is essentially playing Jeff Goldblum.
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.
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, follows new Wakandan king T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) as he deals with an old rivalry that could lead to global catastrophe.
Black Panther Avengers: Infinity War
Super bad guy Thanos travels the universe in search of all the Infinity Stones - if he gets them then he can control destiny. The Avengers team up to stop Thanos before he 'snaps'. A wonderful ensemble that has devastating consequences for the MCU, this movie is an epic first half of the end of a Marvel era. The second half is the blistering End Game.
It was difficult to see how Endgame would untangle the events of Infinity War but it did this aplomb, going against convention and making a movie that surprises at every turn. This is the best ending (as such as nothing really ends int he MCU) that we could have all asked for, given the plates it had to continue to spin.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
This is the movie that ends Phase 3 and it's manages that tricky balance of showing the aftermath of Endgame, while furthering the story of Peter Parker as Spider-Man. The villain of the piece is unconventional with twists and turns we haven't seen since Iron Man 3. It's good to see that the MCU can still have fun, after the epic ending of the Avengers' movies.
MCU: Phase Three (hardcore version) season 3, episodes 11-19
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D 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 season three, episodes 20-22
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season one
The Defenders 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.
season 4, episodes 1-6
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Doctor Strange Black Panther season four, episodes 7-8
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season one
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Slingshot
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. season four, episodes 9-22
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Spider-Man: Homecoming Thor: Ragnarok 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.
Frank Castle (John Bernthal), one of Marvel’s most violent and morally grey antiheroes, was introduced in the second season of
Daredevil. 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.
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!
season five, episodes 1-10
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Jessica Jones season two
season five, episodes 11-18 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 1 and 2
Cloak and Dagger season 2
Luke Cage season 2
Iron Fist season 3
Daredevil season 2
Runaways season 2
The Punisher season 3
Jessica Jones Ant-Man and the Wasp Avengers: Infinity War / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 5, episodes19-22 's mid-credit's scene
Ant-Man and the Wasp
While the movie was 'fine', its mid-credits scene is the glue that holds Infinity War and Endgame together - positing the key to how the Avengers just might get out of their mess.
Marvel's Runaways Season 3
/ Avengers: Endgame Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 6 Spider-Man: Far From Home