Now that there’s a whopping 23 movies (and one Disney+ show so far in the form of WandaVision) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s a great task ahead of every fan or casual viewer who decides to watch all of them all over again; deciding which is the best order to watch Marvel movies in. Considering these 23 titles date back to Iron Man in 2008, you have two options: one, the order in which they were released.
This means there’s a fair amount of jumping around in time, but you’re never underhanded as an audience member because of Marvel Studios’ easy-to-digest recipe for big, colorful blockbusters. Just like Stan Lee always said of comics, every comic book is somebody’s first. The same is true of movies, as every Marvel movie could be someone’s first. They’re designed to be immediately accessible on a stand-alone basis as well as part of an ongoing arc.
That said, option number two is infinitely more fun; watching the Marvel movies in the order in which they are set within the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe. That means starting in the 40s with Captain America: The First Avenger, moving onto the 90s with Captain Marvel in Captain Marvel, and so on and so forth. Watching the movies chronologically allows for a better grasp of the history of the fictional Marvel universe, and fans should be impressed and take enjoyment from how well Kevin Feige had it all piece together. That said, if you prefer to watch the Marvel movies in the order in which they were released, you won’t affect your enjoyment of the Infinity Saga as a whole. Check out the entire list below for the best order to watch Marvel movies in!
1. Captain America: The First Avenger
Starting your Marvel Cinematic Universe binge off with the most wholesome, kindest, respectful and respectable hero in the Marvel stable is like starting your day off with a warm sunrise and an ocean breeze. Captain America: The First Avenger has Steve Rogers taking his fateful super soldier serum to aid the war against the Nazis but more specifically, scientist-soldiers Hydra and the Red Skull. Setting up the Tesseract as a weapon of immense power, Captain America: The First Avenger is a great starting point for the Infinity Saga and a great starting point for the best order to watch Marvel movies in. Having its last scene set in the present day only helps induce excitement for what’s to come.
2. Captain Marvel
Jumping ahead to the 90s, Carol Danvers is having an amnesiac crisis as a highly capable soldier on the Kree homeworld Hala. Soon, she’s dragged back to Earth believing the shape-shifting Skrulls to be her enemy, with no recollection of ever having been to Blockbuster Video. Captain Marvel introduces us to Nick Fury and fledgling field agent Phil Coulson, as well as explaining how Fury got both his scars (alien cat entanglement) and came up with the idea for the Avenger Initiative.
3. Iron Man
The building block that started it all, Iron Man still holds up as a fun man-and-his-gadgets action movie. While seeing Terrence Howard is jarring before his eventual replacement as Rhodey (did you really have to ask for more money than Robert Downey Jr, bro? He’s Iron Man) by Don Cheadle, the movie still helps us arrive at the present day, as we come into the world through the man-made lens and tech of Tony Stark.
The supporting cast is great (even Terrence Howard was a solid Rhodey), and Jeff Bridges delights in an almost-unrecognizable turn as villain Obadiah Stane. The Nick Fury cameo after the credits began an entire industry trend of mid- and post-credit scenes, and it’s great to see Fury return older and clearly more badass than his 90s self.
4. The Incredible Hulk
The black sheep of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Incredible Hulk still deserves to be included in your rewatch of all the Marvel movies in whatever order you please. Edward Norton clashed with Marvel over how much say he had in the movie-making process and would not be asked to return for The Avengers, but that sequence gave us Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner instead – arguably the best Bruce Banner who’s ever hit the big screen.
Norton was good for his short time, but people tend not to rewatch The Incredible Hulk because it takes you out of the whole MCU experience. The film is still enjoyable, and Ruffalo references it in The Avengers meaning its canon. Robert Downey Jr even made an appearance in the movie’s post-credits scene! Tim Roth’s fun bad guy Abomination is supposedly due to return in She-Hulk on Disney+, so as far as we’re concerned it deserves to be in the running. As scenes from The Incredible Hulk wind up in Iron Man 2 on a TV screen at SHIELD, its placement in the chronology falls right between the two.
5. Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 was the big stage-setter for The Avengers. Black Widow makes her first appearance, Nick Fury gets more screen time, SHIELD is rounded out, Howard Stark is hyped up as a founder of said shadowy governmental agency. There’s barely enough screentime left for Tony and his ticking-clock medical condition brought on by palladium-poisoning.
Marvel movies tend to be set in the year they were released, bar a few minor exceptions, placing Iron Man 2 firmly in 2010 – making it the fifth movie to watch in the best order to watch Marvel movies in. Nick Fury tells Tony he’s got bigger problems than him in the southwest region, sending Phil Coulson straight into the events of…
In the by-now de rigeur post credits-tags for Marvel movies, Coulson found himself staring a big hefty hammer in a crater in the ground in New Mexico after Iron Man 2. This scene actually takes place about a third of the way into Thor, after the God of Thunder is dropped unceremoniously onto ‘Midgard’, separated from his hammer and unable to even pick it up.
Thor was a deft introduction to the gods of Asgard, who are painted as being more akin to immortal aliens rather than actual deities. Kenneth Branagh brings a sense of seriousness and Shakesperean drama to the proceedings behind the camera, drawing a heck of a performance out of Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s brother, Loki. Hiddleston proves a standout performance as he finds out he’s adopted… and his real daddy is a frost giant. The events of Thor bring you up to 2011, with Thor struggling to get back to Midgard to see his true love, lady Jane Foster in this order of watching Marvel movies.
7. The Avengers
The carefully-laid groundwork of Phase 1 of the Marvel Universe finally came to a head as all the heroes were assembled in The Avengers in 2012. By watching the Marvel movies chronologically, you get Captain America already awake as The Avengers starts, knowing who he was and having built excitement to see him again by watching his movie right at the beginning of your Marvel movie-thon.
The Avengers knocked it out of the park, as one of the most hotly-anticipated movies of the 21st century, if not ever. Although Joss Whedon’s conduct over the years has recently been revealed as deplorable (although not on the set of this movie, it seems – not that that helps), it’s up to you whether you can enjoy the movies he’s made while separating it from his bad deeds in your mind. Thankfully, movies are a collaborative effort and never just the work of one person. The Avengers has a great cast that completely click together, so much so you can’t wait to see them again – thankfully, with the best order to watch Marvel movies in, that’s only five scant movies away!
8. Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 has Tony Stark out of the suit more than he is inside of it, as he grapples with the PTSD endured from battling aliens and escaping space-based nuclear explosions in The Avengers. Guy Pearce chews the scenery as a villain who tries to call himself the Mandarin (much to the chagrin of fans everywhere), but nore moreso than Ben Kingsley as fake Mandarin Trevor Slattery. Love the movie’s twist or hate it, I’ll bet you “neverrr” saw it coming.
Iron Man 3 has its place in the chronology, as Tony Stark comes to realize he truly is Iron Man – with or without the armor. We all know how that sentiment will come into play when a big purple alien with a nutsack chin comes calling…
9. Thor: The Dark World
Next up in the best order to watch Marvel movies in is the oft-maligned Thor: The Dark World. While the movie has its many detractors, mostly due to lacklustre, emotionless villains whose main goal is to live in the dark, there’s enjoyment to be had in the pitch-perfect brotherly banter between Thor and Loki. Taking Jane Foster to Asgard seemed a logical choice to flip the fish-out-of-water dynamic from the first movie, but ends up feeling a little lifeless – like the filmmakers didn’t fully take advantage of the scenario. Hopefully that all changes when Jane Foster returns to interact with the Asgardians once more in Thor: Love and Thunder.
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The best order to watch Marvel movies in brings us nicely to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, both released and set in 2014 and the Russo Brothers’ first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have no idea on what level Kevin Feige thought bringing a couple of Arrested Development/Community directors on to direct an espionage-soaked, Three Days of the Condor-influenced Captain America film would be a good idea, but he was proven right a couple billion times over. Literally. All of the Russos’ Marvel movies’ gross profits combined exceed 5 billion dollars.
I remember when the trailer dropped for Captain America: The Winter Soldier dropped in 2013. I watched it over and over and over again while stuck in a train station for 16 hours in Jasper, Alberta. It was so well-cut together; the music, the dialogue, the mystery. It really helped pass that 16 hours! It remains probably my most favorite MCU trailer that I return to now and then, simply for Chris Evans’ deliver of the line “This isn’t freedom; this is fear” and Sebastian Stan’s sweet knife flip. Skip to 2:43 in the above video for the best Marvel trailer to get you hyped up to reach 2014 in your chronological Marvel movie marathon.
11. Guardians of the Galaxy
The first Guardians of the Galaxy movie broke out in 2014, and together with its sequel present the only instance in the MCU of a movie and its sequel happening chronologically one after the other – even though its sequel came out in 2017 (but that’s not true if you want to discount The Incredible Hulk between Iron Man and Iron Man 2).
Guardians of the Galaxy was a fun shot to the arm for not just comic book adaptations but the sci-fi genre as a whole, which most of the time tends to drip into glum, dystopian futures or sterile, humorless space environments. James Gunn’s sci-fi spectacular brought colorful fun back to the space ways, as well as providing a fantastic vintage soundtrack that quickly became a bestseller. It also brought Chris Pratt up to A list status, be that good or bad depending on your affinity for Chris Pratt.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
As mentioned above, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is set just a few months after the first movie, meaning if you’re watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe chronologically, you’re watching these ones back-to-back. If you’re a fan of the Guardians – and most people are – there are worse fates than sitting your butt down and watching this “bunch of A-holes” do what they do for four hours.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was a little long-winded perhaps – with some repetitive antagonism between its cast – but full of the same amount of charm and wit that made the first one so darn enjoyable. Plus, more Michael Rooker – referring to himself as Mary Poppins, no less – is never a bad thing, nor is all the Baby Groot you can handle.
13. Avengers: Age of Ultron
This chronological order of watching the Marvel movies in will soon bring you to Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015. Largely considered a mess, with studio and director battling over what should have the most screentime, Avengers: Age of Ultron ends up feeling like a bit of an over-baked pie with too much crust and a confused filling. Thor has a subplot trying to gain access to a vision that has been so badly edited it fails to really make sense, and the birth of the Vision himself – as cool of a visual as it is – starts to hurt your head if you think about it too much. That said, the finale is a corker, with the Avengers racing to save lives as a priority over killing robots. A not so-sly dig at DC’s Man of Steel punching militaristic aliens through city blocks and seemingly not caring about the death toll. Ho-hum.
Ant-Man comes next, directly after Age of Ultron in 2015. Scaling back in size – in more ways than one – was a smart move for Marvel Studios, after all the bombast of their billion-dollar grossing team-up. Focusing on the heist-y exploits of small-time crook Scott Lang, recruited by Hank Pym to prevent a psycho businessman from selling shrinking technology to the highest bidder. A refreshing tonic following the long, clunky Avengers: Age of Ultron, especially as fans had waited so long to see Ant-Man on the big screen – it was first announced in 2006, to initially be directed by Edgar Wright (who infamously parted ways with the project).
15. Captain America: Civil War
Oft-referred to as ‘Avengers 2.5’ considering the fact that this movie features all of them, Captain America: Civil War still finds time to be a Captain America story – as he deals with the death of Peggy Carter and the redemption of Bucky Barnes – and a pseudo-Iron Man 4, and introduce both Black Panther and Spider-Man. Phew. If you want to see the Russos go from strength to strength in real time, watch all their Marvel movies in a row.
Captain America: Civil War is such an important piece of the over-arching Marvel Cinematic Universe story that you’d be a fool to skip it. It separates the Avengers at a time when they need to be united the most, and directly leads to Thanos and his Black Order being able to secure all of the Infinity Stones in Avengers: Infinity War. If you wanted to, you could simply watch all four of the Avengers movies for a fair impression of the Infinity Saga – but it’s highly recommended you include Captain America: Civil War in between the second and third Avengers movies.
16. Black Widow
While Marvel Studios continue to kick the can down the road when it comes to the release of Black Widow (thanks to this horrible ongoing pandemic), when Scarlett Johansson’s time to shine finally does appear it’ll fit right in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.
Marvel suffered criticism for years for not handing a female character her own headlining blockbuster, mostly because they had such a great character in Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (and actress, in ScarJo) and seemed unwilling to utilize that. The fact that they’re setting Black Widow in the past almost feels like they’re trying to retroactively amend their belayed decision-making.
To anyone who’s been paying cheap rent under a rock and coming in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe brand-new, seeing it all unfold in chronological order, they’d be more inclined to think Marvel were prescient geniuses. Quite clever.
17. Spider-Man: Homecoming
The timeline surrounding Spider-Man: Homecoming gets a little iffy, mainly due to the title card that sets up Michael Keaton’s AKA Adrian Toomes, the Vulture. It states the movie as being set eight years after the events of The Avengers, but this is incorrect, as we see Peter Parker returning from the airport battle in Captain America: Civil War at the beginning of this movie. Civil War was set in 2016, four years after The Avengers in 2012, which means that Spider-Man: Homecoming must also be set in 2016. Still with me? For watching these Marvel movies in the best order – the chronological order – just ignore that ‘8 years later’ title card. Pretend it’s a 4!
Regardless, it’s fun to see the MCU take on Spider-Man, interacting with Iron Man and playing around with all his Stark-inspired gadgets. Tom Holland is a perfect Peter Parker, and Marvel don’t waste time rehashing the tragic Uncle Ben death – they know you’ve likely seen it twice already. Instead, Tony Stark steps up to the plate as Spider-Man’s mentor, and it’s a relationship that works thanks to the chemistry between Holland and RDJ.
18. Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange first developing his magical abilities in 2016 doesn’t quite jibe with the fact he was on Hydra’s list of potential enemies back in 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but regardless, Stephen Strange went to Kamer Taj and started making orange hex-holograms with his hands around this time. (It’s possible that Hydra were simply weary of his skills as a surgeon – what if he patched up Tony Stark one day?).
Including the world of magic in Doctor Strange to a universe already crowded with fantastical concepts can’t have been an easy challenge for Marvel but they succeeded in making a visually-stunning and wryly-funny blockbuster thanks to the sure hands of Scott Derrickson and Benedict Cumberbatch’s pitch-perfect casting.
19. Black Panther
Feel free to swap Black Panther around with Doctor Strange and Spider-Man: Homecoming, as it indeterminedly comes some point between Captain America: Civil War – when T’Challa/Black Panther is first introduced – and Thor: Ragnarok (the tail end of which leads directly into Avengers: Infinity War, where we see Wakanda once more).
Watching Black Panther today tends to be a sad affair, knowing that we tragically lost Chadwick Boseman way too soon. He truly was a king, both on and off the screen, and his one solo Black Panther effort showed him to be not just a perfect Black Panther but a perfect T’Challa as well. Rest in Power.
20. Thor: Ragnarok
Thor: Ragnarok represents one of the longest gaps between seeing a character between their solo outings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; a whole four years transpired between the lacklustre Thor: The Dark World and Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok. Still, like most Marvel movies, the story takes place in roughly the same year it was released; 2017.
Marvel – with Waititi’s hilarious, genius help – finally figured out the formula for the Point Break-looking God of Thunder in his third outing. Capitalizing on Chris Hemsworth’s uncanny comedy timing and improv skills which were given free reign, as well as drawing in Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk for some great banter made for a fun flick. Not to mention finally bringing peace to the troubled Thor/Loki brotherhood, as well as gifting the world with Tessa Thompson’s drunken Valkyrie and Cate Blanchett’s scenery-chewing Hela.
That’s not even mentioning Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster and cameos from Doctor Strange and an Asgardian actor who looks just like Matt Damon. Phew! It’s no wonder Thor: Ragnarok is oft-considered one of the best of the bunch. It’s a breezy affair that ends on a dark note, as Thanos and his goons loom over the refugee Asgardians in the closing moments of the post-credits tag.
21. Avengers: Infinity War
Over ten – almost fifteen – years of planning, hype and build-up bring everything to a masterful head in 2018’s rip-roaring crossover bonanza, Avengers: Infinity War. The Russos are at it again, deftly combining multiple storylines in order to bring the assembled Marvel heroes together in one movie (with a few notable exceptions – see below) to fight Thanos on multiple fronts. There’s not much to be said about Infinity War that hasn’t been said already, and simple math tells us that hundreds of millions of people have seen it. It was not only the movie event of decade, but likely since cinema was invented. And it was done all over again one year later with Avengers: Endgame.
22. Ant-Man and the Wasp
Ant-Man and the Wasp is sadly another slight dud of a movie; its release wasn’t helped by being sandwiched in between two heavyweights like Infinity War and Endgame. But, we had to catch up with Scott Lang’s Ant-Man and his newfound ally the Wasp, and while the action was fun and the plot was fine, it was easy to feel like not a lot happened.
In regards to the best order to watch Marvel movies in, Ant-Man and the Wasp could actually come before Avengers: Infinity War, provided you know how the latter ends. They actually happen concurrently, with Ant-Man’s fail to show up for Infinity War explained by his house-arrest following the events of Civil War. So feel free to flip this sequel and that Avengers threequel, safe in the knowledge that it doesn’t affect things too drastically. Personally, I prefer to go straight from Infinity War to Endgame for a more complete experience (the two were originally visioned as a two-parter before becoming fairly different movies), but it’s up to you.
23. Avengers: Endgame
At once both a self-congratulatory pat on the back for Marvel and a thank you to the fans, Avengers: Endgame ties the first saga (referred to as the Infinity Saga) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a nice tight bow. Every hero gets their moment, every hero comes together for the film’s jaw-dropping ‘Portals‘ scene, and the original six Avengers are given proper sendoffs like they all deserve (even though some are due to return again soon).
Some decry the movie as over-indulgent fan service, but as a fan, I can tell you – I feel serviced. The only shame of it is, sometimes it feels like you have to watch the preceding 20 or so movies to get the full weight and impact of what Endgame achieves emotionally. If you’re at home reading this list, though, I’m sure you’re the kind of person who’s more than happy to run through the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe every now and then. The best order to watch the preceding Marvel movies in could potentially be whatever order you damn well please – as long as it culminates in Avengers: Endgame.
24. Spider-Man: Far From Home
Spider-Man: Far From Home is essentially ‘Spider-Man in Europe versus Mysterio, getting over the death of Tony Stark’. Its placement in the best order to watch Marvel movies in is easily pegged as ‘immediately after Avengers: Endgame‘, as it deals with the fallout of ‘the Returned’ people from ‘the Blip’. Spider-Man: Far From Home feels like a fairly random Spider-Man movie, but Peter Parker is nailed once again by the cast and crew and Jake Gyllenhaal gives a good bad-guy performance as Quentin Beck/Mysterio. Some people love it, some people hate it, but it’s wholly necessary for the ongoing growth and development of the MCU’s Spider-Man.
25. Bonus Round: WandaVision (Disney+)
Now that Marvel Studios have begun dropping content on Disney+, fully-sanctioned and in-line with their cinematic offerings, fans get to enjoy experimental new storytelling. In this case, a series of faux-sitcom episodes featuring formerly (fairly-)minor characters – and in WandaVision, that’s Wanda Maximoff and her dead synthezoid boyfriend, the Vision.The show is currently one of the most popular shows on TV and is teeing up several movie sequels on the big screen, including Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and supposedly Spider-Man: No Way Home. If you’re on a rewatch and looking for the best order to watch Marvel movies in, you might as well cap it all off with the latest and greatest in Marvel content; WandaVision on Disney+.