Whether you’re a casual fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or a hopelessly lost newcomer, it can be hard to tell exactly what the correct order is to watch all of the Marvel movies. The much anticipated release of Avengers: Infinity War has prompted movie binge sessions for many fans, which brings up again the issue of the sequencing of the movies. To limit confusion and get you caught up on the 19 movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, consult the list below before you start your movie marathon! Warning ahead for mild spoilers.
1. Iron Man
The first installment in the Iron Man series is a strong beginning to Marvel’s new cinematic universe, and definitely the best place to start watching if you intend to follow the universe’s storyline. The obnoxiously lovable and complex Tony Stark has warmed the hearts of fans since the very beginning, capturing a faithful audience for Marvel movies to come and cementing Iron Man as one of Marvel’s most recognizable and beloved characters.
2. The Incredible Hulk
Although it’s technically canon, this movie is considered the most forgettable and irrelevant film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It stars Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, who was later recast as Mark Ruffalo in Avengers. The recasting makes this movie seem out of place with all of the other films because there is no continuity with the character. The only time this movie’s plot ties in with the rest of the series is during a single scene in Avengers, and a Robert Downey Jr. cameo at the end of The Incredible Hulk.
3. Captain America: The First Avenger
Technically, if you’re following the chronological timeline of the MCU, this movie would be the first to take place. Set in the 1940’s, it follows the classic origin story of Steve Rogers as he undergoes an experiment to become Captain America. This movie ties in with Iron Man, it sets up later productions like Winter Soldier, and most importantly, the film sets up the plot conflict for the Avengers through introduction of the tesseract.
4. Iron Man 2
The second installment in the Iron Man series is just as exciting and hilarious as the first. The film takes us deeper into the emotional turmoil of Tony Stark as he’s forced to cope with the reality that his armor is slowly poisoning him. The movie is also the debut of important characters like Phil Coulson, Nick Fury, and, most importantly, Black Widow. During the film, Tony Stark is analyzed and reviewed by Black Widow, which leads to his candidacy for the Avengers Initiative being revoked. Of course, Marvel fans know that he isn’t banned for long.
Thor follows the story of the Norse God of Thunder, Thor, as his destructive tendencies lead to his banishment from his father’s kingdom of Asgard. Thor is stripped of his powers and sent down to a small town in New Mexico, where he falls in love with a scientist named Jane Foster. Thor also introduces one of the most loved villains of the MCU: Loki.
Finally, after much anticipation, Marvel’s favorite superheroes fight together. Avengers beautifully combines the stories of each character, giving everyone their own motivation and character development. Being fully aware of all the character’s backstories truly helps to make this film more powerful. The movie concluded Marvel’s “Phase One” of films. Marvel’s phase plan, which is currently on Phase Three, has the intention of tying all the Marvel characters’ stories together in the films.
7. Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 takes place a little while after Avengers, depicting Tony Stark’s struggle with PTSD from the events of the big battle in New York during the previous film. Tony also becomes obsessed with making sure the world stays safe, and he endlessly creates suits, damaging his relationship with Pepper Pots. When an old foe from the past comes back for revenge, however, Tony must risk sacrificing everything he loves to save the day. This movie was the perfect way to carry on the story after Avengers.
8. Thor: The Dark World
The second installment in the Thor series shows us what Thor has been up to since the Avengers, and how Loki is serving out his sentence. This film also contains an infinity stone, one of five stones that fit onto the Infinity Gauntlet, giving the wearer ultimate power. The inclusion of the infinity stone helps to set up Infinity War and the later plot conflict with the infinity gauntlet and a new villain in several movies.
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
America’s classic hero is now working with the SHIELD intelligence organization, alongside Black Widow, to fight modern day pirates and villainous threats. Everything is interrupted, however, when Cap discovers his childhood friend has been brainwashed and put under HYDRA’s control. HYDRA is the sort of evil counterpart to SHIELD, and they pose a real threat to safety. Not only that, but HYDRA has invaded SHIELD, and no one can be trusted. Our heroes must take down both HYDRA and SHIELD, the precious intelligence organization who’s been providing backup for years to Marvel’s favorite superheroes. The Winter Soldier is fast-paced and action-packed, leaving the future of the MCU up in the air.
10. Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy is completely unique from other MCU movies. Unlike the other films, the entirety of Guardians of the Galaxy takes place in space. Peter Quill, a young boy who is left alone when his mom dies of cancer, is kidnapped from earth for mysterious purposes by a team of ravengers. Peter is raised by their leader, Yondu, and spends the rest of his upbringing as a wannabe space criminal. When Quill is arrested, he must join a group of curmudgeonly outlaws in an attempt to escape prison and deliver a mysterious artifact to a wealthy buyer. Guardians of the Galaxy is truly an otherworldly experience and a great addition to the second phase of Marvel movies. It also introduces the evil titan Thanos and his search for the infinity stones, which will become the focus of the evil side of Marvel movies to come.
11. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron reunited everyone’s favorite heroes and included some classic comic book additions, such as the Maximoff twins, Ultron, and Vision. Tony and Bruce try to harness the power of the infinity stone from Loki’s scepter into “Ultron,” a sentient robot with artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, Tony and Bruce’s attempt at a robotic force for good backfires as the machine becomes too powerful and dangerous. Ultron makes it his mission to cure humanity of “weakness” by destroying all of humanity, and the Avengers must work to stop him. The best part of the film was definitely the inclusion of new characters.
Just like Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man has a totally new cast. Many people were skeptical of how the movie would work, given Ant-Man’s strange power of being able to shrink his size and communicate and control ants. The film turned out to be a surprise hit and a very funny addition to the MCU. Scott Lang’s Ant-Man, played by Paul Rudd, is easily one of the most lovable characters in the MCU.
13. Captain America: Civil War
Nobody really wanted this film, but Marvel did it anyway. In Captain America: Civil War, viewers see their beloved heroes go head to head over issues that could easily be debated without fighting. After property is destroyed during a mission gone wrong, the government decides that the Avengers need to be regulated. General Ross introduces them to an agreement called the Accords. Torn between whether or not to sign, the Avengers split down the middle and go at it, fighting in the Berlin Airport to solve their dispute. The only redeeming aspects of this film are the continuation of the Winter Soldier storyline, and the introduction of the beloved Black Panther and Spiderman to Marvel’s lineup.
14. Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange introduces a new comic book character to the MCU, Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. After an accident renders his hands useless, Stephen Strange searches endlessly for cures, bringing him to a mysterious enclave where he learns the secrets of the universe. Strange ends up training as a sorcerer, and he wields the Eye of Agamotto. At the heart of the “eye” is an Infinity Stone. These elements of the film help to connect the stand-alone movie to the MCU, and Doctor Strange leads viewers even closer to Infinity War. The movie introduces a mystical side of Marvel- a side fans had yet to see.
15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The second installment of the Guardians franchise was just as great as the first, maybe even better. Fans finally get to learn about Peter’s mysterious lineage on his father’s side, and the film sees the relationship between Peter and Gamora develop. Nebula also gets a much needed redemption arc, which prompts her to bond with Gamora over their traumatic pasts.
16. Spider-Man: Homecoming
A Spiderman film in the MCU was, until recently, considered to be impossible due to the web slinger’s contract with Sony. However, a deal was struck between the two companies that allowed Spiderman to be a part of the MCU, even after his movie rights were run by Sony for a time. Tom Holland replaces Andrew Garfield in the iconic role and does an absolutely amazing job of portraying the quirky and awkward Peter Parker. Holland’s version of Parker is considered by most to be the best version of the character. It’s great to get to see Peter Parker interact with other big MCU characters, especially since it seemed like it could never happen with the rights issues.
17. Thor: Ragnarok
The final installment in the Thor franchise has to be one of the best films Marvel has ever produced. For anyone who has a grasp on basic Norse Mythology, “Ragnarok” is the word for the Norse apocalypse. Knowing this, it is easy to see why fans would be quaking in their boots when the title was announced. Instead of going in a dark direction like the last Thor movie, director Taika Waititi decided to shake things up and make Thor: Ragnarok a comedy instead. However, there are still plenty of epic action sequences amongst all the witty one-liners. The fun-loving film gave Marvel fans a much needed break from all the angst of previous movies. Audiences were incredibly grateful for the upbeat film, especially given what is to come with Thor and Loki in their next appearance.
18. Black Panther
Black Panther was a huge step for Marvel, and a big box office success. The film follows the Prince T’challa, the rising king of the secretive African nation of Wakanda. Wakanda is home to a rare metal called Vibranium, which can be used for almost anything (like Cap’s indestructible shield, for example). Because of their rich resources, Wakanda is one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world. However, they keep their creations to themselves in order to protect their people. When T’challa is confronted by an outsider bent on getting revenge on the royal family, he must decide on the future for Wakanda. Should they let the world suffer, or use their wealth and advancements to help others? The movie stars an almost entirely black cast and works hard to incorporate genuine African traditions and garments in their representation of the fictional African nation. The characters, story, and settings are on a totally different scale from any previous Marvel movies.
19. Avengers: Infinity War
Finally, the end is here. This film was ten years in the making, with all eighteen predecessors building it’s characters and story. No one is safe from the rath of the Titan Thanos as he strives to reach his mission: collecting all six Infinity Stones and wiping out half the population of the universe. If you’re going to see this movie, I’d recommend bringing a friend for support and a box of tissues. Now sit back, relax, and watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe fulfill it’s destiny.