How to watch the Marvel movies in order – chronological, timeline and more

What’s the best way to watch Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in action? Here's a full explanation of the MCU and Avengers timeline

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infinity-war

All the way back in 2008, there was an idea called the Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable films that together could become something more: The Marvel Cinematic Universe, 23 titles (so far) that have raked in £17 billion worldwide and enjoyed near-universal acclaim (apart from Dark World, obviously).

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But what order should you watch them in? Surely viewing them all by release date is best, right? To paraphrase Tony Stark: that’s not a great plan.

Why? Well, the MCU doesn’t necessarily stick to a chronological order, with films such as Captain Marvel (the Brie Larson-led adventure released in 2019), set decades before 2008’s Iron Man (starring Robert Downey Jr as the titular billionaire philanthropist).

It’s about to get more complicated too. Marvel’s upcoming slate of films, which include The Eternals and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, will pick up at different points in the MCU timeline. For instance, Black Widow – which kicks off phase four – will be set after Captain America: Civil War but before Avengers: Infinity War. That’s before we even address confirmed projects like Captain Marvel 2, part of phase five, whose setting hasn’t yet been announced.

And that’s not all. There’s also the upcoming Disney Plus Marvel TV series – from Loki to WandaVision – which is also set to bend the franchise’s non-linear timeline out of shape.

In other words, when you delve into the issue of MCU chronology at it gets pretty complex, pretty fast.

And that’s where we come in. Just for you, we’ve rounded up the best (and clearest) ways to watch the Marvel movies in order.

Simply find out your best route through the marvel movies below and binge away. How? You can now have a Marvel movie marathon thanks to Disney Plus having the full catalogue of films on the platform (bar a few minor films missing). You can sign up to Disney Plus for £5.99 a month or £59.99 a year.

How to watch the Marvel movies in order – release date

Here’s how to watch the Marvel movies in chronological order. The Marvel movies were released in Phases, which each have a semi-contained story arc. We take a look at the way to watch each Phase, from Phases 1 to 3, as well as what’s coming up in Phase 4.

Marvel movies Phase one

  • Iron Man (May, 2008)
  • The Incredible Hulk (June, 2008)
  • Iron Man 2 (May, 2010)
  • Thor (May, 2011)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22, 2011)
  • Avengers Assemble (May 4, 2012)
avengers-assemble

Marvel movies Phase two

  • Iron Man 3 (May, 2013)
  • Thor: The Dark World (November, 2013)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier  (April, 2014)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (August, 2014)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (May, 2015)
  • Ant-Man (July, 2015)
Avenger's Age of Ultron

Marvel movies Phase three

  • Captain America: Civil War (May, 2016)
  • Doctor Strange (November, 2016)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May, 2017)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (July, 2017)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (November, 2017)
  • Black Panther  (February, 2018)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (April, 2018)
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (July, 2018)
  • Captain Marvel (March, 2019)
  • Avengers: Endgame (April, 2019)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (July, 2019)
(Marvel)
(Marvel)

Phase Four is yet to kick off, and is slightly delayed as Black Widow’s release date has been pushed back. Quite a few are in the early stages so we don’t have a release date yet. Here’s what we know about Phase Four so far.

Marvel movies Phase four (and upcoming)

Note: the above release dates could be subject to change due to the coronavirus pandemic.

You can watch most of the Marvel movies in order on Disney Plus UK now, though The Incredible Hulk and the Spider-Man movies are missing. The former was a Universal movie and the latter is Sony’s property – though Spidey does star in the crossover movies.

Alternatively, if you don’t have the time to watch the entire Marvel back catalogue, we’ve also pulled together a handy list of how to watch the Avengers movie in order, with a recap of what happens in the MCU inbetween each film.

How to watch the Marvel movies in order – chronological 

Just to make things a bit more complicated, the MCU movies don’t always follow on from each other.

While the fifth film to be released, Captain America: The First Avenger is actually the first entry on the Marvel timeline, set at the height of the First World War. And although released after Infinity War, Brie Larson’s first Captain Marvel outing is the second adventure on the Marvel timeline, the majority of the film taking place in 1995.

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger (1942)
  2. Captain Marvel (1995)
  3. Iron Man (2010)
  4. Iron Man 2 (2011)
  5. The Incredible Hulk (2011)
  6. Thor (2011)
  7. The Avengers (2012)
  8. Iron Man 3 (2012)
  9. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  11. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  12. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2014)
  13. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  14. Ant-Man (2015)
  15. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  16. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2016)
  17. Doctor Strange (2016-2017)
  18. Black Widow (2017)
  19. Black Panther (2017)
  20. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  21. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2017)
  22. Avengers: Infinity War (2017)
  23. Avengers: Endgame (2018-2023)
  24. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2023)

How to watch the Marvel movies in order – spaghetti order order

The Marvel movies in Spaghetti order, first assembled by writer Jonathan Sim, follows the logic that if a post-credit scene in a Marvel movie alludes to another film, you should watch that film next, if possible.

So if you’re looking to go a little more offbeat with your Marvel movie marathon, here’s how that ordering breaks down…

  1. Iron Man (2008)
  2. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  3. Iron Man 2 (2010)
  4. Thor (2011)
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  6. The Avengers (2012)
  7. Iron Man 3 (2013)
  8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  9. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017)
  11. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  12. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  13. Ant-Man (2015)
  14. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  15. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  16. Black Panther (2018)
  17. Doctor Strange (2016)
  18. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  19. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  20. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
  21. Captain Marvel (2019)
  22. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
  23. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Which Marvel movies are on Disney Plus?

As Marvel is owned by Disney, you can watch most MCU movies by subscribing to streaming service Disney Plus. There are a few movies missing (The Incredible Hulk as it belongs to Universal and Spider-Man as it belongs to Sony), but in alphabetical order, here’s what is available to watch on Disney Plus:

  • Iron Man
  • Thor
  • Iron Man 2
  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • The Avengers
  • Iron Man 3
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Thor: The Dark World
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Ant-Man
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Doctor Strange
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Captain Marvel
  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Black Panther

In the US Avengers Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp are also missing but are due to join Disney Plus USA in 25th June and 29th July respectively.

Best Marvel movies

Just in case all the above isn’t enough, there are two more ways to watch the Marvel movies: from worst to best and vice-versa. But which film will be your favourite (and which your least)? Of course, it’s a personal preference. However, as a solid guide, here are the Marvel movies ranked by IMDb scores.

  1. Avengers: Endgame (IMDb score: 8.4)
  2. Avengers: Infinity War (IMDb score: 8.4)
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy (IMDb score: 8)
  4. Avengers Assemble (IMDb score: 8)
  5. Iron Man (IMDb score: 7.9)
  6. Thor: Ragnarok (IMDb score: 7.9)
  7. Captain America: Civil War(IMDb score: 7.8)
  8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (IMDb score: 7.7)
  9. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (IMDb score: 7.6)
  10. Spider-Man: Far from Home (IMDb score: 7.5)
  11. Doctor Strange (IMDb score: 7.5)
  12. Spider-Man: Homecoming (IMDb score: 7.4)
  13. Black Panther (IMDb score: 7.3)
  14. Avengers: Age of Ultron (IMDb score: 7.3)
  15. Ant-Man (IMDb score: 7.3)
  16. Iron Man 3 (IMDb score: 7.2)
  17. Ant-Man and the Wasp (IMDb score: 7.1)
  18. Thor (IMDb score: 7)
  19. Iron Man 2 (IMDb score: 7)
  20. Captain Marvel (IMDb score: 6.9)
  21. Captain America: The First Avenger (IMDb score: 6.9)
  22. Thor: The Dark World (IMDb score: 6.9)
  23. The Incredible Hulk (IMDb score: 6.7)

What’s the best order to watch the Marvel movies?

The choice is completely yours – there’s no wrong way. But, with that said, you definitely want to avoid viewing the film chronologically if you’re an MCU newbie.

First off: you may struggle to remember the background of certain characters. Captain Marvel, for instance, will be introduced in the second film in the list only to next be mentioned over 40 screen hours later.

Plus, you might have the opposite problem and spend too much with other superheroes – as much as we love Tony Stark, his character arc can feel rushed if you watch Iron Man and Iron Man 2 back to back.

Also, making Captain Marvel your second MCU movie means you miss out on the in-jokes and references established over 17 movies.

Captain Marvel
Brie Larson in Captain Marvel (Marvel Studios)
Disney/Marvel

However, ardent Marvel fans will reap the rewards of re-watching the saga chronologically. Not only will this give more depth to the backstory of some key characters (Avengers stalwart Nick Fury being the prime example), but viewing the films in this order brings a new understanding of the MCU timeline (who knew the events of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1 and 2 were only months apart?.

How to download and watch Marvel movies

As we laid out above, most of the Marvel movies are available to stream on Disney Plus. However, you can also download the films from the service to watch on the go. How? It’s simple.

  1. Open your Disney Plus app (see how to download here).
  2. At the home screen, search for the film you want to download to your device.
  3. Tap on the download arrow icon at the bottom menu of the Disney Plus app.
  4. To see and watch your downloaded titles, visit the “Downloads” tab on the app’s bottom menu.

You can download an unlimited number of movies from the Disney Plus mobile app. Your downloaded shows will only be able to watch so long as you’re a subscriber to the service.

You can also buy, rent and download each Marvel movie on Amazon (you do not need to be an Amazon Prime customer to do this).

Clicking on the links below will take you to that movie’s Amazon page. All films are ordered by release date.

Wondering what to watch on Disney Plus? Take a look at our best Disney Plus series guide or the best Disney Plus movies.

You can sign up to Disney Plus here. A full membership costs £5.99 per month or an upfront payment of £59.99 for the full year.

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