The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an incredible feat of blockbuster filmmaking, tying together several disparate franchises to tell an ambitious intergalactic story.
However, the downside to all this is that it makes the popular series a big time commitment. Some fans might want to watch all the Marvel movies in order, but it’s understandable that others are keen to jump straight into the epic crossover events without watching the 19 other films in the series.
If that’s the position you find yourself in, then rest assured that we have you covered. Here’s the correct order to watch The Avengers movies and everything you need to know before diving into each one…
What happened before the first Avengers movie?
The events leading up to the first Avengers movie are officially regarded as “Phase One” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, consisting primarily of origin stories for its founding members.
Egotistical weapons manufacturer Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) builds a formidable metal suit to escape his abduction by terrorists, an experience that pushes him to change his ways and use his resources to better humanity as Iron Man.
After meeting SHIELD agents Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) in his first outing, he crosses paths with special agent Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in the sequel – a KGB spy turned superhero.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is introduced as an arrogant prince, heir to the throne of Asgard, who is cast down to Earth to learn humility. However, his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) uses this opportunity to step out of the shadows and seize power from their ailing father.
Thor ultimately defeats him, but Loki uses his powers as the God of Mischief to fake his own death, all the while plotting a catastrophic invasion of Earth with the help of a mysterious new ally…
Last but not least, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wakes up in the present day. He was a sickly young man in the days of the Second World War who volunteered to be the test subject for a so-called Super Soldier Serum that gave him incredible strength and athleticism.
While preventing a dastardly plot from the villainous Red Skull, Rogers was lost in the frozen plains of the Arctic, only to be discovered in the present day and thawed out by SHIELD medics. The incredible serum coursing through his veins kept him alive for all those years in the ice and Fury wastes no time enlisting him for the fight to come.
1) Avengers Assemble (2012)
The first Avengers film sees this unlikely band of heroes come together, joined by an all-new Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and archery expert Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), to stop Loki invading Earth with an army of fearsome aliens.
What happens next?
Tony Stark finally gets that pesky shard of shrapnel taken out of his chest in Iron Man 3, but little else of lasting consequence happens in that film.
Thor encounters an infinity stone in his second solo flick, which briefly takes over the body of astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), but he saves her life and entrusts the powerful cosmic entity to a man called The Collector (Benicio Del Toro).
The most earth-shattering developments come courtesy of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where SHIELD is revealed to have been a front for the terrorist organisation HYDRA.
Director of SHIELD Nick Fury was unaware of the conspiracy and an attempt is made on his life which he narrowly avoids, prompting him to fake his death and go into hiding.
With the help of Black Widow, Captain America thwarts HYDRA’s terrible plan for world domination and dismantles SHIELD in the process. He also discovers that his wartime bestie James ‘Bucky’ Barnes (Sebastian Stan), thought dead, had been kept alive through experimentation and brainwashing which has transformed him into an assassin known as the Winter Soldier.
Bucky goes missing at the end of the film, after beginning to recall faint details about his past life…
Also, the Guardians of the Galaxy are introduced! The ragtag group is comprised of Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), a warrior tree called Groot (Vin Diesel), a talking raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper), dimwitted strongman Drax (Dave Bautista) and alien assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana).
Their first adventure formally introduces Thanos, a very bad man on a collision course with Earth. You don’t need to worry about him just yet, but keep him in mind…
2) Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The second Avengers film sees Tony Stark inadvertently create a murderous artificial intelligence known as Ultron, which attempts to destroy the world by turning a small country into a flaming meteor.
The Avengers team up with mysterious siblings Wanda and Pietro in a desperate bid to stop Ultron from destroying humanity, but their final battle will come at a great cost…
What happens next?
Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is introduced as reformed burglar Scott Lang, who has the power to shrink down to a tiny size while retaining some highly concentrated strength. Surprisingly, he packs a punch. Also he can talk to ants (just go with it).
In the aftermath of Age of Ultron, the Avengers face consequences for their devastating recent battles, including incidents in New York City, Sokovia and Lagos which claimed civilian lives.
General Ross (William Hurt) demands the team sign the Sokovia Accords, which would put a UN committee in charge of where they are deployed.
Tony Stark, humbled by a recent encounter with a grieving mother, agrees to the conditions, but Steve Rogers is reluctant to let an outside organisation dictate his actions as he remains shaken up by SHIELD’s betrayal.
This is the basis for Captain America: Civil War which sees the Avengers fragment into two factions, Iron Man’s government sanctioned team and Captain America’s exiled renegades.
Two major players join the fray in the form of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, who adopts Tony Stark as a mentor, as well as Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, king of a technologically advanced African nation called Wakanda (referenced in Age of Ultron).
The feud weakens the team overall, leaving Earth vulnerable to extraterrestrial threats…
The Guardians of the Galaxy accept a new recruit in the form of Mantis, who can sense and control people’s emotions when she comes into contact with them. Also, Gamora begins to patch things up with her sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan). The two had long been bitter rivals due to the manipulation of their cruel father, Thanos.
In the events of Thor: Ragnarok, the God of Thunder’s homeworld is destroyed in a devastating battle with Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett). She is defeated and the surviving Asgardians board a refugee craft, where they are soon confronted by an intimidating spaceship piloted by Thanos and his goons…
3) Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War follows Thanos as he tracks down the six infinity stones, which will grant him unlimited power to carry out a horrifying plan.
It’s the toughest test yet for the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and not everyone will survive…
What happens next?
Technically, the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp take place around the same time as Infinity War, culminating in a shocking post-credits scene which ties in directly with the crossover epic.
Ant-Man takes a trip into the quantum realm, a microscopic universe that defies the normal passage of time, expecting to be pulled back into our reality by his allies Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas).
However, all three of them are wiped from existence following the events of Avengers: Infinity War, leaving Ant-Man trapped in the nightmarish place with no way of returning to Earth.
Captain Marvel is actually set in the 1990s, but serves as a prologue of sorts to Avengers: Endgame, following up on Infinity War’s post-credits scene by introducing Brie Larson’s cosmic hero and explaining how she became acquainted with Nick Fury.
4) Avengers: Endgame (2019)
The grand finale! Avengers: Endgame brings a decade of storytelling to a close, with a time-hopping epic that spans the length and breadth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Virtually every major player in the MCU returns to clean up the terrible mess left by Thanos, but is their combined might enough to overcome the mad titan?
Marvel Cinematic Universe films are available to stream on Disney Plus. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.