There are a megaton of Marvel movies at this point that together make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or “MCU.” That’s good news for fans of cinematic comic adaptations everywhere but the correct order to watch Marvel movies is becoming increasingly confusing. Ther order the films were released in doesn’t match the chronological order of the events in the overarching storyline. With 23 movies currently making up the MCU, and a slew more on the way, it’s a lot to keep track of.
Here’s how to watch the Marvel movies in order chronologically.
1. Captain America: The First Avenger
Watch Cap go from skinny to swole in this first installment of the Avengers franchise from 2011. (Honestly, the unsettling sight of a digitally shrunken Chris Evans is worth the watch alone.) While it begins in the present day, the majority of the film is set in 1942 and goes a long way toward establishing the recurring themes of heroism and sacrifice present throughout the MCU.
2. Captain Marvel
Despite being a recent 2019 release, the story of how Carol Danvers became the super-charged heroine Captain Marvel is set in 1995 and therefore actually takes place long before many other events in the MCU. It involves one of the Infinity Stones and offers a preview of the galactic scope of future MCU titles. Plus, there’s plenty of Nick Fury character development.
Note: You may want to skip the post-credit sequence to avoid spoilers. You could also watch this after Iron Man, Iron Man 2, or The Incredible Hulk.
3. Iron Man
Easily one of Marvel’s most defining movies, 2008’s Iron Man introduced fans to the cocksure, high-tech ass-kicking of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and is vital as the origin story of one of the MCU’s central characters and a good contrast to Cap.
4. Iron Man 2
MOAR Iron Man. With Iron Man 2 Tony Stark cemented his role as one of the key protagonists in the expanding MCU (whether Cap likes it or not) and previews Tony Stark’s battles with his own inner turmoil.
5. The Incredible Hulk
This will throw some MCU fans off since 2008’s The Incredible Hulk features Edward Norton as the titular smasher and not Mark Ruffalo, but it is officially part of the MCU and its only standalone Hulk movie so ignore those reservations unless you want to make the green guy angry.
Thor gives us both our introduction to Chris Hemsworth’s goldilocked bro god and to his scheming brother Loki who shows up as a villain later in the MCU. Like Captain Marvel, Thor blasts the MCU into space. Above all it establishes the Asgardian as one of the Marvel’s mightiest heroes.
7. The Avengers
The Avengers is the first time we see the gang all team up—and clash—with one another. The events of Avengers echo throughout the future Marvel films It’s also the first appearance of the big bad Thanos, teasing the arc of the entire Infinity Saga with a cameo by its ultimate antagonist.
8. Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 finds Tony Stark as a broken man trying to regain control of his own life. It also showcases how vulnerable Stark feels in the aftermath of The Avengers and the lengths he’ll go to protect his loved ones. Being a hero and having to save Earth once a year is pretty tiring, too bad there are several more movies left for Tony to appear in—this film marks the beginning of Marvel’s Phase Two.
9. Thor: The Dark World
In Thor: The Dark World we learn a bit more about some of the Infinity Stones and a lot more about the ever-entertaining sibling relationship of Thor and Loki. It’s regarded as one of the worst MCU movies, but it’s still a must-watch.
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
A well-regarded follow-up to Captain America, this movie delves into Cap’s relationship with Bucky as well as the struggle between HYDRA and SHIELD. It also established Captain America as a character who’s willing to break rules in service of a higher morality, setting up the clash between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark in Civil War.