Recounting the MCU in order tells the full story of its success⏤both at the box office and in the eyes of its fans. But after 11 years and 23 installments, it can be hard to keep track of how it all went down. For all that information and more, we’ve ‘assembled’ a list of all of the Marvel movies in order of release. So, let’s journey through the Quantum Realm back to the beginning to see how characters, sequels and franchises are made.
PHASE 1: MARVEL MOVIES IN ORDER
1. Iron Man (2008)
MCU's release order begins with Iron Man, which dropped out of the sky in May of 2008. Though its box office success didn't match the heights of the precursory Spider-Man franchise, it still made an impact. Finishing its run at a cool $585.2 million, Iron Man became the eighth highest-grossing movie of the year, falling short of its superhero peers: The Dark Knight and Hancock.
Critics lauded the character-centric take on the genre, perfectly realized by Robert Downey Jr., and the movie’s grounded stakes. For a film with no fantastical hype or expectations, that made it clear to Marvel that they were tapping into something special. It was a sign for all MCU movies that followed.
SMASHING THROUGH THE MCU MOVIES IN ORDER
2. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The Incredible Hulk, starring Edward Norton, was pulling double duty. Not only was it the second of the MCU movies in order, opening a few months after Iron Man, but also a soft reboot of the Hulk film from 2003. Taking that into consideration, its $263.4 million gross isn't half bad; it actually improved upon the numbers of its predecessor.
Success of Iron Man both helped the film's popularity and also hurt its reception since it was clear which of these two would be Marvel's flagship character. Though a complicated distribution deal with Universal Pictures has made a proper sequel unlikely, the character continues to enjoy success as an ancillary character in the other films.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK
THE FIRST SEQUEL - MCU MOVIES IN ORDER
3. Iron Man 2 (2010)
2009 was the only year in the MCU's lifecycle that didn't have a movie. Then, in 2010, Marvel Studios came back with Iron Man 2. Jon Favreau returned to direct with a script penned by The Leftovers star Justin Theroux. These are the closest franchise Marvel movies in order, since this one pivoted directly off the popularity of the original.
Iron Man 2 raked in $623.9 million at the box office. That set it as the 7th highest-grossing film of the year; still trailing the YA juggernauts of the time, Harry Potter and Twilight. But it was the definitive superhero offering of 2010.
Unfortunately, the general consensus of Iron Man 2 was that the first movie was superior. It’s high up on the list of MCU movies in order of release, but definitely not in quality.
IRON MAN 2
MCU MOVIES IN ORDER — OR THORDER
4. Thor (2011)
Unlike the Iron Man films, Thor wasn't one of the best-charting movies of 2011. There were too many marquee sequels to battle. With a $449.3 million box office return though, it fared better than Hulk and Captain America. That was mighty for a brand new IP and more than enough to carry the interest in the series through to The Avengers.
Though critics praised Chris Hemsworth's performance and the big blockbuster antics, some were already skeptical of Marvel's franchise potential. They noted a lack of vision in Thor that had made Iron Man so spectacular. That reputation would change in later years, but for now it could at least keep the langskip afloat.
MARVEL MOVIES IN ORDER
5. Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America wasn't the only 2011 film to feature heroes in a period setting. Earlier that summer, X-Men: First Class gave comic book fans a look at the origins of the mutants. Of those two, The First Avenger pulled out on top, grossing $370.6 million at the box office and cueing up The Avengers for the following year. It was clear that the days of the X-Men were in the past.
The last in a list of MCU movies that we can retroactively call "quaint," where such box office grosses were sufficient. This one was still bested by Twilight and Transformers with numbers that later MCU films would dominate with at the box office.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
THE MARVEL MOVIES LIST ASSEMBLES
6. The Avengers (2012)
At last, all of Marvel's preparation paid off with The Avengers. The film skyrocketed to the top of the box office in 2012, defeating some stiff competition. Even besting The Dark Knight Rises, which was the sequel to Iron Man's competition a few years early.
All said, it grossed $1.5 billion, making it the first of all MCU movies to cross the billion-dollar line. It's a high bar for the franchise that would stay unmatched until Avenger: Infinity War, six years later. Now, the film is remembered as a peak, as critics at the time were enamored by the ambitious character mashup and relentless fun.
PHASE 2 MARVEL MOVIES IN ORDER
7. Iron Man 3 (2013)
2012 tentpole film had launched the franchise into a new box office bracket, and even the stand-alone entries were benefiting from it. Following The Avengers in the MCU release order was Iron Man 3.
It totaled $1.2 billion at the box office — the second of all MCU movies to do so. Shane Black stepped in as director, offering a change in tone that serviced the evolution of Tony Stark.
Critics agreed with his direction, praising the film as an improvement over Iron Man 2 that was far more comfortable in the action-comedy genre. This was the number one blockbuster of 2013, leading the summer season. Overall, it was second only to Frozen — making it a good year to be Disney.
IRON MAN 3
IRON BEFORE THOR FOR THE MCU MOVIES IN ORDER
8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
When a $644.6 million box office takeaway is a drop, you know your franchise is in good hands. Thor: The Dark World is somewhat notorious as a weaker Marvel movie, but that didn't stop fans from going out to see it. It became the 10th highest-grossing film of the year and a vast improvement over the original, even surpassing Iron Man 2.
Still, there's that notorious reputation. Critics engaged with Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth's brotherly bond while finding the rest of the action and romance passable enough.
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
THE NEXT CAP ON THE MARVEL MOVIES LIST
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America's formulaic origin film received mixed interest and decent reviews. With a box office gross of $714.3 million, the Winter Soldier (2014) solidified him as a powerhouse in the MCU.
Critics found the shift from period piece to spy thriller to work in the franchise's favor, and they praised the political subtext that few superhero movies attempt.
This was to the credit of the Russo brothers, who took over directorial duties with a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. That duo of duos proved to be a key asset in Avengers history, as they'd go on to create the high-grossing Avengers films.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
AN ODDBALL ON THE MARVEL MOVIES LIST
10. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
In a shocking twist, it wasn't The Winter Soldier that won out in 2014, but Guardians of the Galaxy. This lesser-known property pushed the boundaries of audience interest and fans met the challenge. It accumulated $773.3 million—higher than any Thor or Captain America movie to date — then finished third of the year.
Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies were the only competition that year which were also big sequels to established franchises. That's the power of the MCU. Critics connected to its irreverent humor and style, as well as the emotions delivered by its unconventional heroes.
THE NEXT TENTPOLE ON THE MARVEL MOVIES LIST
11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Age of Ultron bumped the MCU back up into the billion-dollar territory. It collected $1.4 billion, setting it lower than the first Avengers but still in the realm of cinematic royalty. In 2015, audiences were more invested in the Fast & Furious franchise, as well as the relaunch of Star Wars and Jurassic World, so Ultron took a bit of a hit there.
Critics were less infatuated with it than the first movie too. Though they enjoyed the character interplay and the epic fan-servicing moments, they criticized the overstuffed storyline. Analyzing all the Marvel movies in order, you can see this was a learning experience that paved the road for future installments.
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
WATCHING THE MCU MOVIES IN ORDER
12. Ant-Man (2015)
Ant-Man was the next big IP launch of the MCU movies in order. The studio probably hoped it would springboard off Age of Ultron's success, and for all we know, it did. Yet, its $519.3 million gross was a low point for Phase 2. Maybe it was fatigue or maybe the marketing couldn't sell the concept as well as it could for Guardians.
Critics had a certain fondness for Ant-Man though, noting that the decreased scale of the film worked in its favor, and rallying behind Paul Rudd's like-ability as a well-intentioned but struggling father.
PHASE 3 MARVEL MOVIES IN ORDER
13. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Tides turned again in 2016 with the release of Captain America: Civil War. Boasting the star-studded strength of an Avengers movie, the film claimed the #1 spot at the year's box office, defeating both Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Of course, Disney owned all five of the top spots, so there was no civil-warring going on there.
$1.2 billion dollars was reaped, making it the fourth in the order of Marvel movies to enter the billion-dollar club and the second of the "solo" Marvel movies in order. Critics recognized that this one was for the fans, an impossible entry point for the uninitiated, but it delivered in droves on that front.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
MARVEL FILMS IN ORDER GET RISKY
14. Doctor Strange (2016)
Doctor Strange was the second of the Phase 3 Marvel movies in order. That’s the longest phase and the most packed with new characters. Of those debut films, the Doc came in the lowest—a $677.7 million box office pull. It's by no means a low number and it sits pretty in the ballpark of Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, both considered successful.
Biggest takeaway for the critics was the CGI, which many compared to Christopher Nolan's Inception. These imaginative sequences were more than cinematic visual noise; they were artistic structures that elevate Doctor Strange beyond the familiar origin template.
MCU RELEASE ORDER GETS A SWITCH-UP
15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
For a few years, Marvel found success with a "two films per year" schedule. In 2017, they amped it up to three films per year. Assuredly this would test the limits of "superhero fatigue," beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.
It fared marginally better than the first, collecting $863.6 million. Those aren't Civil War numbers, but they continued to be a triumph for the ragtag franchise.
On the whole, Guardians was proving to be a more reliable IP than even Thor. Though the sequel couldn't recapture the stealth magic of the original, critics still found it an enjoyable ride packed with feels.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
SPIDER-MAN JOINS THE MARVEL MOVIES LIST
16. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Spider-Man: Homecoming is an interesting movie. Not only does it call to mind Marvel fatigue, but Spider-Man fatigue. The first Spider-Man film (in 2002) closed with $821.7 million in the bank. It lifted that up to $890.9 million by Spider-Man 3.
Then The Amazing Spider-Man sunk those numbers into the $700 million range. Not bad, but certainly cause for concern for Sony.
Fortunately, Homecoming evaded the worst by launching the number back up to $880.2 million, just shy of Spider-Man 3's level. It was the highest-grossing superhero film of the year (if we don't count Despicable Me 3), but it put Marvel back behind Star Wars in the box office war.
NO FATIGUE ON THIS MARVEL MOVIES LIST
17. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Stacking 2017’s Marvel movies in order of box office success, Thor: Ragnarok comes in third of three. But, when third place means an $854 million gross, that's still a prize. The Thor franchise had always benefited from the macro-MCU, both times following up a well-charting Iron Man film. With Taika Waititi's vision, it gained a reputation of its own.
Perhaps more importantly than the money, Ragnarok was GOOD. Really good. Critics enjoyed Waititi's new comedic direction, which injected life into the once-bleak characters and allowed them to ham it out on-screen. This was so successful, in fact, that it inspired Chris Hemsworth to come back to the cave pool for Thor: Love and Thunder — also directed by Waititi, making it the first non-Avengers IP to hit four entries.
ELEVATING THE MARVEL MOVIES LIST
18. Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther made waves upon its release. Critics revered it for using the superhero template to convey a political message that resonated with modern audiences. This had a particular cultural importance to African and African-American audiences who were able to see serious reflections of themselves in the superhero mythos.
Box office results display that popularity. Bringing in a whopping $1.35 billion, setting it in the coveted billion-dollar club alongside the veteran heroes and outgrossed Infinity War domestically.
By the end of the year, it had maintained a position of the second highest-grossing film of 2018 and got nominated for BEST PICTURE, solidifying its importance to the viewers and the company.
THE ORDER OF MARVEL MOVIES PAYS OFF
19. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
With a $2 billion box office pull, Avengers: Infinity War shattered the conventional gross of all MCU movies. The film jettisoned past The Avengers to become the fourth highest-grossing film of all time. Though it still couldn't overthrow Star Wars: The Force Awakens' powerful numbers, the franchise was edging ever closer.
As they were with Civil War, critics were privy to the fact that this film was not simply a standalone entry, but a culmination of all MCU movies in order to that point. Some criticized it, while others praised the creative team for pulling it off without getting lost in the noise.
Also, Josh Brolin's motion capture work as Thanos translated seamlessly on screen, a technological marvel as much as the storytelling one.
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
A MARVEL MOVIES LIST PALATE CLEANSER
20. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Looking at the MCU in order, Ant-Man films consistently follow Avengers films. Ant-Man and the Wasp’s $622 million worldwide gross was a step up from the original Ant-Man, but a noted drop after the runaway success of Infinity War and Black Panther. It didn't even match Thor: The Dark World’s box office.
Still, Marvel had little reason to be concerned. This substantiated the effectiveness of their "three movies per year" model, and they had already dominated the top two spots of 2018.
There was a consensus among critics that this film was a needed soul-bleach after the end of Infinity War. It’s a fun if not forgettable romp that did its due diligence in the release cycle. If you’re watching all the Marvel universe movies in order, it’s not a bad way to mix things up.
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP
FIRST FEMALE LEAD IN THE LIST OF MCU MOVIES
21. Captain Marvel (2019)
Disney's stellar year was 2019, and the interstellar Captain Marvel was a big player in that. Presale numbers set it just behind Black Panther and Infinity War, but still high on the list of MCU movies overall, so the success was undeniable. With a $1.128 billion box office pull, it staked a claim that few of its predecessors had.
Maybe it was the intrigue in the character or the insurmountable brand value of the MCU. Whatever it was, it made Captain Marvel a must-see film. Critics were observant of the fact that it wasn't groundbreaking — it was a sufficient origin story, akin to the old Phase 1 days — but the strength of the cast let the material shine.
PAYING OFF ALL OF THE MARVEL MOVIES IN ORDER
22. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Thanos warns the heroes: "I am inevitable," in Avengers: Endgame. So was Endgame characterized as the climactic conclusion to all the Marvel universe movies in order so far?
It was guaranteed to be the end of the line for some mainstays while resolving Infinity War's cliffhanger that had audiences buzzing for a year. Thus, when it broke every conceivable record, that was inevitable too. Though Star Wars: The Force Awakens still holds the domestic box office crown, Endgame surpassed it in the global market.
Following a months-long campaign by fans, it overthrew Avatar as the highest-grossing film of all time with an unbelievable $2.8 billion. The critics were obviously blown away by the sheer scale of the thing, but surprised by the contemplative character work.
The actors, many of whom had been with the franchise since the early days, deliver some of their best and most introspective material between the battles.
THE LATEST MARVEL FILMS IN ORDER
23. Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
Three for three. For the first time, all three Marvel universe movies in order broke a billion dollars. Spider-Man: Far From Home trounced the previous Spider-Man films, web-slinging $1.1 billion. There’s no Spider-Man fatigue now—this is his time.
Of course, Sony gets the credit for this one, but the draw from Disney's Endgame was a driving factor. Far From Home currently sits at the #3 spot for the year (though that may change when Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker closes out its run).
After 2018's Into the Spider-Verse, critics had a new gold standard for the friendly neighborhood hero. The movie didn't quite live up to that standard, but its ability to level its teen drama elements with the fallout of Endgame didn't go unnoticed.
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME
More from Marvel
The depth and complexity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe cannot be understated. There is so much content to read, watch, analyze, theorize and we've collected it all here. If you want to know about all the upcoming Marvel releases or see the MCU in order of release date or in story order, look no further. Or perhaps you're curious about our idea for the best order to watch the MCU: The Pegasus Order.