Release order is always the best order to watch a film series. But when you’ve got a timeline as long and as intricate as the Marvel movie timeline, it helps to see how the story unfolds chronologically.
We’ve created a list of all the Marvel movies in chronological order — covering the main events of each film as well as their relation to one another on the wider MCU timeline.
As a reference point, we’ve consulted the timeline from Marvel Studios: The First 10 Years. Though it was made in cooperation with Marvel Studios, it’s not 100% official, but it’s the best publication they’ve released thus far. For safety, we’ll note the possible anachronisms in the info box below each film.
WARNING: spoilers for every single MCU film follow.
EARLIEST MARVEL MOVIES IN ORDER OF STORY
1. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Set in the 1940s, The First Avenger follows Steve Rogers' transformation from a frail patriot into an American hero. He spends two years as sideshow actor before proving himself a soldier by rescuing Bucky Barnes and the Howling Commandos.
Though he defeats Red Skull and topples HYDRA, Cap makes a sacrifice play and ends up frozen in the arctic.
As the earliest installment of the Marvel movie timeline, the film introduces franchise mainstays like the Stark family and the Tesseract, as well as the dawn of the counter-terrorism organization, S.H.I.E.L.D.
The television series Agent Carter fits here on the MCU timeline too. Even though that show isn’t strictly necessary for story order, it’s still worth the watch for MCU purists and fun cameos in future films.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
THE 90S IN THE MARVEL MOVIES TIMELINE
2. Captain Marvel (2019)
A big jump in the Marvel movies chronology from 1945 to 1995. Carol Danvers returns to Earth after training with the Kree race. She meets Nick Fury, an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and together they save the refugee Skrulls and stop Yon-Rogg and the Supreme Intelligence from seizing the Tesseract.
It's hard to miss how '90s this one is — every pop culture reference and musical cue reminds you. Since it's closer to modern day on the Marvel cinematic universe timeline, this film shows us the origin of the Avengers Initiative — named after Carol's Air Force callsign — and flawlessly de-aged depictions of Nick Fury and Agent Coulson. The Kree-Skrull War looks like it'll be making a return in Phase 4 or beyond.
BIRTH OF THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE MOVIE TIMELINE
3. Iron Man (2008)
After escaping a hostage situation in the middle east, billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark — son of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Howard Stark — becomes the hero Iron Man. He uses his engineering knowhow to right the wrongs of his war-profiteering company. When he triumphs over his former business partner Obadiah Stane, he is approached by Nick Fury about joining the Avengers Initiative.Though Iron Man came out in 2008, the Marvel movie timeline sets it in 2010. That tightens up the calendar so that the film is closer to its accompanying Phase 1 releases.
PHASE 1 OF THE MCU CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
4. Thor (2011)
Thor, Iron Man 2, and The Incredible Hulk are part of a set of films that Marvel fans know as "Fury's Big Week." The films occur concurrently on the Marvel movie timeline, each taking place in 2011's busiest week.In Thor, the title hero is poised to take up the throne of Asgard, but he recklessly endangers their truce with Jotunheim. Odin banishes Thor to Earth until he learns humility. There he meets Jane Foster and her team of scientists (and has a run-in with Hawkeye), who help him prove his worthiness. But Thor also learns that his brother Loki is adopted from Jotunheim and a traitor to the Asgardian people. Loki then infiltrates S.H.I.E.L.D., giving way to The Avengers.
OVERLAPPING FILMS IN THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE MOVIE TIMELINE
5. Iron Man 2 (2010)
It's been six months since Iron Man, and Tony has used his newfound heroism to further elevate his stardom. Little do his fans realize that his palladium core is poisoning him.
In this state of devil-may-care abandon, Stark hires Rushman (undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff) and gets in a brawl with Rhodey — who becomes War Machine.They all team up to defeat Stark's competitor, Justin Hammer, and Stark synthesizes a new element that will keep him alive without destroying him. After this victory, Nick Fury signs Stark up as a S.H.I.E.L.D. consultant — a role we'll see him fulfill in The Incredible Hulk.
IRON MAN 2
FURY’S BIG WEEK IN THE MARVEL MOVIES TIMELINE
6. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
In part three of Fury's Big Week, Bruce Banner is hiding out in Brazil while trying to create a cure for his gamma radiation. He has been working with Dr. Samuel Sterns, a cellular biologist who plans to use the Hulk's blood to advance modern medicine.
Banner is still being hunted by the military, led by Emil Blonsky. Blonsky has Sterns inject him with one of the blood samples, transforming him into the Hulk-like Abomination.
He and Hulk fight, then Hulk flees the country once again, while Tony Stark consults with General Ross about his big green problem. (The anachronism, listed below, is fixed with this Big Week timeline.)
THE INCREDIBLE HULK
DEFINING MOMENTS OF THE MCU CHRONOLOGICAL VIEWING ORDER
7. The Avengers (2012)
Loki begins working for the Mad Titan Thanos. He uses the Mind Stone to brainwash Hawkeye and nab the Tesseract from S.H.I.E.L.D. Though Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America capture him, he manipulates the Hulk to distract them so he can escape.
Then, using one of Thanos' armies, he lays siege on New York City via a wormhole. The four big heroes, plus Black Widow and Hawkeye, try to fend off of his forces, but the matter is complicated when the World Security Council decides to nuke the city.
Thankfully, Iron Man carries the bomb through the wormhole and uses it to destroy the mothership, deactivating Loki's forces. The Avengers part ways, unaware that they've just had their first triumph over Thanos.
FINAL IRON MAN IN THE MARVEL MOVIES TIMELINE
8. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Six months after the Battle of New York, Tony is still struggling with the trauma of the attack. He's been mass-producing Iron Man suits in case of a follow-up. Now, on top of that, he's getting wrapped up with a new terrorist calling himself the Mandarin.
He comes to learn that the Mandarin is just a front for the true big-holographic brain of the operation, Aldrich Killian. Back in 1999, Stark snubbed Killian at a convention and made an enemy for himself. Using the same Extremis serum that gives Killian superhuman abilities, Pepper overpowers him. Then Tony blows all his suits to kingdom come.
IRON MAN 3
A NECESSARY EVIL FOR THE MARVEL MOVIES IN ORDER OF STORY
9. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Loki is imprisoned for his transgressions on Earth. In 2013, the Nine Realms align in an event called the Convergence. Jane gets swept up in the alignment and infected by the Aether — an eons-old manifestation of the Reality Stone.
Thor brings her back to Asgard for treatment, but the Convergence has also awakened the Dark Elf Malekith. He storms Asgard to finish an ancestral battle, so Thor springs Loki to help him meet the challenge.They defeat Malekith and free Jane from the Aether. Loki, however, fakes his own death and then disguises himself as Odin. Elsewhere, Volstagg and Sif bring the Aether to a man called the Collector out in space. If this explanation wasn't clear enough, Thor gives a solid breakdown of the plot in Avengers: Endgame, and it's better than watching the movie itself.
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
CAP CATCHES UP TO THE MODERN MARVEL MOVIES CHRONOLOGY
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The following year, 2014, Nick Fury is attacked and presumably killed by an assailant known as the Winter Soldier. He informs Captain America and Black Widow that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised, so they go on the run until they can figure out how.
That leads them to a bunker storing the computerized consciousness of Arnim Zola, who reveals that HYDRA has survived. The two team up with Air Force soldier Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon, to expose the moles and take down the organization.
Also, the Winter Soldier is Cap's old friend Bucky, brainwashed after his supposed death. He saves Steve and flees to rediscover his true identity.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
DOUBLE FEATURE IN THE MARVEL MOVIES TIMELINE
11. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy begins in 1988, when Peter Quill is abducted by Yondu and the Ravagers. Fast forward to 2014, Quill (who now uses the moniker Star-Lord) is arrested alongside Gamora, Groot, and Rocket for their tussle over the Power Stone. In prison, they meet Drax, and the newly-bonded team break out.They bring the Stone to the Collector and are ambushed by Ronan the Accuser — the Kree militant we met in Captain Marvel — who takes the Stone for himself. The Guardians join forces with the Ravagers and the Nova Corp to defeat Ronan, which they succeed at with the power of dance and the Infinity Stone.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
BIG SHIFTS IN THE MCU CHRONOLOGICAL VIEWING ORDER
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Though it came out three years later, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is set directly after the original on the Marvel cinematic universe timeline. The team is still learning to be a family and their efforts are put in jeopardy when they meet Star-Lord's actual family — the godly Celestial named Ego. Star-Lord falls under his father's spell, while Nebula returns to the scene to finish off Gamora.Ultimately, the sisters learn to forgive each other, Peter sees his father for the monster he truly is, and they all learn that their real family is the friends they made along the way. As this chapter closes, the Guardians go on 3-4 more years of unseen adventures before they reappear on the Marvel movies timeline in Infinity War.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2
LANDMARKS IN THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE MOVIE TIMELINE
13. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Age of Ultron opens in media res as the Avengers steal back Loki's staff from Baron Strucker (there's an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tie-in that takes place first, but it's not necessary or maybe even canon). Strucker has used the staff's gem to give powers to wonder twins Wanda and Pietro.
Tony realizes they can use that same gem to make a global defense program in case of future Thanos attacks. He and Banner create Ultron, but he goes rogue, eats Jarvis, and enlists the miracle twins to join him.
The Avengers successfully appropriate Ultron's vibranium body to produce Vision, an artificial life form powered by the Mind Stone. He helps them fight Ultron in Sokovia, which is destroyed in the fray.
Hulk flies off into space, Pietro dies, and Thor begins his quest to acquire the Infinity Stones.
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
A NEW FACE JOINS THE MARVEL MOVIES TIMELINE
14. Ant-Man (2015)
Kind-hearted criminal Scott Lang gets out of prison in 2015 only to be dragged right into a new heist. He robs Hank Pym, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist known for his shrinking Pym particles. Pym and his daughter, Hope van Dyne, want to stop Darren Cross from inventing a suit of his own by stealing it — and they've chosen Lang to help them.
They're too traumatized after Janet Van Dyne removed her suit's regulator and got lost in the Quantum Realm. That happened in 1987 on the Marvel cinematic universe timeline.
So, Lang becomes the new Ant-Man, enlisting his old accomplices to help him with the suit heist. They try to steal the Yellowjacket, but Cross fights back. To defeat him, Lang removes his suit's regulator, but he is able to reverse the effects and save himself from the miniature world.
TIME STONE ENTERS THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE TIMELINE
15. Doctor Strange (2016)
In 2016, neurosurgeon Stephen Strange gets in a crippling car accident that destroys his hands. Desperate for a solution, he travels to the hidden training grounds of Kamar-Taj. He studies under the Ancient One and her disciples until 2017, when her former student Kaecilius makes contact with the inter-dimensional entity Dormammu. Using that power, Kaecilius kills the Ancient One and pillages the Sanctum.To put an end to the chaos, Doctor Strange enters the Dark Dimension and traps Dormammu in a time loop until he agrees to leave Earth with Kaecilius and his Zealots. This film spans the one of the longest periods of the Marvel movies timeline — one full year — so it can fit either here or right before Thor: Ragnarok.
KEY MOMENTS OF THE MARVEL MOVIES IN ORDER OF STORY
16. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
A 2016 incident in Lagos prompts the United Nations to pass the Sokovia Accords. They're documents that regulate the jurisdiction of the Avengers after their many catastrophic battles. Tony is in favor of them, while Steve believes the Accords will limit their ability to do good.
At the same time, radicalized Sokovian Helmut Zemo reawakens the Winter Soldier and scapegoats him for the assassination of King T'Chaka of Wakanda. He wants to pull the Avengers apart after what they did to Sokovia. Steve tries to help Bucky, while Wakanda's prince T'Challa suits up for revenge against him.
In the end, Captain America and Iron Man face off with one another, and though they are forced to a truce, they have been irreconcilably divided. The Marvel movies timeline is also divided here.
With so many films following Civil War in release order, they stop reflecting the actual MCU chronological order so prepare for more timeline-breaking anachronisms.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
POST-CIVIL WAR MARVEL MOVIES SEQUENCE
17. Black Panther (2018)
Earlier in the Marvel movies chronology, in the year 1992, King T'Chaka discovered that his brother N'Jobu was stealing vibranium from Wakanda. In this intervention, T’Chaka was forced to kill him. N'Jobu's son grew up alienated from the kingdom. He becomes Kilmonger, a black ops soldier who is mad at Wakanda for remaining so isolated.
Flash forward to one week after T'Chaka's murder. T'Challa returns to Wakanda to become the new king. His leadership called into question, though, when Kilmonger returns. He usurps T'Challa, inciting a civil war in Wakanda. The two kings duel through the vibranium mines, ending when Black Panther fatally wounds Kilmonger. T’Challa realizes that he was right about Wakanda. At last, they open themselves up to the world.
THE MARVEL MOVIE TIMELINE GOES BACK TO SCHOOL
18. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
In the fall of 2016, Spider-Man comes across a ring of criminals who are using Chitauri-enhanced weaponry. They're the associates of Adrian Toomes, aka Vulture, who mined the tech after the Battle of New York four years prior (see the anachronism for the worst Marvel movies timeline error thus far). Tony Stark urges Peter to avoid the big leagues and stick to friendly neighborhood crime-fighting, but Peter disobeys him. He goes after Toomes, resulting in incidents at the Washington Monument and a Staten Island ferry.
To prevent Peter from hurting himself or others, Tony confiscates his suit. Regardless of that, when Peter realizes that Vulture is going to ambush a weapon delivery from Avengers Tower, he swoops in to stop him. Impressed with his heroism, Tony offers Peter a spot in the Avengers, but Peter declines.
REWORKING THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE TIMELINE
19. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Thor spends two years looking for the Infinity Stones with no success. He has visions of the end of days for Asgard, known as Ragnarok. It commences when his estranged sister, Hela, attacks him and Loki and sends them spiraling toward the gladiator planet of Sakaar.
They are reunited with Hulk, absent from the MCU timeline since Age of Ultron, and meet the Asgardian warrior Valkyrie and fellow fighter Korg. Together, they escape the Grandmaster's Contest of Champions and save the people of Asgard from their apocalypse.If you follow the MCU chronological order, then Infinity War starts immediately after Ragnarok, but Ant-Man and the Wasp occurs at around the same time, so it slips in next.
REARRANGING THE MCU CHRONOLOGICAL VIEWING ORDER
19. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
At approximately the same time as Avengers: Infinity War in the Marvel movie timeline, Scott Lang is finishing up his house arrest. He has visions of Janet van Dyne, some kind of echo from his time in the Quantum Realm, so he reaches out to Hope and Hank to solve them. They violate Scott's house arrest in order to build a new tunnel to the Quantum Realm.
But someone else is after Janet — Ghost, a.k.a. Ava Starr. An experiment left Starr's molecules unstable, and she believes that Janet's energy can heal her. So, Ant-Man and the Wasp stave off Ghost while Hank goes searching for Janet. They escape the Realm in one piece, and Janet offers some of her energy to Ghost so that she, too, can stay in one piece.
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP
DECODING MARVEL MOVIES IN ORDER OF STORY
21. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
The Marvel cinematic universe timeline sets these events in 2017, but they are also recognized as 2018, so there’s a margin of error there.
Thanos commandeers four out of the six Infinity Stones, destroying half the Asgardians, the planet Xandar, the Collector, and Loki in his rampage. With two stones left, he sends an army to assault Earth, met by the full force of Wakanda and Captain America's Secret Avengers.
Meanwhile, on his home planet of Titan, the Mad Titan squares off with Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and the Guardians. Using the Time Stone, Doctor Strange cheats and looks ahead in the Marvel movies timeline. Realizing that Tony's future sacrifice is their one hope of defeating Thanos, Strange surrenders the Time Stone.
Thanos transports to Earth and rips the final stone from Vision's head, then snaps half of life out of existence.
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
TIME TRAVEL IN THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE TIMELINE
22. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
The surviving Avengers hunt down Thanos and kill him, but the damage that he did is done. Five years go by in the Marvel movie timeline, setting us in either 2022 or 2023 (see the anachronism). With Scott Lang's Quantum Realm intel, Tony Stark cracks time travel and the Avengers use it to recover the Infinity Stones in the past.
They restore the fallen back to life, then face off with Thanos one last time. During the battle, Tony uses the Infinity Stones to defeat him, sacrificing his life as Strange predicted.Given the time travel, Endgame takes place in MANY different time periods across the MCU timeline. But, as Bruce Banner observes: “If you travel to the past, that past becomes your future.” So... even putting Marvel movies in order of story, this one is later.
LAST IN THE MARVEL MOVIES SEQUENCE
23. Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
The last of the Marvel movies in order of story is, sensibly, the latest one released. Not always the case! Eight months after Avengers: Endgame, the world is still healing from the effects of the Snap (or the "Blip") and from Tony Stark's sacrifice.
Peter, feeling pressure to take Tony's place as Earth's Mightiest Hero, decides the shirk his responsibilities and enjoy a field trip to Europe.
Nick Fury catches up to him, though, and puts him on duty with Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio. The two of them defeat the Elementals together, causing Peter to realize that Mysterio deserves to be the "new Iron Man," not him. He and MJ soon find that Mysterio isn't what he seems, so Spider-Man accepts his power and stops him.
Then his secret identity is ousted.
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.