The correct order to watch the Marvel movies: MCU timeline guide

With Disney+ on the horizon, there's a whole library of Marvel movies to watch with a snap of your fingers

Avengers: Endgame poster
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Disney Plus is is finally coming to the UK, which means you'll have a huge amount of new films and TV shows to binge, as well as a library of classic and popular series and movies. 

The Mandalorian is amongst the collection  of original content coming to the streaming platform, along with the huge back catalogue of media from the House of Mouse. Thanks to Disney's recent list of purchases, Marvel Studios' stable of super hero films will also be dropping, meaning you can watch (or re-watch) your favourite characters save the world to your heart's content. 

If you're looking to get a bit more involved however, you don't want to be wading in willy nilly. Everyone has a preferred order to watching the MCU's events unfold. 

To really get to grips with the heroes, their backstories, relationships, and motivations - which will lead to a lot less head-scratching as the ensemble casts starts to grow - you could watch the films according to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's (MCU) timeline.

Iron Man kicked things off in 2008, introducing us all to the MCU, but the film itself is set in 2010. But 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger saw Steve Rogers running around 60 to 70 years before that during WWII. So we say scrap the real-world release dates and immerse yourself in the MCU's timeline for maximum viewing pleasure.

If you prefer to stick to the real world and value production value, performance, and blockbuster entertainment over the nitty gritty of who-was-where-when-what-happened, then making your way through in chronological release order is going to be your cup of tea.

Whichever your viewing style, we've got you covered down below, and if you sign up for a year's subscription to Disney Plus at the reduced price of £49.99, you can watch all 23 films at your own pace, which may take a while.  

Watching Marvel movies according to the MCU timeline

Diving into the MCU will have us surfacing in the 1940s with Steve Rogers, and subsequently carried along to see all of the pieces fall into place that paved the way for Thanos to enter the fray. And that's not to mention the TV series and how they fit into the bigger picture. Scratch that nerdy itch by queuing up  your content like so (TV shows are in bold):

  • Captain America: The First Avenger (set in the 1940s during WWII)
  • One Shot: Agent Carter (set in 1944)
  • Marvel's Agent Carter season 1 (set in 1946)
  • Marvel's Agent Carter season 2 (set in 1947)
  • Captain Marvel (set in 1995)
  • Iron Man (set in 2010)
  • Iron Man 2 (2010, immediately follows events in Iron Man)
  • Thor (set around 2010 with Phil Coulson leaving in Iron Man 2 to head to New Mexico)
  • The Incredible Hulk (set around 2010, with the Hulk's rampage noted in Iron Man 2)
  • One Shot: The Consultant (set in 2011)
  • One Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer (set in 2011)
  • The Avengers (set in 2012)
  • One Shot: Item 47 (set in 2012)
  • Iron Man 3 (set in 2012)
  • Thor: The Dark World (set in 2013)
  • Captain America: Winter Soldier (set in 2014)
  • Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 1 (set in 2013)
  • Daredevil season 1 (set in 2014)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (set in 2014)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (set in 2014, a few months after Guardians)
  • Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 2, episodes 1-19 (2015)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (set in in 2015)
  • Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 2, episodes 20-22 (2015)
  • Ant-Man (set in 2015)
  • Jessica Jones season 1 (set in 2015)
  • Daredevil season 2 (set in 2015)
  • Luke Cage season 1 (2015)
  • Agents of Shield season 3 episodes 1-19 (2015)
  • Captain America: Civil War (set in 2016)
  • Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 3, episodes 20-22 (2016)
  • Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 4, episodes 1-8 (2016)
  • Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Slingshot (2016)
  • Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 4, episodes 9-22 (2016)
  • Iron Fist season 1 (set in 2016)
  • The Defenders (set in 2016)
  • Black Panther (set in 2016 in the aftermath of the events of Civil War)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (set in 2016)
  • Doctor Strange (takes place in 2016, after Spider-Man and Black Panther's events play out)
  • Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 5, episodes 1-19 set in (2017)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (set in 2017)
  • Ant-Man and The Wasp (post-credit scene ties into IW, and moves further into the future than, TR timeline-wise)
  • Black Widow (set before the snap - won't hit cinemas until May, 2020)
  • Jessica Jones season 2 (set in 2017)
  • Inhumans season 1 (set in 2017)
  • Luke Cage season 2 (set in 2017)
  • Iron Fist season 2 (set in 2017)
  • Daredevil season 3 (set in 2017)
  • The Punisher season 2 (set in 2017)
  • Jessica Jones season 3 (set in 2017)
  • Runaways season 1 and 2 (set in 2017)
  • Cloak and Dagger season 1 and 2 (set in 2017)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (set place in 2018)
  • Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 5, episodes 19-22 (set in 2018)
  • Iron Fist season 2 (set in 2018)
  • Avengers: Endgame (set in 2018 - 2023, with a lot of time-hopping)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (set in 2023)

Watching Marvel movies in the order they were released

If you'd prefer to watch the actors age in the usual way, and appreciate the increasingly impressive special effects, the only way to watch the MCU movies is by their chronological release:

MCU Phase One

  • Iron Man (2008)
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  • Iron Man 2 (2010)
  • Thor (2011)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  • Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

MCU Phase 2

  • Iron Man 3 (2013)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  • Ant-Man (2015)

MCU Phase 3

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

MCU Phase 4

  • Black Widow (May 1, 2020)
  • The Eternals (November 6, 2020)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (February 12, 2021)
  • Third untitled Spider-Man installment (July 16, 2021)
  • Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 7, 2021)
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (November 5, 2021)

But exactly which of these films is making it to Disney Plus for the streaming service's launch? We don't have a confirmed list just yet, but we can look to the US' version of the streaming service to see what it has on offer, including those films that are dropping later in the year: 

  • 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
  • Avengers: Infinity War (June 25, 2020)
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 29, 2020)

Disney has been pretty slow with the global rollout of its streaming service, which went live in November for some regions. Even with limited reach, Disney Plus amassed a whopping 10 million subscribers in its first 24 hours , but a staggered launch and the absence of popular programmes has lead to some vocal criticism of the platform. 

Disney Plus goes live in the UK on March 24, 2020, so with less than a month to go and a great selection of content from Disney's archives as well as original programming, you can sign up for just £5.99 per month.