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How to watch every Marvel Cinematic Universe film in the perfect order

'Captain America: The First Avenger'

'Iron Man'

'The Incredible Hulk'

'Iron Man 2'


'The Avengers'

'Iron Man 3'

'Thor: The Dark World'

'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'

'Guardians of the Galaxy'

'Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2'

'The Avengers: Age of Ultron'


'Captain America: Civil War'

'Doctor Strange'

'Spider-Man: Homecoming'

'Thor: Ragnarok'

'Black Panther'

'Avengers: Infinity War'

'Ant-Man and the Wasp'

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is full of heroes, villains, explosions and confusing continuity.

Sure, the MCU officially started in 2008 with the release of "Iron Man," but that doesn't mean that's the first film that you should watch.

Instead of watching the multitude of Marvel movies in the order they were released, we've created our own handy guide to viewing the MCU the right way.

Let's start with Phase 1. (And a warning: Spoilers ahead.)

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

Although this 2011 film is the fifth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's the first flick that should be watched because it takes place decades before "Iron Manand "The Avengers." It also introduces viewers to Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, an essential character in the universe. 

Caption by / Photo by Jay Maidment/Marvel

The film that started the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes in as the second movie to watch. "Iron Man," of course, gives us our first glimpse at billionaire playboy Tony Stark as he builds himself a suit of armor.

In the post-credit scene, Nick Fury approaches Stark to discuss the Avengers Initiative.

Caption by / Photo by Zade Rosenthal/Marvel

The events of "The Incredible Hulk" take place simultaneously with those of "Iron Man 2" and "Thor." The Edward Norton-led movie also features a cameo from Stark.

In the alternative opening to the film, Captain America is shown frozen in ice. 

Caption by / Photo by Universal Pictures

Because it includes footage from "The Incredible Hulk" and a post-credit scene featuring Thor's hammer, the second entry in the "Iron Man" franchise fits snugly between "The Incredible Hulk" and "Thor." 

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

With nearly the entire Avengers crew assembled, the only major character missing is the crown prince of Asgard. The first "Thormovie, which takes place at the same as "The Incredible Hulk" and "Iron Man 2," introduces the god of thunder and other characters essential for "The Avengers."

The post-credit scene, directed by Joss Whedon, helps set the stage for the ensemble superhero movie. 

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

Now that the entire superhero squad has been introduced, it's time to see them come together in "The Avengers."

This film marks the conclusion of Phase 1 of the MCU, which introduces the Avengers team and brings them together. Now we enter Phase 2 which begins after the Avengers survive the Battle of New York. 

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

The third "Iron Manmovie, directed by Shane Black, is set six months after the events of "The Avengers." In the film, Stark is still dealing with PTSD-like symptoms following the Battle of New York. 

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

The "Thor" sequel, "Dark World," is set only one year after the events of "The Avengers."

Caption by / Photo by Jay Maidment/Marvel

The sequel to 2011's "First Avengertakes place two years after "The Avengers." In the film, Rogers -- who's now working with S.H.I.E.L.D. -- teams up with Black Widow and Falcon to stop the Winter Soldier, Rogers' best friend Bucky. 

Caption by / Photo by Zade Rosenthal/Marvel

Of course, "Guardians of the Galaxybegins in 1988 when Peter Quill is abducted by aliens after his mother dies. According to a graphic in "GotG," the first film in the franchise takes place 26 years after his abduction, which means this film is set in 2014.

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

Director James Gunn confirmed to Slashfilm that "Vol. 2" is set just three months after the original film, which makes sense since Groot is still a baby in the sequel. Despite fitting into the chronology here, "Vol. 2" is technically a part of Phase 3.

In one of the post-credit scenes, The Grandmaster is seen dancing. He'll appear in "Thor: Ragnarok."

Caption by / Photo by Marvel Studios

The sequel to 2012's "The Avengers" is the penultimate film in Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The ensemble action movie brings together the heroes while introducing the Vision and twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff.

In the post-credit scene, the flick helps set up the future of the MCU by showing Thanos with Ulysses Klaue, villain in the upcoming "Black Panther" film. 

Caption by / Photo by Jay Maidment/Marvel

The final film in Phase 2 of the MCU focuses on Scott Lang, a thief who helps Dr. Hank Pym protect his technology.

Set months after the events of "Age of Ultron," this 2015 film includes a scene that shows Lang trying to infiltrate an Avengers facility -- first seen in "Ultron" -- until he's interrupted by Falcon.  

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

Set one year after "Age of Ultron," "Civil War" acts as a quasi-"Avengers" film. In the movie, the Avengers split into two opposing factions: one led by Captain America and the other by Iron Man.

"Civil War," the first film in Phase 3 of the MCU, also helped set up the franchise for the future by introducing Black Panther and Spider-Man, who both get standalone films later.

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

In the first "Doctor Strange" film, Stephen Strange -- the world's best neurosurgeon -- suffers a career-ending injury after a car crash.

The post-credit scene features a Thor cameo, setting up the third film in that franchise, "Ragnarok."

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

The first standalone "Spider-Man" film since "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (which was not connected to this universe). Starring Tom Holland, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is set several months after "Civil War."

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

Following the events of "Age of Ultron," Thor — who's imprisoned without his mighty hammer — must escape the planet of Sakaar before his homeworld of Asgard is destroyed. 

Caption by / Photo by Jasin Boland/Marvel

Following the events of "Civil War," King T'Challa returns to his homeland, Wakanda. He must protect his country while also preventing the next world war.

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

The sequel to Avengers: Age of Ultron" is set four years after the events of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said to Cinemablend.

In "Infinity War," the Avengers will team with the Guardians to battle Thanos, who is trying to procure the powerful Infinity Stones. 

That four-year gap means the Guardians will have missed major events in the MCU, such as the rise of Ultron; the Sokovia Accords; and the destruction of Pym Technologies. 

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

Based on what we know so far, the "Ant-Man" sequel will take place in the aftermath of "Captain America: Civil War," even though the film will be released after "Avengers: Infinity War." 

Unfortunately, we won't know where this fits on the MCU timeline until there's more information. 

Other upcoming Marvel films include "Captain Marvel"; an untitled "Avengers" sequel; an untitled "Spider-Man" sequel; and "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3." 

Caption by / Photo by Walt Disney Pictures
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