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

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. Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Photo by: Marvel

'Captain America: The First Avenger'

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. 

Photo by: Jay Maidment/Marvel

'Iron Man'

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.

Photo by: Zade Rosenthal/Marvel

'The Incredible Hulk'

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. 

Photo by: Universal Pictures

'Iron Man 2'

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." 

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. 

Photo by: Marvel

'The Avengers'

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. 

Photo by: Marvel

'Iron Man 3'

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. 

Photo by: Marvel

'Thor: The Dark World'

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

Photo by: Jay Maidment/Marvel

'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'

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. 

Photo by: Zade Rosenthal/Marvel

'Guardians of the Galaxy'

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.

Photo by: Marvel

'Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2'

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."

Photo by: Marvel Studios

'The Avengers: Age of Ultron'

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. 

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.  

Photo by: Marvel

'Captain America: Civil War'

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.

Photo by: Marvel

'Doctor Strange'

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."

Photo by: Marvel

'Spider-Man: Homecoming'

The next film in the MCU is 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."

Photo by: Marvel

'Thor: Ragnarok'

Following the events of "Age of Ultron," Thor is captured and held without his hammer on the planet Sakaar and must defeat his old friend Hulk in a duel to save Asgard from being destroyed in "Thor: Ragnarok." 

Doctor Strange is expected to make an appearance as well.

Photo by: Jasin Boland/Marvel

'Black Panther'

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

Photo by: Marvel


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