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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. (And a warning: Spoilers ahead.)

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'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. 

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'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.

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'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. 

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'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." 

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'Thor'

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. 

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'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. 

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'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. 

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'Thor: The Dark World'

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

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'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. 

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'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.

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'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."

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'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. 

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'Ant-Man'

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.  

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'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.

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'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."

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'Spider-Man: Homecoming'

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."

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'Thor: Ragnarok'

Following the events of "Age of Ultron," Thor -- imprisoned without his mighty hammer -- must escape the planet of Sakaar before his home world of Asgard is destroyed.

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'Black Panther'

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.

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'Avengers: Infinity War'

The sequel to Avengers: Age of Ultron" is set four years after the events of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2."

In "Infinity War," the Avengers team with fellow superheroes 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. 

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'Ant-Man and the Wasp'

The "Ant-Man" sequel takes place in the aftermath of "Captain America: Civil War," but before "Avengers: Infinity War." 

But! You should still watch this after "Infinity War." Why? Three words: Post. Credit. Scene.

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'Captain Marvel'

This upcoming film is set in the 1990s. But you should still watch it after "Infinity War." The transformation of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) to Captain Marvel will surely influence how the Avengers defeat Thanos.

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'Avengers 4'

This direct sequel to the 2018 smash hit will be the conclusion of a decade-long narrative, according to Marvel Studios' Kevin Feige. 

But we won't know what this means for the MCU until "Avengers 4" is released on May 3, 2019. 

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

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