Marvel Cinematic Universe: Release or Story Order – How do you MCU?
Are you a seasoned veteran of the Marvel Cinematic Universe wanting to re-watch the twenty-three films again? Or perhaps you are a newcomer that has been meaning to check out the MCU for a while now, but has felt increasingly lost over the years as more and more films have poured out at an alarming rate, and now you are not sure where to start? No matter where you stand, this article is for you. We now have six months until the next film is released because of the coronavirus, which gives you a great chance to catch up…so let us talk about how YOU view the MCU!
First things first…thank you to all of the brave men and women fighting this awful virus on the front lines. You are truly amazing people. The rest of us, however, should be doing our part by staying at home as much as possible to, in turn, help the people on the front lines. This means you may find yourself with some extra time on your hands. Time enough to run through the Marvel Cinematic universe again or maybe even for the first time!
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an unprecedented marvel (pun intended) in cinema history. Beginning with Iron Man in 2008, in a span of just eleven years, and grouped into three phases, the MCU is the culmination of twenty-three wonderfully interconnected films that tell one major overarching narrative, dubbed “The Infinity Saga”. No franchise in history has achieved anything close to the likes of what Marvel Studios has done. Since 2013, Marvel fans have been spoiled to at least two MCU films a year and three films in 2017, 2018, and 2019! Due to the global pandemic, this year will be the first year since 2012 that we will get only one film, Black Widow, due out November 6th, Bast-willing theaters are opened back up by then. Luckily, Marvel Studios ended phase three and the entire Infinity Saga this past summer with Spider-man: Far From Home. In my opinion, this breather is a great time for anyone who wants a catch up/rewatch.
Now, I have assembled a list of the films in the order in which I like to enjoy them, along with an explanation as to why, but I want to know how YOU view the MCU! If you don’t know already from the similar article I did over at, Star Wars News Net , I am a story order kind of guy. I know a few people who are rigid release order people, *cough..my brothers* , but I truly believe that story order is better. Take it from someone who first watched all twenty-three films in release order. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is nearly in story order anyway. In fact, the first eight movies are in release order. There are just a few here and there after the first eight that get moved around to get the timeline straight. Just remember, there is no right or wrong way to enjoy these movies. Whether you like to watch the films in release, story, or all chopped up in a funky, unique order, it’s all good! This is a fun and friendly discussion. I’m not going to get into a review for the films or explain in detail the plot of the films as to avoid spoilers.
Newbies, use this article as a suggested guide as you begin your amazing journey, but don’t read the descriptions until after you’ve seen the film if you wish to avoid any SPOILERS. Without further ado, I present to you the story order of the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
1. Iron Man (2008) – Start with the film that started it all. It is the perfect beginning to the MCU. A solid stand-alone film, with only hints of a shared universe to come. In the film, you meet Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and witness how he becomes Iron Man.
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), (2) James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine (Terrence Howard) – future Avenger, (3) Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), (4) Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) – S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and (5) J.A.R.V.I.S. (voiced by Paul Bettany). In the end-credit scene, (6) Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) – Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes his first appearance, telling Tony about the Avengers Initiative.
Note: Iron Man is the first of only two films with actor changes for a major character in the whole of the MCU. Terrence Howard plays James Rhodes/War Machine in this film. Don Cheadle assumes the role of James Rhodes here on out after this film.
2. The Incredible Hulk (2008) – Takes place after the events of Iron Man but nearly simultaneously with the events of Iron Man 2. Not an origin story but close enough. The plot shows Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) dealing with his newly acquired, raging alter-ego, The Hulk. In the end-credit scene, Tony Stark visits Ross in a bar and proceeds to tell him “what if I told you we were putting a team together?”, hinting at Fury’s Avengers Initiative.
Note: The Incredible Hulk is the second of only two films with actor changes for a major character. Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner/The Hulk in this film. Mark Ruffalo assumes the role of Bruce Banner here on out after this film. Best part of the film is Lou Ferrigno’s cameo as the security guard at Culver University. “God bless you, brother.”
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt), and a “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo of Peter Parker’s future academic decathlon coach, (2) Mr. Harrington (Martin Starr).
Returning Character(s): Tony Stark
3. Iron Man 2 (2010) – The film that, for me, kicks the Marvel Cinematic Universe into high gear. Iron Man 2 marks the first time we get a glimpse at an infinity stone. The Tesseract, or space stone is shown as a sketch in one of Howard Stark’s journals. It is known that the events of this film take place during The Incredible Hulk as per Kevin Feige, president at Marvel Studios. There is a brief shot of a TV screen depicting news coverage at Culver University, which The Hulk just recently tore up, but more importantly, Iron Man 2 takes place during the beginning events of Thor. During Iron Man 2, Nick Fury tells Tony he is dealing with an issue in New Mexico to which Fury sends Agent Phil Coulson to investigate. In the end-credit scene we see Agent Coulson drive up to a massive crater in New Mexico, where, at the center of this crater rests Thor’s hammer.
Major recurring characters introduced: This movie introduces major player, and soon to be Avenger, (1) Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) as well as, (2) Howard Stark (John Slattery) – Tony Stark’s father. Another worth mentioning is (3) Senator Stern (Garry Shandling).
Returning Character(s): Tony Stark/Iron Man, Pepper Potts, Nick Fury, Rhodey/War Machine, Happy Hogan, agent Phil Coulson, J.A.R.V.I.S.
4. Thor (2011) – As if the title wasn’t a dead giveaway, we get to meet the mighty God of Thunder, Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth) and witness how his hammer winds up in New Mexico. Thor is not an origin story. It is more a coming of age story for Thor, as well as the story of Loki’s downfall. In the end-credit scene we get our very first look at an infinity stone as Nick Fury invites Dr. Eric Selvig to study the power of the Tesseract (space stone), which has been in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s possession for a long time. During the scene, Fury is explaining to Selvig the Tesseract’s potential. Loki appears as a kind of apparition of sorts and whispers “Well, I guess that’s worth a look”, to which Dr. Selvig repeats the same words to Fury a second later.
Major recurring characters introduced: This film introduces a slew of major recurring characters including the beloved (1) Loki (Tom Hiddleston), God of Mischief, Thor’s adopted brother and chief villain of both this film, and Marvel’s The Avengers. Additionally, we meet for the first time another soon to be Avenger, (2) Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), (3) Odin (Anthony Hopkins) Thor’s father and ruler of Asgard and the nine realms, (4) Frigga (Renee Russo) – Thor’s mother, (5) Dr. Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) – scientist, (6) Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) – scientist and Thor’s love interest, and (7) Heimdall (Idris Elba) -the all-seeing protector of the Bifröst in Asgard. Also worth mentioning is S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, (8) Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández) and Thor’s friends and warrior team who call themselves (9)”Lady Sif and the Warriors Three.”
Returning Character(s): Agent Phil Coulson (Son of Coul to Thor), Nick Fury.
5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – Some story order people will say to watch this film first, before Iron Man. I say don’t do it. I know this is a matter of personal preference but I’ll tell you why…
- This movie begins and ends in the current timeline, between Thor and Marvel’s The Avengers. Yes, it is an origin story about how Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) becomes Captain America in the mid-40’s, but it is a flashback. We begin in the present with people discovering Cap’s frozen body, and end in the present with him waking up confused and running around Times Square only to be stopped by Nick Fury who tells Cap what happened.
- The movie’s main McGuffin is the Tesseract. You find out where the Tesseract came from and how it came to be in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s possession. Information that would not make sense to you unless you watched Thor first.
- The end-credit scene shows Fury recruiting Cap with a mission that has to do with the Tesseract and the coming events, but then, the end-credit scene morphs into a full blown trailer for Marvel’s The Avengers. I mean how much more than that do you need?
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) Margret “Peggy” Carter (Hayley Atwell) – S.H.I.E.L.D. co-founder, (2) Sgt. James “Bucky” Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) – Steve Rogers’ best friend, (3) Johann Schmidt/Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) – leader of Hydra, (4) Dr. Zola (Toby Jones) – Schmidt’s leading scientist.
Returning Character(s): Nick Fury, Howard Stark.
Note: Dominic Cooper portrays a young Howard Stark in the 1940’s.
6. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) – After just four years and five solid films, Marvel Studios released the first Avengers team-up! We see Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye meet for the first time at the request of Nick Fury to counter the invasion of Loki and his army. At the end of Thor, Loki escapes the grip of Thor and Odin. Sometime since, we learn in this movie that Loki somehow found Thanos and made a deal with him. The bargain is that Loki is to deliver the Tesseract (space stone), which is in the possession of S.H.I.E.L.D., to Thanos in exchange for the licence to rule the Earth. To help him succeed, Loki is given an army of aliens called the Chitauri and a scepter, which has the power of mind control.
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) – S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and one of the universes biggest baddies, (2) Thanos (silent and unnamed in this film he is eventually voiced by Josh Brolin)
Returning Character(s): Tony Stark/Iron Man, Steve Rogers/Captain America, Pepper Potts, J.A.R.V.I.S., agent Phil Coulson, Nick Fury, Bruce Banner/Hulk, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Thor, Loki, Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Dr. Eric Selvig, Jasper Sitwell.
Note: This film marks the second appearance of an infinity stone. The stone, however is not revealed at this point. This film also marks the end of phase 1.
7. Iron Man 3 (2013) – The first film of phase 2, Iron Man 3 is set in the months after Marvel’s The Avengers. We see Tony suffering from post traumatic stress disorder due to the events of the battle of New York (Marvel’s The Avengers). The end-credit scene shows that Tony, who narrates from time to time throughout the film, has been telling this story to Bruce Banner as a kind of therapy to his P.T.S.D.
Returning Character(s): Tony Stark/Iron Man, Pepper Potts, J.A.R.V.I.S., Rhodey/War Machine, Happy Hogan, Bruce Banner.
8. Thor: The Dark World (2013) – Also set shortly after Marvel’s The Avengers, we see Thor escort an apprehended Loki back to Asgard where we learn his fate for his crimes in New York. Thor also brings the Tesseract (space stone) back to Asgard. Thor deals with an ancient threat called the Dark Elves and their quest to reacquire the Aether, a mysterious and powerful “sludge”. We learn at the end of the film that Loki has assumed the form of his adopted father, Odin, and now sits at the throne of Asgard. Where has Odin gone?
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) Taneleer Tivan/The Collector (Benicio del Toro)
Returning Character(s): Thor, Loki, Odin, Frigga, Heimdall, Jane Foster, Dr. Eric Selvig, Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, Steve Rogers/Captain America (sort of).
Note: This film marks the third appearance of an infinity stone, the Aether (reality stone). In the end-credit scene we see Lady Sif and the Warriors Three take the contained Aether to Taneleer Tivan/The Collector for safe keeping. We learn that the Tesseract is indeed an infinity stone as the Asgardians explain to Tivan the reason they are bringing the Aether (reality stone) to him for safe keeping…because “The Tesseract is already on Asgard. It is not wise to keep two infinity stones so close together.”
9. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – This is where I shake things up a bit. Watch Guardians of the Galaxy next because of the end-credit scene in Thor: The Dark World. The scene introduces The Collector who has a big role in this movie, but also is the perfect scene to get you in the mood for Guardians of the Galaxy with it’s tone and color palate.
- Taking place in 2014, this film tells the story of how the Guardians of the Galaxy become a team, but also shows Thanos employing another minion to retrieve an infinity stone for him. This time, it’s Ronan the Accuser sent to retrieve the orb (power stone) located on the planet Morag. The Guardians acquire the orb and take it to Tanelleer Tivan/The Collector, who, for the first time on-screen, explains the six infinity stones. The Guardians lose the orb to Ronan but eventually defeat him and give the orb to the safe hands of Nova Prime (Glenn Close), leader of the Nova Corps., who places the orb deep in the vaults of her planet, Xandar.
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), (2) Gamora (Zoe Saldana) – adopted daughter of Thanos, (3) Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), (4) Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), (5) Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), (6) Nebula (Karen Gillan) – adopted daughter of Thanos, (7) Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), (8) Kraglin (Sean Gunn), (9) Korath (Djimon Hounsou), and (10) Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) – a Kree radical.
Returning Character(s): Thanos, Taneleer Tivan/The Collector
Note: This film marks the fourth appearance on an infinity stone, the orb (power stone).
10. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) – Yes, this film came out in 2017 during phase 3, but, it takes place in 2014, only a couple months after the events of Guardians of the Galaxy. The film opens on a brief scene of Peter Quill’s parents in 1980, then jumps to the present with a subtitle “34 years later”…2014. I watch Guardians Vol. 2 next not only because it takes place shortly after the first Guardians, but because:
- It does not do much to advance the Infinity Saga forward. It mainly continues narrative begun in the first Guardians.
- It is clear that a few years have passed by when seeing the Guardians appear in later films.
- Guardians of the Galaxy is such a fun movie, jam packed with loads of humor and classic songs from the 60’s and 70’s, that you’re going to just want to keep riding that wave!
- The rest of the films in this list represent a clear and logical path straight to the end of the line, mainly set on Earth, from 2014 to the current time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Throwing Guardians Vol.2 in this thread, to me, is confusing and takes me out of the over-arching narrative.
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) Mantis (Pom Klementieff)
Returning Character(s): Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Nebula, Yondu, Kraglin.
Note: Stay tuned for an update in this section after”Guardians 3″ Is released. Hopefully I can expand upon The Sovereign and High Priestess Ayesha’s current creation in the making, “Adam”.
11. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – (Meanwhile, back on Earth) Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the beginning of the end. It the beginning of thirteen films that flow together logically and smoothly, starting with the breakdown of Captain America.
- In this action packed spy thriller, Cap learns that Hydra did not die with the defeat of the Red Skull back in ’45, but in fact has been infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. and causing havoc for the last seventy years. Agents such as Jasper Sitwell, Brock Rumlow, Senator Stern, and Dr. Zola are among those double agents secretly working for Hydra, with the head of the World Security Council, Alexander Pierce as Hydra’s current Leader. Cap also learns that his best friend, Bucky Barnes is alive. Barnes, thought to have been killed on a mission in Captain America: The First Avenger, was discovered by Hydra in 1945 who painfully transformed Barnes into the Winter Soldier, a mind-controlled super soldier who has been committing atrocities for Hydra over the last seventy years.
- Captain America, with the help with his new friend Sam Wilson and Natasha Romanoff, thwart Hydra’s latest and last attempt at world domination in a battle taking place in Washington D.C., but the damage had already been done. S.H.I.E.L.D. is gone, Bucky escapes into hiding and Cap starts to doubt who he is fighting for.
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) – future Avenger, (2) Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) – future Avenger, (3)Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) – S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and niece to Peggy Carter, (4) Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo) – S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, (5) Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) – head of the World Security council, secret Hydra mastermind.
Returning Character(s): Steve Rogers/Captain America, Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Nick Fury, Peggy Carter, Maria Hill, Dr. Zola, Jasper Sitwell, Senator Stern.
Note: In one of the two end-credit scenes, we see that a Hydra scientist, Baron von Strucker, has Loki’s scepter and used it to create two enhanced individuals, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, and her twin brother, Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver. After Loki’s defeat in Marvel’s The Avengers, Thor took Loki and the Tesseract to Asgard, but the scepter remained with S.H.I.E.L.D., and since S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated with Hydra, it makes sense it made it’s way to Baron von Strucker…but I wonder how?
12. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – Over the last year since Hydra’s public reemergence in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Avengers have been busting up the last remaining pockets of Hydra, looking for Loki’s scepter. Avengers: Age of Ultron opens up with the team of superheroes knocking on Baron von Strucker’s door. With only slight interference by the Maximoff twins, the Avengers easily retrieve the scepter. Before Tony Stark grabs the Scepter, Wanda Maximoff puts a vision in his mind of the Chitauri army returning, as well as a vision of his teammates lying around him bloodied and dying. Cap grabs Tony and tells him that he could’ve saved us. This vision sticks with Tony, to say the least.
- Tony, driven by his vision, creates what he dreads from the power of the scepter. Ultron, a good intentioned pipe dream of Tony’s to be an artificial intelligent “suit of armor around the world”, comes to life with the intent to destroy humanity. For a moment, the Maximoff twins help Ultron because of their hatred of Tony Stark, but have a change of heart when they learn of Ultron’s plan. The twins come to the aide of the Avengers.
- It is revealed in this film that Loki’s scepter is indeed housing an infinity stone, the mind stone. To keep Ultron from obtaining the mind stone, the Avengers meld the stone with an artificial body and J.A.R.V.I.S., to create Vision, a very powerful new being with J.A.R.V.I.S.’ voice.
- In an attempt to end the world, Ultron lifts the capital city of Sokovia into the sky using drones and vibranium, only to drop it when high enough which would create an extinction-level event on the world. However, the Avengers prevail, defeat Ultron, and find a way to slowly bring Sokovia back down to earth. Massive casualties occur during the battle.
- Before Wanda Maximoff becomes good, she hits the Avengers hard by inflicting temporary visions in their heads. Thor has a vision of the infinity gauntlet, the device Thanos uses to hold and wield the infinity stones. After Ultron is defeated, Thor goes off in search of anything he can find about the stones. Bruce Banner’s vision caused the Hulk to tear up a port town in Africa. This embarrassment causes Hulk to fly off unbeknownst to the team in the Avenger’s Quinjet after Ultron’s defeat.
- At the end of the film, Rhodey/War Machine, Sam Wilson/The Falcon, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlett Witch, and Vision all become Avengers, officially.
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis)
Returning Character(s): Tony Stark/Iron Man, Steve Rogers/Captain America, J.A.R.V.I.S./Vision, Rhodey/War Machine, Bruce Banner/Hulk, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Thor, Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Sam Wilson/The Falcon, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Peggy Carter, Heimdall, Dr. Eric Selvig, Thanos.
Note: In the end-credit scene, Thanos opens an automated vault, grabs the infinity gauntlet within the vault, and says “Fine…I’ll do it myself.”
13. Ant-Man (2015) – Set shortly after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-man is an origin story about how Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) becomes Ant-Man. Hank Pym mentions the battle of Sokovia as a recent event. During the film Ant-Man, who is trying to borrow a piece of technology from what was believed to be an old Howard Stark storage building, has an encounter with The Falcon who is guarding the (what used to be the old Stark building) new Avengers facility in upstate New York. Ant-Man is the official end of phase 2.
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas)-inventor of the Pym Particle and the original Ant-Man, (2) Hope van Dyne/The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly)- daughter of Hank Pym, (3) Cassie Lang (Abby Ryder Fortson) – daughter of Scott Lang, (4) Luis (Michael Peña)- friend of Scott Lang.
Returning Character(s): Howard Stark, Peggy Carter, Sam Wilson/The Falcon, Steve Rogers/Captain America, Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier.
Note: In the first end-credit scene, Hank shows Hope a prototype Wasp suit, telling Hope that it’s hers. In the second end-credit scene we see Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers with a captured Bucky Barnes. We get the feeling Sam and Steve are on the run from something or someone. After Cap says that they are alone, Sam replies, “Maybe not….I know a guy”
14. Captain America: Civil War (2016) – Set one year after Sokovia, and unofficially called “Avengers 2.5”, Captain America: Civil War is an Avengers movie in all but name. The only two Avengers not in this film are Thor, who is off trying to find out about the infinity stones, and Bruce Banner/Hulk, well…we still don’t know where he is since taking off with the Quinjet in Avengers: Age of Ultron. This movie, which kicks off phase 3, is one of the best, action packed, emotional films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- A new set of laws called the Sokovia Accords, which would restrict the Avengers, is passed. These Accords, plus a rogue Sokovian Colonel named Helmut Zemo, who lost his entire family in the battle of Sokovia, tear the Avengers completely apart.
- By the end of the film, Tony, Rhodey, and Vision are the only ones left as “Avengers”. Steve Rogers drops his identity as Captain America and busts Wanda, Clint, Sam and Scott out of prison and officially leaves the Avengers.
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), (2) T’Chaka (John Kani) – father of T’Challa and king of Wakanda, (3) Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), (4) May Parker (Marisa Tomei), (5) Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) – CIA, (6) Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) – Sokovian Colonel turned terrorist.
Returning Character(s): Steve Rogers/Captain America, Tony Stark/Iron Man, Rhodey/War Machine, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier, Sam Wilson/The Falcon, Vision, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Scott Lang/Ant-Man, Sharon Carter, Thunderbolt Ross, Brock Rumlow/Crossbones.
Note: In the first end-credit scene we see Steve bring Bucky to T’Challa in Wakanda. There, Bucky goes under cryogenic freezing until the Wakandans can figure out how to get the Winter Soldier brainwashing out of his head. The second end-credit scene shows Peter Parker discovering some of the technological goodies that came with the brand new Spider-Man suit Tony made for him.
15. Black Panther (2018) – Beginning one week after the events of Captain America: Civil War, we see T’Challa preparing to become king of Wakanda due to his father’s untimely death during the bombing at the Sokovia Accords conference in Vienna. In the film, T’Challa deals with a dangerous foe, his cousin, Erik Stevens/Kill Monger, who is a monster created by a mistake made by T’challa’s father, T’Chaka, in the 90’s while he was a younger king of Wakanda.
- I watch this film after Captain America: Civil War only out of personal preference due to the fact that the Black Panther end-credit scene in Civil War appears first. Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming happen around the same time of each other. It does not matter going forward which of these two films you watch first.
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) Okoye (Danai Gurira) – Head of the Wakandan special forces, the Dora Milaje, (2) Shuri (Letitia Wright) – T’Challa’s sister and lead Wakandan technology scientist, (3) M’Baku (Winston Duke) – leader of the Jabari tribe.
Returning Character(s): T’Challa/Black Panther, T’Chaka, Everett Ross, Ulysses Klaue, Bucky Barnes.
Note: The end-credit scene shows Shuri checking up on an unfrozen, recovering Bucky Barnes, still resting in Wakanda. Looks like she may have gotten the Winter Soldier out of his head.
16. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – This film actually begins during Captain America: Civil War with home footage shot by Peter who was documenting his experience in helping Tony Stark stop Cap at the airport in Germany. Then, the movie goes right into the events following Civil War with Happy and Tony taking Peter home. Tony allows Peter to keep the new suit and warns him not to get in over his head. Tony also tells him the he and Happy will “watch over him”, if you will. Jumping two months later where the remainder of this story happens, Peter struggles with his new found abilities as well as being a kid and knowing his limits.
The film concludes with Happy taking Peter to the new Avengers facility where Tony and Pepper are waiting, to make Spider-Man the newest official member of the Avengers with a spiffy new spidey suit and all. Peter turns them down for the time being, but who knows…maybe he will don the suit and become an Avenger soon?
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) Ned (Jacob Batalon) – Peter Parker’s best friend, (2) MJ (Zendaya)
Returning Character(s): Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Tony Stark/Iron Man, Happy Hogan, May Parker, Pepper Potts, Steve Rogers/Captain America.
Note: The film opens up in 2012 with Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) and his crew losing the contract to clean up the city to Tony Stark’s Division of Damage Control after the battle of New York (In the first Avengers film). Disgruntled, Toomes decides to keep some of the exotic Chitauri weaponry to spite Stark. The film flashes forward with the subtitle “8 Years Later”, to Toomes, now the Vulture, and his crew as a fully functional black market arms dealer who makes weapons from the Chitauri technology. Pay no attention to the “8 Years Later”. This is indeed a mistake. The film takes place in 2016/2017 which is only 4/5 years after the battle of New York. I just with they’d change it already!
17. Doctor Strange (2016) – Taking place sometime after Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange is an origin story about how Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) becomes Dr. Strange…I mean, how he becomes not only a Master of the Mystic Arts, but the Sorcerer Supreme and guardian of the Eye of Agamotto. This film is a visual psychedelic trip and a wild ride…one of my favorites!
- I watch Doctor Strange at this point because it is confirmed that the film takes place in 2017 but mainly because the end credit scene flows right into Thor: Ragnarok. In the scene we see Thor sitting with Dr. Strange, having a beer, and discussing the whereabouts of Thor’s father, Odin. Good thing Strange knows exactly where Odin is.
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) – Sorcerer Supreme of the Mystic Arts and guardian of the Eye of Agamotto, (2) Wong (Benedict Wong) – Master of the Mystic Arts.
Returning Character(s): Thor.
Note: Doctor Strange marks the fifth appearance of an infinity stone. At the end of the film it is revealed that the Eye of Agamotto is housing the time stone.
18. Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – Taking place in 2017/2018, Thor: Ragnarok opens on Thor who explains what he’s been up to the last two years.
- Much happens to Thor in this movie. He learns that Loki is alive and has been portraying Odin since the events of Thor: The Dark World, and that Loki put a powerful spell on Odin and left him at an old folks home in New York City…which is where Dr. Strange comes in. Thor loses his father, his hammer, an eye, gets his hair chopped off unwillingly, and loses his home world of Asgard to his evil older sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), who he also just learned existed.
- Loki, surprisingly mostly on Thor’s side in this movie, is sent to the vaults deep in Asgard to retrieve a weapon to defeat Hela. On his way to the weapon he passes by the Tesseract, which has been there since the end of Marvel’s The Avengers, as he passes, he takes a nice long stare…
- We also learn where Bruce Banner/Hulk has been the last two years. After Thor meets up with Hulk, and as Asgard is meeting it’s demise, the two of them, along with Loki, Valkyrie, Korg, and the remaining citizens of Asgard, board a ship and escape.
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), (2) Korg (Taika Waititi)
Returning Character(s): Thor, Loki, Odin, Heimdall, Bruce Banner/Hulk, Dr. Stephen Strange, The Warriors Three (no Lady Sif).
Note: The end is nigh. In the end-credit scene, a shadow comes upon the Asgardian’s ship. It is the massive ship of Thanos. It has begun…
19. Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – Set sometime in 2018, Avengers: Infinity War opens with Thanos and his minions just finishing up their devastation of the Asgardian’s ship. Thanos has set the plan he’s been orchestrating for many years into high gear…
- In this film we learn that Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, and Natasha Romanoff have been together for sometime after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Perhaps we will find out the when and how they get together in the upcoming Black Widow, due out November 6th, 2020. We learn that Wanda and Vision ran off together, and that Scott Lang, and Clint Barton took a plea bargain which placed them both on house arrest.
- Thanos’ plan is to acquire all six stones. With all six stones and a snap of his fingers, “he could destroy life on a scale hitherto undreamt of.” Do the Avengers prevail and defeat the Mad Titan? Does Thanos get all the Stones and wipe out half of all life in the universe? Watch the movie and find out!
Returning Character(s): Tony Stark/Iron Man, Steve Rogers/Captain America, Bruce Banner/Hulk, Rhodey/War Machine, Pepper Potts, Vision, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Bucky Barnes, Sam Wilson/The Falcon, Thor, Loki, Heimdall, Dr. Stephen Strange, Wong, Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Nebula, Mantis, Taneleer Tivan/The Collector, Johann Schmidt/Red Skull, T’Challa/Black Panther, Okoye, Shuri, M’Baku, Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Ned, Thunderbolt Ross, Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Thanos.
Note: This film marks the sixth and final infinity stone to make its debut, the soul stone.
Note 2: In the end-credit scene, Nick Fury, in dire trouble, pulls out a pager and hits send just before it falls to the ground. A message has been sent to someone whos symbol, by the screen on the pager, bares a gold star in the center of a red and blue outfit…
20. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) – Taking place during the events of Avengers: Infinity War, we see Scott Lang in his final days of house arrest. Meanwhile, Hope van Dyne has become the Wasp. She and her dad, Hank Pym, have also been building a quantum tunnel to retrieve her mom from going sub-atomic and being stuck in the Quantum Realm.
- This movie is a fun, light-hearted adventure…a much needed change from the emotional roller-coaster ride that is Avengers: Infinity War. The biggest take-away in this film is the Quantum tunnel, technology that will be heavily used in a later film.
- Some story order people will tell you to watch this movie before Infinity War. Even if you’ve seen all of the movies before, why spoil Infinity War’s big ending with the end-credit scene of Ant-Man and the Wasp? This is just another surprise.
Returning Character(s): Scott Lang/Ant-Man, Cassie Lang, Hope van Dyne/The Wasp, Dr. Hank Pym, Luis.
21. Captain Marvel (2019) – The origin story of how Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) becomes Captain Marvel. Set in the 90’s, we get to see a younger Nick Fury and agent Phil Coulson. Carol befriends Fury over the course of the film. She takes his state-of-the-art pager and soups it up so that he can contact her wherever she happens to be in the universe. We find out why the Avengers are called the Avengers, and also learn how Fury loses vision in his left eye.
Again, some people will say to watch this film all the way back before Iron Man. Being a stickler on how movies begin and end, I say no way. The end (mid)-credit scene is a new scene that takes place between Infinity War and Endgame. We see the Avengers studying the pager Fury dropped in Infinity War. The pager goes dead, and seconds later Captain Marvel appears asking “Where’s Fury?”
Major recurring characters introduced: (1) Talos (Ben Mendelsohn)- leader of the Skrulls, (2) Soren (Sharon Blynn) – wife of Talos.
Recurring Character(s): Nick Fury, agent Phil Coulson, Ronan the Accuser, Korath.
22. Avengers: Endgame (2019) – There is a reason Avenger’s Endgame is the current highest grossing film worldwide. There is a reason that I’ve read a story about a movie-goer being carted out of the film because of uncontrollable crying. Honestly, I’ve never heard of anything like that before. It is because Endgame is the culmination of an eleven year, twenty-two movie story arc. Eleven years people have been getting to know these characters and following their journeys through the difficult and the triumphant. That kind of time spent with these characters will surely have an effect on people. Now, I know these films are not viewed. critically, as the greatest of all time, but you have to admit that no other studio has done what Marvel Studios has done in a relatively short amount of time. I admit, not since the end of Return of the Jedi, after watching the original Star Wars trilogy back to back for the first time have I been so emotional about a movie.
- Thanos had done what he set out to do, which was to find the six stones and wipe out half of all life including many of the heroes we have grown to love over the years. Avengers: Endgame opens up during the end of Infinity War with one more surprise…as if we haven’t had enough already.
- The film then proceeds to a few weeks after the events of Infinity War, and now with the help of Captain Marvel, the Avengers have another go at defeating Thanos.
- That’s it. That is all I am going to say about Avengers: Endgame at this point. If you have followed along with me, you’ve made it to the end. Sure, there is one more film to discuss but this movie is the true end, and should be the end of phase 3. So let’s talk about Spider-Man: Far From Home, shall we?
Major Character Introduced: Morgan Stark.
Returning Character(s): Tony Stark/Iron Man, Steve Rogers/Captain America, Peggy Carter, Bruce Banner/Hulk, Rhodey/War Machine, Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan, Howard Stark, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Bucky Barnes, Sam Wilson/The Falcon, Thor, Loki, Frigga, Jane Foster, Valkyrie, Korg, Dr. Stephen Strange, Wong, the Ancient One, Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Nebula, Mantis, Scott Lang/Ant-Man, Cassie Lang, Hope van Dyne/The Wasp, Dr. Hank Pym, Janet van Dyne, Johann Schmidt/Red Skull, T’Challa/Black Panther, Okoye, Shuri, M’Baku, Peter Parker/Spider-Man, May Parker, Ned, Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, Thunderbolt Ross, Jasper Sitwell, Rumlow, Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Alexander Pierce, Thanos.
23. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) – Serving as an epilogue to Avengers: Endgame, Spiderman: Far From Home is the official end of phase 3. Personally I feel it would’ve made a decent start to phase 4, as a whole new can of worms get opened up in this movie but I don’t work for Marvel Studio’s.
- Spider-man: Far From Home is set eight months after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Peter Parker, looking forward to a long break from everything, including being Spider-Man, embarks on a school trip to Europe. But trouble does not take a holiday. Peter finds himself on mission with Nick Fury and Maria Hill to battle a terrible new threat to the world.
Major Character Introduced: The one and only J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons)
Returning Character(s): Peter Parker/Spider-Man, May Parker, Happy Hogan, Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Ned, MJ, Mr. Harrington, Talos and Soren.
Note: Since Spider-Man: Far From Home is the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the two end-credit scenes have not been played out as of yet, so I will not be spoiling them at this point. They are, however, the two biggest shocks of the film, and really gets me pumped for what is to come…
24? Black Widow (2020, TBD) – Where will Black Widow fall on this list? Only time will tell. We do know that the film is set between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, but how the film begins and/or ends will be the deciding factor.
Well, that is all for now! Thank you for coming with me on this journey. I hope this has been an easy to follow guide through this massive set of films. It is my intention to keep this article live and updated as we get into all the exciting films and Disney+ shows that are to come! This is how I MCU. How do you enjoy the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Stay safe everyone.
Bobby Long is a life-long fan of Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Marvel Cinematic Universe, Disney and The Simpsons who spends much of his free time running through all his favorite films…again and again. He has a beautiful fiancee, a beautiful daughter, and two of the cutest doggies you’d ever seen. He is eternally grateful to MovieNewsNet for giving him the opportunity to write about his passion.