Clearly not every marvel movie is part of the MCU. Off the top of my head, there is:

  • Tobey Macguire Spiderman 1, 2, and 3

  • Andrew Garfield Spiderman 1 and 2

  • Fantastic Four and Rise of the Silver Surfer

  • New Fantastic Four

  • Deadpool

  • The bagillion XMen movies

  • Hulk (Not "The Incredible Hulk")

So if all of these Marvel movies aren't part of the MCU, why are the Iron Man, Thor, Avengers, Captain America and other series part of the MCU?

I can think of a couple reasons they might not count. For example, both Spiderman series and the original Hulk don't count because they have new versions of the same character. But this doesn't explain all of them.

Another reason I thought of is that a movie doesn't count as part of the MCU until it clearly establishes a continuity with the world of Iron Man and The Avengers. This would explain for example, Deadpool, XMen, and Fantastic Four. But this still doesn't explain a couple of things. For example, Ant-man had no shared continuity until Civil-War came out. And Guardians of the Galaxy has no continuity with the avengers, at least, that has been revealed yet (although I would not be surprised if this happens with Infinity-Wars). I still don't even know if Guardians of the Galaxy happens before or after The Avengers. And yet, both of these movies count as part of the MCU.

So how can you clearly determine whether or not any given movie is officially part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

  • Questions are different, answers are the same. It boils down to rights that were sold off.
    – phantom42
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 22:27
  • While the answer to the linked duplicate question is quite comprehensive, the answer to this question is very simple: Only films and TV series produced by Marvel Studios are part of the MCU. Because the films you list above are produced by other film studios, without Marvel Studios' involvement, they have their own universes.
    – recognizer
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 22:33
  • 2
    Also, note that there are in fact preestablished connections between Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy and preceding MCU films. Guardians of the Galaxy shows Thanos as the power behind its villains, and he first appeared in a post-credits scene in the first Avengers movie. Ant-Man has a cameo from Falcon, who first appeared in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
    – recognizer
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 22:34
  • 2
    Ant-Man also had appearances by Peggy Carter and Howard Stark, pre-existing characters within the MCU.
    – phantom42
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 22:37
  • 1
    When a mummy Marvel Cinematic Universe movie and a daddy Marvel Cinematic Universe movie love each other very much, they get together; sometimes they make a Civil War, sometimes we’re unlucky and they make a Doctor Strange. Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 23:30

2 Answers 2


tl;dr: A movie is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe when Marvel Studios says it is.

So far, that includes all the movies Marvel made on their own, without another movie studio involved. Unfortunately, thanks to Spider-Man, things are about to become more complicated, and the only way to know which movies are MCU is to see if Disney says they are.

I have a huge blog post on the Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog that's in the process of being published, but basically, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (also known as Earth-199999) is a designation for a shared universe made up of movies and television shows that are produced directly by Marvel Studios, distributed originally by Paramount and now by Walt Disney(*), based on characters from their mainstream comic book series.

All of these movies are intended to take place in the same "reality" -- they occur in the same physical universe along the same timeline, and whenever a given character appears in more than one movie, they are the same character with the same history.

So far, every movie produced directly by Marvel Studios, and every television show produced by ABC Studios (Disney's television arm) has been included in this category. In most cases, the connection is obvious, because there's a ton of crossover, but even in cases where there isn't (such as Guardians of the Galaxy), the crossover is going to happen in the future, it just hasn't.

Other Marvel movies, produced by other studios like Fox (X-Men) or Sony (Spider-Man), are not part of this universe(**) because Marvel has or had no control over their content. Those movies existed in their own cinematic universes, most of which were isolated to just one franchise (though the X-Men Cinematic Universe also includes Deadpool). Creatively, these movies share nothing in common with the MCU movies.

Thus, the way to tell if a movie is part of the MCU is to see if it fits into the same storyline as all the other movies in the MCU. The good news is, Marvel keeps a convenient list of movies, and the Marvel Wikia keeps an even more detailed list of all MCU media. So far as I've seen, those lists are kept in pretty much up-to-date, though obviously the first one is the more authoritative.

(*) There is one exception to this general rule: for historical reasons, when Marvel Studios makes an Incredible Hulk movie, Universal Studios distributes it.

(**) Another special case: future Spider-Man movies will still be made by Columbia Pictures and distributed by Sony, but with direct creative involvement from Marvel. Past Spider-Man movies are their own thing, but future ones will be MCU.

  • FWIW, the crossover between Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers did happen in Avengers: Infinity War. Commented May 23, 2018 at 12:17
  • As of early this AM, Disney has completed their acquisition of Fox so any future X-men, Deadpool or Fantastic Four movies could potentially be part of the MCU. As opposed to the Venom spinoff or future Spider-Man movies beyond a third contracted film Tom Holland has signed up for. It's gonna get interesting in the next couple of months
    – m1gp0z
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 16:03

The answer is simple: none of the movies you mentioned featured characters that Marvel Studios had the full film rights to (in some cases they could produce the movie but not distribute it). This article has a handy guide to which Marvel characters are owned by which studios:

enter image description here

Note that the original Hulk and subsequent Incredible Hulk were distributed by Universal Pictures, but Marvel Studios got the rights to use the Hulk in The Avengers, though as @RedCaio pointed out and as discussed in this article, Marvel Studios doesn't have the rights to distribute a solo Hulk film. Likewise, although Marvel Studios currently has the rights to Blade and Ghost Rider, the movies featuring those characters were made before that (the Blade movies were from New Line Cinema, the Ghost Rider movies were from Columbia Pictures).

  • 1
    Marvel Studios doesn't have the rights to make a solo-Hulk film, only for including Hulk in team up films.
    – RedCaio
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 0:25
  • 4
    Universal made the right choice when they bought Namor's right. He will clearly be The Next Big Thing.
    – Rogue Jedi
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 0:48
  • 4
    Marvel can make a solo Hulk film. Universal owns the distribution rights
    – phantom42
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 1:44

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.