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I'm planning on re-watching the currently-released 5 Marvel films prior to seeing The Avengers. Have Marvel released any sort of official viewing order? Captain America: The First Avenger seems like the hardest one for me to place in order with the rest. It takes place prior to the other films, but has the greatest number of references to the other films. So should it be watched first, or last? The rest of them are relatively clear, as they're chronological in the order they're released, with the possible exception of The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2 happening at the same time.

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  • “Captain America... takes place prior to the other films” — much of it does, but in flashback — it starts and ends in the “present day”, i.e. after the events of Thor. Jan 15, 2019 at 14:03
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    Also remember the days when an MCU re-watch comprised 5 films? Good times. (Ish. I mean, one of them was The Incredible Hulk.) Apr 3, 2019 at 14:06
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    Don't be hating on The Incredible Hulk, better than the Ang Lee version Dec 29, 2020 at 3:47
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    Shouldn't this preamble be editted since it by far no longer applies to any of the answers. Jul 14, 2021 at 17:27
  • There's a curated set on the Marvel page of Disney+ called "Marvel Cinematic Universe in Timeline Order". This is the closest to an "Official" order I'm aware of: disneyplus.com/brand/marvel Jun 24 at 16:05

8 Answers 8

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+100

This is an updated list of the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in order of internal chronology (not release order); including shorts and other releases (feature films are in bold):

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    I'm fairly certain Jessica Jones takes place before Age of Ultron, as the thing clearly on the minds of some people is "The Incident" which refers to the Battle of New York, and there's no real reference to the finale of AoU which you would expect otherwise. Hulk busted buildings in NYC all the way back in his own movie as well, so that's also what some New Yorkers would be referring back to as well.
    – Jimmy M.
    Apr 4, 2016 at 17:36
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    The Consultant takes place before the end of The Incredible Hulk. Coulson and the other Agent are talking about who to send to talk to Gen. Ross. That moment, following their decision, is the post-credits scene of The Incredible Hulk.
    – Paul L
    May 9, 2016 at 12:34
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    Fantastic answer. I recommend crossposting to Movies & TV: How to sort Marvel Cinematic Universe hero movies into a chronological order?
    – Stevoisiak
    Jun 6, 2017 at 22:36
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    Spider-Man: Homecoming takes place 8 years after Avengers (according to the opening of the film), but Avengers: Infinity War takes place 6 years after Avengers (according to dialogue). So Spider-Man: Homecoming takes place after Infinity War.. No, wait a minute May 1, 2018 at 22:53
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    @DavidThornley The target list in the movie contains thousands upon thousands of targets. It doesn't stick to just superheroes... it's anyone who might be a threat to HYDRA.
    – TylerH
    Feb 24, 2019 at 21:47
95

I would say order of release. Or in-universe chronologically.

You'd get the same story and it would just be your preference if you liked it better in a different order.

Personally I would go the order of release.

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    Agreed. The only real purpose to watching them in release order is for the end credits (and perhaps the Iron Man reference in Thor). Other than that, there's little reason storyline-wise.
    – Chad Levy
    Jul 22, 2011 at 23:55
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    Captain America was also hinted at in both Iron Man movies, the second much more easily spotted than the first.
    – Izkata
    Jul 24, 2011 at 15:54
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    Well, you can't exactly watch Iron Man 3 without having seen The Avengers, and by proxy, Thor and Captain America.
    – PiousVenom
    Dec 2, 2013 at 22:55
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    @MyCodeSucks The question was about the movies before The Avengers. Dec 3, 2013 at 3:58
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    It's a little frustrating that the accepted answer is the least useful answer on the page and the OP has since closed their account :-/ Apr 15, 2020 at 16:18
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The Marvel Cinematic Universe Viewing Order

This is the release order of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with some modifications for ease of watching. It is essentially the correct order to watch every movie.

  • Movies are in bold.

  • TV shows are in italics. Note: The TV shows are not required viewing to understand the overall narrative. The placement of Agents of SHIELD below, for example, does not indicate importance in the overall MCU story, but instead tie-in episodes for fans of that show. In other words, you may skip the TV shows :)

  • "One-Shots" are short films that were sometimes included in the home video releases of early MCU films. Unlike the TV shows, "One-Shots" frequently tie into the film universe in big ways. It's recommended that you watch them.

The Infinity Saga

Phase One: "Avengers Assembled"

  • Iron Man (2008)
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  • Iron Man 2 (2010)
    • One-Shot: "The Consultant" (2011) (4 mins)
      Found on Thor Bluray -- set directly after The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2
  • Thor (2011)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
    • One-Shot: "Agent Carter" (2013) (12 mins)
      Found on Iron Man 3 Bluray -- set directly after Captain America
  • The Avengers (aka "Avengers Assemble") (2012)
    • One-Shot: "Item 47" (2012) (12 mins)
      Found on The Avengers Bluray -- set directly after The Avengers

Phase Two

  • Iron Man Three (2013)
    • One-Shot: "All Hail The King" (2014) (12 mins)
      Found on Thor: The Dark World Bluray -- set directly after (and contains major spoilers for) Iron Man 3
    • Agents of SHIELD (Season 1) - Up until The Hub (ep. 7)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013)
    • Agents of SHIELD (Season 1) - The Well (ep. 8) to The End of the Beginning (ep. 16)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
    • Agents of SHIELD (Season 1) - Rest of season
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
    • Agents of SHIELD (Season 2) - Up until The Dirty Half Dozen (ep. 19)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
    • Agents of SHIELD (Season 2) - Rest of season
  • Ant-Man (2015)
    • Agents of SHIELD (Season 3) - Up until Failed Experiments (ep. 19)

Phase Three

  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)

    • Agents of SHIELD (Season 3) - Rest of season
    • Agents of SHIELD (Season 4)
  • Doctor Strange (2016)

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

  • Black Panther (2018)

    • Agents of SHIELD (Season 5) - Up until All Roads Lead... (ep. 18)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

    • Agents of SHIELD (Season 5) - Rest of season
  • Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)

  • Captain Marvel (2019)

  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)

  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

The Multiverse Saga

Phase Four

  • Black Widow (2021) (Can be watched anytime after Captain America: Civil War)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
  • Eternals (2021) (Can be watched anytime after Avengers: Endgame)
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

Future film releases

  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (November 2022)
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (February 2023)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (May 2023)
  • The Marvels (July 2023)
  • Blade (2023)
  • Captain America: New World Order (2024)
  • Thunderbolts (2024)
  • Fantastic Four (2024)
  • Avengers: The Kang Dynasty (2025)
  • Avengers: Secret Wars (2025)

Marvel TV Shows

Marvel has also made several TV shows which are largely independent of the MCU (ie. they make little or no references to it) despite being ostensibly canon. They're included here for completeness.

Original run TV shows

  • Agent Carter
  • Daredevil
  • Jessica Jones
  • Luke Cage
  • Iron Fist
  • The Defenders
  • Inhumans
  • The Punisher
  • Runaways
  • Cloak and Dagger
  • Agents of SHIELD (Seasons 6 & 7 - deliberately avoided the MCU)

Multiverse Saga TV Shows
These shows are part of an initiative by Marvel to bring the MCU and the TV shows closer together. These can be watched any time, but are all set after Avengers: Endgame.

  • WandaVision
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
  • Loki
  • What if...? (Follows on from Loki but can be watched any time)
  • Hawkeye
  • Moon Knight
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    @Hashim It's the order Marvel made and released the films. Unless you're arguing that Marvel wanted you not to watch something when they released it, then this is, therefore, the order they wanted audiences to watch things. They've never suggested that Agent Carter is supposed to be watched before Iron Man just because it's set in the 1940s, for example. Oct 1, 2019 at 17:57
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    I agree w/ Hashim - this really shouldn't say "Official" until it's actually official - ie - StarWars.com released a viewing order page for The Clone Wars and that list is out of order (especially in early seasons) related to release date. - starwars.com/news/… - to take another example - Lucas intends E1 to be viewed first, yet it was released decades after Ep 4
    – NKCampbell
    Oct 1, 2019 at 18:15
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    I'd disagree that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. avoided the MCU, but the MCU avoided them...
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 14, 2021 at 2:54
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    @FuzzyBoots: While you're right about the show as a whole, I think seasons 6 and 7 deliberately avoided interacting with the rest of the MCU because I don't think the show was able to rely on the timing of when the films would come out vs. when those seasons would air, so it was easiest to avoid dealing with the Snap and the Blip entirely.
    – V2Blast
    Apr 19 at 17:24
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    @shanu 1/ I doubt the years will change much. 2/ That's why there's an Edit button ;) Jul 31 at 10:53
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  1. Iron Man
  2. Iron Man 2
  3. Incredible Hulk (Hulk's campus rampage overlaps with Iron Man 2)
  4. Thor (end of Iron Man 2 overlaps with the middle-ish of Thor; Jane Foster's science partner references the experiment that created the Hulk)
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger (it can be assumed, from the post credits scene, that Nick Fury has already assembled the rest of the team; obviously if we are going in true chronological order, then you would watch the first 95% of this movie before Iron Man, and then the last bit after Thor)

Granted, watching them in this order or release date order won't change the experience I would say. But that is how they take place, chronologically.

EDIT To go even further, this site has a day-by-day breakdown of the events of the Marvel films.

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    Did anybody else notice Tony Stark using Captain America's original shield to prop up a pipe in Iron Man 2, when he's making the new element?
    – BenjaminRH
    May 8, 2012 at 9:14
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    The Capt'Ameria shield is also visible in Iron Man 1 in the background as Tony is trying to make excuses to Pepper when she finds him trying to get out of the suit > "You've caught me doing worse that this before" or something. Jan 9, 2013 at 13:23
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    Brett - can you please consider updating the answer with the latest movies? May 9, 2013 at 13:54
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    @DVK I've added an updated list in an answer below. Nov 30, 2013 at 19:29
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There’s a lot of answers already but I’m posting an answer anyway because most of the answers are lacking when it comes to Phase 3.

If you are looking for just the movies in the MCU,

  1. Captain America : The First Avenger
  2. Iron Man
  3. Iron Man 2
  4. The Incredible Hulk
  5. Thor
  6. Avengers
  7. Iron Man 3
  8. Thor : The Dark World
  9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy
  11. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
  12. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  13. Ant-Man
  14. Captain America: Civil War
  15. Doctor Strange
  16. Thor : Ragnarok
  17. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  18. Black Panther
  19. Avengers : Infinity War

Here’s a much more in-depth look into the MCU,

PHASE 1

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger
  2. Agent Carter (season 1)
  3. Agent Carter (season 2)
  4. Agent Carter (one-shot on Iron Man 3 DVD)
  5. Iron Man
  6. Iron Man 2
  7. The Incredible Hulk
  8. The Consultant (one-shot on the Thor DVD)
  9. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer (one-shot on the Captain America: The First Avenger DVD)
  10. Thor
  11. Avengers
  12. Item 47 (one-shot on the Avengers Assemble DVD)

PHASE 2

  1. Iron Man 3
  2. All Hail the King (one-shot on the Thor: The Dark World DVD)
  3. Agents of SHIELD (season 1, eps 1-7)
  4. Thor: The Dark World
  5. Agents of SHIELD (season 1, eps 8-16)
  6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  7. Agents of SHIELD (season 1, eps 17-22)
  8. Guardians of the Galaxy
  9. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
  10. Daredevil (season 1)
  11. Agents of SHIELD (season 2, eps 1-10)
  12. Jessica Jones (season 1)
  13. Agents of SHIELD (season 2, eps 11-19) 26.Avengers: Age of Ultron
  14. Agents of SHIELD (season 2, eps 20-22)
  15. Daredevil (season 2, eps 1-4)
  16. Luke Cage (season 1, eps 1-4)
  17. Daredevil (season 2, eps 5-11)
  18. Luke Cage (season 1, eps 5-8)
  19. Daredevil (season 2, eps 12-13)
  20. Luke Cage (season 1, eps 9-13)
  21. Ant-Man
  22. Agents of SHIELD (season 3, eps 1-10)

PHASE 3

  1. Agents of SHIELD (season 3, eps 11-19)
  2. Iron Fist (season 1)
  3. Captain America: Civil War 39.Agents of SHIELD (season 3, eps 20-22)
  4. The Defenders (season 1)
  5. Agents of SHIELD (season 4, eps 1-6)
  6. Doctor Strange
  7. Thor: Ragnarok
  8. Agents of SHIELD (season 4, eps 7-8)
  9. Agents of SHIELD: Slingshot (season 1, eps 1-6)
  10. Agents of SHIELD (season 4, eps 9-22)
  11. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  12. Black Panther
  13. Inhumans (season 1)
  14. The Punisher (season 1)
  15. Runaways (season 1)
  16. Agents of SHIELD (season 5, eps 1-10) – allowing for time travel craziness
  17. Jessica Jones (season 2)
  18. Agents of SHIELD (season 5, eps 11-19)
  19. Avengers: Infinity War
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    It may be worth clarifying that yours is in chronological order.
    – Edlothiad
    May 29, 2018 at 7:06
  • Also a citation. independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/…
    – Naib
    Jul 18, 2018 at 9:28
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    Why is Ragnarok before Homecoming? Jan 15, 2019 at 13:58
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    This doesn't answer the question asked, "is there an official MCU viewing order?" This is potentially a different question, what is the chronological order (though there seem to be some inconsistencies there) Jan 17, 2019 at 14:22
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Here's the list I would go with:

Captain America: Just the fact that it does happen before everything. Even though it makes references to the other movies it makes the other ones much better to watch.

Iron Man: At the end you hear Nick talk about other heroes, and he can be referring to Cap.

Iron Man 2: You do see or hear references about Thor, like Agent Coulson has to leave to go check out something in the desert. And Hulk with the whole campus thing in the background.

Thor: For this is pretty tricky, the first 3 are a lock. It just depends on what viewpoint you want to go with, between Thor and the Hulk. During IM2, when Coulson leaves, it's way before the Campus thing. So Thor has a little edge over that one. If you want to go with the end scene to Thor and the Cosmic Cube, well they find it during Captain America. And at the end of IM2, you see the Hammer which everyone knows.

Hulk: He's such a badass you have to have him last. The super soldier serum didn't create the Hulk (more like the start of Abomination), as someone said above, but still a great reference to CA. Tony comes at the end to recruit, even though he's not on the team yet, but he's a consultant. I read somewhere a while ago that when the campus fight happens, a mysterious fog comes through, that's suppose to be Thor's doing.

So Capt. America, IM, IM2, Thor, Hulk = Avengers (in my opinion).

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The order is

  1. Captain America
  2. The Hulk
  3. Iron Man
  4. The incredible Hulk
  5. Iron Man 2
  6. Thor
  7. Avengers
  8. Iron Man 3
  9. Thor 2
  10. Captain America: the winter soldier
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    Can you expand your answer with your reasoning?
    – user1027
    May 8, 2012 at 3:05
  • I'm guessing this is based off of the released order, but it would be nice to know if there was another explanation. May 28, 2012 at 20:53
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    The Hulk is not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe cannon. Feb 2, 2015 at 14:27
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They are all stuffed up. The ends of all the movies don't match. But here is my info, and they are in order of how I might watch them before seeing the avengers movie :)

In Captain America, like, 90 or 95% is a flash back. The start and end are in 'our times' and in the end, in 'our time', he wakes up, and gets spoken to and stuff by Nick. Also - Captain America gets Howard Stark (Tony's - Iron Man's - dad,) to make the shield.

Iron Man 1, that's all good, at the end Nick talks to him, a bit.

But in Hulk there is some talk about the super solder serum (stuff that was used on Captain America) was the stuff used on Hulk. But it was clearly altered. At the end of the movie, Tony comes in and talks about this 'group' (Avengers) but if you were to watch it in the order I have it, it would be wrong-ish... because Tony doesn't get asked/told about the avengers group until the end of the second Iron Man..

In Iron Man 2 Tony sees more of Nick and at the end, Nick tells him about the Avengers, (S.H.I.E.L.D.), but when Nick is talking to Tony at the very end, if you look at the screens behind, you see the Hulk, bashing up stuff, the same stuff (same clip from the Hulk movie) and at the very very very end, the guys at S.H.I.E.L.D. find Thor's hammer.

In Thor you see alot of S.H.I.E.L.D, and at one point, you see HawkEye. (appears again in the Avengers movie) so this movie should be at the end of you list, because they talk about Steve (Capt. America)'s disappearance... (sleeping for like 70 years..) and when the 'destroyer' comes, one guy says he thinks it's Iron Man.

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    “Tony doesn't get asked/told about the avengers group until the end of the second Iron Man” — really? I thought Nick Fury mentioned “the Avengers Initiative” in the post-credits scene of the first Iron Man movie. Dec 1, 2013 at 21:50