The Infinity Order: How You Should Rewatch The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Image: Marvel Studios

There are a lot of different ways to enjoy the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU). You can sample the universe with its cast of main characters (as seen in The Avengers); you can take in the O.G. superhero romp with X-Men, or you can spend hours picking between which Spiderman will best entertain you (for those counting, we’re up to three different Spidermen now).

What I’m proposing, however, is entirely different: watching every MCU film based on the order of when it was set, rather than the order of its release. I’m calling it the Infinity Order, in reference to the upcoming two-part finale to the MCU, Avengers: Infinity War.

This article was originally published on Medium, and is being republished with permission.

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A few notes in compiling this list: the films are listed in terms of the order they’re predominantly set in. Movies like Captain America: The First Avenger and X-Men: Days of Future Past leap around in time somewhat, so a decision had to be made about where they were placed. You can read the notes I’ve made about their placement under their headings below. Some are longer than others based on their chronological difficulties.

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This order also doesn’t take into account studio ownership. Every character that has ever been taken from the Marvel universe will be represented. That said, it’s only going to focus on the modern, canonical superhero movies. Don’t @ me screeching that the 1978 Amazing Spider-Man films weren’t included in this list because I just couldn’t care less.

This list also only focuses on films that have been released in theatres.

Finally, some films in this list will have their time of release and the time period of the narrative in common, as is the case with films like Iron Man, X-Men 2, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, etc. That’s just going to happen sometimes.

Right. Enough notes. Start here.

1. Captain America: The First Avenger — 1942

Despite being released in 2011, the First Avenger is really where you should start chronologically, as it’s set in 1942 around the events of the war.

2. X-Men: First Class — 1962

While this is technically a spiritual sequel to the Bryan Singer X-Meniverse, First Class takes place in 1962.

3. X-Men: Days Of Future Past — 1973

X-Men: Days Of Future Past is a particularly interesting challenge in this list, as it’s about a protagonist being propelled back in time to overwrite his own timeline. Given that Logan succeeds in his quest to correct history and the timeline he came from is overwritten, I’ve decided the film is to take place predominantly in the 1960’s where it’s set, as the cruel, mutant-hating future is deleted at the conclusion of the film anyway.

4. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016/1983)

The X-Men universe bounces around a bit, with a few distinct branches in existence. You’ve got the original Singer/Ratner films, followed by some standalone Wolverine movies and then a retro-throwback set in the late 20th-century. Chronologically speaking, this is where Apocalypse lives.

5. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009/1985??)

X-Men Origins: Wolverine was really difficult to place, mostly because it spends the entire narrative bouncing through time documenting how Logan came to be who he is in Singer’s canonical X-Men films. After a bit of scouring, I’m placing it in 1985 with a bit of a question mark around it.

6. X-Men (2000)

7. Spider-Man (2002)

8. X-Men 2 (2003)

9. Daredevil (2003)

10. Hulk (2003)

11. The Punisher (2004)

12. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

13. Fantastic Four (2005)

14. Elektra (2005)

15. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

16. Spider-Man 3 (2007)

17. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

18. Ghost Rider (2007)

19. Iron Man (2008)

20. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

21. Iron Man 2 (2010)

22. Thor (2011)

Given it’s a romp across the other side of the galaxy, I thought Thor would be difficult to place. After thinking about it, however, it’s easy, given that he’s ported to modern-day New Mexico in the film. Easy.

23. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

24. Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

25. The Avengers (2012)

26. The Wolverine (2013, with elements of 1945)

Another goddamn Wolverine movie. This one is mostly set in 2013, but you do have elements of 1945 in there as well. Because it predominately takes place in a modern setting, however, it gets placed here. If you’re concerned about the order, however, feel free to watch it directly after Captain America: The First Avenger.

27. Iron Man 3 (2013)

28. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

29. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

30. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy is also difficult to place, simply because the whole film happens on the other side of the universe in a fantastical setting. One could easily infer it’s in the far-flung future, but the Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers will team up for Infinity War, which means that it’s happening simultaneously to the rest of the MCU. According to a bit of nerding, director James Gunn believes that the first Guardians film takes place after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, putting its time period (in Earth time) around 2014.

31. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

32. The Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015)

33. Fantastic Four (2015)

34. Ant-Man (2015)

35. Deadpool (2016)

36. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

37. Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange was also odd, as there’s a reference to Steven Strange in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, despite the fact that the events of the Benedict Cumberbatch film coincide with the year of its release in 2016. I’ve written off the Captain America reference and decided to keep Doctor Strange where it is.

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