The Best Orders To Watch Every Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie And TV Show

The Best Orders To Watch Every Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie And TV Show
Image: Marvel/Disney
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The Marvel Cinematic Universe now contains over 20 films, multiple TV shows, spin-off shorts and more. As a newcomer, it can be overwhelming, and even revisiting your favourites can be a monumental task. But it is possible. Whether it’s by chronological order, release date or just watching the highlights, here’s a few key ways you can watch every Marvel Cinematic Universe tie-in.

If you’re a completionist and want the whole story, comprehensive chronological order is the best way to kick off.

This article has been updated since its original publication.

How To Watch The MCU In Chronological Order

There’s a lot of chapters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and not all of them were released on a chronological timeline. This order contains everything the MCU has to offer, in the order it happened. Note that some shows like Runaways and Cloak and Dagger are technically in the MCU, but don’t operate within a strict timeline so they can be watched whenever.

We’ve indicated our preference below.

  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • Agent Carter Season 1-2
  • Agent Carter One-Shot
  • Captain Marvel
  • Iron Man
  • Iron Man 2
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • The Consultant One-Shot
  • A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Thor’s Hammer One-Shot
  • Thor
  • The Avengers
  • Item 47 One-Shot
  • Iron Man 3
  • All Hail the King One-Shot
  • Thor: The Dark World
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Agents of SHIELD Season 1
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Daredevil Season 1
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
  • The Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Agents of SHIELD Season 2
  • Ant-Man
  • Daredevil Season 2
  • Jessica Jones Season 1
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Luke Cage Season 1
  • Agents of SHIELD Season 3
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Doctor Strange
  • Black Panther
  • Iron Fist Season 1
  • The Defenders Event Series
  • Agents of SHIELD Season 4
  • The Inhumans Event Series
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Jessica Jones Season 2
  • The Punisher Season 1
  • Daredevil Season 3
  • Agents of SHIELD Season 5
  • The Runaways Seasons 1-3
  • Cloak and Dagger Seasons 1-2
  • Iron Fist Season 2
  • The Punisher Season 2
  • Jessica Jones Season 3
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Black Widow
  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home
  • WandaVision
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
  • Loki

Note: It appears WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki all take place simultaneously, so they can be watched in any order.

But watching it chronologically isn’t the only way to go and if you’re strapped for time, you might like to reconsider watching every TV show, movie and one-shot out there.

Instead, consider watching the movies in phases.


How To Watch The MCU In Phase Order

This order is fairly simple and groups the movies by their release dates. Each ‘phase’ as defined by Marvel is capped off by a large scale Avengers movie which ties the phase together. This is the order that the filmmakers intended and how the action originally unfolded ” but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to it.

Here’s how the phases work, and what order you might like to watch the movies and/or TV shows in:

Marvel Phase One

This phase introduced the main characters of the Avengers saga and began the tale of the Infinity Stones.

  • Iron Man
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Iron Man 2
  • Thor
  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • The Avengers

Marvel Phase Two

This phase continued the adventures of our intrepid heroes, introduced the space-faring Guardians of the Galaxy and culminated in the Ultron/Sovokia disaster that bleeds into the third phase of Marvel.

  • Iron Man 3
  • Agents of SHIELD Season 1
  • Thor: The Dark World
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Agents of SHIELD Season 2
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Ant-Man
  • Agents of SHIELD Season 3
  • Daredevil Season 1
  • Jessica Jones Season 1

Marvel Phase Three

Phase three is the largest of Marvel’s phases and introduces several new heroes that go on to play a pivotal role in the two-part Avengers finale. These films and TV shows effectively draw the first lot of Marvel Entertainment stories to a close and open up the world to new heroes and tales in the future.

  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Doctor Strange
  • Agents of SHIELD Season 4
  • Daredevil Season 2
  • Luke Cage Season 1
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Iron Fist Season 1
  • Agents of SHIELD Season 5
  • The Defenders Miniseries
  • Black Panther
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Daredevil Season 3
  • Jessica Jones Season 2
  • Luke Cage Season 2
  • Iron Fist Season 2
  • Captain Marvel
  • Agents of SHIELD Season 6
  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home
  • Jessica Jones Season 3

Marvel Phase Four

  • WandaVision
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
  • Loki
  • Black Widow

In future this phase will also (presumably) include Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, The Marvels, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

For now, it’s a much easier ride.

If that seems like too many hours of entertainment, you can also consider being a bit pickier.


The Most Important Marvel Movies and TV Shows to Watch

marvel movies viewing Image: Marvel/Disney

While Marvel’s television series’ can add a lot to every movie, they’re mostly considered supplemental material and aren’t necessary to understand the whole story. If you’re looking to watch the Marvel movies and don’t want to get bogged down with hours of content, there’s plenty you can skip.

Origin stories like Doctor Strange and The Incredible Hulk aren’t necessary to understand the larger Marvel narrative. The Spider-Man movies are fun but can also be skipped, as can Iron Man 3. There are some movies on this list that rank low on Marvel’s ‘Best Ofs’ list but these are still necessary for the larger plot.

Here’s every essential Marvel movie you can’t skip, and the order you should watch them.

Captain America: The First Avenger: The first Captain America takes place chronologically before every other Marvel movie and introduces Steve Rogers, one of the key players in the Avengers saga. While his origin story isn’t essential, the film introduces the tesseract, an item which goes on to play a big role in The Avengers. Also introduced is Rogers’ best friend Bucky Barnes, who also plays a pivotal role in the wider saga.

Iron Man: While Iron Man is an origin story, Tony Stark is the heart of the MCU, making his story one of the most important. You’ll need to understand who he is as a person to understand how the films progress.

Thor: This film gives background to Thor and Loki’s struggle and ties directly into the events of The Avengers. While the story isn’t particularly compelling, it’s a great character study and reveals a lot about Thor and his family.

Image: Marvel/Disney

The Avengers: The first crossover is the most essential. Not only does it introduce the concept of space monsters and aliens, it also introduces audiences to Thanos for the first time and showcases the character dynamics and teamwork of The Avengers.

Thor: The Dark World: Thor: The Dark World is often considered the worst of the Marvel movies. Despite being boring and uninspired, it does contain a key piece of Infinity Stone lore that you’ll need to understand for the later films. It also explains part of Loki’s journey towards redemption and how he ends up more involved in later films.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: The Winter Soldier features a key breaking point in the history of The Avengers, with villainous organisation Hydra wreaking havoc on the team’s support network. It also introduces the Winter Soldier, who goes on to play a larger part in the later Avengers flicks and TV shows.

Guardians of the Galaxy: This space-faring adventure is mostly self-contained but introduces the Guardians of the Galaxy, who go on to play a pivotal role in the later Avengers films. This movie also introduces a new Infinity Stone and expands on the lore behind them.

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Age of Ultron is the least essential Avengers film, but it sets up key dynamics and events that go on to impact the Avengers in Civil War. It also introduces Wanda Maximoff, aka the most powerful Avenger.

Captain America: Civil War: It’s here that The Avengers go through their most difficult conflict as the team goes their separate ways. This film also sets up the Sokovia Accords which dictate the powers that superheroes can use and gives a fairly good introduction for Ant-Man if you want to skip his solo film.

Thor: Ragnarok: While Thor: Ragnarok is mostly non-essential viewing, it is the funniest film of the bunch and the finale leads directly into the events of the final two Avengers movies.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: This film is also mostly standalone but the finale ties directly into the events of Infinity War and Endgame. It also provides some essential character growth for Hope Van Dyne.

falcon winter soldier growth chronological order
Anthony Mackie in The Falcon and Winter Soldier. (Image: Marvel Studios)

Avengers: Infinity War: This film kicks off the beginning of the end for The Avengers as we know them. Thanos finally rises to become the big bad and the entire saga of the Infinity Stones comes to a head. The film leads directly into the final chapter of modern Marvel stories.

Avengers: Endgame: This film is massive, and totally essential. It’s the product of over ten years of build-up and it absolutely doesn’t disappoint as a major spectacle. It also sets up the action of every major Marvel TV show that followed.

WandaVision: This TV series kicked off a new phase for Marvel, and also set Wanda Maximoff on a very important path. It’s likely this show will connect with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in a big way, so it’s essential viewing.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: This standalone story deals with the impact of Steve Rogers’ decisions in Endgame and explores what it means to be Captain America in the modern day. Like other recent TV shows, it’ll link directly into Marvel’s next phase.

Loki: How Loki will connect to the future of Marvel is currently unclear, but given the universe-hopping shenanigans in the show it’s likely the story will play into future films like Doctor Strange 2 and Spider-Man: No Way Home.


While there are multiple disagreements about the best ways to watch Marvel movies and TV shows, it’s important to remember that your enjoyment is key. If you don’t particularly like one movie or another, it’s easy enough to skip it and move on.

There’s plenty of content out there to get started.

If you’re looking to revisit the MCU or begin your journey for the first time, Disney+ has the vast majority of the movies released so far.