Marvel Films Viewing Order: Why You've Been Watching the MCU in the Incorrect Order

There are 25 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and fans have devised different ways to consume the franchise from start to finish. We'd like to share some of these methods, which put a fresh spin on the MCU story.

There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of different ways of looking at this, so here are a some ground rules we have in place when considering what to watch. We will only be including MCU properties released up to September 2021—when Shang-Chi came exclusively to movie theaters. Future films like The Eternals, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Spider-Man: No Way Home will have to slot in at a later date.

We will only be including films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not the TV shows like Wandavision and Loki on Disney+. Older TV shows such as Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are also direct spin-offs from Marvel movies but purposefully didn't have strong repercussions for events within the MCU. We also won't be including the popular one-shots, a series of short Marvel episodes designed to fill plot holes within the movies.

Without further ado, here are some recommended viewing orders for you to watch and experience the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

MCU films in order of release date

Just as Kevin Feige intended, watching the films in the release date is probably the most natural way to consume the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The narrative across the movies in this order will occasionally jump backward and forward in time but they're designed this way to feature clues and Easter Eggs referencing future and past MCU films.

Phase 1

  • Iron Man (2008)
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  • Iron Man 2 (2010)
  • Thor (2011)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  • The Avengers (2012)

Phase 2

  • Iron Man 3 (2013)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  • Ant-Man (2015)

Phase 3

  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Doctor Strange (2016)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  • Black Panther (2018)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
  • Captain Marvel (2019)
  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Phase 4

  • Black Widow (2021)7
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
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MCU movies in chronological order

Here the movies are listed in order of the time they're set within the MCU. Naturally the first film on the list is Captain America: The First Avenger, which is set during World War II. The TV series Agent Carter would have come next if included but the next movie takes place 50 years later, Captain Marvel in 1995.

From there the movies start in 2010 with Iron-Man and end in 2024 with Spider-Man: Far From Home, which jumped ahead in time due to the five-year gap included in Avengers: Endgame.

The past:

  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  • Captain Marvel (2019)

The present:

  • Iron-Man (2008)
  • Iron-Man 2 (2010)
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  • Thor (2011)
  • The Avengers (2012)
  • Iron-Man 3 (2013)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  • Ant-Man (2015)
  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Black Panther (2018)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  • Black Widow (2021)
  • Doctor Strange (2016)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

The future:

  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

The Spaghetti Order for MCU movies

This is one of many fan-created viewing orders available online and it's one of the most popular. Created by Jonathan Sim and posted on the website Geeks, he figured out a new way to view all of the movies up to and including Avengers: Endgame.

It's very similar to the release date order with some slight changes to help with continuity, most notably featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy movies grouped together.

If you're wondering why it's called the Spaghetti Order, it's simply a term Sim coined because he loves spaghetti and it sounds catchy. There are no phases to divide them here so the films are listed as follows:

  • Iron Man (2008)
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  • Iron Man 2 (2010)
  • Thor (2011)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  • The Avengers (2012)
  • Iron Man 3 (2013)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  • Ant-Man (2015)
  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  • Black Panther (2018)
  • Doctor Strange (2016)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
  • Captain Marvel (2019)
  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Anniversary grouping of the MCU movies

This interesting order only lists some of the movies but categorizes them into the size of the ensemble. While it may not make the most sense narratively, it's a satisfying collection that organizes the movies by theme.

It was first used at the IMAX 10th Anniversary Festival celebrating ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2018.

While it doesn't tell the full MCU story, it does showcase some of its finest work. This running order could easily fit into one weekend of Marvel entertainment, as it did at the original IMAX festival.

Origin movies:

  • Iron Man (2008)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  • Black Panther (2018)
  • Doctor Strange (2016)

Team-up movies:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • The Avengers (2012)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Alternative viewing orders

Fans can get creative with their own viewing orders for the 25 movies. For example, you could view them in a monetary order, starting with the lowest box office gross to the highest — this would take you from The Incredible Hulk to Avengers: Endgame.

Or you could test yourself with the critics' choice order, starting with the lowest-ranked to the highest — again taking you from The Incredible Hulk to Avengers: Endgame but with a very different order in between.

If you'd like to be completely arbitrary then an alphabetical viewing would start at Ant-Man and take you to Thor: The Dark World.

All MCU movies (excluding the Spider-Man movies and Shang-Chi) are available to watch on Disney+ now.

This article was updated on September 6, 2021 to include the new release Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.