MCU Timeline (Updated 2020 Order to Watch)

About to do the MCU movie marathon? Scroll down below all this text if you just want to see the list of MCU movies in the right order! Otherwise, read on for some context in regard to the MCU timeline.

MCU Timeline Order: The Right Way to Watch Them

During the Coronavirus time, I binge-watched the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) timeline catalogue. I researched the best way to watch all the MCU movies in the right order beforehand and now that I have watched them all, I wanted to publish my guide to the right way to watch the MCU films because some of the articles I found on the Internet were flat out wrong or not updated recently. To that end, this guide is current through summer 2020, but I will be updating this guide as further MCU films are released.

How to watch MCU movies in timeline order?

The MCU timeline is essentially the Avengers’ story of the “The Infinity Stones Saga”, which were the MCU movies released between 2008-2019.

Powerful gems called “Infinity Stones” are the major plotline throughout the entire 2008-2019 cinematic universe, but generally, each movie has its own plotline focusing on different villains and adventures. Many of the same characters appear again in each MCU Infinity Stone Saga iteration. Each film builds on each other, further developing every character. In addition, each MCU movie has its own Easter Eggs that refer back to past films.

Why are the MCU structured in this order? I wanted to share with you the chronological order to watch the MCU movies, not the theatrical release order. Some MCU films take place earlier or later than others despite coming out to theatres after one another. To that effect, some of these MCU films are prequels you need to watch first even if they came out to theatres much later. For example, Captain Marvel came out in 2018 at the tail-end of the MCU series, but you should watch it second because it takes place second earliest and it tells the backstory of several important characters and such.

Be sure to watch the credits because each MCU film has various scenes that happen after the credits.

Where to watch the MCU movies: Almost every MCU film is on Disney Plus except for a handful of films which would then be on Netflix (because Disney Plus doesn’t have the rights to it… yet). Eventually, by 2021, all the MCU films will be on Disney Plus exclusively.

MCU timeline in order:

1. Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger, which is Captain America’s backstory movie, takes places in Word War II. Sort of the main bad guys in the MCU timeline, Hydra, are introduced in this film. Bucky is also introduced.

  • Timeline: 1942-1945
  • Theatrical release date: 2011
  • How long it is: 124 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 80%
MCU captain America timeline

2. Captain Marvel

Where does Captain Marvel fit in the MCU timeline? Captain Marvel essentially takes place in the 90s, so it is the second movie in the MCU timeline because it takes place after WW2 (Captain America: The First Avenger) but before 2010 (Iron Man). Captain Marvel is my third favourite MCU movie. I love how the filmmakers juxtapose futuristic space and Gritty 90’s LA. In this movie, we are introduced to certain space aliens who play a major role in the whole Infinity Stone Saga.

  • Timeline: 1990’s
  • Theatrical release date: 2019
  • How long it is: 128 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 78%
MCU captain marval timeline

3. Iron Man

Iron Man, who is clearly the main Avenger and the most important character in the MCU, takes place in 2010.  This is the Iron Man backstory. This film made Robert Downey Jr. a huge star again.

  • Timeline: 2008
  • Theatrical release date: 2009
  • How long it is: 126
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 94%
MCU ironman 1 timeline

4. Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 takes place in the same year as Thor and The Incredible Hulk, but Iron Man 2 should be watched first because of certain Thor Easter Eggs I won’t spoil. Black Widow, among other Avengers, is introduced.

  • Timeline: 2010
  • Theatrical release date: 2010
  • How long it is: 124 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 72%
MCU ironman 2 timeline

5. Thor

Thor introduces the titular character Thor and his brother Loki, who is another mainstay in the MCU.

  • Timeline: 2010
  • Theatrical release date: 2011
  • How long it is: 115 Minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77%
MCU thor timeline

6. The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk takes place roughly the same time as Iron Man 2 and Thor. This is the Hulk’s backstory. It is the only MCU movie you can skip (it isn’t very good, and the story doesn’t really come up again – all you have to know is the Hulk was made in an experiment gone wrong involving gamma energy, and that he has trouble controlling himself). Interestingly, Edward Norton played the Hulk in this film, but he was replaced by Mark Ruffalo in every other MCU movie.

  • Timeline: 2010
  • Theatrical release date: 2008
  • How long it is: 112 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 67%
MCU hulk timeline

7. The Avengers

The Avengers takes place in 2012. This film brings together Iron Man, the Hulk and Captain America and a few other important Avengers for the first time. Thanos is also introduced for the first time in the post-credits scene, sort of setting the stage for the main MCU Infinity Stones plotline that is consistent throughout the rest of the series.

  • Timeline: 2012
  • Theatrical release date: 2012
  • How long it is: 142 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 92%
MCU avengers 1 timeline

8. Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 develops Tony Stark as a person. Themes like power, hubris and failure set up the later MCU movies as the idea of a perfect superhero is exposed. The MCU starts to get a little more interesting as the MCU characters begin to battle self-conflict as well as the supervillains.

  • Timeline: 2012
  • Theatrical release date: 2013
  • How long it is: 109 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 79%
MCU iron man 3 timeline

9. Thor: Dark Word

My wife liked this one the best. I think that if you like Game of Thrones, you will like Thor: Dark World. Still, Rotten Tomatoes reported this was the lowest-rated film in the MCU. 

  • Timeline: 2013
  • Theatrical release date: 2013
  • How long it is: 112 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 66%
MCU thor Dark world 2 timeline

10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the first Cap film in what is a recurring plotline about a mysterious assassin, the Winter Solider. Who is the Winter Soldier? I won’t spoil that for you.

  • Timeline: 2014
  • Theatrical release date: 2013
  • How long it is: 136 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 90%
MCU captain america winter soldier timeline

11. Guardians of the Galaxy

Peter Quill and his band of misfits are introduced into the MCU. This is the second film in the series to take place mostly in space. If you like sci-fi movies, huge movie stars, comedies and oldy music, you will love this one. The Guardians of the Galaxy are my favourite Avengers, especially Rocket, the Racoon.

  • Timeline: 2014
  • Theatrical release date: 2014
  • How long it is: 121 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 91%
MCU guardians of the galaxy 1 timeline

12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The second Guardians of the Galaxy takes place soon after the first one despite being released three years later so be sure to watch them back-to-back. The theme of both films is: family. If you like space operas (e.g. Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.) then you will like these movies.

  • Timeline: 2014
  • Theatrical release date: 2017
  • How long it is: 137 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 85%
MCU guardians of the galaxy V 2 timeline

13. Avengers: Age of Ultron

The Avengers return for their second movie. This time, the theme of what is a “superhero” is expanded upon, and the human side of the Avengers comes out. We will learn that the destruction caused by all these mega battles in all the MCU movies have everlasting consequences. Have you ever wondered what happens to a city after a massive battle takes places there? Find out by watching this one.

  • Timeline: 2015
  • Theatrical release date: 2015
  • How long it is: 141 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 75%
MCU age of Ultron timeline

14. Ant-Man

Ant-Man is sort of a romantic comedy superhero film. It’s a nice change of pace. It also introduces some important science that will be a bigger part of the whole MCU story later.

  • Timeline: 2015
  • Theatrical release date: 2015
  • How long it is: 115 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83%
MCU ant-man timeline

15. Captain America: Civil War

This is more or less an Avengers film (there’s a large ensemble cast) and it really starts to open up the Infinity Stone saga. We learn that, as the title says, the Avengers don’t always get along. 

  • Timeline: 2016
  • Theatrical release date: 2016
  • How long it is: 146 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 91%
MCU civil war timeline

16. Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange introduces us to a more mystical adventure. If you like witches, sorcerers and magic, you will like Doctor Strange. We also get to learn more about the Infinity Stones, particularly the Time Stone.

  • Timeline: 2016
  • Theatrical release date: 2016
  • How long it is: 130 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 89%
MCU Dr Strange timeline

17. Spider Man Homecoming

The biggest coup Disney ever pulled off was getting the rights to put Spider-Man in the Avengers universe (if you didn’t know, the MCU universe is made by Disney). Although Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man, Sony and Disney worked out a deal to get arguably the most popular superhero of all time in the most popular movie series of all time. This film is sort of like a teen comedy and its a great breath of fresh air in this very long series.

  • Timeline: 2016
  • Theatrical release date: 2017
  • How long it is: 133 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 92%
MCU Spiderman homecoming timeline

18. Black Panther

Black Panther is my second favourite movie in the MCU series timeline. Michael B Jordan, the villain, is probably my favourite actor in the MCU despite there being like 100 AAA actors in the series. This film introduces us to a very interesting, future-world (Wakanda) that has some really cool tech. This movie had, easily, the best VFX so far in the MCU timeline at the time it was released. We get to learn about the special, super-strong metal in the MCU universe known as vibranium (not to be confused with unobtainium from the Avatar universe).  

  • Timeline: 2016
  • Theatrical release date: 2018
  • How long it is: 135
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 97%
MCU black panther timeline

19. Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok deals with brotherhood. Although this one is a comedy, and Jeff Goldblum as a villain is hilarious, the film is pretty deep. Further planets and characters are introduced into the MCU series, expanding on what is becoming a very universal timeline, not just an earthly timeline. The infinity war begins as soon as this one wraps up in the end credits scene. This is the beginning of the end of the MCU Infinity Stone saga.

  • Timeline: 2017-2018
  • Theatrical Release date: 2017
  • How long it is: 130 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%
MCU thor ragnorak 3 timeline

20. Avengers: Infinity War

This is the film that marks the final chapter in the MCU Infinity Stone saga timeline (aka the 2008-2019 decade). Thanos, who is alluded to throughout the series, finally gets the spotlight. Expect an appearance from many characters from the MCU series and tons of easter eggs. Every film so far has built up to this bad-boy. A theme in this film is the concept of a “team”, especially in that the Avengers won’t sacrifice their own.

  • Timeline: 2018
  • Theatrical Release date: 2018
  • How long it is: 156 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 84%
MCU avengers infinity war timeline

21. Ant Man and the Wasp

Where does Ant-Man and the Wasp fit in the MCU timeline? This film takes place approximately the same time as Avengers Infinity War. Watch this one in between Infinity War and Avengers Endgame because you learn about certain tech that you need to know about to properly watch Avengers Endgame. In addition, the scene after the credits will help you understand why you watched this movie in between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: End Game.

  • Timeline: 2018
  • Theatrical Release date: 2018
  • How long it is: 118 munites
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 88%
MSU ant Man and the Wasp Timeline3

22. Avengers: Endgame

This is the last film in the MCU Infinity Stones series. This is easily the best movie in the series and my favourite. It is a motion picture masterpiece. It is obviously the most expensive movie ever made (don’t fret for Disney –  this movie is the top box office film of all time). It is amazing how they wrote such a good story despite having at this point literally hundreds of characters (who may or may not make an appearance). The theme in this film is: sacrifice.

  • Timeline: 2019-2024
  • Theatrical release date: 2018
  • How long it is: 183 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes rating: 93%
MCU avengers endgame timeline

23. Spider-Man Homecoming

This is the first film in the MCU that takes place after the Infinity Stone saga. It is still connected to the Infinity Stone saga and the rest of the films though. This movie is another fun teen comedy.

  • Timeline: 2024
  • Theatrical Release date: 2019
  • How long it is: 130 minutes
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 91%
MCU spiderman far from home timeline

Who is the creator and producer of the MCU universe?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe was created by film executive Kevin Feige, who also produced each film. The actual Avenger characters were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Stan Lee makes an appearance in each film, although sadly he died right around the release of Captain Marvel.

What about the MCU TV shows?

You absolutely do not need to watch all the MCU TV shows to enjoy the MCU movies. Basically, the TV shows are just side-stories of supporting characters. You might catch a few extra Easter Eggs though if you watch the MCU TV shows.

What order to watch the next films in the MCU?

We don’t know what order to watch the next MCU movies, and I won’t suggest anything because that would involve major spoilers from Avengers Endgame. However, once the next MCU movie comes out, I will update this article to put it in the right order.

Upcoming MCU Movies:

  • Black Widow – November 6, 2020
  • The Eternals – February 12, 2021
  • Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings – May 7, 2021
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 – November 5, 2021
  • Thor: Love And Thunder – February 11, 2022
  • Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness – March 25, 2022
  • Black Panther 2 – May 6, 2022
  • Captain Marvel 2 – July 8, 2022
  • Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 3 – Release Date TBD

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