The Definitive Order for Re-Watching All the Marvel Movies in 2021

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on reddit
Share on email
The definitive guide to rewatching every single Marvel Avengers Movie. Hint: It's not in the order you'd expect.

With the world in an arguably better place than when this piece originally ran in the Summer of 2020, and with numerous MCU projects released since the first run, we thought this would be a good time to update the viewing order and full list of content. With people still inclined to spend more time at home, the endless entertainment options that are available at a click of a mouse or remote remain important friends. Among the absurd amount of TV series and movies we now have time to catch up on, or re-watch, is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which now contains 26 released films, a list of eight upcoming films through 2023, and numerous streaming series. Regardless of what one may think of the value of superhero movies, that all of these properties continue to weave a single universal storyline across years of production to the tune of billions of dollars in production, and far more in profit, is an astounding achievement in entertainment.

A saga that unfolds across that many movies with an average run-time in excess of two hours is going to chew up a nice amount of downtime. But is the release order the correct way to watch these movies? Is there a better way to view the story from beginning to end? Whether you’re seeing them for the first time or you’re a normal person, we have the best approach to taking a tour through the MCU.

We started with the idea of putting these films in something of chronological order, while also looking to provide the most enjoyable viewing experience, optimizing the entertainment value. This leads to decisions like splitting Iron Man and Iron Man 2, which could easily be viewed back to back, with The Incredible Hulk, which is one of the weaker entries in the entire saga.

While we hew mostly toward chronology, there are a few big shakeups from the release order. These changes require only ignoring the most minimal detail, a “…years later” tag on the cold opens of both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, a timeline that has no impact on the larger series overall.

We’re providing the full list in our order here, followed by commentary on some of the decisions. As of this update, the list also includes streaming MCU series, which are essentially longer MCU movies and are important canonically. This order has been slightly shuffled from the first version, with Black Widow’s release we know where it falls chronologically. Phase Four is underway and we are taking some liberties with the placement of content that happens at roughly the same time post-Endgame and making some guesses at the future.

If you have never seen the movies, be aware that the commentary does contain some major spoilers.

The Definitive Order for the MCU – Updated November 2021

  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • Captain Marvel
  • Iron Man
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Iron Man 2
  • Thor
  • The Avengers
  • Iron Man 3
  • Thor: The Dark World
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Ant-Man
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Black Widow
  • Black Panther
  • Ant-Man and The Wasp
  • Doctor Strange
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Loki Season One: Episodes 1 – 4 (series)
  • WandaVision (series)
  • Spider-Man: Far from Home
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (series)
  • Hawkeye (series) (unreleased)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • The Eternals
  • Loki Season One: Episodes Five and Six (series)
  • What If? (series)
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (unreleased)
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (unreleased)
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (unreleased)
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (unreleased)
  • The Marvels (unreleased)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 3 (unreleased)
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (unreleased)
  • Fantastic Four (unreleased)

New Phase One: Meeting the Whole Team, Setting the Stage and the First Fight

This approach to watching or re-watching these movies puts the story together in a linear order while also serving to set up key through-lines such as the Infinity Stones from the get-go.

This section involves a re-ordering of the releases in Marvel’s Phase One, beginning with the World War II-set Captain America: The First Avenger. This helps introduce the Tesseract and the concept of a larger galaxy in the first movie and serves as a perfect lead-in to our newly located second movie.

Moving Captain Marvel from the penultimate pre-Endgame movie, all the way to the second movie overall in the series. After all, there’s no real reason for her to suffer from Marvel Studios’ failure to realize that people would pay money to see a female superhero. Putting this movie here also provides a fun and more thorough timeline of the growth of Nick Fury, Agent Colson, and S.H.I.E.L.D. It also picks up the story of the Tesseract and continues the MCU with a more cosmic tale, which helps Phase One get less Earth-bound than the initial release order. Alien races and several significant players in later films are also introduced through this movie, and the post-credits tag for Endgame now sets up a 21-movie teaser. We also don’t go into Endgame expecting that Captain Marvel is going to be a key player, because with this approach she isn’t just shoehorned into the universe a few weeks prior.

The rest of this phase essentially follows what Marvel did, wrapping up to the first Avengers movie. But the new order makes post-credit teasers and other plot lines align better than the release order, with the Thor tag featuring Fury, Dr. Selvig, and Loki leading directly into The Avengers.

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

New Phase Two: Mental Anguish, the downfall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Consequences

Our new phase two makes a few big subtractions from what Marvel considered Phase Two. Here we favor a quick approach to getting from one Avengers movie to the next, with only Thor: The Dark World distracting us from the real thread of the MCU.

Iron Man 3 is the most direct follow-up to the first Avengers movie. Following Tony’s struggle with PTSD and penned by screenwriter Shane Black, it takes the form of a buddy-cop adventure and is the first of the more stylized entries into the MCU. Thor: The Dark World is one of the weakest entries in the entire saga. Fortunately, we’re able to tuck it between two of the most entertaining. Captain America: The Winter Soldier picks up the continuing story thread, exposing Hydra, destroying S.H.I.E.L.D., and bringing Bucky Barnes back as the titular Winter Soldier. This is another hyper-stylized film, a fantastic spy-espionage thriller masquerading as a comic book movie. Events culminate in Age of Ultron, with Tony’s struggles eventually taking the form of a desperate attempt to build an AI defense system as a shield for the Earth, leading to Ultron and a near-extinction-level disaster.

  • Iron Man 3
  • Thor: The Dark World
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron

New Phase Three: Tiny Guys, Giant Guys, Guys Who Crawl on Walls and the Breakup of the Avengers

Our new phase three juggles the order of a few of these releases. Kicking off with Ant-Man, which is relatively detached from previous entries, but for a quick mention of the Avengers “dropping cities from the sky,” referring to the end of Ultron, this heist movie in a comic book character’s clothes could really land anywhere. It’s an enjoyable, lighthearted ride to kick off this phase. We’re following it up with the as-yet-unreleased Black Widow solo film. All indications are that this movie is going to take place between Ultron and Civil War, so this seems like the right spot for it. The middle of this phase goes on a three-movie run that might be the best of the MCU, with Captain America: Civil War, aka Avengers 2 1/2, the arrival of Spider-Man in the MCU, and the incredible Best Picture-nominated Black Panther.

This run sees the breakup of the Avengers (“what, like the Beatles?” as Bruce Banner later says), the emergence of Spidey as a true hero on his own, and the introduction of Wakanda. We bookend the phase with Ant-Man and The Wasp, another flick that could land anywhere in this back end of the run but works best right here. This makes the Quantum Realm and the way time works differently there for us earlier in the series, helping it not feel as forced as it does in the release order, when it came in the interim between Infinity War and Endgame. It also sets up the post-credits tag as a mystery, where the entire Pym family disappears while Scott is in the Quantum Realm, instead of an obvious “they’re going to get dusted” moment.

  • Ant-Man
  • Black Widow (not yet released)
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Black Panther
  • Ant-Man and The Wasp

New Phase Four: Raise Your Hand if You’ve Never Been to Space

You probably noticed that a couple of fan-favorite flicks have been taken well out of release order. The Guardians of the Galaxy movies are terrific fun, feature amazing set pieces, and even better soundtracks, and were released in completely the wrong place in the MCU. Taking the two Guardians films and placing them back-to-back between Doctor Strange and the fantastic Thor: Ragnarok creates a four-film block that takes us into the more trippy, enjoyable, cosmic side of the MCU. It also serves us well in taking us out of the Earth-bound side of the story for a while, helping enforce the feeling of the passage of time during which the Avengers were broken up. It similarly connects well with the post-Ultron absences of Thor and Hulk, bringing those two back into our lives a bit before we launch into Infinity War.

Putting all of these movies together at this point, immediately pre-Infinity War, also perfectly sets the stage for the epic conclusion by bringing the Infinity Stones more to the forefront, delving further into the relationship between Gamora, Nebula, and Thanos and directly showing us the threat of Thanos’ ship catching up to the Asgardian survivors.

  • Doctor Strange
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Thor: Ragnarok

New Phase Five: The Uninterrupted Finale and Immediate Fallout

The final change in our order is the easiest and most obvious. Don’t put anything between Infinity War and Endgame. Watch the amazing conclusion of this ten-year run as one big six-hour tale without taking a trip to the mid-90s or visiting Ant-Man in between. With hours of content released since the original version of this article was published, we can now expand this section to properly tie up the original MCU arc with several major storyline resolutions and teasers for the future. We are placing Loki in the immediate aftermath of Endgame as the story picks up with the eponymous God of Mischief lucking himself back into existence by picking up the Tessaract during the events of Endgame. His adventures with Owen Wilson and the TVA introduce the concept of the Multi-Verse and set up major players for the future, while also providing one of the most entertaining pieces the MCU has created to date. We suggest watching episodes 1-4 as if they were a movie, leaving the concluding two episodes for our next phase as if they were a sequel. The first seven episodes of WandaVision can be watched in the same way, leaving the conclusion as a standalone experience to set up the events of upcoming movies, or as a whole in this place. In order to create less of a “why wouldn’t they mention…” situation for other movies and series in the timeline, we are placing the entire series in this section.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier both concludes and renews the story of Captain America, while weaving an interesting story that touches on issues rarely aired in the MCU. That series runs nearly concurrently with the events of Spider-Man Far From Home, but this order makes more sense to establish that Peter Parker was out of the New York area during that series. The unreleased Hawkeye series is also being placed here, as it seems more likely to act as a goodbye to Jeremy Renner’s character and an introduction to his younger counterpart than it does a true piece of the upcoming Multiversal madness. This placement is subject to change if the series references recent events in any of the released series, Shang-Chi, or The Eternals.

  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Loki Season One: Episodes 1 – 4 (series)
  • WandaVision (series)
  • Spider-Man: Far from Home
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (series)
  • Hawkeye (series) (unreleased)

New Phase Six: Setting up the Multi-Verse and the Future of the MCU

The future of the MCU is here, as they begin to introduce new heroes and old favorites, including The Eternals, Shang Chi, Blade, and, hopefully, one day, the X-Men and Fantastic Four. The new phase is tricky to nail down because WandaVision technically was conceived as a lead-in to the events of the upcoming Doctor Strange movie, but Marvel shuffled release schedules in response to real-world events of the last two years, jumbling the timeline somewhat. That series now takes place mere weeks after Endgame, leaving a long semi-cliffhanger between it and the yet-to-be-released Doctor Strange sequel. The placement of What If? can also be questioned, but it seems likely to serve as a good way of setting up the Multi-Verse.

Kicking off the new phase with the introduction of a host of new heroes from Marvel’s most recent releases prior to wrapping up the Multi-Verse establishing runs of the Disney+ series makes sense and provides a more direct setup to the anticipated events in the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home and beyond. Shang-Chi and the Eternals both serve as somewhat standalone character setups along the lines of the early MCU movies. Shang-Chi is a more traditional Marvel movie that sets up his character and others, while also redeeming the Mandarin as a villain and the Ten Rings as a force within the greater MCU, while The Eternals is deliberate, slow-paced, and contemplative about the relationships of its ten heroes over thousands of years and a two-hour and thirty-minute runtime. Both movies are enjoyable in somewhat different ways, and both weave into the fabric of the MCU in both a backward-looking and forward-looking sense.

Placing the cosmic conclusion of Loki and the entire run of What If? in this section seems like a good way to service the audience and properly set up the concept of the Multi-Verse as well as several of the critical characters for events yet to unfold.

  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • The Eternals
  • Loki Season One: Episodes Five and Six (series)
  • What If? (series)
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (unreleased)
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (unreleased)
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (unreleased)
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (unreleased)
  • The Marvels (unreleased)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 3 (unreleased)
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (unreleased)
  • Fantastic Four (unreleased)
Subscribe on YouTube!

GET SIDE ACTION IN YOUR INBOX

CURATED OFFERS

LATEST

SHARE ON:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter

You may also like

Popular

MORE SIDE ACTION

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Tweet This
Share on reddit
Post on Reddit
Share on email
Share via Email