Check out the ultimate guide to watching The Avengers movies in storyline order. It gets a little complicated since the storylines run concurrently and realistically the films would need to be spliced together.
Captain America release serves as one big flashback scene, so arguably it could be first, or it could slide in before The Avengers. This is all a matter of preference since the final scene shows Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) awakening from his 70-year slumber. However, since the majority of the plot takes place during World War II, it’s the obvious choice for the starter slot. Plus there’s the introduction of Howard Stark, Tony Stark’s father, played by Dominic Cooper.
If you’re looking to also include Marvel Studios television series in your epic, both seasons of Agent Carter continue not long after the events of The First Avenger. The first season begins in 1946 and finds Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter working for the Strategic Science Reserve after the end of World War II. Season two continues the story into 1947 and sees Peggy heading out west to continue her work in Los Angeles.
Completists will also want to add the Agent Carter “Marvel One-Shot” short film, although its timeline is a little unclear. While it was released before the series began, it features the founding of S.H.I.E.L.D. and therefore fits best after both Agent Carter seasons.
The origin story of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) was the world’s first introduction to the MCU and, thanks to the film’s now iconic post credits sequence, we also got to meet Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury who tells Stark that he has just become part of a bigger universe. When you look at the number of entries on this list less than a decade later, you know he wasn’t kidding!
The Marvel saga continues as Tony Stark clashes with Sam Rockwell’s rival tech mogul, Justin Hammer, and Mickey Rourke’s Russian villain, Whiplash. Also introduced is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and a recast War Machine with Don Cheadle stepping into the role originated by Terrence Howard.
Iron Man 2 is where things start to get a little tricky as far as the timeline goes. The film overlaps a bit with both The Incredible Hulk and Thor, but takes place primarily before both other films.
Edward Norton played Bruce Banner and his jolly green alter ego in Louis Leterrier’s MCU-set Hulk reboot. Some of the film’s action overlaps with the timing in Iron Man 2 and Thor, but the stories are entirely separate. There is, however, the first Marvel One-Shot, The Consultant, which takes place before The Incredible Hulk‘s final scene and explains why Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) decides to send Tony Stark to deal with William Hurt’s General Ross.
Although Thor may be the next film, the Marvel One-Shot A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer happens just before, bridging the gap between Coulson’s departure from Malibu in Iron Man 2 and his arrival in New Mexico in Thor.
Thor (and it’s sequel, Thor: The Dark World) also contain the very earliest scenes of the MCU. Both films open with narration by Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) that showcase Asgard’s role in the cosmos thousands of years prior.
Thor also introduces Jeremy Renner‘s Hawkeye. He appears in a brief cameo, working as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
The post credits sequence of Thor then sets up The Avengers, teasing Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) quest for the tesseract, later revealed to be the Space Infinity Stone.
Nick Fury brings the gang together in a quest to fight evil, but it’s just the beginning. The Hulk is recast with Mark Ruffalo, who continues for subsequent films. The Avengers marks the end of the first phase of the Marvel Universe.
Although it isn’t revealed until later, The Avengers introduces a second Infinity Stone with Loki’s staff containing the Mind stone. He uses its power to brainwash characters like Hawkeye.
Fans of Marvel’s TV series know that Coulson didn’t die in The Avengers. He just went to T.A.H.I.T.I.! Spinning out of the events of the blockbuster superhero ensemble, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has run parallel to the big screen MCU for going on four seasons now.
You’d have to get very specific to figure out how it connects episode to episode, but the show has featured MCU guest stars like Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Jaimie Alexander‘s Sif and introduced some popular comic book characters like Ghost Rider and the Absorbing Man.
Phase Two of the MCU begins with Shane Black’s Iron Man adventure. Set at Christmastime, Iron Man 3 happens in the wake of The Avengers‘ “Battle of New York” and deals with Tony Stark’s post traumatic stress issues as he faces off against the international terrorist, The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley).
Some fans were let down by the reveal that Kingsley’s Mandarin was just an actor fronting for the real big bad, Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian. That’s one of the reasons that Marvel released the One-Shot Hail to the King, exploring the prison life of Kingsley’s Trevor and introducing the idea that a “real” Mandarin is out there in the MCU somewhere.
The Dark World introduces a third Infinity Stone with the Aether. Christopher Eccleston’s Dark Elf Malekith seeks to use its power to bring darkness by reshaping reality itself. Naturally, he’s defeated by Thor, but the story ends with Loki having secretly stolen Asgard’s throne. You can bet that’s going to pay off in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok!
The Dark World‘s post-credits sequence leads into James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy as The Collector (Benicio del Toro) is tasked with protecting the Aether and keeping it apart from the Tesseract.
Captain America and Black Widow find themselves on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. itself when the organization gets taken over by the villainous HYDRA. There’s also the matter of the mysterious Winter Soldier, revealed to be Cap’s brainwashed best friend, Bucky (Sebastian Stan).
The Winter Soldier‘s first post-credits sequence sets up the following summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, introducing “the twins” Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).
The cosmic side of the MCU expands with James Gunn’s assembly of intergalactic misfits. It also introduces a fourth Infinity Stone, the Power gem.
Because it’s a bit distanced from what’s happening on Earth, the exact placement of Guardians of the Galaxy is uncertain. While it certainly follows The Dark World, the story could really fall anywhere between here and Infinity War.
The Guardians of the Galaxy sequel doesn’t come out until later this year, so it’s a little weird to think that it takes place before films that came out two years ago. Nevertheless, James Gunn has said that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes place just two months after the 2014 original. Depending on what the plot reveals, the location of both GotG films on this timeline may shift a bit.
None of Netflix‘s “street level” shows have had any major ties to the big screen films, so where to include Daredevil seasons one and two are largely up to the viewer. Season one debuted on the streaming service in April 2015 and since The Battle of New York is referenced on the show, it definitely falls after the first Avengers.
Age of Ultron continues the Avengers movies timeline with the full introduction of Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch and Paul Bettany’s Vision. Aaron Taylor Johnson’s Quicksilver, however, doesn’t make it out of the film alive.
Age of Ultron also gives us a brief tease of Wakanda and the supervillain Klaw, played by Andy Serkis. We’ll learn a lot more about Wakanda (and potentially Klaw as well) in 2018’s Black Panther.
Ant-Man concludes “Phase Two” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the introduction of Paul Rudd’s size-shifting superhero. There’s not a whole lot to ground Ant-Man to a specific date, but the story seems to fall somewhere between Age of Ultron and Civil War.
Picking up sometime after the first season of Daredevil, Jessica Jones introduces Krysten Ritter’s titular super-powered private investigator. The series also offers the introduction of Mike Colter’s Luke Cage, but there is again little to specify exactly when Jessica Jones takes place.
2016’s epic superhero showdown proves exactly how big the MCU can get. The “Phase Three” launcher introduces both Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-Man.
Civil War takes place not too long after Ant-Man, as we can tell from Falcon’s interaction with the size-shifting hero.
Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t out yet, but it looks like the film may actually overlap with the events of Civil War. Judging from the film’s trailer, it looks like we’re going to see Peter Parker return to high school immediately after the airport battle. If that is the case, it’s a first for an MCU film.
Luke Cage picks up a few months after the events of Jessica Jones season one and, like the rest of the Netflix series, is a little hard to place exactly on the timeline. When the team-up series The Defenders hits later in 2017, however, we may have a much better idea as to exactly when each of the shows happens.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s master of the mystic arts made his debut in last year’s Doctor Strange and, at the moment, it’s the farthest we’ve seen into the MCU’s timeline. After all, a 2016 award plaque is visible at the start of the film. It’s unclear exactly how much time Strange’s multiple surgeries and subsequent training at Kamar-Taj take, but the ending of Doctor Strange could easily occur a year or more from the beginning.