A Beginner's Guide to the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Ten years ago, Marvel Studios released its first film: the critically-acclaimed Iron Man. Sadly, I was a naïve student at the time who only cared about three superheroes: Batman, Spider-man, and the Hulk. I had no idea what I missed out on until five years later, when I saw Thor: The Dark World on a cinema trip. It was my first step into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the most successful film franchise of all time. Spanning nineteen films, the MCU boasts a collection of stories and characters that makes the worlds of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter seem tiny. At the centre of it all are six stones and one villain – the focus of the new film Avengers: Infinity War. Whether you’re new to the films or need to get up to speed, now is the perfect time to catch up. This feature is intended to help you do it in the right order.

There are currently nineteen films in the MCU, and seven more at different stages of production at the time of writing. The events of Infinity War are tied so strongly with the past eighteen films that you need to see them first. Thankfully, they’re divided into groups – or phases – to make watching them easier. Like a TV series, each phase focusses on one major storyline while setting up future ones. Many of them cross over from one superhero’s film to another’s, so you can’t watch one hero’s films in one sitting (for example, you can’t watch Iron Man’s films all at once then move on to Thor’s). It’s best in most cases to watch them in the order they were released – but with later films, you may want to change things up to find an order that works best for you. Each film includes at least one extra scene in the credits to help you find your way.

At this point, I wanted to recap the films leading up to Infinity War for the newcomers out there. I changed my mind because the end result would’ve been too boring to convince you to watch them all. Instead, here’s a list of the films released so far in the order I found best to watch.

Phase One

Iron Man (2008)
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Thor (2011)
Capt. America: The First Avenger (2011)
The Avengers / Avengers Assemble (2012)

Phase Two

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

Phase Three

Capt. America: Civil War (2016)
Spider-man: Homecoming (2017)
Black Panther (2018)
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
Doctor Strange (2016)
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Avengers: Infinity War (2017)

With phase three, you have some freedom to watch the films in any order you like – but if you want to get the most out of Infinity War, it’s vital you watch them all. There are comics, TV series, and short films that tie-in with the MCU, but you don’t need to check them out as well. As for after Infinity War, there are three more films to come: Ant-man & The Wasp, Captain Marvel, and an Avengers sequel that will conclude Thanos’ story. It’s going to be a long wait for them, but we’ll be writing about the final films in phase three as soon as we can. In the meantime, happy watching!

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