All Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies in Order of Release
So far, there have been 33 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Yep, 33! They’ve been released in “phases,” so Phase 1, Phase 2, etc. Phase 1-3 is “The Infinity Saga,” and we’re currently in Phase 5, which is the second part of “The Multiverse Saga.”
The MCU has been going since 2008 if you can believe that. Let’s take a look at the entire 33-movie saga so far. Big spoilers ahead, naturally!
Iron Man (2008)
The whole Marvel Cinematic Universe began with Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, the arms developer who has a change of heart and becomes the superhero Iron Man. Tony would be the beating heart of the MCU for over a decade until he died saving the universe … but more on that later.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The Incredible Hulk starred Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, but Norton would be replaced by Mark Ruffalo for The Avengers in 2012. Robert Downey Jr. popped up as Tony Stark for this movie’s post-credits scene to reinforce the idea that all these films were part of the same universe.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Iron Man was so successful that audiences wanted more of Tony Stark, and they wanted it fast. This movie saw Iron Man going up against villains Justin Hammer and Whiplash, but he also gained a new ally—none other than Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson.
Chris Hemsworth picked up Thor’s mighty hammer for this lavish fantasy adventure, and Tom Hiddleston played his treacherous brother Loki in one of the MCU’s greatest casting feats ever. (It’s up against some pretty stiff competition, mind.) Loki and Thor remain two of the most important MCU characters to this day. Oh, and this film also featured an early cameo from Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)!
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
The second MCU film of 2011 was an origin story for Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, played by Chris Evans. It’s set during World War II, so technically it’s a sort of a prequel, but the ending sees Steve wake up in the modern world ready to join the team of superhumans that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is putting together. This leads us to …
The Avengers (2012)
The final film of Phase 1 saw all the characters we’d met so far—Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye—team up to fight Loki as he seeks to conquer Earth. The Avengers won, of course, but the stakes would only get higher as time went on.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Iron Man 3 dealt with Tony’s trauma in the wake of what happened to him in The Avengers. It received good reviews, just as all the MCU movies had gotten up to this point, but some comic fans raised eyebrows at the twist involving Ben Kingsley’s fake version of The Mandarin. This was yet another MCU story choice that would be tackled in more depth further down the line.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
This movie isn’t remembered as one of the MCU’s best movies, but it still has plenty to offer. In this one, Loki is being his mischievous self, but he’s not the main villain—that honor goes to Christopher Eccleston as Malekith, who was not enjoying himself under all that makeup.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2013)
Hot on the heels of one of the least-liked Phase 2 MCU movies came one of its most praised. Captain America: The Winter Soldier involved Cap reuniting with his old friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan), who had been brainwashed by HYDRA into becoming an assassin. He also makes a new friend in Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), who later becomes known as the superhero Falcon.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Taking the MCU into the world of wacky aliens and talking raccoons was a move many people thought would fail. But it didn’t! Instead, Guardians of the Galaxy was a big hit and introduced MCU fans to a whole new team of heroes—Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel).
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Age of Ultron marks the second outing for the main Avengers team. This time around, they’re joined by three new characters, one of whom would die and two of whom would have long-lasting effects on the MCU. These were, of course, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Vision (Paul Bettany), and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). This isn’t the worst movie the MCU has to offer, but it most definitely has its issues.
The MCU rounded off Phase 2 by introducing a brand new solo hero, Ant-Man, played by Paul Rudd. The film got good reviews at the time, but it’s one of the more forgettable MCU outings, and the increasingly lackluster sequels didn’t help it much.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
What if all your favorite superheroes fought each other? That’s the premise of Civil War, which isn’t so much a Captain America film as it is another ensemble Avengers film. Pretty much everyone apart from Thor and Hulk shows up! We also get two new characters: Black Panther/T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland).
Doctor Strange (2016)
The multiverse was first cracked open in Doctor Strange, which follows the journey of, well, a doctor whose name is Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the title character, an arrogant surgeon who becomes a sorcerer after a car accident deprives him of the use of his hands.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 improved on the already great original in many ways. By the end of the movie, two more women were on the Guardians team in one way or another—Pom Klementieff’s Mantis, and Karen Gillan’s Nebula.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Spider-Man got his first solo MCU outing in this high-school-set movie. With some help from Iron Man, he came into his own as a superhero. And along the way he met Zendaya’s MJ, his future love interest (and Tom Holland’s real life love interest!)
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Taika Waititi took the reins for this third Thor movie, and many people said he breathed new life into the character. There was a lot more humor and a lot less “Shakespeare in the park” during this galaxy-spanning adventure with Thor, Loki, Hulk, and reluctant new hero Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson).
Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther is widely considered one of the best MCU movies. It was, after all, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture—the first superhero flick ever to get that honor. It’s also the highest-grossing movie by a Black director to date.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
This was a massive cinematic event that included virtually every single character from the previous MCU movies. Honestly, you just had to be there. Iron Man, Cap, Spider-Man, the Guardians … all of them were in this movie. Thanos the Mad Titan was seeking to erase half of all life in the galaxy, and—spoiler alert—he succeeded! Oh no!
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Before the Infinity War cliffhanger could be resolved, we were taken back in time and had a fun heist with Ant-Man and his fellow superhero, the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly). The post-credits scene explained what happened to Ant-Man and co. after Thanos snapped away half of all life in the universe.
Captain Marvel (2019)
Another prequel! Captain Marvel goes back to the ’90s and introduces us to Carol Danvers, a woman with no memory of who she is and a tenuous grasp on the tremendous power she wields (courtesy of an Infinity Stone, of course). She would go on to have a pivotal role in the direct sequel to Infinity War, leading us to …
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
This was the thrilling conclusion to over a decade’s worth of storytelling. All the surviving Avengers and Guardians reunited after five years to put the world back to rights and defeat Thanos, but there were some sacrifices made along the way. By the end of the movie, we’d lost both Black Widow and Iron Man, but the universe was restored.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
This movie came out at the end of Phase 3 and served as a sort of epilogue. As the film unfolds, Spider-Man comes to terms with Iron Man’s death while fighting Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man who claims to be from another universe.
Black Widow (2020)
Black Widow, the prequel film that kicked off Phase 4, was released in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. So most people ended up watching it on Disney+ rather than the big screen, but it did pretty well on there. It was just nice to finally have a Black Widow movie.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
A new MCU hero made his debut in this movie. This was Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi, a young warrior whose dad just so happens to be the real Mandarin. Yep, it took eight years, but they finally introduced him! Many interesting things happen in this movie, but alas, it has yet to be followed up on.
Eternals was another big risk taken by Marvel Studios. Put a bunch of characters no one had ever heard of in a big-budget movie and watch what happens! Unfortunately, and undeservedly, in my opinion, Eternals was a critical flop. But maybe we’ll catch up with Gemma Chan’s Sersi again one day?
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
The movie fans of Spider-Man had been waiting for—a union of all three live-action Spider-Men! Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield joined Tom Holland for this multiversal adventure, and it was a massive hit. It currently sits at position number seven on the list of highest-grossing movies of all time.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
Remember Scarlet Witch? She’s back, and she’s changed … a lot. It helps to have watched WandaVision on Disney+ before watching this one, but you can just about manage without it. While Doctor Strange is obviously the title character, this movie is so packed with multiverse cameos that you might accidentally forget all about him.
Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
This was Taika Waititi’s second Thor film. Unfortunately, though, this one was critically panned compared to the original. Watch it for yourself and see what you think. There’s no Loki, but perhaps the presence of Natalie Portman’s Jane and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie will make up for the lack of him.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
After Chadwick Boseman’s untimely passing in 2020, the Black Panther franchise had to carry on without him. So we got this touching, sad movie about T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) processing her grief while protecting Wakanda from a new threat.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)
The third Ant-Man movie established the new villain Kang (Jonathan Majors) as a threat to not only Ant-Man but the entire multiverse. But although Majors’ performance was praised, the movie didn’t do very well either critically or financially.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)
This movie cemented the Guardians of the Galaxy movies as the best trilogy in the MCU. It’s a heartwrenching ride through Rocket’s past, the raccoon granted intelligence by the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). It’s widely considered one of the best post-Endgame MCU movies.
The Marvels (2023)
The third MCU film of 2023 was, unfortunately, another financial flop. It has plenty to enjoy, though, especially the presence of Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), the adorable young superhero who’s always loved Captain Marvel (You should definitely check out Ms. Marvel on Disney+, too). The mid-credits scene of this movie also contains an exciting look at where the MCU is going next.
(featured image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
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