What Marvel movie should I watch first? Watching every Marvel movie in order is the best way to experience the MCU. As the superhero cinematic universe continues to grow, those fans not committed enough to watch all 32 (and counting) films might try and convince you you only need to watch the Infinity Stone films or the best Marvel movies, but the purists know that nothing beats the chronological order.
Admittedly, now we’re way past the Infinity Saga with Marvel Studios showing no indication of slowing down, watching every Marvel movie in chronological order isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you can commit to the movie marathon or end all movie marathons, you’ll be rewarded by experiencing one of the richest and most powerful stories in cinematic history. And with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 out now, there’s no better time to start.
Don’t worry, we’ll be here every step of the way to help with our breakdown of every Marvel movie in chronological order (specifically the MCU, so there’s no Mobius or Venom here), but there are spoilers so if you’re new to the MCU, just stick with the list at the top. All you need to do is sit back and relax, tell your friends and family they won’t see or hear from you for the next few weeks, and dive in!
What Marvel movie should I watch first?
I suggest starting with Iron Man (2008). Several of the major characters and ideas that are crucial to the plot are introduced in this, the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In addition, Iron Man is a fantastic movie on its own, featuring a stellar cast, an engaging plot, and some amazing action scenes.
You can also start with one of the other stand-alone movies, such Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Thor (2011), or Black Panther (2018), if you’re not sure if you want to dedicate yourself to viewing every MCU movie. Even if you haven’t seen the previous movies in the MCU, you may still appreciate these ones as excellent introductions.
Here are a few more Marvel films you might like:
- 2019’s Avengers: Endgame
- 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War
- (2016) Captain America: Civil War
- The 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy
- 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming
- (2016) Doctor Strange
- (2015) Ant-Man
- The Legend of the Ten Rings and Shang-Chi (2021)
- Beyond Time (2021)
- No Way Home: Spider-Man (2021)
Ultimately, selecting a Marvel film that piques your curiosity is the best approach to determine which to see first. If you like it, you can always view the other movies afterwards.
Captain America: The First Avenger
- Release date: July 22, 2011
- Cast: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving
If you want to watch all the Marvel movies in chronological order then you have to start with Captain America: The First Avenger. Not the best Marvel movie by a long shot, but given it takes place during World War 2, in 1942 to be exact, its setting is certainly the oldest. Travel back in time to watch Cap fight HYDRA masquerading as Nazis and fall for Peggy Carter, only to be frozen in ice so he could conveniently leapfrog through time to the present day and eventually team up with the Avengers. This is where it all began…
- Release date: March 8, 2019
- Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law
Next you’ll jump forward in time to the 90s where Captain Marvel discovers grunge as well as a community of Skrulls hiding in plain sight on Earth. Set in 1995, Marvel gave us a strong blast of nostalgia with this origin movie, which saw appearances from 90s icons such as Blockbuster, payphones, and Nine Inch Nails. Plus, it was the first Marvel movie to have one of its main characters de-aged using some impressive CGI so a young Nick Fury could kick ass right alongside one of the most powerful superheroes in the franchise.
- Release date: May 2, 2008
- Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard
That brings us to Iron Man, the very first Marvel movie made, but the third in chronological order. Set in 2010, this origin movie started it all for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Tony Stark creates the Iron Man suit to escape his captors and then become a powerful but arrogant superhero. With his P.A. Pepper Potts and friend Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes along for the ride, Tony eventually takes down baddie Obadiah Stane who arranged Tony’s kidnapping so he could take over Stark Industries.
Iron Man 2
- Release date: May 7, 2010
- Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow
Less than a year later Tony is back in hot water as the son of a former Stark Industries employee, Ivan Vanko, tries to kill him using his own version of Tony’s Iron Man suit technology. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, Tony finds out that the palladium core in the Arc Reactor that keeps him alive and powers his suit is actually killing him. All in all, Tony isn’t having a great year, but thanks to a little help from Nick Fury and Natasha Romanoff, aka S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Black Widow, he eventually cures himself and takes down Vanko.
The Incredible Hulk
- Release date: June 13, 2008
- Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth
At the same time, Bruce Banner is trying to find a cure for his condition which sees him turn into a big, raging, green monster anytime he feels a bit irritated. Set in 2011, Banner is being hunted by General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross who sends special forces soldier Emil Blonsky to take him down.
Unfortunately, Blonsky is no match for the Hulk which is why he agrees to be injected with a similar serum to the one that turned Banner into the Hulk. The problem is, it also makes him insane. Eventually becoming Abomination and going on a killing rampage, Banner convinces Ross to let him stop Blonsky and save the day.
Whether this movie counts as part of the MCU is up for debate – Disney/Marvel say no, but it was very clearly meant to be in the MCU when it was created, as evidenced by Tony Stark’s post credits cameo.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
- Release date: May 3, 2023
- Cast: Chris Pratt, Chukwudi Iwuji, Bradley Cooper
The Guardians return for a third, and apparently final (at least with this exact line-up), outing in an emotional fight against Rocket’s creator and torturer, The High Evolutionary. Chukwudi Iwuji’s baddie knows no limits in his quest to create ‘a perfect world’, as seen through Rocket’s flashbacks as he fights for his life. Quill, who’s still struggling with the loss of his Gamora, and the rest of Guardians must fight to save their friend’s life and enlist the help of the other Gamora along the way.
The High Evolutionary won’t go down without a fight though and threatens another creation of his, the Sovereign, with destruction if they don’t help him capture Rocket’s impressive brain, forcing Ayesha to throw her powerful, but stupid newly-grown son Adam Warlock into the ring. The Guardians come out on top in the end, but decide to go their separate ways leaving Rocket to head up the new Guardians.
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