As the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands into its second chapter (deemed the Multiverse Saga), some people who are eager to take in Marvel Studios' stories for the first time may feel overwhelmed by the studio's 100+ hours worth of already-released content.
The majority of that MCU content comes from the studio's 30 produced movies. There are also over ten Disney+ series & specials that directly tie into the narrative, although fans still view the films as the forefront of Marvel's on-screen storytelling.
So what order should first-time viewers watch all these Marvel Studios movies? Some fans will argue that the MCU's chronological timeline order is the ideal order to now experience every single released project. However, that's not the best order for Marvel newbies.
Below is the theatrical release order of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's movies, which is also the exact order new MCU fans should experience the highest-grossing superhero film franchise ever:
Iron Man - May 2, 2008
Tony Stark's first solo film kicked off the MCU in exciting fashion, showing off his evolution from playboy billionaire to superhero as he built his original Iron Man suits. Robert Downey Jr.'s hero finds himself entrenched in a difficult internal struggle, coming to terms with the consequences of his actions as a weapons maker while discovering a new way to do good in the world.
Iron Man is available to stream on Disney+ and FuboTV.
The Incredible Hulk - June 13, 2008
Edward Norton brings a new version of Bruce Banner to life in a story that showed him on the run from General Thaddeus Ross and the United States army. With Banner looking for a way to rid himself of his gamma-induced situation, he has to adjust his goals and learns how to control the angry green rage monster inside of him.
Iron Man 2 - May 7, 2010
Six months after the events of Iron Man, Tony Stark is in search of a new element to power the arc reactor in his chest, which is killing him via palladium poisoning. With Don Cheadle replacing Terrance Howard as Colonel James Rhodes and Scarlett Johansson's introduction as "Natalie Rushman," Tony quickly finds out what lies in the new world now that he's brought new dangerous technology into the equation.
Iron Man 2 is available to stream on Disney+.
Thor - May 6, 2011
The MCU goes cosmic for the first time in 2011 by introducing Chris Hemsworth's Thor, who finds himself banished to Earth after starting a war with the Frost Giants. Tom Hiddleston's Loki becomes a breakout star alongside Hemsworth and Natalie Portman's Jane Foster, with the God of Thunder coming to grips with his humanity as he tries to regain his place alongside his family in Asgard.
Thor is available to stream on Disney+.
Captain America: The First Avenger - July 22, 2011
Steve Rogers/Captain America's origin takes place before any other movie in the MCU timeline, sending him out as a mascot for the U.S. Army during World War II before he takes control of his own destiny. Learning how to become a superhero, he leads the Howling Commandos into battle against the Red Skull, who uses an incredibly powerful weapon known as the Tesseract to accomplish goals even far beyond those of Nazi Germany.
Captain America: The First Avenger is available to stream on Disney+
The Avengers - May 4, 2012
After five MCU solo movies, Phase 1 comes to an epic end as the Avengers assemble for the first time against Loki, who seeks to take over Earth after feeling cheated out of ruling Asgard. This forces the four leading heroes from the rest of Phase 1, along with Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton, to join forces in order to stop the first alien invasion that Earth has ever seen.
The Avengers is available to stream on Disney+.
Iron Man 3 - May 3, 2013
After the Avengers' first team-up effort, Tony Stark/Iron Man had to come back to reality and face his own demons, grappling with his place in the universe while also revisiting his past with former colleague Aldrich Killian. Uncovering the mystery of the Mandarin, a new supervillain who looks to inflict terror on the world while reviving the Ten Rings organization, Tony has to come to terms with his new reality while continuing to evolve as Iron Man.
Iron Man 3 is available to stream on Disney+.
Thor: The Dark World - November 8, 2013
Reuniting with Jane Foster in this sequel, Thor has to take on a new enemy in Malekith and the Dark Elves, who are trying to plunge the world into eternal darkness with the Aether, "an ancient force of infinite destruction." The God of Thunder learns even further about loss and sacrifice in his next battle after dealing with his brother, Loki, balancing his life as an Asgardian God and an Avenger on Earth.
Thor: The Dark World is available to stream on Disney+, Starz, and DirecTV.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier - April 4, 2014
Steve Rogers is thrown into the middle of a major political conspiracy in Joe and Anthony Russo's first MCU outing, with Captain America learning what the 21st century has to offer. Teaming up with SHIELD agent Natasha Romanoff and meeting former pararescue soldier Sam Wilson, Captain America comes across a dangerous but familiar enemy in the Winter Soldier while also confronting an old foe from his past.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is available to stream on Disney+, Starz, DirecTV, and Sling.
Guardians of the Galaxy - August 1, 2014
Peter Quill/Star-Lord gains possession of a mysterious orb before being thrown into prison alongside Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and Drax the Destroyer as they decide to team up in order to gain their freedom. Starring in the MCU's first movie that takes place almost completely off of Earth, Star-Lord and the Guardians have to work out some massive differences with one another while getting a taste of the cosmic power that they'll have to face for years to come.
Guardians of the Galaxy is available to stream on Disney+ and Starz.
Avengers: Age of Ultron - May 1, 2015
Teaming up once again to stop Hydra, Earth's Mightiest Heroes later find themselves with a new potentially world-ending threat in the menacing artificial intelligence program known as Ultron, created by the Avengers themselves. The team later learns of two new powered individuals in the Maximoff twins, Wanda and Pietro, who only add to the trouble that Ultron delivers when he seeks to annihilate the planet.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is available to stream on Disney+, DirecTV, Syfy, Sling, TNT, TBS, and TruTV.
Ant-Man - July 15, 2015
Closing out Phase 2 is Paul Rudd's first solo movie as Scott Lang/Ant-Man, showing the character's story after being released from prison as he teams up with Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne. Lang learns how to be Ant-Man in order to steal dangerous technology from Darren Cross/Yellowjacket in a movie that explores the Quantum Realm for the first time, all while Scott gets a tease of how big the Avengers' world really is.
Ant-Man is available to stream on Disney+, DirecTV, Syfy, Sling, TBS, and TruTV.
Captain America: Civil War - May 6, 2016
After years of leaving collateral damage in their wake, the Avengers are questioned when the United Nations approve the Sokovia Accords, splitting Earth's Mightiest Heroes into teams led by Captain America and Iron Man. In a movie that introduces Black Panther and Spider-Man into the MCU, this story throws the entire group into an epic duel, putting them in danger of breaking apart for good.
Captain America: Civil War is streaming on Disney+, DirecTV, TNT, TBS, and TruTV.
Doctor Strange - November 4, 2016
Benedict Cumberbatch made his long-awaited MCU debut as Doctor Stephen Strange, a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon who loses the use of his hands before diving into the ways of the Mystic Arts. This solo story opens the door to all things supernatural and magical in the MCU as Strange learns how to unlock his potential as a hero while moving past his devastating injury.
Doctor Strange is available to stream on Disney+, DirecTV, TNT, TBS, and TruTV.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - May 5, 2017
Taking place only months after their first solo movie, the Guardians find themselves on the run from the Sovereign, leading to them coming into contact with Mantis and Peter Quill's father, Ego the Living Planet. This movie shows Peter Quill the truth about his true heritage, although the Guardians have to go through yet another emotional journey as they learn what being a family truly means.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is available to stream on Disney+.
Spider-Man: Homecoming - July 7, 2017
Tom Holland's first solo Spider-Man movie sets him back in Queens only a short time in the MCU timeline after Civil War, allowing him to take on the local crime scene as he finds out about bigger dangers in his neighborhood. Going through his normal high school life, while trying to earn Tony Stark's respect, Peter eventually has to stop the efforts of the Vulture as he learns what it truly takes to be an Avenger.
Thor: Ragnarok - November 3, 2017
Two years after Thor leaves Earth in Age of Ultron, he learns about the prophecized fall of Asgard as the God of Thunder seeks to save his world. When he's stranded on Sakaar and thrown into a reunion with the Hulk, Thor has to navigate through a hoard of hilarity and adventure in Taika Waititi's first MCU film, all leading to a battle with the Goddess of Death, Hela, with Asgard in the balance.
Thor: Ragnarok is available to stream on Disney+, DirecTV, TNT, TBS, and TruTV.
Black Panther - February 16, 2018
Moving only slightly forward in the MCU timeline after Civil War, Chadwick Boseman's King T'Challa returns to his home country of Wakanda as he looks to settle new turmoil in his country. Eventually, this leads to an incredible duel with Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger, bringing one of the MCU's deepest hero vs. villain battles ever with T'Challa navigating his new responsibilities as King of Wakanda.
Avengers: Infinity War - April 27, 2018
The third Avengers movie pulls together nearly every hero across the galaxy with one goal in mind - stopping Thanos from collecting all six Infinity Stones and completing the Infinity Gauntlet. This brings more MCU characters into one movie than any of its predecessors, pitting the best heroes from Earth and the cosmos against the Infinity Saga's biggest villain in a fight to save the universe.
Avengers: Infinity War is available to stream on Disney+.
Ant-Man and the Wasp - July 6, 2018
Scott Lang is paying the consequences for his actions in Civil War before Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne seek out his help in their next mission. The story also fully introduces Michelle Pfeiffer's Janet Van Dyne as the family goes up against both Sonny Burch and the super-powered Ghost, bringing more Ant-power to this tiny sequel that helps set up the end of the Infinity Saga.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is available to stream on Disney+.
Captain Marvel - March 8, 2019
Becoming the second jump back in time in the MCU, Brie Larson's first solo movie introduced arguably Marvel's most powerful hero in the story in a '90s-themed adventure. This movie throws Carol Danvers into an Earth-based adventure alongside a young Nick Fury and Phil Coulson, highlighting SHIELD's early MCU days while shaking things up in the MCU watch order.
Captain Marvel is available to stream on Disney+, DirecTV, Sling, TNT, TBS, and TruTV
Avengers: Endgame - April 26, 2019
The penultimate movie of the Infinity Saga puts the Avengers on their most emotional and difficult journey to date in a movie that was shrouded in more secrecy than any of its predecessors. After the team's battle with Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, this sequel challenged to be the highest-grossing movie of all time and brought one heartstopping moment after another in its three-hour runtime.
Avengers: Endgame is available to stream on Disney+, DirecTV, TNT, TBS, and TruTV.
Spider-Man: Far From Home - July 2, 2019
Phase 3 and the Infinity Saga as a whole came to an end with Spider-Man's second solo MCU film, which sees him on vacation to Europe while Nick Fury attempts to recruit him to fight the Elementals. This story also sees Peter come face-to-face with Jake Gyllenhaal's Mysterio, one of the web-slinger's classic villains from the comics, although he doesn't come across as a bad guy from jump street.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is available to stream on Starz and DirecTV.
Black Widow - July 9, 2021
After an 18-month delay, Marvel Studios went back in the MCU timeline to give Scarlett Johansson her own solo movie in Phase 4, which takes place shortly after Civil War as she is on the run from the United Nations. She goes on an exciting journey alongside Yelena Belova and her Black Widow family as she encounters the skilled villain Taskmaster, with later stages of the story also showing off deep connections to the Hawkeye series on Disney+.
Black Widow is available to stream on Disney+.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - September 3, 2021
Phase 4's first new character came with Simu Liu's Shang-Chi, going up against an MCU legacy character in the Ten Rings organization along with his father, the real Mandarin. As he discovers his heritage and moves into a collision course with his father, even encountering a couple of already-established MCU characters on the way, Shang-Chi uses his martial arts mastery to answer the questions that arise about his place in the world.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is available to stream on Disney+.
Eternals - November 5, 2021
Chloé Zhao's epic MCU outing brought thousands of years of history to the forefront, largely taking place after Avengers: Endgame in the MCU timeline the Eternals make their new home on Earth. Delivering a great deal of representation while introducing a dozen new heroes, these millennia-old heroes have to band together in order to learn the truth about their very existence as the Deviants rise to power and threaten life on a global scale.
Eternals is available to stream on Disney+.
Spider-Man: No Way Home - December 17, 2021
The Multiverse is unleashed in Peter Parker's third solo MCU movie as he deals with the immediate aftermath of his identity being revealed, all before multiple villains from past Spider-Man movies find their way into Earth-616. Forced to team up with Doctor Strange in order to fix this problem, all while dealing with his own life problems crumbling down on top of him, Spidey is put through challenges that no 17-year-old kid could imagine.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness - May 6, 2022
Following Wanda Maximoff's solo story in Disney+'s WandaVision, she finds herself meeting up with Doctor Stephen Strange as the fate of the Multiverse is put into jeopardy. Jumping through a number of alternate realities alongside America Chavez, Doctor Strange discovers just how vast and expansive the Multiverse truly is as he advances as a sorcerer and faces threats that could very well be even more powerful than him.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is available to stream on Disney+.
Thor: Love and Thunder - July 8, 2022
After years of fighting solo and with the Avengers, the God of Thunder goes on a quest for inner peace as he tries to figure out who he truly is and where he fits in the galaxy. Teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy while reuniting with Natalie Portman's revamped Jane Foster, Gorr the God Butcher puts Thor's plans on hold as he threatens the existence of all Gods across the universe.
Thor: Love and Thunder is available to stream on Disney+.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - November 11, 2022
The second Black Panther movie becomes the latest release both in the MCU timeline and in the real-world release schedule, largely serving as an emotional tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa as Phase 4 came to an end. This movie also features heavy connections to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+ as Wakanda finds itself entrenched in a battle with Namor the Sub-Mariner and his nation of Talokan, marking Namor's long-awaited first Marvel Studios adventure.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will begin streaming on Disney+ on Wednesday, February 1.
Finished with all 30 currently released MCU movies? Find out the next 10 Marvel movies releasing and when they come out here.
How Many Ways Can Fans Watch the MCU?
For new MCU fans, the simplest way to get into the Marvel Studios movies is to go by release order, starting with 2008's Iron Man and ending with 2022's Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. But while going by this MCU watch order is certainly an easy choice, there are a number of ways for seasoned fans to revisit the story after taking in everything Marvel Studios' theatrical releases have to offer.
Multiple individual characters have some intriguing stories to watch if fans want to just do the MCU movies that feature one particular hero, including the Iron Man Cut, the Spider-Man Cut, and even a cut solely focused on Benedict Wong's Sorcerer Supreme Wong. There is also the Political Cut, analyzing the way superheroes' existences impact the day-to-day lives of the MCU's regular world, along with a Cosmic Cut that centers only on characters who don't call Earth their primary home.
And of course, in honor of the Infinity Saga and the Multiverse Saga, there are the Infinity Stone Cut and the Multiverse Cut that highlight the central themes that have driven the entire MCU for the last 15 years thus far.
As Phase 5 gets set to kick off in 2023, the MCU timeline will only become that much more intricate as new Marvel Studios movies take the spotlight and highlight new characters and veterans alike. These new films' places in the timeline will become clearer with each release, and with at least half a dozen new theatrical outings premiering by the end of 2024 (giving the MCU an incredible 36 movies in total), new watch orders will come into existence before too long.
The MCU will return to theaters in Phase 5 with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which debuts in theaters on Friday, February 17.