Marvel Movies In Order: How To Watch The MCU By Release Date And Chronologically

After more than two dozen films, things have gotten pretty damn complex as far as the timeline goes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with more upcoming Marvel movies always in the works – and watching the adventures in order is not a totally straight-forward process. For those of you who get a bit lost in all of it, we’ve specially designed this feature. There are basically two ways to enjoy the timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we will take a look at both in this piece: Chronological Order and Release Order. Read about both below, and you can choose the methodology that best suits you as you dive into the films.

If You’ve Never Seen The Marvel Movies Before

If this is your first time watching the movies, your best bet is to go the Release Order route. After all, it was how the first die-hard fans watched the blockbusters, and taking that path eventually turned them into the die-hards they are today. This is definitely the best approach to go if you're an MCU novice wondering why the franchise has become a cinematic goliath.

If You’ve Seen The Marvel Movies Before

The situation is a bit different if you've seen all of the Marvel movies before, as that opens the door to get creative with your rewatch experience. If you've seen all of the films that have been released, but are ready to rewatch them, Chronological Order is a fun way to mix things up and gain a new perspective on the larger story that the franchise is telling. The movies and shows on the whole have been good about maintaining continuity (albeit with a few occasional mistakes), so you may discover certain threads that weren't previously obvious to you before pursuing this viewing methodology.

Chronological Order Marvel Movies in order

(Image credit: Marvel)

Marvel Movies In Chronological Order

While watching the Marvel Studios releases in the order they came out makes plenty of sense, it should be noted that doing so results in viewers bouncing all around the franchise timeline with very little rhyme or reason from a larger narrative perspective. In contrast, there is a way to watch the movies linearly – you just have to know the proper order. Fortunately, we have you covered, and can guide you through the process of watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the order in which their stories are set.

Steve Rogers and Rocky in Captain America: The first avenger

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Captain America: The First Avenger (Set In 1940s)

The full story set furthest into the past is Captain America: The First Avenger – an adventure that entirely takes place towards the end of World War II. Spanning about two years (1943-1945), the story takes us from the transformation of Steve Rogers into Captain America, to his bold sacrificial move in the Arctic Circle that led him to being frozen in ice for decades. It’s in this film that we are introduced to not only the incredibly important titular hero, but also key supporting characters like James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, Peggy Carter, Howard Stark, Johann Schmidt a.k.a. Red Skull, and Arnim Zola, all of whom have key roles to play in later movies. It's also the first of many stories to involve the Tesseract a.k.a. The Space Stone.

Captain Marvel

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Captain Marvel (Set In 1990s)

There are flashbacks in Ant-Man, Ant-Man And The Wasp, Captain America: Civil War, and Black Panther that give audiences a peek into events that occurred after World War II in the MCU timeline, but the truth is that most of the 20th century remains open for exploration in future movies. The one part of the period that is an exception to this, however, is the mid-1990s, which is when the events of Captain Marvel take place (specifically 1995). Naturally, this is where audiences get to meet Carol Danvers for the first time, and it’s also the introduction of the shape-shifting Skrull Talos, but from a chronological perspective this also marks the debut of Phil Coulson and Nick Fury.

Iron Man in Iron Man

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Iron Man (Set In 2010)

The opening scene of Iron Man 3 shows what it was like for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to experience the 2000 New Year’s celebration, but the timeline zooms ahead to 2010ish for the next big arc, and that’s the movie that started it all: Iron Man. It’s in this story that we get to watch Tony Stark transform into an armor-clad superhero, but also get to know James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Pepper Potts, and Happy Hogan. Plus it’s an opportunity to check in with Nick Fury and Phil Coulson more than 15 years after Captain Marvel).

Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 2

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Iron Man 2 (Set In 2010)

The reason why the setting of Iron Man is a couple of years after its release date is because the story directly dovetails with the events of Iron Man 2, which is set in 2010. The film begins with the same scene that ended the previous movie – Tony Stark declaring to the world that he is Iron Man – and gives fans a chance to catch up with James “Rhodey” Rhodes (who becomes War Machine), Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan, Nick Fury, and Phil Coulson. This is the movie that also marks the first appearance of Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow, who is operating as an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent spying on Tony as he struggles with a life-threatening illness, confronts the possibility of his technology being proliferated, and weighs entrance to the Avengers.

Thor in Thor

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Thor (Set In 2010)

In Iron Man 2 we see Phil Coulson leave his assignment babysitting Tony Stark for a developing situation in New Mexico, and it winds up being revealed that the situation in question is the arrival of Thor on Earth a.k.a. Midgard (which means that it too is set in 2010ish). The first Thor movie is big on introductions, as we get to meet not only key Asgardians like the God of Thunder himself, Loki, Odin, Frigga, Heimdall, Sif, and the Warriors Three, but also notable humans such as Jane Foster, Darcy Lewis, Erik Selvig, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell, and Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye.

The Incredible Hulk in The Incredible Hulk

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The Incredible Hulk (Set In 2010)

If you are paying attention during the second to last scene in Iron Man 2, you’ll notice a familiar broadcast playing on one of the monitors – specifically a news report about a rampage by the Hulk at a college. This is because The Incredible Hulk is yet another story that takes place around 2010. It’s not the most significant movie on the MCU timeline, as it only features two characters who go on to be really important (not counting the Tony Stark cameo), but it is noteworthy that those two individuals are Bruce Banner a.k.a. Hulk and future Secretary of State Thaddeus E. "Thunderbolt" Ross, who is on a global hunt for the green monster.

The Avengers assemble to capture Loki

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The Avengers (Set In 2012)

Following the Iron Man 2/Thor/Incredible Hulk cluster there is a small gap in the timeline, but things pick back up with The Avengers, which is set in 2012. This particular adventure was obviously notable for bringing Marvel’s established ensemble of characters together, with an alien invasion bringing together Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury, Loki, Erik Selvig, Pepper Potts, and Phil Coulson in the same story, but the movie also marks the arrival of both Maria Hill and Thanos to the live-action canon.

Iron Man 3

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Iron Man 3 (Set In 2012)

Immediately post-Avengers both the chronological and release date timelines sync up for the most part. Iron Man 3 was the first movie to come out after the 2012 blockbuster, and it’s also the first story in-universe to follow it – taking place around Christmas of that year. Given that it is a more introspective story, with Tony Stark gaining a larger understanding of what it means to be Iron Man, the only important new character we meet is The Mandarin… who turns out to be a fake anyway. That being said, the film does also bring James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan and Howard Stark (albeit in video form) back into the action.

Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman in Thor: The Dark World

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Thor: The Dark World (Set In 2013)

Thor: The Dark World is set during an unspecified season of 2013, and while it doesn’t expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe at all with new characters, it does update audiences on what has been happening with almost the entire ensemble that was featured in the first movie, including Thor, Loki, Jane Foster, Odin, Frigga, Heimdall, Sif, the Warriors Three, Darcy Lewis, and Erik Selvig. Plus it has an adventure that centers around one of the most significant elements in the canon: the Reality Stone.

Captain America in Captain America The WInter SOldier

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Set In 2014)

It’s in the calendar year of 2014 that the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier play out, as audiences primarily catch up with Captain America and Black Widow as they sniff out a conspiracy within the goings-on at S.H.I.E.L.D. The blockbuster notably also brings back Bucky Barnes (now the Winter Soldier), Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Jasper Sitwell, Peggy Carter (now in her 90s), and Arnim Zola (now a computer), but also has fans get to know Sam Wilson a.k.a. Falcon, Sharon Carter a.k.a. Agent 13, S.H.I.E.L.D. Secretary Alexander Pierce, and strike team operative Brock Rumlow a.k.a. Crossbones.

Gamora, Peter Quill, Groot and Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy

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Guardians Of The Galaxy (Set In 2014)

Thanks to particular title cards in the beginning of the movie, we know for a fact that Guardians of the Galaxy takes place in the year 2014, though the narrative that unfolds in the movie couldn’t be set further away from the main action in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is, of course, the story that brought the likes of Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, Groot, Nebula, Yondu, and Kraglin into the live-action canon, while also seeing Thanos conspire with Ronan The Accuser to find The Power Stone.

Chris Pratt in Guardians 2

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Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (Set In 2014)

Because of the release schedule, most Marvel Cinematic Universe sequels are set at least a couple years after their predecessor, but that’s not the case with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which is set just a few months after the first movie – letting it come directly after it in chronological order. This adventure is very different than the last, centering on the titular group as they meet a being who claims to be Peter Quill’s father, and a great new addition is made to the team with the arrival of Mantis.

Chris Hemsworth's Thor surrounded by HYDRA soldiers in Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Set In 2015)

Back on Earth in the year 2015, the Avengers reunited for a world-threatening crisis of their very own making – namely Tony Stark’s creation of the deadly artificial intelligence known as Ultron. Avengers: Age Of Ultron not only brings back together Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Falcon, War Machine, Nick Fury, and Erik Selvig for the first time since 2012, but also has a huge impact on the future of the franchise. This is the movie that initially put Scarlet Witch in action (not counting her Captain America: The Winter Soldier post-credits cameo), features the creation of Vision, has a role for Ulysses Klaue, and also involves two Infinity Stones: the Mind Stone and the Space Stone.

Ant-Man crouching

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Ant-Man (Set In 2015)

Thanks to a particular line about the Avengers dropping cities out of the sky, we know that Ant-Man is set after the events of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, and as a result it’s pretty easy to pin it to its release year: 2015. It’s an important chapter for the MCU, as while the story about the heist of top secret technology doesn’t have much of an impact on the larger continuity of the franchise, it is the first movie for a lot of recurring characters, including Scott Lang a.k.a. Ant-Man, Hope van Dyne (pre-Wasp), Hank Pym, Luis, Kurt, Dave, Paxton, and Cassie and Maggie Lang. It also has cameos from Falcon, Howard Stark, and Peggy Carter.

Team Cap in Captain America: Civil War

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Captain America: Civil War (Set In 2016)

It’s in the year 2016 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that a monumental change begins to take effect in regards to the way in which people of the world view superheroes. Understanding that there’s a serious risk in having costumed vigilantes operating without oversight, the Sokovia Accords are ratified globally, and it’s an issue that causes a great divide between members of the Avengers. This is obviously one of the most significant stories in the franchise timeline, both bringing together the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, War Machine, Falcon, Vision, Winter Soldier, Agent 13, Ant-Man, Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross, Crossbones, and Howard Stark, while introducing T’Challa a.k.a. Black Panther, Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man, Helmut Zemo, May Parker, the Dora Milaje Ayo, and Everett Ross.

Black Panther getting prepared for combat in Black Panther

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Black Panther (Set In 2016)

While there were four Marvel movies released between Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther, the latter is much closer on the timeline to the former than any other feature. With the 2016 blockbuster featuring the death of the Wakandan ruler T’Chaka, Black Panther is a film set in the aftermath as T’Challa returns home. While dealing with a challenge to the titular hero’s throne from a previously-unknown cousin, the new film brings in a couple of familiar faces with Everett Ross, Ayo, and Ulysses Klaue, but mostly features new characters, including Ramonda (T'Challa's mother), Shuri (T'Challa's sister), Okoye, M'Baku, Nakia, W'Kabi, and Ayo.

Spider-Man Homecoming saves a guy on ferry

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Spider-Man: Homecoming (Set In 2016)

Like Black Panther, Spider-Man: Homecoming is also very much set in the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War, but a little more time has passed in between the stories. While the plot has Peter Parker struggling to be the best Spider-Man he can be while operating under certain restrictions from Iron Man, the film also introduces audiences to all of the important people in the hero’s life, including his classmates Ned Leeds, Flash Thompson, Michelle, a.k.a. M.J., and Betty Brant, and teachers like Mr. Harrington. May Parker also makes his second MCU appearance, while there is also a part to play for Happy Hogan, and a cameo from Pepper Potts.

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow

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Black Widow (Set In 2016)

Cate Shortland's Black Widow may have been released as the first title in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase Four, but it's a chapter that is still embedded amidst the various events that comprised the latter years of the Infinity Saga. While the blockbuster isn't set as close to the events of Captain America: Civil War as either Black Panther or Spider-Man: Homecoming, the plot is very much tied to that period – specifically in the sense that it picks up with the titular heroine on the run due to her disobeying the orders in the Sokovia Accords.

Doctor Strange in Doctor Strange

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Doctor Strange (Set In 2016)

Dr. Stephen Strange gets specifically name dropped in Captain America: Civil War, but evidence suggests it’s because of his advanced skills as a brain surgeon – not because he eventually becomes one of the most magically gifted individuals on Earth. On the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline, Doctor Strange doesn’t actually go through his whole origin story until after the events of both Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming - which pins the start of his journey in late 2016. While watching him do so, though, audiences get to meet characters like Wong, the Ancient One, Mordo, Dr. Christine Palmer, and Dormammu, all of whom either already have important parts to play in the MCU, or surely soon will.

Chris Hemsworth in Thor: Ragnarok

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Thor: Ragnarok (Set In 2018)

Where Thor: Ragnarok sits on the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline is most easily perceived by its proximity to Avengers: Infinity War – which is evident from the post-credits scene that directly ties into the massive blockbuster. Without any specific dates available, the best guess is that the bulk of the movie takes place in the year 2018, with the God of Thunder going on a wild adventure that sees him travel to a garbage planet while his sister, Hela, takes over Asgard. This movie is important to the canon in that it refreshes audiences on the whereabouts of Hulk, Loki, and Heimdall, while also showing the fates of the Warriors Three and Odin. There's also a fun supporting role played by Doctor Strange, who is shown to possess very skilled control over magiks, and the introduction of fun new players including Valkyrie, Korg, Meik, and The Grandmaster.

Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne in Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Ant-Man And The Wasp (Set In 2018)

Like Thor: Ragnarok, we know that Ant-Man And The Wasp takes place very close to the events of Avengers: Infinity War because of what is shown during the end credits (namely the effects of The Blip). However, because the story plays out over less time, and goes further into the future than the third God of Thunder film, we’re putting it next chronologically. While tracing a plot that finds its main characters working to rescue the long-missing Janet van Dyne, this movie catches fans up with all the key Ant-Man players, including Scott Lang, Hope Van Dyne (who finally becomes Wasp), Hank Pym, Luis, Kurt, Dave, Paxton, and Cassie and Maggie Lang.

Thanos in Avengers Infinity War

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Avengers: Infinity War (Set In 2018)

Taking place in the spring of 2018, Avengers: Infinity War plays out the first chapter in a two-part saga that Marvel Studios planned over the course of more than a decade. Following Thanos’ journey to collect all six of the Infinity Stones, the film features far too many characters to list here… and at the end of the day winds up killing approximately half of them.

The Avengers assemble in Avengers: Endgame

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Avengers: Endgame (Set In 2023)

As for Avengers: Endgame, the most significant events of the blockbuster take place in the year 2023, five years after the devastating ending of Avengers: Infinity War… but it’s also a hard title to specifically put on a timeline specifically because of the time travel antics that are featured. To get into all of the details here would be a touch too confusing, not to mention the crazy number of heroes and villains who appear, but the fact that the movie jumps the MCU canon into the near future is really the big takeaway from a timeline perspective.

Elizabeth Olsen on WandaVision

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WandaVision (Set In 2023)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe entered a new era with the release of WandaVision, not only because it's the first title in Phase 4, but also because it's the franchise's first Disney+ series. It's also an interesting story to consider in the Marvel timeline, as it's actually set between the events of Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home. It's specifically said in dialogue on the show that the plot really begins about three weeks after the final battle against Thanos, and head writer Jac Schaeffer has confirmed that the events that play out happen over the course of about a week.

Bucky and Sam facing off against John Walker.

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

The Falcon And The Winter Soldier (Set In 2024)

Beyond being clearly set in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Disney+ series doesn't really provide too many anchors regarding where it sits in the timeline, but given the featured animosity regarding political restructuring after The Blip, it seems fair to say that a few months have past, putting it after the events of WandaVision.

Shang-Chi battling Mandarin with Ten Rings in Marvel movie

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Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings (Set In Spring 2024)

Thanks to its central antagonist having lived for a millenia Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings is a movie that features scenes that go way back in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – but the vast majority is set in “present” (by which I mean the near future). It's not easy to pinpoint exactly when the events of the film occur in relation to Avengers: Endgame, but there is a moment when Wenwu says that the portal to the mystical world of Ta Lo will be open during the Chinese holiday Qingming Jie, which is celebrated in the spring.

eternals cast

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Eternals (Set In 2024)

While many Marvel movies have featured flashbacks that are set centuries in the past, Eternals is a special case in that it goes back a remarkable 7,000 years in history, chronicling its characters' journey shepherding human society. That being said, the bulk of the action takes place in the post-Blip "present," and while there aren't really any specific seasonal markers it feels safe to line it up in release order and say that events transpire around the time or after what happens in Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings.

Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal in Spider-man: Far From Home

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE))

Spider-Man: Far From Home (Set In Summer 2024)

Although Spider-Man: Far From Home was the first MCU film released in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame – evidence suggests that it takes place after a number of the films and shows that followed it. The set up of the story suggests it takes place in the summer of 2024. The fact that Tony Stark is dead still weighs heavily on the minds of characters in this story, but once again we get to reconnect with the important people in Peter Parker’s circle, including Ned Leeds, Flash Thompson, M.J., Betty Brant, Mr. Harrington, May Parker, Happy Hogan. And to bring things full circle, we even get new appearances from both Talos and Nick Fury, who we learn are working together on a mysterious mission (perhaps a response to the events that transpire in Eternals?).

Spider-Man runs from Doc Ock in Spider-Man: No Way Home

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Spider-Man: No Way Home (Set In Fall 2024)

Given the cliffhanger ending of Spider-Man: Far From Home, with J. Jonah Jameson and Mysterio revealing the web-slinger's secret identity to the world, Spider-Man: No Way Home had to be set in the immediate aftermath – and it delivers. It's made clear that the story is set in the immediate aftermath of Halloween (given that MJ's boss at the coffee shop requesting that decorations be taken down), and the narrative doesn't unfold over a great deal of time.

Elizabeth Olsen in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness (Set In Fall 2024)

A considerable percentage of Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness takes place outside of the normal MCU timeline, but there is still plenty of action set in the 616 Universe (which the movie designates). There aren't many details revealed within the film itself regarding when it is set – other than it being after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home – but thanks to the timeline order featured on Disney+, we know that it takes place between the events of the webslinger blockbuster and...

Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld in Hawkeye.

(Image credit: Disney+)

Hawkeye (Set In December 2024)

If you look closely in Spider-Man: No Way Home, you can see billboards for Rogers: The musical, a fictional Broadway production that is more prominently featured in  Hawkeye. With the blockbuster ending in November 2024, it's logical that the the Disney+ series is set in December of the same year – and specifically around Christmas.

mr. knight in moon knight on disney+

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Moon Knight (Set In 2025)

The Disney+ series Moon Knight in general has very few connections to the larger happenings of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it most definitely is set within the canon, and we do have a general idea of when it's set thanks to the aforementioned official timeline on the streaming service. According to Disney, the events on the show take place after the events of Hawkeye – and given that Hawkeye is set in December 2024, it's fair that we pin the events to taking place sometime in 2025.

She-Hulk with Wong in She-Hulk: Attorney At Law

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She-Hulk: Attorney At Law (Set In 2025)

Notable mention of Wong's battle with Abomination featured in Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings gives us at least one standout way in which to pinpoint She-Hulk: Attorney At Law's exact place on the MCU timeline, but still we're mostly relying on info from Disney+ here. The streaming service puts the show's events after those that take place in Moon Knight, but notably it is set before the events of the Marvel show that directly proceeded it...

Iman Vellani in Ms. Marvel

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Ms. Marvel (Set In Fall 2025)

The Ms. Marvel series was released prior to She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, but the streaming service that debuted it says that they didn't come out in chronological order where the MCU is concerned. We don't know what exact month the events take place during, but it's worth noting that Kamala Khan is depicted as starting her junior year of high school, which means that it takes place in the fall.

Thor: Love and Thunder

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Thor: Love And Thunder (Set In Late 2025/Early 2026)

Although we know that Thor: Love And Thunder takes place a fair amount of time after the events of Avengers: Endgame, it isn't perfectly clear exactly how far. The best guess we have to the setting comes from Thor telling Mighty Thor that it's been eight years, seven months, and six days since he last saw her... but that only gets us so far considering we don't know exactly when they broke up. We know that happened before the events of Captain America: Civil War, but details are vague, leaving us to pin the movie to 2025/2026.

Gael Garcia Bernal in Werewolf By Night

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Werewolf By Night (Set In Late 2025/Early 2026)

The Special Presentation Werewolf By Night opens up a new monster-filled corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though in doing so it doesn't get too specific regarding when it takes place in relation to other events that are happening in the canon. Disney+'s timeline says that it takes place after Thor: Love And Thunder, but because we don't really know when that blockbuster is set, it's hard to get an exact read on the timeline spot for the MCU's first full-on horror project.

Danai Guira and Letitia Wright in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Set In Late 2025/Early 2026)

In the case of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, fans will have to suss out the specifics when it comes to months/seasons, but at the very least we do know its position on the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline thanks to producer Nate Moore. The filmmaker confirmed to CinemaBlend that the blockbuster's setting is "potentially concurrent" with both the events in Thor: Love And Thunder and Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania.

Peter and Mantis in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special on Disney+

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The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special (Set In December 2025)

Marvel Studios celebrated Christmas 2024 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the adventure in Hawkeye, and set one year later is the shenanigan-filled Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special. There isn't a specific mention of the year that things are happening, but it's clearly set after the events in Thor: Love And Thunder.

Ant-Man and The Wasp smiling in costume

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Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania (Set In Late 2025/Early 2026)

Because the film is primarily set in the time-warping Quantum Realm, Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania is not the easiest blockbuster to pin down on the Marvel timeline, but Nate Moore's comment about it being concurrent with Thor: Love And Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever gives us the confidence to at least pin it to late 2025/early 2026.

Zoe Saldana and Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

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Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 (2026)

As noted, the adventures in Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 happened very close together on the MCU timeline, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has a similar relationship with the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. It's not made explicitly clear when the movie is set, but references are made to that Disney+ adventure, pinning the blockbuster to the early months of 2026.

Samuel L. Jackson on Secret Invasion

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Secret Invasion (2026)

The Disney+ original series Secret Invasion is heavy on flashbacks, dipping into many different eras of the MCU, but it's mostly set post-Blip. There haven't been any specific dates mentioned that specifically tell us whether or not the events are happening before or after the story in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (a tricky thing to pin down since so much of that film is set away from Earth), but we're going to stick by the rule of thumb and put it at the very end of the timeline.

In Canon Outside Timeline Marvel Movies in order

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In Canon/Outside Of The Timeline

Complicated as it is to keep track of everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, things are getting even more complicated post-Infinity Saga. As the franchise dives into the concept of the multiverse, new stories are being told that are still part of the larger canon, but also exist outside of the timeline detailed above. Allow me to explain...

Tom Hiddleston as Loki

(Image credit: Disney)


Technically a spin-off from Avengers: Endgame, the Disney+ series Loki chronicles the version of the titular God of Mischief who managed to escape from the grasp of the Avengers thanks to a misplaced Tesseract. Having messed with the time stream, he is arrested as a Variant by the Time Variance Authority – and when he is brought to their headquarters, he finds himself in a location that exists outside of normal time and space. It doesn't really fit on the chronological timeline as a result, but it is at the very least best watched only after the aforementioned 2019 blockbuster.

Infinity Ultron in What If

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

What If

Debuting on Disney+ in summer 2021, What If is a series that is developed by Marvel Studios that exclusively focuses on stories that play out on alternate timelines that are similar to the events featured in the Marvel Cinematic Universe... but with special changes altering everything. What if Peggy Carter had gotten the super soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers? What if the Ravagers kidnapped T'Challa instead of Peter Quill? What if Ant-Man and Wasp accidentally unleashed a zombie plague from the Quantum Realm? All those stories and more are told in this multiverse-centric animated series, and a Season 3 is in the works that will spin even more of these kinds of tales.

Release Date Order Marvel Movies in order

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Marvel Movies In Release Date Order

In the establishment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios made specific choices regarding what characters they wanted to introduce to audiences and when, and if this is the part of their specific creative process that you personally take into consideration when watching the movies, then Release Order is probably the best choice for you.

  • Iron Man (2008)
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  • Iron Man 2 (2010)
  • Thor (2011)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  • The Avengers (2012)
  • Iron Man 3 (2013)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  • Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
  • Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015)
  • Ant-Man (2015)
  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Doctor Strange (2016)
  • Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  • Black Panther (2018)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  • Ant-Man And The Wasp (2018)
  • Captain Marvel (2019)
  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
  • WandaVision (2021)
  • The Falcon And The Winter Soldier (2021)
  • Loki (2021)
  • Black Widow (2021)
  • What If (2021)
  • Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings (2021)
  • Eternals (2021)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2021)
  • Moon Knight (2022)
  • Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness (2022)
  • Ms. Marvel (2022)
  • Thor: Love And Thunder (2022)
  • She-Hulk: Attorney At Law (2022)
  • Werewolf By Night (2022)
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
  • The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special (2022)
  • Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania (2023)
  • Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)
  • Secret Invasion (2023)

No matter the order in which you decide to watch the films, TV shows, and holiday specials (most of which are available with a Disney+ subscription), one thing that’s for certain is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has spun an epic big screen story so far in its decade-plus existence – and it’s not going to stop growing any time soon. To learn about everything that is set to arrive in the coming months and years, head on over to our Upcoming Marvel Movies and Upcoming Marvel TV guides.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.