Point/Counterpoint: What’s the correct order to watch the MCU?

Debating the correct way to work through the extensive Marvel Cinematic Universe

Two Queen’s students make a case for their preferred viewing order.

In order of release

Suggesting that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is easy to follow is a stretch—it’s a lot of material to work through. The best way to optimize your enjoyment of these films is to watch them in order of year they were released, not the chronological order of events within the MCU.

If you watch these movies chronologically, you’re putting yourself through a lot more complication than is necessary. Both the plot and cool revelations in each film still make sense with the release order—after all, that’s the way plenty of fans have followed the franchise since 2008’s Iron Man, the first film released in the MCU. In any other order, you might be receiving too much or too little context for the films to come together cohesively.

Iron Man is the best possible introduction to these films, kicking off the fictional universe with the arrogant yet brilliant inventor Tony Stark.

In fact, one of the more problematic consequences of watching chronologically is that the iconic Nick Fury closing-credits scene in Iron Man isn’t nearly as exciting if you’ve already met him. Captain Marvel, in which Fury plays a pivotal role, exists prior to Iron Man, according to chronology, eliminating some of the shock and suspense that, for many, define the attraction and love of these films.

Following the chronology also keeps fans from experiencing the nostalgia of the franchise’s development; you can see a shift in the films with bigger budgets after Disney’s acquisition of Marvel in 2009. Take Captain Marvel, which was released in 2019: the film shows protagonist Carol Danvers receiving her powers and fighting aliens in space years before the god of thunder’s short visit to Earth in 2011’s Thor.

So next time you decide to hunker down and enjoy one of the many great Marvelfilms, remember that watching in order of release saves you some complexities you may already face in your daily life that you want to tune out when watching your favorite heroes. 

—Patrick Wilson-Smith, contributor


In chronological order

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is fantastic for people like me who didn’t grow up reading the beloved comics. With the interconnected storylines of the 23 films—and now TV series—lovable characters, and infamous post-credit scenes, Marvel Studios has achieved a successful medley of blockbuster hits.

With there being so many films, I’m here to tell you the best and most entertaining way to binge the MCU: the chronological timeline.

Marvel is a shared universe, and the best way to fully appreciate and understand the complexity of the overlapping storylines is watching the films chronologically.

Begin with Captain America: The First Avenger, which is arguably one of the best MCU films. It’s a superhero story about best friends and unrequited love all set in the historical period of World War II—what more could you ask for?

Captain Marvel is one of the MCU’s latest releases, but seeing it after Captain America provides some much-needed context for The Avengers and a backstory for a fan favourite character: Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. One of Marvel’s biggest criticisms prior to the release of this movie was the lack of female and QTBIPOC leads. Instead of watching several movies with white, straight, cis-male superheroes in a row, discover Brie Larson and Lashana Lynch as the embodiment of female and Black power within comics.

Save yourself time by skipping The Incredible Hulk, as Marvel Studios re-cast the character with Mark Ruffalo. The story of the Hulk is simple—a scientist’s experiment with gamma radiation goes wrong and then he turns into a big green version of himself when angry. Moving on.

The chronological order of the MCU films is the best way to watch them, but if you’re not willing to invest approximately 50 hours with Marvel, the only film to see is Black Panther—the greatest one of them all.

Here is the chronological list of the MCU films—different websites have varying opinions of the correct chronological order, but trust me, this is the best one:

  1. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  2. Captain Marvel (2019)
  3. Iron Man (2008)
  4. Iron Man 2 (2010)
  5. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  6. Thor (2011)
  7. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
  8. Iron Man 3 (2013)
  9. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  11. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
  13. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  14. Ant-Man (2015)
  15. Captain American: Civil War (2016)
  16. Black Panther (2018)
  17. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  18. Doctor Strange (2016)
  19. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  20. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  21. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
  22. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
  23. Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
  24. WandaVision (2020)

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