Welcome to Part Two of my “Best Viewing Order of the Marvel Cinematic Universe”! Previously, I gave my list and covered my reasoning for going in release order for the first 9 movies. We are solidly within Phase 2, so time to deviate a little…
Here’s a reminder of the order I went with:
Iron Man (2008)
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Black Panther (2018)
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Doctor Strange (2016)
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
*My feelings about Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) are covered at the end of this post.
Guardians of the Galaxy: This movie occurs around the same time as Winter Soldier and is the first film to not feature Earth/Midgard.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Volume 2 takes place within months of the original.
Considering the effect the Guardians have on Earth and vice versa, these movies could be watched right before Infinity War and make sense. (Really, as long as it’s after Phase 1.) I put these two together because they occur within months of each other. I put them before Age of Ultron because it provides a sense of time passing between the events of Winter Soldier and Ultron, which occurs a year later. It also allows for passage of time between the Guardians last outing and Infinity War, where a teenage Groot makes it clear that time has passed. (That being said, the Post Credits Scene does indicate that same passage of time.)
Avengers: Age of Ultron: Another culmination, we are given the aftermath of the actions of our Earth-centric heroes since Avengers. Tony Stark/Iron Man has created a new home/base for himself and the Avengers, Thor’s life with Jane has been settled on Earth/Midgard, Steve Rogers/Captain America and Sam Wilson/Falcon have been conducting their own search and found refuge in the aftermath of Winter Soldier. This is another film that serves as an end and a beginning, shaking up things on Earth.
Ant-Man: Unlike some other characters (Doctor Strange), Scott Lang/Ant-Man is not even mentioned before his solo movie. Ant-Man is a unique character because he is heavily influenced by portrayer, Paul Rudd, on a level beyond Robert Downey Jr.’s impact on Iron Man. Like another Marvel superhero (one that falls under the Fox banner), Paul Rudd served as a writer on the film, providing influence beyond his own characterization. Here the release date again corresponds well with the MCU Chronology; the Post Credit Scene is a scene from the next film, Civil War, in which Ant-Man has a solid role.
Captain America: Civil War: Where Iron Man and Iron Man 3 open Phases 1 and 2 by establishing the world in which the characters exist, this film takes it further. Rather than demonstrating what the world is or the impact of momentous changes, Civil War shakes things up. We are given the aftermath of Ultron and introduced to new characters, but the events of this film have a devastating effect on the characters and the world at large. It is a fitting beginning to Phase 3, which takes us directly to Infinity War.
Black Panther: As mentioned above, despite being released two years after Civil War, it actually takes place only two weeks later. In some ways it is fitting that this film directly precedes the release of Infinity War; Wakanda plays a pivotal role in the movie. That being said, time has passed between Black Panther and Infinity War. Additionally, Black Panther is directly impacted by the events of Civil War, so it makes sense to look at this film as the aftermath.
Spider-Man: Homecoming: Spider-Man was introduced to the MCU in Civil War, and occurs not long after. This film is interesting because it shows how the Battle of New York impacted the average person. With so many movies being released between Avengers and Spider-Man, it’s easy to feel that passage of time. It’s fair to say that the events occur after Black Panther, but provide us with an idea of how the Avengers have been affected by Civil War.
Doctor Strange: Although the good doctor is mentioned in Winter Soldier, the actual timeline of this film is incredibly hard to pin down. The events span at least a year, though when that year is, is up for debate. I put this film directly before Ragnarok because of the Post Credit Scene and the solid role that Doctor Steven Strange plays. Ragnarok and Infinity War establish Strange as a significant player in the MCU.
Thor: Ragnarok: This movie leads directly into Infinity War. Ragnarok shakes up the genre, not so much because of the events (which are fairly standard for Thor), but because of the vitality that director Taika Waiti brings. It’s a refreshing take that reintroduces Bruce Banner/Hulk and Thor and explains what they’ve been doing since Ultron. The Post Credit Scene leads directly into the opening of Infinity War, so even though it was released months before, there’s really no better place for it. Many argue that this is one of the films you have to see for Infinity War to make sense.
SPOILER WARNING: Ant-Man and the Wasp
Although released after Infinity War, it takes place around the same time and its Post Credit Scene reveals the end of Infinity War. On the one hand, this could serve as a foreshadow, much like the breadcrumbs left in Phase 1 before Captain America. It also explains where they were during Infinity War. The Post Credit Scene of Infinity War does set up for the next Avengers film, so watching Ant-Man & Wasp before Infinity War would create a linear chronology, but…
Honestly, it’s a matter of preference. Like the first film, Ant-Man and the Wasp is very much a Paul Rudd movie before it is a Marvel movie, so it is considerably lighter than Infinity War. It could serve as a pallet cleanser following the dark ending of Infinity War. Or, if you really want to put the effort in, you could watch Ant-Man & Wasp but watch the Post Credit Scene after watching Infinity War, thereby avoiding the spoiler, but all of this assumes that you are watching both movies for the first time.
While this entire post is just my opinion, this is an area where I feel you have to make the judgment for yourself. I absolutely see the benefit of watching Ant-Man & Wasp before Infinity War, but, having watched both when they were released in theaters, I was actually grateful for the lighter fare offered by Ant-Man & Wasp.