Best Viewing Order of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Part Two

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)
Thor (2011)
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)
Ant-Man (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. 2Volume 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 WarRagnarok 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.

Best Viewing Order of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Part One

In the 10 days leading up to Avengers: Infinity War (2018), I rewatched all 18 films in the MCU franchise. While this was by no means necessary, I maintain– even months later– that this film was totally worth it. (Note: I am talking about REwatching, not viewing these films for the first time. That is a different discussion for another day.) I knew months out that I wanted to do this since 1) As a teacher, I would have a week off in April, and 2) Infinity War is the culmination of 10 years and nearly 20 movies.

But, I had a problem: what order do I watch them in? It’s well known that the release dates do not necessarily correspond to the MCU timeline (ex: Black Panther (2018) released just before Infinity War takes place 2 weeks after Captain America: Civil War (2016); Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) takes place only months after the original, despite being released 3 years later). So, what should I do? Do I watch them in the order they were released to get the most authentic experience (it could be that release dates/order correspond to some kind of artistic choice, but it’s more likely monetary motivations), or do I try to puzzle out the chronology?

After way too much time spent researching, it is safe to say I went with the latter.

This is the order I went with:
Iron Man (2008)
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Thor (2011)
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)
Ant-Man (2015)

 

Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Black Panther (2018)
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Doctor Strange (2016)
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

 

*I discuss Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) at the end of Part Two.

 

That list is my quick answer. Now, let me explain why.

 

Iron Man: Jon Favreau’s entry did more than just open a franchise. This film revitalized the superhero film genre and the career of Robert Downey Jr. as well as position Marvel (without creative involvement from other studios) as a major player in the industry, eventually evolving into the now hugely successful Marvel Studios. In addition to how it changed the industry, Iron Man also introduces key concepts, setting the tone for future films and serving as an example to follow. Its influence can be felt throughout the MCU. I cannot express enough the significance of this film, but would also like to add that it totally holds up upon rewatch.

 

The Incredible Hulk: This film was released only a little more than a month after Iron Man and thus does not have its influence. This film is the early days of Marvel, just barely beginning to discover its formula. As a character, Bruce Banner/The Hulk has been hugely popular over the years, but making a solo movie has proven surprisingly challenging. As a result, this film is not well remembered and very little carries over into the greater MCU. It’s not actually a bad film, though, and serves a clear purpose in reintroducing Banner/Hulk and serving as a pallet cleanser following Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003). Tony Stark does appear in the post-credit scene, though, forming a bridge between Iron Man and its sequel, which was released next.

 

Iron Man 2: Production began following the positive reception and huge box office returns from the first Iron Man film. In the movie, some time has passed since Tony Stark’s big reveal. It better establishes Nick Fury and SHIELD, as well as introduced Howard Stark as a key player in its history, a reveal that is expanded on in Captain America. It also introduced Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, although we will not see her again until Avengers.

 

Thor: The events of this movie occur at roughly the same time as Iron Man 2 and is even mentioned in that movie. Thor was designed to follow Iron Man 2. Like Incredible Hulk, it was also another of Marvel’s experiments in establishing its brand. The movie introduces part of the greater universe, Asgard, and explains how the human mythology was developed– something that is referenced in Captain America. Many of the characters and elements come into play in the movies that follow, and its post-credit scene sets up not only Captain America but the Avengers as well.

 

Captain America: The First Avenger: When I first decided I wanted to have my marathon, I had originally planned to watch this movie first, but then saw a blog post while I was doing research that pointed out that Captain America expands on breadcrumbs dropped in the other movies. Knowing the details of those topics isn’t helpful and can add confusion (SHIELD doesn’t even have an acronym until the end of Iron Man). Also, the beginning and end of the movie take place in the present and lead directly into Avengers (the post-credit scene is in the movie itself). This movie is a prequel through and through and the reality is that the chronology of Phase 1 really does line up with the release dates.

 

Marvel’s The Avengers: The end of Phase 1! This movie brings together the characters and plot threads introduced (mainly in Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America), including Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Phil Coulson, and Nick Fury. It also expands on SHIELD introducing additional support staff such as Maria Hill. Additionally, reintroduces and retcons Bruce Banner/The Hulk with Mark Ruffalo’s on point casting. This film establishes the Avengers as a group and sets up for the next phase. The events have a ripple effect that spreads through all the films that follow.

 

Iron Man 3: This film opens Phase 2 and demonstrates the direct effects and aftermath of Avengers and the Battle of New York, informing the character development and overall arc of Tony Stark/Iron Man and his relationship with Pepper Potts. The role of James Rhodes/War Machine continues to increase following Iron Man 2 and gives the audience an idea of what he gets up to before his reappearance in Age of Ultron.

 

Thor: The Dark World: Although the composition is an absolute train wreck, this movie provides a lot of valuable information. It occurs after Iron Man 3 and two years after the events of the first Thor. We learn Loki’s fate from the previous movies as well as revisit Jane, Darcy, and Selvig. A new Infinity Stone is introduced, moving us away from the Tesseract of Phase 1.

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: While Iron Man 3 and Dark World transition into Phase 2, this movie introduces drastic changes with an impact on par with Avengers. With two movies supporting the fact that two years have passed since Avengers, this film shakes up SHIELD, the organization that has been the foundation/support for the Avengers. It also has personal consequences for Steve Rogers/Captain America and directly informs his character arc, much like Iron Man 3 did for Tony Stark/Iron Man.

 

Because this is insanely long, I decided to break it into two pieces. I wrote a lot of words and its a lot to read and process, so I continue to explain my reasoning in Part Two, which I will post tomorrow.

Hello world!

Hi, my name is Julia Henken and this is my blog! I’m a native of the Greater Boston Area with a deep love for sci-fi, fantasy, and supernatural fiction. I grew up watching Toonami on weekdays and alternating between FoxKids and KidsWB on Saturdays. (For those of you who may not be familiar, this equates to a huge amount of anime and superhero cartoons.) Though I’m now an English teacher, I’ve never lost this passion– I even got my Bachelor’s Degree in TV/Film (with a minor in English, of course!). I look forward to using this space to provide reviews as well as intellectual analysis or commentary on some of my favorite titles.

I was inspired to create this blog during a summer course entitled “Superheroes in Film” where I have had the opportunity to view and discuss a number of superhero titles (with someone other than my poor fiancé). With homework that consisted of reading and writing about some of my favorite topics, it’s been a great deal of fun and something I am eager to continue doing.

My first official blog post will take a look at Avengers: Infinity War— whether it’s my students or my local pharmacist, everyone seems to be excited about Marvel’s culmination of TEN YEARS and EIGHTEEN MOVIES, even months after its release.

This is just a quick introduction, but stay tuned, and thank you for stopping by!