How to watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in chronological order
Staff Reporter | On 16, Mar 2019Reading time: 10 mins
With Avengers: Endgame almost upon us, bringing to a close one of cinema’s biggest blockbuster sagas, the time has never been better to catch up on all the previous MCU films to understand what’s going on and, more importantly, who on earth all these characters are.
Playing Marvel Cinematic Catch-Up from the very beginning? We’re here to help with a handy guide to where you can watch the Marvel movies online in the UK – in chronological order.
Captain America: The First Avenger
With Chris Evans donning the stars and striped-suit to become Marvel’s first Avenger, Captain America leaves you asking two questions: How many Nazis does he kill? And how many times does Chris Evans take his shirt off? The answer to both? Not enough. Director Joe Johnston perfectly captures the laid-back tone of a period Indiana Jones adventure, but without a substantial villain or sense of threat, like Temple of Doom, Captain America can be summed up in three words: Needs. More. Nazis.
God make man. Man discover metal. Man make suit from metal. Man use suit to blow things up. That’s pretty much the plot for Iron Man, and at its most simple, it’s inherently cool. The fact that Robert Downey Jr. is so perfectly cast as Tony Stark elevates the film above its predictable third act to hugely entertaining fun.
Iron Man 2
Marvel’s muddled sequel is bigger but never better than its first outing. Iron Man 2 could have developed character or boosted its enjoyably trashy explosion count, but it doesn’t quite do either. The foreshadowing for The Avengers is impressive, but intricately woven adverts don’t classic entertainment make. Light-hearted, but leaden.
The Incredible Hulk
Edward Norton makes for an excellent Bruce Banner in this reboot of the The Incredible Hulk, but even he can’t entirely rescue Louis Leterrier’s blockbuster, which loses itself in a sea of CGI battles and noisy action without much emotional weight or wit to balance it out. It’s not a disaster, but it’s far from the most super of Marvel’s hero outings, doing just enough to bring Hulk into the MCU canon ahead of his eventual appearance in Avengers, played by Mark Ruffalo.
Well aware of its own preposterous premise, Chris Hemsworth’s debut outing as the God of Thunder has camp levels to rival Flash Gordon but undermines them with some well-placed laughs. A character-driven comedy blockbuster? Thor blimey, it’s good.
Avengers Assemble (The Avengers)
“He’s crazy.” “He’s my brother!” “He just killed 83 innocent civilians.” “He’s adopted.” You could easily spend a review of Avengers Assemble just quoting endless lines of dialogue. The secret to the film’s success? Hiring geek king, comic nerd and filmmaker extraordinaire Joss Whedon to make a movie. And holy purple shorts, he assembles the heck out of it.
Iron Man Three
Marvel’s best film to date proves that superhero blockbusters can still be character-driven dramas – and funny to boot. A witty script, Robert Downey Jr. in full motormouth mode and events taking place at Christmas? It’s no surprise that this is a Shane Black movie.
Thor: The Dark World
Marvel’s eighth instalment in its ever-expanding MCU sees Chris Hemsworth’s God of thunder team up with deceitful brother Loki to save the Nine Realms from the Dark Elves. Tom Hiddleston inevitably steals the show. The rest is forgettable.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
If Thor showed the world that comic book movies can have a sense of humour, Captain America confirmed it. Joe Johnston’s smart decision to set events during WWII allowed Alan Silvestri to invent a delightfully camp theme tune for the hero, a self-aware pastiche of 1940s propaganda that not only made audiences smile but also set the tone for Cap’s idealistic values – and cheesy costume.
Guardians of the Galaxy
“I can’t stop this feeling…” Chris Pratt jumps from Andy Dwyer to bonafide action hero with this Marvel outing. The bits that seem familiar from other superhero movies are swiftly eclipsed by the infectious humour of the cast, from Bradley Cooper’s violent raccoon to Vin Diesel’s talking tree. Director James Gunn’s soundtrack is the highlight, though, writing unwitting human Peter Quill’s (a.k.a. StarLord) 1970s mixture into the action. The result is a smart, silly, subversive treat.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
“So, we’re saving the galaxy, again?” “I guess.” How do you follow up one of the most surprising superhero blockbusters of recent years? With a little less of a surprise. That’s the broad challenge facing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which tries very hard to match the original film’s vibrant burst of anarchic humour – and sometimes, lets that effort show. But a more thoughtful, moving sequel, including quality family time for Quill (Chris Pratt) and a guest appearance by Kurt Russell, makes up for a lack of laughs and novelty in what remains a fun space adventure.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
More stuffed than a Christmas turkey, sequel sees Marvel’s main ensemble team up once again to tackle Ultron (James Spader), a mildly unhinged robot created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner.
Paul Rudd’s comic timing makes up for Ant-Man’s conventional plot, as the movie’s cookie-cutter origins story is consistently trumped by its sense of humour. Director Peyton Reed has a wonderful grasp of the big/small dynamic of his pint-sized hero, delivering a string of inventive action set pieces – while Michael Peña steals the whole show as fast-talking sidekick Luis. If only Evangeline Lilly’s Hope had more to do.
Captain America: Civil War
Introducing the world to Tom Holland as the new Spider-Man, and Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Civil War could easily have strained under the near-critical mass of cast additions. But this deftly balanced blockbuster embraces the weight of moral consequences with the lightness of popcorn, tearing its ensemble apart on matters of principle but still finding time for an epic punch-up at an airport. The ideal balance between serious and silly, Captain America’s third outing is a perfectly-timed antidote to superhero fatigue.
“I don’t believe in fairy tales about chakras, or energy, or the power of belief.” That’s Doctor Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) at the start of Marvel’s latest movie. Will his opinion change by the time the end credits roll? There are no points for guessing: it’s right there on the poster. From the off, it’s clear that we’re watching something conventional, as super-surgeon Stephen finds himself gradually transforming from a shallow, selfish, rich guy into an altruistic, super-powered hero. The result is far from groundbreaking in its plot, but the presentation excels in all departments – from the inventive action and the pitch-perfect performances to a witty climax that bears repeating over and over again. And while Strange may not be the most engaging of protagonists, Cumberbatch makes the leap from the small screen and a string of serious feature film roles to blockbuster leading man territory like he’s been firing off zingers, juggling green screens and carrying franchises his whole life.
Don’t you hate it when you wake up on the other side of the universe hanging from the ceiling and your home is about to wiped out by Hela, the ruthless goddess of death? That’s the age-old situation facing Thor in Ragnarok, and if that sounds like a lot of serious drama, you’ve missed the name above the title: director Taika Waititi, fresh from Hunt for the Wilderpeople, brings a hilariously light touch to this delightful romp, which puts Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) together for a macho double-act, then spends the whole film teasing out their insecurities. Add in Jeff Goldblum and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and you’ve got yourself a rollicking time – and that’s before you even get to Tessa Thompson, who steals the whole show as Marvel’s swaggering, drunk answer to Han Solo.
Tom Holland slings webs like he was born to do it in this hugely entertaining Spidey reboot. Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley’s script (co-written with Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers) is full of such witty flourishes and an unabashed love of John Hughes, which keep the tone light but the adolescent stakes high. Watts’ camera, meanwhile, races after our lead with a grounded, intimate rush that adds a wonderful, immediate quality to every sequence, whether Spider-Man’s jumping between buildings or trying to hold a boat together. The result is a breeze that blows by completely effortlessly. Whether you’re a Spidey fan or not, this is an infectious, primary-coloured reminder that superhero movies can simply be fun. You won’t just be convinced of the worth for a new Spider-Man film: you’ll want another one.
This momentous pop culture milestone wears its importance with a gripping weight and infectious excitement.
Avengers: Infinity War
There are big films and there are huge films. Then, there’s Avengers: Infinity War, a movie so big that it makes Pacific Rim look like a Happy Meal toy. 10 years after Marvel’s franchise began with Iron Man, the MCU expands to critical mass with this ultimate crossover of crossovers, a blockbuster sequel so large that their universe-building does the only logical thing: turn into universe destruction. That destruction is courtesy of Thanos (Josh Brolin), from the Saturnian moon Titan, whose mission is simple: wipe out half of the universe. Its a philosophy driven by concerns of dwindling resources, partly fuelled by his own planet’s inability to sustain its population and possibly by seeing a full cast list for this movie. It’s to Josh Brolin’s credit that such a viewpoint in a family-friendly movie is given provocatively serious consideration (particularly in the face of his potentially laughable chin make-up) – in fact, Brolin’s presence is so towering that Thanos is effectively the lead character of the whole affair. Making a villain your protagonist after 18 movies of assembling heroes? That’s just one sign of how impressively ambitious Infinity War is. You’ve not seen a blockbuster like this.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Marvel’s smallest superheroes scale up the entertainment – and emotion – for this enjoyable capering sequel. Read our full review