The Comprehensive MCU Film Timeline

I love two things: Comic books, and putting too much thought into organizing fiction. And with those two loves, is it any wonder I have a comprehensive Marvel Cinematic Universe viewing order? No. No, it is not. It should be fairly apparent.


1.The Premise

So here’s the rules: I’m not doing this timeline by chronological order of MOVIE; any yahoo can do that. No, this is a chronological order of SCENES.

That’s right, all those flashbacks are getting placed where they go in time. The exception is narrated flashbacks. So that scene in Ant-Man, where Hank explains what happened to The Wasp? That goes along with the rest of Ant-Man, because it’s a story being told in the present. But that opening scene of Iron Man 3 that shows Tony meeting Killian in 1999? Watch that before you watch a single frame of Iron Man.

Also, I didn’t even try to include the TV shows, Netflix series, or One-Shots, because I’m not an insane person. If you want to try to fit those into this timeline, good luck. I wish you well.

For now, I’ll just give you my fun little viewing order, if you want to line up the whole thing into one horrifically long viewing party. If you do want to watch it, at least break it up into chunks, Jesus.


2. Flashbacks, Part 1

Thor 2 (opening scene), Thor (opening scene)

Okay, before we get to the first actual movie, we have some business to take care of. Our timeline starts in the distant past, deep in the before time. So far back that it’s somewhere around 3000 BC or so, if my math is right.

So start by watching the first scene of Thor: The Dark World. Here, you’ll watch Bor fight against Malekith and the Dark Elves during the Convergence. It’s a weird beginning to your long viewing odyssey, but it's a logical one. We get good and evil, we get an Infinity Stone (which we won’t see heads or tails of for a decade of hours), and we’re immediately introduced to all the Norse stuff.

Next, watch the opening scene of the first Thor movie. Here, we get Odin fighting Laufey, and we get the adoption of Loki. It’s funny that we meet our first villain before our first hero. We also get that kid Thor and Loki scene to start establishing stuff.

But now it’s time to skip ahead.


3. Captain America

Captain America: The First Avenger (whole movie, EXCEPT the first and last scenes)

Here we go. 1942. Time to kick this thing off with Captain America: The First Avenger.

But not the whole movie. Skip the first scene, we’ll get to it later. And stop watching right before the last scene, we’ll come back to that too. Just the forties stuff.

Keep it to that fun WWII stuff. The First Avenger is a really underrated movie, and having it be the first real kickoff of your viewing experience is a good thing. It also makes Steve Rogers the first real MCU hero we get to see in action, which feels right. Steve is the heart of the Marvel Movies, and establishing him early is good. Also, we end with him crashing into the Arctic and not being seen again for quite some time. That’s hardcore.

It works shockingly well from an audience standpoint, too, making Cap disappear for a while so when he comes back, it’s a big deal.


4. Flashbacks, Part 2

Opening scenes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, and Iron Man 3

Okay, time to clear out the rest of the flashbacks.

First, skip ahead to 1980 and watch the first scene of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with Ego and Meredith Quill. Next, we move on to 1988 and the opening scene of the first Guardians movie, which shows us Meredith dying and Peter being abducted.

One year later, the first scene of Ant-Man has Hank Pym quitting SHIELD. Two years after that, The Winter Soldier kills Howard Stark in Civil War’s first scene.

Woof, lotta opening scenes to clear out in this section of the watchlist. It’ll eventually be broken up, since Captain Marvel is supposed to take place right around here. So that’ll be cool. Next, check out the first scene of Iron Man 3, in which Tony Stark snubs Killian.

So this section of the list throws a lot at you; we’re setting up a ton, and meeting a bunch of characters who will come back later. We know Bucky is alive, AND that he kills Howard. This is especially powerful, given that we just watched Captain America. We also finally meet Tony Stark and get the appearance of aliens in the MCU.


5. Iron Man and The Hulk

Incredible Hulk (opening credits), Iron Man (full movie), Iron Man 2 (opening scene), Incredible Hulk (rest of movie)

Here we go. Straight into the movies now. Well, not exactly.

First, watch the opening credits of Incredible Hulk. It takes place either in 2003 or 2005, and retells the Hulk’s origin.

Okay, cool. Now, on to the movies. Obviously, start with Iron Man. You can watch that one straight through. No interruptions, finally. Just watch that whole movie, beginning to end. Have fun, it’s good as hell. Finish that one up; enjoy yourself.

Now pop in Iron Man 2, but watch only the opening scene. Ivan and Anton Vanko show up, Anton dies, and Ivan swears revenge. Cool, now grab that Incredible Hulk DVD and finish the movie. All the way through. We’re having fun now, no more bits and pieces of movies, folks; we finally just get to watch ‘em. But hold on, because we are about to get crazy, annoyingly complicated. Buckle up. Deep breaths now.


6. The Rest of Phase One

Iron Man 2 (until workshop scene), Thor (until he's banished to Earth), Iron Man 2 (rest of movie), Thor (rest of movie), Captain America: The First Avenger (first and last scenes), and The Avengers (full movie)

OKAY, SO...Start Iron Man 2 where you left off, and keep watching until right around the scene in which Coulson visits Stark’s workshop. Cool, now stop that, and start watching Thor. Watch right up until Thor is banished from Asgard and sent to Earth. Switch back over to Iron Man 2. Coulson will get a call from Fury about a wormhole opening up over New Mexico, and he’ll take off.

Finish Iron Man 2 and that post-credits scene as well. Coulson finds the hammer...Aaaaaaaaaand switch back to Thor, and finish that one off as well (If you read the supplemental comics, you’re probably supposed to watch Incredible Hulk interwoven with these two, but it works just as well like this.).

After you’re done with Thor, watch the first and last scenes of Captain America: The First Avenger. BOOM, Cap’s back. And now we’re ready for the big fireworks display. That being The Avengers. Feel free to watch that one from beginning to end. And be proud of yourself.

You just finished Phase 1.


7. Post-Avengers through Guardians Vol. 2

Spider-Man: Homecoming (opening scene), Iron Man 3 (rest of movie), Thor: The Dark World (rest of movie), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (whole movie), Guardians of the Galaxy (rest of movie), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (rest of movie)

Good work, now for some more movie watching.

Watch the first scene of Spider-Man: Homecoming. You’ll see Adrian Toomes cleaning up rubble from the Battle of New York. He's turned away, and is inspired to turn to criminal enterprises.

Next up, watch all of Iron Man 3, after that opening scene you watched like infinity hours ago. Underrated movie; have fun with it. Once that’s done, you can finish off Thor: The Dark World as well. Now that the worst Marvel movie is out of the way, you’re all set for a fun ride from here on out.

Next up, go enjoy Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s one of the best Marvel movies, hands down - if not THE best. Next up, another out-of-the-park home run: Guardians of the Galaxy. Excellent movie, maybe my personal favorite MCU film. After that one, watch the sequel. That’s right; Guardians Vol. 2 takes place only a couple months after the first. So lay back and enjoy your Guardians double feature.


8. Age of Ultron through Civil War

Avengers: Age of Ultron (whole movie), Ant-Man (up until the end of the climax), Captain America: Civil War (until Falcon says he "knows a guy"), Ant-Man (rest of movie), Captain America: Civil War (until they go to Berlin), Spider-Man: Homecoming (Peter's home movie scenes), Captain America: Civil War (rest of movie)

Okay, now that the Guardians are out of the way, watch all of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Yes, you have to. Shut up, it’s not as bad as people say it is.

Once you’re done with that, get that Ant-Man DVD out again. Watch almost all of the movie. NOT ALL OF IT, but most of it. Stop right before the dinner scene, since it takes place months later. Begin watching Civil War again. Keep watching right up until Cap and Falcon capture Bucky, and Falcon says that he “knows a guy” who can help.

Now watch that Ant-Man dinner scene. Scott gets called away by Luis and discovers that the Falcon is looking for him. Boom. Watch a little bit more of Civil War, and Tony will go recruit Peter Parker.

Now this is the hard part. What you’re going to want to do is keep flipping back and forth between the Berlin scenes in Civil War and Peter Parker’s home movie of his trip at the beginning of Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s too complex to explain here, but there should be some specific moments where those shots fit in.

After that, you can finish Civil War. I love that movie.


9. Spider-Man and Doctor Strange

Spider-Man: Homecoming (rest of movie), Doctor Strange (whole movie, EXCEPT post-credits scenes), Ant-Man (post-credits scene), Doctor Strange (credits scenes)

A couple of weeks/months later, depending on how you look at things, Spider-Man strikes out on his own.

So watch the remainder of Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s really fun, and maybe my favorite Spider-Man film, so enjoy it.  No more weirdness from here on out, pretty much just watching movies normally, and there we go. So go watch all of Doctor Strange. Another underrated movie, came out really good. A fun time.

After that, you can insert Ant-Man’s post-credits scene, since it’s unclear when that takes place other than “after Civil War”, so put it here if you want. Also, watch the mid-credits scene of Doctor Strange here, although that does seem to take place during Thor: Ragnarok, from what I can tell, so the status of this part of the list will probably change at some point soon.


10. Concluding Thoughts

Well. There you go folks. The whole dang thing.

The entire MCU film slate, boiled down into one hyper-condensed timeline. It’s a big ordeal, and I would love to see someone actually cut this together. For me, it’s just a thought experiment, not something I’ve actually sat down to watch. Also, I’d love to see someone try to find where to insert the one shots and TV shows and Netflix stuff. It seems like that would make for a very unwieldy viewing experience, and a bit of a pain, but hey, you do you.

If you DO decide to put this thing together, tweet it at me or something. I really want to see it in action. Speaking of Twitter, if you want to see the whole order, all together with tentative years added for the sake of keeping stuff straight, you can find it HERE. Also, big thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Wikia, which was a big help in getting years and the order of events exactly right. And yeah, have fun watching.

Get, like, A LOT of popcorn.