MCU Streaming Guide: How to Watch the Marvel Movies in the Right Order

(Marvel Studios / Artwork By Nick Mantle)

Think of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a long-running television series -- you wouldn't just jump in and start watching during season 6, would you? (Some people might. But they're on their own here.)

The individual adventures of Iron Man and Thor, Captain America and Captain Marvel can be enjoyed as one-offs, but the point of a shared cinematic universe is that everything is connected, that each movie builds off the one before it with characters and storylines crossing over from franchise to franchise. Unlike TV, you have some options for how you go about watching every movie.

It may seem straightforward enough -- watch them in the order they were released -- and that's one way to go. But is it the best? Here's ET's guide to the optimal Marvel watch, whether you are coming to the MCU for the first time or planning a rewatch. (After all, there's still plenty of time left before Black Widow.)

FIRST, where can you stream all of the MCU movies?

Marvel's The Avengers
Marvel Studios

Everything available on Disney+:

The streamer has the most comprehensive collection of MCU titles, counting Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. (Watch them on Disney+ here.)

Ant-Man, Paul Rudd
Marvel Studios

What about what's not on Disney+?

Both Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp are Disney+-bound, arriving on June 25 and July 29, respectively. (In the meantime, they are both on Netflix.)

The Edward Norton-starring The Incredible Hulk, the odd duck of the MCU, is actually a Universal release, hence why it's not on Disney+. You can watch it on demand on Amazon, Fandago Now, Vudu and more.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
Sony Pictures

Where to watch Spider-Man:

Tom Holland's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man may be part of the MCU, but it's through an unprecedented, rather complicated and occasionally tenuous deal between Sony (who owns Spidey's movie rights) and Marvel Studios. Both Spider-Man movies were released via Sony, though, which is why they aren't on Disney+.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is only available on demand through Amazon, Fandango Now and Vudu, among others. Spider-Man: Far From Home is currently streaming on STARZ, as well as on demand on Amazon, Fandango Now, Vudu and more.

NOW, what order should you watch them in?

There are two presiding schools of thought as to how the MCU should be consumed: By the order in which the films were released or according to internal chronology. We're introducing a third: The Infinity Watch.

In Release Order

Iron Man (2008)
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Thor (2011)
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
The Avengers (2012)
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Ant-Man (2015)
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Doctor Strange (2016)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Black Panther (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Captain Marvel (2019)
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Black Widow (2020)

Captain America; The First Avengers
Marvel Studios

In Chronological Order

If you tug too hard at the MCU's timeline, it will unravel faster than a flerken playing with a ball of yarn. But there are general timestamps you can follow -- start with the movies set during WWII and work your way forward -- albeit with a bit of bouncing around to sort out the connective tissue of post-credits scenes.

Captain America: The First Avenger (save the end-credits scene for before The Avengers)
Captain Marvel (save the mid-credits scene to watch just before Endgame)
Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
The Avengers
Iron Man 3
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Avengers: Age of Ultron (save the end-credits scene for just before Thor: Ragnarok)
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

(Note: The Guardians movies are an island on their own until, well, they're not. But since they're set only a few months apart, we're positioning them back-to-back as a post-Age of Ultron twofer.)

Captain America: Civil War
Black Panther
and Spider-Man: Homecoming
Black Widow*
Doctor Strange 
Ant-Man and the Wasp (come back to watch the post-credits scenes after Infinity War)
Thor: Ragnarok
Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Endgame
Spider-Man: Far From Home

Marvel, Thanos
Marvel Studios

The Infinity Watch

If you're looking for a shorter rewatch, just follow the MacGuffins. The first 23 movies comprise The Infinity Saga, which revolves around the MCU's six Infinity Stones and leads to the Avengers confronting the big bad, Thanos.

The storyline concerning the stones themselves -- what they are, why Thanos wants them, the endgame of it all -- ultimately plays out over 10 titles and two post-credits scenes. You will have to figure out a lot of the character development through context clues, but you should be able to follow the through line from The First Avenger to Endgame.

Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain Marvel
(post-credits scene only)
The Avengers
Thor: The Dark World
Guardians of the Galaxy
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
(mid-credits scene only)
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Doctor Strange
Thor: Ragnarok
Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Endgame


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