Never seen a Marvel film? Watching them in timeline order is a great way to start

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures President of Walt Disney Distribution Franchise Management, Business & Audience Insights Cathleen Taff talks about the upcoming movie "Avengers: Endgame" during Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures special presentation during CinemaCon at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on April 03, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/WireImage) (Gabe Ginsberg, 2019 Gabe Ginsberg)

After taking some time off during the pandemic, Marvel Studios is churning out the content once again.

As soon as 2021 started, the studio got right to it.

Just a few months into the year, the studio has released two very good TV shows on Disney+, with more movies and shows on the way.

As someone who had only seen two of the 23 Marvel films, my interest was piqued when Disney+ put out “WandaVision” earlier this year. I was aware that it starred Elizabeth Olsen, who plays a superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but other than that, I knew nothing.

After I saw the hype each week when a new episode came out, I decided to dive in head first. Was I confused at first? Very. Did I end up learning of some spoilers? Most definitely. But man, was I intrigued.

My usual consumption of TV is “Real Housewives” with a side of a quirky comedy, so I was shocked that I was enjoying a TV show with superheroes, and every week, I kept coming back to see what was going to happen.

Once “WandaVision” ended, I knew that I had to watch the rest of the Marvel movies. If you’ve seen even just a few of the films, you know that there are lots. You also probably know there are different ways you can watch them.

You can watch the Marvel films in the order they were released in theaters, or you can watch them in timeline order, meaning when the movies take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Watching them in release order is how most Marvel fans saw all 23 movies, so it’s for sure a doable option. You start out with “Iron Man,” which came out in 2008, and go from there, ending with “Avengers: Endgame,” which debuted in 2019.

Timeline order, however, makes for a much more interesting experience.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe starts during World War II with the first “Captain America” movie. “Captain America: The First Avenger” was released in 2011, making it the fifth Marvel movie in release order, but since the story takes place in the 1940s, it’s the first movie to watch in timeline order.

The second movie you’ll watch in timeline order is “Captain Marvel” because that film takes place in the ‘90s, but it actually came out in 2019.

After that, the timeline and release order run pretty similarly.

While it’s not making too much of a difference in your viewing experience, it’s pretty nice to know that you’re watching the story in a chronological order. It’s like you have insurance that you’re not going to miss anything.

As of early April, all of the Marvel movies are available to stream on Disney+, except for three of them. There are two Spider-Man movies (”Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home”) that are not on Disney+. The other movie, “The Incredible Hulk,” was the second to be released by Marvel, and the actor who plays Hulk, Edward Norton, never played the character again. Mark Ruffalo took over the role in “The Avengers” in 2012 and played him going forward.

So, it’s pretty easy to skip the Hulk movie -- and you could rent the Spider-Man movies on Amazon or YouTube if you really want to see them.

As for the rest of the movies, Disney+ has them organized in timeline order perfectly for you on the app. It’s pretty convenient if you’re a newcomer and have no idea what any of the movies are about.

It took me about a month to get through, but I was able to watch a majority of the movies in timeline order, and it was just as enjoyable of binging multiple seasons of an addicting TV show.

Since all of these superheroes exist in the same cinematic universe, you get to see them over and over in various films. The characters stay with you, much like your favorite character on a long-running TV show. You learn their backstories, become invested in their storyline, and ultimately, want to see them succeed.

It’s also great that Marvel Studios attracts really good actors to the projects. Obviously, you have Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth leading as stars of these films, but there are some absolute movie legends who play minor characters throughout the movies. I don’t want to spoil anyone, but there were multiple times along my journey when I blurted out, “They’re in this movie, too?!?”

This is going to sound so cliché, but I just can’t help it: These Marvel Cinematic Universe movies really are more than just superhero action films.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of action movie fight scenes, but there’s the human element that makes us love watching movies in the first place present, too.

If you want to see what the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and TV shows look like in timeline order, keep on scrolling. The “+” indicated that the movie or show is available on Disney+.

  • 1. “Captain America: The First Avenger” (1942-1943) +
  • 2. “Captain Marvel” (1995) +
  • 3. “Iron Man” (2010) +
  • 4. “Iron Man 2″ (2011) +
  • 5. “The Incredible Hulk” (2011)
  • 6. “Thor” (2011) +
  • 7. “The Avengers” (2012) +
  • 8. “Iron Man 3″ (2012) +
  • 9. “Thor: The Dark World” (2013) +
  • 10. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) +
  • 11. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) +
  • 12. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2″ (2014) +
  • 13. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015) +
  • 14. “Ant-Man” (2015) +
  • 15. “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) +
  • 16. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2016)
  • 17. “Doctor Strange” (2016-2017) +
  • 18. “Black Widow” (2017) + (To be released July 9)
  • 19. “Black Panther” (2017) +
  • 20. “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017) +
  • 21. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2017) +
  • 22. “Avengers: Infinity War” (2017) +
  • 23. “Avengers: Endgame” (2018-2023) +
  • 24. “WandaVision” (2023) +
  • 25. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (2023)
  • 26. “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (2023) +

About the Author:

Jack is a Digital Content Editor with a degree in creative writing and French from Western Michigan University. He specializes in writing about movies, food and the latest TV shows.