How to Watch the ‘Avengers’ Movies, In the Correct Order
Starting with 'Iron Man' is for amateurs. Here's the real chronology.
Hey, so you’re still trying to work out how best to watch all the Avengers movies and shows in chronological order? Of course, you are – cause that’s wicked fun, but also not totally intuitive. You think you can start with Iron Man, but that’s not exactly right. So, where should you start? Don’t worry: we got you. Here’s our breakdown of how the Avengers stories stitch chronologically together, everything from Captai Marvel, to Captain America: The First Avenger and all the way up to the Disney+ shows like WandaVision and Hawkeye.
So, to begin, the timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies and their relation to each other is a bit imperfect. Basically, when everything started in 2008 (with Iron Man) they weren’t fully coordinated with each other–and producers have acknowledged that there’s not perfect coherence within the stories themselves. And the Marvel powers-that-be have also changed their mind occasionally about what’s canon and what’s not: for example, Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D were once treated as canon (part of the official, unified unfolding story) but basically, these days, they’re not.
What we have here is our best assessment of how all the Avengers movies–and the most recent Disney+ shows–fall chronologically within the MCU timeline. While very Avengers-ey, we’re not including either Agent Carter or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And we’re also leaving out the timeline confounding out-of-time Loki. If you’re curious about where Loki happens, the short answer is it begins in 2012, right after The Avengers, but then goes off-the-rails.
So, with all those caveats in mind, here’s the in-universe chronology of the MCU Avengers-centric films and TV shows.
Eternals is the newest MCU movie streaming on Disney+, is also, the one that covers the most amount of time. We’re cheating a bit here, but because the movie begins in 5,000 BC, we’re gonna say you can watch it for, for total completism.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Captain America: The First Avenger takes place between 1942-1945. After he awakens from his ice-entrapment in 2011, Cap meets Nick Fury and is set on the path that will lead to the formation of the Avengers.
Captain Marvel (2019)
This origin story of Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel (a Kree-raised Earthling dispatched to Earth to find a rumored sleeper cell of aliens) is set smack dab in the middle of our favorite decade: 1995.
Note: The next few films get a tad tricky. Some of the events within them contradict what’s later established as canon–this is called retconning: retroactively changing past events of movies/comics to cohere with later storylines. An info-graphic timeline in the 2012 book, The Art of Marvel’s Avengers, lays out what seems like the best logic for how these movies can work with each other (if you squint and ignore some internal inconsistencies–but, hey, it’s comics!)
Iron Man (2008)
Despite being released in 2008, in-universe, Iron Man falls in early 2011, with a post-credits scene tying in Nick Fury’s efforts to start the “Avengers Initiative”–which kicked off back in Captain America. Iron Man becomes the reference point for the events of the next few films.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Set six months after the events of the first film, Iron Man 2 continues Tony’s saga of coming to terms with the potential (and potential threats) of his Stark Industries tech. Iron Man 2 occurs during what became known as “Fury’s Big Week” – when Nick Fury begins pulling together the Avengers-to-be.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Is Edward Norton’s The Incredible Hulk even canon? Well, Tony Stark appears in the post-credit scene–and it’s referenced in that timeline–so we’re including it here. Just on its own, the film suggests it occurs in 2007 (half a decade after Banner was exposed to the gamma radiation in 2002); but the scene in which Tony approaches General Ross allows the film to be retconned to fall during Fury’s Big Week in 2011.
Oh, you bet: we were tempted to use the Frost Giants’ invasion of Norway in 965 A.D. as a reason to put Thor first in the chronology. But most of Thor takes place in 2011; we know this because The Avengers (which takes place in 2012) contains this line by Nick Fury: “Last year, Earth had a visitor from another planet who had a grudge match that leveled a small town.” He’s talking about Thor, of course–and that grudge match also falls during Fury’s Big Week.)
Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
In 2012, the Avengers finally assemble for the Battle of New York. The date for this is pinned down in the time travel sequences of Avengers: Endgame. But most recently, we were reminded this happened in 2012 ‘cause of the plaque commemorating the battle that appears in Hawkeye.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
There’s hot debate on the internets about which comes first: Thor: The Dark World or Iron Man 3. Timelines released by Marvel and Disney+ at various points don’t quite match up. We know Thor: The Dark World takes place after the defeat of Loki in The Avengers, and this places it in either 2012 or 2013. Still, time passes differently in Asgard, right?
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Iron Man 3 centers around Tony’s attempts to deal with his PTSD after the Battle of New York in Avengers, which places it somewhere in 2012 or 2013.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Set in 2014, Cap tries to adjust to both life in the 21st century and the aftermath of the Battle of New York. The post-credits scene reveals that Hydra created two new mutants–Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver–setting up their appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) + Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. (2017)
While not properly Avengers (I mean, they’re their own team after all, right y’all?), Starlord and his gang do join the melee in Infinity War and Endgame. We know that GotG takes place 26 years after 1986 (when Starlord was snatched from Earth), so that places it nice and snug in 2014. According to Marvel’s Kevin Feige, Vol. 2 occurs three months after the first story.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Age of Ultron falls after the events of The Winter Soldier, and seems to take place in 2015–certainly before the events of Captain America: Civil War in 2016.
The hijinks of Ant-Man occur a bit before the events of Civil War: we’re introduced to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who then appears in Civil War as part of Cap’s crew.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Set in 2016, Civil War builds on what happened in Avengers and Age of Ultron (as well as Tony’s PTSD explored in Iron Man 3) to ground the question of whether heroes should have to answer to the government. It also builds on Ant-Man’s introduction to the MCU in his eponymous 2015 film, and introduces Black Panther and Spider-Man, setting up the events of their own subsequent films.
Black Panther (2018)
After the events of Civil War, T’Challa is king of Wakanda, and has taken on the mantle of Black Panther. The post-credits scene reveals Bucky “Winter Soldier” Barnes recovering in Wakanda–setting up his return in Avengers: Infinity War. Aspects of this post-credits scene are also reconciled in the TV series Falcon and Winter Soldier.
Black Widow (2021)
Also primarily in 2016, Black Widow ties up some loose ends between Civil War and Infinity War for Natasha. Of course, its post-credits scene also bump-sets the events of Hawkeye. To be clear, this is very confusing: The most recent big movie to star one of the original Avengers line-up happened pretty much in the middle of the chronology.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
While the film references itself as occurring in 2020, this dating error was acknowledged by Kevin Feige, head of MCU. The film only makes sense as occurring right after the events of Civil War, in 2016.
Doctor Strange (2016)
We know the events at the beginning of Doctor Strange occur in February 2016 (we get a glimpse of Stephen’s watch), which puts it before Civil War. But most all of Doctor Strange takes place after his accident, which would mean it falls in late-2016 or early-2017.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
In Ragnarok, far-flung from Earth, Thor tells Bruce Banner that he’s been absent from Earth for “two years.” Allowing for suspension of time-space physical laws and Thor’s ballpark guestimates would allow Ragnorok to occur in later 2017–so that “the blip” can take place in 2018 (in Infinity War).
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Infinity War is soundly dated by the five-year gap from “blip” in 2018 to “snap” in 2023.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Ant-Man and the Wasp is tricky to place in terms of chronology and watch order. Most of the film takes place somewhat pre-Infinity War, but the post-credits scene involves a bunch of folks disintegrating in “the blip” (after Scott zips into the quantum realm). Since it was released after Infinity War, but ends at the same moment, it feels safe to place it here.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
In 2023, five years after the events of Infinity War, the world is grieving in the aftermath of the “blip.” Infinity War draws to a close the infinity stone storyline begun in Captain America, laying the ground for the next chapter in the Avengers and MCU storyline.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021)
Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes’ story follows from what happens to Cap at the end of Endgame. Director Kari Skogland confirms that the show falls about 6 months after Endgame.
We know that Wandavision takes place post-Endgame, like late 2023-24, but otherwise, it’s not terribly clear when. But it seems safe to park the reality-bendy series before the final batch of stories in 2024.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
This origin story of someone who could become an Avenger is mostly set around the same time as Far From Home, so roughly 2023 or 2024.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Set in 2024, 8-12 months after Endgame, Peter is still reeling from the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark. There is some debate
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
No Way Home picks up right after–like, right after–the end of Far from Home. We have a grounding detail of Halloween decorations at MJ’s donut shop, so that means that what we’re seeing is taking place during the college admissions process of late 2024, heading toward Christmas and…(see last entry below)
Well, we know Hawkeye happens just before Christmas, and it references “the blip.” Hawkeye director Rhys Thomas also makes clear that they decided to set Hawkeye in 2024. So, for the moment, that seems to be our furthest-out point in the MCU’s future.
So, what’s next? Well the next big MCU movie is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which based on the trailer, happens right after WandaVision. Or does it?
Where to stream all the Avengers movies:
All the MCU movies are streaming on Disney+ with the exception of the Spider-Man films, which, because they’re owned by Sony, are only streaming to rent right now, or in the case of No Way Home, still in the theaters. Will the “Home” trilogy of MCU Spidey movies ever be on Disney+ Don’t bet on it.