No matter what you think of superhero movies, you have to give Marvel credit: It somehow managed to pull off a 27-movie-and-counting Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) without any reboots, remakes, or re-castings except one. None of the actors dropped out midway through, and they didn’t decide to re-do an origin story or two along the way. After things came to a head with Avengers: Infinity War and resolved with Spider-Man: Far From Home, what’s been dubbed “Phase 3” of the MCU is complete, and it's "Phase 4" began with Black Widow. Ready for a re-watch? You’ll need to remember what sequence they came in: Here’s how to watch all of the Marvel movies in order. (That’s order of theatrical release: If you want to watch them in an order that makes one unified chronology from WWII to today, you’ll need the Time Stone and a much geekier outlet than this one.)
If you’re looking for how to stream all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies online, you can find them on Amazon and iTunes, and most of them are also on the Disney+ streaming service. (Disney+ has plenty more MCU-related TV series in the works, too, but that's a separate thing.) But a couple aren't yet on Disney+: Sadly for Spidey fans, the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies are technically owned by Sony, so they're not on Disney+ right now — although the two studios may have a deal that will allow Disney to stream them in the future. And The Hulk is owned by Universal, which doesn't have such a deal in place.
And of course, just because Avengers: Infinity War wrapped up so many plotlines, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t more Marvel movies on the way. Here's how to keep track of all two-dozen-plus MCU films.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Though its titular hero spends 2/3rds of the film outside his armor, Iron Man 3 works. The film provides just the right mix of action (much of it explosive), chuckles (mostly via banter) and plot (fairly comprehensible). Some of that credit goes to director Shane Black, no stranger to the action genre as a screenwriter (Lethal Weapon, The Last Action Hero), nor to Robert Downey Jr. as a director (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). At a time when Whedon’s Avengers still loomed large in the rearview mirror (and provided much of the impetus for Tony Stark’s personal character arc in Iron Man 3), Black keeps the plot and pacing under much firmer control than Jon Favreau did in Iron Man 2. But though Iron Man 3 is a better-constructed film than its predecessor, ultimately it succeeds for the same reason the first two films did: Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark. Whereas most actors, no matter how adept the performance, play second fiddle to the character they portray, Downey Jr. has pretty much displaced Tony Stark, 50 years of comic book character development notwithstanding. In part, it’s because the character himself has never been as compelling as the armor he wore, but mainly, it’s because Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is just so damned much more enjoyable to be around than Stark Classic. It doesn’t matter that, in terms of hero profiles, Downey Jr.’s breezy, edgy quipping is pure Spider-Man. In fact, it’s telling that, in a realm pretty much defined by a fandom that will wail and gnash teeth about even the slightest deviation from canon, no one really cared. It’s the primary reason why a superhero film where the protagonist spends most of his time out of his armor rather than in it is not just bearable, but downright fun. It’s why the neutering of an arch-villain—though still a troublesome precedent for the Marvel film universe as a whole—works fine within the framework of the film. It’s why, in the frivolous debates of the future, the question “Who was the best Iron Man?” will really be, “Who has done the best version of Robert Downey Jr.?”—Michael Burgin
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
For every frenetic fight scene in Avengers: Infinity War—and there are plenty of them—there are myriad character interactions and emotional beats the audience has been prepped for by the previous films (okay, maybe not The Incredible Hulk). As a result, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have ample room to riff and play as characters meet for the first time or see each other again. Some of the interactions are easy to anticipate, if no less enjoyable—the immediate ego clash between Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange and Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, for example—but our familiarity with these characters adds resonance to nearly every scene and every line, as the vestiges and ripples of emotional arcs laid down in the last decade’s worth of movies bolster even the smallest moment. (It grounds such moments in ways that viewers unfamiliar with the bulk of the MCU will likely still recognize, as well.) It also generates a surprising amount of humor, especially for a two-hour-and-twenty-nine-minute film about a godlike being trying to exterminate half the population of the known universe. (It will forever bear repeating: When all is said and done, the casting of the MCU may go down as its most astounding achievement of all.) For anyone familiar with the source material—or anyone who has been paying attention to the movies—it shouldn’t be a spoiler to say things don’t go well for our heroes. In fact, in the genre of fantasy sci-fi franchises, probably only The Empire Strikes Back can make a case for ending on as dire a note. That, too, is sort of exhilarating, especially for those of us who remember seeing Empire in the theaters. Sure, you knew deep down that Han would get out of that block of carbonite and the Empire eventually be thwarted in the next film, but somehow that didn’t make you feel any better in the meantime.—Michael Burgin
Iron Man (2008)
There are plenty of important moments in the development of the superhero film, but the first Iron Man film boasts a few: It’s the first entry in Phase 1 of the MCU, and thus the easy-to-define dawn of the Marvel Age. But more interestingly, it showed that an actor could so overshadow the hero he portrays that he supplants that character, and it be a good thing. Before Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, Iron Man was a great suit of armor with a pretty boring alter ego. Stark’s personal story arcs involved heart trouble, alcohol abuse and intellectual property disputes. Downey Jr. brought the quips and the irreverence, and made Tony Stark on film much more fascinating than he had ever been in the comics. And comic book fans and neophytes alike loved the result. On a more basic level, the casting of Downey Jr. represented what would be a triumphant trio of casting moves—Downey Jr., Chris Evans’ Captain America, and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor—that would set the tone for the entire MCU. While Evans and Hemsworth are their respective characters, Tony Stark is Robert Downey Jr. As for the film itself, Iron Man had what all the initial MCU brand launches have had thus far: A first-time-on-film freshness as an invigorating expression of the core character that had 40+ years under its belt, yet not one good film to show for it. Add the increasing ability of CGI to handle the “super” of it all, and it’s pretty easy to overlook some of the film’s weaker plot points (e.g., the rushed “Wait, how does Jeff Bridges know how to operate that armor?” ending). As a result, the debut of the Downey Jr. show still ranks among the MCU’s most solid efforts.—Michael Burgin
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
To a large extent, GotG Vol. 2 follows the playbook from the first film, though now, with the entire cast familiar faces to the audience, Gunn skips introductions and goes right to the funny. In this case, that means an opening credits sequence featuring the entire team and what amounts to a highlight reel of character traits meant to amuse: Rapid banter from Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), humorous ’roid-rage from Drax (Dave Bautista), quiet badassitude from Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and an extended cute-Groot frolic. During this sequence and throughout the movie, the comic elements of this particular space opera feel as if they have been ratcheted up. But though he doesn’t seem to want the audience to have too much time between laughs, Gunn also seems determined to match the increased comic volume with more heart. Daddy issues, sibling rivalry, friendship struggles and questions of what makes a family—all themes present in the first film—are even more evident in the sequel. That’s not to say they are subtly or deeply explored—this is space opera, after all—but they give the proceedings a bit more oomph than if it were all quips and pratfalls. By the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the audience is unlikely to feel they’ve seen anything that different from Vol. 1, but it’s clear that Gunn and company knew exactly what qualities made the first film so enjoyable, and what they needed to do to make sure this particular sequel was worth the wait.—Michael Burgin
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
The Russo brothers’ second film in the Captain America trilogy, and their last before tackling the two-part Avengers: Infinity War films, Civil War maintains the same balance of action and significant (if brief) character development/interaction that made Winter Soldier so enjoyable. The fight and chase scenes are frenetic without being confusing, while the comic relief (mostly supplied by our bug-themed heroes) provides a Whedon-flavored lightening of the otherwise dark proceedings. Even more impressive, the film introduces two additional MCU Phase Three stars—one brand new to filmgoers and the other oh-so familiar—and both generate a real sense of “Man, I can’t wait to see his solo film!” All this is achieved without once veering too far from the core plot of the film. If one thinks of the each MCU film as a juggling act—and each hero’s origin, “flavor” and power set as its own subset of items that must be kept in motion and in proper relation with each other—then as a series, both Avengers films and Captain America: Civil War can be seen as an escalation of the routine that’s as impressive as it is necessary. After all, with each additional hero added, with each additional demand placed on the script in both action and dialogue, Kevin Feige and company are building toward Infinity.—Michael Burgin
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