The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a massive sandbox of superhero continuity with several important corners, and keeping the events of that continuity organized can be a hard task.
Since these MCU projects have been released over the course of (nearly) a decade (as both movies and both broadcast and streaming branches of TV) keeping the actual chronology of those events in order has been near impossible.
However, since Marvel has such dedicated (and/or neurotic) fans, there are some who may want to sit down and watch the MCU in the actual order that events happened. If you are so inclined, here's How to Watch The Marvel Cinematic Universe In Chronological Order.
Here's how to view the current history of the MCU, known as "BIM" - aka, the era before the milestone event that's was Tony Stark's declaration, "I am Iron Man."
- Captain America: The First Avenger (WWII)
- Agent Carter Season 1 (post-WWII)
- Agent Carter Season 2 (late 1940s)
- Marvel one-Shot Agent Carter
Most of the early history of the MCU has been chronicled in Steve Rogers' transformation into Captain America, as well as the exploits of Cap's lady love, Agent Peggy Carter, in the post-WWII era that led her to finally create S.H.I.E.L.D.
There's ancient history referenced in both First Avenger and the Thor movies (i.e., Odin's time on ancient Earth, where he hid the Tesseract) - and other Marvel movies (Ant-Man) reference the 1950s era where Agent Carter started S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside Hank Pym and others. However, the only MCU projects actually set in that early era are the ones above.
The road to The Avengers was paved by two significant MCU milestones: Stark's "I am Iron Man" declaration and "Fury's Big Week." Here are the projects that fall into that space:
- Iron Man
- Iron Man 2
- The Incredible Hulk
- Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer
- Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant
- The Avengers
- Marvel One-Shot: Item 47
Basically, this is the major thrust of the "Phase One" storyline of the MCU, detailing how a a group of individuals went through some traumatic events to become superheroes - and were then recruited by Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. to become a team capable of defending earth from invasion.
Watching it unfold in order, with all the Marvel One-Shots filled in, is a lot of fun.
After The Avengers, the MCU moved into Phase II, which saw a much larger storyline beginning to unfold. Here are the projects in that segment of the saga:
- Iron Man 3
- Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episodes 1-7
- Thor: The Dark World
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episodes 8-16
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episodes 17-22
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episodes 1 - 10
- Marvel's Daredevil Season 1
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episodes 11-19
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episodes 20-22
- WHiH Newsfront
This was the segment of the MCU saga in which we saw Thanos revealed as the mastermind of Loki's incursion of Earth, and that The Infinity Stones were the real prizes he was after. It was also the drastic transformation of the MCU playing field, as S.H.I.E.L.D. fell, and HYDRA rose in its place.
As for The Avengers, they came together as a stronger fighting force than before - though the first cracks of schism were starting show, as Tony Stark created evil A.I. Ultron, straining the bonds between Avengers leaders, Iron Man and Captain America.
Phase Three has been the MCU's most sprawling and epic chapter of the saga yet. After Phase Two revealed the Infinity Stones' presence in the MCU, things have accelerated quickly toward a conflict between Earth's superheroes and Thanos.
Here are the titles in this current phase of the MCU:
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episodes 1 -10
- Jessica Jones Season 1
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episodes 11 -14
- Daredevil Season 2
- WHiH Newsfront April 2016
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episodes 15 -16
- WHiH Newsfront April 2016
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episodes 17 -18
- WHiH Newsfront April-May 2016
- Doctor Strange (Begins)
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episodes 19
- Captain America: Civil War
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episodes 20 - 22
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot Season 1
- Luke Cage Season 1
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episodes 1 - 4
- Doctor Strange (Ends)
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episodes 5 - 15
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episodes 16 - 22
- Iron Fist Season 1
- Marvel's The Defenders Season 1
This is the phase that has seen the MCU blow wide open. Now that the Avengers are a worldwide phenomenon, we've seen how that milestone event has affected the greater world order. The rise of The Avengers has inspired new heroes to put on the costume (like The Defenders' heroes or Spider-Man); it's also inspired a new level of super-criminals, like the type we saw in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
We've also seen new super-powered species like The Inhumans rise as a new world power; we've also seen mysticism arise in the MCU, thanks to Doctor Strange and the appearance of The Hand in NYC during the events leading up to The Defenders.
Phase 3 isn't over yet: At the time of writing this, The Defenders has yet to air, and after that, we still have Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Avengers: Infinity War to go. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be back for season 5, and the continuity will also get a whole new era of exploration, as Captain Marvel takes things back to the '90s.