|Jon Favreau||Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard|
Tony Stark is a genius playboy with no morals and a multi-billion-dollar company built of the sale of weapons of semi-mass destruction. Considered a war monger by most of the world (and a hero to the U.S. military), his whole world view flips upside-down when he’s captured by a terrorist organization and finally sees the effects of his weapons close-up for the first time around.
One of the best MCU films, hands-down.
|Louis Leterrier||Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt|
Bruce Banner was a scientist studying gamma radiation until an experiment-gone-wrong mutated him and created an alter-ego filled with rage, a hulking personality that causes him to undergo a dramatic transformation when he gets angry.
Now, hiding out from the U.S. government in South America, Bruce finds himself the target of a zealous general and a special forces operative whose only purpose in life is the thrill of the kill.
I like this one quite a bit, and thought Norton’s version of Bruce Banner was superb.
|Jon Favreau||Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell|
As Tony Start struggles to reconcile his new public identity as the superhero Iron Man with his company’s newfound direction away from weapons production and into the clean energy sector, he finds himself the target of both an insane Russian criminal genius and a fellow billionaire named Justin Hammer.
Not the best Marvel film ever, and might be skippable, but for how it continues to build Tony’s personality.
|Leythum||Clark Gregg, Maximiliano Hernández, Deborah Knox, William Hurt|
Agents Coulson and Sitwell plan to derail General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross from interfering with S.H.I.E.L.D. affairs with a very special person.
|Leythum||Clark Gregg, Jessica Manuel, Jeff Prewett|
Agent Coulson stops at a convenience store and deals with a coincidental robbery during his visit.
|Kenneth Branagh||Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins|
In the realm of Asgard, a hot-headed young Thor is stripped of his power because of his recklessness and unthinking desire to start a war long cold. Odin, his father, sends him to Earth to learn humility. But, meanwhile, Thor’s brother, Loki, discovers the secret of his birth and sets off to seek power and the destruction of his foster father.
This is probably my favorite of all the Thor films, particularly because I love how J. Michael Straczynski weaves such an elegant plot for the reveal of the god of thunder.
|Joe Johnston||Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones|
It’s the dawn of WWII and young Steve Rogers is too sickly to sign up to fight against the Nazi scourge. But Steve’s the sort of guy who never backs down, especially from a bully, and he’s willing to try anything - even forging his medical files and risking prison time - to have the chance to stand up for the defenseless. So, when a scientist working on a secret super soldier formula picks him out from the crowd, seeing in Steve the empathy and compassion needed to make the serum work, Steve accepts his fate and the First Avenger is born.
Not only will Captain America forever be my favorite Avenger, this will always be one of my favorite films — as schlocky as it gets at times.
|Joss Whedon||Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston|
Loki’s plans for Earth have come to fruition and, leading a goliath alien army, plans to enslave humanity and destroy Thor while he’s at it. But Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the leader of the secret spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D. has a plan to stop him: by assembling Earth’s mightiest heroes to save the day. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) team up for the first great battle of the new era.
Joss Whedon isn’t doing so well these days, but there’s no doubt that this is one of the finest Marvel films.
|Louis D'Esposito||Lizzy Caplan, Jesse Bradford, Maximiliano Hernández|
SHIELD agent Sitwell is assigned to recover an abandoned Chitauri weapon being used by a young couple robbing a bank.
|Louis D'Esposito||Hayley Atwell, Bradley Whitford, Dominic Cooper|
Frustrated at being marginalized at work, Peggy Carter goes on an unauthorized solo field mission.
|Joss Whedon||Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, and Elizabeth Henstridge. Nick Blood, Adrianne Palicki, Henry Simmons, Luke Mitchell, John Hannah, Natalia Cordova-Buckley, and Jeff Ward.|
Agent Phil Coulson mysteriously returns to life. In command of his own secret task force and kept out of the limelight for fear that his presence would distract the Avengers, he embarks on a mission to seek out those dangers lurking in the shadows, starting with a mysterious project known as Centipede.
**Note: This series should be watched along with the films released in each calendar year, so season 1 in 2013, season 2 in 2014, etc. That way you’ll end up roughly following the original release schedule without doing too much work. For a more detailed guide, look at my chronological watch order guide.
|Shane Black||Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall|
Tony Stark is a changed man after the Battle of New York. Suffering from PTSD, he finds himself slowly losing touch of everything he cares about, unable to face the world unless from behind Iron Man’s metal face. But when a strangely-stereotyped terrorist begins threatening death and destruction on America, Tony finds himself embroiled in a whole new plot, one that needs the man behind the iron mask just as much as it needs the superhero he embodies.
Definitely not the best film in the franchise, but it has a few moments that are good. It’s, frankly, much more worthwhile than Iron Man II.
|Drew Pearce||Ben Kingsley, Scoot McNairy, Lester Speight|
A documentary filmmaker interviews the now-famous Trevor Slattery from behind bars.
|Alan Taylor||Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston|
An ancient enemy of Asgard awakes, the Dark Elves, who seek an ancient power of awesome potential called the Aether which they can use to destroy the Asgardians (and Earth) once and for all. But when the scientist Jane Foster accidentally becomes host to this power, it’s up to Thor to protect her at all costs—even the respect of his godly family.
|Joe Russo, Anthony Russo||Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Robert Redford|
Steve Rogers was found miraculously alive after half a century, his super-soldier serum keeping him suspended inside the Antarctic ice. Now, he tries to adjust to a strange new world, one darker and more complex than what he remembers. Uneasy with the deadly power wielded by S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as the widespread corruption that seems to exist everywhere, Captain America soon begins to realize that the ideals his uniform stands for don’t sit with the America of the modern age.
|James Gunn||Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan|
Abducted from Earth as a boy, Peter Quill has since become that most un-famous of intergalactic rogues: Starlord. But Peter’s life takes a wild turn when he encounters the green daughter of the Mad Titan on a quest to destroy her father, a talking raccoon, a walking tree, and a man with a tragic past and no sense of subtlety.
I saw this one three times in a row in theaters when it first came out. Loved it.
|Joss Whedon||Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, James Spader|
Tony Stark’s PTSD has brought him to a new level of intensity: gone is the fun-loving playboy and in with a man who’s willing to protect Earth at any cost, even the price of worldwide freedom. But, when his new defense AI becomes sentient, Tony may have to live with a new horrible fact: he’s become the greatest threat to Earth after all.
Now, the Avengers must assemble once more to take down Ultron before the mad machine can wreak havoc on the planet.
Totally not the best Avengers film, I admit, but still a huge amount of fun. I think this mainly suffers from trying to do way too much, as well as from some mistaken interpretations fans made regarding certain dialog sequences.
|Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely||Hayley Atwell, James D'Arcy, Chad Michael Murray, and Enver Gjokaj|
Agent Carter must balance life as a secret agent with that of a single woman in 1940s America, as the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SHIELD’s precursor) tries to defend the world from new and impossible threats to humanity. But, when Howard Stark is accused of selling deadly weapons, Agent Carter is the only one willing and able to step up and clear his name.
|Drew Goddard||Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Rosario Dawson, and Vincent D'Onofrio|
As a boy, Matt Murdock lost his sight but gained a supernatural sense that allows him to see the world. As a lawyer, he helps the destitute and the helpless, but, as Daredevil, he prowls the streets in search of crime.
|Melissa Rosenberg||Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, Eka Darville, and Carrie-Anne Moss|
Jessica Jones isn’t a superhero, not anymore. Haunted by her past and the darkness that lurks there, Jones uses her super strength to aid her work as a private investigator. But some pasts refuse to stay hidden, and Jessica Jones must learn to face what she fears the most.
|Peyton Reed||Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll|
Scott Lang is a wise-cracking ex-con willing to do anything to spend more time with his daughter. But Scott’s life is upended when Hank Pym, an aging inventor who needs Lang’s help to stop his money-grubbing protégé from selling a deadly technology to the highest bidder. Luckily, Scott gets some help of his own, in the form of a suit that shrinks and a hoard of helpful ants.
Ah, what a film this could have been! Edgar Wright was originally signed on to direct it, which certainly would have been incredible. Reed’s direction did little good here, and the script was pretty lackadaisical and lame — not to mention wildly racist in places. There are some good moments, some funny one-liners, but it’s not the best of the films.
|Cheo Hodari Coker||Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi, Rosario Dawson, and Alfre Woodard|
Luke Cage becomes a fugitive after a sabotaged experiment leaves him with invulnerable skin and super-strength. Hiding out in Harlem, Cage must confront corruption around ever corner and learn to become the hero that his people need him to be.
|Anthony Russo, Joe Russo||Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Scarlett Johansson, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Rudd, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Daniel Brühl|
We already knew there were tensions between the way that Steve Rogers and Tony Stark see the world, but in Civil War things finally come to a boil. Ashamed of his part in the Ultron crisis, and terrified of super-powered destruction laying waste to Earth, Tony sides with a governmental attempt to take control of the Avengers. Steve, however, knows that the governments of the world could never be trusted to use such power properly and refuses to submit. Add to this a mysterious villain who is hell-bent on getting the Avengers to tear themselves apart, and you have one heck of a great story.
|Scott Derrickson||Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong|
Stephen Strange is not a particularly nice man. Arrogant to the point of absurdity, he’s the world’s foremost surgeon and the world’s foremost ego. But when a car crash destroys his life, he finds himself searching beyond the realms of logic and possibility for a cure, a search that leads him to the door of the Sorceress Supreme herself.
One of my favorite films in the MCU.
|Scott Buck||Anson Mount, Serinda Swan, Ken Leung, Eme Ikwuakor, Isabelle Cornish, Ellen Woglom, and Iwan Rheon|
The Inhumans have long used the powerful Terrigen Mists to imbue their people with incredible superpowers, and have protected their solitary way of live for thousands of years. But now, threats from outside their cloistered walls loom closer, and the Inhuman “Royal Family” is destined for its greatest fight in the long history of their kind.
|Scott Buck||Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, Tom Pelphrey, Jessica Stroup, and Sacha Dhawan|
Danny Rand, heir to a powerful corporate legacy, returns after being presumed dead for fifteen years. Now, struggling to balance his duty to the monks who rescued him with his desire to reconnect with his family roots, Danny finds himself caught between the mantle of the Iron Fist and who he wants to be.
|Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez||Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, Finn Jones, Sigourney Weaver|
A shared enemy known only as The Hand unites the vigilante heroes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, but will even their combined strength be enough to stop the insidious machinations of an organization with its fingers around New York’s throat.
|Steve Lightfoot||Jon Bernthal, Ben Barnes, Amber Rose Revah, Jason R. Moore, and Deborah Ann Woll|
Former Force Recon Marine Frank Castle has punished those responsible for his family’s murder, but his vigilante days are far from over. Lurking in the shadows as “the Punisher”, Frank haunts the dark alleys of New York where he encounters a conspiracy connected to his tragic past that goes deeper and farther than he imagined.
|James Gunn||Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell|
The gang’s all good (sort of) now that they saved the galaxy, but the trials of this bunch of “a-holes” is far from over. When Peter’s long-lost dad finally catches up to his son, it quickly becomes apparent that family will always be the most complicated force in the universe.
|Jon Watts||Tom Holland, Zendaya, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau|
Teenage Peter Parker was brought into the fight in Civil War by Tony Stark, and now the young Spider-Man is desperate to join the Avengers in full. But the world is changing in the wake of all the alien invasions and superhero craziness, and soon Parker finds himself embroiled in fighting a dangerous smuggling racket for alien weapons.
|Taika Waititi||Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo, Tessa Thompson, Jeff Goldblum|
Thor finds himself returning to Asgard to discover unsettling changes in his absence, and soon finds himself pitted against Hela, a long-lost sister and the “goddess of death” who is determined to destroy the peace that Odin built and bring about a new colonial age of war with Asgard striking out to claim the galaxy.
Taika is a superb director, and the anti-colonialist plot in this one made a lot of people happy. There are some legitimately funny moments, too, and the cast generally does a great job. However, this is one of my least favorite MCU films because (much like Star Wars: The Last Jedi), the director in charge wanted to make fun of the fans and take a stab at the collective myth built up through the story. Frankly, I wish Taika had put in all his good stuff without breaking what worked, and I also wish that Hela had been less of a ridiculous baddie — Cate Blanchett deserved better.
|Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage||Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner, Ariela Barer, Gregg Sulkin, and Allegra Acosta|
A super villain organization called the Pride operates in the shadows with impunity until an unexpected force gathers to oppose it: the teenage kids of the Pride’s leadership. Imbued with superpowers of their own, it’s up to these six teens to save the day.
Unlike some of the other MCU shows, this one got a proper wrap-up on the 3rd season!
|Ryan Coogler||Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya, Danai Gurira|
When his father was killed (during the events of Civil War), young T’Challa becomes next-in-line for the throne of the technologically-advanced hidden African society Wakanda. But T’Challa soon finds himself facing down Eric Killmonger, a man obsessed with a violent approach to life and revenge for a wrong committed by T’Challa’s father.
|Joe Pokaski||Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph|
Teenagers Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson couldn’t be more different, coming from social, class, and racial backgrounds diametrically opposite. But both have powers they can’t explain, powers that seem to be linked to a disaster from their childhood… powers that might give them a chance to quell some of the darkness in the world.
|Anthony Russo, Joe Russo||Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Josh Brolin, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman|
Thanos, an intergalactic warlord known as “The Mad Titan” searches for the Infinity Stones with which he will have the power to, with a snap of his fingers, change the universe forever. Only the Avengers stand in his way, and even their collective power might not be enough to stop him.
|Peyton Reed||Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen|
Hank Pym’s daughter, Hope, enlists Scott Lang’s help to track down her long-lost mother. Now, poor Scott has to balance the risk of breaking his house arrest and being locked back up for real, with helping the woman he’s in love with.
|Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck||Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Lashana Lynch, Annette Bening|
She’s a Kree warrior, part of an elite team sent to destroy the Skrull infiltrators wherever they lurk. But, when Vers finds herself on Earth in 1995, she suddenly encounters a truth about her life that will change everything.
One of my favorites. It didn’t get as much attention as it should have when it came out, but I honestly rank this up there with my favorites in the MCU. The biggest issue, perhaps, is that Captain Marvel really is way overpowered, taking us to the same ridiculous places that DC superhero films keep going.
|Anthony Russo, Joe Russo||Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Josh Brolin, Brie Larson|
After their defeat at Thanos’ hands (or hand, singular), the surviving Avengers are given new hope when Scott Lang reappears from the Quantum Realm with a plan: time travel is possible and might yet save the day.
My sister and I literally broke down when the end of this movie rolled around, we were full-on sobbing in the cinema. It was great.
|Jon Watts||Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jon Favreau, Jake Gyllenhaal|
As Peter Parker, newly returned after the events of Endgame, contends with the leftover pieces of his teenage life, the arrival of strange elemental monsters upsets his plans for a quiet European field trip. Now, Peter needs to balance his secret identity with saving the world.
|Paul Zbyszewski||Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon|
On the supernatural edge of society, Daimon and Ana Helstrom are the children of a mysterious serial killer who use their demonic powers to hunt down and destroy the worst elements of humanity.
|Matt Shakman||Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris|
Vision was killed by Thanos at the end of Infinity War… or was he? Strangeness compounds weirdness as Wanda Maximoff and Vision live out a cloistered hallmark life inside an uncanny version of a television serial. But mysteries upon mysteries are waiting in the wings.
One of the finest things produced in the entire MCU, this is an absolute piece of gold-standard television storytelling.
|Kari Skogland||Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp, Wyatt Russell|
When Steve Rogers hand-picks his friend Sam Wilson to take up the mantle of Captain America, Sam struggles with the idea of wearing such a fraught mantle. As Sam explores how the United States’ inherent racism contends with the Captain American ideal, he and Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) find themselves at the forefront of a hunt to stop a group of terrorists… a group that might be fighting for something that Captain America would actually champion, if only via different means.
Wasn’t sure if I would like this one, but I ended up being a two-thumbs-up fan.
|Kate Herron||Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Sophia Di Martino, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jonathan Majors|
In 2012, a version of Loki made off with the tesseract, and caused a big branch in the timeline while he was at it. Now, the Time Variance Authority has caught up with him. A mysterious and seemingly all-powerful organization, they have been unable to track down a mysterious killer hunting their agents, and they believe that Loki might be able to help.
I fell in love with this, not only because Loki gets to officially come back (the timey-wimey stuff makes it likely that his “death” at the beginning of Infinity War is, in a certain sense, undone), but because the whole story is magic. It lets Loki be Loki, but also turns him into the lovable scamp that fans adore him for being.
|Cate Shortland||Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz|
Set between the events of Civil War and Infinity War, Natasha Romanoff returns to her roots in a search for the organization that turned her into a killer, and the adoptive family that she fell in love with as a child, particularly her sister Yelena.
|Bryan Andrews||Jeffrey Wright, Hayley Atwell, Chadwick Boseman, Samuel L. Jackson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Ruffalo, Michael B. Jordan, Chris Hemsworth|
And omniscient creature known only as “The Watcher” peers into alternate realities where small changes created huge alterations in the timelines of our favorite heroes. It’s an animated series, but features the voices of number of the original cast, making it a real tie-in in my opinion.
|Destin Daniel Cretton||Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Meng’er Zhang, Michelle Yeoh|
Shaun just wants to live a normal life, working in San Francisco as a valet and hanging out with his friend Katy. But his past comes to haunt him when his father, the immortal crime lord Wenwu, reenters his life and forces him to accept his destiny as Shang-Chi, wielder of the rings of power.
Honestly, one of the worst Marvel films, this one is better-left forgotten. Probably skippable if you read the Wikipedia article for its plot points (it will inevitably tie into other Phase Four territory).
|Chloé Zhao||Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Barry Keoghan, Bryan Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Lia McHugh, Don Lee|
For 7,000 years a group of powerful immortal warriors has been protecting humanity, guiding us, and keeping us save from “Deviants”, apex predators that destroy all life. But following Thanos’ temporary eradication of half of all life on Earth, something changes, and the secret behind the Eternals is ready to be revealed.
I liked this more than I expected. It didn’t get a lot of love in the critic’s sphere, but I found it generally enjoyable, with some solid acting and a reasonably interesting plot. Did I use the 10-second skip button to get through some of the long action sequences and bad plot moments? Sure. But I didn’t want to smack my face into a wall like I did with Shang-Chi.
|Rhys Thomas, Bert & Bertie||Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Vera Farmiga, Alacqua Cox, Florence Pugh, Fra Fee|
Clint Barton just wants to finally have a peaceful, normal Christmas with his family. But, when a young Hawkeye fangirl named Kate Bishop gets herself in hot water and connects herself to Barton’s darker alter-ego Ronin, Clint has to jump in to save the day. But what he and Kate find turns out to be larger and more complex than either could have imagined.
So much fun. Seriously. So good.
|Jon Watts||Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Jamie Foxx|
Peter Parker is Spider-Man, and the whole world knows it. With his life upside-down and his superhero identity ruining his friends’ college prospects (as well as his own), Peter asks Dr. Strange for help. Strange (who’s still just as egotistical as ever) agrees, but when the spell goes wrong it opens doorways between this universe and all the others in which Spider-Man exists, connecting them together and threatening to bring destruction to the world.
I was not blown away by the first two Spider-Man films from the MCU, but this one absolutely captivated me. Definitely one of the better films in the line-up.
Want to watch the MCU in the order of production, starting with 2008’s Iron Man? Check out my ultimate guide here!