Geek to the Future’s Official Marvel Cinematic Universe Viewing Guide

Avengers: Infinity War will be, without a doubt, the biggest cinematic event of 2018. The entire Marvel franchise has been building to this moment almost from its beginning. With that in mind, this post will be geared mostly towards those movie goers who are interested in seeing Infinity War, but maybe haven’t had a chance to watch the entire MCU line up and want to catch up before May. Even if you’re a veteran, you might want a refresher. With 18 movies spanning over the last decade, it can be confusing to know where to start or what order.

Below is my guide for the recommended viewing order for the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe up until this point. Because each movie builds on the last (similar to a series of comic books) the best method is to watch in the order they were released. Of course, if you want to get the absolute most out of Infinity War, I would recommend watching every movie (except maybe The Incredible Hulk).

That being said, not everyone will want to sit through roughly 36 hours of movies before May, so I’ve also ranked each movie by how necessary it is in relation to the Infinity War story. If you’re looking for a “bare bones” crash course through the MCU, just hit the essential movies. Be warned though, Marvel is famous for adding easter eggs and references from previous movies so the more you watch, the more you’ll catch and enjoy.

Also, just to be clear, these rankings have nothing to do with movie quality, only relevance to Infinity War. Virtually all of the MCU is fantastic and worth your time.

Here are the ranking definitions:

“Essential”: The bread and butter of the MCU and a must watch. These movies deliver key back story elements that build up to Infinity War (9 movies total).

“Important”: Try to fit these in if you have time. They will give you a more well-rounded understanding of the back story going into Infinity War, but you’ll still be fine without them (2 movies total).

“Not Necessary”: While great additions to the franchise, these movies are not a prerequisite for Infinity War. Watch them to learn more about each specific movie’s characters (6 movies total).

“Don’t Bother”: This rank is awarded to only one movie in the MCU. Watch if you want to say you’ve seen them all.

One final piece of information if you’re new to watching Marvel movies: make sure you sit through the credits. Every Marvel movie has at least one after credits scene and they usually give nuggets of info that build the franchise further. Ok, let’s get to it!

Phase One

1. Iron Man (2008)

Rank: Essential

Why: While this movie was too early on to set up anything for Infinity War, it is the movie that kicked off the MCU and should be watched for that reason alone.

2. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Rank: Don’t Bother

Why: Marvel was still working out the kinks with its movie strategy. Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner before being recast by Mark Ruffalo, and you can see why…this movie is a mess. Watch only if you really want to see every movie in the MCU. By the way, don’t confuse this movie with the older Hulk movie with Eric Bana…it’s even worse.

3. Iron Man 2 (2010)

Rank: Essential

Why: Full introduction into the inner workings of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the start of Nick Fury’s “Avenger Initiative.” We also get to see the origin of War Machine.

4. Thor (2011)

Rank: Important

Why: The Thor movies are the least necessary to watch in regard to Infinity War. However, you should at the very least watch the first one to have a basic understanding of the characters.

5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Rank: Essential

Why: The Captain America movies are some of the most important movies to understanding the MCU. This is Cap’s origin story and helps to set up the plot of Avengers, including what will be the first Infinity Stone.

6. Avengers (2012)

Rank: Essential

Why: Here we have the first look at Thanos, as well as the first Avengers team up. The story has a large impact on future movies.

Phase 2

7. Iron Man 3 (2013)

Rank: Not Necessary

Why: This movie is important to Tony’s story arc post Avengers but is not vital in regards to Infinity War.

8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Rank: Not Necessary

Why: This movie introduces a power source called the Aether which is only significant because it will become another Infinity Stone. Watch if you want more back story on Thor, or to watch him battle space-elves.

9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Rank: Essential

Why: First appearance of Winter Soldier, and the story has a large impact on the MCU going forward.

10. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Rank: Essential

Why: Introduction to the Guardians and another Infinity stone. Also, surprisingly this movie is where we have learned the most about Thanos and the history of the stones so far.

11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Rank: Essential

Why: Introduction of new characters that will be in Infinity War and events will have impact on the MCU going forward.

12. Ant Man (2015)

Rank: Not Necessary

Why: Intro to Ant Man and short glance at a younger S.H.I.E.L.D. Knowing that Paul Rudd plays a wise cracking criminal-turned hero, and can shrink to the size of a…well…ant is enough to get you by if you’re trying to shave off a few movies.

Phase 3

13. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Rank: Essential

Why: The fallout of this superhero showdown has a tremendous impact on setting up Infinity War. Also we get a small Spider Man introduction.

14. Doctor Strange (2016)

Rank: Not Necessary

Why: Introduction to Doctor Strange and another Infinity stone. This movie was a little too Strange for some moviegoers. Knowing he uses magic and has an Infinity Stone is enough to get you by if the Sorcerer Supreme doesn’t interest you.

15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Rank: Not Necessary

Why: A great movie that furthers the Guardians’s story but not essential to the overall MCU leading up to May. The character Mantis is introduced who will be in Infinity War. Other than that they’re still funny and still hate Thanos.

16. Spider Man: Homecoming (2017)

Rank: Not Necessary

Why: The full introduction to Marvel’s friendly, neighborhood…well you know. A fantastic movie but knowing that Spidey is the rookie of the group and Iron Man has taken on the role of mentor is enough to get you by.

17. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Rank: Important

Why: Ragnarok was a huge success this year and due to some major turn of events it’s important to know where Hulk, Thor and Loki will be at the beginning of Infinity War.

18. Black Panther

Release Date: February 16th, 2018

Rank: Essential

Why: Already introduced in Civil War, Black Panther / T’Challa is the King of Wakanda and will play a large role in Infinity War. My guess is that this will be the location of the final Infinity Stone…

19. Avengers: Infinity War

Release Date: May 4th, 2018!

Congratulations! You’re now ready for Thanos. It’s all led up to this!