This non-comic book guy aims to watch all of the MCU movies, plus...

My relationship to comics and comic book universes is complicated. I should state right off the bat: I am not a comic book guy. Yet let me clarify that: I have nothing against comic book guys or girls by any means! I kinda wish I was a comic book guy! I am absolutely pro-comic books!

But other than some very interested dabbling in the 1980s, I’ve never really gotten into comics. And when I did get into comics, it was DC that my friends loved above all others and steered me towards. With a few exceptions (X-Men, Spidey, and some stuff like The Punsher limited series) Marvel was a a source of a kind of “What happened to those guys?” feeling. Maybe that was just the folks I hung out with, and not universal. I dunno.

But anyway, for whatever reason I’ve kind of missed on the whole MCU movies thing. I’ve seen Iron Man. And I think Incredible Hulk. I’ve seen bits of a Thor movie and a Captain America movie, but I can’t even remember either well enough to know which movies I saw just fragments of.

And I want to see them. I want to have experienced them. I feel like I have this big hole in my blanket of cultural awareness and referential experience that feels like an itch that’s only getting worse and worse.

So. It’s time to fix that. And I think I’ll write a few paragraphs about each movie as I take them in (this is going to take months and months, btw.) And so now I’ve got a few questions.

First, what order to watch these in? My initial thought was Release Date order. But that seems kind of boring, maybe. And so I’m kind of thinking of watching them in chronological order, per this guide:

But then that gets to my next question. Should I include TV series? I’m thinking No and Yes on that. No, as in “There is no way in hell I’m sitting through 136 episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D”. And No, as in “I’ve seen a season of Daredevil and a season of Jessica Jones, and while I liked them…yeah, I’m good.” But also Yes, as in “Man, those new MCU series on Disney + have gotten really good reviews and positive feedback and feel way more closely tied into the direction of the films in the MCU stable going forward than maybe some of the other series did.”

At some point this weekend I’m going to start, and it’ll either be Iron Man (release order) or Captain America: The First Avenger (chronological). But before I pick and get started (and once I start one viewing order method, that’s it, no takesy-backsies) I’d love to hear some input from some of y’all MCU veterans.

Viewing order, your thoughts?

Series to include/exclude? (Seriously, I am so NOT watching 136 episodes of Agents of SHIELD, and I don’t care if I’ll understand the truth of the universe if I get through them all. Not. Happening.) As an aside here, what about Agent Carter? Because I’d be lying like a rug if I didn’t admit to a searing crush on Hayley Atwell.

You should listen to Newcomers as you go. Their most recent season has been the MCU.

Chronological order is kind of fun (my wife is slowly working her way through all the ones she missed that way), but the problem with it is you end up watching, like, Thor 1 and 2 in close proximity, and Guardians 1 and 2 one after the other. For me, it’s probably more fun to break it up. It doesn’t really add anything to watch First Avenger before you watch Iron Man, I don’t think. It might be fun to watch Black Widow right after Civil War instead of after Endgame, but… not a big deal, I don’t think.

I think it’s probably worthwhile to watch the Disney+ shows. I didn’t love all of them, but for example, the (one week from now!) Doctor Strange 2 has Wanda in it, and it might be nice to be up to date on where her character’s at when you see that. You definitely don’t have to watch the Netflix shows (which are now on D+). They are of… varying quality. The only thing you’re going to get out of that is there are some cameos in the latest Spiderman that are more fun if you’ve seen them. But that’s it.

As for Agents of SHIELD. Yeah, you do not have to watch 136 episodes of that. There is some overlap (the events of the movies affect what happens in the show), but it isn’t “canon”; the movies don’t refer to the events of the show, so you’re not missing anything by not watching it. It’s good though; if you like the movies you might end up watching it anyway and liking it.

Agent Carter? Same deal as SHIELD; it refers to the events of the movies (well, First Avenger, anyway), but the movies don’t refer to it. There’s a lot less of it than there is of SHIELD, though, so not as big an investment. It’s pretty good, watch it! Why wouldn’t you?

Oh! Cool! I will totally listen along as I clear through some of these. I don’t think I know Nicole Byers, but I love Lauren Lapkus.

Watch SHIELD. Seriously, it is worth it.

If you’re looking for parts that you can avoid to save time without missing out on anything good, you can skip the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, the TV shows, Iron Man 1 through 3, and every other product this cursed void of film making put out over the last 15 years or however long it’s been.

Seriously, why would you do this to yourself.

You should watch in release order. It doesn’t matter the chronological order of things in universe, the fine folks at Marvel expect and assume you are learning the actual details in release order. It’s like how if you read prequels, sure, technically the stuff in those older books hasn’t happened yet… but it’s been written, and the author is going to assume you know it.

The Disney+ series are both broadly pretty good (better than some of the lesser films even at the low end, imo) and actually directly in continuity. I have never seen Agents of SHIELD and if there’s been any reference to the events of that show I have not felt the lack. The Netflix shows are overall better but the closest thing to relevance they have had is one character also turning up in Hawkeye briefly, and not in a way you would need context for. (I would personally recommend hitting up Punisher also. and I guess watching the first part of Daredevil season 2 where that arc starts, but neither are requisite.) Runaways (and Cloak and Dagger and Inhumans) I don’t think are even that acknowledged.

If you want recs for non supers comics I have loads. That’s where the real meat of the medium is imo.

Thanks. I’m thinking I’ll probably make Agent Carter something I’ll watch well after-the fact. Like, if I get through all of the rest of this and am still wanting more, I’ll go watch that at some point.

There’s just no way in hell I’m watching 136 episodes of a TV show in the middle of 33 movies and limited series. Just not gonna happen. I’ll get 10 episodes into SHIELD, lose all interest entirely and never return to anything Marvel anywhere or any time.

To paraphrase Ted Lasso in a mis-appropriated quote, because about this subject I am extremely curious and not judgmental.

I strongly recommend release order, with one exception - watch Black Widow after Civil War - I feel like that’s where that movie would have been released in a more egalitarian society and it makes way more sense in continuity at that point and also sets up some later developments.

As for both Agents of Shield and the Netflix shows those can be skipped for now / for ever depending on your taste. Agent Carter and the Disney shows might be worth your time depending on how you are enjoying the experience.

Lastly if you do enjoy the above, I think a curated run thorough Agents of Shield is worth while, specifically the “good parts” beginning in late season 1 and then continuing to season 4. I could probably cut the 7 seasons down to maybe 40-50 “core recommended” episodes if I tried. In that same vein DD S1 and S3 as well as JJ S1 have a lot of good stuff (with some filler) - but you can consider everything in this paragraph to be Appendices to view if you enjoyed the main movies.

Interesting. So it sounds like release order is the way to go for a total n00b like myself? (And obviously I know the whole “Watch 'til after the credits” thing.)

While that feels a little more boring, it does carry the advantage of being divided into clear “phases”, so I’ll feel like I’m making progress. Like leveling up my MCU viewing!

D+ has a nice button that lets you skip the credits and will take you right to the post-credits scene!

(Some of the later movies have a mid-credits scene that comes after the nicely animated part of the credits, then you can skip the boring credits and get to the end-credits scene)

  • I would watch them in release order, if only because that’s kind of how they were meant to be experienced, and things like post credit scenes reflect that. (For those that know, imagine watching the Captain Marvel credit scene as, like, your second movie.) Chronological is kind of novel, but I don’t think the novelty is worth the crafting of the overall experience.
  • It’s okay to skip SHIELD, even though it’s actually pretty good. Nothing in the show (and yeah, I said nothing, Guy Who Is Going To Mention Age of Ultron) has any bearing on the rest of the MCU. And the longer it goes, the more it kind of becomes its own thing and thus the better it becomes. If you get to the end of your journey and wish you had more stuff to watch, you could do it.
  • Likewise, the Netflix shows aren’t required viewing at this point, but they do have their own connections, like an MCU in miniature. Though if you’ve only watched the first seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, I’d try and fit in the first season of Luke Cage somewhere. It doesn’t hit as high, but I really enjoyed it.
  • The Disney+ shows are of varying quality, and you can find all the opinions of them you could ever want. But it’s generally accepted that WandaVision and Loki are the best of the bunch and the most likely to have lingering impacts on the MCU at large. I also think Hawkeye was fantastic. Captain Falcon isn’t super necessary viewing.
  • Agent Carter is fun and light, and everyone in it is having a good time. It’s very unnecessary, but I’d throw it in there if you can!

My entire life has been preparing me for this moment!

There are pros and cons of Release Date versus Chronological order–for one thing, a couple of the post-credits scenes won’t make sense–but I think there’s a good compromise here: the Friends From Work viewing order:

It’s basically a Chronological viewing order, but with a few things moved around to make it flow better. (For example, they space out Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2, even though they take place a few weeks apart.) I think it’s a really thoughtful viewing order, where the aftermath of Movie X leads directly to the next movie in the order.

But barring that, Release Order is another good choice.

There are really three categories of Marvel series, and that might help your decision:

  1. Netflix series (Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, The Punisher): Those series vaguely refer to events of the movies (actually just The Avengers) but never really cross over with the movies. Easily skippable.
  2. ABC series (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter): Those series have some characters from the movies crossing over into the series, but none of the events of the series cross back into the movies. Also skippable.
  3. Disney+ series: These series completely cross over with the movies, in both directions (or they are planning to; we’ll know in a week!). They are also relatively short (6-10 episodes per series), so they can be watched in a shorter period of time. I would watch these with the same priority as the movies, especially since they all take place after Endgame.

Personally, I would recommend watching Agent Carter for two reasons: First, it’s in the middle category so there’s more crossover with the movies; and second, the show was created by Markus and McFeely, who wrote six of the Marvel movies. Of all the pre-Disney+ Marvel series, this has the strongest connection to the MCU.

Other miscellaneous recommendations:

  • Don’t skip anything! Various guides will say “Oh you can just skip this movie, it isn’t very good”, but they all have good character moments and can sometimes surprise you with how they tie in later.
  • Don’t rush through things! You might be tempted to binge the movies as quickly as possible to get to the Good Stuff, but hopefully you enjoy the process along the way.
  • They get better! A few of the earlier movies are spotty as the creators find their footing, but the movies really do get better over time. Don’t lose hope!

I look forward to your reports as you watch through the movies! And I’m here if you have any questions along the way.


Somewhere in between Infinity War and Endgame was where my personal enjoyment line heading south crossed over with the northward-bound “wow, this is kind of ruining American cinema and with Disney+ coming soon, TV too, isn’t it?”. I’d still stick with release order, though; if nothing else I imagine it’s going to be fascinating to watch a a decade-plus of formula-refinement in short order, given how culturally prominent the formula ended up being.

(SHIELD after the first season and the best of the Netflix series are better than at least three-quarters of the movies, in large part because they have some room to breathe and try things and only be like 80% commercial instead of 110%. But I totally get not wanting to invest quite that much time.)

How do the clouds smell up there where your nose is at?

If you’re talking about franchise viewing in general, the data says that genre movies are actually supporting cinemas so they can afford to show smaller independent films, not pushing them out. I can go to my local theater right now and watch Everything Everywhere All at Once, or even RRR! Even movies like Parasite wouldn’t have gotten a domestic release even ten years ago.

I’ll be taking the under on how many movies Trigger gets through before his brain breaks.

I applaud the work ethic, anyway, 'cause I sure couldn’t do it. Most of these movies are pretty dull.

Controversial opinion: watch whatever you want, and skip whatever you want. It’s just fun popcorn entertainment, for good and bad. You get however much you want out of it, as long as you don’t care too much.

@triggercut I strongly recommend release order, and here is why:

The movies build on each other. There are payoffs and moments of recontextualization. There is a moment in Endgame that is hinted at in Ultron, built in the intervening films, and paid off in a moment that was one of the biggest audience energizing moments in film. Yes, that one. But there are other smaller things throughout. And doing release order preserves that, while some things are neutered in chronological order.

Character introductions. Some characters are ‘introduced’ in films that take place ‘later’ in the timeline than other appearances. If you watch in chronological some questions may arise. The perrenial ‘but what about X’l, wouldn’t they show up’? Its easier to let things go if you have only knowledge of the context at the time. If the Sorcerer Supreme isn’t introduced yet, then their absence in a scenario where they logically would show up, doesn’t bother. That way when those threads are pulled, it does so in full context.

Tone and quality. Chronological would start with one of my favorites, Captain America, but goes to a weaker one after. Then you get both Guardians bunched up, etc. The production and quality shifts may be a bit jarring.

Even Chronological will have time jumps. There are initerstitial elements and time travel elements in several films. So even chronological isn’t strictly chronological.

And whatever you do enjoy them however you like. Just because the Guardians films and Thor Ragnarok are my favorites, doesn’t mean they’ll be yours. So if you decide to ignore my advice and watch some other way? Do so!

As for shows, broadly Ii only hard press for the D+ shows. But also those come pretty late in sequence so by the time they cone up you either know you do or do not wish to continue. I love them, but if you are hating the time? Well they all come post Endgame so you lose nothing by skipping at that point.