MCU: What Movies Are in Phases 1, 2, and 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Avengers: Endgame was the culminating chapter in more than a decade of storytelling. From 2008’s Iron Man to 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home — which serves as a coda of sorts — the first 23 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are collectively known as “the Infinity Saga.” Here’s the full rundown of which MCU movies are in Phases 1, 2, and 3.
The Avengers assembled in Phase 1, as fans discovered a new approach
The post-credits scene in Iron Man established the movie’s long-term goal. And as such, the first few MCU movies really focus on developing the original Avengers. Likewise, these recurring heroes — and Tom Hiddleston’s villainous Loki — introduced audiences to a whole new way of adapting comics to the big screen.
- Iron Man (2008)
- The Incredible Hulk (2008)
- Iron Man 2 (2010)
- Thor (2011)
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
- Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
By the time Phase 1 ended, Marvel Studios knew their effort at translating the interconnected world of the comics to movies would pay off. Key heroes like Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) were established. So the MCU felt confident enough to begin expanding into riskier territory going forward.
Phase 2 expanded into the cosmic realm and developed key heroes
MCU Phase 2 stayed fairly true to what worked in the first phase. The three core heroes — Iron Man, Captain America, and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor — all got sequels. But Marvel Studios demonstrated a greater grasp of how to keep defying audience expectations. Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Ant-Man are a political thriller and heist comedy, for example.
- Iron Man 3 (2013)
- Thor: The Dark World (2013)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
- Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
- Ant-Man (2015)
This phase also notably introduced the Guardians of the Galaxy. Prior to its release, some speculated a gun-toting raccoon and talking tree would be the characters to break the MCU. Nothing could be further from the truth. The movie was pivotal in helping the franchise grow. It also solidified the MCU’s cosmic side, bringing fans one step closer to Thanos (Josh Brolin).
The MCU introduced mysticism in Phase 3 and set up the future
Further emboldened by its success, Marvel Studios laid out a very ambitious slate for Phase 3. Nearly twice as long as the two preceding it, this line-up introduced a few final pieces ahead of the grand finale. Marvel struck a deal to bring Spider-Man (Tom Holland) into the MCU. And Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) debuted.
- Captain America: Civil War (2016)
- Doctor Strange (2016)
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
- Black Panther (2018)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
- Captain Marvel (2019)
- Avengers: Endgame (2019)
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Phase 3 also toys with the Quantum Realm and mysticism, the latter exemplified by Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Now that Avengers: Endgame introduced time travel, fans expect Phase 4 to question the nature of reality itself. After all, Cumberbatch returns for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which could be the key to the MCU’s future.