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How To Watch The MCU, Part 1

By Laura Brack in Arts & Culture


This guide contains spoilers. It’s not really supposed to, but it kind of does.


If you want to watch every property in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, good luck. It’ll take you 25 hours and 5 minutes to watch every movie back to back, and that’s not even counting the TV shows. Instead, here’s a guide to every movie and TV show in the MCU - what to watch and what to avoid completely. We’ll start with Phase I - every movie from “Iron Man” until “The Avengers”, and then go to Phase II - every movie between “Iron Man 3” and “Ant-Man”. After that, we’ll cover TV shows, and lastly, we’ll go over the order to watch them in. Stay tuned for Phase II, coming soon!




“Iron Man” (2008)

Verdict: Watch!

When “Iron Man” came out, the superhero movie was a dying art form. To the non-nerds of the world, Iron Man was a B-list superhero, and among comic book fans, he was reviled for his actions during the still-controversial crossover event “Civil War”. Nobody expected “Iron Man” to do well, let alone kickstart one of the most successful film franchises of all time, but it did all that and more. With its epic action scenes and snarktastic protagonist, this movie made Tony Stark cool again, while introducing lesser-known characters — like Happy Hogan and War Machine — to the general public. Moreover, through an after-credits scene and an unexpected cameo, “Iron Man” single handedly set up the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which will soon rule your life.


“The Incredible Hulk” (2008)

Verdict: Don’t Watch

“The Incredible Hulk”, on the other hand, is such a non-presence within the MCU that I can’t even find that much to say about it. It definitely takes place in the MCU, despite the fact that Bruce Banner is now played by Mark Ruffalo instead of Edward Norton, but at the same time, it doesn’t really have a real impact on the plot of the MCU as a whole. Basically, if you know The Hulk’s story — kind-hearted scientist Bruce Banner is in a gamma ray accident, becomes large and green while angry, has to avoid relationships — you’ll be all set to watch “The Avengers”, and you won’t have to deal with the most nondescript movie in the MCU.


“Iron Man 2” (2010)

Verdict: Don’t Watch

“Iron Man 2” doesn’t suck. If you disregard the original film, and turn off your brain, it’s even kind of enjoyable, in the same way that “Transformers” or the “Fast And Furious” films are enjoyable — it’s stupid, but it’s fun. There are big explosions and a vaguely funny running gag; what else could you even want in a movie, even? Just ignore the fact that the plot is basically a more boring version of the first “Iron Man” and you’ll be fine. If you want to leave your brain on, however, it’s pretty easy to see that “Iron Man 2” is one of the worse MCU films. The best thing to come out of it is Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard as Rhodey, but other than that? Skip.


“Thor” (2011)

Verdict: Watch!

Neither of the “Thor” films are honestly that awesome, but still, the first one is important to watch as a set up for “The Avengers”. (Also, for the gratuitously shirtless Chris Hemsworth.) You’ll learn the story of Thor, the bratty god of thunder, and his adventures on earth, and also about his more interesting brother, Loki. The direction is really nice, and the CGI paradise known as Asgard is really, really pretty to look at. The film suffers from awkward comedy sequences and a strained romance, but still, it’s enjoyable enough to warrant a watch or two, and it’s also important as a set up for “The Avengers”.


“Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

Verdict: Watch!

“The First Avenger” is one of the best movies of Phase I. It’s definitely more talky than most superhero movies, and one could argue that it takes too long for the actual action to start, but the characters and plot are engaging enough to make up for that. Steve Rogers himself is just such a good guy — he doesn’t wanna kill Nazis, he just doesn’t like bullies, no matter where they’re from. If that sometimes means making bad choices that could potentially get him killed, so be it. And Peggy Carter, Cap’s love interest, is one of the coolest, toughest female leads in the MCU. “The First Avenger” is also pretty important to watch in order to understand “The Avengers”, so even if you prefer your superhero movies with a large helping of snark and explosions, you should still probably check it out.


“The Avengers” (2012)

Verdict: Watch!

Before “The Avengers”, no American superhero crossover movie had ever been attempted. It could’ve failed. It could’ve been terrible. It could’ve completely destroyed the momentum that the MCU had built up to that point. Instead, though, “The Avengers” was awesome. It’s a fun movie filled with cool battle scenes and giant explosions and quotable lines. Every Avenger gets an awesome moment or two, and it’s also very funny. Moreover, the after credits scene of “The Avengers” is the first part of the set up for “The Avengers: Infinity War”, which will probably be the biggest MCU movie ever.


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