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Catching up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe After Captain Marvel!

March 20th, 2019

I have had three different people come to me in the past few days with the exact same question.  They’d seen Captain Marvel and loved it, but they’d never seen a single other Marvel movie.  Excited by Captain Marvel (and the Avengers: Endgame tease at the end of the film)  they wanted to know: what should they watch next in order to get caught up?

What a great question!  I’ve had a lot of fun considering what advice to give them.

The interconnected Marvel Universe is an extraordinary creation.  An incredible TWENTY-ONE (Endgame will be number twenty-two) interconnected films that build upon one another and together make up this extraordinary ongoing story.  There has never before been a series of interconnected films as vast and as well-made as this one.  It’s a delight and I get very excited at the thought of new fans discovering the MCU after having gotten hooked by Captain Marvel.  (By the way, the exact same thing happened last year after Black Panther.)

The good news is: you can’t go wrong wherever you decide to start.  Because one of the crazy miracles of the MCU is that THERE ISN’T A STINKER IN THE BUNCH.  I mean it! Twenty-one movies without a bomb!  It’s incredible.  The worst of the Marvel movies (I’d probably put Iron Man 2 at the bottom of the list) is perfectly fine and entertaining.

Part of me wants to tell people to just start at the beginning (with 2008’s Iron Man) and watch the whole twenty-plus film series all the way through.  But I understand that is too much for most people!!  And so, after much debate and consideration, here is my advice on how to get caught up on the MCU post Captain Marvel and to properly ready yourself for the grand finale of Avengers: Endgame, coming next month.

I think the best approach to entering and enjoying the MCU is to start with the first few stand-alone movies that led to that first big Avengers crossover. These are, in order:

Iron Man
Captain America: The First Avenger

This first wave of films will introduce you to all the main characters and build up to the first huge crossover film, Avengers, which still stands as one of the very best of the Marvel movies.  (I included Thor, which is probably the weakest of any of the films I will recommend here, but it’s still very good and it’s important to the larger story.  The one early pre-Avengers stand-alone film that I skipped on this list is The Incredible Hulk, because it’s mediocre, and because they recast Bruce Banner after that film and it’s proven, in hindsight, to be not very connected to the larger story, so it’s skippable.)  I think watching these early films is critical to enjoying the MCU as a whole, because this will allow you to get to know these characters, who you’ll then follow through so many subsequent films.  These early solo films aren’t as groundbreaking as the later ones, but they’re all very solid and fun and enjoyable.

After that, I’d suggest this order to watch the very best of the subsequent films (with the films in bold being the must-watch ones):

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Guardians of the Galaxy

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Captain America: Civil War

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (not critical, but if you liked the first Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s a terrific sequel and leads nicely into Infinity War.)

Thor: Ragnarok (not critical but it’s a very funny movie with a lot of important character stuff that leads into Infinity War.  If you do watch this, just have a friend tell you what Loki was up to at the very end of Thor: The Dark World, as that will help you understand the opening of this film.)

Black Panther (not critical, but it’s terrific)

Avengers: Infinity War — this is the huge crossover that ends on a cliffhanger that will be resolved in Avengers: Endgame, coming out in April.

That’s a lot of movies and I’ve still skipped LOTS of really great films (Iron Man Three, both Ant Man films, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man: Homecoming) but you could always go back and dig into those later.

One last note to the newbies: ALL of these Marvel films, starting with the very first Iron Man, have a post-credit scene that you should be sure not to skip!!!  So always watch (or fast-forward) to the end of the credits.  (And be careful: starting with the first Avengers, some films have one or more mid-credits scenes, too!)

And now… enjoy!!  I am envious of all of you who will be discovering the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first time.  Have fun.

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