The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films are an American series of superhero films based on characters that appear in publications by Marvel Comics. The MCU is the shared universe in which all of the films are set. The films have been in production since 2007, and in that time Marvel Studios has produced and released 20 films, with 11 more in various stages of production. It is the highest-grossing film franchise of all time, having grossed over $17.5 billion at the global box office.

Kevin Feige has produced every film in the series, alongsideAvi Arad for the first two releases, Gale Anne Hurd for The Incredible Hulk, Amy Pascal for the Spider-Man films, and Stephen Broussard for Ant-Man and the Wasp. The films are written and directed by a variety of individuals and feature large, often ensemble, casts. Many of the actors, includingRobert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, and Scarlett Johansson signed contracts to star in numerous films.

The first film in the series was Iron Man (2008), which was distributed by Paramount Pictures. Paramount also distributed Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), while Universal Pictures distributed The Incredible Hulk (2008). Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures began distributing the films with the 2012 crossover film The Avengers, which concluded Phase One of the franchise. Phase Two includes 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), and Ant-Man (2015).

Captain America: Civil War (2016) is the first film in the franchise's Phase Three, and is followed by Doctor Strange (2016), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Black Panther (2018), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), with Captain Marvel (2019) and Avengers: Endgame (2019) still scheduled for the phase. Spider-Man: Far From Home has also been scheduled for 2019, beginning Phase Four. Two untitled films are scheduled for 2020, three for 2021, and three for 2022. Sony Pictures distributes the Spider-Man films, which they continue to own, finance, and have final creative control over.

Phase One

Film[1] U.S. release date Director Screenwriter(s) Producer(s)
Iron Man May 2, 2008 (2008-05-02) Jon Favreau[2] Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway[2][3] Avi Arad and Kevin Feige
The Incredible Hulk June 13, 2008 (2008-06-13) Louis Leterrier[4] Zak Penn[5] Avi Arad, Gale Anne Hurd and Kevin Feige
Iron Man 2 May 7, 2010 (2010-05-07) Jon Favreau[6] Justin Theroux[7] Kevin Feige
Thor May 6, 2011 (2011-05-06) Kenneth Branagh[8] Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne[9]
Captain America: The First Avenger July 22, 2011 (2011-07-22) Joe Johnston[10] Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[11]
Marvel's The Avengers May 4, 2012 (2012-05-04) Joss Whedon[12]

Iron Man (2008)

Main article: Iron Man

Avi Arad, who helped secure early financing, produced Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk.

Billionaire industrialist Tony Stark builds himself a suit of armor after he is taken captive by a terrorist organization. Free from his captors, he decides to upgrade and don his armor in order to hunt down weapons that were sold under the table.

In April 2006, Marvel hired Jon Favreau to direct Iron Man, with the writing teams of Art Marcum and Matt Holloway and Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby writing competing scripts. Favreau consolidated both into one script, which was then polished by John August. Robert Downey, Jr. was cast in the title role in September 2006, after growing out a goatee and working out to convince the filmmakers he was right for the part. Principal photography began on March 12, 2007, with the first few weeks spent on Stark's captivity in Afghanistan, which was filmed in Inyo County, California. Production also occurred on the former Hughes Company soundstages in Playa Vista, Los Angeles, California, with additional filming at Edwards Air Force Base and Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. Iron Man premiered at the Greater Union theater in George Street, Sydney, on April 14, 2008, and was released internationally on April 30, and in the United States on May 2.

The film ends with a post-credits scene featuring Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, who approaches Stark regarding the "Avenger Initiative". Favreau said that he included the scene as "a little tip of the hat for the fans...a way to sort of tee up The Avengers." Jackson was only on set for a day, with a skeleton crew to avoid the news of his cameo leaking. Captain America's shield is also visible in the background of a scene; it was added by an ILM artist as a joke, and Favreau decided to leave it in the film.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Main article: The Incredible Hulk

After being exposed to gamma radiation that causes him to transform into the monstrous Hulk, scientist Bruce Banner goes on the run and isolates himself from his love, Betty Ross. Hunted by the military, Banner seeks to cure himself and prevent his condition from being weaponized.

In January 2006, Marvel reclaimed the film rights for the Hulk character from Universal Pictures after Universal failed to meet a deadline to develop a sequel to director Ang Lee's 2003 film Hulk. Universal retained distribution rights for future Hulk films. Instead of moving forward with a sequel, Marvel hired Louis Leterrier to direct The Incredible Hulk, a reboot. Leterrier initially turned down the job out of respect for Lee, but later reconsidered and signed on. The script was written by Zak Penn, who drafted a treatment for the 2003 film. In April 2006, Edward Norton entered negotiations to portray Bruce Banner and rewrite Penn's script, although Penn received sole credit for the screenplay. Production began on July 9, 2007 and filming primarily took place in Toronto, with additional filming in New York City and Rio de Janeiro. The film premiered at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 8, 2008, and was released on June 13.

The film takes place simultaneously with the events of Iron Man 2 and Thor, the former of which is set six months after the events of Iron Man. Downey briefly reprised his role from Iron Man as Tony Stark in a cameo appearance at the end of the film. Downey said that the filmmakers "were just cross-pollinating our superheroes. It happens to be a scene where I basically approach [actor William Hurt's character General Ross], and we may be considering going into some sort of limited partnership together. The great thing is he—and I don't want to give too much away—but he's in disrepair at the time I find him. It was really fun seeing him play this really powerful character who's half in the bag." In addition, Captain America is briefly seen frozen in ice in an alternate opening of the film, included in the DVD release.

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Main article: Iron Man 2

Jon Favreau, the director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2, helped establish the shared universe concept with his inclusion of Samuel L. Jackson in a post-credits scene of the first film.

After Tony Stark reveals himself to be Iron Man, the U.S. government demands he hand over his technology. Meanwhile, a rival industrialist and a Russian scientist conspire to use his own technology against him.

Immediately following the successful release of Iron Man in May 2008, Marvel Studios announced it was developing a sequel, Iron Man 2. Favreau returned as director and Justin Theroux was hired to write the screenplay, which would be based on an original story by Favreau and Downey. In October 2008, Downey signed a new four-picture deal, that retroactively included the first film, to reprise his role and Don Cheadle was hired to replace Terrence Howard as James Rhodes. Jackson signed on to reprise his role as Nick Fury from the Iron Man post-credits sequence in up to nine films, and Scarlett Johansson was cast as the Black Widow, as part of a multi-film commitment. Principal photography began April 6, 2009, at the Pasadena Masonic Temple in Pasadena, California. The majority of filming took place at Raleigh Studios in Manhattan Beach, California. Other locations included Edwards Air Force Base, Monaco, and the Sepulveda Dam. Iron Man 2 premiered at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, California on April 26, 2010, and was released internationally between April 28 and May 7 before releasing in the United States on May 7.

The film is set six months after the events of Iron Man, and takes place simultaneously with the events of The Incredible Hulk and Thor. The filmmakers continued to refer to other Marvel films by again including Captain America's shield. Favreau explained, "We introduced Captain America's shield briefly in one shot in the last film. So now it really was in his room, so we had to figure out how to deal with the reality that the shield was in his workshop." A scene toward the end of Iron Man 2 in a S.H.I.E.L.D. safe house contains several Easter eggs, ranging from footage from The Incredible Hulk displayed on a monitor to pointers on a map indicating several locales related to other Marvel films, including one pointing toward a region of Africa in reference to the Black Panther. A young Peter Parker appears as the child wearing an Iron Man mask whom Stark saves from a drone; the appearance was confirmed in June 2017 by Spider-Man actor Tom Holland, Kevin Feige and Spider-Man: Homecoming director Jon Watts. The film's post-credits scene showed the discovery of Thor's hammer in a crater.

Thor (2011)

Main article: Thor

Thor, crown prince of Asgard, is banished to Earth and stripped of his powers after he reignites a dormant war. As his brother, Loki, plots to take the throne for himself, Thor must prove himself worthy and reclaim his hammer Mjölnir.

Mark Protosevich was hired to develop a script for Thor in April 2006, after the rights were acquired from Sony Pictures. In August 2007 Marvel hired Matthew Vaughn to direct the film, however he exited the project in May 2008. In September 2008, Kenneth Branagh entered into negotiations to replace Vaughn. In May 2009, Chris Hemsworth was in negotiations to portray the titular character, and Tom Hiddleston was set to play his brother, Loki.[64] Both actors were contracted to star in several films. Marvel hired the writing team of Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz to write a new script for the film, which was then rewritten by Don Payne.[11] Production began on January 11, 2010 in Los Angeles, California, before moving to Galisteo, New Mexico in March.[67] Thor had its world premiere on April 17, 2011 at the Event Cinemas theatre in George Street, Sydney[68] and a U.S. premiere on May 2 at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, California. The film was released internationally from April 21 to 30, and on May 6 in the United States.

The film takes place simultaneously with the events of The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2, the latter of which is set six months after the events of Iron Man. Clark Gregg, who appeared in Iron Man and Iron Man 2 as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson, reprised the role in Thor. About his role in Thor he stated, "Agent Coulson was one of the guys who wasn't really in the comic books, and he [had] a very kind of small role in Iron Man. And I was just very lucky that they chose to expand that character and [chose] to put him more into the universe of it." After signing on to appear as Clint Barton / Hawkeye in The Avengers, Jeremy Renner made a cameo appearance as the character during a scene in Thor. Branagh said that they "were always going to have a guy in a basket above the action where Thor breaks in the S.H.I.E.L.D. camp", and that he was thrilled when the producers told him they wanted to use Renner's Hawkeye for that role. The film ends with a post-credits scene featuring Loki, watching as Erik Selvig and Nick Fury discuss the Tesseract. The scene was directed by Joss Whedon, who directed The Avengers. Stellan Skarsgård, who played Selvig, said the scene was not included when he first read the screenplay for Thor, and that he was sent pages for the scene after agreeing to appear in The Avengers.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Main article: Captain America: The First Avenger

In 1942, Steve Rogers is deemed physically unfit to enlist in the U.S. Army and fight the German Reich in World War II. Recruited for a secret military operation, he is physically transformed into a super-soldier dubbed Captain America and must battle the Red Skull, head of a Nazi science division known as Hydra.

In April 2006, Marvel hired David Self to write the script for a Captain America film. Joe Johnston signed on to direct in November 2008, and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely were hired to rewrite the script. In March 2010, Chris Evans was cast as Captain America and Hugo Weaving was cast as the Red Skull. Production began on June 28, 2010 in the United Kingdom, with locations in London, Caerwent, Manchester and Liverpool. The film premiered on July 19, 2011, at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, California, and was released in the United States on July 22, and in international markets starting July 27.

The Tesseract from the Thor post-credits scene appears as a MacGuffin in Captain America: The First Avenger. In the film, Dominic Cooper portrays a young Howard Stark, the father of Tony Stark, who hosts an early version of the Stark Expo, the fair Tony hosts in Iron Man 2. The final scene of the film includes a brief appearance by Jackson's Nick Fury followed by a teaser trailer for Marvel's The Avengers after the credits.

Marvel's The Avengers (2012)

Main article: The Avengers (2012)

Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., gathers the superheroes Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye to fight Thor's brother Loki, who plots to subjugate the Earth.

Zak Penn, who wrote The Incredible Hulk, was hired to write a script for The Avengers in June 2007. In April 2010, Joss Whedon closed a deal to direct the film, and to rework Penn's script. Marvel announced that Edward Norton would not be reprising the role of Bruce Banner / Hulk, and in July 2010, Mark Ruffalo was cast in his place. Downey, Evans, Hemsworth, Johansson, Renner, Hiddleston and Jackson reprised their respective roles from previous films. Principal photography began in April 2011 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before moving to Cleveland, Ohio in August, and New York City in September. The premiere was held on April 11, 2012 at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, California, and the film was released in the United States on May 4.

Gwyneth Paltrow, who portrayed Pepper Potts in Iron Man and Iron Man 2, was included in the film at Downey's insistence. Prior to this, Whedon had not intended the film to include supporting characters from the heroes' individual films, commenting, "You need to separate the characters from their support systems in order to create the isolation you need for a team." Avi Arad said that Sony Pictures and Disney discussed incorporating the OsCorp Tower from The Amazing Spider-Man into the climax of The Avengers, but Feige said that "the deal was never close to happening." The supervillain Thanos appears in a mid-credits scene, portrayed by Damion Poitier.

Phase Two

Film[1] U.S. release date Director(s) Screenwriter(s) Producer
Iron Man 3 May 3, 2013 (2013-05-03) Shane Black[13] Drew Pearce and Shane Black[13][14] Kevin Feige
Thor: The Dark World November 8, 2013 (2013-11-08) Alan Taylor[15] Christopher L. Yost and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[16]
Captain America: The Winter Soldier April 4, 2014 (2014-04-04) Anthony and Joe Russo[17] Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[18]
Guardians of the Galaxy August 1, 2014 (2014-08-01) James Gunn[19] James Gunn and Nicole Perlman[20]
Avengers: Age of Ultron May 1, 2015 (2015-05-01) Joss Whedon[21]
Ant-Man July 17, 2015 Peyton Reed[22] Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish and Adam McKay & Paul Rudd[23]

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Main article: Iron Man 3

Kevin Feige has produced every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Tony Stark faces a powerful enemy, the Mandarin, who attacks and destroys his mansion. Left to his own devices and battling posttraumatic stress disorder, Stark struggles to get to the bottom of a series of mysterious explosions.

In late 2010, Marvel and Disney announced that they were developing a third Iron Man film. In February 2011, Marvel hired Shane Black to direct Iron Man 3. Black co-wrote the film's script with Drew Pearce. Downey, Paltrow, and Cheadle reprised their roles from Iron Man 2, while Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley joined the cast as Aldrich Killian and Trevor Slattery, respectively. Filming began in May 2012, in North Carolina. Additional filming took place in southern Florida, China, and Los Angeles. Iron Man 3 premiered at Le Grand Rex in Paris, France on April 14, 2013 and at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, California on April 24. The film was released internationally on April 25, and in the United States on May 3.

The film is set in December 2013, after the events of The Avengers. In the film Tony Stark experiences PTSD-like symptoms following the Battle of New York in The Avengers. Black explained, "that's an anxiety response to feeling inferior to The Avengers, but also to being humbled by sights he cannot possibly begin to understand or reconcile with the realities he's used to... There's a line in the movie about 'ever since that big guy with the hammer fell out of the sky, the rules have changed'. That's what we're dealing with here." Bruce Banner appears in a post-credits scene, with Ruffalo reprising the role. About the scene, Ruffalo said "They were about to wrap the movie and I saw Robert [Downey, Jr.] at the Academy Awards... and he said, 'What do you think about coming and doing a day?' I said, 'Are you kidding me? Bang, let's do it!' We sort of spitballed that scene, then I came in and we shot for a couple of hours and laughed."

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Main article: Thor: The Dark World

Thor reunites with astrophysicist Jane Foster as a series of portals, linking worlds at random, begin to appear. He discovers that Malekith and his army of Dark Elves have returned after thousands of years, and they seek a powerful weapon known as the Aether. Thor must join forces with his now-imprisoned brother Loki to stop them.

A sequel to Thor was first announced in June 2011, with Hemsworth reprising his role as Thor. Hiddleston confirmed he would return as Loki in September, and Alan Taylor signed on to direct the film in December. The film's title was announced as Thor: The Dark World in July 2012 at the San Diego Comic-Con International, and Christopher Eccleston was cast as Malekith a month later. Production started in September 2012 in Bourne Wood, Surrey, with additional filming taking place in Iceland and London. The film premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on October 22, 2013. It was internationally released on October 30, 2013 and on November 8, 2013 in the United States.

The film is set one year after the events of The Avengers. Evans briefly makes a cameo appearance in the film as Captain America when Loki shapeshifts into him while mocking Thor. Hiddleston wore the Captain America costume while standing in for Evans, before Evans came to shoot the scene. Hiddleston said, "I did an impression of Loki in the Captain America costume, and then they showed Chris [Evans] my performance on tape. It's him doing an impression of me doing an impression of him. And it's brilliant." James Gunn, the director of Guardians of the Galaxy, directed the mid-credits scene that featured the Collector, played by Benicio del Toro. Asked about shooting the scene, Gunn said, "I got the script that morning, and I did it in two hours at the end of a day of second unit shooting [for Guardians of the Galaxy]."

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Main article: Guardians of the Galaxy

Peter Quill / Star-Lord and a group of misfits, including Gamora, Rocket, Drax the Destroyer and Groot, fight to keep a powerful orb from the clutches of the villainous Ronan.

Nicole Perlman began writing a screenplay in 2009. Marvel Studios announced it was developing a Guardians of the Galaxy film in July 2012. The film is directed by James Gunn, based on his and Perlman's screenplay. In February 2013, Chris Pratt was cast in the lead role, as Peter Quill / Star-Lord. The film was shot at Shepperton Studios and in London from July to October 2013, and post-production work was completed on July 7, 2014. The film premiered on July 21, 2014 in Hollywood. Guardians of the Galaxy was released in the United Kingdom on July 31, 2014, and in the United States on August 1.

The film is set in 2014. Josh Brolin provides the voice and performance capture for Thanos, the supervillain who appeared in The Avengers mid-credits scene. Gunn noted that the film would be connected to Avengers: Infinity War. Several other objects of significance appear in the Collector's museum, including a Chitauri from The Avengers and a Dark Elf from Thor: The Dark World, among other characters. About their appearances Gunn said, "There's a lot of stuff in the Collector's Museum. And for me, it was mostly just really fun. As a Marvel fan, giving the actual fans something that they can freeze frame on their Blu-Ray at home and just kind of pick out everything that's in there. So there are, I mean, seriously all those boxes have something interesting in them, so it's pretty fun." Ronan's race, the Kree, were first introduced in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "T.A.H.I.T.I."

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Main article: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Joss Whedon, writer and director of The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron

Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye must work together as the Avengers to defeat Ultron, a technological enemy bent on human extinction, while encountering the powerful twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, as well as the new entity Vision.

A sequel to The Avengers was announced by Disney in May 2012, shortly after the first film's release. In August 2012, Joss Whedon was signed to return as writer and director. In June 2013, Downey signed a deal to reprise the role of Iron Man for the second and third Avengers films. On July 20, 2013, at San Diego Comic-Con International, Whedon announced that the subtitle of the film would be Age of Ultron. In August 2013, James Spader was announced to portray Ultron. Second unit filming began on February 11, 2014 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Principal photography began in March 2014 at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, England, with additional footage filmed at Fort Bard and various other locations in the Aosta Valley region of Italy, and Seoul, South Korea. Filming was completed on August 6, 2014. Avengers: Age of Ultron had its world premiere in Los Angeles on April 13, 2015, and was released internationally beginning April 22, and on May 1 in the United States.

The film confirms that the gem in Loki's scepter is an Infinity Stone, specifically the Mind Stone, and Brolin reappears as Thanos in the mid-credit scene wielding an Infinity Gauntlet. It also features references to Vibranium and Wakanda, both connections to Black Panther, introducing both to the universe ahead of Black Panther's solo film. Additionally, Andy Serkis portrays Ulysses Klaue in the film, traditionally a Black Panther antagonist.

Ant-Man (2015)

Main article: Ant-Man

Thief Scott Lang must aid his mentor Dr. Hank Pym in safeguarding the mystery of the Ant-Man technology, which allows its user to decrease in size but increase in strength, from various menaces and plot a heist to defend the Earth.

Ant-Man is directed by Peyton Reed with a screenplay written by Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish and Adam McKay & Paul Rudd, from a story by Wright & Cornish, that includes both Scott Lang and Hank Pym. Edgar Wright was initially slated to direct and write the film, but left the project in May 2014 due to creative differences. In January 2013, Feige stated that Ant-Man would be the first film in Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, in October 2014, it was revealed that the film would be the last film of Phase Two. Pre-production started in October 2013, and principal photography took place from August to December 2014, in San Francisco, Fayette County, Georgia at Pinewood Atlanta, and Downtown Atlanta. In December 2013, Rudd was cast as Ant-Man, followed in January 2014 with the casting of Michael Douglas as Pym and the confirmation of Rudd as Lang. Ant-Man had its world premiere in Los Angeles on June 29, 2015, and was released in France on July 14, and in the United States on July 17.

The film is set several months after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Scott Lang attempts to infiltrate the new Avengers headquarters in Upstate New York featured in Age of Ultron, and confronts Sam Wilson / Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie. McKay and Rudd decided to add Falcon to Ant-Man after watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The Russo brothers filmed the post-credit scene, which was footage from Captain America: Civil War, and features Mackie as Falcon, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America, and Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier.

Phase Three

Film[1] U.S. release date Director(s) Screenwriter(s) Producer(s)
Captain America: Civil War May 6, 2016 (2016-05-06) Anthony and Joe Russo[24] Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[24] Kevin Feige
Doctor Strange November 4, 2016 (2016-11-04) Scott Derrickson[25] Jon Spaihts and Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill[26]
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 May 5, 2017 (2017-05-05) James Gunn[20]
Spider-Man: Homecoming July 7, 2017 (2017-07-07) Jon Watts[27] Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley and
Jon Watts & Christopher Ford and
Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers[28]
Kevin Feige
and Amy Pascal
Thor: Ragnarok November 3, 2017 (2017-11-03) Taika Waititi[29] Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle & Christopher L. Yost[30][31] Kevin Feige
Black Panther February 16, 2018 (2018-02-16) Ryan Coogler[32] Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole[33][34]
Avengers: Infinity War April 27, 2018 (2018-04-27) Anthony and Joe Russo[35] Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[36]
Ant-Man and the Wasp July 6, 2018 (2018-07-06) Peyton Reed[37] Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers and
Paul Rudd & Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari[38]
Kevin Feige and
Stephen Broussard

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