This isn’t a fanedit (as it doesn’t change the content of any movies) so much as my thoughts on an alternate watch order to maximise coherence when watching the whole of the MCU, and thus maximise enjoyment and minimise cogintive load. I’m really just putting it here for discussion and consideration, to share my preferred watch order. Well, I say it’s not a fanedit, but read through to the end…
- Grow the world at a more natural pace, so things build on known concepts and characters more often than introducing new ones.
- Introduce new characters as LATE as possible, so they don’t just exist in the world silently, not getting involved in major events, with us having to wait until their next personal movie to learn why. (Especially Doctor Strange and the Eternals)
- Keep content contained to thematic chunks, so ideas are introduced and then resolved in as few elapsed movies as possible, to make ongoing plots easier to follow (other than the big plots that take multiple phases to resolve).
- Place content that precedes or directly follows other content as close as possible to triggering events.
- Find more of a balance between cosmic/magic/grounded stories so you get more variance in tone more frequently, to prevent burnout and keep it all fresh.
The main thing I think this improves is the bloat in Phase 4, where almost every movie or show set up plot threads and characters that won’t get paid off for years.
It’s intended to work as pretty-much chronological, but following a more natural flow than the official ordering, without breaking anything. It ignores any on-screen dates (some of which are officially wrong anyway), flashbacks (like Homecoming’s flashbacks to just after the battle of New York) and post-credit scenes set significantly later (like Black Widow’s scene at her grave in a movie set mainly long before she died), so it probably isn’t best for a first time viewer.
I only include direct MCU movies/shows here, not the Netflix or other spinoffs, except when they’re directly and deliberately involved in a significant way.
I’ll add comments in brackets wherever there’s a relevant change.
PHASE ONE: TESSERACT
The Tesseract, Asgardian influence on Earth, and the emergence of Earth’s first wave of superheroes.
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Agent Carter season one, or the TV-to-movie edit of season one (Gives us more Peggy, Howard, Jarvis, Tesseract, and SHIELD)
- Captain Marvel
- Iron Man
- The Incredible Hulk
- Iron Man 2 (placed here just to pad it from Iron Man 1 a bit more, and give the events of Thor a bit more time to settle in before Avengers)
PHASE TWO: ESCALATION
The direct result of events in phase one, and growing internal and cosmic conflict.
- Thor: The Dark World (the immediate effects of Loki’s arrest in Avengers)
- Iron Man 3 (given just a little longer for Tony to really start to struggle with the events of Avengers)
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Guardians of the Galaxy (all fresh just when we’re getting a bit tired of repeated characters and have just had a couple of more grounded movies)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 (give us a little more cosmic amongst the more grounded stuff, and helps pace this phase)
- Captain America: Civil War (Breaks the Avengers apart. This is the ‘conclusion’ that this phase is leading towards, rather than Age of Ultron.)
PHASE THREE: DISASSEMBLED
Deals with the fallout of Civil War, the introduction of the second wave of all-new superheroes, and the conclusion of the Infinity/Thanos arc.
- Black Panther (their King died in Civil War, we see the immediate aftermath)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (he’s been waiting a while for Tony’s call after Civil War)
- Black Widow (she’s been on the run for a fair while since Civil War)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (precedes Infinity War, but not as immediately as the following films)
- Doctor Strange (introduces him as late as possible before Infinity War so he’s not just hanging about with nothing major to do for a few movies)
- Thor: Ragnarok (final scene flows directly into the first scene of Infinity War, and continues the Doctor Strange thread)
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Avengers: Endgame
PHASE FOUR: VARIANTS
Introduces the Multiverse and variants of/successors to our existing characters, and closes out the Guardians story.
This is where I’ve done the most ‘cleaning’, removing things that don’t pay off yet. There’s no active Avengers team, with Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and Wanda as the main characters of this arc.
- Loki season one (is timeless, but kicks off during/immediately after Endgame, and its multiverse concepts overshadow this arc)
- What If? season one (is timeless, but also introduces more of the multiverse in an easy-to-digest way whilst also showing twists on much of the content to date)
- Wandavision (follows fairly quickly after Vision’s death, places Wanda’s story early to overhang this arc, and has a multiverse fakeout with Pietro)
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (follows quite soon after Iron Man’s death, addresses his successors and the need to deal with ‘Avengers-level threats’, and has a multiverse fakeout with Mysterio)
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (follows a while after Captain America’s retirement, addresses his successors and the status quo for the more grounded world, gives a hint at Wakanda)
- Thor: Love and Thunder (shows what’s next for Thor and the Guardians, gives us some levity amongst heavier content)
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (gives us our first major multiversal issue and shows us the threat, brings the sorcerers back into play)
- Hawkeye (shows the fallout of Hawkeye’s retirement and Black Widow’s death, is a bit more grounded after a couple of wackier ones, is christmassy)
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special (a bit more Guardians before their conclusion later, is christmassy)
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (places T’Challa’s offscreen death sometime recently that could go anywhere, gives us the update on Wakanda whilst setting up a few successors and new characters as late as possible)
- Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness (is the big ending of this arc, bringing the multiverse story to a head with Doctor Strange and Wanda actually visiting another world, introducing the 838 Illuminati, and REALLY showing the danger of the multiverse colliding. It also revisits the Thanos arc from the 838 perspective, which is a nice transition point.)
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 (concludes the Guardians saga, and passes the torch to a new generation without implying they’ll be back soon)
PHASE FIVE: NEW FRONTIERS
Introduces the third generation of all-new superheroes, and more hidden societies emerge on Earth while non-Earth settings get wilder.
This one’s still in flux, but has a few of the items not yet placed (and some future media placed based on pre-release information like casting)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (placed early because it returns us to Kang who’s more likely to overhang this arc directly)
- Secret Invasion (shows that Earth’s grounded elements are starting to panic, and brings Fury back into play before The Marvels)
- Shang-Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings (is mainly new characters so placed as late as possible, but features Captain Marvel in advance of The Marvels, and Hulk and Abomination in advance of She-Hulk)
- Ms. Marvel (sets up her appearance before The Marvels)
- The Marvels (follows immediately from the end scene of Ms. Marvel)
- She-Hulk: Attourney at Law (finally returns us properly to Hulk after a long absence - but he’s a recluse so that’s fine)
PHASE FIVE CONTINUED - SPOILERS AHEAD BASED ON RUMOURED LEAKS
- Loki season two (likely to feature more Kang, TVA may appear in Deadpool 3)
- Deadpool 3 (rumoured to be a multiverse story, featuring variants, fox X-Men, and the TVA)
- Eternals (placed here much later than its original release, but looks like the dead celestial will play into Brave New World/Thunderbolts. It explains that the Snap caused the Emergence, but you could headcanon that as the inevitable baby boom post-snap to buy some time and place it later!)
- Captain America: Brave New World (rumoured to feature the dead celestial)
- Thunderbolts (confirmed to directly follow from Brave New World. This and the previous movie look like they’re going to be a major Civil-War scale duology focused on the new state of the grounded world)
- What If season two (may include Eternals, and might feature a more major Kang-adjacent plotline)
Other future content we know less about. Echo will lead into Daredevil, and Ironheart will likely lead into Armor Wars, but we don’t know the links between anything else.
RELEASED BUT NOT YET PLACED
- Moon Knight currently has no connections to other media.
- Werewolf by Night currently has no connections to other media.
While these are due to become relevant, I haven’t decided where to place them yet, so they’re just floating for now.
- Deadpool 1 & 2
- All other Fox X-Men Movies
- All non-MCU Spider-Man films
- Netflix Daredevil (and a related show or two)
The big thing for me is that these mainly make sense after introducing the Multiverse, but that then really pads phases four and five. Last time I watched I did a big non-MCU Spider-Man binge just before No Way Home, which was fine, though you might prefer to watch those alternate Spider-Man movies before his introduction in the MCU. I’ve no idea where to place the X-Men, and especially Deadpool, relative to all this.
I’m interested in your thoughts! I don’t plan to make any edits, but I’d consider shifting things like post-credit scenes around to fit this structure if there’s sufficient interest.