Marvel Cinematic Universe

Marvel Cinematic Universe
Marvel Cinematic Universe logo.png
Marvel Cinematic Universe intertitle from Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe (2014)
Created by Marvel Studios
Original work Iron Man (2008)
Owner The Walt Disney Company
Years 2008–present
Print publications
Book(s) Marvel Cinematic Universe books
Comics Marvel Cinematic Universe
tie-in comics
Films and television
Film(s) Marvel Cinematic Universe films
Short film(s) Marvel One-Shots
Television series Marvel Cinematic Universe television series
Web series Marvel Cinematic Universe digital series
Television special(s) Marvel Cinematic Universe television specials
Video game(s) Marvel Cinematic Universe video game tie-ins
Original music Music of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Theme park attraction(s) Marvel-themed attractions

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is an American media franchise and shared universe centered on a series of superhero films produced by Marvel Studios. The films are based on characters that appear in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The franchise also includes television series, short films, digital series, and literature. The shared universe, much like the original Marvel Universe in comic books, was established by crossing over common plot elements, settings, cast, and characters.

The first MCU film is Iron Man (2008), which began the films of Phase One culminating in the crossover film The Avengers (2012). Phase Two began with Iron Man 3 (2013) and concluded with Ant-Man (2015). Phase Three began with Captain America: Civil War (2016) and concluded with Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). The first three phases in the franchise are collectively known as "The Infinity Saga". The films of Phase Four began with Black Widow (2021).

Marvel Television expanded the universe to network television with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC in 2013, before further expanding to streaming television on Netflix and Hulu, and cable television on Freeform. They also produced the digital series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot. Marvel Studios began producing their own television series for streaming on Disney+, starting with WandaVision in 2021 as the beginning of Phase Four. The MCU also includes tie-in comics published by Marvel Comics, a series of direct-to-video short films called Marvel One-Shots, and viral marketing campaigns for the films featuring the faux news programs WHIH Newsfront and

The franchise has been commercially successful and has generally received positive reviews. It has inspired other film and television studios to attempt to create similar shared universes with comic book character adaptations. The MCU has also inspired several themed attractions, an art exhibit, two television specials, guidebooks for each film, multiple tie-in video games, and commercials.



By 2005, Marvel Entertainment had begun planning to produce its own films independently and distribute them through Paramount Pictures.[2] Previously, Marvel had co-produced several superhero films with Columbia Pictures, New Line Cinema and others, including a seven-year development deal with 20th Century Fox.[3] Marvel made relatively little profit from its licensing deals with other studios and wanted to get more money out of its films while maintaining artistic control of the projects and distribution.[4] Avi Arad, head of Marvel's film division, was pleased with Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films at Sony Pictures, but was less pleased with others. As a result, Arad decided to form Marvel Studios, Hollywood's first major independent film studio since DreamWorks.[5]

Kevin Feige, Arad's second-in-command,[5] realized that unlike Spider-Man and the X-Men, whose film rights were licensed to Sony and Fox, respectively, Marvel still owned the rights to the core members of the Avengers. Feige, a self-described "fanboy", envisioned creating a shared universe, just as creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had done with their comic books in the early 1960s.[6] To raise capital, the studio secured funding from a seven-year, $525 million revolving credit facility with Merrill Lynch.[4] Marvel's plan was to release individual films for their main characters and then merge them in a crossover film.[7] Arad, who doubted the strategy yet insisted that it was his reputation that helped secure the initial financing, resigned the following year.[5][8]

Kevin Feige helped conceive of a shared media universe of Marvel properties.

In 2007, at 33 years old, Feige was named studio chief. In order to preserve its artistic integrity, Marvel Studios formed a creative committee of six people familiar with its comic book lore: Feige, Marvel Studios co-president Louis D'Esposito, Marvel Comics' president of publishing Dan Buckley, Marvel's chief creative officer Joe Quesada, writer Brian Michael Bendis, and Marvel Entertainment president Alan Fine, who oversaw the committee.[5] Feige initially referred to the shared narrative continuity of these films as the "Marvel Cinema Universe",[9] but later used the term "Marvel Cinematic Universe".[10] Since the franchise expanded to other media, this phrase has been used by some to refer to the feature films only.[11] Marvel designated the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Earth-199999 within the continuity of the company's comic multiverse, a collection of fictional alternate universes.[12]

In October 2014, Marvel Studios held a press event to announce the titles of their Phase Three films.[13] By September 2015, after Marvel Studios was integrated into Walt Disney Studios with Feige reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn instead of Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac Perlmutter,[14] the studios' creative committee had "nominal" input on the films moving forward, though they continued to consult on Marvel Television productions, which remained under Perlmutter's control.[15][16] All key film decisions going forward were to be made by Feige, D'Esposito and Victoria Alonso.[15] Feige mentioned that Avengers: Endgame (2019) would provide "a definitive end" to the films and storylines preceding it, with the franchise having "two distinct periods. Everything before [Endgame] and everything after".[17]

In December 2017, The Walt Disney Company agreed to acquire assets from 21st Century Fox, including 20th Century Fox.[18] The transaction officially closed on March 19, 2019.[19] The acquisition saw the return of the film rights of Deadpool, the X-Men characters, and the Fantastic Four characters to Marvel Studios, which would "create richer, more complex worlds of inter-related characters and stories".[18] In July 2019, Feige announced the Phase Four slate at San Diego Comic-Con, consisting of films and television event series on Disney+.[20] In December 2020, at Disney's Investor Day, Marvel Studios provided updates to previously announced films and series, and announced additional Disney+ series and a special, which were confirmed to be part of Phase Four.[21][22] Some of the first elements previously controlled by 20th Century Fox to be integrated into the MCU were the organization S.W.O.R.D. in the Disney+ series WandaVision and the fictional country Madripoor in the series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.[23][24]


Former Head of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb served as executive producer of every television series on ABC, Netflix, Hulu, and Freeform

In June 2010, Marvel Television was launched with Jeph Loeb as head.[25] By July 2012, Marvel Television had entered into discussions with ABC to create a show set in the MCU;[26] the network ultimately created the series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter,[27] and Inhumans, which was a co-production with IMAX Corporation.[28][29][30] In November 2013, Disney was set to provide Netflix with the live-action series Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, leading up to the miniseries The Defenders.[31] In April 2016, Netflix ordered The Punisher, a spin-off from Daredevil.[32] By February 2019, Netflix had cancelled all of their Marvel series.[33] In January 2021, Feige said "never say never" to potentially reviving the series, but noted Marvel Studios was focused on their new Disney+ series announced at that time.[34] In April 2016, the Disney-owned cable network Freeform announced Cloak & Dagger.[35] In May 2017, Marvel announced that Runaways had received a series order from Hulu.[36] In May 2019, Marvel announced that Helstrom had been greenlit for Hulu.[37]

In October 2019, further corporate restructuring saw Feige named Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment, with Marvel Television becoming part of Marvel Studios and executives of Marvel Television reporting to Feige.[38] However, in December 2019, Marvel Television was folded into Marvel Studios, with Marvel Studios taking over production of the current series at the time; no further series from Marvel Television were being considered for development.[39]

By November 2017, Disney was looking to develop a new Marvel television series for their streaming service Disney+.[40] In July 2018, Feige noted discussions had begun with Disney regarding any potential involvement Marvel Studios could have with the streaming service, since Feige felt the service was "an important thing for the company".[41] In September 2018, it was reported that Marvel Studios was developing several limited series centered on "second-tier" characters from the MCU films who had not and were unlikely to star in their own films. Each series was expected to be six to eight episodes, and would be produced by Marvel Studios rather than Marvel Television, with Feige taking a "hands-on role" in each series' development.[42] Feige noted the series being developed for the streaming service would "tell stories... that we wouldn't be able to tell in a theatrical experience – a longer-form narrative".[43] He also added that being asked by Disney to create these series "energized everyone creatively" within Marvel Studios, since they "could play in a new medium and throw the rules out the window in terms of structure and format".[44]

In July 2019, Feige announced event series as part of the Phase Four slate at San Diego Comic-Con.[20] Three additional Disney+ series for the phase were announced at D23 the following month,[45] with four more series announced in December 2020.[21][22] The Phase Four slate includes What If...?, the first animated series from Marvel Studios, and by July 2021 the studio was creating an "animation branch and mini studio" to focus on more animated content beyond What If...?.[46]

Other media expansion

In 2008, the first tie-in comic was released.[47] Quesada noted the comics would be set within the continuity of the films, but were not intended to be direct adaptions. Rather, they would explore "something that happened off screen" or flesh out something briefly mentioned. Feige was involved with the creation of the comics, with the film's screenwriters sometimes as well.[48] Marvel Comics worked with Brad Winderbaum, Jeremy Latcham, and Will Corona Pilgrim at Marvel Studios to decide which concepts should be carried over from the Marvel Comics Universe to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, what to show in the tie-in comics, and what to leave for the films.[49] Marvel has clarified which of the tie-in comics are considered canonical MCU stories, with the rest merely inspired by the MCU, "where we get to show off all the characters from the film in costume and in comic form".[50]

In August 2011, Marvel announced a series of direct-to-video short films called Marvel One-Shots,[51] the name derived from the label used by Marvel Comics for their one-shot comics.[52] Co-producer Brad Winderbaum called the short films "a fun way to experiment with new characters and ideas" and to expand the MCU.[51] Each short film is designed to be a self-contained story that provides more backstory for characters or events introduced in the films.[53]

In March 2015, Marvel's Vice President of Animation Development and Production, Cort Lane, stated that animated tie-ins to the MCU were "in the works".[54] That July, Marvel Studios partnered with Google to produce the faux news program WHIH Newsfront with Christine Everhart, a series of in-universe YouTube videos serving as the center of a viral marketing campaign to promote the films and universe.[55] In December 2016, a six-part web series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot, was revealed, which debuted on on December 13, 2016. It follows Elena "Yo-Yo" Rodriguez on a secret mission, shortly before the start of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s fourth season, with Natalia Cordova-Buckley reprising her role.[56] In September 2019, Sony created a real version of the fictional website as part of a viral marketing campaign to promote the home media release of Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). Inspired by real-world "conspiracy-pushing" websites such as that of Alex Jones, the website features J. K. Simmons reprising his role as J. Jonah Jameson in a video where he speaks out against Spider-Man before asking viewers to "like and subscribe".[57][58] In December 2020, Marvel Studios announced I Am Groot, a series of photorealistic animated shorts starring Baby Groot for Disney+.[59][21][60]

Business practices

Joss Whedon was a large contributor to Phase Two, offering creative insight to all its films and launching the first MCU television series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., while writing and directing Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Marvel Studios often puts together a "lookbook" of influences from the comics and art by Marvel's visual development department, to create a visual template for a project. These are put together at company retreats, which the studio holds every "18 months or so" to plan out and develop the phases of the MCU. These lookbooks are not always shown to directors, though, with Marvel sometimes preferring to let the director offer their own ideas first.[61] When choosing a director for a project, Marvel Studios looks for filmmakers to hire who are able to guide a film,[62] with some of their choices considered "out-of-left-field", given a director's previous work. Feige remarked, "You don't have to have directed a big, giant visual-effects movie to do a big, giant visual-effects movie for us. You just have to have done something singularly sort of awesome."[63]

The studio ensures directors are open to the idea of the shared universe and are willing to include connective material, such as Kenneth Branagh and Joe Johnston needing to include Avengers set-up scenes in Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, respectively.[6] Marvel Studios usually has a big idea they would like to explore or build to in a project, such as Hydra infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with it up to the filmmakers to interpret and "improv a little bit" to get there.[64] After these ideas have been developed, the creative team then begins to explore ideas happening in other future projects to see how to make any larger universe connections.[65] There was large amount of collaboration between the Russo brothers and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely with the other Phase Three directors and writers to make sure "everything line[d] up right" for the MCU's "culmination" in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.[66]

Marvel Studios also began contracting their actors for multiple films, including signing actor Samuel L. Jackson to a then "unprecedented" nine-movie contract.[67] Feige said the studio has all actors sign contracts for multiple films, with the norm being for 3 or more, and the 9 or 12 film deals "more rare".[68] Actor's contracts also feature clauses that allows Marvel to use up to three minutes of an actor's performance from one film in another, which Marvel describes as "bridging material".[16] By the start of Phase Four, Marvel Studios was no longer contracting actors for a large number of projects, with deal lengths varying for each actor and project. Feige said the studio was looking for actors who were excited to join the franchise and appear in multiple projects without being locked into contractual obligations. He also noted that they were starting to include theme park attractions in actors' deals.[69]

In August 2012, Marvel signed Joss Whedon to an exclusive contract through June 2015 for film and television. With the deal, Whedon would "contribute creatively" on Phase Two of the MCU and develop the first television series set in the universe.[70] In April 2017, James Gunn revealed he would be working with Marvel "to help design where [the Guardians of the Galaxy characters'] stories go, and make sure the future of the Marvel Cosmic Universe is as special and authentic and magical as what we have created so far".[71] By December 2020, because of the impact COVID-19 had on theaters and film studios shifting away from theatrical releases, Marvel Studios began exploring updated contracts for actors, writers, directors, and producers to receive adjusted compensation in the event a film had to debut on Disney+ instead of in theaters. TheWrap reported it was believed the new contracts would only apply to films about to enter production, and was unclear if any adjustments would be made to contracts for films already completed but not yet released.[72]

For Marvel Television, Loeb explained that they saw themselves as producers providing support to the showrunner: "we're involved in every aspect of the production—whether it's being in the writers' room, editing on set, casting—every step of the production goes through the Marvel team to tell the best story that we can." He added that the studio is able to work on so many series across different networks and platforms because all they needed was one person from the studio working on each series to help "guide the process".[73] Actors appearing in Marvel Television series, such as Charlie Cox (Matt Murdock / Daredevil in Daredevil) and Adrianne Palicki (Bobbi Morse / Mockingbird in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), were contractually obliged to appear in a Marvel film if asked.[74][75] When developing the crossover miniseries The Defenders, showrunner Marco Ramirez consulted with the creators of all the individual Marvel Netflix series, having them read each of the scripts for The Defenders and provide insight into the individual character's world.[76]

Feature films

Marvel Studios releases its films in groups called "Phases".[77][78] Phase One consists of Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), and concludes with the crossover film The Avengers (2012).[78][79] Phase Two comprises 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).[78]

Captain America: Civil War (2016) is the first film of 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), Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), Captain Marvel (2019), Avengers: Endgame (2019), and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019).[78] The first three phases are collectively known as "The Infinity Saga".[80]

Phase Four includes Black Widow (2021), Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021), and Eternals (2021), which will be followed by Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), The Marvels (2023), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023), Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023), and Fantastic Four.[81] Several television event series and a special on Disney+ are also included in the phase.[81]

Television series

Marvel Television series

Marvel Television produced multiple television series set in the MCU across broadcast, streaming, and cable. The "Marvel Heroes" seriesAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013–2020), Agent Carter (2015–2016), and Inhumans (2017)–aired on ABC; the "Marvel Knights" seriesDaredevil (2015–2018), Jessica Jones (2015–2019), Luke Cage (2016–2018), Iron Fist (2017–2018), the crossover miniseries The Defenders (2017), and The Punisher (2017–2019)–streamed on Netflix; young adult series included Runaways (2017–2019) streaming on Hulu and Cloak & Dagger (2018–2019) airing on Freeform; and the Hulu series Helstrom (2020) was originally intended to be the start of a planned "Adventure into Fear" franchise.[82]

Marvel Studios series

Phase Four includes the Disney+ series WandaVision (2021), The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021), the first season of Loki (2021), the first season of the animated What If...? (2021), and Hawkeye (2021), along with the following upcoming series: Moon Knight (2022), She-Hulk (2022), Secret Invasion (2022), Ms. Marvel (2022), Ironheart, Armor Wars and a series set in Wakanda. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022) will also be included in the phase, in addition to eleven feature films.[81]

Short films

Marvel One-Shots

Marvel One-Shots are a series of direct-to-video short films that are included as special features in the MCU films' Blu-ray and digital distribution releases. The films included The Consultant (2011), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer (2011),[51] Item 47 (2012),[83] Agent Carter (2013),[84] and All Hail the King (2014).[85]

I Am Groot

I Am Groot is a series of photorealistic animated short films for Disney+ starring Baby Groot going on adventures with new and unusual characters.[59][21][60]

Other media

Digital series

WHIH Newsfront (2015–16) is an in-universe current affairs show that serves as a viral marketing campaign for some of the MCU films, created in partnership with Google for YouTube.[55][86] The campaign is an extension of the fictional news network WHIH World News, which is seen reporting on major events in many MCU films and television series.[87]

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot (2016) is a digital series created for and produced by Marvel Television that is a supplement to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.[56] (2019–present) is an in-universe current affairs show serving as viral marketing campaign for the Spider-Man films, with the videos initially released on YouTube and later on TikTok. It is based on the fictional sensationalist news outlet of the same name that appears in the MCU—itself based on the fictional newspaper agency of the same name appearing in several Marvel Comics publications.[88]

Comic books

Multiple limited series or one-shot comics have been published by Marvel Comics that tie-into the MCU films and television series. They are intended to tell additional stories about existing characters, or to make connections between MCU projects, without necessarily expanding the universe or introducing new concepts or characters.[49][89]


The Wakanda Files: A Technological Exploration of the Avengers and Beyond is "a collection of papers, articles, blueprints, and notes amassed throughout history by Wakanda's War Dogs" at the request of Shuri. It is organized by areas of study and covers the technological advancements throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The book, which exists in-universe, was written by Troy Benjamin and published by Epic Ink and Quarto Publishing Group. The Wakanda Files has content printed with UV ink that can be viewed with Kimoyo bead–shaped UV lights included with the book. It was released on October 20, 2020.[90]


Various composers have created the film and television scores of the MCU films, television series, One-Shots, and other related projects of the MCU. Original songs have also been created specifically for use in the franchise, while Brian Tyler and Michael Giacchino have both scored fanfares for the Marvel Studios logo.[91][92]


As depicted in the MCU

Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline
(as of Hawkeye)[a]
1943–1945 The First Avenger[97]
1946 Agent Carter[84]
1995 Captain Marvel[98]
2010 Iron Man[99][97]
2011 Iron Man 2[99][97]
The Incredible Hulk[99]
A Funny Thing...[99][51]
The Consultant[99][51]
2012 The Avengers[100]
Item 47[83]
Iron Man 3[97][101]
2013 All Hail the King[85]
The Dark World[100]
2014 The Winter Soldier[97][101]
Guardians of the Galaxy[102]
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2[103]
2015 Age of Ultron[97]
2016 Civil War[97][105]
Black Widow[106]
Black Panther[107]
Doctor Strange (into 2017)[109][110]
2017 Ragnarok[111][112]
2018 Ant-Man and the Wasp[113]
Infinity War[114][115]
2023 Endgame[115]
2024 The Falcon and the Winter Soldier[117]
Far From Home[120]

During Phase One of the MCU, Marvel Studios lined up some of their films' stories with references to one another, though they had no long-term plan for the shared universe's timeline at that point.[122] Iron Man 2 is set six months after the events of Iron Man,[123] and around the same time as Thor according to comments made by Nick Fury.[122] Several of Marvel's One-Shot films also occur around the events of Phase One films, including The Consultant (set after the events of Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer (set before the events of Thor),[51] Item 47 (set after The Avengers),[83] and Agent Carter (set one year after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger).[84]

Wanting to simplify the in-universe timeline,[122] the Phase Two films were set roughly in real time relating to The Avengers: Iron Man 3 takes place about six months later, during Christmas;[124][101] Thor: The Dark World is set one year later;[125] and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is two years after.[101] Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man ended the phase in 2015,[126][127] with several months passing between those films in-universe as in real life.[104] The One-Shot All Hail the King is set after the events of Iron Man 3.[85]

For Phase Three, directors the Russo brothers wanted to continue using real time, and so Captain America: Civil War begins a year after Age of Ultron,[105] with Avengers: Infinity War set two years after that.[114] However, producer Brad Winderbaum said the Phase Three films would actually "happen on top of each other" while being less "interlocked" as the Phase One films were,[128] with Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming respectively beginning a week and several months after Civil War;[107][108] Thor: Ragnarok beginning four years after The Dark World and two years after Age of Ultron,[111][112] around the same time as Civil War and Homecoming;[128] Doctor Strange taking place over a whole year and ending "up to date with the rest of the MCU";[110] Ant-Man and the Wasp also set two years after Civil War and shortly before Infinity War;[113] and both Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel Vol. 2 being explicitly set in 2014,[102][103] which Feige believed would create a four-year gap between Vol. 2 and Infinity War, though the other MCU films up to that point do not specify years onscreen.[129] Following Infinity War, the Russo brothers said future films would not necessarily be set according to real time as there are "a lot of very inventive ways of where the story can go from here", with both Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel set earlier in the timeline;[130] the latter is set in 1995.[98] Avengers: Endgame begins shortly after Infinity War and ends in 2023 after a five-year time jump.[115] It confirms dates for several of the other films, including The Avengers in 2012, Thor: The Dark World in 2013, Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014,[100] Doctor Strange around 2017,[109] and Ant-Man and the Wasp in 2018 at the same time as Infinity War. Spider-Man: Far From Home begins eight months after Endgame in 2024.[120]

With Phase Four, Marvel Studios expanded into television series, which have greater interconnectivity with the MCU feature films than the series from Marvel Television.[131] Many of the properties in the Phase are set after the events of Avengers: Endgame. WandaVision is set three weeks after the events of that film,[116] and directly sets up Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness;[44] Multiverse of Madness is also set after Endgame and will tie-in with the first season of Loki and Spider-Man: No Way Home as well.[132][133][134] The first season of Loki continues from the 2012 events seen in Endgame, but much of the series exists outside of time and space given the introduction of the Time Variance Authority.[93] What If...? is set after Loki's first season finale, exploring the various branching timelines of the newly created multiverse in which major moments from the MCU films occur differently.[135][94] The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is set six months after Endgame.[117] Eternals takes place around the same time as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Spider-Man: Far From Home, six to eight months after Endgame in 2024,[119][118] while Spider-Man: No Way Home is set after Far From Home.[136] Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is also set after Endgame.[137] Hawkeye takes place one year after Endgame, during the 2024 Christmas season.[121][138] Black Widow is set between Civil War and Infinity War, mostly taking place between the main plot of Civil War and its final scene.[106]

Codifying attempts

External image
image icon The Phase One Timeline infographic released by Marvel in May 2012[99]

The official canon tie-in comic Fury's Big Week confirmed that The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor all took place within a week, a year before the crossover film The Avengers. Writers Christopher Yost and Eric Pearson tried to follow the logic of the films' timeline when plotting the comic, and received "the seal of approval" from Feige and Marvel Studios on the final timeline.[139] As promotion for The Avengers, Marvel released an official infographic detailing this timeline in May 2012.[99]

When Spider-Man: Homecoming was being developed, director and co-writer Jon Watts was shown a scroll detailing the MCU timeline that was created by co-producer Eric Carroll when he first began working for Marvel Studios. Watts said the scroll included both where the continuity of the films lined-up and did not lineup, and when fully unfurled it extended beyond the length of a long conference table. This scroll was used as the basis to weave the continuity of Homecoming into the previous films, such as The Avengers.[140] This was labeled in the film with a title card stating that eight years pass between the end of The Avengers and the events of Civil War, which was widely criticized as a continuity error that broke the established MCU timeline, in which only four years should have passed.[141][142] Additionally, dialogue in Civil War indicates that eight years pass between the end of Iron Man and the events of that film, despite the established continuity being closer to five or six years.[143][144] Infinity War co-director Joe Russo described the Homecoming eight years time jump as "very incorrect",[145] and the mistake was ignored in Infinity War which specified that its events were taking place only six years after The Avengers.[144] The public response to the Homecoming mistake inspired Marvel Studios to release a new timeline for all three phases,[142] and in November 2018, a timeline, specifying dates for the events in each film released to that point, was included as part of the sourcebook Marvel Studios: The First 10 Years, celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the MCU.[146]

Marvel Studios: The First 10 Years timeline from November 2018[146]
Year(s) Feature films[b]
1943–1945 Captain America: The First Avenger
2010 Iron Man
2011 Iron Man 2, Thor
2012 The Avengers, Iron Man 3
2013 Thor: The Dark World
2014 Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
2015 Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man
2016 Captain America: Civil War
2016–2017 Doctor Strange
2017 Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War

This timeline ignores the two "eight-year" continuity errors, but also contradicts the events of Black Panther and Infinity War by placing them in 2017. Despite the latter apparent mistakes, Thomas Bacon of Screen Rant described the timeline as "the closest Marvel has yet come to making an official statement on just when the different MCU events are set", bringing "some sense of balance to the MCU continuity".[97]

In October 2020, the Marvel section of Disney+ was restructured to include groupings of the films by phase, as well as a grouping that put the films in timeline order.[147] Bacon felt the placement of Thor: The Dark World between The Avengers and Iron Man 3 and Black Panther after Captain America: Civil War in this timeline corrected "previous issues" with their placement in the November 2018 First 10 Years timeline, and was glad Disney and Marvel "recognize[d] it's possible to watch these movies in anything other than release order", "legitimiz[ing]" this viewing experience. The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Spider-Man: Far From Home were excluded since Disney did not have their distribution rights, but Bacon felt The Incredible Hulk could be viewed after Iron Man 2 since it is simultaneous with that film, Homecoming could come after Black Panther, and Far From Home could be viewed after Avengers: Endgame.[148] Julia Alexander at The Verge agreed with Bacon that it "seems like Disney finally understands how [some viewers] want to watch Marvel movies".[147]

As of the release of What If...?, the Disney+ timeline order is Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, Black Widow, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Thor: Ragnarok, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, Loki, What If...?, WandaVision, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.[96]

Recurring cast and characters

Character Feature films Television series Short films Digital series Animation
Bruce Banner
Edward Norton[149]
Lou FerrignoV[150]
Mark Ruffalo[151]
Mark Ruffalo[152] Mark Ruffalo[153]
James "Bucky" Barnes
Winter Soldier / White Wolf
Sebastian Stan[154][155] Sebastian Stan[153]
Clint Barton
Jeremy Renner[156][157] Jeremy Renner[153]
Peggy Carter Hayley Atwell[158][27][159] Hayley Atwell[153]
Sharon Carter
Agent 13 / Power Broker
Emily VanCamp[160][157] Emily VanCamp[161]
Phil Coulson Clark Gregg[162][163][161]
Carol Danvers
Captain Marvel
Brie Larson[164] Alexandra Daniels[165]
Drax the Destroyer Dave Bautista[166][167] Fred Tatasciore[168]
Nick Fury Samuel L. Jackson[169][170][171] Samuel L. Jackson[153]
Gamora Zoe Saldaña[172][167] Cynthia McWilliams[173]
Groot Vin DieselV[174][167]
Heimdall Idris Elba[175][176]
Maria Hill Cobie Smulders[177][178] Cobie Smulders[161]
Harold "Happy" Hogan Jon Favreau[179][180] Jon Favreau[161]
Scott Lang
Paul Rudd[181] Paul Rudd[182][153]
Darcy Lewis Kat Dennings[183][184] Kat Dennings[161]
Loki Tom Hiddleston[185][186] Tom Hiddleston[153]
Mantis Pom Klementieff[187][167]
Wanda Maximoff
Scarlet Witch
Elizabeth Olsen[188][155]
Nebula Karen Gillan[189][167] Karen Gillan[153]
Okoye Danai Gurira[190][191][192] Danai Gurira[161]
Peter Parker
Tom Holland[193][194] Hudson Thames[195]
Virginia "Pepper" Potts Gwyneth Paltrow[196][197] Beth Hoyt[198]
Peter Quill
Chris Pratt[199][167] Brian T. Delaney[168]
Monica Rambeau Akira Akbar[200]
Teyonah Parris[201]
Teyonah Parris[202]
James "Rhodey" Rhodes
War Machine / Iron Patriot
Terrence Howard[203]
Don Cheadle[204]
Don Cheadle[205] Don Cheadle[161]
Rocket Bradley CooperV[206][167]
Steve Rogers
Captain America
Chris Evans[207][208] Josh Keaton[209]
Natasha Romanoff
Black Widow
Scarlett Johansson[210][211] Lake Bell[212]
Thaddeus Ross William Hurt[213] Mike McGill[165]
Erik Selvig Stellan Skarsgård[214]
Howard Stark Gerard SandersP[215]
John Slattery[216]
Dominic Cooper[217]
Dominic Cooper[218][159] Dominic Cooper[153]
Tony Stark
Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr.[219] Mick Wingert[220]
Dr. Stephen Strange Benedict Cumberbatch[221][222] Benedict Cumberbatch[161]
Talos Ben Mendelsohn[223][205]
Black Panther
Chadwick Boseman[224] Chadwick Boseman[153]
Thor Chris Hemsworth[225] Chris Hemsworth[153]
Paul Bettany[226][227][155] Paul Bettany[161]
Sam Wilson
Falcon / Captain America
Anthony Mackie[228][155]
Wong Benedict Wong[229][230] Benedict Wong[161]

Additionally, Paul Bettany was the first actor to portray two main characters within the universe, voicing Tony Stark's artificial intelligence J.A.R.V.I.S. in the Iron Man and Avengers films, and portraying Vision in Avengers films, Captain America: Civil War, and the miniseries WandaVision.[231][232][233][155] J. K. Simmons became the first actor to reprise a non-MCU role in the MCU when he appeared as J. Jonah Jameson (a role he played in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy from 2002 to 2007) in Spider-Man: Far From Home.[234]

Prior to his death in 2018, Stan Lee, creator or co-creator of many of the characters seen in the MCU, made cameo appearances in all of the feature films and television series except Inhumans. In Iron Fist, it is revealed his on-set photograph cameo in the Marvel Netflix series is as NYPD Captain Irving Forbush.[235] His cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sees Lee appearing as an informant to the Watchers, discussing previous adventures that include Lee's cameos in other MCU films; he specifically mentions his time as a FedEx delivery man, referring to Lee's cameo in Captain America: Civil War.[236] This acknowledged the fan theory that Lee may be portraying the same character in all his cameos,[237] with writer and director James Gunn noting that "people thought Stan Lee is [Uatu the Watcher] and that all of these cameos are part of him being a Watcher. So, Stan Lee as a guy who is working for the Watchers was something that I thought was fun for the MCU."[236][237] Feige added that Lee "clearly exists, you know, above and apart from the reality of all the films. So the notion that he could be sitting there on a cosmic pit stop during the jump gate sequence in Guardians...really says, so wait a minute, he's this same character who's popped up in all these films?"[238] Following Lee's death, Marvel Studios chose not to create any new Lee cameos in future projects.[239] NY1 news anchor Pat Kiernan has also appeared in multiple MCU films and television series as himself.[240]


Jim Vorel of Herald & Review called the Marvel Cinematic Universe "complicated" and "impressive", but said, "As more and more heroes get their own film adaptations, the overall universe becomes increasingly confusing."[241] Kofi Outlaw of Screen Rant stated that while The Avengers was a success, "Marvel Studios still has room to improve their approach to building a shared movie universe".[242] Some reviewers criticized the fact that the desire to create a shared universe led to films that did not hold as well on their own. In his review of Thor: The Dark World, Forbes critic Scott Mendelson likened the MCU to "a glorified television series", with The Dark World being a "'stand-alone' episode that contains little long-range mythology".[243] Collider's Matt Goldberg considered that while Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were quality productions, "they have never really been their own movies", feeling that the plot detours to S.H.I.E.L.D. or lead-ups to The Avengers dragged down the films' narratives.[244]

The metaphor of the MCU as "the world's biggest TV show" was discussed again, after the release of Captain America: Civil War, by Emily VanDerWerff of Vox, who felt that film in particular highlighted Marvel's success with the model, saying, "Viewed in complete isolation, the plot of Captain America: Civil War makes little to no sense ... [but] when you think about where [Captain America] has been in earlier Marvel films ... his leeriness about being subject to oversight makes a lot more sense." VanDerWerff continued that when thinking about the MCU as a television series, many "common criticisms people tend to level at it take on a new context" such as complaints that the films are formulaic, lack "visual spark", or "shoehorn in story elements" that "are necessary to set up future films", all characteristics that "are fairly typical on television, where a director's influence is much lower than that of the showrunner", in this case, Feige. Comparing the films to the series Game of Thrones specifically, VanDerWerff noted that each solo film checks "in on various characters and their individual side stories, before bringing everyone together in the finale (or, rather, an Avengers film)", with Guardians of the Galaxy being equivalent to the character Daenerys Targaryen—"both separated by long distances from everybody else". She noted that this format was an extension of early "TV-like" film franchises such as Star Wars, as well as the format of the comics upon which the films are based. "I say all of this not to suggest that film franchises resembling TV series is necessarily a good trend", VanDerWerff concluded, "For as much as I generally enjoy the Marvel movies, I'm disheartened by the possibility that their particular form might take over the film industry ... But I also don't think it's the end of the world if Marvel continues on ... there's a reason TV has stolen so much of the cultural conversation over the past few decades. There's something legitimately exciting about the way the medium tells stories when it's good, and if nothing else, Marvel's success shows the film world could learn from that."[245]

Following the conclusion of season one of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Mary McNamara at the Los Angeles Times praised the connections between that series and the films, stating that "never before has television been literally married to film, charged with filling in the back story and creating the connective tissue of an ongoing film franchise ... [Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.] is now not only a very good show in its own right, it's part of Marvel's multiplatform city-state. It faces a future of perpetual re-invention, and that puts it in the exhilarating first car of television's roller-coaster ride toward possible world domination."[246] Terri Schwartz of Zap2it agreed with this sentiment, stating that "the fact that [Captain America: The Winter Soldier] so influenced the show is game-changing in terms of how the mediums of film and television can be interwoven", though "the fault there seems to be that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had to bide time until The Winter Soldier's release", which led to much criticism.[247]

In January 2015, Michael Doran of Newsarama and Graeme McMillian of The Hollywood Reporter had a "point-counterpoint" debate in response to the first Ant-Man trailer. Doran stated, "Marvel has raised the bar sooo high that as opposed to just allowing another film to finish under the [MCU] bar, we're all overly and perhaps even eager to overreact to the first thing that doesn't clear it". McMillian responded, "at this point, Marvel's brand is such that I'm not sure it can offer up something like [the trailer] without it seeming like a crushing disappointment ... part of Marvel's brand is that it doesn't offer the kind of run-of-the-mill superhero movie that you're talking about, that it's ... at least different enough to tweak and play with the genre somehow ... The fact that there's such upset about this trailer being ... well, okay ... suggests to me that the audience is expecting something to knock their socks off." Doran concluded, "That does seem to be the point here—the expectations fans now have for everything Marvel Studios ... [and] Marvel is going to eventually falter."[248]

After seeing the portrayal of Yellowjacket in Ant-Man, the antagonist of the film, McMillian noted,

It's hardly a secret that Marvel Studios has a bit of a problem when it comes to offering up exciting characters for their heroes to fight against ... [their] villains generally fall into one of two camps. There's the Unstoppable Monster ... or there's the Professional White Guy In A Suit With An Ego ... No matter which of the groups the above villains fall into, they share one common purpose: evil. The motivations for evil likely differ—although, invariably, they fall under the umbrella of 'misguided belief in a greater good that doesn't exist'—but that really doesn't matter, because without fail, there will be so little time in the movie to actually properly explore those motivations, meaning that to all intents and purposes, the villain is being evil for reasons of plot necessity and little else ... The strange thing about this is that Marvel's comic books offer a number of wonderful, colorful bad guys who could step outside the above parameters and offer an alternative to the formulaic villains audiences have gotten used to (and arguably bored with) ... In future movies, we can only hope [they are] treated in such a way that their freak flags are allowed to fly free.[249]

Following the release of Jessica Jones, David Priest at CNET wrote about how the series rescues "Marvel from itself ... Jessica Jones takes big steps forward in terms of theme, craft and diversity. It's a good story first, and a superhero show second. And for the first time, the MCU seems like it matters. Our culture needs stories like this. Here's hoping Marvel keeps them coming."[250] For Paul Tassi and Erik Kain of Forbes, watching the series made them question the MCU, with Kain feeling that the "morally complex, violent, dark world of Jessica Jones has no place in the MCU ... right now, the MCU is holding back shows like Jessica Jones and Daredevil, while those shows are contributing absolutely nothing to the MCU."[251] Tassi went so far as to wonder what "the point of the Marvel Cinematic Universe" is, lamenting the lack of major crossovers in the franchise since the Winter Soldier reveal on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and saying that Jessica Jones is "so far removed from the world of The Avengers, it might as well not be in the same universe at all ... [I] really don't understand the point of [the MCU] if they're going to keep everything within it separated off in these little boxes".[252] Conversely, Eric Francisco of Inverse called Jessica Jones's lack of overt connections to the MCU "the show's chief advantage. Besides demonstrating how physically wide open the MCU's scope really is, Jessica Jones also proves the MCU's thematic durability."[253]

In April 2016, Marvel Studios revealed that Alfre Woodard would appear in Captain America: Civil War, having already been cast as Mariah Dillard in Luke Cage the previous year.[254] This "raised hopes that Marvel could be uniting its film and Netflix universes",[255] with "one of the first and strongest connections" between the two.[254] However, Civil War writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely revealed that Woodard would instead be portraying Miriam Sharpe in the film, explaining that she had been cast on the suggestion of Robert Downey, Jr., and they had not learned of her casting in Luke Cage until afterwards.[254] This was not the first instance of actors being cast in multiple roles in the MCU, but this casting was called more "significant", and seen by many as a "disappointing" indication of "the growing divide" and "lack of more satisfying cooperation" between Marvel Studios and Marvel Television following the September 2015 corporate reshuffling of Marvel Entertainment.[254][256]

Speaking to the 1990s setting of Captain Marvel, "the MCU's first full period piece since Phase One's Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011", Richard Newby of The Hollywood Reporter felt the return of younger versions of some characters introduced and killed in earlier films "open[ed] up the MCU in a whole new way and broaden[ed] the franchise's mantra of 'it's all connected'". Speaking specifically to Clark Gregg's appearance as Agent Phil Coulson in the film, Newby noted the appearance "doesn't exactly mend fences between Marvel's film and TV divisions, [but] it does strengthen the connective tissue and the sense that these characters still matter in the grand scheme of Marvel's film plans". He also hoped that continuity from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would be maintained in Captain Marvel, especially since Coulson has dealt with the Kree in the series. Newby also added that shifting to different time periods would help Marvel Studios "sustain this cinematic universe for the next 10 years" by allowing them to repeat some of the genres previously used, as they could then feel "fresh" and have "different rules and different restraints," as well as allow them to build upon material established in the television series such as Agent Carter. He concluded,

Marvel Studios has an entire sandbox to play in, but, for necessary reasons, has largely chosen to remain in a small corner in order to ground audiences in these concepts. Now that the basis has been laid, the opportunity for exploration in both film and television lies ahead, with Captain Marvel leading the way. Wherever Marvel Studios plans to take the MCU in the future, it's refreshing to know that its past is expansive and filled with infinite possibilities.[257]

Likewise, in his review of Avengers: Endgame, Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal acknowledged the unique achievement that the Marvel Cinematic Universe had accomplished:

These are difficult times for big-screen entertainment. As the medium declines and TV grows ascendant, authentic spectacles—as opposed to lavish embellishments of smallish ideas—threaten to become a thing of the fabled past. All the more reason, then, to cherish what Marvel has achieved, even though befuddling stumbles have occurred along the way. The studio has kept the faith by smartening up most of its films, not dumbing them down, by banking on, and raking in profits from, the audience's appetite for surprise, its capacity for complexity. When the final battle comes at the end of Avengers: Endgame, it's inevitably unwieldy—every Marvel character you can think of from the past decade shows up for one more assault on cosmic evil—but thrilling all the same, and followed by a delicate coda. So many stories. So many adventures. So much to sort out before the next cycle starts.[258]

In October 2019, filmmaker Martin Scorsese openly criticized Marvel films in an interview and during a David Lean lecture in London, later expanded in an op-ed in The New York Times, asserting that these films are not cinema, but are instead the equivalent of theme park rides that lack "mystery, revelation or genuine emotional danger".[259][260][261] He also stated that such films are corporation products that have been "market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they're ready for consumption", and that the invasion of such "theme park" films in theaters crowded out films by other directors.[262] Scorsese's remarks were dismissed by directors of MCU films such as Joss Whedon and James Gunn,[259] while they were defended by Francis Ford Coppola, who described the potential effect of Marvel films in the film industry as "despicable".[263] Conversely, George Miller stated:

To me, it's all cinema. I don't think you can ghettoize it and say, oh this is cinema or that is cinema. It applies to all the arts, to literature, the performing arts, painting and music, in all its form. It's such a broad spectrum, a wide range and to say that anyone is more significant or more important than the other, is missing the point. It's one big mosaic and each bit of work fits into it.[264]

Cultural impact

Other studios

After the release of The Avengers in May 2012, Tom Russo of noted that aside from the occasional "novelty" such as Alien vs. Predator (2004), the idea of a shared universe was virtually unheard of in Hollywood.[6] Since that time, the shared universe model created by Marvel Studios has begun to be replicated by other film studios that held rights to other comic book characters. In April 2014, Tuna Amobi, a media analyst for Standard & Poor's Equity Research Services, stated that in the previous three to five years, Hollywood studios began planning "megafranchises" for years to come, opposed to working one blockbuster at a time. Amobi added, "A lot of these superhero characters were just being left there to gather dust. Disney has proved that this [approach and genre] can be a gold mine."[265] However, with additional studios now "playing the megafranchise game", Doug Creutz, media analyst for Cowen and Company, feels the allure will eventually die for audiences: "If Marvel's going to make two or three films a year, and Warner Brothers is going to do at least a film every year, and Sony's going to do a film every year, and Fox [is] going to do a film every year, can everyone do well in that scenario? I'm not sure they can."[265]

In March 2018, Patrick Shanley of The Hollywood Reporter opined that "the key differences between a regular franchise, such as The Fast and the Furious or Pitch Perfect films, and a shared universe is the amount of planning and interweaving that goes into each individual film. Its all too easy to make a film that exists solely for the purpose of setting up future installments and expanding a world, rather than a film that stands on its own merits while deftly hinting or winking at its place in the larger mythos. In that, the MCU has flourished." He felt that Iron Man "itself was aimed at being an enjoyable stand-alone experience, not as an overall advertisement for 17 subsequent movies. That mentality has persisted through most of the MCU films over the past decade, which is all the more impressive as its roster of heroes now exceeds the two-dozen mark."[266]

In October 2012, following its legal victory over Joe Shuster's estate for the rights to Superman, Warner Bros. Pictures announced that it planned to move ahead with its long-awaited Justice League film, uniting such DC Comics superheroes as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The company was expected to take the opposite approach to Marvel, releasing individual films for the characters after they have appeared in a team-up film.[267] The release of Man of Steel in 2013 was intended to be the start of a new shared universe for DC, "laying the groundwork for the future slate of films based on DC Comics".[268] In 2014, Warner Bros. announced that slate of films, similarly to Disney and Marvel claiming dates for films years in advance.[269] That year, DC CCO Geoff Johns stated that the television series Arrow and The Flash were set in a separate universe from the new film one,[270] later clarifying that "We look at it as the multiverse. We have our TV universe and our film universe, but they all co-exist. For us, creatively, it's about allowing everyone to make the best possible product, to tell the best story, to do the best world. Everyone has a vision and you really want to let the visions shine through ... It's just a different approach [to Marvel's]."[271]

Discussing the apparent failure of the cinematic universe's first team-up film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, to establish a successful equivalent to the MCU, Emily VanDerWerff noted that where the MCU has a television-like "showrunner" in Feige, "the visionary behind Marvel's entire slate", the DCEU has director Zack Snyder, whose DC films "seemingly start from the assumption that people have come not to see an individual story but a long series of teases for other ones. It's like he knows what he needs to do but can't focus on the task at hand. TV certainly isn't immune to that problem, but shows that get caught up in high-concept premises and big-picture thinking before doing the necessary legwork to establish characters and their relationships tend to be canceled."[245] Subsequently, in May 2016, Warner Bros. gave oversight of the DCEU to Johns and executive Jon Berg in an attempt to "unify the disparate elements of the DC movies" and emulate Marvel's success. The two were made producers on the Justice League films, on top of Johns' involvement in several "solo" films, such as the post-production process of Suicide Squad or the writing process of a standalone Batman film.[272] After the successful release of Wonder Woman in June 2017, DC decided to begin deemphasizing the shared nature of their films, with DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson stating, "Our intention, certainly, moving forward is using the continuity to help make sure nothing is diverging in a way that doesn't make sense, but there's no insistence upon an overall story line or interconnectivity in that universe... Moving forward, you'll see the DC movie universe being a universe, but one that comes from the heart of the filmmaker who's creating them." Additionally, DC began focusing on films "completely separate from everything else, set entirely outside" the DCEU as part of a new label, with the first film centered on the Joker.[273]

In November 2012, 20th Century Fox announced plans to create their own shared universe, consisting of Marvel properties that it holds the rights to including the Fantastic Four and X-Men, with the hiring of Mark Millar as supervising producer. Millar said, "Fox are thinking, 'We're sitting on some really awesome things here. There is another side of the Marvel Universe. Let's try and get some cohesiveness going.' So they brought me in to oversee that really. To meet with the writers and directors to suggest new ways we could take this stuff and new properties that could spin out of it."[274] X-Men: Days of Future Past, released in 2014, was Fox's first step towards expanding their stable of Marvel properties and creating this universe,[275] ahead of the release of a Fantastic Four reboot film the next year.[276] However, in May 2014, Days of Future Past and Fantastic Four screenwriter Simon Kinberg stated that the latter film would not take place in the same universe as the X-Men films, explaining that "none of the X-Men movies have acknowledged the notion of a sort of superhero team—the Fantastic Four. And the Fantastic Four acquire powers, so for them to live in a world where mutants are prevalent is kind of complicated, because you're like, 'Oh, you're just a mutant.' Like, 'What's so fantastic about you?' ... they live in discrete universes."[276] In July 2015, X-Men director Bryan Singer said that there was still potential for a crossover between the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises, if reaction to Fantastic Four and X-Men: Apocalypse warranted it.[277]

Feeling that Singer's efforts in Apocalypse to establish a larger world, similar to the MCU, did not meet the standards established by Marvel, VanDerWerff noted that unlike Feige's ability to serve as "pseudo-showrunner", Singer is instead "steeped in film and the way movie stories have always been told", so "when it comes time to have Apocalypse dovetail with story threads from the earlier X-Men: First Class [directed by Matthew Vaughn], both Singer's direction and Simon Kinberg's script rely on hackneyed devices and clumsy storytelling", indicating a lack of "the kind of big-picture thinking this sort of mega franchise requires".[245] In his review of Dark Phoenix, Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal characterized the entire X-Men film series as being a "notoriously erratic franchise."[278] In March 2019, the film rights of Deadpool, the X-Men characters, and the Fantastic Four characters returned to Marvel Studios following The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of 21st Century Fox.[18][19]

In November 2013, Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairman Amy Pascal announced that the studio intended to expand their universe created within the Marc Webb Amazing Spider-Man series, with spin-off adventures for supporting characters, in an attempt to replicate Marvel and Disney's model.[275] The next month, Sony announced Venom and Sinister Six films, both set in the Amazing Spider-Man universe. With this announcement, IGN stated that the spin-offs are "the latest example of what we can refer to as "the Avengers effect" in Hollywood, as studios work to build interlocking movie universes."[279] Sony chose not to replicate the Marvel Studios model of introducing individual characters first before bringing them together in a team-up film, instead making the Spider-Man adversaries the stars of future films.[265] However, in February 2015, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios announced that the Spider-Man franchise would be retooled, with a new film co-produced by Feige and Pascal being released in July 2017, and the character being integrated into the MCU. Sony Pictures would continue to finance, distribute, own, and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.[280] With this announcement, sequels to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 were canceled,[281] and by November 2015 the Venom and Sinister Six films, as well as spin-offs based on female characters in the Spider-Man universe, were no longer moving forward.[281][282] By March 2016, the Venom film had itself been retooled, to start its own franchise unrelated to the MCU Spider-Man.[283] A year later, Sony officially announced the Venom film to be in development, for an October 5, 2018 release,[284] along with a film centered on the characters Silver Sable and Black Cat known as Silver & Black.[285] Both projects were not intended to be a part of the MCU nor spin-offs to Spider-Man: Homecoming, but rather part of an intended separate shared universe known as the Sony's Spider-Man Universe.[285][286][287] However, the mid-credits scene of Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) hinted at Eddie Brock / Venom joining the MCU.[288]

After Sony canceled their shared universe plans and started sharing the Spider-Man character with Marvel Studios, multiple critics discussed their failure at replicating the MCU. Scott Meslow of The Week noted the perceived flaws of the first Amazing Spider-Man film, outside of its lead performances, and how the sequel "doubles down on all the missteps of the original while adding a few of its own. …We now have a textbook example of how not to reboot a superhero franchise, and if Sony and Marvel are wise, they'll take virtually all those lessons to heart as they chart Spider-Man's next course."[289] Scott Mendelson noted that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 "was sold as less a sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man than a backdoor pilot for Spider-Man vs. the Sinister Six. …Had Sony stuck with the original plan of a scaled-down superhero franchise, one that really was rooted in romantic drama, they would have at least stuck out in a crowded field of superhero franchises. When every superhero film is now going bigger, Amazing Spider-Man could have distinguished itself by going small and intimate." This would have saved Sony "a boatload of money", and potentially reversed the film's relative financial failure.[290]


In September 2014, the University of Baltimore announced a course beginning in the 2015 spring semester revolving around the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to be taught by Arnold T. Blumberg. "Media Genres: Media Marvels" examines "how Marvel's series of interconnected films and television shows, plus related media and comic book sources and Joseph Campbell's monomyth of the 'hero's journey', offer important insights into modern culture" as well as Marvel's efforts "to establish a viable universe of plotlines, characters, and backstories."[291][292]

Outside media

Avengers Campus

After the acquisition by Disney in 2009, Marvel films began to be marketed at the Innoventions attraction in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. For Iron Man 3, the exhibit, entitled "Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries", featured the same armor display that was shown at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con, with the Marks I-VII and the new Mark XLII. In addition, there was a simulator game, titled "Become Iron Man", that used Kinect-like technology to allow the viewer to be encased in an animated Mark XLII armor and take part in a series of "tests," in which you fire repulsor rays and fly through Tony Stark's workshop. The game was guided by J.A.R.V.I.S., who is voiced again by Paul Bettany. The exhibit also had smaller displays that included helmets and chest pieces from the earlier films and the gauntlet and boot from an action sequence in Iron Man 3.[293] The exhibit for Thor: The Dark World was called "Thor: Treasures of Asgard", and featured displays of Asgardian relics and transports guests to Odin's throne room, where they were greeted by Thor.[294] Captain America: The Winter Soldier's exhibit, "Captain America: The Living Legend and Symbol of Courage", featured a meet and greet experience.[295]

From May to September 2017, Disneyland Resort featured the "Summer of Heroes", which sees members of the Guardians and Avengers making appearances throughout the Disneyland Resort. Additionally, the Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Dance Off event was featured, which involved Peter Quill / Star-Lord blasting music from his boombox, along with the Avengers Training Initiative, a limited experience where Black Widow and Hawkeye "assemble a group of young recruits to see if they have what it takes to be an Avenger." Marvel-related food and merchandise was also available throughout Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure during the "Summer of Heroes".[296]

In March 2018, The Walt Disney Company announced three new Marvel-themed areas inspired by the MCU to Disney California Adventure, Walt Disney Studios Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. The developments will be designed by Walt Disney Imagineering in collaboration with Marvel Studios and Marvel Themed Entertainment.[297] As was established with Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!, Avengers Campus exists in its own theme park universe that is inspired by the MCU.[298][299] Being in the MCU multiverse, Avengers Campus has a shared history with the MCU proper, with a few notable exceptions being the Blip from Avengers: Infinity War did not occur, and some characters who died, such as Tony Stark, are still alive.[299]

In October 2013, the Iron Man Experience attraction was announced for Hong Kong Disneyland.[300] It is set in the Tomorrowland section of the park,[301] with the area built to look like a new Stark Expo created by Tony Stark after the 2010 one, as seen in Iron Man 2,[302] with various exhibit halls that include the Mark III armor from the films.[301][303] The area also has Iron Man and Marvel-themed merchandise items and memorabilia, plus an interactive game where guests can have the chance to try on Iron Man's armor.[304] Iron Man Experience sees guests assist Iron Man in defeating Hydra throughout Hong Kong,[301] and opened on January 11, 2017.[304]

In March 2018, The Walt Disney Company announced a new Marvel-themed area inspired by the MCU to Hong Kong Disneyland and a new attraction where guests team up with Ant-Man and the Wasp, to join Iron Man Experience.[297][305] Inspired by Ant-Man and the Wasp,[306] Ant-Man and The Wasp: Nano Battle! is an enclosed interactive dark ride that sees guests use laser powered weapons to team up with Ant-Man and the Wasp to defeat Arnim Zola and his army of Hydra swarm bots.[306][307] Ant Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle! replaces the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride,[306] and opened on March 31, 2019.[308]

By San Diego Comic-Con 2016, the Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure was set to be replaced by a new attraction, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista and Benicio del Toro all filmed exclusive footage for the attraction, reprising their roles as Peter Quill / Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax and Taneleer Tivan / The Collector, respectively.[309][310] James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel, directed footage for the attraction and consulted on all aspects of it.[311] Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! sees visitors assisting Rocket to rescue the other Guardians from the Collector's fortress, while the attraction features randomized events during the experience and music inspired by the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 soundtrack. The attraction opened on May 27, 2017.[296]

In March 2018, The Walt Disney Company announced a new Marvel-themed area inspired by the MCU at Disney California Adventure, anchored by Mission: Breakout!, that sees characters from the MCU such as Iron Man and Spider-Man join the Guardians of the Galaxy in a "completely immersive superhero universe." The area replaced the "A Bug's Land" area, which closed in mid-2018 to start construction on the Marvel area.[297][305] Tom Holland reprises his role as Peter Parker / Spider-Man in the attraction Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, in which Parker has set up W.E.B. (the Worldwide Engineers Brigade) to inspire a new generation to use technology to save the world. Riders are recruited by Spider-Man into the initiative to stop his malfunctioning Spider-Bots.[312]

In March 2018, The Walt Disney Company announced a new Marvel-themed area inspired by the MCU to Disneyland Paris' Walt Disney Studios Park. The area will include a reimagined attraction where riders will team up with Iron Man and other Avengers on a "hyper-kinetic adventure" in 2020. The park also hosted the "Summer of Super Heroes" live-action stage show from June–September 2018.[297][305]

Disney Wish

In July 2021, the immersive family dining experience "Avengers: Quantum Encounter" at the Worlds of Marvel restaurant on the Disney Wish cruise line was announced, which would debut when the cruise begins voyages on June 9, 2022.[313] The experience takes place during dinner with interactive elements and a full CGI recreation of the Wish's upper decks.[314] Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Brie Larson, and Kerry Condon will reprise their MCU roles, while Ross Marquand will voice Ultron after previously doing so in What If...?, in which he replaced James Spader.[315]

Other live attractions

In May 2014, the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) exhibit opened at the Discovery Times Square center. The exhibit features replica set pieces, as well as actual props from the films, mixed with interactive technology and information, crafted through a partnership with NASA and other scientists. Titus Welliver also provides a "debrief" to visitors, reprising his role as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Felix Blake. Created by Victory Hill Exhibits, Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. cost $7.5 million to create,[316][317] and ran through early September 2015.[318]

The exhibit also opened in South Korea at the War Memorial of Korea in April 2015,[319][320] in Paris, France, at Esplanade de La Défense a year later, and in Las Vegas at the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in June 2016.[320] The Las Vegas version of the exhibit featured updated character details and corresponding science to incorporate the Marvel films that have released since the original exhibit in New York. Additionally, the Las Vegas version features Cobie Smulders reprising her role as Maria Hill to "debrief" visitors, replacing Welliver.[321]

An art exhibit, titled Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe, was displayed exclusively at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) from May to September 2017. The exhibit, which included "300 plus objects, films, costumes, drawings and other ephemera", featured content "from the collection of Marvel Studios and Marvel Entertainment and private collections" with "significant focus [given] to the creative artists who translate the drawn narrative to the screen through production design and storyboarding, costume and prop design, and special effects and post-production". Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe was also extended to GOMA's Australian Cinémathèque with a retrospective of the MCU films.[322]

In October 2019, Marvel Studios and ILMxLAB announced the virtual reality experience Avengers: Damage Control. The experience would be available for a limited time starting in mid-October 2019 at select Void VR locations. Avengers: Damage Control sees players taking control of one of Shuri's Emergency Response Suits–which combine Wakandan and Stark Industries technologies–to defeat a threat alongside Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and the Wasp. Letitia Wright, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Rudd, and Evangeline Lilly all reprise their MCU roles,[323] while Ross Marquand voices Ultron, replacing James Spader.[324] The experience was extended to the end of 2019.[325]

Live-action television specials

On March 18, 2014, ABC aired a one-hour television special titled Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe, which documented the history of Marvel Studios and the development of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and included exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from all of the films, One-Shots and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and sneak peeks of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, unaired episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,[326] and Ant-Man.[327] Brian Lowry of Variety felt the special, "contains a pretty interesting business and creative story. While it might all make sense in hindsight, there was appreciable audacity in Marvel's plan to release five loosely connected movies from the same hero-filled world, beginning with the cinematically unproven Iron Man and culminating with superhero team The Avengers. As such, this fast-moving hour qualifies as more than just a cut-and-paste job from electronic press kits, although there's an element of that, certainly."[328] The special was released on September 9, 2014 on the home media for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1.[329]

In September 2014, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Jeffrey Bell stated that in order to meet production demands and avoid having to air repeat episodes, ABC would likely air a Marvel special in place of a regular installment at some point during the first ten episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s second season.[330] In October, the special was revealed to be Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop!, which was hosted by Emily VanCamp, who portrays Agent 13 in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and aired on November 4, 2014.[331] The special features behind the scenes footage from Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, as well as footage from the Agent Carter television series previously screened at New York Comic-Con.[332] Brian Lowry of Variety felt an hour for the special did not "do the topic justice" adding, "For anyone who has seen more than one Marvel movie but would shrug perplexedly at the mention of Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko, Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp To Pop! should probably be required viewing. Fun, fast-paced and encompassing many of the company's highlights along with a few lowlights, it's a solid primer on Marvel's history, while weaving in inevitable self-promotion and synergistic plugs."[333] Eric Goldman of IGN also wished the special had been longer, adding, "Understandably, the more you already know about Marvel, the less you'll be surprised by Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop!, but it's important to remember who this special is really made for – a mainstream audience who have embraced the Marvel characters, via the hugely successful movies, in a way no one could have imagined."[332]

In November 2019, Disney+ announced that the streaming platform would include Expanding the Universe, a special that features a look at the original MCU TV series for Disney+, with interviews and concept art.[334]

A Marvel-themed orchestra performance of an extended version of Brian Tyler's Marvel Studios theme and Alan Silvestri's theme from The Avengers took place during China's Bilibili New Year's Gala on December 31, 2020, to promote the 2021 Marvel Studios film releases.[335][336]

A special titled Marvel Studios' 2021 Disney+ Day Special, which looked at the future of the MCU on Disney+, was released on the service on November 12, 2021, as part of its "Disney+ Day" celebration.[337][338]

Documentary series

Announced in December 2020, this series examines individual heroes, villains, moments, and objects from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and how they connect, in anticipation of the upcoming stories that will feature them in Phase Four.[339][340] Marvel Studios: Legends premiered on Disney+ on January 8, 2021, with the release of the first two episodes.[339] Additional episodes were released ahead of a character and objects' appearances in Disney+ series and films.[339][341]

Announced in February 2021, each special of the documentary series goes behind the scenes of the making of the MCU films and television series with cast members and additional creatives. Marvel Studios: Assembled premiered on Disney+ on March 12, 2021, with the release of the first special, followed by additional specials.[342]

In June 2021, Marvel Studios released a casting call for fans of "Marvel's strong women" to be a part of an upcoming Disney+ documentary series showcasing the women who create the MCU in front of and behind the camera.[343]

Guide books

In September 2015, Marvel announced the Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, named as a nod to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Each guidebook is compiled by Mike O'Sullivan and the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe team, with cover art from Mike del Mundo and Pascal Campion, and features facts about the MCU films, film-to-comic comparisons, and production stills. Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel's Iron Man, Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel's Incredible Hulk / Marvel's Iron Man 2,[344] Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel's Thor,[345] and Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger[346] released each month from October 2015 to January 2016, respectively.

In November 2018, Marvel and Titan Publishing Group released Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years to celebrate the first ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which featured cast interviews, in-depth sections on each film, and an Easter egg guide.[347] In October 2021, a two-volume book The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was released, written by Tara Bennett and Paul Terry. This collection features a look at the evolution of Marvel Studios, personal stories from the 23-film "Infinity Saga", and interviews with cast and crew members.[348]

Video game tie-ins

Title U.S. release date Publisher Developer Platforms
Iron Man May 2, 2008 (2008-05-02) Sega
Secret Level[352]
Artificial Mind and Movement[352]
Hands-On Mobile[353]
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
PlayStation 2, Wii, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable
Various mobile devices
The Incredible Hulk June 5, 2008 (2008-06-05) Edge of Reality[354][350]
Amaze Entertainment[355]
Hands-On Mobile[356]
PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Wii
Nintendo DS
Various mobile devices
Iron Man 2 May 4, 2010 (2010-05-04) Sega Studios San Francisco[351]
High Voltage Software[357]
Griptonite Games[358]
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Wii, PlayStation Portable
Nintendo DS
Gameloft[359][360] iOS, BlackBerry
Thor: God of Thunder May 3, 2011 (2011-05-03) Sega[361][362] Liquid Entertainment
Red Fly Studio
WayForward Technologies
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Wii, Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo DS
Captain America: Super Soldier July 19, 2011 (2011-07-19) Next Level Games
High Voltage Software
Graphite Games
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Wii, Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo DS
The Avengers: The Mobile Game May 2, 2012 (2012-05-02) Gameloft[363][364][365][366] iOS, Android, Blackberry
Iron Man 3: The Official Game April 25, 2013 (2013-04-25) iOS, Android
Thor: The Dark World
– The Official Game
October 31, 2013 (2013-10-31)
Captain America: The Winter
Soldier – The Official Game
March 27, 2014 (2014-03-27) iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Other games
Lego Marvel's Avengers January 26, 2016 (2016-01-26)
March 10, 2016 (2016-03-10)
Warner Bros.
Interactive Entertainment
Feral Interactive[368]
TT Games PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows,
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita
Spider-Man: Homecoming
– Virtual Reality Experience
June 30, 2017 (2017-06-30) Sony Pictures Virtual Reality[369][370] CreateVR PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
Spider-Man: Far From
Home – Virtual Reality Experience
June 25, 2019 (2019-06-25)

A Mini Marvel

In February 2016, a commercial for Coca-Cola mini cans aired during Super Bowl 50. A Mini Marvel was created by Wieden+Kennedy for Coca-Cola through a partnership with Marvel, and was directed by the Russo brothers.[371][372] In the ad, Ant-Man (voiced by Paul Rudd, reprising his role) and the Hulk first fight, and then bond, over a Coke mini can.[371] Luma Pictures provided visual effects for the spot, having worked previously with the two characters in MCU films. For the Hulk, Luma redefined its previous muscular system and simulation process to create and render the character, while Ant-Man received new motion capture.[372] The Super Bowl campaign extended to "limited-edition Coke mini cans [six packs] that are emblazoned with images of Marvel characters, including Hulk, Ant-Man, Black Widow, [Falcon, Iron Man] and Captain America." Consumers had the opportunity to purchase the cans by finding hidden clues in the commercial, though "if the program goes well, Coke will consider making the cans available in stores."[371] The ad had the third most social media activity of all the film-related trailers that aired during the game,[373] and was nominated for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial at the 15th Visual Effects Society Awards.[374]

Other short films

Team Thor is a series of direct-to-video mockumentary short films that were released from 2016 to 2018, consisting of Team Thor, Team Thor: Part 2, and Team Darryl, all written and directed by Taika Waititi. The three short films are included as special features in the MCU films' Blu-ray and digital distribution releases. The first two films follow Thor as he moves in with a new roommate, Darryl Jacobson, during the events of Captain America: Civil War,[375][376] while Team Darryl sees Darryl move to Los Angeles and gain the Grandmaster as a roommate.[377]

In June 2021, The Simpsons short film The Good, the Bart, and the Loki was announced, which released alongside "Journey into Mystery", the fifth episode of Loki on Disney+. The short sees Loki teaming up with Bart Simpson in a crossover that pays homage to the heroes and villains of the MCU. Hiddleston reprises his role as Loki in the short.[378]

See also