The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one of the most successful entertainment franchises ever. Besides blockbuster movies, Marvel is continuously churning out several original TV series that tie up with big-screen showpieces to form a massive shared universe unlike any other in movie history. As such, zeroing down on a perfect viewing order of the Marvel TV series and movies can be quite a task for even the most ardent of fans.
The MCU, as is in the name, is primarily about movies. Over 30 films have been released to date with several more in the pipeline that would see the franchise through 2026 and beyond. Most of the films have been extremely successful, both critically and commercially. So far, the franchise has earned USD 29.5 billion at the worldwide box office, with four titles finding their place among the 10 highest-grossing movies of all time.
The film franchise, which started with Iron Man (2008), has been credited for launching or propelling the careers of several famous contemporary actors, such as Tom Holland, Chris Evans and Chris Pratt.
It also firmly cemented the stardom of Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson, making them two of the richest actors on the planet in the process.
Marvel TV series: Are all of them part of the main MCU storyline?
There are at least 21 Marvel TV shows to watch. While the MCU films have been going very strong since their beginning in 2008, the shows, on the other hand, not only have had a rather rocky run, but some of them are also not considered part of the canon by a section of the fans.
A prime reason behind this is that unlike the MCU films, all of which have been produced by Marvel Studios, the TV shows have been created by both Marvel Studios and Marvel Television, which is a different studio with a completely different scale, execution and storytelling style.
Marvel Studios has been headed by Kevin Feige since 2007. All MCU films and nine television shows have since been released under his watch. Marvel Television, on the other hand, was technically formed in 2010, with Jeph Loeb serving as its head and eventually ceased to exist when it was merged with Marvel Studios in 2019.
Marvel Television created 12 shows throughout its existence. While all shows made under Marvel Studios are being released on Disney+, Marvel Television released their shows on four different platforms.
Three of the shows — Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter and Inhumans — premiered on ABC. Two, Runaways and Helstrom, were networked to Hulu. One, Cloak & Dagger, premiered on Freeform. The remaining six were released on Netflix. By March 2022, all shows, except the two on Hulu, were available for viewing on Disney+.
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How Marvel Television shows differ from those of Marvel Studios
Though the shows produced by Marvel Television had some connection to the MCU movies, the storyline of the films remained unaffected by that of the serials.
For instance, Phil Coulson, played by Clark Gregg, one of the main characters in the MCU films till his death in The Avengers (2012) is brought back from the dead as the main character in Marvel Television’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013). Following his ‘death,’ Phil Coulson appears in Captain Marvel (2019) but that appearance is set in a timeline years before the events of The Avengers. This means that Coulson is still dead in the MCU continuity and has never appeared in the stories set after the events of The Avengers, whether in the films or the TV shows made by Marvel Studios.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. also suffers because of its length and confusing time leaps. It is spread across seven seasons — some episodes of which are set in the 1950s, while others are set in a far future. This means while some of the episodes are chronologically set immediately after the events of Agent Carter, which is itself set just after World War II, others have no connection to anything shown in the MCU to date.
Moreover, except for a few main characters from Daredevil, which premiered on Netflix, and the character of Edwin Jarvis, played by James D’Arcy in Agent Carter, no other major character has appeared in the MCU after making their debut on Marvel Television so far.
Additionally, there is no clarity on whether the main characters of Daredevil, including the titular superhero played by Charlie Cox, who has now appeared in primary MCU films and shows, are in the same universe as the other MCU characters with whom he has been sharing the storyline in recent releases.
By contrast, Marvel Studios started producing its own set of TV serials in 2021, setting their stories within the storyline of the films in Phase 4 and those released in subsequent phases. Of the shows, all barring two can be watched in a single sitting because they are essentially miniseries.
The Marvel Studios serials are widely considered part of the canon, in other words, set in the main MCU storyline. Their stories and character development align with those of the movies, thereby leading to an order of chronological continuity which helps fans get a better idea of the progress of the shared universe.
List of all Marvel Television shows in order of chronology
For those who wish to watch the shows made by Marvel Television, the following is the right order — if every series is taken as a whole. There are, however, some seasons, especially those of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that can be placed between seasons of other shows and MCU films.
Unless Marvel Studios plans something else in the future, shows such as Inhumans and Helstrom make no difference as of now to the rest of the shows or movies.
Agent Carter: 2 seasons
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: 7 seasons
Daredevil: 3 seasons
Jessica Jones: 3 seasons
Luke Cage: 2 seasons
Cloak and Dagger: 2 seasons
Iron Fist: 2 seasons
Runaways: 3 seasons
The Defenders: 1 season
The Punisher: 2 seasons
Inhumans: 1 season
Helstrom: 1 season
The order to watch all Marvel TV series made by Marvel Studios
There are eight live-action shows and one animated series made by Marvel Studios. The animated version, What If…?, which premiered on 11 August 2021, is an anthology series set in the multiverse and presented as an expansion story, which means that it is not part of the current timeline of MCU.
Therefore, the show cannot be placed in chronological order in the manner the live-action shows can be. As such, What If…? can be seen before watching WandaVision or before Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It can also be watched after the first season of Loki or all the eight live-action shows released to date.
Created by: Jac Schaeffer
Premiere date: 15 January 2021
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Debra Jo Rupp, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, Kat Dennings, Evan Peters
RT rating: 91 per cent
Synopsis: Wanda Maximoff (Olsen) is living a perfect and peaceful suburban family life in Westview with Vision (Bettany). Soon, Wanda realises that everything she sees around herself may not be what it appears.
Why to watch: As the first Marvel TV series within the MCU, WandaVision has a bearing on some of the movies that are part of Phase 4. For instance, this series explains what happened to Wanda after the events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019). It shows why and how she became the ruthless Scarlet Witch seen in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022).
The series also marks the first appearance of Kathryn Hahn as the powerful witch Agatha Harkness. Hahn will reprise the role in the character’s own spin-off titled Agatha: Darkhold Diaries in late 2024 as part of MCU’s Phase 5.
Including nods in acting categories for Olsen, Bettany and Hahn, the show was nominated for 23 Primetime Emmy Awards — the most for any Marvel TV series to date. It won three: production design, music and lyrics and sci-fi/fantasy costumes.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Created by: Malcolm Spellman
Premiere date: 19 March 2021
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Wyatt Russell, Danny Ramirez, Carl Lumbly, Erin Kellyman, Don Cheadle, Daniel Brühl, Emily VanCamp, Florence Kasumba, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
RT rating: 85 per cent
Synopsis: Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Mackie) has given up the mantle of Captain America and joined forces with Bucky Barnes aka Winter Soldier (Stan) to stop an anarchist group with enhanced physical strength. An army captain named John Walker (Russell) who is made the new Captain America tries to join their fight but creates grave tensions because of his actions.
Why to watch: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is set six months after the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019) and connects several dots across the MCU’s storyline. Characters such as Helmut Zemo, played by Daniel Brühl, and Sharon Carter, played by Emily VanCamp, have previously appeared in Captain America films. Wyatt Russell as John Walker is a new major character.
Mackie, Ramirez and Lumbly will reprise their roles in the MCU film Captain America: Brave New World, which is set for release on 26 July 2024.
Stan, Russell and Louis-Dreyfus will appear in the film Thunderbolts, which is set for release on 20 December 2024. The film will also see a galaxy of previously seen MCU movie characters in major roles, including David Harbour and Olga Kurylenko, who appeared as Alexei Shostakov aka Red Guardian and Antonia Dreykov aka Taskmaster in Black Widow (2021), respectively.
Created by: Michael Waldron
Premiere date: 9 June 2021
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Sophia Di Martino, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, Tara Strong (voice), Richard E. Grant, Jonathan Majors, Ke Huy Quan
RT rating: 92 per cent
Synopsis: Loki (Hiddleston), the great God of Mischief, has been arrested by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) for disrupting the flow of time and space. To escape punishment, Loki must join forces with TVA Mobius M. Mobius (Wilson) to find his own female version, Sylvie (Di Martino). But an even greater threat awaits them.
Why to watch: Loki is, so far, the only Marvel Studios series to have more than one season. It is set in an alternate timeline connected to an event in Avengers: Endgame (2019) where Loki from The Avengers (2012) time steals the Tesseract and disappears.
The series triggers the events that will lead up to MCU’s Phase Six movies: Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars, to release on 1 May 2026 and 7 May 2027, respectively. It introduces Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains and Victor Timely, who are variants of the supervillain Kang the Conqueror. Following Loki’s first season, Majors appeared as Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023).
Created by: Jonathan Igla
Premiere date: 24 November 2021
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Alaqua Cox, Fra Fee, Tony Dalton, Vera Farmiga, Linda Cardellini, Florence Pugh, Vincent D’Onofrio
RT rating: 92 per cent
Synopsis: Inspired by Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Renner), young archer Kate Bishop (Steinfeld) tries to become an Avenger. Hawkeye is forced to join her when she becomes the target of a mafia gang because of a connection with Barton’s past as Ronin.
Why to watch: The series is set a year after Avengers: Endgame (2019) and directly connected to Black Widow (2021), which was released a few months before the show. Vincent D’Onofrio is seen in the role of Kingpin for the first time since he first played it in Netflix’s Daredevil. Alaqua Cox’s character Maya Lopez in the series will now be seen in a spin-off of her own titled Echo in January 2024 as part of Phase Five.
One of the most significant highlights of this series is its depiction of how exactly it felt for anyone who became a victim of the Blip — the event from Avengers: Infinity War when Thanos snapped half the population of the universe into oblivion. It is shown in one of the episodes, where Florence Pugh’s character Yelena Belova aka Black Widow disappears and reappears for about a second only to find that five years have passed within that second. The scene, therefore, connects to the post-credits scene of Black Widow (2021), where Belova is seen mourning at the grave of Natasha Romanoff, the original Black Widow. Pugh will reprise her role as Yelena Belova in Thunderbolts.
Created by: Doug Moench
Premiere date: 30 March 2022
Cast: Oscar Isaac, May Calamawy, Karim El Hakim, F. Murray Abraham, Ethan Hawke, Antonia Salib, Sofia Danu, Saba Mubarak
RT rating: 86 per cent
Synopsis: Steven Grant (Isaac) is a socially awkward employee at the British Museum in London who has dissociative identity disorder (DID). Things get dangerous for him when he gets involved in a world-threatening event involving ancient Egyptian gods. He must now come to terms with his other identity — an American mercenary named Marc Spector (Isaac), who is the superhero Moon Knight.
Why to watch: The success of the show, especially Isaac’s performance, led Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige to tell Entertainment Weekly in February 2023 that “there’s a future for that character [Moon Knight] as we move forward.”
Though nothing is confirmed, several reports suggest that Isaac might reprise his role in future MCU projects.
The show was critically praised. It received eight Primetime Emmy nominations, the second-highest for a Marvel TV series, winning the award for sound editing.
Created by: Bisha K. Ali
Premiere date: 8 June 2022
Cast: Iman Vellani, Matt Lintz, Yasmeen Fletcher, Nimra Bucha, Mehwish Hayat, Aramis Knight
RT rating: 98 per cent
Synopsis: A young superhero fan named Kamala (Vellani), who is unable to fit in at school or home, discovers that she has superpowers that have a connection to her family’s past.
Why to watch: Iman Vellani is set to reprise her role in the film The Marvels, set to release on 10 November 2023. The events of the film are set immediately after the events of the series, as is depicted in the post-credits scene of Ms. Marvel’s finale episode in which Brie Larson appears as Captain Marvel.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
Created by: Jessica Gao
Premiere date: 18 August 2022
Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Jameela Jamil, Ginger Gonzaga, Mark Ruffalo, Tim Roth, Benedict Wong, Jon Bass, Charlie Cox
RT rating: 77 per cent
Synopsis: Jennifer Walters (Maslany) is a lawyer and cousin of Bruce Banner aka Hulk (Ruffalo). When her blood gets cross-contaminated with his in an accident, she transforms into the 2.01-metre-tall superpowered-being dubbed “She-Hulk.” Walters must now balance her already struggling life as a lawyer with her newfound superhero identity.
Why to watch: She-Hulk: Attorney at Law marks the return of Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky aka Abomination after his first appearance in The Incredible Hulk (2008), the second film in the MCU.
It also marks the first television appearance of Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock aka Daredevil, following his debut in the Netflix series on the superhero character. Cox made his MCU debut with Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) and will be seen playing the lead in the Marvel series Daredevil: Born Again, which also marks the return of Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle aka Punisher after his first appearance as the character in the titular Netflix series by Marvel Television.
Created by: Kyle Bradstreet
Premiere date: 21 June 2023
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Killian Scott, Emilia Clarke, Olivia Colman, Don Cheadle, Dermot Mulroney, Charlayne Woodard, Cobie Smulders
RT rating: 54 per cent
Synopsis: Nick Fury (Jackson) and the shapeshifting extraterrestrial being named Talos (Mendelsohn) of the Skrulls try to prevent a group of renegade Skrulls led by Gravik (Ben-Adir) from causing World War III. However, Gravik’s loyal followers have infiltrated some of the highest positions of power on Earth, which poses a major hindrance.
Why to watch: Secret Invasion is the first Marvel TV series in Phase Five’s order. Despite its poor reviews, the series is significant because it makes several revelations that left fans shocked.
For instance, one main MCU character, seen in six MCU movies, starting with The Avengers (2012), dies. It is also revealed that Fury has a Skrull wife and the two have been married (and estranged) for long before reuniting and leaving for space.
The series sets the tone for future MCU movies and shows with Dermot Mulroney’s character, US President Ritson, declaring war on Skrulls. Emilia Clarke’s character G’iah ends up becoming the most powerful superhero in MCU, with the powers of almost every Avenger as well as Thanos.
But perhaps the most shocking revelation is centred around Don Cheadle’s character Rhodey, which the series’ director Ali Selim connected to Captain America: Civil War (2016).
“A lot of people have asked about, ‘Definitively, when did Rhodey…?’ I think his legs not working at the end of episode six and him being in the hospital gown points to [‘Captain America: Civil War’],” he said.
Cheadle is set to play the character in the lead role in the MCU film Armor Wars, which is set after the events of Secret Invasion.
(Hero and Featured images: IMDb)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
– How many Marvel TV series are there?
There are over 20 Marvel TV series made to date. But only nine are considered part of the MCU continuity.
– Which Marvel TV series should I watch first?
Technically, WandaVision is the first Marvel TV series to watch to keep abreast with the storyline of the films. But those who are die-heart fans of everything Marvel-centric might start with Agent Carter.