MCU phases: Quick guide to understanding Marvel universe's epic storyline
With its ever-expanding interconnected web of stories, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one of the most successful franchises in the history of cinema! Launched in 2008, the MCU has been divided into different "phases," each representing a different storyline. Before the release of Phase 5's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 on May 5, here's a quick guide to understanding MCU's every phase.
Phase 1 (2008-12)
It all began in 2008 with billionaire playboy Tony Stark aka Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.), who undergoes a life-altering experience in the first installment of Iron Man series and meets Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, and her SHIELD boss: Nick Fury. This phase also introduced us to iconic superheroes—Hulk, Thor, and Captain America, who join forces under Fury in The Avengers.
Phase 2 (2013-15)
After establishing the stories of the world's mightiest superheroes, Phase 2's primary focus was on the run-up to Thanos's quest to collect Infinity Stones. Besides introducing us to key characters—Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy—this phase also laid down the groundwork for establishing critical plot points. This phase also saw some of the MCU's most successful movies—Avengers: Age of Ultron and Iron Man 3.
Phase 3 (2016-19)
This phase can easily be touted as MCU's largest and most-action packed to date, as a total of 11 films concluded the Infinity Saga (Phases 1-3). Phase 3 kicked off in 2016 with Captain America: Civil War, and with each new film, box office numbers skyrocketed. Standalone films like Doctor Strange (2016) and Black Panther (2018) managed to keep the action exciting for fans.
Phase 4 (2021-22)
After ending almost everything in Phase 3, Phase 4 primarily focused on two things: introducing a whole bunch of new superheroes and opening up a new world of possibilities with the introduction of multiverses. Notable new characters included Yelena Boleva from Black Widow, Shang-Chi from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and America Chavez from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
But what went wrong with Phase 4?
After Phase 3's overwhelmingly positive reception, however, Phase 4 received mixed reviews. In this, the films were complemented by Disney+ TV shows, which affected the end products. With each new film and show, the timeline got messier, and sometimes the VFX felt unfinished, too. The unnecessary inclusion of new characters created more confusion. Even Marvel mocked the "formulaic" storylines in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
Phase 5 (2023-24)
The ambitious Phase 5 kicked off with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania (2023), which performed exceedingly well at the box office, reviving fans' belief in MCU. In comparison to the rough Phase 4, the upcoming slate looks more manageable. Currently, all eyes are on the third and final installment of Guardians of the Galaxy by James Gunn, which will hit theaters on May 5.
All upcoming movies, shows of Phase 5
Phase 5 is here to compensate for everything that Phase 4 lacked! It looks promising with upcoming shows like Secret Invasion—featuring Samuel L Jackson's Fury and numerous new MCU stars— Olivia Colman, Emilia Clarke, Kingsley Ben-Adir, and Dermot Mulroney. Fans are particularly excited to see The Marvels—releasing on November 10—which will bring together an all-female superhero trio: Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and Monica Rambeau.Share this timeline