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The death of the blockbuster: How The Rise of Skywalker marks the end of a cinematic era



In 1975 and 1977, Jaws and Star Wars announced the arrival of the Hollywood blockbuster – big, family-friendly spectacles that gave way to decades of muscles, lasers, dinosaurs and car chases. In 2019, with the final entry in the third Star Wars trilogy coming to a close to declining box office, polarising responses and an uncertain future for the franchise as a whole, it’s worth asking: is the blockbuster on its last legs?

Blockbusters remain Hollywood’s bread and butter, its magical elixir and consistent safety net. But with mere brand recognition no longer enough to lure audiences to cinemas, and bloated television budgets meaning they don’t have to travel far for the kind of visuals once exclusive to film, they’ve also become precarious things. Disney remains dominant, churning out billion-dollar grossers with terrifying ease, but they are creatively barren, dependent on an ever-diminishing collection of properties. Formerly reliable franchises, meanwhile, have been met with shrugs rather than adulation, further eroding assumptions about what people want to see.

In tandem with the rise in original content farms set up by Netflix, Amazon and Disney+, blockbuster cinema this year has embodied an increasingly outdated mode of thinking. The list of franchises put on ice in 2019 is endless. Dark Phoenix’s $252m gross at the US box office on a $200m budget marked a franchise low for X-Men, effectively bringing the series to a close ahead of an inevitable Disney reboot in a decade’s time.


Men in Black: International (BO: $253m, B: $110m) proved there was no juice left in that particular property, a revelation echoed in the failures of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (BO: $385m, B: $200m), Terminator: Dark Fate (BO: $260m, B: $196m), The Lego Movie 2 (BO: $191m, B: $99m) and, in the last weeks of 2018, Bumblebee (BO: $468m, B: $135m) – a profitable if not world-shaking attempt to resuscitate the currently missing-in-action Transformers franchise.

Attempted revivals of Hellboy (BO: $50m, B: $44.6m), Shaft (BO: $21m, B: $35m) and Charlie’s Angels (BO: $57m, B: $55m) were similarly DOA. The general rule of thumb is for movies to gross two and a half times their production budget in order to turn a profit.

There was a time when much of the above was a sure thing – comfortably dependable properties that could be dressed up with a new lick of paint or a couple of new faces and cinemagoers would flock to them regardless. But their widespread rejection spoke to a tricky new status quo for Hollywood, where successful movies don’t guarantee equally successful sequels, stars aren’t enough to woo punters, and almost everything that is popular is also transient.

Disney has worked its way around this by gobbling up properties like they’re Halloween sweets. Fatigue is setting in, though – not exactly in terms of box office, the conglomerate having stakes in 10 of the 20 most successful movies of 2019, but certainly when it comes to creativity. Animated classics that could realistically be rebooted via live-action or photo-realistic technology are becoming increasingly limited, after all. The forthcoming Mulan, The Little Mermaid and Cruella all mark the last crumbs of Disney’s A-list back-catalogue – a live-action Oliver and Company starring some sort of Hemsworth doesn’t produce excitement in much the same way.

Star Wars, too, is at an odd crossroads. Having successfully infuriated much of its fanbase with the divisive one-two punch of The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, the franchise now has an uncertain future. A number of high-profile filmmakers eyed for future Star Wars movies have either fled or been alienated by Lucasfilm, while projects that had initially been eyed as standalone movies, as in Solo: A Star Wars Story (very much the X-Men Origins: Wolverine of the George Lucasverse), have since become Disney+ exclusives, notably an Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series starring Ewan McGregor.

No juice left: Sophie Turner and Jessica Chastain in ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ (Rex)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t facing as much uncertainty, but it’s also at a creative turning point. Avengers: Endgame brought to a close the overriding story underpinning the entire franchise so far while waving goodbye to a number of its most recognisable stalwarts. What happens next is a mystery. Spider-Man’s future in the universe remains ambiguous beyond its next sequel, Chris Hemsworth is probably eyeing his Thor exit, while The Eternals, an ensemble hero picture featuring Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani and Richard Madden, is an ambitious if risky attempt to create a nu-Avengers.

Taken as a whole, the blockbuster is in trouble, no longer a reliable backbone for Hollywood but an unstable body part, endlessly slipping out of place and requiring regular physical therapy. But it’s also mildly exciting – and is potentially what will save cinema in the long run.

Outside of Disney, the most successful films of 2019 have been high-concept experiments – Jordan Peele’s Us (BO: $255m, B: $20m), the mirror-image Sixties of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (BO: $372m, B: $96m), the “Beatles who?” comedy Yesterday (BO: $151m, B: $26m). Knives Out (BO: $185m, B: $40m) was a star-studded murder mystery with far more in common with Agatha Christie than any kind of superhero movie, while Hustlers (BO: $156m, B: $20m) was a neon-soaked class-warfare tale. Both were smash hits. Parasite (BO: $126m, B: $11m), a genre-blurring South Korean comedy-thriller, has already grossed $21m in the US alone.

Not a traditional blockbuster: Evan Alex, Lupita Nyong’o and Shahadi Wright Joseph in ‘Us’ (AP)

None were traditional blockbusters as we know them, but grabbed attention all the same. They often felt timely and urgent, and seductive enough that millions wanted to see them in cinemas rather than waiting for them to drop on Netflix sometime in 2020.

Even Joker (BO: $1bn, B: $70m), as exhausting as it remains, was proof that singular, R-rated tonal experiments could still financially triumph. Its success has subsequently given much-needed CPR to the DC Universe, which has jettisoned its MCU-aping Justice League agenda in favour of standalone superhero vehicles that allow creatives to play and experiment.

Its fingerprints can likewise also be seen in projects like the forthcoming The Invisible Man – a Blumhouse Productions thriller that takes advantage of the brand recognition that comes from an intellectual property (or IP), but uses it to tell a self-contained story about misogyny, domestic violence and mental illness. If genuinely original ideas are seen as too risky, modified IP appears to be the way forward, as opposed to expensive, copy-and-pasted revisions like Men in Black: International.

Hollywood has always contended with this sort of thing, forever dancing on a cliff edge when it comes to budgets and box office and what makes something a hit. But for the first time in 40-something years, the rule book is being rewritten or altered all together, and new ways of thinking are slowly peeking through the cracks. The blockbuster as we know it is dying, and everything will be fine.



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Cats – first reactions roll in: ‘The strangest, most bewildering cinematic experience I’ve ever had’



The first reactions to Cats have rolled in following the film’s premiere in the US.

Just 12 hours after completing work on the film, director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) unveiled his musical at an event in New York that was attended by stars including Taylor Swift, Idris Elba and Jennifer Hudson.

The film has been at the centre of much discussion, ever since the first trailer was released in the summer, thanks to the way in which Hooper decided to depict the felines.

One Twitter user said that the CGI human-cat hybrids made the film look like a “demented dream ballet”.

Judging by the first reactions, it seems like that verdict was spot on – but many are also praising the result.

Broadway star Alan Henry said: “The Cats movie is the strangest, most bewildering, queerest, magical, and spectacular cinematic experience I have ever had.”


He added: “I am not sure what just happened, but I know that it was something worth experiencing.”

Full Circle Line editor Marcos Melendez called the film “special and unique”.

Keaton Kilde, a writer for Vogue, quipped: ”The worst thing about Cats is that Jason Derulo is the best part.”


Find a selection of reactions below.



Cats is released in UK cinemas on 20 December, one day after Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which is dividing fans following its premiere in Los Angeles.



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Honey Boy review: Shia LaBeouf offers a dose of pure cinematic therapy



Dir: Alma Har’el. Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe, Byron Bowers, Laura San Giacomo, FKA Twigs. 15 cert, 94 mins. 

“I’m gonna make a movie about you,” Otis Lort (Lucas Hedges) tells his father in Honey Boy’s final moments. Shia LaBeouf may have changed the names and muddied the details, but his script can only run from the truth for so long – this is a cinematic therapy session. The actor first wrote the film back in 2017, during a stint of court-ordered rehab. He plays his own father (here named James), while he enlists Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges to stand in as his younger self (Otis) at the ages of 12 and 22 respectively. It’s a psychologist’s dream. 

Yet, despite this, Honey Boy never lapses into self-pity. In the hands of director Alma Har’el, previously known for her documentary work, the film delicately bears its scars and finds peace by acknowledging how childhood pains can make and break us. We open on the older Otis, who looks into the camera and utters a few helpless cries, before he’s thrown into the air like a piece of litter caught up in a gust of wind. It’s all for show, since he’s on the set of one of his big-budget action films (a clear nod to the Transformers movies). We then see the same stunt repeated with his younger self, then a child star. Trauma has frozen his emotional state; his life feels as outside of his control then as it does now.

A montage, furiously cut together by editors Dominic LaPerriere and Monica Salazar, condenses the familiar parts of the story: addiction, rage, and being on the wrong side of the law. Otis ends up in a rehab facility, where the staff and fellow patients (including roommate Percy, played by Byron Bowers) react to his outbursts and petulance with saintly patience. At first, he rejects his PTSD diagnosis. He struggles to separate his father’s abuse from his love. James can be violent, but most of the damage done is more insipid in nature – it’s in the way he moulds Otis’s image of himself, for example. 

Much of the film is spent with Otis and James, alone in their dreary San Fernando Valley motel room. Cinematographer Natasha Braier lights nighttime interiors with a sickly neon that seeps through the curtains and into every corner of the room – a personal hell. Here, the pair of them shift through an ugly, messy stew of emotions. They rage and they weep. They beg for the other’s approval. They strive desperately to assert control over the situation. Jupe tackles the complex material with ease, particularly when he’s forced to relay over the phone an argument between his parents, mimicking each side’s anger and hurt. 

With his receding hairline and southern drawl, it’s impossible to know how accurate an impression LaBeouf is doing of his father (if it’s an impression of all). Yet it’s a performance that stills feels startlingly intimate. Who knows what sense of healing Honey Boy may have brought the actor, but its raw humanity serves as a balm, too, for our own wounds – in whatever form they may take. 

‘Honey Boy’ is released in UK cinemas on 6 December



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Culture

Black Pumas: Grammy-nominees release cinematic music video for ‘Colours’



The video for Black Pumas song “Colours” proves why the new band were nominated for a Grammy Award earlier this week.

Days after the soul-funk duo played their first sell-out show in London, they’ve unveiled their new single, which was one of the most-added tracks on AAA radio in America this summer.

Black Pumas are led by frontman Eric Burton and guitarist-producer Adrian Queseda, who hail from Austin, Texas.

They were a surprise inclusion as part of this year’s Best New Artists nominees for the forthcoming Grammys, alongside Rosalia, Lizzo and Lil Nas X.

The cinematic video for “Colours” is directed by Kristian Mercado – you can watch it below.

They released their self-titled debut album back in June, with Pitchfork praising Burton for his “sweet, plaintive voice” in their glowing review. Their most famous songs include “Black Moon Rising” and “Fire”.

Black Pumas will play Islington Assembly Hall on 7 February – you can buy tickets here.



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Music

Cigarettes After Sex review, Cry: Greg Gonzalez explores love in all its forms on this cinematic album



Few artists sound as deeply in love as Greg Gonzalez. The Cigarettes After Sex frontman, who founded the band in his native El Paso, Texas, in 2008, is fascinated by it. Not just romantic love, but every facet: passion, lust, sex, beauty and jealousy.

On Cry, the now Brooklyn-based band’s second album, those themes provide a through-line for the myriad characters and scenes he brings together over nine songs. Gonzalez has said that he views this record as a film, and it’s easy to see why. There’s a sense of a plot unfolding with each track, in a similar way to the mini-narratives – random sexual encounters and misadventures – that formed a collection of cinematic vignettes for their self-titled debut in 2017. 

Much of the music for Cry was improvised on the spot, but the lyrics came later, inspired by what was, at the time, a new relationship for Gonzalez. As with their debut, this album feels as though you’re being allowed a brief but intense insight into his self-contained world. Yet the vein of humour that ran through those earlier songs has been replaced by a deeper sincerity. Even “Hentai”, referencing the Japanese anime form of pornography, feels like a meditation on love and sexuality in the 21st century: “Beautiful hearts are in your eyes,” Gonzalez sings, making you wonder whether the girl he’s singing to is, in fact, a cartoon on-screen fantasy.


At first, it’s a surprise to learn that Shania Twain was an influence for Cry. But you can really hear it in these lush, sprawling arrangements of guitar and shimmering keys, which recall her early country-pop crossovers such as “It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing” and “You’re Still the One”. “Heavenly” stars a stunning contrast between the dark thrum of the bass and an ethereality brought by the synths, lifting the track into celestial territory. The androgynous quality of Gonzalez’s voice – which led early fans to believe the band was fronted by a woman – helps fuel the notion that love takes no form and has no boundaries.

Single “Falling in Love” – one of the few songs where the music was written before recording in Majorca began – is tender and expansive; Gonzalez, who went on “dates” to the cinema while he and his girlfriend were living in separate cities, sings with a dreamy quality. Cry doesn’t claim to have any answers about love, but it could certainly encourage you to think about it differently.  



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Business

Spider-Man Will Remain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe


Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man will stay in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after all.

Sony Pictures Entertainment and Walt Disney Studios, two companies that last month announced they could not agree on terms to continue working together on the live-action “Spider-Man” series, announced a reversal on Friday, to the relief of the films’ fans.

Marvel Studios and its president, Kevin Feige, will produce the third film in the “Spider-Man Homecoming” series, Sony and Disney jointly announced on Friday. Spider-Man will also appear in another future Marvel Studios film.

The next “Spider-Man” film starring Tom Holland is scheduled to be released on July 16, 2021.

“We have had a great collaboration over the last four years, and our mutual desire to continue was equal to that of the many fans,” Sony Pictures said in a tweet on Friday. “We are delighted to be moving forward together.”

The announcement came one month after the two companies failed to reach a financial agreement over their partnership of the Spider-Man film franchise. At issue had been who shared how much of the box office revenue and the production costs of the films in which the character appears.

The negotiation between Disney and Sony has been going on for a long time, said Robert Lawson, Sony’s chief communications officer. “The conversation started moving to a better place and ended up where it is today — a better deal for us and Disney,” he said.

The split ensured the superhero’s departure from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, alarming fans. Under Mr. Feige’s guidance, the M.C.U. became a global phenomenon, encompassing 23 movies over 11 years, with $22 billion in ticket sales.

Sony purchased movie rights to Spider-Man before Disney bought Marvel Comics and its intellectual property, and the two studios have collaborated as Spider-Man, played by Mr. Holland, has gradually joined his colleagues Captain America, Iron-Man, Thor and the Hulk in the ever-expanding M.C.U.

After some of those characters ended their arcs in “Avengers: Endgame” this year, fans pinned their hopes for future story lines on the hints found in “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which was released this summer. The film positioned Spider-Man as an heir to the Avengers mantle.

Spider-Man is the only hero with the superpower to cross between Sony and Marvel’s cinematic universes, Mr. Feige said in a statement. “As Sony continues to develop their own Spidey-verse you never know what surprises the future might hold,” he added.

The studios joined forces in 2015, and since then Mr. Holland has appeared as Spider-Man in “Captain America: Civil War,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame,” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Two previous Sony series of films featured Tobey Maguire and, later, Andrew Garfield, as the character.

As part of the deal, Spider-Man will also appear in a future Marvel Studios film. Amy Pascal will produce the upcoming film through Pascal Pictures. She produced the first two films featuring Tom Holland as Spider-Man.

“This is terrific,” Ms. Pascal said in a statement. “Peter Parker’s story took a dramatic turn in ‘Far From Home’ and I could not be happier we will all be working together as we see where his journey goes.”

Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for ComScore, called the decision an “important milestone in the whole evolution of Spider-Man with the M.C.U.” and said he was impressed with the fan base’s ability to influence the studios that control and produce the content.

“I’m so glad this worked out,” Mr. Dergarabedian said. “Kudos to the studios for making it happen. The balance in the M.C.U. is restored with the return of Spidey.”

Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters encompasses over 900 characters from Spider-Man comics, Mr. Lawson said.

“Venom,” a film released last year featuring one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes, was the first in a larger “tent pole” movie strategy and grossed more than $80 million in its opening weekend. Sony is working on a “Venom” sequel and “Morbius,” another villain film. Other projects are also in development and all will take place in Sony’s cinematic universe, Mr. Lawson said.

After the announcement, Mr. Holland posted a clip on Instagram of Leonardo DiCaprio from “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

“You know what? I’m not leaving,” he yelled in the video. “The show goes on.”

Zendaya, Mr. Holland’s co-star in “Spiderman: Far From Home,” tweeted a video of an animated Spider-Man dancing.

Fans and followers on social media rallied around the hashtag #SpiderMan to celebrate the news.



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Avengers: Endgame director Joe Russo says removing Spider-Man from Marvel Cinematic Universe is a ‘tragic mistake’



Avengers: Endgame director Joe Russo has said removing Spider-Man from the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a “tragic mistake”.

Russo’s comments follow Disney and Sony’s failure to come to an agreement on financing for the franchise, leading to Tom Holland’s superhero being cut from the MCU.

“It was a tenuous, fraught union throughout the whole process,” he told the Toronto Sun, describing the deal between Disney and Sony.


“But, I will say, stepping back and trying to be objective as possible, that I think it’s a tragic mistake on Sony’s part to think that they can replicate [Marvel Studios boss] Kevin [Feige]’s penchant for telling incredible stories and the amazing success he has had over the years.

“I think it’s a big mistake.”

The Russo brothers introduced the latest version of Spider-Man in their 2016 film Captain America: Civil War. 

“We had a wonderful experience with that and I think audiences really appreciated that marriage,” said Anthony Russo.

“But we know how hard that marriage was to make in the first place, so the fact that the marriage fell apart isn’t really that surprising to me and Joe.”

Disney and Sony were unable to reach a financial agreement in August after Disney asked that any future films featuring Spider-Man be a “50/50 co-financing arrangement” and Sony refused.

Earlier this month, Sony boss Toy Vinciquerra said the “door is closed” on Spider-Man returning to the MCU. 



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Did the Marvel Cinematic Universe Just Lose Spider-Man? Fans Reel at Sony-Disney Split


Even Spider-Man’s webs were not strong enough to hold Sony and Disney together.

After months of negotiations over the terms of their partnership on that film franchise, Sony announced on Tuesday that Kevin Feige, who helped steer Disney’s Marvel Studios and its “Avengers” series to immense global success, will no longer play a role in the next live-action “Spider-Man” movie starring Tom Holland.

The news alarmed fans of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” who fear that future big-screen installments of the linked superhero stories would be weakened or even thrown into plot chaos without friendly relations between Sony, which owns the film rights to Spider-Man, and Disney, which owns the rest of the Avengers. Could the M.C.U. go on without your friendly neighborhood web-slinger?

Sony put the onus for Mr. Feige’s departure squarely on Disney. “We are disappointed, but respect Disney’s decision not to have him continue as a lead producer,” the company said on Twitter.

The news comes after Disney had pushed for better financial terms from Sony, which purchased movie rights to Spider-Man before Disney bought Marvel Comics and its intellectual property.

Before the movies starring Mr. Holland as the teenage superhero in the Avengers universe, two previous Sony series, featuring Tobey Maguire and, later, Andrew Garfield, existed in a time and place with no mention of Captain America, Iron-Man, Thor, the Hulk or other characters who became a global phenomenon for Marvel and Disney in 23 movies over 11 years, with $22 billion in ticket sales.

After some of those characters ended their arcs in “Avengers: Endgame” this year, fans pinned their hopes for future story lines on the hints found in “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which raked in $1.1 billion this summer. The film positioned Spider-Man as an heir to the Avengers mantle.

But there were already signs that the future of the Marvel Universe would not rest solely on Spidey’s shoulders. In July, Marvel Studios unveiled the next phase of its plans, including a collection of movies and TV shows featuring Thor, Doctor Strange, Black Widow and other popular characters, but no Spider-Man.

Under an expiring agreement, Disney received a small percentage of the box office revenue in return for lending creative assistance on the Holland movies. Sony shouldered the production costs. In negotiations in recent months, Disney pushed for a much greater percentage of the revenue in exchange for paying a share of the production costs. Sony’s statement on Tuesday confirmed a Deadline report about Mr. Feige’s departure from the series.

Further complicating the web of rights, Disney controls Spider-Man merchandising. The more successful the films are, the bigger the toy sales.

The high stakes of those discussions were underscored this week after Sony announced that “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which was produced by Mr. Feige and the former Sony chairwoman, Amy Pascal, had surpassed the James Bond movie “Skyfall” as the studio’s top-grossing film of all time since opening July 2. (Sony also scored a hit with the Oscar-winning animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which does not take place in the M.C.U.).

News of the split raised concerns among some fans who feared that it could damage both the Spider-Man and Marvel Universe franchises, which have become intertwined since Sony and Marvel announced the Spider-Man partnership in 2015.

“Take away Spider-Man and the Marvel Universe suddenly becomes chillier, more invested in cosmic spectacle than heart,” Adam White, a culture reporter for The Independent, wrote on Wednesday.

Since the two businesses joined forces, Mr. Holland has appeared as Spider-Man in “Captain America: Civil War,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame,” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

Fans and followers rallied around the Twitter hashtag #SaveSpidey, which was trending on Wednesday, to call on Sony and Disney to reunite.

Jeremy Renner, who played Hawkeye in the “Avengers” series, wrote about the split online on Tuesday, saying in an Instagram post addressed to Sony that “we want Spider-Man back.”

Brooks Barnes contributed reporting.



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Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline: How to watch every MCU film and TV show in chronological order



The Marvel Cinematic Universe has now been rolling forward for over 10 years and as these movies (including Avengers: Infinity War, Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel) have gone on, they’ve also become ever-more interlinked, featuring regular cameos, references, and Easter Eggs to other instalments.

For newcomers to superhero movies — perhaps those who have become absorbed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) following Black Panther — the amount of material to watch can be overwhelming. But for those wanting to persevere, there are two watching orders. 

Really, you should probably watch these movies in release order, starting the journey with Iron Man and moving onto The Incredible Hulk, then Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, finishing Phase One with Avengers. This order works well in terms of the post-credit scenes setting up the next movie, plus this gives the series the intended rhythm formed by producer Kevin Feige.


However, many fans have taken to watching the movies in chronological order. This might be a little convoluted, but that should not put you off: below is every piece of MCU viewing material mapped out in chronological order, including movies, Netflix shows, one-shots (those mini-films you will find in the DVD extras), and other TV shows. In brackets are the years the films officially take place in, as confirmed by Marvel studios. 

Phase One

Captain America: The First Avenger (1943 – 1945)

Agent Carter (seasons one and two)

Agent Carter (one-shot — Iron Man 3 DVD)

Captain Marvel (1995)

Iron Man (2010)

Iron Man 2 (2011)

The Incredible Hulk (2011)

The Consultant (one-shot — Thor DVD)

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Thor’s Hammer (one-shot — Captain America: First Avenger DVD)

Thor (2011)

Avengers (2012)

Item 47 (one-shot — Avengers DVD)

Summary: Where the Marvel Cinematic Universe all began. While Iron Man may have been the very first film released, the Second Word War-set Captain America comes first on the timeline. The rest plays mainly out in release order, minus Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel. Released as part of Phase Three, the film takes place in the mid-Nineties (when Nick Fury still had both eyes) and therefore lands in the Phase One chronology. 

Phase Two

Iron Man 3 (2012)

All Hail the King (one-shot – Thor: The Dark World)

Agents of Shield (season one: episodes 1 — 7)

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Agents of Shield (season one: episodes 8 — 16)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Agents of Shield (season one: episodes 17 — 22)

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2014)

Daredevil (season one)

Agents of Shield (season two: episodes 1 — 19)

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Agents of Shield (season two: episodes 20 — 22)

Ant-Man (2015)

Jessica Jones (season one)

Daredevil (season two)

Agents of Shield (season three: episodes 1 — 19)

Summary: Phase Two also plays out almost exactly in release order, except Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which comes directly after the first Guardians (like Captain Marvel, the film was released in Phase Three but actually takes place before then). Also of note, one-shots were phased out during Phase Two as the Netflix shows and Agents of Shield were introduced. For those who do embark on watching Agents of Shield (the second and third seasons are great), you should definitely watch along with the movies as their cinematic counterparts have major effects on the show’s story.

Phase Three

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Agents of Shield (season three: episodes 20 — 22)

Luke Cage (season one)

Agents of Shield (season four: episodes 1 — 8)

Agents of Shield: Slingshot (web series)

Agents of Shield (season four: episodes 9 — 22)

Iron Fist (season one)

The Defenders (season one)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2016)

Doctor Strange (2016 – 2017)

The Punisher (season one)

Runaways (season one)

Black Panther (2017)

Agents of Shield (season five, episodes 1 — 19)

Cloak and Dagger (season one)

Jessica Jones (season two)

Inhumans (season one)

Luke Cage (season two)

Iron Fist (season two)

Daredevil (season three)

Runaways (season two)

The Punisher (season two)

Cloak and Dagger (season two)

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Ant-Man and The Wasp (2017)

Avengers Infinity War (2017)

Agents of Shield (season five, episodes 20 – 22)

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Summary: Made it this far? Well done, you’ve watched a whole lot of Marvel! Phase Three marks some of the best MCU movies so far, but also some timeline bending difficulties. For instance, Doctor Strange begins before Civil War, but finishes after Civil WarSlingshot features lots of flashbacks, and Agents of Shield season five features a lot of obscure time travelling.

Also, the first Spider-Man film takes place directly after Civil War, while Ragnarok, Black Panther and Ant-Man and The Wasp lead directly into Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. There’s also the latter part of Shield that takes place concurrently with Infinity War. Above is just a guide for a manageable way of watching based mainly on release order.

Congratulations. If you’ve watched all of the above, you’ve processed over nine days worth of Marvel movies and television. Nine days! And there’s still more to come, including: Black Widow, The Eternals, Doctor Strange 2, Shang-Chi and Black Panther 2. Oh, and the upcoming Disney streaming service shows, focussing on Loki, Scarlett Witch and Vision, Hawkeye, and one on Falcon and The Winter Soldier. You can find a full list here.



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MCU timeline: How to watch every Marvel Cinematic Universe film and TV show in chronological order



The Marvel Cinematic Universe has now been rolling forward for over 10 years and as these movies (including Avengers: Infinity War, Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel) have gone on, they’ve also become ever-more interlinked, featuring regular cameos, references, and Easter Eggs to other instalments.

For newcomers to superhero movies — perhaps those who have become absorbed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) following Black Panther — the amount of material to watch can be overwhelming. But for those wanting to persevere, there are two watching orders. 

Really, you should probably watch these movies in release order, starting the journey with Iron Man and moving onto The Incredible Hulk, then Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, finishing Phase One with Avengers. This order works well in terms of the post-credit scenes setting up the next movie, plus this gives the series the intended rhythm formed by producer Kevin Feige.


However, many fans have taken to watching the movies in chronological order. This might be a little convoluted, but that should not put you off: below is every piece of MCU viewing material mapped out in chronological order, including movies, Netflix shows, one-shots (those mini-films you will find in the DVD extras), and other TV shows. In brackets are the years the films officially take place in, as confirmed by Marvel studios. 

Phase One

Captain America: The First Avenger (1943 – 1945)

Agent Carter (seasons one and two)

Agent Carter (one-shot — Iron Man 3 DVD)

Captain Marvel (1995)

Iron Man (2010)

Iron Man 2 (2011)

The Incredible Hulk (2011)

The Consultant (one-shot — Thor DVD)

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Thor’s Hammer (one-shot — Captain America: First Avenger DVD)

Thor (2011)

Avengers (2012)

Item 47 (one-shot — Avengers DVD)

Summary: Where the Marvel Cinematic Universe all began. While Iron Man may have been the very first film released, the Second Word War-set Captain America comes first on the timeline. The rest plays mainly out in release order, minus Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel. Released as part of Phase Three, the film takes place in the mid-Nineties (when Nick Fury still had both eyes) and therefore lands in the Phase One chronology. 

Phase Two

Iron Man 3 (2012)

All Hail the King (one-shot – Thor: The Dark World)

Agents of Shield (season one: episodes 1 — 7)

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Agents of Shield (season one: episodes 8 — 16)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Agents of Shield (season one: episodes 17 — 22)

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2014)

Daredevil (season one)

Agents of Shield (season two: episodes 1 — 19)

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Agents of Shield (season two: episodes 20 — 22)

Ant-Man (2015)

Jessica Jones (season one)

Daredevil (season two)

Agents of Shield (season three: episodes 1 — 19)

Summary: Phase Two also plays out almost exactly in release order, except Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which comes directly after the first Guardians (like Captain Marvel, the film was released in Phase Three but actually takes place before then). Also of note, one-shots were phased out during Phase Two as the Netflix shows and Agents of Shield were introduced. For those who do embark on watching Agents of Shield (the second and third seasons are great), you should definitely watch along with the movies as their cinematic counterparts have major effects on the show’s story.

Phase Three

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Agents of Shield (season three: episodes 20 — 22)

Luke Cage (season one)

Agents of Shield (season four: episodes 1 — 8)

Agents of Shield: Slingshot (web series)

Agents of Shield (season four: episodes 9 — 22)

Iron Fist (season one)

The Defenders (season one)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2016)

Doctor Strange (2016 – 2017)

The Punisher (season one)

Runaways (season one)

Black Panther (2017)

Agents of Shield (season five, episodes 1 — 19)

Cloak and Dagger (season one)

Jessica Jones (season two)

Inhumans (season one)

Luke Cage (season two)

Iron Fist (season two)

Daredevil (season three)

Runaways (season two)

The Punisher (season two)

Cloak and Dagger (season two)

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Ant-Man and The Wasp (2017)

Avengers Infinity War (2017)

Agents of Shield (season five, episodes 20 – 22)

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Summary: Made it this far? Well done, you’ve watched a whole lot of Marvel! Phase Three marks some of the best MCU movies so far, but also some timeline bending difficulties. For instance, Doctor Strange begins before Civil War, but finishes after Civil WarSlingshot features lots of flashbacks, and Agents of Shield season five features a lot of obscure time travelling.

Also, the first Spider-Man film takes place directly after Civil War, while Ragnarok, Black Panther and Ant-Man and The Wasp lead directly into Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. There’s also the latter part of Shield that takes place concurrently with Infinity War. Above is just a guide for a manageable way of watching based mainly on release order.

Congratulations. If you’ve watched all of the above, you’ve processed over nine days worth of Marvel movies and television. Nine days! And there’s still more to come, including: Black Widow, The Eternals, Doctor Strange 2, Shang-Chi and Black Panther 2. Oh, and the upcoming Disney streaming service shows, focussing on Loki, Scarlett Witch and Vision, Hawkeye, and one on Falcon and The Winter Soldier. You can find a full list here.



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