Beginning with 2008’s Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has expanded to become the dominant force in modern blockbuster filmmaking and the definitive comic-book movie franchise. If you’re looking for superhero action, here are the best MCU movies to stream.
Director Peyton Reed helms an appealingly scaled back—both literally and cinematically—MCU adventure in Ant-Man. Small-time crook Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) steals an experimental piece of technology that allows him to shrink in size.
He teams up with the suit’s inventor (Michael Douglas) to take down a rival scientist (Corey Stoll) with criminal intentions. Reed combines the excitement of a heist movie with Rudd’s self-deprecating humor, and some delightfully creative takes on tiny things appearing massive.
Ant-Man is streaming on Disney+ ($7.99 per month or $79.99 per year).
It may be hard to believe now, but when Marvel released The Avengers in 2012, the idea of a major movie crossover like this was pretty unheard-of. It’s still thrilling to see Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk come together following their respective movie debuts, teaming up with Hawkeye, Black Widow, and the Scarlet Witch to save Earth from an alien invasion.
Crossovers are now commonplace in MCU movies and elsewhere, but the movie that kicked off the trend remains a blockbuster milestone.
The Avengers is streaming on Disney+ ($7.99 per month or $79.99 per year).
The late Chadwick Boseman brings a regal presence to the title character in Black Panther. That’s appropriate, since he’s playing T’Challa, king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. Imbued with powers passed down from his ancestors, T’Challa must protect his homeland from outside forces while also battling the terrorist known as Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan).
Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler creates a vibrant world in Wakanda, and Jordan plays one of the MCU’s most nuanced and sympathetic villains.
Black Panther is streaming on Disney+ ($7.99 per month or $79.99 per year).
After appearing in supporting roles in various MCU movies for a decade, Scarlett Johansson’s super-spy Natasha Romanoff finally gets a solo spotlight in Black Widow. Set between two of her major team-up adventures, the movie follows Natasha as she reunites with her surrogate family of Russian secret agents and brings down the cruel government program that trained her to be a killer.
It’s a globe-trotting espionage thriller with superhero elements, providing a worthy send-off for an underappreciated MCU character.
Black Widow is streaming on Disney+ ($7.99 per month or $79.99 per year).
Captain America: The First Avenger effectively sets itself apart from the rest of the MCU thanks to its 1940s time period. Chris Evans debuts as the patriotic superhero, who transforms from a scrawny kid into a super-strong soldier thanks to a secret government experiment.
Director Joe Johnston evokes wartime culture via kitschy ads and stage performances, while also delivering plenty of superhero action, plus a love story for the title character and British agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).
Captain America: The First Avenger is streaming on Disney+ ($7.99 per month or $79.99 per year).
In his second movie, Captain America is firmly established in the present day, a member of the Avengers and the world’s most admired and prominent superhero. Future Marvel mainstays the Russo brothers make their MCU debut directing this suspenseful, twist-filled action movie that borrows from vintage conspiracy thrillers.
Captain America faces the resurgence of the terrorist organization Hydra and a mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier, who has ties to his past.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is streaming on Disney+ ($7.99 per month or $79.99 per year).
Marvel’s Master of the Mystic Arts opens the door for some horror-movie elements in Doctor Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the title character, an arrogant surgeon who studies the ancient ways of magic after being injured in a car accident.
He uses his newfound skills to defend Earth from the demon Dormammu, cleverly channeling some of that arrogance into a creative strategy. Director Scott Derrickson delves into the realms of the supernatural without deviating too far from the superhero template.
Doctor Strange is streaming on Disney+ ($7.99 per month or $79.99 per year).
Filmmaker James Gunn brings his off-kilter sensibility to the MCU with Guardians of the Galaxy. Gunn takes a set of obscure Marvel characters and turns them into superstars with this hilarious, fast-paced, music-filled outer-space adventure.
Chris Pratt leads the cast as intergalactic rogue Peter Quill, who gathers a team of outlaws to help him protect a mysterious orb from the villainous Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). By sticking to his personal vision, Gunn expands the MCU both cosmically and stylistically.
Guardians of the Galaxy is streaming on Disney+ ($7.99 per month or $79.99 per year).
Previous Spider-Man movies had not been part of the MCU, but with Spider-Man: Homecoming, the web-slinger joins his fellow Marvel heroes. Tom Holland takes over the role of awkward teenager Peter Parker, who gains spider-like powers and patrols his New York City neighborhood.
Although he’s already fought alongside the Avengers, here Peter takes on a foe closer to home, the villainous Vulture (Michael Keaton). The movie smartly integrates Spider-Man into the MCU while keeping his grounded, street-level appeal.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is streaming on Starz ($8.99 per month).
The first two movies featuring Norse thunder god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) were weak spots in the MCU, but director Taika Waititi successfully switches gears for the character with Thor: Ragnarok. Waititi plays up the humor, taking Thor out of his element in the realm of Asgard and stranding him on a planet where he’s forced into gladiatorial combat.
Cate Blanchett plays the villain threatening Asgard, but the real excitement comes from Thor’s goofy, colorful interactions with the aliens he fights alongside.
Thor: Ragnarok is streaming on Disney+ ($7.99 per month or $79.99 per year).