The Ultimate MCU Binge: 12 Movies to Stream on Disney+ for Superhero Day
April 28 is National Superhero Day — let's celebrate by binging our favorite Marvel movies! Here's what to watch (and why), in order.
Graham Steinberg · about 1 month ago
Okay, let's be real: There are A LOT of movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So which ones are the best? Which ones are the most crucial to understanding the lore? Here’s what we think are the best of the best in the MCU. The ones that will help you understand what’s going on and the ones that will keep you glued to your seats for the ultimate superhero movie binge experience. Got your popcorn ready? Off we go.
1. Iron Man
To be honest, the movie that started it all is still up there among my favorites. Iron Man felt like no other superhero movie before it. The entire first act takes place in a cave (!), and the hero of the story was an imperfect genius who struggled to be a good person. They took a big risk running with a character that wasn’t Spider-Man or the X-Men, but it paid off. That’s what makes this movie feel so authentic: At its core, there's a humility to it. At this point, Marvel genuinely did not know whether people would even care about this new kind of hero. They did.
2. Captain America: The First Avenger
While Tony Stark had always been on top, with practically every advantage you can think of, Captain America is a true underdog story. These opposing origins set up the dynamics between the MCU’s two most important characters for the next decade. Steve Rogers's first standalone outing was a retro-style war movie and it was just super fun to watch. The contrast between this movie and later entries in the series really make it a standout even today, and explains why Cap is such a beloved — and let's face it, pretty lovable — character.
3. The Avengers
This was the big one. Most people probably weren’t aware that Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, and Captain America were all going to tie together — and everything about how they executed the team coming together in The Avengers felt groundbreaking. I still remember seeing it for the first time in theaters and being absolutely floored by the interconnective tissue that had been developed over the last several years. Its importance for the franchise doesn’t even need to be stated. This is the one that made it a true universe.
4. Iron Man 3
In this fan's humble opinion, Iron Man 3 is the most underrated film in the MCU. After the world-changing events of Avengers, this one takes it back a step and returns to our first hero. The film is a deep exploration of the trauma Tony suffers after taking part in the massive battle. The man who saw himself as the center of the world is now just a small speck in an expanding universe and he has to deal with that reality. This is a perfect character piece for one of my favorite heroes.
5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
There has not been a more grounded-in-reality film in the MCU than The Winter Soldier. Its gritty realism and relevant political narrative made this the closest the franchise ever came to a classic thriller. The action sequences in this movie might be some of the best I’ve seen, and the direction from the Russo Brothers was so good that they were basically hired to make every other major MCU film after it. Also the twist with S.H.I.E.L.D. was quite unexpected at the time and had major ramifications moving forward.
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
The MCU definitely went out of its comfort zone with Guardians. Not only was the film based on a pretty obscure comic team but it was also the first film in the series to properly explore outer space. No one knew what to expect ... and everyone loved it. The universe it built was like nothing we’d seen before in Star Wars or Star Trek, and with its combination of off-brand humor, a killer soundtrack and a team-up featuring a raccoon and a tree, this remains one of the most memorable entries (and possibly my personal favorite).
7. Captain America: Civil War
Of all the miniseries within the larger MCU, Captain America’s is by far the most important to understanding the greater narrative. But Civil War is not just Captain America 3, it also serves as Avengers 2.5 and Iron Man 4 in many respects. It brings together the most characters we’ve seen in a single film for some absolutely insane battles and really pushes the characters of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark to their limits before plunging them into their greatest fight yet.
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming
I’m sure there’s a lot of fans who were anticipating this movie more than almost anything in the MCU. Spidey is back home (yes, I’m sure that’s where the title comes from) and he’s more fun than ever! And that’s just it, this movie was super funny and relatable compared to some of the other epic heroes we had seen. It’s just a blast, and Tom Holland was a perfect and unexpected delight in the role.
9. Thor: Ragnarok
The first two Thor films didn’t necessarily land in the way other entries had — so Marvel brought in indie favorite Taika Waititi to give the series a refresh. Result: Instant gangbusters. The serious broodiness of old Thor was replaced by the MCU’s new funnyman and the medieval looking world of Asgard was replaced by the pop colors and techno music of Sakaar. This film breathed new life into the character who is now set to return in an unprecedented fourth solo outing which promises to be even crazier than this. I for one cannot wait.
10. Black Panther
Director Ryan Coogler brought an incredibly distinctive style to his MCU debut that felt like nothing we’d seen before. The worldbuilding of Wakanda is so fascinating and beautiful to look at, while the story’s focus on the destructive nature of isolationism and the relationship between domestic and immigrant groups from different cultures made this one super relevant to the times.
11. Avengers: Infinity War
So much has been said and written about this movie that you could almost forget its biggest draw: Seeing such a vast range of characters come together on screen was bonkers. This chapter in the saga tied the Earth-bound and galactic heroes together for the first time, with action on a monumental scale. The plot moves between three teams, each featuring a mix of heroes from across worlds, timelines, and plot lines. I just remember about a dozen jaw drops during its two and a half hour runtime when I first saw Infinity War in the theater.
12. Avengers: Endgame
On first watching Endgame, I wrote that it felt like the final act of my own childhood. I had first seen Iron Man when I was 10 years old, and this epic series capstone was released just before I graduated from college. It was a film event that felt epic in scale but also so personal to my life. The movie is the epitome of fan service but also really gives some beloved characters the poignant swan songs they deserve. For that reason and more, Endgame will always be a true moment in cinematic history.