Cinematic Evolution of the Marvel Universe
The History of Marvel
movies don’t technically begin with the 4-star review that Roger Ebert gave Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man.” After all, there were movies based on Marvel properties before from filmmakers like Sam Raimi and Ang Lee. But the history of Marvel movies changed forever with that 2008 adventure film starring Robert Downey Jr. What would become known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU was born. Collected here, you will find our reviews of all of the films in the history of Marvel movies that now thrive in the form of the MCU. Looking over the collection, it’s startling to see the high number of thumbs-up reviews, including two perfect grades – “Iron Man” and “Black Panther,” the first in the history of Marvel movies to win an Oscar. There is only one true pan – Roger really disliked the first “Thor” movie – and even the films widely considered disappointments in the MCU make for interesting reviews. It’s hard to believe the MCU is just over a decade old given its market dominance and influence as we head into the 2020s. Read this collection of reviews and see how we got here.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films are a series of American superhero films produced by Marvel Studios based on characters that appear in publications by Marvel Comics. The MCU is the shared universe in which all of the films are set. The films have been in production since 2007, and in that time Marvel Studios has produced and released 32 films, with at least 11 more in various stages of development. It is the highest-grossing film franchise of all time, having grossed over $29.6 billion at the global box office. This includes Avengers: Endgame, which became the highest-grossing film of all time at the time of its release.
Kevin Feige has produced every film in the series, alongside Avi Arad for the first two releases, Gale Anne Hurd for The Incredible Hulk, Amy Pascal for the Spider-Man films, Stephen Broussard for Ant-Man and the Wasp and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Jonathan Schwartz for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Nate Moore for Eternals, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Captain America: Brave New World, Brad Winderbaum for Thor: Love and Thunder, Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy for Deadpool 3, and Eric Carroll for Blade. The films are written and directed by a variety of individuals and feature large, often ensemble, casts.
Marvel Studios releases its films in groups called “Phases”. Its first film is Iron Man (2008), which was distributed by Paramount Pictures. Paramount also distributed Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), while Universal Pictures distributed The Incredible Hulk (2008). Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures began distributing the series with the crossover film The Avengers (2012), which concluded Phase One. Phase Two comprises Iron Man 3 (2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), and Ant-Man (2015).
Captain America: Civil War (2016) is the first film of Phase Three, and is followed by Doctor Strange (2016), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Black Panther (2018), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), Captain Marvel (2019), Avengers: Endgame (2019), and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). The first three Phases are collectively known as “The Infinity Saga”. The Spider-Man films are owned, financed, and distributed by Sony Pictures.
Phase Four’s group of films began with Black Widow (2021), and was followed by Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021), Eternals (2021), Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022). The Phase featured these films, as well as eight television series and two specials for the streaming service Disney+.
Phase Five begins with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023), followed by Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023), The Marvels (2023), Deadpool 3 (2024), Captain America: Brave New World (2024), Thunderbolts (2024), and Blade (2025). This Phase will also include a total of seven seasons of television series for Disney+. Phase Six will include Fantastic Four (2025), Avengers: The Kang Dynasty (2026), and Avengers: Secret Wars (2027). The fourth, fifth, and sixth Phases are collectively known as “The Multiverse Saga”.