The release of the Thor: Ragnarok trailer and a friend asking why Hulk was there gave me the idea to share a guide to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In case you’re still living under a rock or have no idea that everything in Marvel is “connected”, this guide will (hopefully) help you understand the connection between each of the Marvel films and TV series.
Marvel Studios once hinted that the characters on the TV show could overlap with the movie characters on screen and if you’re a keen observer, you would notice that Easter eggs are used in the shows to reference the cinematic universe. Though believe me when I say that the MCU can be very overwhelming especially that it expands tremendously as the years go by. So I will try my best to explain each connection as simple as possible.
First, let’s start with the timeline.
FYI, Marvel Studios has established a plan to break up their films into “phases” that relate to a single multi-film story arc per phase. So listed below are each of the films and the phase they belong to:
Listed above are only the films and like I said, the TV shows are connected as well so the best way to understand and experience the MCU is to watch it in order as shown below:
To explain further, here’s a breakdown of each film and TV series, describing how they fit in the MCU.
- Iron Man
- The movie introduced Phil Coulson who as we all know is an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- The end credit scene shows Nick Fury which started the “Avengers Initiative”.
- Captain America’s unfinished shield was briefly shown in the background
- The Incredible Hulk
- The Hulk was created while attempting to recreate the super-soldier formula that made Captain America possible.
- The post credit scene shows Tony Stark in a bar talking to General Ross about putting a team together (*coughs* Avengers).
- In an episode of Daredevil, a news clipping of Hulk and Abomination’s Harlem fight was shown at reporter Ben Urich’s office.
- Iron Man 2
- The movie introduced Natalie Rushman who was later revealed as Natasha Romanov aka Black Widow.
- Phil Coulson investigated Thor’s hammer which was also shown in the post-credit scene.
- Howard Stark, the father of Tony Stark, was also introduced who played huge roles in Captain America and Agent Carter.
- The movie introduced Hawkeye as a S.H.I.E.L.D agent.
- The post-credit scene where Dr. Erik is shown with the Tesseract directly correlates with the events that happened in The Avengers.
- The movie also introduced (the ever beautiful and my lady crush) Lady Sif who appeared on several episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- The movie introduced Peggy Carter aka Agent Carter who is one of the founding members of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Captain America was brought from the past to join the Avengers.
- The Tesseract (one of the Infinity Stones) was shown which obviously connects to Thor.
- The Avengers
- Phil Coulson was killed in the movie by Loki but was resurrected in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- In Daredevil, the reconstruction of Midtown New York which caused the crimes in Hell’s Kitchen was the result of the Battle of New York that happened in this movie.
- The post-credit scene showed Thanos and the Other. The Other was the leader of the aliens that attacked New York and was killed by Ronan the Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy.
- Iron Man 3
- Post credit scene showing Bruce Banner directly connects with the Avengers.
- Aldridge Killian’s Extremis experiment have taken part in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’s pilot episode.
- Thor: The Dark World
- Lady Sif and The Warriors Three gave the infinity stone to The Collector, who also reappears in Guardians of the Galaxy.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Cap finding out that Hydra is heavily embedded in S.H.I.E.L.D. caused its destruction. In the show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, this was further explored and Nick Fury assigned Phil Coulson as the new director to rebuild the agency.
- The post-credit scene shows Hydra member Baron, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.
- Arnim Zola (both appeared in The First Avenger and Agent Carter) heavily implied that Hydra was responsible for Howard Stark’s death in a car accident.
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Thanos looking for the Infinity Stones/Gems heavily links this movie to all MCU films and TV series.
- Introduced the Kree species, a blue-skinned race that has visited Earth in the past. A Kree body is used to help resurrect Phil Coulson in Agents S.H.I.E.L.D., which is carried out under Project T.A.H.I.T.I.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Thor saw a glimpse of Ragnarok and the Infinity Stones in his vision while under the power of Scarlet Witch. (Directly connects to Thor: Ragnarok)
- The vision that Scarlet Witch put on Hulk was not shown and that vision may be the reason why he chose to leave and exiled himself. Which may also pertain as to why he went to another planet. (also connects to Thor: Ragnarok)
- The post-credit scene shows Thanos’ plan to claim the Infinity Gauntlet.
- The opening scene shows Hank Pym with three important people: Peggy Carter, Howard Stark and Mitchel Carson (a member of Hydra who works at S.H.I.E.L.D.). This scene also serves to prove that there was a growing rift between S.H.I.E.L.D. (specifically Stark) and Pym.
- Pym sends the Ant-Man on a mission to a former Stark facility not knowing it’s the new home of the Avengers leading to the battle between Ant-Man and Falcon which will lead to a post-credit scene teasing Ant-Man’s future in Civil War.
- Bonus: Janet Van Dyne had a secret scene during the Quantum Realm part. The director said this was something that only the audience can see and not Scott. This may also be an indication that the original Wasp is still alive.
- Captain America: Civil War
- The movie introduced Black Panther and Spider-Man. Both appeared in the two end credit scenes that teases their upcoming solo films.
- The events that happened in this movie is the stepping stone of MCU Phase 3, leading up to and beyond Avengers: Infinity War
- Doctor Strange
- The movie introduced alternate dimensions and the Multiverse which implies that Doctor Strange may use this knowledge to fight Thanos in Infinity War.
- During the scene before Strange got into an accident, he talked to his assistant for potential patients. One of those was described as a “United States armed forces colonel who sustained a spinal injury in a experimental power armor-related incident” which clearly references James Rhodes aka War Machine.
- The mid-credit scene shows Doctor Strange with Thor. Their conversation hints that Doctor Strange will play a role in Thor: Ragnarok.
- So far, 4 out of 6 gems have been revealed in the MCU films: Space Gem (Tesseract), Mind Gem (Loki’s staff/Vision), Power Gem (Orb), Reality Gem (Aether). This movie revealed the 5th which is the Time Gem. The one theme that binds all MCU films together is Thanos and his search for the Infinity Stones/Gems.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Phil Coulson from Iron Man is resurrected and is the main protagonist of the series.
- Lady Sif from Thor as well as Maria Hill from Avengers: Age of Ultron both appeared.
- Probably one of the MCU TV Series that shows obvious connections to the MCU films.
- Agent Carter
- The series show the following events of Captain America: First Avenger.
- Showed that Agent Carter and Howard Stark took part in building the foundation of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- It was established in the show that the Black Widow is part of a Russian program that trains young girls to be exceptional spies and assassins.
- Matt Murdock’s father is killed for not throwing his fight against Carl “Crusher” Creel in Daredevil. Creel later gains superpowers and becomes the villain Absorbing Man, who appears in several Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes.
- Crime bosses have stepped in to profit from the city’s devastation after the Avenger’s Battle of New York and the reconstruction of the city was a main focus in the show.
- Shows vague references and remarks about the events and characters of the MCU films.
- Jessica Jones
- The Battle of New York as well as subtle remarks about the Avengers (i.e, “big green dude and his crew”) are referenced on the show.
- Luke Cage being one of the main characters in the first season of Jessica Jones is, in itself, a massive MCU connection.
- One of the cases from a woman named Audrey Eastman that Jessica accepted was later revealed to have lost a family in the Battle of New York which caused her to take revenge on “gifted people”.
Other televisions shows that connects to the MCU includes:
The following are Marvel One Shots and Web Series that adds to the ever expanding MCU:
In summary, while the Defenders are beating up villains on the streets of New York, the Avengers are out saving the world with global threats. While Doctor Strange is fighting supernatural threats, the Guardians of the Galaxy are in some distant planet battling aliens and other extraterrestrial beings. And about 70 years ago, Agent Carter was working her way into building S.H.I.E.L.D. which has now become an organization with SHIELD members Coulson, Johnson, Mack, Fitz, Simmons and May who continues to do the mission of the agency.
What I love about the MCU is that as the films and series increase, the more the story unfolds, the more characters are introduced and the more the universe expands. So if I were you, I will watch everything in order as soon as possible before another film/episode comes out and the MCU gets even more massive. I just hope one day, they do a proper cross over between the films and TV shows.