In the ever-increasing field of streaming services, Disney+ has established itself as a worthy contender to the behemoths of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. With a curated list of more than 600 new and classic movies, along with an almost endless library of television series already available upon its November 12 launch, the house with the mouse has ensured its service remains as plentiful as it is noteworthy.
All of that Disney+ content includes plenty of Pixar and Star Wars related films and shows, as well as almost the entire saga of movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Disney has indicated that the amount of Marvel projects on the service will expand even more over time — including several original series that will only be available on Disney+.
If you’re a Marvel movie junkie looking to scratch that big-screen superhero itch on Disney+, here’s where you should start.
Iron Man (2008)
Sometimes it’s best to kick things off from the very beginning. The story of a brilliant playboy industrialist who is kidnapped and creates a high-tech suit of armor to escape captivity, Iron Man made Robert Downey Jr. the face of the MCU for years to come. Following closely on the heels of a rather complicated past for the actor himself, his stepping into the shoes of a C-list superhero, who coincidentally struggles with similar afflictions in the comics, simultaneously proved that not only could an undervalued IP become a global icon but so too could an addled actor with something to prove. Iron Man launched one of the greatest Hollywood movie franchises ever and made Marvel Studios the new gold standard in epic superhero storytelling. Not a single Marvel movie fanatic will ever forget the bedrock for the entire MCU, laid to bear in but a brief post-credits scene that introduced a little something called the “Avengers Initiative.”
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo made their first impact on the MCU with their 2014 film, The Winter Soldier. The immediate success of the second, more modern spy adventure with Cap led the duo to direct both its direct sequel, Captain America: Civil War (AKA Avengers 2.5), as well as both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. That speaks volumes of what they instilled upon the franchise, juggling an enormous cast with some of the most iconic characters in the franchise, including the titular Winter Soldier and, later in Civil War, Spider-Man. This installment of what was ostensibly Captain America’s solo franchise, which ended up evolving into so much more, pitted Cap and Black Widow against a global conspiracy orchestrated by the criminal organization Hydra. On the hunt for a mysterious assassin, known only as The Winter Soldier, Captain America must come toe to toe with his past. Widely regarded as one of the best films in the entire MCU, Winter Soldier manages to tread the line between political thriller and all-out action-hero film.
Iron Man may have been the catalyst for an electrifying, jaw-dropping, and heartbreaking film universe, yet said universe would be nothing without its first live-action superhero team-up. Upon the arrival of a self-spoken god wielding a staff of menacing power, Nick Fury must finally put in motion an initiative so ludicrous and unreliable it just may well pay off. The Avengers Initiative joins together a rag-tag group of the only-capable individuals to stave off a world-ending invasion wrought by the Asgardian Loki. Can they succeed in tandem, or is Earth doomed to Loki’s reign?
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Few MCU features tested Marvel’s ability to transform obscure characters into box-office champions like 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The film, which tracks a group of reluctant would-be heroes cobbled together in a last-ditch effort to save the entire universe from a militant Kree ruler, relied on a relatively under-the-radar cast with only a few parallels to the established MCU. Directed by then-indie filmmaker James Gunn, Guardians defied the odds by way of adapting a trigger-happy English-speaking raccoon, his trusty sentient plant sidekick, alongside a cosmically-diverse set of characters, each having their own intimate history with the ever-shadowy MCU big baddy, Thanos. It also turned Parks and Recreation funny guy Chris Pratt into a bonafide action hero. Not too shabby for a bunch of a-holes (their words, not ours).
Paul Rudd’s debut as Marvel’s size-changing superhero had a troubled road to the big screen — the most problematic pre-development period of any modern MCU movie, in fact. The end result, however, was bigger than its somewhat (for a Marvel movie) underwhelming performance at the box office. Rudd plays Scott Lang, an ex-con with a heart of pure gold, who’s charged by scientist (and original Ant-Man) Hank Pym to inhibit his quantum-particle technology from falling into the wrong hands. Despite an over-the-top premise, Ant-Man still managed to be one of the most grounded, funny, and heart-warming films in the MCU, with a cast led by Rudd, Michael Douglas, and Evangeline Lilly. Most viewers come for the superhero adventure, yet true MCU stans stay for the memorable recap scenes provided by actor Michael Peña’s Luis.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Going from his Hunt for the Wilderpeople to the third Thor outing sounds like quite a leap, yet director Taika Watiti did his absolute best in revitalizing the mighty Marvel superhero in addition to adding his own style of filmmaking to the MCU. Through the help of set designs reminiscent of Jack Kirby-drawn comic book pages, which were made all the more poignant via a retro 80s aesthetic, and the inclusion of a far greener and meaner Marvel superhero, Watiti delivered a masterpiece that bled perfectly into the highly anticipated Infinity War. The jury may still be out as to whether Thor or Hulk is the strongest Avenger, but maybe that can be settled in the Asgardian prodigy’s next space-based adventure, Thor: Love and Thunder.
Doctor Strange (2016)
The ego-centric and self-entitled surgeon, who would serve his own interests quicker than he would the greater good, must no sooner rewrite his future at the behest of a debilitating car accident. With his position as one of New York’s top medical professionals in jeopardy, Stephen Strange unknowingly leaps toward an existence filled with wonder and imagination. There are, however, darker and more terrifying secrets lurking beneath this new more mystical path accepted at Kamar-Taj, one of four protective Sanctums located across the globe. As the original Spider-Man alum, Sam Raimi, takes his first steps into the MCU by helming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, what better time is there to revisit the origin of the Sorcerer Supreme and meet once more the all-too-wise Ancient One?
Captain Marvel (2019)
Marvel’s first female-led solo superhero feature, Captain Marvel, proved skeptics (and online trolls) wrong by becoming the first female-led superhero movie to earn more than $1 billion worldwide. As the film’s eponymous hero, actress Brie Larson, quickly established herself as one of the most powerful heroes in the entire MCU. What’s truly impressive is that she did so in a surprisingly humanist story about a strong-willed soldier recruited to fight in an alien war, who later finds her own sense of self (and inner strength) after accidentally crash landing on an all-too-familiar green and blue planet. Captain Marvel makes one of the strongest arguments so far that when it comes to the MCU, the future is indeed female. Set those dials to retro and revisit the 1990’s all over again in that Marvel movies rewatch with the timeline’s second entry, Captain Marvel.
Black Panther (2018)
Setting countless records while likewise becoming the only MCU film to realistically imbue a country’s culture into the fabric of its story, Black Panther remains among the best Marvel movies on Disney+ and potentially even the most awe-inspiring in the entire franchise. Director Ryan Coogler had his work cut out for him, yet his film shines by way of rendering African music, dance, attire, and their overall way of life into the very backdrop of its setting. Although it’s a fictional city based in a superhero film universe already teeming with many wondrous locales, Wakanda still breathes of realism, due largely to the detail weaved into its design and various characters that occupy its world. Black Panther likewise upends a common Marvel movie trend by introducing arguably one of the MCU’s most compelling villains, Killmonger. Get those claws primed and the feline jumper ready, as Black Panther 2 debuts in May 2022.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
The final chapter in Marvel’s massive “Infinity Saga” that began with the aforementioned Iron Man, Avengers: Endgame concluded a story that was 23 movies in the making, pitting nearly every hero (and some villains) in the MCU against the cosmic conqueror Thanos. The film went on to become the highest-grossing movie of all time worldwide and brought an end to the adventures of many of the franchise’s most iconic characters. Although the MCU remains an ongoing, evolving universe, Endgame is one of the biggest touchstones so far in the story Marvel is telling with its films.
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