Although Marvel Studios plans to make more Marvel movies for the foreseeable future, the current iteration of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going out with a bang in MCU Phase 3.
Like previous iterations, we spent plenty of time with superheroes old and new, but there was also a growing sense of doom—and not just from Thanos, who finally came into his own in Avengers: Infinity War. Chris Evans said that he was done with Marvel after Avengers 4, and he’s far from the only actor whose contractual obligations to Marvel are coming to an end. The newer heroes, such as Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel, are being set up to take over for the founding Avengers members. Marvel may have finally gotten figured out its villain problem with strong showings from Vulture, Killmonger, Hela, Thanos, and even Ghost (who ended up being more of an antagonist). And then there was the whole matter of Thanos snapping half the universe out of existence that still needs to be dealt with.
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Marvel also hit some major milestones. After 17 films, Black Panther became the first black superhero to get his own movie in the MCU (and currently has the biggest box office total), and fans will get the first female superhero-led film with Captain Marvel in 2019, Marvel’s 21st movie in the MCU. It’s also improved on how it portrays many of its female characters and become more inclusive, though Marvel still has work to do; it has yet to feature any LGBTQ characters or directors claiming to do so with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments.
But you can’t deny it: Most of us are so far in that Marvel doesn’t need to rehash previous movies or prep fans with asides because the studio presumes that we’ve already seen all that’s come before it. Chances are, we have.
New heroes introduced in MCU Phase 3 *
- T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)
- Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland)
- Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)
- Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)
- The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton)
- Wong (Benedict Wong)
- Mantis (Pom Klementieff)
- Nebula (Karen Gillan)
- Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker)
- Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson)
- Loki (Tom Hiddleston)
- (Taika Waititi)
- Shuri (Letitia Wright)
- Okoye (Danai Gurira)
- M’Baku (Winston Duke)
New villains introduced in MCU Phase 3 *
- Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl)
- Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen)
- Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki)
- Ego (Kurt Russell)
- Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton)
- Hela (Cate Blanchett)
- Erik Stevens/N’Jadaka/Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan)
- Corvus Glaive (Michael Shaw)
- Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon)
- Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary)
- Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor)
- Ava Starr/Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen)
- Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins)
* Side note: A few actors are featured multiple times because they switched allegiances (e.g. Bucky, Yondu, Nebula, Loki).
MCU Phase 3
1) Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Sometimes referred to as “Avengers 2.5,” most of Marvel’s superheroes have to choose a side after superheroes are required to register as superheroes under the Sokovia Accords. We’re introduced to Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man for the first time while the fight between Iron Man and Captain America (with Bucky Barnes right in the middle) quickly gets personal for both of them. Many of the heroes end up going into hiding while Bucky is put under while Wakanda’s best figure out how to remove his brainwashing.
2) Doctor Strange (2016)
After his hands are damaged in a car accident and medicine and therapy fail him, Dr. Stephen Strange discovers Kamar-Taj and starts to learn sorcery under the tutelage of the Ancient One. With the use of the Time Stone, Dr. Strange is able to stop the efforts of Kaecilius and Dormammu in the dark dimension while breaking the laws of time and space in his efforts.
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3) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Peter Quill comes face-to-face with Ego the Living Planet and begins to bond with the father he never knew while the family dynamic of the Guardians of the Galaxy—complicated by Gamora and Nebula’s estranged relationship and Peter’s guardian Yondu—begins to fracture. But just as the Guardians become aware of Ego’s true intentions with Peter, they save each other (and the galaxy once again) from total annihilation.
4) Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
After the exhilaration of fighting alongside the Avengers in Civil War, Peter Parker finds it hard to get back into the swing of things as he juggles school, keeping his secret identity under wraps, being mentored by Iron Man, and a looming threat from the Vulture.
5) Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Thor’s sister Hela (who was imprisoned for millennia) escapes after Odin’s death to claim the throne of Asgard, destroys Mjølnir, and sends Thor across the galaxy, where he’s captured and forced to fight the Hulk gladiator-style. Only by teaming up with the Hulk, Valkyrie, and Loki (with an assist from Ragnarok) can Thor, who’s still learning just what he can do, can he take his sister down.
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6) Black Panther (2018)
After his father’s death in Civil War, T’Challa becomes king of Wakanda and gets ready to rule the country. But his cousin, whose existence was hidden for years, emerges to stake his claim, sending the royal family into hiding while Killmonger’s first plan of action as Wakanda’s king threatens to tear Wakanda apart.
7) Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Thanos’ plan to obtain the Infinity Stones and wipe out half the universe goes into overdrive as he travels from planet to planet and overwhelms the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy. A final standoff in Wakanda ends in disaster after Thor’s new ax injures Thanos but doesn’t kill him, allowing the Mad Titan to set his plan into action and turn many of Marvel’s heroes into dust. With his final act before succumbing to his fate, Nick Fury sends out a distress call to Captain Marvel.
8) Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne enact their plan to rescue Janet van Dyne from the Quantum Realm after Scott Lang discovers a connection to her during the final days of Scott’s house arrest. But their plan faces a threat from Ghost, who wants to use the Quantum energy Janet will possess to help stabilize her own body.
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9) Captain Marvel (2019)
Captain Marvel is likely to reveal Carol Danvers’ origin story—which takes place in the ’90s and will feature appearances from Nick Fury, Phil Coulson, and Ronan—and explain why she hasn’t been part of the MCU until now. (Aside from the logistical, out-of-world reasons.)
10) Avengers 4 (2019)
The untitled fourth Avengers movie will most likely handle the fallout from Avengers: Infinity War.