With the current number of superhero movies on Hollywood's soon-to-be-released list, it's hard to imagine a time in which theaters weren't dominated by features about costumed men trying to save the world. And yet, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is young enough that we can all remember when it started: The father of the future Avengers movies is Iron Man, which was released on May 2, 2008.
Back then, Iron Man was considered a risky move, and director Jon Favreau had to fight hard to get Robert Downey Jr. to star as the famous playboy billionaire. Today, Marvel films are the ones everyone wants to bet on, and Downey Jr. has practically merged with his character, Tony Stark.
Iron Man Gave Birth To The MCU
Iron Man had a $140 million budget and was relying on Downey Jr., who had recently gone through several years of career troubles due to substance abuse and a number of attempts at rehab. Still, it opened at $98 million domestic and went on to gross a little over $585 million — showing the world the full potential of a comic book-based superhero movie.
That same year saw the release of The Incredible Hulk, which wasted no time in introducing the idea of a shared universe by including a brief appearance from Downey Jr. as Iron Man, talking to General Thaddeus Ross.
In an interview with MTV, Downey Jr. discussed the cameo and hinted at more superhero crossovers, from the end credits of Iron Man to Captain America, who can be spotted frozen in ice in an alternate opening of The Incredible Hulk:
"We were just cross-pollinating our superheroes. [...] It's like the same thing we did with a hitherto-unnamed star, who will probably appear in the end credits of Iron Man."
The movie was followed soon after by Iron Man 2 in 2010, Thor in 2011, Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, and The Avengers in 2012, constituting Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
We're Already In Phase 3!
Phase 2 continued the superhero movie abundance, with Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World coming out in 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, and finally Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man in 2015.
Captain America: Civil War, which is out May 6, kicks off the third phase, and fans have already been speculating on what Phase 4 might hold. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, who has produced all of the MCU movies so far, recently teased that the new phase would bring about a whole set of changes:
"I think there will be a finality to moments of Phase 3, as well as new beginnings that will mark a different, a very different, a distinctively different chapter in what will some day be a complete first saga made up of three phases."
A Timeline Of The MCU
What's impressive is that there are almost as many movies scheduled in the coming years as there have been already released: Civil War is the thirteenth MCU installment and there are nine named projects planned, from Doctor Strange to Infinity War — Part 2 (considering the Inhumans movie in the chart above has been removed from Marvel's release schedule).
If such a head-spinning amount of movies means more excitement, but also more confusion for you, be sure to check out this timeline of the MCU in GIFs, which puts the events of the movies back in order.
Now you should be all set for the release of Captain America: Civil War!