The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the hottest pop culture phenomenon on the planet. Since 2008, the franchise has seen 14 films gross a massive $10.9 billion at the worldwide box office, to say nothing of the impressive success of Marvel’s television wing, which has launched hit shows like Daredevil and Agents of SHIELD.
The future is looking bright for the MCU, with nine upcoming films scheduled for release, from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, all the way through Spider-Man: Homecoming 2. Marvel also has three untitled films scheduled for 2020, which may include a Doctor Strange or Black Panther sequel, or an unexpected new franchise. Moon Knight or Squirrel Girl, anyone?
Marvel TV is also firing on all cylinders. Despite Iron Fist’s less-than-stellar critical reception, Danny Rand is still set to return for The Defenders, which will unite all of Marvel’s New York City-based Netflix heroes – from Daredevil to Luke Cage. The Punisher doesn’t play well with others, so he will get his very own series. That’s just scratching the surface of Marvel’s TV plans, which also extend to the Freeform channel and beyond.
It’s easy to lose track of what’s on the docket at Marvel Studios, so stay in the know with Screen Rant’s guide to Every MCU Project In Development, and check out similar stories on Fox’s X-Men universe and Warner Brothers’ DCEU.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The next entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the sequel to 2014’s surprise hit, Guardians of the Galaxy. Vol 2, as it is called, will continue the adventures of Star-Lord and company, as they embark on a quest to… Do something. Marvel has been surprisingly tight-lipped with the actual details of the sci-fi sequel, relying instead on good-will from the first movie and the promise of more fun antics with the colorful cast of characters (especially Baby Groot!), in order to not spoil the myriad revelations the film surely has in store for viewers.
That being said, Marvel has revealed lots of information in trailers and interviews. One trailer revealed that Kurt Russell’s character, Ego the Living Planet, is actually the father of Star-Lord, a.k.a. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). What role he will play in the story, however, is a mystery. Another big scoop, revealed by writer/director James Gunn, is that none other than Sylvester Stallone will be playing a “small, but pivotal” role in the film, but he stopped short of announcing the name of Stallone’s character.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will include pretty much the entire (surviving) cast of the original Guardians, along with previously-mentioned additions like Stallone and Russell, and new characters like Mantis (played by Pom Klementieff), Taserface (Chris Sullivan), and Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki).
The sequel will begin several months after the first movie, and is the first MCU film to be shot with the new Red Weapon 8K camera, which will widen the color palette of the MCU. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 comes out on May 5, so MCU fanatics won’t have to wait long to see what’s in store for Rocket Raccoon, Gamora, Yondu, and the rest of the crew.
Following Guardians Vol. 2 in May, July will see one of the most high-profile franchise reboots ever with Spider-Man: Homecoming. The original Sam Raimi Spider-Man films are among the most beloved superhero movies ever made (OK, maybe not the third one), and when the franchise was first rebooted in 2012, audience reaction was ambivalent, and the critical drubbing of 2014’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 was enough to kill the franchise.
Last year, a re-rebooted Peter Parker, played by Tom Holland, popped up in Captain America: Civil War, and the world fell in love with the friendly-neighborhood web-head all over again. Now, Spider-Man is back in a solo film, set within the playground of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Directed by Jon Watts (Cop Car, Clown), Spider-Man: Homecoming will see Peter struggling with the responsibilities of being a masked crime-fighter and a high school student. Spidey will be mentored by none other than Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and coming into conflict with The Vulture (Michael Keaton), who is described as a dark foil to Iron Man. The film will also feature The Tinkerer and Shocker; it’s expected that Tinkerer will be an associate of The Vulture, while Shocker might be the muscle, or he may be an additional, incidental villain for Spidey to fight.
Despite being set in New York City and taking on less of a “world-ending” tone compared to the larger Avengers films, Homecoming is not expected to feature cameos from the heroes of Marvel’s Netflix series, like Jessica Jones or Daredevil. However, Homecoming is already confirmed to have a Captain America cameo, so maybe there will be some other surprises in store when the reboot/spin-off hits theaters on July 7.
After conquering the silver screen and enjoying success on ABC, the Marvel Cinematic Universe made the jump to Netflix. The streaming giant hosted MCU versions of street-level heroes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and the recently-released Iron Fist. Like The Avengers before them, these New York-based heroes will come together to fight a threat to the city in a Netflix miniseries event.
The Defenders is currently scheduled to be released on August 18th 2017. In addition to the main heroes of the four Netflix shows, the miniseries will feature much of their supporting casts, including Carrie-Ann Moss as Jeri Hogarth, Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson, Scott Glenn as Stick, and Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple.
While it is yet unknown exactly what will unite The Defenders to protect New York, the villain of the series will be played by Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Ghostbusters). Her character is called “Alexandra,” though whether she is an original creation or an adaptation of a comic book figure is unclear, and the truth will likely not be revealed until the series hits Netflix this summer.
The Mutant-esque members of the Inhuman race have been part of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD since its second season, and it was originally expected that they would transition to the big screen in an Inhumans film, which had been dated for 2020. However, that film was eventually taken off the schedule, and the future of beloved characters like Black Bolt and Maximus was in doubt.
In November 2016, it was revealed that Inhumans was not dead, but would instead find life as a television series, produced by Marvel Studios with IMAX as a partner. The first two episodes are shot entirely with IMAX cameras and will debut in IMAX theaters across the country before premiering on ABC. Inhumans will be an eight-episode miniseries, and Scott Buck (Iron Fist) will serve as showrunner.
Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels) will star as Black Bolt, an Inhuman who is functionally mute, as the sound of his voice is powerful enough to generate shockwaves which can devastate landscapes and destroy cities. Meanwhile, Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones) will play Maximus, the Loki to Black Bolt’s Thor. Ken Leung, Serinda Swan, Isabelle Cornish, and Ellen Woglom round out the cast of the sci-fi fantasy series.
Thor: Ragnarok (Updated 4/28)
Asgard’s God of Thunder is returning for another adventure, and he’s bringing a friend: The Incredible Hulk. This outer-space set entry in the MCU is taking Thor out of the safety zone of Asgard and into more Guardians of the Galaxy-inspired territory, anchored by a dazzling aesthetic which reads as a cross between 1980s sci-fi and Masters of the Universe.
Director Taika Waititi cut his teeth on unusual comedies which brought laughs and tenderness in equal measure, even in the unlikeliest of scenarios. To see Waititi’s potential to deliver a blockbuster like no other, see the hilarious and surprisingly heartfelt vampire mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows. Waititi also directed the adorable Team Thor shorts which gave Asgard’s greatest champion a roommate… In New Zealand.
Based on the spectacular trailer released in April, Ragnarok will see Thor stripped of his hammer, Mjolnir, and exiled to planet Sakaar, where he must fight in gladiatorial combat against The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in order to escape in time to stop the destruction of Asgard. Tessa Thompson (Creed) and Karl Urban (Star Trek, Dredd) are co-starring as Asgardian warriors. While Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is set to appear in the Marvel threequel, the main villain of the piece is Cate Blanchett as Hela, the goddess of death and the underworld, who escapes from imprisonment with a thirst for vengeance against Asgard. Finally, Jeff Goldblum will appear as the Grandmaster, the hedonistic ruler of Sakaar and host of the gladiator games.
Thor: Ragnarok homes to build off of Guardians of the Galaxy’s visual language while rebuilding the identity of its title character. Will it succeed? Audiences can judge for themselves when the film releases on November 3, 2017.
Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher is not expected to make any appearances in The Defenders, but fans of the character won’t have to wait long to see who he’s gunning for next, since The Punisher is becoming a Netflix original series, under the leadership of showrunner Steve Lightfoot (Hannibal).
Jon Bernthal earned critical praise for his take on New York City’s most violent vigilante in Daredevil season 2, and now he’s getting his own show where he can dispense his brutal brand of justice as the leading man. The new series will pick up where his character left off in Daredevil, on his way towards becoming a full-time vigilante. He’s not looking to save the city, or his soul; he’s looking to kill criminals, the scum of the Earth who deserve nothing more than a bullet to the head.
Deborah Ann Woll will reprise her role as Karen Page from Daredevil, though the extent of her role in The Punisher is unclear. Like his Daredevil episodes, Marvel’s Punisher show will likely take inspiration from the greater Marvel universe, as well as the Garth Ennis-penned MAX series. Paul Schulze (24, Rambo) will play duplicitous CIA agent Rawlins, an Ennis-created character, while Jason R. Moore has been cast as Curtis Hoyle and Ebon Moss-Bachrach will co-star as Castle’s analyst sidekick Microchip, two characters who go back to the 1980s comics.
One of the biggest casting coups was the announcement of Ben Barnes (Westworld) as Billy Russo, AKA Jigsaw. It’s unknown if he will be Jigsaw from the start, or if he will actually undergo his horrific transformation into the mutilated mobster within the show’s debut season.
To state the obvious: it’s about time.
Black Panther is the first black-led superhero film in modern times, and it’s hard to believe that it’s taken this long for one of Marvel’s most popular characters to finally get his due. But at least it’s actually happening, and Marvel has assembled an incredible team to bring the world of Wakanda to life. The film is being directed by Ryan Coogler, one of the hottest directors on the scene right now. After breaking out on the scene with Fruitvale Station, Coogler shot straight to the A-list with 2015’s Creed, a franchise revival which stood on its own two feet while simultaneously honoring what had come before.
The film will star Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa of Wakanda, better known as Black Panther, sworn protector of his people. The actor is reprising his role from Captain America: Civil War, and is also expected to appear in Avengers: Infinity War, as well as the inevitable Black Panther sequels. Ryan Coogler’s frequent collaborator, Michael B. Jordan, will be co-starring as Erik Killmonger; exiled from Wakanda years ago, he returns to challenge T’Challa for control of their home. The rest of the cast includes Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave), Forest Whitaker (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), and Angela Bassett (Chi-Raq), who is playing T’Challa’s mother.
Returning MCU figures include Martin Freeman as Everett Ross (from Civil War) and Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue (from Avengers: Age of Ultron). Interestingly, despite his character’s death in Civil War, John Kani is returning as T’Chaka, suggesting that Black Panther will feature flashbacks to earlier points in T’Challa’s life.
Avengers: Infinity War
Originally announced as Infinity War – Part 1, the third Avengers movie is still being shot back-to-back with its sequel, though the two films are not a two-part story. Avengers 4 remains untitled, and the “Part 1” subtitle has been dropped from Avengers 3. Both films are directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, the team behind The Winter Soldier and Civil War.
Infinity War will feature the largest cast of any Marvel film yet, even dwarfing the gargantuan lineup of Captain America: Civil War. Pretty much all of that film’s characters are expected to appear, as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, Hulk, and, of course, Thanos. Kevin Feige has suggested that Thanos is the true main character of Infinity War, that the film will follow his quest for power while The Avengers are still reeling from the events of Civil War.
In terms of massive blockbuster motion picture events, Infinity War is almost guaranteed to be the biggest film of 2018; nothing can top it, except maybe its own sequel, but we’ll get to Avengers 4 in just a bit. For more on Infinity War, read up on Screen Rant’s comprehensive collection of every update on the super-sized superhero movie.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
In 2015, Ant-Man came out just two months after Avengers: Age of Ultron, but still managed to eke out an impressive $519 million worldwide, despite its highly-publicized behind-the-scenes troubles and lesser-known superhero protagonist. Praise was heaped upon the movie’s visual style, punchy comedy, and the acting of Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lily, and Michael Douglas as the three leads.
The post-Avengers window worked wonders for the first Ant-Man, so the sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, will be released in a comparable frame, two months after Avengers: Infinity War, right in the middle of the Summer blockbuster season. Ant-Man director Peyton Reed entered the original film fairly late in the development process, so the sequel is his chance to develop an Ant-Man story from the ground up, to truly put his stamp on the character.
After being teased in the post-credits scene of the first movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp, as indicated by its title, will feature Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) suiting up as the Wasp, a superhero with the same shrinking power as her male counterpart, but also the awesome addition of flight… Like a wasp. Michael Douglas and Michael Peña will also reprise their roles in the sequel, which will find Scott Lang as a fugitive on the run after the events of Captain America: Civil War. So much for getting to spend time with his daughter, right?
Cloak & Dagger (Updated 4/28)
While Marvel television has so far been exclusive to ABC and Netflix, that is about to change with Cloak & Dagger, which will air on the Freeform network, formerly known as ABC Family. The series will be set within the MCU, and it will follow the two titular teenagers as they discover their powers while maneuvering through their blossoming romance.
Cloak can create portals to the darkforce dimension and draw upon its power. He will be played by Aubrey Joseph (The Night Of). Meanwhile, Dagger, played by Olivia Holt (Disney XD’s Kickin’ It), has the ability to generate psionically-charged knives which she can use to literally drain the life force from her enemies. Andrea Roth, James Saito, and Gloria Reuben also star in the “Romeo & Juliet with superpowers” action/adventure/teen romance series.
Captain Marvel (Updated 4/28)
Like how T’Challa made his debut in Captain America: Civil War before starring in his own upcoming solo film, Carol Danvers, AKA Captain Marvel, will debut in Avengers: Infinity War before headlining her own adventure in 2019. Brie Larson has already been cast as Marvel’s other Captain, though the production of Infinity War is so tightly guarded that no images of Larson on set, let alone in costume, have been revealed. It’s possible that Carol Danvers will not be a superhero at all when she first appears in Infinity War, and that she’ll get superpowers at some point during that film, perhaps becoming something of a modern-day version of Captain America.
Meg LeFauve (Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur) and Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy, the upcoming Detective Pikachu) are the current screenwriters for Captain Marvel.
though no director or additional casting has been announced yet. Directing duties have been assigned to the team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who are best known for films like Half Nelson and Mississippi Grind, as well as episodes of the hit Showtime series, Billions. It might be a little while yet before Marvel fanatics get any more juicy tidbits on the film, which currently has a far-off release date of March 8, 2019.
The MCU may never end, not as long as fans keep on paying good money to keep Marvel Studios afloat, but things will be different after Avengers 4. It’s the final film in Marvel’s Phase 3, and is being touted as the culmination of everything they’ve been building towards since the first Iron Man way back in 2008.
Avengers 4 is just a working title, of course; the film was originally known as Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2, but it was changed by virtue of the fact that the two films aren’t direct sequels, according to Marvel Studios. The films are being shot back-to-back, however, and the budget of the two upcoming Avengers titles is rumored to be as insanely high as one billion dollars, which would make them probably the most expensive cinematic productions of all time.
Presumably, Avengers 4 will be the site of the final showdown between Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Thanos the Mad Titan. But will it be the end of fan-favorite characters like Iron Man and Captain America? It’s too early to guess, and Marvel certainly isn’t telling. Audiences will just have to wait until May 3, 2019 to see how it all ends… And how it all begins; two months later, Peter Parker will swing back onto the scene with the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Spider-Man: Homecoming Sequel
The fact that Spider-Man is appearing in the MCU is the result of down-to-the-wire negotiations between Sony and Marvel. Sony had been planning to use 2014’s Amazing Spider-Man as a springboard into additional sequels, as well as movies following the Sinister Six, Venom. However, after ASM2‘s relative under-performance ($708 million worldwide, while Sony was expecting at least one billion), the looming cost of a Spider-Man cinematic universe just wasn’t looking to be worth the effort; eventually, Sony struck a deal with Marvel, leading to Spidey’s appearance in Civil War and the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming. Tom Holland’s take on the masked webslinger will also appear in Avengers: Infinity War, but what’s in store for the character after that?
A sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming is currently scheduled to hit theaters on July 5, 2019, in the shadow of Avengers 4, but plot details are being kept under wraps, if they even yet exist at this early stage of pre-development. However, the early buzz is that the films will follow the Harry Potter formula, tracking Peter Parker as he progresses through his high school career.
One wrinkle in that plan is the possibility that Sony reclaims Spider-Man and doesn’t allow him back into the MCU; the Sony/Marvel deal expires with Homecoming 2, and it may have to be renegotiated to ensure a steady flow of MCU-set sequels; after all, Sony’s planned Venom spin-off is not currently expected to be part of the MCU, so what will happen if the script for that film calls for an appearance from the friendly-neighborhood Spider-Man?. Will Sony create its own version of Spider-Man to co-exist alongside the MCU’s version? This developing story has potential to get really confusing before it ends.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (Updated 4/28)
After the conclusion of the “Thanos Saga,” the MCU will seek to reinvent itself with Phase 4, which may not fit the traditional blueprint of Marvel’s trajectory thus far. Along with the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, the only other film officially confirmed for Phase 4 (or whatever the next generation of Marvel films will be known as) is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which will be written and directed by James Gunn, who will be the first director to shepherd an entire trilogy of MCU stand-alone films.
Because the Guardians will be appearing in Infinity War and its sequel, it’s completely unknown what the plot of Vol. 3 may entail, but a few details have slipped through. Vol. 3 will be the final chapter of this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and James Gunn will be closing the book on “his” story, while leaving the door open for a GotG 4 with a new creative team and (presumably) new characters. Adam Warlock will be joining the fray; he had been hinted at in Guardians 1, but was cut during development of the sequel. Fans have been waiting a long time for Warlock to join the MCU, and he will likely make his debut either in GotG 4 or perhaps his own stand-alone film.
The wildcard on Marvel’s television radar is Damage Control. Originally announced in 2015 as a comedy series with a blue-collar perspective on the super-powered antics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the series was to follow the employees of Damage Control, a clean-up crew who take care of the property destruction and other messes which inevitably result from a superhero battle.
Since that announcement two years ago, however, Damage Control has gone silent, and NBC’s similarly-themed Powerless picked up the slack and filled the same “superhero sitcom” niche.
Still, it might not be over for Damage Control; Spider-Man: Homecoming will feature the unit as a team assembled by Tony Stark, and they will come into conflict with Adrian Toomes, a.k.a. The Vulture, who also runs a salvage operation. Perhaps Vulture’s company will be put out of business by Tony Stark’s well-oiled machine, leading him to embark on a quest of revenge?
Perhaps Damage Control was cancelled when it was folded into Spider-Man, but maybe the series will get a second chance as something of a backdoor pilot within Homecoming. More information will surely come to light as Spider-Man’s July release date approaches.
One of the MCU’s most adorable characters is Doreen Green, a.k.a. Squirrel Girl, the super-powered teenager with squirrel-like features (including a fluffy tail!) and the ability to communicate with the woodland critters. Her unrelenting positivity is the key to her endearing popularity, and fans have been eagerly-anticipating her inevitable inclusion into Marvel’s cinematic universe.
At long last, they’re getting their wish with New Warriors, the second MCU television series in development for the Freeform network, which will also host the upcoming Cloak & Dagger. New Warriors has been in development since 2016, and the network just gave the show a ten-episode order, ensuring the series will arrive sooner, rather than later.
Like Cloak & Dagger, New Warriors will target the YA demographic of the Freeform network, and focus on the lighthearted adventures of the New Warriors, with a firm focus on the plucky Squirrel Girl, as well as five other members of the team. Over the years, the roster has included an eclectic mix of characters, including Sun Girl, Speedball, Namorita, and Slapstick. It’s currently unknown if any of these characters will appear in the series or what directions the story might take, but New Warriors is definitely one to watch.
Marvel Studios was working on a feature film of The Runaways way back in 2008, the year the first Iron Man hit theaters. Ultimately, the film was shelved, but the property is being revived as a television series; after conquering Netflix, Marvel is developing its first original series for Hulu.
Runaways follows a group of teenagers who take on a group of supervillains called The Pride. The catch? The middle-aged couples who comprise The Pride are all parents of the Runaways. If done right, the Hulu series has the potential to be a brand new take on the coming-of-age superhero story. The showrunners have a lot of experience in the teen drama genre: Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage made their bones on beloved teen shows Gossip Girl and The O.C.
It’s not 100% clear if Runaways will be part of the MCU or a stand-alone series. Marvel has been strangely silent on the show’s place within their cinematic canon, even when the pilot episode wrapped production in March. The show has yet to be greenlit for a full series order, but it’s reasonable to expect an announcement soon.
Untitled John Ridley Project
In 2015, it was announced that John Ridley was developing a television series based on Marvel Comics for the ABC network. While the writer is most famous for writing the slavery drama 12 Years a Slave, he has plenty of experience in superhero television, having been a writer for animated DC-based projects Static Shock and Justice League.
It’s unclear which character or team Ridley is working on bringing to the small screen, but he seems enthusiastic about the prospect of telling a new story within the established status quo of Marvel’s masked heroes. Of course, the reason Ridley’s taken so long developing his top-secret Marvel project is that he’s one of the most in-demand television auteurs right now; American Crime is currently airing its third season, and his latest show, Guerilla, premieres on Showtime on April 16. Ridley won’t release details on his Marvel show until it’s ready, but, given his track record, it will almost certainly be worth the wait.