Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn't even begun yet (Captain America: Civil War is its first chapter) but Marvel movie fans have already been trained to ask, think about, and speculate upon Phase 4. There are nine movies before we even get there, but curiosity for shared universes and long-form stories - still a young but exploding Hollywood phenomenon - is seemingly unavoidable.
That's why when directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who helmed Civil War and who are already work on concluding Phase 3 with Avengers: Infinity War in 2018-19, are interviewed (our latest here and here) they cannot avoid talking about the long-term future. Who will be in Infinity War? Will there be a Captain America 4? What's Spider-Man's future looking like? These questions are even more prominent for Marvel Studios boss and producer Kevin Feige, the mastermind of the MCU, who's already been fielding questions about 2020 release dates and beyond.
None of this is surprising, and the studios are asking for it when announcing release dates four or even five years in advance. Feige even joked once he had a list of Marvel movies planned out all the way to 2028 (and that was two years ago) even if those dates and titles can frequently shift. And they have.
After announcing the entire Phase 3 schedule in October 2014, several major developments shifted the slate. Marvel and Sony made a deal to partner on Spider-Man so he got his own solo movie reboot added in 2017, and after Ant-Man proved to be a hit, it got a sequel for 2018. These changes pushed Inhumans out of Phase 3 and into Phase 4 where it'll now potentially be delayed again, fueling rumors from last year that Inhumans was a property that could be in trouble.
But outside of (or in addition to) Inhumans, what movies are Marvel currently planning for Phase 4? We offered up a beefy list of 25 movies Marvel could consider exploring in Phase 4, and some are obvious, it's just a question of when.
Sebastian Stan, who returns as Bucky Barnes a.k.a. The Winter Soldier in Captain America: Civil War, has a 9-picture deal with the studio, so another Captain America movie starring or co-starring him is a candidate given the upwards trend in marketability of that sub-franchise (especially since no more solo Iron Man flicks are in the works). New properties like Doctor Strange seem ripe for obligatory sequels as well so long as they don't bomb - and Marvel hasn't failed yet.
And of course, outside of there being another Avengers team movie in Phase 4, the most obvious "must" is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The entire main cast of GOTG is signed for three of those so them teaming up again on the big screen is an inevitability. Kevin Feige said as much in chatting with io9 this weekend during the Captain America: Civil War press junket when talking about the current slate and the unannounced films scheduled for 2020.
“We’re only working on what’s been announced through the end of 2019. And it is still a big chess board for 2020 and beyond, but certainly I would say Guardians 3 is [one film that’s] up there. I don’t know what exactly the order will be.”
As it currently stands, Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the most lucrative and high-potential Marvel Studios sub-franchises, not just at the box office but among merchandise as well (it even set records with its soundtrack) so fast-tracking its third installment to help launch Phase 4 is an easy bet, especially since by then it'll be three years after Guardians 2 (which comes three years after Guardians 1). Putting it up front in Phase 4 could also allow its story to launch off of the cosmic war coming our way in Avengers: Infinity War (which they will be included in) and/or help launch or connect to Inhumans.
And while the cast will return, writer and director James Gunn might not. Gunn seems very appreciative of his working relationship with Marvel, especially with the creative freedom he's been given on the two GOTG movies so far, but at this point he's unsure of whether he'll direct the third. He has expressed interest in directing a cosmic spinoff however, several times, so I have a feeling he knows what he'll do next. All could change after Vol. 2 and Avengers 3-4 release however and it's a long ways away.
Captain America: Civil War opens in theaters May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018;Ant-Man and the Wasp– July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans– July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.