Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4 is currently unconfirmed, but here are our predictions for what it could look like. Back in 2014, Marvel Studios held a special event to announce their then-entire Phase 3 slate. The slate changed quite a bit as new movies were added - like Spider-Man: Homecoming and Ant-Man and The Wasp - and others removed, like Inhumans. But, from that initial announcement, up until recently, MCU fans have known precisely what the studio and Kevin Feige were planning to do next, if not for a few years.
The release of Spider-Man: Far From Home marks the end of Phase 3 and has everyone wondering what will come next. Marvel Studios has yet to confirm their plans, officially, but Disney's release schedule through 2022 guarantees that eight movies are on the way, at least. Feige previously stated that Marvel would not reveal their plans for these dates (and potentially beyond) until after Spider-Man: Far From Home, which made either San Diego Comic-Con 2019 or D23 in August the most likely options for the highly anticipated Phase 4 announcements to be made.
SDCC is now just beginning, and Marvel Studios is confirmed for a Hall H panel on Saturday night running from 5:15 pm to 6:45 pm PT (8:15 pm to 9:45 pm ET; 1:15 am to 2:45 am BST). The official description for the panel is, "Marvel Studios president and producer Kevin Feige and surprise panelists provide an inside look at the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe," but it appears that this will be where most, if not all, of Phase 4 will be revealed. If they do, here is how we believe the Phase 4 slate could look.
May 2020 - Black Widow
The first date on Marvel Studios' Phase 4 slate is May 1, 2020, and it is all but confirmed that Black Widow will be the movie to get this prime slot. Cate Shortland is directing the movie, and Scarlett Johansson has been filming for the last several weeks on her long-awaited solo MCU outing. Since it has a complete cast and is the furthest along in the production process, Black Widow is the only option for this date. So, we can expect Black Widow to kick off Phase 4, but how will it do so?
Thanks to Natasha Romanoff's heroic sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame, it is clear that Black Widow will be a prequel in some form. While early rumors suggested it would be an origin story for the super spy, Black Widow set photos indicate otherwise. The movie appears to take place sometime during Phase 3, and there are plenty of gaps in Natasha's story for Marvel to fill. This could explore her time on the run after Captain America: Civil War or even be set during the 5-year time jump in Avengers: Endgame. Either way, with the possible introductions of a Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), a new Black Widow, and Taskmaster (O-T Fagbenle), a copycat supervillain, expect Black Widow to set up how both could have roles in the larger, ongoing MCU story.
November 2020 - The Eternals
The second date on Marvel's Phase 4 schedule is November 6, 2020, and it is expected to be reserved for The Eternals. Marvel Studios hired Chloe Zhao to direct the film last year, and it is currently rounding out the ensemble cast. Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Ma Dong-seok, and Salma Hayek are reportedly going to star, but many other roles still need to be filled. Filming reportedly begins this fall, which would give The Eternals a little more than a year to move through production and post-production. That schedule makes it the clear favorite to land the last of two 2020 Marvel dates.
The story of The Eternals is not confirmed at this point, though. The property is based on the Jack Kirby-created characters who are genetically superior versions of humans created by Celestials. Feige has teased that the movie could span thousands of years to explore the ancient history of the MCU and the cosmos. Even though most do not know who The Eternals are now, Marvel is hoping to turn the obscure comic property into another franchise, a la Guardians of the Galaxy.
Feb 2021 - Shang-Chi
Next up for Marvel Studios is a February 12, 2021 release date to fill, and we predict that Shang-Chi will be the movie to take this slot. Although many have long expected this date to be the home of Black Panther 2 after the first film performed so well during Black History Month, Shang-Chi is moving faster. Destin Daniel Cretton is set to direct Marvel's first movie with a Chinese lead, and recent reports indicate that a casting announcement could even be made at SDCC alongside the date confirmation. However, not only is Shang-Chi poised to be the first film to enter production after The Eternals, but a February 2021 release date also means it will hit theaters during the Chinese New Year, which could give the film incredible box office potential.
Should Shang-Chi receive this release date, the story is currently wide open with possibilities. The one rumor that has persisted as of late is that it will involve the MCU's real Mandarin. The character was believed to be in Iron Man 3, but a bait-and-switch happened and the subsequent All Hail The King Marvel One-Shot confirmed the real Mandarin was out there. For Shang-Chi, the rumor is that the supervillain will be the Master of Kung Fu's father. This is not yet confirmed but could open the movie up to be more mystical than some currently expect.
May 2021 - Black Panther 2
With Shang-Chi taking the first slot in 2021, Black Panther 2 should be ready to fill the May 6, 2021 slot. The first Black Panther earned over $1.3 billion during the early parts of 2018, but the massive following the film proved to have should give Marvel Studios plenty of confidence that it can be their major movie of the summer. This release date will result in Black Panther 2 hitting theaters just over three years after the original, which has become a recent sweet spot for Marvel when charting out sequel releases. Unless they plan to push the gap to four years and have the movie come out in the first half of 2022, Black Panther 2 is a no-brainer for May 2021.
This also falls in line with what we know so far about the sequel's development. Ryan Coogler is back to write and direct and has been since the end of 2018, although Feige recently said Coogler's just now working on the actual script. But, Coogler and Marvel likely already have most of the story worked out at this point, even though we don't know what it is. There have been rumors that Michael B. Jordan could return as Killmonger in some form, while other theories point to Namor possibly being introduced in the sequel. None of this is confirmed, though. But when Marvel Studios sets Black Panther 2's release date, story details could be revealed, too.
July 2021 - Spider-Man 3
As of right now, there is no July 2021 release date set for a Marvel movie from Disney or Sony, but it will be very surprising if Spider-Man 3 doesn't hit theaters during this time. Marvel Studios and Sony's partnership has so far operated on a two-year plan with Spider-Man: Homecoming arriving in 2017 and Spider-Man: Far From Home in 2019. And, with Far From Home's box office success - which is on track to be the first Spider-Man movie to cross $1 billion globally - there is no reason for them to abandon this pace and release window.
The overall goal for the franchise has been to do the first three films during Peter Parker's last three years of high school, which further means that Spider-Man 3 needs to happen sooner rather than later, because of the cast's ages. Tom Holland will be 25 in 2021, which is right on the edge of him still believably playing an 18-year-old Peter. His senior year will be even tougher for him based on Spider-Man: Far From Home's ending, too. With Mysterio revealing Spider-Man's secret identity, the aftermath of this moment is something that will need to be explored soon. Spider-Man 3 has yet to be announced officially, but director Jon Watts sounds confident he's directing the third film and wants Kraven to be the villain. While this date may not be announced during Marvel Studios' Hall H panel due to it technically being a Sony release, we can't imagine a July 2021 release not being given to Spider-Man 3 eventually.
Nov 2021 - Doctor Strange 2
Rounding out 2021, Doctor Strange 2 is in the best position to hit the November 5, 2021 release date Disney has claimed. The first Doctor Strange was released in the same window back in 2016 and made over $675 million. While Strange's popularity is much higher now thanks to Avengers: Infinity War, his sequel is one that Marvel Studios has taken a slower approach with. This date would see Doctor Strange 2 arrive five years after the original film, and possibly filming sometime in 2020 means it is likely aiming at a 2021 release. This is the best spot for it.
Even though it is far away, we may have the most details on Doctor Strange 2 out of them all. Director Scott Derrickson is returning, and reports claim C. Robert Cargill is back writing the script. Cargill previously said that if he and Derrickson made Doctor Strange 2 that it would feature Nightmare as the main villain and bring back Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). While it is possible that this idea has changed, Nightmare is someone Derrickson has been pushing for a while. After the events of the last two Avengers films though, Nightmare could be an even more significant threat now that Strange doesn't have the Time Stone.
Feb 2022 - Captain Marvel 2
As we move into 2022, Captain Marvel 2 could be up first at the beginning of the year. Disney and Marvel previously claimed a February 18, 2022 release date, and that would put the sequel out three years after the original film but slightly earlier than its March roll-out. This prediction is a bit more difficult to backup since there have been no reports of Captain Marvel 2's writers or directors returning, but the film's $1.1 billion gross guarantees a sequel is on the way. This slot keeps Captain Marvel 2 in that three-year sweet spot and likely will see it hit theaters with limited major box office competition.
Since there are no reports on Captain Marvel 2, the possible story it could tell is wide open. After the release of the first film, many wanted to see the sequel be more of a direct follow-up and also take place in the MCU's past. It appears she never came back to Earth between her first film and Avengers: Endgame, which would give a sequel tons of freedom to show her relocating the Skrulls or going back to Hala to fight the Kree. But, the sequel could also be set during the time jump in Avengers: Endgame as she's helping out the entire cosmos or take place after 2014 Thanos was defeated. The Spider-Man: Far From Home post-credits scene could be a launching pad for her present-day adventures in space.
May 2022 - Guardians Of The Galaxy 3
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was originally going to be the start to Phase 4 in 2020, but it now will likely land in theaters on May 6, 2022. The reasoning for this is Disney's decision to fire writer/director James Gunn last year, his decision to then do The Suicide Squad, and Disney ultimately reversing course and rehiring Gunn. Gunn will shoot The Suicide Squad this fall ahead of a (current) August 2021 release. But he could be done with the film much earlier than that date, with some reports even suggesting Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 could even begin filming in 2020. If that is the case, then Gunn and Marvel should have enough time to keep the franchise in May.
Because of the original timing on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, we also know a decent amount about what Gunn was (and, hopefully, still is) planning. Rocket's story will continue to be explored in a big way, while Gunn has also teased that new cosmic characters Adam Warlock and Quasar could be involved. He's also said that Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) would return and maybe even the Ravagers team. They will all be in support of the central Guardians team, which may be on the search for Gamora based on Avengers: Endgame's ending. Additionally, it appears Thor may play a role in the movie, but maybe not as large of one as many expected.
July 2022 - Thor 4
And speaking of Thor, the recent news that Taika Waititi is writing and directing Thor 4 instead of doing Akira suddenly puts the movie on a fast-track. Based on what we know about the status of the previously mentioned films though, 2022 might be the earliest Thor 4 can arrive. Waititi is only just now jumping into the project and will need time to write the script and go through every element of pre-production. Placing the film for the July 29, 2022 slot would give the entire project plenty of time to gestate as well as a prime summer release date.
We've decided to put Thor 4 specifically after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, too, because of how the latter is likely the one that intends to deal with Thor leaving the Benatar. Remember, Gunn originally was going to have his third film ready for 2020 so Thor 4, if it were in the cards back then, would always be envisioned as a follow-up to it in some form. Now, it can literally be the next film out the gate for Marvel and would give Waititi free reign on the story. He hasn't dropped any hints on what exact story he'd want to do next with Thor and Valkyrie, so Thor 4 really could be anything.
From this point on, Marvel and Disney have yet to announce any dates officially, but Feige has confirmed they currently have a five-year MCU plan. With that in mind, we also have no idea how long Phase 4 will last, but the number of sequels ready to move indicates that it will last for more than three years. Similarly, the popularity of their franchises and interest to introduce new properties (not to mention the eventual additions of the X-Men and Fantastic Four and, hopefully, a continued partnership with Sony) means that Marvel will likely need to expand beyond the three movies per year model they've been operating at. Feige has said they'd only go to four films a year for a good reason, and the abundance of riches at Marvel's disposal is as good as any. With all of that in mind, we believe that Phase 4 will run through 2023 and the last three years will all hold four films apiece. So, here are the movies we think could come out if that is the case.
November 2022 - Thunderbolts
After six sequels and three cosmic films, we're predicting a return to Earth like we've never seen before in the MCU. At the end of 2022, in November for the sake of consistency, Marvel could go all-in on supervillains with Thunderbolts. The fall release date is typically where Marvel tests out lesser-known properties like Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, and The Eternals, and the Thunderbolts fit that mold while giving the MCU a completely different type of story to tell.
The Thunderbolts first emerged in Marvel comics during a time when Earth was low on heroes after a devastating event. This could transfer over to the MCU with the Avengers possibly no longer a team and a power vacuum open. The chaos of the snap and the blip could even result in many members of the Thunderbolts in the comics being released and now to team up. Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) forms the team initially in the comics so he could serve the same role in the MCU. Zemo could recruit already established foes like Abomination (Tim Roth) or anti-heroes Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Meanwhile, the possible introductions of Taskmaster and Norman Osborn in earlier Phase 4 films could see them join the team, too. If a Thunderbolts movie really goes for it, this could even be the place where Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool crosses into the MCU. Who wouldn't want to see this in late 2022?
March 2023 - Captain America 4
Now that Marvel Studios has shown a willingness to go beyond a trilogy with individual franchises, Captain America 4 should be in their plans and would be a great choice to kick off their 2023 slate. Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) received the Captain America shield at the end of Avengers: Endgame, and Marvel is already gearing up to explore what comes next. Mackie will star alongside Sebastian Stan, who plays Bucky Barnes, in a Falcon and Winter Soldier six-part series on Disney+.
While that format will give Mackie extensive screentime in the role, it can also properly set him up as the next Captain America so that Captain America 4 can happen with him already in the suit. The series is reportedly targeting a late 2020 release, so releasing Captain America 4 in early 2023 would give Marvel about two and a half years to get a movie ready. Given the work he's set to do on the series and ability in the past with the John Wick franchise, Derek Kolstad could be a great choice to tackle the initial draft. And, with Feige previously teasing that the franchise can continue without Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Captain America 4 could be something he's been planning for a while now.
May 2023 - Young Avengers
Four years after Avengers: Endgame, May 2023 is the right time for Marvel Studios to bring back the Avengers namesake but in a new way: Young Avengers. But we like the idea of making it a secret third Ant-Man movie as well. The young team of heroes will need guidance and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) already have an in with the group thanks to Cassie Lang (Scott Lang's daughter). This gives them a chance to be the veterans of the team and for the different versions of original Avengers members in the comics to lead a new-look lineup. Plus, it gives Marvel a new, possibly lucrative, franchise for them both to star in instead of doing a third Ant-Man film.
While a Young Avengers movie may not have several film franchises to build off of like the first Avengers did, Marvel Studios' many projects could introduce the future lineup beforehand. An older Cassie Lang (Emma Fuhrmann) debuted in Avengers: Endgame so that she can become Stature sooner now. Meanwhile, Kate Bishop will reportedly debut in a Hawkeye Disney+ series, Kamala Khan could be involved in Captain Marvel 2, Patriot could debut in Captain America 4, Wiccan and Speed could be introduced in WandaVision perhaps, while characters like Ironheart, Hulkling, and America Chavez could see Young Avengers add them. Not all of these characters would need to be in the first film, but there are several options at Marvel's disposal to create a new, young, and diverse lineup of heroes. With Feige confirming they are "planting seeds" for the team, what better way for them to grow than in their own movie.
July 2023 - Spider-Man 4
Marvel and Sony's deal to work together on the Spider-Man franchise ends after Spider-Man 3, but it is difficult to imagine them stopping the partnership. Spider-Man is arguably more popular now than ever before, and Marvel Studios has positioned Peter Parker as an essential figure moving forward. So, if they stay on their current schedule, we're going to predict that Spider-Man 4 comes out two years after the last film and hits theaters in July of 2023.
While this schedule may seem fast to some, unlike how Spidey has been used as of late, it is entirely possible that he won't be in any other MCU movies (besides maybe a role in Young Avengers) before doing another solo film. In the meantime, Spider-Man 4 can explore Peter going to college or starting some other new chapter of his life. This could be the landing spot for the Sinister Six to be the ultimate threat to him or even where Miles Morales is introduced as another wall-crawler in the MCU. The truth is, there are so many different avenues that Spider-Man 3 could go, that predicting Spider-Man 4's story is almost impossible. But, we still expect it to arrive in the not too distant future.
Nov 2023 - Nova
Rounding out our Phase 4 prediction slate and 2023, Nova could be next up for Marvel Studios. Richard Rider remains one of the most requested characters by fans to join the MCU and Feige has said he has "immediate potential" to join. However, there is currently no actual word that a solo film is in the works. He could be introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 perhaps to set up a solo film, and a November 2023 release would give Marvel time to see the reception to him (potentially) in Gunn's 2022 summer flick and make any possible improvements based on his debut.
Nova ending Phase 4 would mark a return to the cosmos, something that otherwise isn't part of our 2023 lineup. As for what it could contain, Nova could be a chance for some members of the Guardians of the Galaxy to continue beyond Gunn's franchise and explore more corners of space. His solo movie could potentially start to set up Annihilus, the Negative Zone, and a future adaptation of the Annihilation storyline. It could even be revealed here that the Negative Zone is where the Fantastic Four are trapped (and not the Quantum Realm as many have theorized). Then, Phase 5 of the MCU could see Marvel's first family utilized.