The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is an American media franchise and shared universe centered on a series of superhero films produced by Marvel Studios. The films are based on characters that appear in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The franchise also includes television series, short films, digital series, and literature. The shared universe, much like the original Marvel Universe in comic books, was established by crossing over common plot elements, settings, cast, and characters.
The first MCU film is Iron Man (2008), which began the films of Phase One culminating in the crossover film The Avengers (2012). Phase Two began with Iron Man 3 (2013) and concluded with Ant-Man (2015). Phase Three began with Captain America: Civil War (2016) and concluded with Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). The first three phases in the franchise are collectively known as "The Infinity Saga". The films of Phase Four began with Black Widow (2021).
Marvel Television expanded the universe to network television with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC in 2013, before further expanding to streaming television on Netflix and Hulu, and cable television on Freeform. They also produced the digital series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot. Marvel Studios began producing their own television series for streaming on Disney+, starting with WandaVision in 2021 as the beginning of Phase Four. The MCU also includes tie-in comics published by Marvel Comics, a series of direct-to-video short films called Marvel One-Shots, and viral marketing campaigns for the films featuring the faux news programs WHIH Newsfront and TheDailyBugle.net.
The franchise has been commercially successful and has generally received positive reviews. It has inspired other film and television studios to attempt to create similar shared universes with comic book character adaptations. The MCU has also inspired several themed attractions, an art exhibit, two television specials, guidebooks for each film, multiple tie-in video games, and commercials.