In the summer of 2018 the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will come together in Avengers: Infinity War to face their greatest threat—a giant purple CGI thumb called Thanos—and an uncertain future. When the fourth Avengers movie comes out one year later, it effectively marks the end of Marvel Studios’ current production slate.
Marvel has been deliberately coy about its plans beyond 2019, but we’re not completely in the dark. Some clues have slipped out that allow us to piece together a picture of what’s to come. Here’s what we know, and how we know it.
"We’ve got another 20 movies on the docket that are completely different from anything that’s come before—intentionally." – Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, speaking to Vanity Fair in late 2017
Once Infinity War is over, don’t expect peace and quiet. Marvel Studios made six movies in its first five years and eleven in its second five, so having twenty movies in the immediate pipeline beyond 2019 is in line with the studio’s aggressive expansion.
Only two of those movies have been confirmed for sure, and they’re both sequels. Sony, which splits production of the Spider-Man movies with Marvel, announced a second Tom Holland Spidey picture in 2019, while Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn told his followers on Facebook that a third Guardians movie would come in “a little under 3 years.”
While promoting his horsey war movie 12 Strong, Chris Hemsworth confirmed that his Norsey Marvel contract ends with the fourth Avengers movie. The MCU’s other original leading men have made similar statements. Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr. confirmed there are no plans for a fourth Iron Man—though he’d return for “one more”—and Captain America’s Chris Evans told USA Today that he’ll “walk away with no regrets and endlessly thankful” after his contract expires after Avengers 4.
Of course, Downey renegotiated once before, and sometimes actors say they’re done as a tough negotiating stance; look no further than Daniel Craig, who said he’d rather “slash his wrists” than return as James Bond. He returns as James Bond next year.
Marvel has good reason to stay tight-lipped about contract negotiations, as confirming anyone’s status after Avengers 4 gives too much away about who lives or dies.
For the 18 movies that haven’t been announced, further sequels to current or upcoming movies are a no-brainer. Guardians, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor all got three movies apiece; Ant-Man is up to two with this year’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, so a third seems likely.
Expect more Doctor Strange, more Black Panther, and more Captain Marvel after 2019, especially given that Marvel signed all the lead actors in these movies at a time when it already knew the scale of the universe it was building.
“[Black Widow] is right for a standalone, it’s just a case of timing at this point for both Marvel and myself.” – Scarlett Johansson, Marvel’s Black Widow, speaking to Total Film in 2017
There’s been buzz about a Black Widow solo movie since Scarlett Johansson debuted as the character in Iron Man 2 in 2010, but while Marvel has expressed interest in the idea, the studio has never committed to it.
The latest reports from Variety suggest this may finally be changing, as screenwriter Jac Schaeffer is now attached to the project. If ScarJo is right that making the movie is just “a case of timing,” Black Widow is nearly a sure thing for the next slate of movies.
Disney threw a curveball into Marvel Studios’ plans by announcing its planned takeover of 20th Century Fox. The movie rights to some of Marvel’s most iconic characters were sold to Fox almost 20 years ago, and now they’re coming home, and that wasn’t part of Kevin Feige’s plan.
Feige recently confirmed to Vulture that nothing will change for Marvel until the deal goes through, and that could take years. In the meantime, Fox is going ahead with its own movies and shows. Deadpool 2 and New Mutants are out this year, Gambit and Doctor Doom movies are in the works, the TV shows Gifted and Legion have been renewed for second seasons, and a solo Kitty Pryde movie is rumored to be in the development as well.
Once the deal goes through, X-Men and Fantastic Four movies may disrupt Marvel’s plans beyond 2019, just as adding Spider-Man: Homecoming to the schedule disrupted the release schedule for Black Panther and Captain Marvel.
“Those movies will all take place in the world that we are now creating for Peter Parker.” – Amy Pascal, producer of the Spider-Man movies, speaking to Filmstarts in June 2017
Speaking of Spider-Man, Amy Pascal created a lot of confusion when she said that Spider-Man spinoffs such as Venom and Silver & Black would be set in the same universe as Spider-Man. Both Pascal and Kevin Feige later clarified that these movies do not take place in the MCU.
So how does it work? Well, Spider-Man exists in the MCU. Spider-Man also exists in Sony’s Spider-Man universe, and Pascal says “there’s always a chance” Holland’s Peter Parker will appear in those movies. Those universes are not otherwise connected. It’s a Venn diagram with only Spider-Man: Homecoming and its sequels occupying the overlap.
Shorter version: Tom Hardy’s Venom is never going to tussle with Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, except in my fanfic, which is exclusively about that exact thing.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 ... will take place after the next two Avengers movies, and it will help to set up the next 10, 20 years of Marvel movies." – James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, on Facebook Live
When Feige says that Marvel’s movies after 2019 will be “completely different from anything that’s come before”, there’s every reason to believe him. The Marvel Universe of the comics is big and weird and has found ways to mix superheroes into just about every genre, from slapstick comedy to chthonic horror. Gunn’s quote suggests that Marvel’s cosmic expanses are particularly primed for future exploration.
After the success of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 and Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, and with the likely success of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther this year, Marvel has seen the merits of a stylistically diverse and far-reaching universe. Bob Iger told Vanity Fair that future movies would be set in “worlds that are completely separate—geographically or in time—from the worlds that we’ve already visited.” So, while we don’t know exactly where the Marvel Cinematic Universe is headed, we know Marvel Studios is not getting any less ambitious.