Marvel Studios is on a roll. Every movie the production company releases these days becomes a critical and financial success, and it looks like that trend will continue. Marvel Studios has usurped Pixar as the film company that can do no wrong, and its unique approach to using its own characters in a shared comic book and cinematic universe is being emulated by runners up like Sony, Warner Brothers and Fox.
Because Marvel Studios doesn’t own the film rights to the biggest Marvel characters like Spider-man, X-men and the Fantastic Four (Marvel licensed those characters out in the 1990s to avoid bankruptcy), it was forced to use more obscure characters that weren't as popular in the comic book world. However, by focusing on story and substance Marvel Studios has managed to promote more obscure characters like Iron Man and Thor to the status of household names. It all started in 2008 when Marvel Studios released Iron Man starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. The film was directed Jon Favreau and it took Iron Man from his lowly existence as a superhero the mainstream had never heard of to his current status as the most popular superhero in film today. He was instantly an A-list superhero and Iron Man movies now make as much or more bank than movies starring Batman, Superman and Spider-Man. Iron Man's opening weekend alone took in nearly $100 million and it became the highest grossing film of the summer supplanting the perceived box office front runner of that summer: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The ending of Iron Man featured a cameo by Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury, which sent fans in the know into giddy excitement at what would come next. Later that year Marvel Studios rebooted Hulk with the Incredible Hulk; the film featured Robert Downey Jr. in a cameo role playing Tony Stark AKA Iron Man. The universe was starting to take shape.
Marvel Studios then released Thor and Captain America to critical acclaim and box office success. Iron Man 2 built on the box office bravado of its predecessor, and in 2012 Marvel Studios released the Avengers. The Avengers became one of the best reviewed superhero movies of all time and is the third highest-grossing film of all time at the worldwide box office with over $1.5 billion. Marvel Studios won’t be stopping anytime soon;head honcho Kevin Feige has said they have the next 21 films from the studio outlined all the way up to 2028. Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ended with the Avengers.Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier were all part of Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Here, we're sneaking a peek at Marvel Studio's action plan to see which are their next 10 movies set to be released. Not all of these have been confirmed, but it's widely speculated that these are the comic book characters that will leap to the big screen in the upcoming years along with the established favorites that will be getting sequels.
3 Guardians of the Galaxy on Aug 1, 2014
This will be the biggest test yet for Marvel Studios. The mainstream movie going public didn’t know who Iron Man was, but even many hardcore comic geeks don't know who the Guardians of the Galaxy are. The Guardians of the Galaxy first showed up in comic book form in the late 60s, but the roster for that team is not the same as the one in the movies. Instead the movie will be based on the 2008 comic book reboot which features Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Star Lord, Drax the Destroyer and Gamora. The film is set to be a particularly comedic take on the Marvel universe; not just because it stars a talking tree and a smart mouth raccoon, but because it was directed by cult auteur James Gunn.
9. The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015
Everyone’s favorite superhero team will return to fight the mechanical menace known as Ultron in this sequel. Ultron is a living computer hell bent on human extinction that was developed by Hank Pym aka Ant-Man in the comics. The movie version will be voiced by James Spader and it is rumored that Tony Stark will be the one who accidentally creates this fearsome foe in the Avengers sequel. The Avengers: Age of Ultron will feature a much larger role for Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, who was a fan favorite in the first film. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch will also be introduced, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen respectively. Quicksilver also appeared in X-men: Days of Future Past; the X-men films are made by Fox, not Marvel Studios, so the unique scenario will exist where the same character will be played by two different actors in two separate films during the same time period. The ever-expanding cast will also feature Paul Bettany as Vision.
2 Ant-Man on July 17, 2015
This film about a genius superhero - who can change his size thanks to his special suit - has been in development for years. Recently production hit a bit of a snag when director Edgar Wright left the project after being involved with script writing and development since 2006. Wright was replaced by Yes Man director Peyton Reed, and the script is being rewritten by Anchorman director Adam Mckay. Based on the cast and crew, the film will likely be a comedy. Paul Rudd is the younger Scott Lang and Michael Douglas will play the older Hank Pym. In another original take on the superhero genre Ant-Man will feature two “Ant-Men.” In the comics Scott Lang is a thief who stole the Ant-Man suit from Pym to pull off a burglary so he could save his sick daughter, so the movie is said to feature heist elements.
7. Captain America 3 on May 6, 2016
The as yet untitled sequel to Captain America: The Winter Soldier is being directed once again by the Russo brothers. Marvel Studios isn't pulling any punches and plans to release the movie on the same weekend as rival DC Comics' highly anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – talk about confidence! This movie will be the second released in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Little is known about the plot, but numerous villains have been rumored including the return of the Red Skull, Baron Zemo, the Grand Director and Baron Strucker (who cameos in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron).
6. Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange is a master of the mystic arts and the movie version of the character will likely be even more fantastical than the Thor films. Stephen Strange was once a brilliant but narcissist neurosurgeon who lost the ability to use his hands after a car accident. After traveling to the Himalayas he was taught all about magic by the ancient one when Strange revealed the goodness he possessed inside. The most recent casting rumors to play the Sorcerer Supreme include Oscar winner Jared Leto, Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. Director Scott Derrickson recently announced via Twitter that he will be helming the project. Marvel Studios has announced two placeholder release dates for untitled films: July 8, 2016 and May 2, 2017. Doctor Strange will likely be released on one of these dates.
5. Thor 3
With the success of the previous two Thor films of course the God of Thunder will be getting a threequel. While nothing has officially been announced yet, Thor 3 will likely be released in 2016 or 2017. There is even the rumoured possibility that Loki will be getting his own spin off movie – something that Tom Hiddleston fangirls have been clamoring for, for some time. However, even Hiddleston himself has said he doesn't see how a spin off film about Loki would work without Thor.
4. Black Panther
Black Panther is T'Challa, the King of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He is also the first black superhero to be written into mainstream American comic book lore. A mix of worshipping an ancient god and homeopathic medicine give T'Challa the powers of super speed, strength and stamina. A Black Panther film has been hinted at for years, and Feige even said one was in development during a press junket for Thor: The Dark World late last year. However, nothing is confirmed - despite Wakanda being referenced in numerous Marvel Studios movies via Easter eggs already.
3. Iron Man 4
Robert Downey Jr. is the backbone of the Iron Man franchise, but he isn’t signed on for any more solo Iron Man movies; he is only signed on for Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers 3. Of course, the Iron Man franchise is Marvel Studios' golden goose and there will likely be another solo Iron Man movie sooner or later. RDJ could be recast, there could be a War Machine spin off film, or even a quasi-reboot of some kind that still fits in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
1 Guardians of the Galaxy 2
The upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy will mean the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be expanding into deep space, which opens the possibility for more adventures with this ragtag group of loveable losers, and perhaps even spin off films. Whether or not Guardians of the Galaxy gets a sequel will depend on its box office performance. If it bombs Marvel Studios will sweep this one under the rug. Josh Brolin will be playing Thanos (the character cameos in the first Avengers movie) in Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers 3, which means there could be an Avengers/Guardians of the Galaxy crossover.
1. Avengers 3
It seems increasingly likely that the third Avengers movie will feature Thanos as the main villain and his quest to obtain the Infinity Gauntlet, which would give him godlike and universe-controlling powers. Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn has said his film is connected to Avengers 3, and there are reports that Joss Whedon will return to direct the final part of the Avengers trilogy. Expect to see Avengers 3 sometime in summer 2018.