Top Definition
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is an American media franchise and shared fictional universe that is centered on a series of superhero films, independently produced by Marvel Studios and based on characters that appear in publications by Marvel Comics. The franchise has expanded to include comic books, short films, and a television series. The shared universe, much like the original Marvel Universe in comic books, was established by crossing over common plot elements, settings, cast, and characters. Clark Gregg has appeared the most in the franchise, portraying Phil Coulson, an original character to the MCU.

The first film released in the MCU was Iron Man (2008), which began the first phase of films, culminating in Marvel's The Avengers (2012). Phase Two began with Iron Man 3 (2013), and is expected to conclude with Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Marvel is also preparing Phase Three, beginning with the release of Ant-Man (2015). The universe began to expand with the release of the first official tie-in comics in 2010, and saw further expansion with the Marvel One-Shots direct-to-video short films in 2011 and the TV series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 2013–14 season. Marvel has multiple films and television projects in various stages of development.

The franchise as a whole ranks as the second highest-grossing film franchise of all time and has inspired other film studios with comic book character film rights to attempt to create similar shared universes.
The following film scene, from Iron Man (2008), is an example of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in action:

after end credits
Tony Stark: arriving home Evening, JARVIS!
Jarvis: voice distorted Welcome home, sir...
Stark stops as he sees a figure in his living room
Nick Fury: "I am Iron Man". You think you're the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you've become part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet.
Tony Stark: Who the hell are you?
Nick Fury: Nick Fury. Director of SHIELD.
Tony Stark: Ah.
Nick Fury: I'm here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative.
by The Centurion October 08, 2014

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