Some superfans love to binge-watch all of the Marvel Studios movies before checking out the latest installment, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe now consists of 21 flicks, with ‘Avengers: Endgame’ as the 22nd. While die-hards will squeeze them all in, if you don’t have that kind of time, here is an abridged film festival, so you can just watch the ones that directly lead into ‘Endgame’.
Grab some snacks and drinks and let’s get binging!
1. Captain America: The First Avenger
Yep, you can completely skip the first four movies– ‘Iron Man’, ‘The Incredible Hulk’, ‘Iron Man 2’, and ‘Thor’. While it’s important to establish those characters, if you’ve already seen them, you already know who they are. So let’s skip right to the first appearance of an Infinity Stone.
Technically the Tesseract was first teased in the mid-credits scene of ‘Thor’ but it wasn’t until ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ that its full power was unveiled. Not only does this introduce what would later be revealed to be the Space Stone, and ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ leads directly into ‘The Avengers’.
2. The Avengers
The formation of The Avengers was THE biggest thing to ever happen in a superhero movie up to this point. The stars of four separate solo movies joined forces to battle Tom Hiddleston’s beguiling Loki and to save the world from an alien invasion. Oh, and of course, the weapon he uses towards his goal is the Tesseract.
But the true “gem” hidden in this film was the introduction of Thanos, thanks to a mid-credits scene. As if creating the first comic book movie shared universe wasn’t enough, things were about to get cosmic!
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
The cosmic side of the MCU was more fully explored in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘. James Gunn’s offbeat, comedic style was a detour for the Marvel movies, but the result was the most startling crowd pleaser to come along yet. This wacky crew of misfits charmed viewers and shifted the overall storyline closer to the ultimate confrontation with Thanos.
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron
If I could cut one movie from the list, it’s this one. After seeing it on cable recently, I realized this movie is just not very good. But it does contain the explanation that the Tesseract is actually the Space Stone. ‘Age of Ultron’ also introduces The Vision, who is brought to life after bonding with the Mind Stone.
5. Captain America: Civil War
The Avengers fracture. After a botched mission in Sokovia, the governments of the world want to regulate all superhuman activity. On one side, Iron Man agrees to conform. On the other, Captain America doesn’t. The remaining heroes, including some new additions like Black Panther and Spider-Man, must pick a side.
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6. Spider-Man: Homecoming
This movie doesn’t REALLY factor into ‘The Infinity Saga’, but in ‘Infinity War’, Peter Parker just pops up, puts on his Spider-Man costume and swings into the fray. Considering how important Spider-Man is to Marvel Comics, he may deserve a little more development.
This also establishes the father-son dynamic between Peter and Tony Stark, which leads to one of the most gut-wrenching moments in ‘Infinity War’.
7. Thor: Ragnarok
If nothing else, ‘Thor: Ragnarok‘ affirms just how major an influence James Gunn’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movies were on the rest of the MCU. This movie bears almost no resemblance to the first two ‘Thor’ movies, which were… stuffier. This film also redeems fan-favorite Loki and leads directly into ‘Infinity War’, which literally picks up right after this movie ends.
8. Avengers: Infinity War
9. Ant-Man and the Wasp
‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ is an odd ending note, but perhaps that’s what makes it work. Like the first ‘Ant-Man’, this is largely a light-hearted side story, that doesn’t really impact the rest of the MCU, except that it more fully explores the Quantum Realm. We don’t know why that’s important yet, although we have a good idea. The post-credits scene also plays off of ‘Infinity War’.
And if nothing else, this fun jaunt serves as a pallet-cleanser after the heaviness of ‘Infinity War’s climax.
Of course, feel free to watch whatever Marvel movies you want before ‘Endgame’. But these nine will best prepare you for whatever the future of the MCU holds.