Movies to Watch With Infinity War

It’s here. Whether you hate Marvel enough to sabotage their movies’ IMDB scores or love them enough to get Stan Lee’s face tattooed on your back, the studio has done something impressively unique in cinema by executing 19 movies over ten years to lead us all to an unthinkable team-up of dozens of superheroes.

Avengers: Infinity War is a gargantuan achievement with a mind-scrambling amount of moving parts that had to fall into place over the past decade. It’s such an insane prospect that it’s easy to forget it’s technically the third in a series of Marvel team-ups. A threequel. A nineteenthquel. And still only a launchpad for three centuries of Marvel phases lorded over by an eventually-cybernetic Kevin Feige.

There’s no challenge in picking double features for it. There are 18 easy choices, but it would be a lot more fun to look outside the Marvel universe for inspiration…and then tie those movies to the superheroes that will probably die in Infinity War.

I haven’t seen it yet, but there are a bunch of characters who could (should) buy the farm. Not Hawkeye, though. He’s already got one. Every movie I’ve chosen corresponds with an Avenger who Thanos should destroy.

The Man in the Iron Mask (1939)

Heroism gets redefined, swash gets buckled, and a benevolent heir seeks to replace a vicious king that looks exactly like him. James Whale directed this version of the classic Alexandre Dumas tale with Louis Hayward pulling double duty as the royal twins and Peter Cushing making his screen debut.

It’s a team-up movie wherein the Musketeers join forces with a man who’s spent some time jailed with an iron mask on his face to hide his resemblance to his twin brother, King Louis XIV. The fight scenes are the real draw and none of the main characters are safe because United Artists wasn’t planning a sequel.

The Rocketeer (1991)

It’s safe to say now that Joe Johnston’s throwback to superhero serials was ahead of its time. In an alternate universe, Cliff Secord became a 1990s Indiana Jones with at least three movies, and the modern superhero era got kicked off years earlier.

Played by the fresh-faced Billy Campbell, plucky stunt pilot Cliff Secord stumbles upon a rocket pack that gives him incredible power. It also forces him to battle the made men who stole it and Hollywood goons working for a secret Nazi, lest the ingenuity of All-American icon Howard Hughes fall into evil hands.

The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2003)

This. Movie. So absurdly good.

Takeshi Kitano’s take on the character is a beautifully deep, super weird, system-shocking portrayal of martial arts and, naturally, tap dancing. A blind masseuse and deadly samurai, Zatoichi was essentially a brand throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Shintaro Katsu starred as the iconic figure through 26 movies in ten years (hear that, RDJ?), and Kitano resurrected the character to write, direct, and portray.

A superhero in his own right, Zatoichi’s senses are powerfully heightened and he can slice someone’s head off in the time it takes to snap your fingers.

The Mask (1994)

The family-friendly adaptation of the Dark Horse comic gave Jim Carrey a literal rubber face and introduced us to Cameron Diaz. It’s fun to think back on an era when alternative comics like this, Tank GirlThe Crow, and others were turned into movies at an alarming rate considering Marvel and DC’s dominance in the cinematic conversation. The Mask seems risky and manic by comparison. A live-action cartoon with a murderous Bugs Bunny. A kind of Deadpool movie long before Deadpool got a movie.

This goofy tornado that could not have starred anyone but Carrey. The energy level in his portrayal of meek loser Stanley Ipkiss (who turns into a green-faced hellion when he wears a Norse god’s ancient mask) remains astonishing, yet you never seem him huffing and puffing unless it’s for exaggerated effect. It’s a master class in cardio set to a Cuban beat.

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

The best team-up movie of all time? Probably. It’s been the basis and inspiration for so many other stories that its endurance proves its true timelessness. Too often, classics are mined so thoroughly that when you revisit them they’re the ones that seem like cheap copies, but not The Dirty Dozen. The only things missing are the stand-alone movies for Major John Reisman (Lee Marvin), Wladislaw (Charles Bronson), Napoleon Jefferson (Jim Brown), Samson (Clint Walker), and Franko (John Cassavetes).

The film focuses on a team of court-martialed maniacs coerced into forming a squad bent on suicide to destroy the Nazi machine of war. They’re trained and set loose at a French chateau to kill high-ranking Nazis so that the German chain of command is in shambles during the D-Day invasion.

K-PAX (2001)

Like an Oscar bait E.T., this soft focus drama stars Kevin Spacey as Prot – either a delusional man stricken with grief at the loss of his wife and child or an alien from the planet K-PAX who travels the galaxy using light. Jeff Bridges abides as Prot’s psychiatrist, who struggles to justify Prot’s knowledge and abilities because his growing skepticism may mean sacrificing his belief that the man in front of him is in need of profound psychological help.

With a nebulous ending, it’s never quite clear whether Prot left our planet and left Robert safely behind, or whether Robert finally let go of a psychosis protecting him from a reality too horrific to handle.

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The Mix

Depending on which Avengers and Avenger-adjacents you think Marvel will kill off in Infinity War, you could also cue up Enemy at the GatesThe Falcon in Danger (or The Falcon Takes Over?), Winter’s Bone, ThundercatsCharlotte’s Web, the pilot episode of Star TrekThe Hunger GamesThe VVitchDoctor StrangeloveFury, or Apocalypse Now.

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