Marvel Movies to Watch Before Avengers Endgame

Now that we’ve seen Avengers: Endgame (which is absolutely fantastic), we can tell you how to be fully prepared for this monumental pop culture event. Yes, there are 21 films in total that precede this movie, and Avengers: Endgame somehow offers an epic conclusion to each and every one of them. But you don’t need to remember every single one in order to fully enjoy this sequel. We’ve put together a list of the six most essential movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that you should watch (or rewatch) to get the most out of your Avengers: Endgame experience.

Get the full list of Marvel movies to watch before Avengers Endgame below.

Obviously, we know there’s only one day until the release of Avengers: Endgame, and that’s why we’ve included the most important details to know from these six essential movies below. Plus, not everyone will be able to see this movie opening weekend (even if some theaters are staying open 72 hours straight to maximize the number of showtimes available for fans), so this might be a good way for your less dedicated friends to catch up on the most integral parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So without further adieu, let’s break down the essential Marvel movies to watch before Avengers: Endgame.

The Avengers

Where It Falls in the MCU Timeline: Released in 2012, The Avengers concludes Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which includes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger (the last of which flashes forward from the 1940s to then-present day New York City).

The Plot: Thor’s step-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) comes to Earth with a plan to rule Earth with an army of aliens. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of the government organization known as SHIELD, puts into action a plan to round up Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) in order to stop the planet from being invaded.

What You Need to Know Before Endgame: Loki became such a formidable threat to The Avengers because he was given a powerful scepter by the titan Thanos. The god of mischief was able to control the minds of his enemies by touching the tip of the spear to their heart, and it was all thanks to what resided in the eye of the scepter: an Infinity Stone, or more specifically, the yellow Mind Stone. This includes taking control of Hawkeye for most of the movie, which hits a little too close to home for Black Widow, who has a close friendship and partnership with the eagle-eyed SHIELD agent.

Furthermore, Loki was able to bring an alien army into New York City by using the Tesseract, a powerful, glowing cube that SHIELD inherited after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger. Within the cube is yet another Infinity Stone, the blue Space Stone.

At the end of The Avengers, the fate of Loki’s scepter is not explained. We don’t learn what happened to the scepter until the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, where it’s revealed that the corruption of SHIELD resulted in the weapon ending up in the hands of Hydra. Meanwhile, the Tesseract goes back to Asgard with Thor and and a detained Loki.

Thor: The Dark World

Where It Falls in the MCU Timeline: Released in 2013, the second film in Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes place between Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as well as preceding the events of Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Plot: In ancient times, the gods of Asgard fought and won a war against an evil race known as the Dark Elves. Their weapon, known as the Aether, was buried in a secret location, never to threaten another civilization again. But hundreds of years later, a scientific anomaly results in Thor’s brilliant physicist girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) finding the Aether and becoming its host, forcing Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to bring her to Asgard before the Dark Elf  leader Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) captures her and harnesses the power of the weapon to take control of the Nine Realms.

What You Need to Know Before Endgame: Asgard was threatened by Malekith and his right-hand man Algrim when Jane Foster was brought to the city in order to figure out how to remove the Aether from her body. This resulted in the death of Frigga (Rene Russo), who tried to protect Jane from being taken by the Dark Elves.

When the Aether is again retained by Asgard at the end of the movie, after the defeat of the Dark Elves, a post-credits scene reveals that it’s actually an Infinity Stone, more specifically, the red Reality Stone. Since the Asgardians don’t want to keep two Infinity Stones in the same place, as they already have the Tesseract being stored in their vault, they hand it off to The Collector (Benicio del Toro). That comes into play in one of our later essential Marvel movies to watch before Avengers Endgame.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Where It Falls in the MCU Timeline: Released in 2014, this is the fourh film in Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It takes place between Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The Plot: Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a kidnapped child of Earth turned adult space scavenger, working with a group of thieves, smugglers and mercenaries known as Ravagers. A job results in him having possession of a mysterious orb containing an Infinity Stone, the purple Power Stone, from the planet Morag. Teamed up with a group of cosmic misfits, including a genetically modified raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a giant sentient tree named Groot (Vin Diesel), a vengeful criminal called Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), and the assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), these five unlikely friends must do everything they can to keep the Power Stone out of the hands of Ronan the Accuser, who hopes to retrieve the stone for the titan Thanos after the titan promised to destroy the planet Xandar on his behalf.

What You Need to Know Before Endgame: Gamora is one of the adopted daughters of Thanos. She has worked for Thanos as an assassin for years, but when she learns of the Infinity Stone at the center of the orb, she betrays him and vows to keep it from getting into the titan’s hands.

In addition to Ronan the Accuser, following the betrayal by Gamora, Thanos is forced to employ his second daughter Nebula (Karen Gillan), a cybernetic alien assassin with a long history of conflict with Gamora going back to when they were kids. Nebula does everything she can in order to impress her father, who has always favored Gamora. This includes trying to retrieve the Power Stone and trying to kill Gamora at every possible turn.

Captain America: Civil War

Where It Falls in the MCU Timeline: Released in 2016, this is the first film in Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It takes place between Ant-Man (the end of Phase Two) and Doctor Strange.

The Plot: Following the devastation caused by Ultron in the nation of Sokovia, as well as a mission gone wrong in Lagos, Nigeria, the United Nations creates the Sokovia Accords. The set of legal documents sets out to regulate and monitor the activities of enhanced individuals like The Avengers. Captain America (Chris Evans) doesn’t support government oversight after the infiltration of SHIELD by Hydra, but Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) supports accountability after his own efforts to protect the world resulted in even more chaos. Caught in the middle is Bucky Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier, a former brainwashed assassin who has been framed for a terrorist attack that resulted in the death of the king of Wakanda, prompting the African hero known as Black Panther to get in involved in a battle that fractures The Avengers and forces them to fight against each other.

What You Need to Know Before Endgame: To aid in the battle against Captain America, Tony Stark recruits a kid from Queens named Peter Parker, who has been secretly helping people in New York City as the friendly neighborhood superhero Spider-Man. It’s the hero’s first brush with something bigger than street-level crime and it gives him a taste of being an Avenger. Meanwhile, Captain America brings Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) into the fray, who reveals the ability to grow to giant size in addition to shrinking.

When all is said and done, Stark learns that The Winter Soldier is responsible for the death of his parents, which makes his contentious relationship with his father, Howard Stark, all the more regrettable and frustrating for him. Because of this, Captain America and Iron Man are still at odds at the end of the movie, eventually trading blows harder than ever before and saying things that are hard to take back.

This fallout from Captain America: Civil War results in the disbanding of The Avengers as we know it. This leads to the vulnerability that exposes Earth to the forthcoming threat in Avengers: Infinity War.

Avengers Infinity War Blu-Ray - Thanos

Avengers: Infinity War

Where It Falls in the MCU Timeline: Released in 2017, this is the seventh movie in Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It takes place after Black Panther and somewhat concurrently with the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp (at least the mid-credits scene).

The Plot: After numerous failures to procure the Infinity Stones, the titan Thanos takes a more direct approach to retrieve all six of the powerful gems.. Traversing across space and killing anyone who stands in his way, Thanos and four powerful alien henchman known as the Black Order are hellbent on using all of the stones to wipe out half of all living creatures, all in order to bring balance to the universe. It’s up to all the superheroes spread across the universe, from The Avengers to the Guardians of the Galaxy, to stop him.

What You Need to Know Before Endgame: Perhaps the most important movie to see before Avengers: Endgame, what you must know is Thanos was able to attain all of the Infinity Stones. Thanos destroyed Xandar to get the Power Stone, wiped out many of the survivors from the destruction of Asgard in Thor: Ragnarok to get the Space Stone, and destroyed The Collector and Knowhere in order to get the Reality Stone.

After a tough battle with Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and some of the Guardians of the Galaxy on Thanos’ homeworld Titan, Thanos claims victory and is given the Time Stone by Doctor Strange, who says it was the only way for these events to play out, putting them on the path to the titular Endgame. Thanos then makes his way to Wakanda on Earth to retrieve the final Infinity Stone, the yellow Mind Stone, by pulling it from the head of Vision, the man-made superhero created with the power of the stone itself and the versatile substance vibranium in Avengers: Age of Ultron. During this battle, Bruce Banner’s alter ego Hulk was also no help, refusing to come out when the team needed him most.

But the most important acquisition on this journey (before fighting with our heroes on Titan) was for the orange Soul Stone, which he could only retrieve by killing his favorite daughter Gamora on the planet Vormir as a sacrifice that must be made in order to be worthy of wielding the stone. The location of the Soul Stone was revealed after Gamora was forced to give up its secret location in order to stop her sister Nebula from being tortured by Thanos.

After battling the rest of The Avengers in Wakanda, Thanos prepares to use all of the Infinity Stones, but just before he can snap his fingers, Thor makes one final attack with his newly fashioned weapon, the axe Stormbreaker. But instead of chopping off his head, he embeds it in the titan’s chest, giving Thanos one last chance to make good on his threat.

With the snap of his fingers, Thanos actually wipes out half of all living creatures. This results in half of The Avengers (and countless others around the universe) turning into dust, leaving the other half of the team lost and dealing with the trauma of failing those that they loved. This is pivotal in setting up the events of Avengers: Endgame.

Ant-Man and the Wasp Trailer Breakdown - Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Where It Falls in the MCU Timeline: Released in 2018, this is the eighth film in Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It takes place after the events of Captain America: Civil War and mostly before the events of Avengers: Infinity War, though the mid-credits sequence takes place right after Thanos snaps his fingers.

The Plot: Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has been placed under house arrest for assisting the “war criminal” Captain America. With just days left on his sentence, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) kidnap Lang because they believe there might be some kind of link between him and Janet van Dyne, Pym’s wife and Hope’s mother, believed to be lost in the subatomic quantum realm following a mission gone wrong in 1987. But interrupting their work is a phase-shifting villain called Ghost who needs Pym’s technology to fix a problem of her own.

What You Need to Know Before Endgame: The quantum realm is revealed to be a whole other plane of existence within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Somehow, Janet van Dyne was able to survive there for decades. This prompts Hank, Hope and Janet to conduct experiments going back into the quantum realm for the benefit of science. During one of these tests, Scott Lang is sent into the quantum realm, but it just so happens that the snap of Thanos ends up making all three of his friends disappear, leaving him stuck in the subatomic world.

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So there you have it. That should give you all the most important pieces you need in order to fully enjoy and understand the events of Avengers: Endgame. Of course, the more dedicated fans will find more satisfaction in little callbacks and references to the rest of the 21 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but hopefully you can walk away from this momentous occasion feeling fully satisfied.

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