Only one week until one of the biggest, most anticipated cinematic events of the decade. It’s been a ten year journey to get here, but Avengers: Infinity War is on the horizon. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives. So, with a decade of build up and 18 movies leading to this moment, This Guy figured we could use a quick refresher on what exactly has been leading to this epic final battle. Below is a list of all the films in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and the relevant plot points you’ll want to keep in mind before Thanos gets here. Be warned, there are full SPOILERS for every MCU film released so far.
Iron Man (2008)
Our first entry into the as of yet unnamed Marvel Cinematic Universe. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is captured by the Ten Rings terrorist group, and escapes by building a prototype armored suit IN A CAVE! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS! He tinkers and modifies his invention, until Iron Man is born. His duel identity as a newly minted superhero is revealed to the world with the iconic ending, in which Tony tells the press, “The truth is. . . I am Iron Man.” In the MCU’s first post-credits stinger, Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) of SHIELD invites Tony to join the “Avengers Initiative.”
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
We’re introduced to Bruce Banner (Edward Norton), hiding from the military, headed by General Ross (William Hurt), in South America. His dangerous alter ego is just barely being kept in check. Eventually, he’s forced to return home in hopes of a possible cure to rid himself of the Hulk. Instead, he finds himself pitted against a similarly mutated Abomination, before running off into the wilderness to learn to control his transformations. In a post-credits scene, Tony Stark approaches General Ross to discuss “putting a team together.” This is the first and last time Norton would play Bruce Banner, as he is replaced by Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Tony Stark is being reviewed for entry into the Avengers Initiative. Meanwhile, he’s dealing with blood poisoning brought on by the element powering his arc reactor (the device in his chest that powers his suits, as well as keeps shrapnel in his bloodstream from reaching his heart). Stark is forced to contend with new enemies, but gains a new ally in his friend Col. Rhodes, who takes one of Tony’s suits for himself, becoming War Machine. We’re also introduced to Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), who poses as Tony’s new assistant, before being revealed as SHIELD operative, Black Widow. In the end, Tony creates a new element, originally discovered by his father, and fixes his poisoning problem. In the post-credits scene, Thor’s hammer is seen embedded in the ground somewhere in New Mexico, as SHIELD moves in.
In Asgard, powerful beings like Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) have existed for millennia, watching over Earth (Midgard), as well as the other realms. After angering his father with his arrogance, Thor is cast out of Asgard and falls to Earth without his powers, unable to wield his hammer Mjolnir until he is worthy. In Thor’s absence, Loki, having discovered he is not actually Thor’s brother, stages a coup in Asgard, seizing the throne. While battling Loki’s Destroyer, Thor sacrifices himself to defend his friends, and regains his powers now that he is worthy. He returns to Asgard, defeats Loki (who disappears), and is reunited with his family. In the post-credits stinger, a scientist who helped Thor is brought to a SHIELD facility to study a mystical cube (the Tesseract, the first Infinity Stone introduced) they’ve discovered. An invisible Loki compels him to agree to help. Early in the film, we also briefly meet Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), aka Hawkeye, another SHIELD operative.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
At the height of WWII, New York shrimp, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), fails again and again to physically qualify for the military to join his friend, “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan), in battle. Steve is finally allowed to enlist by Doctor Erskine, who immediately selects him for entry into a secret super-soldier program. Together with Howard Stark (Tony’s father), Erskine enhances Steve’s physical attributes, giving him a buff bod, with superhuman strength and reflexes. Erskine is soon assassinated and so the formula is lost, but Steve, now Captain America, uses his new abilities to rescue his friend Bucky from Schmidt, a fanatical Nazi who previously underwent a failed form of Erskine’s treatment, and now runs Hydra, an division of the Nazi military. Bucky is “killed” during an attack on Hydra, and Steve discovers that Schmidt is using the Tesseract’s power to create new weapons. In a final fight aboard a Nazi aircraft, Schmidt is defeated, and Steve crashes with the Tesseract in the Arctic. 70 years later, the aircraft is found, the Tesseract is acquired by SHIELD, and Cap is recruited into the Avengers Initiative.
The Avengers (2012)
In the last film of the MCU’s “Phase I,” Earth is attacked by Loki, brandishing a magical scepter (containing a second Infinity Stone) and in search of the Tesseract. He plans to use it to open a portal to another galaxy, allowing an invasion of an alien force gifted to him by an alien emissary. Loki brainwashes Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), a scientist working with SHIELD, and Hawkeye to help in his plans. SHIELD rallies Iron Man and Cap, while Black Widow goes to Calcutta to recruit Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). When Loki is captured, Thor arrives back on Earth to bring him back to Asgard for judgment, running afoul of the other Avengers. A truce is declared, and Thor joins the others with SHIELD. Loki escapes, and now in possession of the Tesseract, opens a portal over New York to start the invasion. The Avengers, having deprogrammed Hawkeye, converge on the city and act as a team for the first time to fend off Loki’s invasion. The World Security Council attempts to end the invasion with a nuclear missile. Hulk lays a beating on Loki, incapacitating the “puny god,” while Iron Man sends the missile through the wormhole, and Black Widow closes it using Loki’s scepter, saving New York. Thor takes Loki and the Tesseract back to Asgard, while the alien emissary informs his master of Earth’s new defenders, and we get our first glimpse of Thanos (Josh Brolin).
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Not long after the battle of New York, Tony Stark is obsessed with tinkering with his suits, having designed close to 50 new prototypes to help him deal with PTSD brought on by the previous year’s events. His life is soon threatened by a terrorist called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). We soon discover the Mandarin is a patsy, put in place by Killian (Guy Pearce), an enemy of Stark, using Extremis technology to make super-soldiers, and create a state of constant war and terror. Iron Man defeats Killian, and decides to finally have the shrapnel near his heart removed, though he remains Iron Man.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Thor and Loki team up to take down a band of rebel Dark Elves, hoping to use the “Aether” to conquer the nine realms. Together, the estranged brothers defeat the Elves, save the world, with Loki being “killed” in the process. The Asgardians entrust the Aether, (revealed to be a third Infinity Stone), to the “Collector” (Benicio del Toro), an alien kingpin who likes to, ya know, collect things. In the end, Loki is revealed to have taken Odin out of commission, and is posing in his adoptive father’s place on the throne of Asgard.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Two years after the events of The Avengers, Cap is working for SHIELD in Washington. His old friend Bucky Barnes reemerges, now an enhanced, brainwashed assassin, The Winter Solder. Cap and Black Widow come to realize that SHIELD is compromised by Hydra, and are deemed fugitives. Hydra’s plan is to use SHIELD’s newest surveillance technology to wipe out millions of potential threats to their domination. Cap, Black Widow, and new ally, paratrooper Sam Wilson (aka Falcon) defeat Hydra, foil their plans, and clear their names. Bucky, meanwhile, disappears after a fight with Cap, seemingly breaking through his brainwashing, and recalling his past. In the stinger, a Hydra operative has gained possession of Loki’s scepter, and its Infinity Stone, and has used it to create two new powered humans, siblings, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
As a boy, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is picked up by a spaceship shortly after his mother dies. Years later, he’s a Ravager, a space pirate under the command of Yondu (Michael Rooker), the alien who picked him up all those years ago. Peter steals an orb Yondu has been tasked with finding, and is soon hunted by his former partners. Teaming up with other criminals, Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Quill decides to sell the Orb to the Collector. Gamora is the adopted daughter of Thanos, who is still trying collect all the Infinity Stones, but she is now fighting against him. When the new comrades discover that the orb IS an Infinity Stone (we’re up to four now), they vow to keep it out of Thanos’ hands. Thanos sends his lackey, the warlord, Ronan (Lee Pace), to obtain the orb, but he claims it for himself and tries to destroy his enemies, the Nova Corps. Quill and his friends stop Ronan, hide the orb with the Nova Corps, and become the “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015)
The Avengers raid Hydra’s base, and reclaim Loki’s scepter. In the meantime, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch escape, and resolve to defeat the Avengers. Stark and Banner study the gem in Loki’s scepter (the Infinity Stone), and decide to use its power to complete their Ultron project, an AI defense program for the world. Ultron (James Spader) gains sentience and rebels, escaping from Stark tower and building a new, stronger body for himself. Ultron’s defense programming is corrupted by his newfound madness, believing he must eradicate humanity to save the Earth. Ultron plans to do this by causing an extinction event in Sokovia. He recruits Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, and using the gem, creates a new “perfect” body for himself. The Avengers manage to get to the body, and Stark uploads his own AI program into it, and activates it with Thor’s help. The newly awakened Vision (Paul Bettany), with the Infinity Stone in his head, helps the Avengers defeat Ultron and his army of drones. During the final battle, Hulk stops the escape of one of the drones, and ends up flying away in the Avengers’ jet, his whereabouts unknown.
In 1989 Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) resigns from SHIELD to protect his revolutionary shrinking tech, Pym Particles. In the present Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is an ex-con just trying to make ends meet. During a burglary, Lang steals Pym’s shrinking suit and accidentally activates it. We find out the situation was set up by Pym to test Lang, and make sure he’s a suitable successor to Pym’s Ant-Man mantle. Lang and Pym conspire to steal a new shrink suit from one of Pym’s colleagues, afraid of what the tech could do in the wrong hands. The new suit’s creator intends to sell the tech to Hydra, confirming Pym’s fears. Lang successfully defeats the “Yellowjacket,” and is later contacted by Falcon, who is looking for help with an upcoming crisis.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Following the events of Age of Ultron, the Avengers are in the hot seat for the destruction and loss of life that seems to follow them around when they are forced to defend the world. The Sokovia Accords are drawn up to keep them in check, and under the jurisdiction of the UN. Stark is all in, ready to accept limitations, while Cap fears what happens when the powers of the world have different agendas. Things are complicated further with the reemergence of the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes, who is framed for an attack on the UN by Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), a terrorist with a grudge against the Avengers. In the attack, the King of Wakanda is killed, and his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) reveals himself as the new Black Panther. Cap comes to the aid of his old friend, and in doing so becomes a fugitive again, this time hunted by his fellow Avengers. This leads to a split, with Stark, Vision, War Machine, Black Widow, and newly recruited Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Black Panther; against Cap, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Bucky, Falcon, and Ant-Man. Cap keeps his focus on stopping Zemo and defending Bucky, while Stark wants to bring the rebels in without any bloodshed. He eventually realizes Cap is right, and accompanies him and Bucky to Siberia. Zemo plans for this, and though he is defeated, he reveals Bucky killed Stark’s parents during his tenure as an assassin. Stark fights Cap and Bucky, and eventually is left bloodied and beaten as Cap and Bucky escape. Cap breaks his allies out of the Raft (a prison for supers), and sends a letter to Stark expressing his willingness to work together again should the need arise. Bucky is frozen, and entrusted to T’Challa until they can fully break his brainwashing.
Doctor Strange (2017)
Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is in a car accident, rendering his hands useless and his surgical career essentially ended. After searching for any type of experimental treatment, he is referred to Kamar-Taj in Nepal, where he learns sorcery. Strange excels in his lessons and learns of all kinds of magical secrets. He and his new friends are attacked by followers of Dormammu, hoping to bring the dark being to Earth from his own Dark Dimension. Using a magical necklace from Kamar-Taj, the Eye of Agamotto (the fifth Infinity Stone), Strange traps Dormammu in a time loop until he agrees to leave Earth alone. Strange then take charge of the magical order as the new Sorcerer Supreme.
Guardians Of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Shortly after the events of their first outing, the Guardians are renowned and sought after for their services as guns for hire. After running afoul of the Sovereign, a race of genetically perfected beings, the Guardians are rescued by Ego (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Quill’s father. Ego is a Celestial, an ancient being of immense power, who brings Quill and his friends to his planet (which is also him, he IS a living planet). Unfortunately, Quill learns that Ego isn’t interested in being a father, but using Quill’s Celestial biology to power his scheme of intergalactic domination. The Guardians rally together against Ego, destroying his core, and the source of his (and Quill’s) powers. In the stinger, the Sovereign have just finished creating a new being, whom they hope to use against the Guardians. The leader of the Sovereign calls the being “Adam.”
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Shortly after the events of Civil War, Peter Parker is back to his ordinary life, attending school and chasing his crush. He also continues his Spider-Man escapades with the advanced suit gifted to him by Tony Stark. He finds himself pitted against Adrian Toomes, a disgruntled salvage worker who’s livelihood was ruined when he lost a huge contract after the alien invasion from The Avengers. Toomes uses the alien tech to create a flying armored suit, becoming The Vulture, and using his abilities to steal advanced weapons to sell on the black market. Spider-Man pisses off Stark by going after Toomes, and putting others in danger. Eventually, Peter is forced to confront Toomes as he hijacks a plane full of dangerous weapons. Spider-Man defeats Toomes, and leaves him for the police. Tony Stark offers Parker the opportunity to join the Avengers full-time, but he opts to remain a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Two years after Ultron’s rampage, Thor is hard at work trying to stop Ragnarok (the destruction of Asgard) from coming to pass. He defeats Surtur and steals his crown, seemingly stopping the catastrophe. Back in Asgard, Thor flushes Loki out of his disguise, and uses him to track down Odin on Earth, where he is found to be dying. Once he dies, a mystical barrier is broken and Hela, the Goddess of Death and Thor’s sister is released. She destroys Thor’s hammer, throws him and Loki into a wormhole, and takes over Asgard, killing its warriors and ruling its people. Thor finds himself on Sakaar, a junk planet run by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). He also find the Hulk, who has become the Grandmaster’s arena champion. Together, Thor, Hulk, and Loki escape Sakaar and return to Asgard to defeat Hela. Thor realizes he can unleash his full powers even without his hammer, and releases Surtur to destroy Asgard and Hela, absconding with the citizens on a spaceship Loki stole from Sakaar. With no home, Thor, Hulk, and Loki head for Earth with their people. In the stinger, a huge ship intercepts their vessel. Worth noting, it’s also implied Loki steals the Tesseract on his way out of Asgard.
Black Panther (2018)
Back home in Wakanda, T’Challa, the Black Panther, is crowned king, succeeding his father (killed during Civil War). The poor nation of Wakanda is revealed to be hiding a highly advanced society, cloaked from outside detection. The society is based around vibranium, a ridiculously strong and useful material (the same that Cap’s shield is made of) that came to Earth in a meteorite. The return of T’Challa’s cousin, Erik, complicates things. Erik’s father was killed by T’Challa’s, and he uses his royal bloodline to demand a fight for the crown. T’Challa is defeated and Erik plans to use his new power to distribute advanced Wakandan weapons to operatives around the world. T’Challa returns and defeats Erik with an army of loyalists. Returned to power, T’Challa goes to the UN to reveal Wakanda’s true nature to the world. Later, Bucky is shown awake in Wakanda, his brainwashing finally gone.
And that’s it! Not too much to keep track of, right? Just a decade of planning and 25 main characters introduced and developed. It’s all good. Just to recap, we know where 5 of the 6 Infinity Stone are: the Space Stone, Mind Stone, Time Stone, Power Stone, and the Reality Stone. Only the Soul Stone remains to be found. The Avengers are fractured, but not broken. Thor is in space, and the Guardians aren’t even thinking about Earth. But Thanos is already on the move. The Mad Titan is almost here, and the Infinity War is coming. But hopefully the Avengers and the Guardians will be ready and waiting.
One week left!