There are 21 movies in the Marvel cinematic universe, but you only have to see these five to get up to speed before next month.
When Avengers: Endgame is released it will mark the end of a decade-long, 21-film superhero celebration.
When Iron Man was first released in 2008, it changed the landscape of cinema forever. Superhero movies? In that economy? Nobody though that the film would succeed, not with the then-pre-comeback Robert Downey Jr in the lead role.
Nobody would finance the movie. In order to get the money, Marvel borrowed $525 million from bank Merrill Lynch, using the rights to their most iconic characters as collateral on the loan. If the movies didn’t succeed, then they would have lost all ownership over Iron Man, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).
Of course, Marvel’s gamble paid off. Today, the studio turns over billions and billions of dollars courtesy of its extraordinarily successful film franchise. In 2019 they even nabbed their first Best Picture nomination at the Oscars for Black Panther, a first for a superhero movie in the history of the Academy Awards. (They didn’t win, but they did win three Oscars for Production Design, Costume Design and Score.)
On 26 April Avengers: Endgame will be released and the 22nd Marvel movie will mark the end of an era. Avengers: Infinity War was billed as the most ambitious crossover event in cinema, bringing together all of Marvel’s most iconic characters onscreen for the first time.
And then, with a snap of his fingers, Thanos wiped out half of them. The first trailer for the movie hints at some shocking superhero deaths, though how many of them will stay dead over the course of the movie is yet to be revealed.
Is time travel at play? (Maybe.) Will Captain Marvel save the day? (Naturally.) Is Hawkeye really trying to rock a Mohawk? (Unfortunately, yes.)
Some superfans will be watching all 21 preceding Marvel movies in the lead up to Avengers: Endgame.
But, honestly, who has the time for that? If you want to prepare yourself for the new Avengers movie in the least amount of time, these are the films that you need to watch.
Ah, 2012. It was a simpler time. Back then, it was remarkable that a mere six superheroes could join forces onscreen to fight Thor’s cunning brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), wielding the Tesseract in pursuit of his dastardly ends.
Six superheroes teaming up together now seems quaint. But in 2012 it was exciting, and this first Avengers movie is a must-watch for anyone trying to get up to speed in advance of Avengers: Endgame. It’s here that Marvel really lays the groundwork for the team dynamic that would come to define the Avengers’ relationships, plus they introduce us to a new and very much improved Bruce Banner.
The core Avengers all survived Thanos’ Snapture in Infinity War, which means that, for what might be the last time, we’re going to get to see Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) together again.
You can expect Endgame to be full to the bursting with callbacks and hidden messages relating to the first Avengers movie, the one that kickstarted it all, and the only way to pick up on every single one of them is to rewatch The Avengers.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Everyone loves Guardians of the Galaxy and it’s not hard to see why: it’s a scrappy, ragtag set of movies about a scrappy, ragtag set of heroes. The first one is fantastic but it’s the second one you’re going to want to watch, as it’s the one that might prove the most important when it comes to the plot of Endgame.
One of the things Guardians 2 stresses is repairing the strained relationship between sisters Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the abused daughters of Thanos. Gamora became Thanos’ ultimate sacrifice in Infinity War, who killed her in order to retrieve the Soul Stone and complete his Infinity Stone gauntlet.
Whether or not Gamora is actually dead is a theory for another time. More important is Nebula, who survived The Snapture and is a lean, mean, part-robot killing machine.
After years of abuse from her father Thanos, as detailed in Guardians 2, will Nebula be the one to avenge her sister and strike the blow that fells Thanos in Endgame? We’re certainly hoping so. It would be the most satisfying way to wrap up that storyline. Plus, women assassins are our favourite kind of assassins. And everything you need to know to support this theory is in Guardians 2.
Ant-Man & The Wasp
We have two words for you: quantum realm. Don’t ask us what it means, don’t ask us how it works, don’t ask us what it does. All we know is that the quantum realm is… a place. Somewhere that Ant-Man can go.
We saw him trapped there in the end credits of Ant-Man & The Wasp, the 2018 superhero movie that best explains what the quantum realm is, exactly, and why it’s important. And yet in the trailer for Endgame, Ant-Man has mysteriously escaped from said quantum realm and is running around looking for the Avengers.
How did he get out? And what might he have learned while inside the quantum realm that could help the crew wind back time, save their friends and defeat Thanos?
You never have to twist our arm to re-watch Ant Man & The Wasp, which is a hilariously underrated Marvel movie featuring the kick-arse Evangeline Lilly. But given that the quantum realm will almost certainly figure heavily in Endgame, consider it your duty as a fan to give it another watch before 26 April.
Captain America: Civil War
The Avengers universe sets up our favourite superheroes as a family. And like all families, sometimes its members just don’t get along that well. That’s one of the main problems facing the Avengers in Infinity War, a world in which Iron Man and Captain America are barely on speaking terms.
This house divided can’t stay that way for long, not when there’s a Thanos to be defeated. But the rift between the Avengers is an essential part of these movies, and one that we could see played out in Endgame.
If we were betting women in possession of smart money, we’d put some down that – despite their differences – either Iron Man or Captain America is going to sacrifice themselves to save the other. The emotional pay off for that is established way back in Captain America: Civil War, a film directed by the Russo brothers, who also directed Infinity War and Endgame.
Avengers: Infinity War
An obvious, but integral choice. How are you going to understand what is going on in Endgame if you haven’t seen Infinity War?
It’s in Infinity War that all the moving pieces get to where they need to be, it’s in Infinity War that new alliances are forged and several characters are snapped away to their death, and it’s in Infinity War that we get some of the first hints as to how Thanos could possibly be defeated. Namely, a combination of the Time Stone, Nebula’s vengeance and a little pager that beams directly to Captain Marvel.
If you want to be well prepared for Endgame, you need to get your head around its direct predecessor. Who knows, while rewatching, you might even pick up a few clues as to how Endgame is going to end.
Avengers: Endgame will be in cinemas in the US and UK on 26 April.