Avengers: Endgame will be the 22nd film in Marvel Studios shared universe. The franchise’s popularity has only continued to grow in recent years, with many of their more recent releases breaking plenty of box office records. This success is one of many ways to tell that the MCU’s fanbase just keeps getting bigger as the years go on, but that also could mean that some may not be completely caught up.
If you didn’t do a full MCU rewatch, don’t fret. Not all 21 of the already released MCU films may be required viewing to understand what Avengers: Endgame will present. So, here are the core, most necessary MCU movies to catch up on (or do a refresher of) before heading to the theater.
There’s no better place to start than right at the beginning with 2008’s Iron Man. The movie is responsible for kicking off the MCU and introduced the lead character in many ways with Tony Stark aka Iron Man – played by Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man helped establish Marvel Studios’ approach to superhero movies, with charismatic leads, quippy dialogue, and a world that, at its core, closely resembled the one we live in – just without aliens and superheroes (at least at this point). Given that Avengers: Endgame is expected to be Robert Downey, Jr’s final film in the role, it’s a must-watch.
While the rest of Marvel’s Phase 1 movies are (mostly) entertaining and set up key characters, The Avengers is the next necessary film to check out. It brings together the core characters of the MCU – Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk, and Hawkeye – and pits them against their first world-ending threat. Since this is the first time any of these characters interact on screen, it is especially necessary given they will be at the heart of Avengers: Endgame. Plus, the movie’s mid-credits scene is the first appearance of Thanos too.
We are not including Avengers: Age of Ultron in this essential watch, it’s still worth mentioning how it furthers these relationships and the differing views, while also continuing to establish the importance of the Infinity Stones. If you want a full picture, reading a short summary will help.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
We’re jumping all the way to start of Phase 3 with Captain America: Civil Waras the next necessary watch. It focuses on Endgame‘s other key hero, Captain America, but also brings together even more MCU characters… only to break them apart. The Sokovia Accords end the Avengers team as we know it, putting Steve Rogers, Black Widow, and others on the run, while Iron Man retakes his spot leading the Avengers. It also serves as the introduction to Black Panther and Spider-Man. This is also the second directorial effort by Anthony and Joe Russo, and in many ways is them proving they can handle an even larger scope…
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
When we’re talking about essential viewings before Avengers: Endgame, there is no more important film to see than Avengers: Infinity War. This is where Thanos properly arrives and begins his quest to gather all six Infinity Stones so that he can wipe out half of all life across the universe. The film features nearly every MCU character in some fashion, including highly anticipated crossovers between the Guardians of the Galaxy and some Earth-based heroes. Most importantly, though, Infinity War ends with Thanos’ snap wiping out half of all life in the universe, directly leading into Avengers: Endgame, with the surviving heroes trying to figure out how to undo this and bring back those they lost.
Finally, it’s the MCU’s most recent movie, Captain Marvel, that should be considered essential viewing. It introduces Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers, the most powerful character the universe has ever seen, who will be key to helping the Avengers defeat Thanos. Be sure to stay through the credits on this one too, as it directly sets up how Captain Marvel is going to be involved in Avengers: Endgame.
BONUS: ANT-MAN & THE WASP (MID-CREDITS)
While that’s the end of the full movies, we do have one more bonus entry that deserves a mention: Ant-Man & The Wasp, but just the post-credits scene. The main movie’s story is entirely standalone but the mid-credits scene establishes where Scott Lang is at the start of Avengers: Endgame and sets up the Quantum Realm, a microverse that could be very important.