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Recapping 12 essential Marvel films ahead of 'Avengers: Endgame'

By John Clyde, Contributor | Posted - Apr. 24, 2019 at 7:33 p.m.

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AVENGERS COMPOUND — “Avengers: Endgame” is ready for theaters and Marvel fans around the world can’t wait for the epic finale to finally be revealed.

The film is already receiving positive reviews and selling out screenings all over the globe. With a runtime of over three hours, you know the Marvel team has a lot of surprises and twists in store as they make their way toward the final chapter of this "Avengers" saga.

It’s likely some readers have been preparing for this weekend by watching all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies again.

While all 21 previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films tie into “Endgame” in some way, there are a few that you should be up to speed with when it comes to the 22nd film.

Here is a recap of the films that are key to understanding “Endgame.” will have a review of "Endgame" on Thursday and a content guide for parents on Friday.


Be aware that this article will include spoilers for all of these films, except for “Endgame.” If you have not seen the films on this list and want to avoid spoilers, don't read any further.

The Avengers” (2012)

The first time Earth’s mightiest heroes teamed up was back in 2012’s “The Avengers.” In the film, Thor’s brother Loki has come to Earth with the tesseract, an infinity stone, and plans on using it to take over Earth and become its leader.

Along with Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, The Hulk and Hawkeye team up to stop the god of mischief. They get the tesseract back and keep earth safe.

Thor: The Dark World” (2013)

In the second Thor film, the god of thunder’s girlfriend, Jane, is cursed with an entity known as the Aether, which needs to be removed before it kills her.

The powerful stuff is actually an infinity stone. Thor manages to remove the Aether, save Jane and stop the dark elves from destroying the world. In the process, however, Thor’s mother is killed.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014)

Steve Rogers, also known as Captain America, is trying to embrace being a child of the 1930s now living in the modern day.

He teams up with Black Widow and the two become close and uncover a web of conspiracies that proves S.H.I.E.LD. has been overtaken by Hydra. Robert Redford appears in the film as the secretary of S.H.I.E.L.D. but turns out to be a Hydra member with a plan to take out millions of people who could be seen as a possible threat.

Hydra’s secret weapon is the Winter Soldier, a powerful super-soldier like Rogers who is being controlled to do evil. Cap finds out the Winter Soldier is his old friend Bucky Barnes and wants to help him break out of his brainwashed state and get his friend back.

In the end, Cap and Black Widow, with the help of Sam Wilson (Falcon) stop Hydra, but lose Bucky. Also, Captain America’s long-lost love Peggy Carter passes away from old age.


Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

Peter Quill (Star Lord) finds the power stone. Quill tries to keep it from the evil Ronan who wants it for power and to give it to his master, Thanos.

Quill teams up with some other misfits including Gamora, one of Thanos’s daughters. The team manages to keep the stone safe and defeat Ronan.

Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)

In the second "Avengers" outing, Bruce Banner (The Hulk) and Tony Stark (Iron Man) are hoping to build an artificial intelligence that will help keep the world safe, but things don’t go as planned.

Ultron is created and the near-unstoppable A.I. is on a mission to cleanse the earth. It’s up to the Avengers to stop Ultron and they manage to do it, but an entire city called Sokovia is destroyed and lots of people die in the process.

Captain America: Civil War” (2016)

The fallout from the events in Sokovia have left some thinking superheroes need to be kept in check.

The government pushes for the Hero Registration Act, which causes a rift in the Avengers team. Tony Stark believes in the act and backs it, while Captain America thinks the world needs saving — not regulations.

This leads to a big battle at an airport in Germany between the superheroes who support Tony and those who support Captain America. During the fight, Black Panther and Spider-Man get introduced. Also, James Rhodes (War Machine) is paralyzed and many of the team on Cap’s side are captured and imprisoned.

Cap is also searching for his friend, Bucky Barnes, who is now the Winter Soldier, but trying to get away from his ties with the evil organization Hydra.

Bucky is changing, but Tony finds out that it was Bucky who killed his parents years ago, and now Tony is out to kill the Winter Soldier.

Later, it is revealed Tony found this out because General Zemo orchestrated the whole thing and wanted the heroes to fight. Zemo is from Sokovia and his family was killed in the battle from "Age of Ultron" and was trying to exact revenge by getting the heroes to destroy themselves.

Cap saves Bucky from Tony and the two disappear. The film ends with Steve Rogers sending Tony a letter apologizing for what happened. He says he stands by his choices but will be there if Tony needs him.

Doctor Strange” (2016)

“Doctor Strange” stars Benedict Cumberbatch as a brilliant surgeon with an ego almost as big as Tony Stark’s.

A car accident leaves his hands nearly useless, sinking Strange into depression. In an effort to heal himself, he travels to a master of mystic arts who ends up teaching him.

The brilliant neurosurgeon is now a brilliant wizard and helps protect the time stone, (another infinity stone) from some evildoers.

Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)

“Thor: Ragnarok” is important because it shows a real shift in the personality of Thor and The Hulk.

Thor heads back to Asgard where he finds Loki posing as their father Odin and running the realm. Thor kicks Loki out of power, but a sister (Hela) buried by time and shame returns and looks to feud Asgard.

Thor and Loki are banished to the planet Sakaar where Thor is forced to battle Hulk in a gladiator-style match. The two team up with some others and head back to Asgard to face Hela.

In an effort to save his people, Thor has no choice but release a monster that will destroy Hela — Asgard as well. It's also implied that Loki steals the Tesseract, which contains the space stone.

Thor gets the remaining inhabitants of Asgard on a spaceship and they leave as Asgard is destroyed.

On the way, another ship overtakes theirs and the film ends.

Black Panther” (2018)

“Black Panther” tells the story of T’Challa, the king of Wakanda who is also the superhero Black Panther. Wakanda is an advanced kingdom that is very protective and private.

Erik Killmonger is T’Challa’s cousin. But the two have never met because Killmonger’s father left the kingdom years ago and was later killed by Wakandan soldiers.

Killmonger has returned to Wakanda to battle T’Challa for the throne and wins. Killmonger’s rule is ruthless and divides the kingdom.

A still shot from "Black Panther." (Photo: Marvel Entertainment/YouTube)

T’Challa rises again and the cousins battle, along with the kingdom. T’Challa comes out the victor and regains the throne and reunites the kingdom.

We also learn that Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier) is in Wakanda and T’Challa has decided to open Wakanda’s borders to assist the rest of the world with their advanced technology.

Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)

Even if you miss the rest of the films on this list, you’ll only be a little lost. But if you miss this one you’ll be wandering around in the dark.

SPOILER ALERT: Be aware, some major spoilers are on their way here.

Thanos is the big bad guy here. He has been trying to gather the infinity stones for years to gain all of their combined powers.

It's revealed that Thanos took Thor’s ship back at the end of "Ragnarok." As he does, he kills Loki, along with many of the remaining Asgardians, and steals the space stone.

From there, Thanos still needs the time stone from Doctor Strange, who is now in New York. Thanos attacks the city and the Avengers get split up into teams as they fight to keep the world together and defeat Thanos.

His plan is to use the infinity stones in his gauntlet and snap his fingers to wipe out half of all the living things in the universe, thus curbing overpopulation and helping the world heal.

Thanos gets the soul stone by sacrificing his daughter, Gamora.

Thanos eventually battles Tony Stark, Star Lord, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange on another planet as he tries to get the time stone from Strange. The team is about to defeat Thanos, but Star Lord, overcome with hate for the death of his love, Gamora, attacks Thanos and ruins the team's plan.

Doctor Strange uses the time stone and discovers there are 44 million different ways they can fight Thanos, but only one is successful. He gives Thanos the stone.

Thanos then heads to Earth, where his army is battling the forces of Wakanda, as well as many of the Avengers, including Thor, Captain America, Vision and the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Avengers and the armies of Wakanda are doing quite well — until Thanos arrives. He steals the mind stone from Vision, killing him.

Thanos then has all six infinity stones. He snaps his fingers and half the universe's population turns to dust. This includes many of the Avengers: Falcon, Black Panther, Star Lord, Drax, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch and Spider-Man.

Thanos retreats to a planet where it seems he becomes a farmer.

The rest of the planet is left with the annihilation of half the universe and the Avengers have to deal with the fact that they have failed.

In the post-credits scene, Nick Fury uses an old pager to send a message to Captain Marvel just before he turns to dust.

Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018)

Scott Lang (Ant-Man) is under house arrest for his part in the fight in “Civil War.” He has only days left before his time is up and he doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.

He hasn’t seen Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) or Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) since he took the Ant-Man suit to Germany without permission.

Hank and Hope kidnap Scott because they believe he can help them get to the quantum realm and save Hope's mom and Hank’s wife who have been trapped there for decades.

A woman known as the Ghost wants their tech to help heal her, and an organized crime boss wants it to make money.

In the end, the good guys come out on top, saving Janet. Hope and Scott start a romance.

Scott goes into the quantum realm, as Janet while Hope and Hank stay and run things on the outside. Scott is ready to come back, but can’t make contact with his team.

That’s because Hank, Janet and Hope have been turned to dust (thanks, Thanos) and Scott is stuck in the quantum realm.

Captain Marvel” (2019)

You don’t need to know every detail of “Captain Marvel,” but there are a few things that will be helpful as you gear up for “Endgame.”

Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is a talented pilot who is discovered by the Kree (an alien race) when she crashes an experimental aircraft.

Some years later, Danvers is back on Earth, believing she is Kree and looking to stop the Skrulls (another alien race) from infiltrating the planet. Danvers finds out the Kree are actually the bad guys and are hoping to wipe out the Skrulls.


Danvers also learns she is human and that her aircraft crashed when her mentor, Yon-Rogg, shot her down in an effort to obtain a power source she was transporting. Before he could get his hands on it, Danvers exploded the power source and absorbed it, becoming one of the most powerful beings in the universe.

When she discovers this, Danvers saves the Skrulls and defeats the Kree who are about to invade Earth. These Kree just happen to be led by Ronan, the villain from "Guardians of the Galaxy."

While on Earth in the 1990s, Danvers befriended Nick Fury and told him she had to go protect the universe, but said if he ever needed her he could call her with the pager.

In a mid-credits scene, Black Widow and Captain America are perplexed by the pager with the Captain Marvel symbol on it. Danvers suddenly appears behind them and asks where Fury is.

John Clyde

About the Author: John Clyde

John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome, and it just so happens, that these are the three things he writes about. Contact him on Twitter at @johnnypclyde.

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