OK, you’re at the 11th hour. Avengers: Endgame looks like it’s going to be one of the biggest movies ever and you don’t want to be that guy/gal who can’t participate in any of the fun. At this point you realize despite an entire year of prep it’s all come down to a handful of hours and you can’t possibly watch all 21 films in preparation for Endgame.
You’re in luck. I’m going to recommend the essential films you need to see in order to enjoy Avengers: Endgame nearly as much as the guy wearing the vintage Avengers T-shirt, Captain America socks, Thor hat, Hulk smash hands and Iron Man repulsor on their chest. Just make sure to say hi to me OK? This list is still going to take some dedicated hours of viewing and doesn’t necessarily capture all of the must-see films in the Marvel Studios library. Do that later though as there’s really not a lot of misses with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This is the granddaddy film of them all. Robert Downey Jr. kicks off his start as a Hollywood made man here as self-absorbed showboat Tony Stark. It’ll take about five minutes to understand why Iron Man the character became so popular. Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau are established as two of Stark’s closest friends who play major roles through the MCU saga. Pay no attention to Terrence Howard as Rhodey and you’ll be fine.
This is the kickoff to the MCU as we know it. Also and this is important. When the credits start this is not a sign to rush to the next movie. Just patiently sit through them to get teasers for the next installment. In this case it’s a doozy.
At this point there’s been three other MCU films — The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2 and Thor. They get a bad rap, but they’re fun films that do the job of establishing the Avengers universe. They pale next to Captain America, which introduces Chris Evans to the franchise as the title character. Yes, it’s a period piece and no, there’s no time travel here. Stick with it though as it establishes the heart of the MCU as a unwavering hero who wants to help the little guy and the two biggest losses of his life. Sebastian Stan’s Bucky is important to remember as is Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter.
You’re not going to truly appreciate the spectacle of these characters coming together, but at the time and after a five-film build up, this was special. Still, this will serve as your mini-marathon introduction to the other original Avengers: Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and one of the MCU’s best villains in Loki. Even in 2019, this is an incredible film and a nice yardstick to compare other blockbusters. The post credit scene here is a big one that will pay off with a little patience.
Tony Stark realizes he’s still a hero even without the armor. Non comic fans will probably enjoy this one for its massive spectacle and not lose their minds over the massive twist to an old school villain, which is a main reason this consistently ranks last on my MCU list. Endgame helps provide better context and gives a reason to watch it for MCU newbies.
This is another largely unpopular choice for MCU die-hards, but it becomes important as the saga unfolds as Thor battles The Dark Elves and begins what would become a tragic trend for him as the story further plays out.
Still with me? Good. Your reward is one of the absolute best MCU films still as Anthony and Joe Russo kick off their epic start directing most of the best MCU films from this point forward. Captain America learns a valuable lesson in trust while hanging with Black Widow and new ally The Falcon as they tangle with the dangerous, yet oddly familiar Winter Soldier. Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury has his most pivotal role in the series and Robert freaking Redford makes his MCU debut as Alexander Pierce. You’ll have a good enough sense to understand why The Winter Soldier was such a game-changer for not just the MCU, but also Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD TV series.
This is going to be a very weird shift in tones. Believe me. A talking raccoon and a tree? Yeah, it’s odd, but Director James Gunn has a magic formula for making the MCU’s other big team (for now) so amazing. This is the first non-stinger role for Thanos as his plot starts to take more focus beyond teases. Guardians is too fun to skip on any worthwhile MCU marathon and the soundtrack will keep you bouncing almost as often as the script and performances by Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista in particular will have you laughing.
Remember The Russo Brothers? Good. They’re back for another installment, which finds the Avengers split on how to handle government regulations. There’s going to be a few new faces — namely a new Rhodey (Don Cheadle) and Avengers like Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) replacing some of the old guard. Don’t worry, we’ll catch up with them later. You’re also going to meet Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). They have three of the more fun standalone films, but for the sake of our marathon consider them extra credit. The Russos explain all you really need to know anyway, which is important for future installments.
If you’re feeling the pressure to jump ahead with some of the films, don’t skip on Civil War. It’s a pivotal component of this marathon as it establishes changing dynamics within the Avengers.
- DC comics reviews for the week of 4/24/19
- Marvel Legends action figure reviews
- Hot Toys Avengers Endgame Iron Man Mark LXXXV figure up for pre-order
- Toy Fair 2019: Marvel Legends two-packs Spider-Man sets up for pre-order
Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) learns the ways of a magician, earns a magical cloak and discovers there’s far more to one of his ornaments than meets the eye. This one is essential in learning the rules of a key piece of hardware that has huge repercussions as we get close to Infinity War.
Like Civil War, this is important for understanding the complexities of the relationships of the characters while hopefully making at least one character not look like so much of a bonehead considering the tragedy he endures here.
This one is Thor’s big game changer movie with a major change in tone and presentation. It’s also one of the best of the MCU and is very hard to dislike thanks to Chris Hemsworth being allowed the chance to have more fun with Thor. This leads directly into Avengers: Infinity War.
The big one. This one rewrites all of the rules for superhero films and plays out like Empire Strikes Back with the unrelenting bad guys chasing after our overmatched heroes. You may know how it ends, but getting there is a treat and one of the best experiences we’ll get from the genre…until you see Endgame.
Yes, you had stuff in your eyes. I get it, but Ant-Man and The Wasp is just the ticket to make you feel so much better as Scott Lang teams up with The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) to handle a small-scale heist. Don’t dismiss this one as a major concept is introduced here that will explain a lot in Endgame.
Meet the MCU’s most powerful hero with Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel. Despite what man-children might say it’s not insane that a woman has this level of power. While it’s set in the 90s, it’s vital in witnessing Captain Marvel do her thing on her own before hanging out with the Avengers. Unlike everything else on this list you’ll need to see Captain Marvel in theaters as it’s still racking in box office dough.
So there you go. That’s the breakdown of what you really need to see in order to fully appreciate Avengers: Endgame. Time is running out though so stop reading and get to watching!
Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures