At the end of April, the insane, decade-long battle that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building to comes to a head. “Avengers: Endgame” seeks to tie up some loose ends, gives a heroic send-off to some fan favorites, and brings the Avengers face-to-face with Thanos for a final showdown. The MCU spans over 20 films so it can be difficult to tell where to start if you’re trying to prepare for endgame. Here are a few of the essential Marvel movies in order to watch before you buy tickets to the movie event of the year.

“Iron Man”

You’re gearing up for the ending, so it’s only fitting to take a step back and see where it all began. 2008’s “Iron Man” was originally seen as just a fun reboot to the superhero genre. Instead, it turned out to be the foundational piece of a massive movie empire that has spanned numerous sequels, spin-offs, and introductory stories for other heroes. For being over a decade old, Tony Stark’s origin tale still holds up incredibly well.


While it doesn’t drop too many hints about the dangers to come, it’s still a phenomenal look at one of the key members of the Avengers. Plus, who could forget Tony creating his prototype “Iron Man” suit from some leftover scraps in a cave in the Middle East?

“Marvel’s The Avengers”

Despite the name of the film, it takes a while for all the Avengers to link up in this movie. It takes even longer for them to start working as a team. Upon its release, “The Avengers” was a massive financial and critical hit that wowed fans across the world. Seeing Thor brawl with the Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man fending off aliens across New York City, and the brief but enticing end credits teaser was all it took for Marvel diehards to comfortably devote the next handful of years of their lives to following this cinematic universe.


It’s the first glimpse the audience sees of Thanos and, while the CGI has definitely changed since his first big screen appearance, fans of the original comics immediately knew that the MCU was building towards something massive.


“Guardians of the Galaxy”

“Guardians of the Galaxy” introduces a ragtag team of intergalactic heroes and also provides some more backstory on Thanos, the Infinity Stones, and the grave implications of abusing large amounts of power. Beyond that, the movie is just plain fun. It’s the first time that Marvel takes the viewer out of Earth’s atmosphere and it really pays off. The visuals are stunning and colorful, the soundtrack is curated to perfection with a delectable selection of retro hits, and the cast has amazing chemistry.


While it does offer some hints about various characters (Star Lord in particular) its primary function is to introduce this group of characters and meet the mysterious Collector, who knows a lot more about the Infinity Stones than it would first appear.


“Avengers: Infinity War”

Before you see the sequel, you have to watch “Avengers: Infinity War.” This movie showcases all of the characters that are now mainstays of the MCU and quickly works to get unfamiliar audiences up to speed with events in prior movies. It’s a great combination of exposition and exploration, working to set up a truly mind-blowing climactic battle on the plains of Wakanda. Plus, the ending had more than a few fans tearing up as it laid out some grave consequences for crossing Thanos.


While these are only a handful of the movies the MCU has released, they’re a great way to get the overall arc of the journey and get yourself up to speed before Avengers: Endgame drops at the end of April. Happy viewing!


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