The Marvel Cinematic Universe has existed for over a decade now, and the history — particularly if you happen to be coming into it blind — can be a little murky.
When Nick Fury first speaks the words “Avengers Initiative” back in the first of what would prove to be a tradition of Marvel post-credits scenes, to some comics fans it might have felt like a pipe dream. Getting the mythical world of Thor, the sci-fi adventures of Iron Man, and a more grounded hero like Captain America to work in the same narrative on the big screen? That’s a tall order. Marvel not only made it work, but the Avengers now dominate the superhero marketplace.
If you’re a newb who feels it’s about time you saw the films, or you’re an already invested fan just gearing up for a rewatch, all of the Avengers’ greatest battles (both together and as solo acts) are currently available on the Disney+ streaming service or via on-demand viewing. We’ve put together a list of all the films you’ll want to include, listed in order of when they’re set in the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline (not their release date). Take note, however, that the descriptions of each Avengers (and Avengers-related) film might contain some spoilers.
As World War II rages, Steve Rogers volunteers for an experimental procedure intended to turn him into a powerful super-soldier. The experiment is a success, and he’s dubbed “Captain America.” His adventures pit him against the Nazis and Hydra, a secret organization developing powerful weapons that utilize an artifact known as The Tesseract.
Tony Stark is a brilliant, billionaire engineer whose privileged life is upended when he’s kidnapped by a terrorist organization. In order to escape, he develops a high-tech armored suit and becomes a one-man army — then decides that the hero life isn’t all that bad. While struggling to keep his connection to his armored alter ego a secret, Stark is forced to fend off challenges both at home and abroad. Make sure to watch through the film’s credits for the first, official reference to the Avengers in the MCU.
Tony Stark does battle with a pair of competitors — one a professional rival and the other a personal foe on a mission of revenge — in this sequel to Iron Man. Along with offering a new chapter in Stark’s story, the film introduces several new, important characters to the MCU, including S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (and his future Avengers teammate) Natasha Romanoff, better known as Black Widow.
The hot-headed prince of the alien kingdom of Asgard, Thor finds himself banished to Earth after disobeying his father, Odin. Meanwhile, his diabolical half-brother Loki enacts a scheme to keep him there and take the throne. During the film’s post-credits scene, we learn that Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. are experimenting with The Tesseract (last seen in Captain America: The First Avenger), but the powerful artifact is also on Loki’s radar — two plot points that lead right into the action in The Avengers.
Nick Fury finally assembles The Avengers after Loki infiltrates S.H.I.E.L.D.’s laboratory and steals the Tesseract, hoping to open a portal for an alien armada to invade Earth. Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Thor team up with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Black Widow and Hawkeye to stop Loki and the alien army, and the film’s final, mid-credits scene offers the first hint of the greater villain they’ll face down the road: Thanos.
An ancient conflict re-ignites as the Asgardians and the Dark Elves both find themselves in pursuit of the powerful, mysterious weapon known as the Aether. Thor is forced to enlist the help of Loki in order to defeat the Dark Elves’ leader, Malekith, and by the film’s end, many of the powerful artifacts introduced in the MCU up to this point have a new name: Infinity Stones.
S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by Hydra, the evil organization from Captain America: The First Avenger, and the trio of Avengers, Captain America, Nick Fury, and Black Widow, are framed as enemies of the state. Their efforts to expose the vast conspiracy are assisted by former Air Force rescue pilot Sam Wilson (aka Falcon) and his high-tech wings. Their investigation reveals that one of Captain America’s oldest allies might be the assassin known as Winter Soldier.
With the Avengers reunited and their reputations restored, the team is in action once again. Their efforts to study Loki’s staff result in the creation of Ultron, an artificial intelligence that tries to destroy humanity. The subsequent battle introduces the sentient android Vision and two additional Avengers allies: The powerful twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (better known as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch). Meanwhile, Thanos decides to finally take action in his quest to acquire the Infinity Stones.
The events of Avengers: Age of Ultron create a schism in the team, and a terrorist attack that kills the leader of Wakanda only heightens tensions. Iron Man and Captain America find themselves on opposite sides when it comes to how the two heroes view the role of the Avengers, and Captain America and his supporters quickly find themselves warring with their former teammates. The film introduces several key characters to the MCU and the Avengers roster, including Spider-Man and T’Challa (aka Black Panther), while also bringing solo superhero Ant-Man into the action.
While he isn’t technically an Avenger, Doctor Strange and his first solo adventure play a big role in the events to come for the superhero team. The film follows arrogant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange as he becomes the world’s new “Sorcerer Supreme” and thwarts an invasion from an alternate dimension with the help of a powerful artifact — one that is later revealed to be another Infinity Stone.
Thor has been exiled from Asgard to the distant prison-planet of Skaar by his evil sister Hela. In quick time, Thor is taken captive and sold into slavery by another Asgardian who goes by the name of Valkyrie. Now, Thor must fight for his life as a gladiator in the Grandmaster’s arena. Thankfully, Thor and Hulk reunite in the ring. Together, they must defeat the Grandmaster, escape Sakaar, and try to rescue Asgard from Hela’s conquest. An epic battle ensues. After it’s through, Thanos’ ominous starship appears, setting up our next adventure.
Thanos’s quest for the Infinity Stones drives him back to Earth. If he can find them, he intends to use their power to unleash cosmic genocide on the entire universe. The Avengers must assemble an unlikely team of the MCU heroes and villains to put a stop to his plan. It’s a race against time and space to keep Thanos from collecting the missing stones. If our heroes’ combined forces aren’t strong enough to prevent Thanos from completing the Infinity Gauntlet, the universe will be changed forever.
The climactic struggle to defeat Thanos in Infinity War took a heavy toll on the Avengers and the other MCU heroes. The surviving members of the MCU alliance must take extreme risks to bring back their fallen comrades, including changing the very fabric of time itself. Avengers: Endgame is the biggest Avengers movie to date, spoiling fans with epic battles and many cheer-worthy moments. Take a journey into the Quantum Realm to see if the Avengers can reverse the damage done by Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet. Avengers: Endgame is the ultimate culmination of the Avengers saga and an exemplary end for one of the greatest film franchises of all time.
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