Marvel’s Avenger’s Infinity War is a big film with a lot of characters and lots of assumptions about continuity. So what previous films do you need to see for the film to work? There are some very obvious films in the Marvel sequence you don’t need to see (the 2008 Hulk movie, probably Ant-Man, the second Thor film) but what’s the minimum?
Here’s what I’d suggest at various levels of how much spare time you have to spend watching people thump each other and make quips.
- Thor: Ragnarok – Thor is a key player and Infinity War starts up directly after the end of Ragnarok. The tones of the films are quite different but the emotional impact and one major storyline follow directly from the last Thor film.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 – The first Guardian’s film introduces the team but also has the most screen time for Thanos and a plot about infinity stones.
- Captain America: Civil War – This is a tricky one as it gives the key background for where the Earth-based heroes are up to but it also requires some understanding of previous events from other films.
If you’ve seen those three, plus assorted others, then you are probably sufficiently caught up.
Expanding that roster a little:
- Black Panther – Mainly because it is a fun film but also because it introduces the supporting characters for Wakanda.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 – mainly for continuity as well as the added character development for Gamora and Nebula as well as adding Mantis to the team. Also, it is another fun film.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron – The first problem. There are worse films in Marvel’s universe but this one is long and rambles. Unfortunately, if you are looking for something like a complete story arc, this one is important. The film adds Scarlet Witch and The Vision as characters. It also foreshadows Thanos and the infinity stones – motivating Tony Stark. Thor’s vision sends him off on a quest that is picked up in Ragnarok and also The Hulk also flies off into space, which is also resolved in Ragnarok. The film also sets up the conflict for Civil War.
But…if you watch Avengers: Age of Ultron then you’ll need even MORE backstory! Where will it all end? Here’s a possible longer set of films that watched in order make a story sequence without including ALL the MCU films.
- Captain America: The First Avenger – not the first MCU film but it’s WW2 setting make it a good starting point. Corny but it works by evoking the golden age of comic books and radio serials.
- Iron Man 1 – effectively the first MCU film.
- Thor 1 – of the Marvel films this is the most conventionally a superhero film. Adds the cosmic element to the overall franchise.
- *Iron Man 2 – a weaker film but it adds more of SHIELD, Nick Fury and Black Widow.
- The Avengers – Joss Whedon’s fun ensemble film brings the core characters together and adds Thanos as the secret big bad.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 – Who was that purple guy in the last film? Guardians will tell you who and introduce the Infinity Stones.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier – The franchise was originally centred on Iron Man mainly because of Robert Downey Jr’s charismatic acting. The second Captain America film is both a taut thriller but also puts the Captain as the central character of the ongoing storyline.
- *Doctor Strange – He’s briefly name-checked in Winter Soldier and it is not obvious where this film fits in with the timing of the others. However, he’s a key character in Infinity War and he doesn’t cameo anywhere else except briefly in Ragnarok.
- The Avengers: Age of Ultron – not the first misstep from Marvel or the worst film but perhaps the most disappointing but maybe I need to rewatch it.
- *Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 – not entirely essential but a nice break from Ultron.
- Captain America: Civil War – everybody is unhappy except Spiderman who manages to escape the clutches of a different film contract.
- *Black Panther – having been introduced in Civil War, this is a good point to meet his friends, family and morally-ambiguous cousin Killmonger.
- Thor: Ragnarok – catch up with Thor, Loki and enjoy a disco-themed deconstruction of the issues of colonisation in popular culture.
- Avengers: Infinity War.
Not included: Iron Man 3, Ant-Man, Spiderman: Homecoming, Thor: The Darkworld, Hulk (2008). Films with an asterisk are more easily skipped without missing plot elements of the overall story arc.