So you’ve never watched a Marvel movie but you want to watch Avengers: Endgame. Here’s how to get ready.

This hit my Twitter timeline a few minutes ago and now I’m obsessed with answering it.


It turns out that I’m really well-suited to answer this because:

(a) I’m really into MCU (that’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, for the non-Spidey web-crawlers out there). I’ve seen all the movies except Thor: Dark World (which I’ll rectify at some point) and The Incredible Hulk (which I probably won’t bother with). I’ve even binge-watched all five seasons of Agents of SHIELD.

(b) I really only got into it after watching Infinity War. Or, more accurately, Infinity War was the first MCU movie I saw in theaters, probably the fourth or fifth MCU movie I watched, and maybe the 2nd or 3rd I really paid attention to.

In other words, I went into Infinity War mostly blind to the universe and came out a believer. You can, too! Here’s how I did it. The great news — it’s easily replicable.

You have to watch Infinity War.

I’d not watch it first — the steps below will help Infinity War make more sense — but it’s really key. Infinity War does a great job of introducing us MCU-newbies to the Infinity Stones, to the bad guy, and even to the rift from after Captain America: Civil War. It gives you almost everything you need to feel like you have a decent idea as to what is going on. The items below help fill in the gaps.

I watched the first Avengers movie a few months after it came out. On Netflix, I think. It’s probably a good idea to start here, but if you have to skip this step, you can make do with my cheat-sheet below.

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the first MCU movie I watched but it’s the first one I even remotely cared about. I grew up with a passing interest in X-Men and Spider-Man; most of my superhero affinity was for Adam West’s Batman and Christopher Reeves’ Superman. Iron Man and Thor weren’t on my radar; Captain American only barely. The first “Avengers” movie, though, felt bigger — not big enough for me to go to the theater (which at the time was difficult, schedule-wise) but certainly, something I made an effort to watch. I kind of got the idea that this was part of a bigger story, but only slightly, and not enough for me to say “I really need to know what happens next.”

If memory serves, and it probably doesn’t, I had previously seen one or two of the Iron Man movies by then and the first Thor movie. But I had done so on TBS-level reruns and didn’t really pay attention to the movies. If I had to recap them then, I’d not have been able to. The important part here — and you’re going to see a theme here — is that The Avengers really helps explain who all these characters are, and that’s kind of important given how many of them hit the screen in Infinity War. But if not, no worries! I made a cheat-sheet below.

I watched the first Guardians of the Galaxy. I kind of think this movie is important to watch.

The hype was big and I couldn’t avoid it. But I did wait until I could watch it from my couch. I liked it but didn’t realize at the time that it was part of this huge Infinity Stones/Thanos story. It’s important because the Guardians aren’t classic superheroes and it’s hard to really get the characters without this introduction.

It may be a good idea to watch Dr. Strange.

It’s possible that I saw Dr. Strange before I saw Infinity War — I just really don’t remember. I know I watched it on Netflix a few times, but I’m not sure when, so maybe that’s why this oddball bullet comes in. As a character, at least insofar is Infinity War is concerned, Dr. Strange (and his sidekick, Wong) is pretty straightforward — he’s a wizard who can open up portals and do some random other wizard-y stuff. But Strange and Wong are the viewer’s introduction to the Infinity Stones in Infinity War, and the Time Stone is really important to the story, so maybe watch this one.

And similarly, it may be a good idea to watch Age of Ultron. But honestly, it’s not a priority.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t see this first. I saw Ultron well after watching many other MCU movies, Infinity War included. It helps explain the also-important Mind Stone and also introduces you to a couple of new heroes who are central to Infinity War’s storyline.

Everything else you can kind of muddle through without much backstory. That doesn’t mean you should skip the other movies, though — Black Panther, Captain America: Winter Soldier, and Thor: Ragnarok are all in my top 3 MCU movies (probably) and Captain Marvel and both Ant-Man movies are also really good. (You shouldn’t watch the second Ant-Man movie before watching Infinity War, though.)

Oh, you may want to watch both Ant-Man movies.

Total speculation, but there’s a decent chance that the Quantum Realm is going to matter a LOT. My guess, though, is that Endgame will explain this in decent-enough detail where you’ll be like, “okay, I kinda get it.”

* * *

Okay, to recap, the absolute minimum you have to do is:

  1. Watch the first Avengers movie or, in the very least, read my cheat-sheet below. But you really should watch the movie.
  2. Watch Guardians of the Galaxy.
  3. Watch Infinity War.
  4. Buy your tickets to Endgame.

The cheat-sheet


The first Avengers movie features the following:

Iron Man (aka Tony Stark) is basically Batman but with a lot cooler tech. His superpower is that he’s rich and smart and can build lots of toys. He’s basically worthless without his supersuit but that’s okay, because he seems to always have it hidden somewhere.

Thor is literally the god of thunder, but he’s more accurately the god of lightning. He used to have a hammer which was basically unbreakable and super-awesome but it’s gone, long story, watch the other movies if you care. His brother, Loki, looks nothing like him and is the god of tricks. He’s totally untrustworthy and is the bad guy in the first Avengers movie, but things are basically cool between him and Thor at this point. Kind of. Oh, yeah, and the two of them have a friend with a magical sword which can teleport people across the galaxy.

Captain America is a normal dude who is super-strong and stuff. He used to have a shield made of indestructible metal, but he lost it. He doesn’t look like a walking American flag anymore, either; now he has a beard and wears a lot of black.

Black Widow is a world-class spy who will kick your ass.

The Incredible Hulk you probably know. Big green guy, comes out when his alter ego Bruce Banner gets angry (usually), basically impossible to control as he smashes stuff. At times has problems remembering who to smash and who not to smash. He’s increasingly been used as comic relief, though.

Hawkeye shoots arrows with crazy-awesome accuracy and the arrows aren’t normal arrows — they do cool stuff. He’s what Katniss Everdeen would have been if he were raised to be a superhero.

Nick Fury is the dude who put the original gang together. Maria Hill is his current #2, using a very liberal definition of “current.” Pepper Potts is Tony Stark/Iron Man’s fiancée and may actually have super powers too, but no one really ever seems to remember that. Happy Hogan is basically Tony Stark’s and Pepper Potts’ guy Friday. Phil Coulson probably won’t be in Endgame but if he is, they’ll explain what’s going on.


The people/things who aren’t in the first Avengers that you need to know about:

Thanos is the bad guy. Even if he’s not in a movie, he’s the bad guy. He’s that bad.

There are six Infinity Stones. The Mind Stone keeps Vision (below) alive. The Time Stone lets Dr. Strange (also below) manipulate time. The other four you don’t need to know anything about beforehand. Most people can’t hold them without blowing stuff up unintentionally. Having all six lets you do bad things.

Ant-Man is a kind-hearted goofball who has no business being a hero except for the fact that he has a cool suit which lets him change size, and that he has a well-tuned moral compass (minus his whole criminal backstory). There’s also The Wasp, which is another Ant-Man but she’s a she and has wings.

Black Panther and the rest of the Wakandans other than Shuri. They’re awesome warriors with more of that indestructible metal, except that they use it for more than just shields. T’Challa, the Black Panther himself, also has some powers which make him kind of like Captain America, but probably stronger and better. Shuri is his sister, and she’s a brilliant scientist. Like, Bruce Banner and Tony Stark, they’re geniuses, and Shuri makes them look dumb.

Vision isn’t human and he has an Infinity Stone in his forehead so he can basically do anything, but he most often doesn’t.

Scarlett Witch can move things with her mind and will also kick your ass.

Dr. Strange and his sidekick Wong are wizards. They can open up portals which basically teleport people and things, and make magical shields which block stuff. And they can do other magic, too, but it’s pretty straightforward that it’s magic when they do it. Dr. Strange has a magic cape which he can make do stuff.

Spider-Man is Spider-Man. He’s also like 17 years old or something and has a suit made for him by Iron Man.

You’re going to watch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. I so this cheat sheet will ignore them otherwise.

The other heroes probably aren’t all that important to the storyline yet. Bucky Barnes is missing an arm, and that’s important in other movies, so don’t be confused when it comes up in the movies above. Falcon has a mechanized set of wings. War Machine is the guy in the silver Iron Man suit. Captain Marvel is a human with alien powers who can do all sorts of crazy stuff but we’re not sure what to make of her yet because we just met her like, last week (although her movie’s events were set in the 1990s).





Originally published on April 1, 2019