Everything you need to know about the MCU before Infinity War

A recap of all 18 previous Marvel Cinematic Universe movies



The highly-anticipated movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is finally here: Avengers: Infinity War. Marvel has specifically credited this movie as the most ambitious crossover event in history. And if we take a look back at the last 10 years, it is clear that Marvel has been leading up to this film since the beginning by periodically introducing the villain Thanos and the six Infinity Stones. This means that previous knowledge of the MCU is essential to understanding Infinity War. Scroll to read each of the movies’ plots to learn about the Avengers or simply refresh your memory before watching Infinity War. If you want a shortened version, check out the infographics for details to remember from each movie.

Tip: All MCU films have either a mid- or post-credits scene, or both, that often tease out to the next film, so don’t leave the theater when the credits start rolling.

Iron Man (2008)

The MCU starts in 2008 with the godfather of the universe: Iron Man. Billionaire Tony Stark, the CEO of a weapons manufacturing company, is the victim of a kidnapping attempt by terrorists who want him to make a missile. Tony Stark cleverly tricks them and makes a suit out of metal, allowing him to escape. When he returns home, he perfects the suit, using it to fight the terrorists and expose and take the company from his corrupt uncle. In the end, he reveals himself as Iron Man to the world.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Scientist Bruce Banner participates in a military program led by General Ross that exposes him to gamma radiation, causing him to turn into the Hulk whenever he’s angry. Banner tries to find a cure but has to go into hiding to prevent the serum from falling into the wrong hands. Five years later, a slip-up forces Banner to go on the run, and Emil Blonsky, who is ordered by Ross to stop the Hulk, injects himself with a similar serum to Banner’s in order to mutate and catch him. Banner ends up defeating him in the end, although he leaves mass destruction in New York in the process.

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2 starts with the government trying to take away Stark’s technology and suits, which they view as weapons. At the same time, Stark tries to find a solution to the palladium core in his chest that is slowly killing him. Meanwhile, Russian physicist Ivan Vanko watches Stark reveal himself as Iron Man as he builds a suit with lightning whips. It is revealed that Vanko’s father helped Howard Stark, Tony’s father, with designs for an arc reactor but was never credited. To get revenge, Vanko attacks Stark in Monaco but is captured by the government and later broken out by Stark’s rival. Stark starts acting more reckless because of what he believes to be his imminent death, but is restrained by his friend Lieutenant James Rhodes, who takes one of Stark’s suits as his own. Together, Rhodes, Stark and his new legal aid, undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff, defeat Vanko. To solve his heart problem, Stark creates a new, more renewable element to power his core.

Thor (2011)

Thor and Loki, sons of King Odin of the planet Asgard, are competing for the throne. Thor is overly excited to rule and recklessly starts a war between Asgard and their enemy, the Frost Giants. As a punishment, Odin banishes him to Earth, where he meets astrophysicist Jane and her colleagues. He tries to retrieve his hammer back from S.H.I.E.L.D., who had taken it for testing, but fails because Odin has not deemed him worthy enough of the hammer. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Loki is in cohorts with the Frost Giants to get the throne, and upon hearing this, Odin reveals that Loki is a Frost Giant himself. Thor’s friends then travel to Earth to bring Thor back, and Thor battles Loki, supposedly killing him in the end.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Steve Rogers is a physically weak man who tries to enlist during World War II, but fails due to his size and health. He signs up for a government super-soldier program, which turns him into a muscled superhero called Captain America. He is originally used as a puppet to boost war morale both at home and overseas. However, Rogers dives into action when he learns that 400 soldiers, including his childhood best friend Bucky Barnes, have been captured by Hydra, a Nazi rogue deep science division headed by Johann Schmidt, who is using a space cube called the Tesseract to make weapons. After rescuing Barnes and the soldiers, Rogers leads missions to shut down Hydra’s bases. However, he loses Barnes on one of the missions and sets out to attack Schmidt and destroy Hydra. Rogers ultimately ends up sacrificing himself to kill Schmidt, dive bombing a plane into the ocean. Later, an icebreaker finds the plane in the Arctic, along with Rogers and the Tesseract. Rogers wakes up 70 years later in Times Square.

The Avengers (2012)

Loki steals the Tesseract, which is being studied by S.H.I.E.L.D., and puts agents, including Barton, under mind control using his scepter. Unable to stop him, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury calls on Stark, Rogers, Banner and Romanoff to capture Loki, meeting Thor along the way. They all argue on what to do with Loki, but end up bringing him back to S.H.I.E.L.D., where they discuss S.H.I.E.L.D.’s intentions for studying the Tesseract. All of a sudden, Barton hits their helicarrier and Loki’s minions attack S.H.I.E.L.D. Banner transforms into Hulk as the Avengers try to defend the plane. In the end, Loki kills S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson and escapes, motivating the Avengers to stop bickering and unite to capture him. Romanoff manages to bring Barton out of the mind control Loki put him under, and Loki uses the Tesseract to open a space portal, allowing an alien army to invade New York. All six Avengers battle the alien army, ending with Iron Man directing a nuclear missile towards the army’s ship in space. The movie closes with Thor taking Loki back to Asgard as a war criminal and the Avengers going their separate ways.


Iron Man 3 (2013)

After the attack on New York, Stark deals with PTSD, causing him to have multiple anxiety attacks and insomnia. Meanwhile, a new group of villains called the Mandarin reveals themselves through an attack, injuring Stark’s friend, Happy. Infuriated, Stark sends them a televised threat, and they destroy his home in response. Stark ends up in Nashville, where he meets a little boy who helps him escape the Mandarin’s soldiers and battle his anxiety. He then returns to New York and rescues the President, who is currently in the Mandarin’s captivity, and defeats the Mandarin with the help of Rhodes, aka War Machine. In the end, Stark undergoes surgery to remove the shrapnel in his heart left from his captivity in the first Iron Man, not needing the arc reactor anymore.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

After New York, Thor tries to bring peace to the Nine Realms and Loki is tried and jailed for his war crimes. However, back on Earth, Jane accidentally discovers a wormhole and activates the Aether, awakening an ancient race called the Dark Elves and their leader Malekith. Jane ends up absorbing the Aether by accident, forcing Thor to bring her to Asgard. Sensing the Aether, the Dark Elves attack Asgard and end up killing the Queen of Asgard, Thor and Loki’s mother. Looking for revenge, Thor and Loki team up to defeat Malekith but fail, with Loki supposedly dying in the process. Malekith continues with his plan to use the Aether to destroy the Nine Realms in London, but Thor ultimately stops him. In the end, Thor turns down the throne to stay humble, unknowingly talking to Loki disguised as Odin, and reunites with Jane on Earth.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

The movie begins with Rogers working with Romanoff and S.H.I.E.L.D. on various missions. However, one day Fury is ambushed by the Winter Soldier, supposedly dying as a result. He warns Rogers not to trust anyone, so Rogers and Romanoff, who gains his trust, are considered fugitives by S.H.I.E.L.D. for not divulging what Fury told them. They try to find answers about the Winter Soldier, discovering that Hydra has been growing in the shadows of S.H.I.E.L.D. for 70 years, and that they created the Winter Soldier. Rogers and Romanoff lay low with Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, when the Winter Soldier attacks again. This time, Rogers finds out that the Winter Soldier is his childhood friend Bucky Barnes, who he thought he lost. Also finding out that Fury faked his death, Rogers, Romanoff and Wilson work together to once again defeat Hydra and its plans of mass genocide. In the end, Rogers tries to get through to Barnes, yet remains unsuccessful.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The movie starts with Peter Quill, an outlaw, stealing an orb to later sell. Meanwhile, Ronan, who is working for the villain Thanos, also wants the orb to destroy the planet Xandar, so he sends his assassin Gamora, the daughter of Thanos, to get it. However, Quill, Gamora and bounty hunters Rocket and Groot are captured and arrested for fighting on Xandar. They go to prison, where an inmate named Drax the Destroyer tries to kill Gamora because of her affiliation with Ronan, who killed his family. Gamora ends up betraying Ronan, resulting in all five of them escaping from the prison to set out and find a buyer for the orb. They meet the collector who explains that the orb contains the Power Stone, one of six Infinity Stones, which is powerful enough to wipe out planets. The Power Stone suddenly explodes when someone touches it and the five try to escape, but Quill and Gamora are taken by the Ravagers instead. Meanwhile, Ronan betrays Thanos, taking the Power Stone for himself, and Quill and the Ravagers work with the Nova Corps, Xandar’s police force, to retrieve the stone and defeat Ronan. The Infinity Stone is then given to the Nova Corps for safekeeping from Thanos.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

The Avengers attack a Hydra facility in Sokovia to retrieve Loki’s scepter, encountering human experiments Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, aka Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Banner and Stark then discover an artificial intelligence in the gem of the scepter and use it on Ultron, Stark’s global defense and peacekeeping initiative. However, Ultron ends up going rogue and attacks Stark’s home while he’s throwing a party with the Avengers. Escaping, Ultron recruits the Maximoff twins, who are filled with resentment for Stark because their parents were  killed by Stark’s weapons. He then steals Wakandan vibranium to make a device that will smash Sokovia into the ground, causing global destruction. The Avengers try to stop him but fail and recover at Hawkeye’s house, where they figure out that Ultron is building a body. Once again, the Avengers unite and leave to defend Sokovia. They steal the body and Stark uploads his own AI Jarvis into the body, creating Vision. Ultron then lifts Sokovia into the sky, prompting S.H.I.E.L.D. to evacuate the civilians. The Avengers fight Ultron’s army, and Thor and Stark work together to destroy the city, but Pietro dies in the process. In the end, Thor and Banner leave Earth, while Rogers and Romanoff set to train the newbies: Falcon, War Machine, Vision and Scarlet Witch.

Ant-Man (2015)

Scott Lang is a thief who can’t hold down a job ever since he was released from prison, so he commits a burglary, stealing a suit that shrinks him down to the size of an ant. He freaks out and tries to give the suit back, but ends up getting arrested. While in jail, the scientist who made it, Dr. Hank Pym, gives it back to Lang to break him out. Pym then trains Lang as the Ant-Man so he can steal the Yellow Jacket suit from his rival. In the end, Lang’s friend Hope van Dyne gets a Wasp suit.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Many people believe the Avengers are causing more harm and destruction than good, so the government proposes that the Sokovia Accords place the Avengers under government control. Stark is for the Accords because he feels guilty about the damage in Sokovia, but Evans is against it because he trusts his own decisions more than the government’s. The Avengers then go to Vienna for the ratification, but the Accords are bombed by who they suspect to be Barnes, the Winter Soldier. King T’chaka of Wakanda dies in the blast, fueling his son T’challa to kill Barnes to avenge his father’s death. Rogers, Wilson, T’challa and Barnes are all captured during a fight, but Barnes escapes when a Sokovian terrorist named Helmut Zemo disguises himself as an interrogator and activates his Hydra brainwashing. Meanwhile, Stark and Romanoff are tasked with stopping Rogers, so they recruit T’challa as Black Panther, Peter Parker as Spider-Man, Rhodes as War Machine and Vision. Similarly, Barton brings Wanda as Scarlet Witch and Lang as Ant-Man to help Rogers. Each side battles the other, and the battle ultimately paralyzes Rhodes. However, Stark figures out that Barnes was framed by Zemo and decides to join Rogers and Barns in defeating him. Soon after, Stark realizes that Barnes killed his parents, so he fights both him and Rogers until they’ve all had enough. At the same time, Zemo kills himself after seeing the Avengers tear themselves apart. In the end, the Avengers try to make amends but go off on their separate ways.

Doctor Strange (2016)

Dr. Stephen Strange is a neurosurgeon who lost his hand function from a car accident. After trying numerous experimentative surgeries, he decides to find healing in the mystical arts. There, he becomes a sorcerer and learns about the three sanctums that protect Earth from the Dark Dimension: Hong Kong, London and New York. He tries to use the Eye of Agamotto, a time-bending relic, but his mentors Mordu and Wong warn him against it. Meanwhile, the evil sorcerer Kaecilius tries to unleash the Dark Dimension and a monster called Dormammu for eternal life. Kaecilius attacks the New York sanctum while Strange defends it. In Hong Kong, Strange ends up using the Eye of Agamotto to defeat Kaecilius and Dormammu, saving the world from mystical threats.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

The Guardians protect anulax batteries for the Sovereign race, which is ruled by the High Priestess. However, Rocket steals some batteries, causing a Sovereign fleet to attack them. During the battle, a strange man helps them defeat the fleet and escape, and that man is revealed to be Quill’s father, Ego. He takes Quill, Gamora and Drax to his home planet, where he explains that he is a god and trains Quill to access his celestial powers. Meanwhile, Rocket, Groot and Yondu, Quill’s adoptive Ravager father, are captured for the High Priestess, but they soon escape and head for Ego. Back on Ego’s planet, Nebula and Gamora fight each other, only to realize that Ego is a murderer who wishes to control the entire universe. Quill finds out and Ego tells him that he killed Quill’s mother. The Guardians defeat Quill by using the batteries Rocket stole. In the end, Yondu ends up sacrificing himself for Quill, while Nebula and Gamora resolve their issues.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

After the events of Civil War, Peter Parker, a high school student, tries to continue being an Avenger. He stays in touch with Happy, Stark’s head of security, when one day, he discovers weapons on the street using an extraterrestrial element. However, after engaging with arms dealers, he is rescued by Stark, who tells him not to pursue the lead. Still, he continues to find the arms maker, a man named Vulture, putting his friends in danger. Stark saves him again, but this time, he takes away Parker’s suit. Parker tries to go to Homecoming but figures out that Vulture is his date’s father. He ends up defeating Vulture and leaving him to be arrested by the police. In the end, Stark offers to make Parker a full-time Avenger, but Parker declines because he’s content with being a high schooler.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor and Loki’s father, Odin, dies and the brothers discover that they have an older sister, Odin’s firstborn Hela, whom he cast out because he feared she was too ambitious. Hela destroys Thor’s hammer when they engage and forces Thor and Loki out of Asgard. On a different planet, Thor meets a member of the Valkyrie, a female fighting force, and subsequently the Hulk, who has been fighting on the planet gladiator-style ever since Sokovia. Thor gets Banner to come out and escapes, along with Loki and the Valkyrie. Then, they set out to defeat Hela by destroying Asgard. In the end, the Asgardians are shown as refugees with Thor as their leader.

Black Panther (2018)

T’challa, aka the Black Panther, is the King and guardian of Wakanda, a nation which poses as a third-world country but uses the metal vibranium to make advanced technology. T’challa comes back to his throne only to have it threatened at his coronation by Killmonger, who is upset that the Wakandans killed his father. Killmonger takes the throne, seriously injuring T’challa, who is secretly being healed by an outside tribe. T’challa’s sister Shuri, friend Nakia and general Okoye all help to rehabilitate him. He fights Killmonger to the death and retakes his throne, deciding to reveal Wakanda’s technology and status to the world.


Graphics by Ananya Bhat