John is a fervent writer, gamer, and guitar lover. Former automatic-transmission repairer, welder and hobbyist game developer.
So you never got into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (commonly known as the “MCU”). And when Avengers: Endgame rolled around, you either weren’t interested or simply felt overwhelmed by weight of the 20+ movies that led up to this monumental cinematic outing. Maybe you are a fan of the series, but you’ve might have skipped some films and are unsure which ones are important to the plot of Avengers: Endgame.
Whatever your reason, if you now find yourself in a position where you want to watch Avengers: Endgame, but don’t know what you need to have seen beforehand to know what’s going on, this article is for you. We’re going to breakdown which films should be considered prerequisites before seeing one of the biggest movies of a generation.
Spoiler free, of course.
We’ll go through a number of films and briefly discuss their importance to Avengers: Endgame. If a film doesn’t get mentioned here, it means you can definitely head into Endgame without seeing it. It doesn’t mean the film is bad, however, just that you don’t need to see it understand the plot of Endgame. We’re going to tackle the importance of a film on two fronts; watch-ability, and fandom.
For example, the very first MCU film, 2008s Iron Man. From a fandom point of view, this film is an essential watch. The whole Marvel movie experiment started with this film and, Endgame pays a lot of tribute to these humble beginnings.
However, in terms of understanding what is going on in Endgame, the only significance of Iron Man is explaining where he came from. In short, you will miss many little nods, winks, and homages to the original MCU superhero if you haven’t seen Iron Man… but you’ll be able to follow the plot of Endgame.
So let’s get into our list!
The Avengers Franchise
It should probably go without saying that the previous Avengers films; Marvel’s The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Avengers: Infinity War, are relevant to Avengers: Endgame. Infinity War most of all.
Infinity War and Endgame were shot back to back and the story picks up directly from where Infinity War left off. The original Avengers movie in 2012 is also quite relevant to Endgame… unfortunately I can’t really go into details of why without spoiling the movie! Avengers: Age of Ultron, however, is less important to understanding the plot of Endgame. If this article were about movies to watch before Infinity War, I would have a different opinion on Age of Ultron. But for this movie, don’t feel like you must watch the second Avengers movie before going into the fourth. For fandom, Both the first and third Avengers movies are important. For watch-ability, you could probably get by with just Infinity War.
Verdict: Watch The Avengers if you can, skip Age of Ultron, definitely watch Infinity War.
Avengers: Infinity War Trailer
The Iron Man Franchise
As important as Tony Stark is to the entire MCU up to this point, the entire Iron Man franchise is kinda skip-able from a watch-ability standpoint. There are plenty of references to these movies in Avengers: Endgame, but in terms of things you need to know in order to understand the story, Iron Man is a bit thin on the ground.
Verdict: You can miss out on all three, however watch the first Iron Man if you can.
The Captain America Franchise
In what will be something of a theme in this article for the franchises of the MCU, the first Captain America film is not particularly important to Endgame. It establishes where Steve Rogers (the captain himself) comes from, and even gives us the first glimpse of an important cube-shaped plot point that carries through to Endgame. However none of that is essential to understanding what is going on in Endgame itself.
The second film in the franchise, Captain America: Winter Soldier, is more important from a fandom perspective than a watch-ability one. There are a number of references to this movie but little in the way of things that you need to have seen to understand Endgame.
The third film, however, is a different story.
Captain America: Civil War, often considered an honorary Avengers film due to the depth of the superhero roster on display, is a must watch before heading into Endgame. The events of Civil War establish crucial dynamics between some of the characters in Endgame. While you could simply accept that certain characters are at odds with each other, I believe it would greatly enhance your Endgame viewing experience to have seen Civil War beforehand.
Verdict: Skip the first Captain America, watch Winter Soldier if you can, don’t pass over Civil War.
The Thor Franchise
The Thor films are a bit of a tricky one. Again, the first film is only important insofar as it as the origin story for a major character in the Endgame film. The second film introduces something that is a significant part of Endgame, and the movie is relevant to Endgame in another way that I can’t explain without spoiling things. The third instalment, Thor: Ragnarok, carries some important character development for some major Endgame characters, and the events of Infinity War pick right up where Ragnarok finishes. Indeed, the final scene of Thor is the setting for the opening scene of Infinity War.
But with all that being said, I think it’s safe to put the Thor franchise low on the list of priorities if you’re looking to just watch the absolute bare minimum before going into Endgame. The character development is only important if you’re already familiar with the characters, and while the Infinity War/Endgame story essentially starts at the end of Thor: Ragnarok, you don’t need to have seen the film to understand what is happening at the start of Infinity War.
Verdict: Skip all three if you like, watch Thor: Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok if you have time.
Watch the Thor: Ragnarok Trailer
The Guardians of the Galaxy Franchise
Of the two Guardians of the Galaxy films, it is actually the first film that is most relevant to the plot of Endgame. The second introduces a character and some relationship dynamics that carry over to Endgame, but nothing that you absolutely need to know going into the film.
The first film, however, introduces a major plot element and gives us our first real look at the big bad of the Infinity War/Endgame saga. It also establishes the relationship between Thanos and some of the characters in Endgame, which is very important to the plot of Endgame.
Verdict: Skip Guardians of the Galaxy 2 but don’t go into Endgame without seeing the first Guardians of the Galaxy film.
The Ant-Man and the Wasp Franchise
Ant-Man is a significant player in Endgame, however much like the other franchises (Guardians of the Galaxy aside), the first film serves mostly as an origin story explaining where Ant-Man and the Wasp came from. If you’re happy to just accept he is a man that can shrink really really small (and sometimes grow really really big), you don’t really really need to see the first Ant-Man film before diving into Endgame.
The second film, Ant-Man and the Wasp, however, lays some serious groundwork for events that will happen in Endgame. Endgame itself does an admirable job of explaining what it needs to explain, but if you have the time to watch Ant-Man and the Wasp first, it will explain a whole lot more about what is actually happening in Endgame.
Verdict: You can skip the first Ant-Man, but if you have time to watch Ant-Man and the Wasp, you should.
Watch the Ant-Man and the Wasp Trailer
This one is a must watch. It introduces possibly one of the most important of the plot elements strewn throughout the MCU in the lead up to Endgame. It establishes a character whom we will see in Endgame (other than Doctor Strange himself), and it sets the stage for some of the more… fantastical aspects of the Marvel Universe. Though Doctor Strange himself has a relatively small part in Endgame (though a larger part in the overall Infinity War/Endgame story), his tale is more important to the Endgame story than a lot of other MCU films.
Verdict: Don’t skip Doctor Strange.
Black Panther establishes the setting of Wakanda, which is more important to Infinity War than it is Endgame, as well the Black Panther himself, but in terms of importance to Endgame, there’s no real reason to make a special effort to watch this.
Captain Marvel has a larger role than Black Panther, although it is still quite small. Her movie is, once again, an origin story. If you want to know how this character came to be, you should watch it. If you can accept that she’s a Superman-esque, extremely powerful being, then you already know all you need to know about her character for this particular film.
There is also Spider-Man: Homecoming, however Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War provide more than enough context for the Spider-Man character in Endgame.
As far as The Incredible Hulk goes, not only would I say you don’t need to watch it, I would actually recommend skipping it. The actor who plays the Hulk was changed after that film and if you’re not overly familiar with the MCU, this could just prove confusing.
The Films You Really Should See Before Watching Avengers: Endgame
So, the films you should definitely watch before seeing Avengers: Endgame are as follows;
- Marvel’s The Avengers
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Captain America: Civil War
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Doctor Strange
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Ant-Man and the Wasp
More or less in that order… though it’s not really important which order you watch Guardians and Doctor Strange in.
Watch the Avengers: Endgame Trailer
And, please remember, this list is purely based on importance to the plot of Avengers: Endgame. If you were coming in completely cold on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, these are films that would greatly enhance your viewing of Endgame. This article is NOT saying that the films that didn’t make the list are bad, or that you shouldn’t see them. If viewing all of the MCUs twenty two films is an option, definitely do that.
But I understand if twenty two films feels like a bit much.
© 2019 John Bullock