Marvel Cinematic Universe, Assembled
April 25, 2018
Over the last ten years, Marvel Studios has released eighteen movies in their unprecedented extended universe. This month, Marvel is releasing “Avengers: Infinity War,” part one of the largest superhero crossover event ever.
In preparation for the ultimate Marvel cinematic experience, here is a summary of every single Marvel Cinematic Universe film, in order of release. Anyone who wants to witness “Infinity War” in the coming weeks but doesn’t have the time to binge every single movie, this is for you.
Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist Tony Stark is the CEO of Stark Industries, the United State’s primary weapons manufacturer. Tony Stark is as brilliant as he is arrogant, and he runs his company with the assistance of Obadiah Stane, the previous CEO, and Pepper Pots, his personal assistant. Stark lives a lavish lifestyle in a mansion in Malibu, where his A.I. software JARVIS runs the house.
Following a weapons demonstration in the Middle East, Stark and a group of soldiers are ambushed by a terrorist group. Stark is injured, captured, and forced to build a missile for his enemies. To prevent him from being killed by his injuries, a fellow prisoner installs an electromagnet in Stark’s chest.
Instead of building a missile, Stark puts an arc reactor in his chest and builds his first Iron Man suit, which he uses to escape from his captors. He returns home a changed man, and chooses to shut down Stark Weapons Manufacturing.
Once home, Stark perfects his suit. Stane, who actually ordered the terrorists to kill Stark, builds a larger Iron Man suit, and the two men fight in the movie’s final battle. Stane is killed, and Tony Stark reveals to the world that he is Iron Man.
The Incredible Hulk
The brilliant Dr. Bruce Banner, during an experiment involving gamma radiation, gained the ability to change into the Hulk, a monstrous, green creature of unparalleled strength. If Banner’s pulse gets too high, he will transform into the Hulk, lose control, and go on a destructive rampage.
U.S. Army General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross is dedicated to capturing Banner in order to replicate the Hulk. Banner lives on the run in order to protect himself and those he cares about. After hiding in Brazil, Banner is discovered by Ross and forced back on the run. Banner battles Ross’s forces as the Hulk, ultimately reunites with an old flame in America, and attempts to cure his gamma sickness.
All attempts to cure Banner fail. One of Ross’s men, hungry for power, injects himself with Banner’s blood and becomes the Abomination, a Hulk-like creature of immense strength and anger. The Abomination begins to wreak havoc in Harlem, and Banner transforms into the Hulk to stop him. The film ends with Banner back on the run, but this time Ross has given up on his pursuit.
Iron Man 2
Tony Stark, after revealing to the world that he is Iron Man, kicks off the Stark Expo, a year-long technology exposition event. Stark’s life is great, except the U.S. government wants his Iron Man suits, his business rival Justin Hammer is desperate to destroy him, and he’s slowly being killed by the arc reactor embedded in his chest.
As Stark begins to self-destruct, he makes Pepper Potts the CEO of Stark Industries, his best friend James “Rhodey” Rhodes steals one of his suits, and a mysterious man named Ivan Vanko attacks him with an Iron Man-esque suit that features electric whips. With help from SHIELD (a mysterious spy organization) and recordings from his long-dead father Howard, Stark upgrades the arc reactor and defeats Vanko in a battle that destroys most of the Stark Expo.
Rhodey keeps his stolen Iron Man suit and becomes War Machine. Natasha Romanoff, a SHIELD agent known as Black Widow, helps defeat Justin Hammer (who aided Vanko). Nick Fury, the director of SHIELD, tells Stark he isn’t accepted for the Avengers Initiative.
Humans are not alone in the universe. Earth is one of nine realms ruled by Asgard, a world of god-like beings. Asgard is ruled by Odin, father of Thor (god of Thunder) and Loki (god of mischief). Thor wields Mjolnir, a magic hammer that can only be lifted by anyone deemed worthy. As the oldest son, Thor is going to be crowned king of Asgard. But when Thor’s arrogant, bellicose nature gets the better of him, Odin banishes him (and Mjolnir) to Earth.
An important note about Asgard: Asgardians travel to various worlds using the bifrost, a machine that teleports people and things to or from Asgard. The bifrost is controlled by Heimdall, Asgard’s gatekeeper and watchman who can see every living soul in the universe.
While banished, Thor can’t lift his hammer. A team of SHIELD agents led by Phil Coulson and assisted by Hawkeye (a skilled agent with a bow and arrow) investigate the hammer, but no one is able to move it. Meanwhile, Loki discovers he is not Odin’s son. Odin falls into a coma, Loki takes the throne, and Thor befriends a team of scientists. Loki decides to send an automated robot called the Destroyer to kill Thor, but Thor regains his abilities and destroys it.
Thor returns to Asgard and stops Loki from using the bifrost to destroy a planet populated by Asgard’s enemies (because the bifrost can do that). Thor breaks the bifrost and Loki falls into space, presumably dying.
Captain America: The First Avenger
It’s World War Two. The Nazis are assisted by HYDRA, an advanced science division led by the Red Skull. HYDRA possesses the tesseract, a cosmic cube that gives them nearly unlimited power. To counteract this threat, the allies infuse Steve Rogers, a young and skinny American patriot, with a super-soldier serum, turning him into Captain America. The Captain America project is assisted by Howard Stark, who will one day become Tony Stark’s dad.
Captain America spends some time as a celebrity, selling war bonds and encouraging patriotism across America. When his best friend, Bucky Barnes, is captured by HYDRA, Rogers joins the fight and saves him. The two men and a handful of other soldiers form the Howling Commandos and spend the war pursuing the Red Skull. During a fight aboard a HYDRA train, Barnes falls into a ravine and presumably dies.
By the time Red Skull has created his own weapons of mass destruction using the tesseract, Captain America and the allies are knocking on his front door. Rogers boards the Red Skull’s massive jet, kills him, and crashes the plane into the Arctic to prevent the bombs on board from killing anyone. Howard Stark fishes the tesseract out of the ocean while looking for Rogers, but never finds him. The Captain is preserved in the ice and emerges over 70 years later, in the present day.
SHIELD has begun to test the tesseract, hoping to develop weapons and achieve unlimited sustainable energy. Loki (who is being backed by some mysterious villain) arrives and steals the tesseract from them with the intention of ruling Earth. Loki wields a scepter that allows him to control people’s minds, and he sways Hawkeye along with a group of SHIELD scientists and agents.
Nick Fury, with no other options, assembles the Avengers. Bruce Banner, Steve Rogers, and Tony Stark join Black Widow on SHIELD’s helicarrier. Loki presents himself and is captured, and Thor arrives shortly after. As the team bickers amongst themselves, Hawkeye arrives and cripples the Helicarrier. Loki’s plan — to cause the Avengers to fall apart — almost succeeds, and he escapes. Hawkeye is freed from Loki’s mind control by Black Widow, and the Avengers regroup.
In New York City, Loki uses the tesseract to open a portal into space. An alien army charges through and begins to attack, but the Avengers arrive and defeat them in the largest MCU battle to date. Loki, Thor, and the tesseract return to Asgard, and the remaining Avengers go their separate ways.
Iron Man 3
On New Year’s Eve, 1999, Tony Stark was in Switzerland with a biochemist who specialized in cellular regeneration. Stark was approached by a strange man named Aldrich Killian who wanted to work together, but Stark rejected him, thinking nothing of it.
Over a decade later, Stark is suffering from anxiety attacks as a result of The Battle of New York. To keep himself sane, he spends his time building more and more Iron Man suits. A terrorist known as the Mandarin is committing horrific bombings across the country, and James Rhodes has been tasked with stopping him. When Stark’s friend is injured in a Mandarin bombing, Stark publicly threatens the Mandarin. In response, the Mandarin destroys his house, sending him on the run with nothing but a prototype Iron Man suit.
While on the run, Stark discovers that Killian and his old biochemist pal are working together to create fiery genetically-enhanced soldiers with incredible regenerative abilities. These soldiers occasionally explode, so the Mandarin was created to mislead the public. Stark defeats Killian with the help of Rhodes and an army of Iron Man suits. After the battle, Stark destroys the remaining suits and undergoes surgery to remove the shrapnel (and the arc reactor) from his chest.
Thor: The Dark World
Some quick backstory to “The Dark World”: long ago, an evil race of creatures called dark elves tried to use the Aether (a magical fluid substance that alters reality) to wipe all light from the universe. Odin’s father stopped them and buried the Aether underground, knowing he couldn’t destroy it.
Following “The Avengers,” Thor took Loki back to Asgard, where he was imprisoned. Thor then set out to stop wars across the nine realms, earning their respect and gratitude. Thor returns home and Odin decides he is ready to rule, but Thor’s annoying human girlfriend is possessed by the Aether after discovering it by accident. Sensing the Aether’s return, the last dark elves attack Asgard in an attempt to reclaim it, killing Thor’s mother in the process.
With Loki’s help, Thor attempts to destroy the Aether, and the dark elves, by allowing them to remove the Aether from his girlfriend (it was a bad plan, we know). When this plan backfires, the dark elves get the Aether and try to destroy the universe. Loki fakes his death in the process. Thor then defeats the elves on Earth, the Aether is delivered to a man known as the Collector for safekeeping, and Loki takes over Asgard by impersonating Odin.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America and the Black Widow both work for SHIELD following the events from “The Avengers.” Nick Fury discovers that SHIELD has secretly been infiltrated by modern-day members of HYDRA, so HYDRA’s elite metal-armed mercenary – the Winter Soldier – kills him. As Captain America and Black Widow discover HYDRA’s plans to wipe out their enemies, they are sent on the run, with the Winter Soldier in pursuit.
Cap and Black Widow are joined by Sam Wilson, who uses mechanical wings and a jetpack to fly. Cap discovers that the Winter Soldier is his old friend Bucky Barnes, who was brainwashed and cryogenically frozen during WW2. Shortly thereafter, Nick Fury is revealed to have survived the Winter Soldier’s attempt on his life. In a brutal final battle between Captain America’s team and HYDRA’s forces, Barnes realizes who he is and goes on the run. Most of HYDRA is defeated, and Captain America begins a search for Barnes with Sam’s help.
Guardians of the Galaxy
In 1988, Peter Quill was abducted from Earth by interplanetary criminals known as the Ravagers after watching his mother die from brain cancer. Raised by them, he became Star Lord, a mediocre outlaw and general all-around misfit. One day, he retrieves an object called the orb from a deserted planet. This orb is highly valuable, and Ronan, an alien warlord, wants it. Ronan sends Gamora, a cybernetically enhanced assassin, to retrieve it. As Gamora attacks Quill, two bounty hunters — a raccoon named Rocket and a tree named Groot — step in and attempt to kidnap him. All four are arrested.
Ronan is working with Thanos, the same villain who lent Loki his army in “The Avengers.” Gamora is one of Thanos’ adopted daughters, and Thanos had tasked Ronan with retrieving the orb for him. As it turns out, Thanos is a genocidal maniac in addition to being the most powerful known being in the universe.
In prison, Gamora reveals her plans to betray Thanos and Ronan and sell the orb. Drax, another inmate, tries to kill Gamora because his entire family was killed by Ronan. Quill manages to convince Rocket, Groot, Drax, and Gamora to join forces, escape from prison, and sell the orb.
Everything goes according to plan until they arrive in Knowhere, a miner’s colony inside a planet-sized severed head. The Collector (the same man who possesses the Aether at this point) reveals that the orb conceals a gem that has the power to destroy planets. The Collector’s personal slave uses the orb to blow up his house, and our humble heroes decide to take it back. Ronan arrives, steals the orb, nearly kills Quill, Gamora, and Drax, and sets off to destroy Xandar, an innocent planet.
Quill and company convince the Ravagers to help them stop Ronan. In the final battle (which concludes in a dance-off), Groot sacrifices himself and Ronan gives the heroes the nickname “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The orb is given to the Nova Corps, the Xandarian government, for safekeeping. Rocket then plants one of Groot’s sticks in some soil and Baby Groot is born.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Following “The Winter Soldier,” the remaining HYDRA cells stole Loki’s scepter, so all six of the original Avengers regroup to retrieve it. As the Avengers took out HYDRA bases across the globe, Baron Strucker used the scepter to give twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff superhuman abilities. Wanda was given telekinesis and telepathy, and Pietro was given super-speed. The twins hate Tony Stark because his weapons were used to bomb their home country, Sokovia, when they were children.
The Avengers battle Strucker’s forces and the twins, taking back the scepter. Wanda manipulates Stark’s mind during the battle, showing him his worst fear: the Avengers (and Earth) being destroyed because he didn’t do enough to stop it. Stark freaks out and uses the scepter to create Ultron, an artificially intelligent peacekeeping program. After taking one look at the internet, Ultron decides to destroy humanity, so he builds himself an army of robot bodies and forms an alliance with the Maximoff twins.
Wanda shows the Avengers their greatest fears. Stark uses the Hulkbuster suit to stop the Hulk after Banner loses control. Ultron steals vibranium, the same indestructible metal used to make Captain America’s shield, from an arms dealer in Africa. Hawkeye reveals his secret family. Ultron uses the vibranium to create an android body for himself, but the twins turn against him and the Avengers steal the android body. Ultron had designed his new body to be invincible by removing the source of the scepter’s power and placing it on the android’s forehead, so Stark brings it to life. Thus, the Vision is born.
Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, Hulk, Black Widow, Iron Man, Vision, and the Maximoff twins stop Ultron as he uses the remaining vibranium to turn all of Sokovia into a giant meteor. Pietro is killed, Sokovia is destroyed, and Hulk steals a quinjet and disappears. Thor leaves Earth, determined to find more artifacts like the scepter and stop them from falling into the wrong hands. A new Avengers team is formed: Captain America, Sam Wilson, Black Widow, War Machine, Vision, and Wanda Maximoff.
During the Cold War, Hank Pym designed a formula for a particle that could alter the relative distance between atoms. Using a suit that allowed him to shrink to a tiny size, he served SHIELD as the Ant-Man. The Ant-Man suit also allows the wearer to control ants. Years later, Pym left SHIELD and started his own company in an attempt to hide his particle from the world.
Pym’s wife joined him on his missions as The Wasp, but she disappeared after her suit began to shrink forever. Hank’s daughter, Hope, and his protégé, Darren Cross, voted him out of his company, and Cross set to work designing his own particle. Cross builds his own shrinking suit, and Hope asks Hank to help her destroy it (because Cross has gone crazy). Hank recruits ex-criminal Scott Lang and trains him to be the new Ant-Man.
During his training, Lang meets — and fights — Sam Wilson. Once he’s ready, Lang destroys Cross’s lab, and the two men fight on Lang’s daughter’s train set in a tiny battle of epic proportions. Cross is killed, and the movie ends as Lang’s friend Louis tells him Sam Wilson is looking for him.
Captain America: Civil War
In Lagos, the new Avengers are pursuing a criminal when Wanda Maximoff accidentally causes a deadly explosion. In the wake of the disaster, the Sokovia accords — a set of laws that dictate when superheroes are allowed to save people — are announced. The old and new members of the Avengers are split over whether or not to support the Accords. Tony Stark (guilty from his involvement in creating Ultron) supports the Accords, but Steve Rogers (who believes the Accords could result in the Avengers not saving innocent lives) does not.
Meanwhile, Zemo, a Sokovian man hell-bent on destroying the Avengers, bombs a UN assembly while disguised as Bucky Barnes. The king of Wakanda (the African nation where vibranium is found) is killed in the explosion, so his son, T’Challa, vows to kill Barnes. Barnes is captured, and Zemo replaces the psychiatrist called in to examine him. Zemo says Russian trigger words that turn Barnes back into the Winter Soldier, Barnes goes on a rampage, and Wilson and Rogers stop him and take him into hiding.
At this point, Zemo escapes and heads off to the old HYDRA base where Barnes was once kept. At this facility are five more super-assassins just like Barnes, all able to be controlled in order to create chaos. Cap and his team, all fugitives from the law, gather to go and stop Zemo.
Iron Man assembles a team to arrest Cap: War Machine, T’Challa, Black Widow, Vision, and — surprise! — Spider-man. On Captain America’s side are Barnes, Sam, Wanda, Hawkeye, and Ant-Man. The two teams fight in a German airport, where Rhodey is injured and everyone on Cap’s side is arrested except for Cap and Barnes. The movie ends in a brutal, emotional fight between Iron Man, Cap, and Barnes after Zemo reveals that Barnes killed Iron Man’s parents during his Winter Soldier days. No one wins, and Cap leaves Stark his shield and busts his team out of prison.
At a non-specified point in time, world-renowned surgeon Stephen Strange is injured in a car accident that leaves his hands permanently injured. Unable to save lives as a doctor, Dr. Strange travels to Nepal, where a mysterious sorcerer known as the Ancient One trains him in the mystic arts. Over the course of months (maybe years), Strange becomes a skilled sorcerer, even learning how to use the Eye of Agamotto, an artifact that manipulates time.
When a group of the Ancient One’s former students begin to draw power from the dark dimension, Strange and fellow sorcerers Wong and Mordo fight to stop them from plunging Earth into the realm of Dormammu, an entity beyond time. Dormammu is a being of unspeakable power, and the zealots who worship him use his power to live forever. These zealots kill the Ancient One, who was also using the dark dimension’s power to live eternally. Strange convinces Dormammu to leave Earth by trapping him in a time loop using the Eye of Agamotto. The zealots are defeated, Mordo turns evil, and Strange becomes one of Earth’s best sorcerers.
Around two months after the events of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the Guardians kill an interdimensional monster for an alien race called the Sovereign in exchange for Nebula, another adopted daughter of Thanos. Like Gamora, Nebula hates Thanos, but unlike Gamora, she has no intentions of being a hero. Rocket angers the Sovereign high priestess by stealing from her, so a Sovereign fleet causes the Guardians to crash on a remote planet.
Peter Quill’s long-lost father, Ego, arrives, claiming he has been looking for Peter for years. Ego is accompanied by his personal empath, Mantis. Quill, Drax, and Gamora go with him to his home planet while Rocket and Baby Groot stay behind to be eventually kidnapped by Ravagers. With help from Yondu, the man who raised Quill, the two of them escape. Meanwhile, on Ego’s home planet, Ego reveals that he IS the planet and that he and Quill can create matter at will.
Ego, with his god-like abilities, decided long ago that he was a superior being and that it was his life purpose to wipe out all life in the universe. By using Quill as a human battery, he begins to do just that. Nebula, Gamora, Drax, Groot, Rocket, Quill, Yondu, and Mantis team up and kill him. As Ego (the planet) collapses, Yondu sacrifices himself for Quill. Quill loses his abilities, Nebula departs to go try and kill Thanos, and the Guardians hold a beautiful funeral for Yondu.
High school student Peter Parker, AKA Spider-man, was thrilled to help Iron Man during the events of “Civil War.” After returning home from Germany, Parker returns to school, fighting petty crime after hours and telling his aunt and his friends that he’s working at an internship with Tony Stark. After stopping a bank robbery, he discovers the Vulture, a man who began to build his own weapons from stolen alien technology after the Battle of New York.
With Iron Man refusing to take him seriously, Parker sets out to prove himself by defeating the Vulture. With help from his best friend, Ned, Parker ultimately discovers Vulture’s master plan: to rob a cargo plane departing from the old Avengers facility. Parker discovers that the Vulture is his girlfriend’s dad, but he chooses to stop him anyway. Vulture is arrested, and Iron Man offers Spider-man a place on the Avengers roster. Parker refuses, returns home, and is discovered in his Spider-man costume by his aunt.
Over two years after departing Earth in “Age of Ultron,” Thor returns to Asgard to discover Loki is impersonating Odin. The two travel to Earth and Doctor Strange helps them find Odin, who dies minutes after they reach him. His death allows Hela, the Goddess of Death, to escape her prison, smash mjolnir to bits, and take over Asgard. Thor and Loki are left stranded on Sakaar, an insane planet ruled by a madman known as the Grandmaster. The Grandmaster runs a gladiator-style contest of champions, which Thor is forced to fight in.
While imprisoned, Thor meets Korg, an eccentric rock creature who wants to escape the Grandmaster’s control. In the arena, Thor’s opponent arrives to thunderous applause. It’s the Hulk, who was somehow abducted at the end of “Age of Ultron.” Thor and Hulk fight in a brutal no-holds-barred gladiator match. Following the fight, Hulk is able to turn back into Bruce Banner for the first time in two years.
Thor, Bruce, and an asgardian Valkyrie escape Sakaar and return to Asgard to fight Hela. Thor loses an eye, unleashes his lightning powers, and still has no chance of defeating her. Loki, Korg, and a small army of Sakaaran ex-prisoners arrive in a giant spaceship and rescue the Asgardians who are trying to escape. To win the day, Thor unleashes Surtur, a fiery monster who destroys Asgard — and Hela. Loki grabs the Tesseract from Odin’s vault. The film ends with all of our noble heroes headed for Earth on Korg’s ship. As Thor and Loki chat, a gargantuan spaceship that belittles their own looms in front of them.
Also, following the events of “Civil War,” T’Challa, who holds the title of Black Panther and fought Captain America’s team with his vibranium suit, returns home to Wakanda. Since his father has died, he goes through a Wakandan ceremony and officially becomes king.
Wakanda is a country like no other. Built on Earth’s only supply of vibranium, Wakanda has advanced technologically beyond any other civilization. Killmonger, the long-lost cousin of T’Challa, delivers the corpse of Ulysses Klaue (the arms dealer from “Age of Ultron”) to Wakanda and claims he has a right to the throne. Killmonger challenges T’Challa in combat, beats him, throws him off a cliff, and becomes king.
To stop Killmonger from waging a global war with Wakandan technology, T’Challa calls upon his mother, his sister, the general of Wakanda’s most elite fighting force, and a Wakandan tribe from the mountains. Together, they kill Killmonger and bring peace back to Wakanda.
Avengers: Infinity War
The Avengers are divided. Asgard is gone. SHIELD has fallen. The Sorcerer Supreme is dead. Thanos is ready to strike.
The infinity stones are the most powerful artifacts in existence. Five of them have been introduced: the tesseract (space), the Aether (reality), the Eye of Agamotto (time), Loki’s scepter (mind), and the orb (power). Only the soul gem remains. If Thanos unites them all, he will have unlimited power. Are the combined forces of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy enough to stop him?