Spotlight: The Marvel Minimum – The Five Movies To See Before “Avengers: Infinity War” UPDATED

Spotlight: The Marvel Minimum – The Five Movies To See Before “Avengers: Infinity War” UPDATED

[This article has been updated by the author since seeing the film; the content remains spoiler-free. -D. Bethel]

When Marvel’s trailer for Avengers: Infinity War debuted, many comic fans, like myself, were excited. The culmination of ten years of dedicated movie watching will pay off in what MCU mastermind, Kevin Feige, has dubbed “[a thing] you’ve never seen in superhero films: a finale.” But being a self proclaimed comic expert, and even having my own YouTube Comic Book Show, means you become the person your friends text when they have questions. One that struck me after the trailer debut was “Who’s the purple dude that looks Hellboy-ish? The bad one who put a jewel into his knuckle?” The question is perfectly fair, although my response was a bit, um, charged:

“Um… Thanos? The Mad Titan. The ultimate villain that has been teased since Avengers ONE. WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHO IS THANOS?!!!!

WHO IS THANOS? Thanos is not amused. Source: Marvel.com

That simple question led down a rabbit hole of a discussion with my friend about the fact that they missed Thanos in all three of his movie appearances (two of which were post- or mid-credits scenes), and his mention in another. Then you have the Infinity Stones and how they fit in (literally and figuratively) with the Infinity Gauntlet and how all of this relates to the average moviegoer. When all is said and done, when you sort the movies out using those requirements, you have the following:

Thanos Appearances/Mentions

  • The AvengersMid-Credits
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Only actual in-movie appearance
  • Avengers: Age of UltronPost-Credits
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – Mentioned due to being Gamora/Nebula’s “adoptive” father.

Infinity Stones Appearances/Mentions

  • Thor (post-credits scene) – Tesseract/Cosmic Cube – Space Stone
  • Captain America: The First Avenger – Tesseract/Cosmic Cube – Space Stone
  • The Avengers – Tesseract/Cosmic Cube – Space Stone and The Scepter – Mind Stone
  • Thor: The Dark World – Aether – Reality Stone
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – The Orb – Power Stone and Aether – Reality Stone
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron – The Scepter/Vision’s head – “Mind Stone”, All 6 of the Stones were in Thor’s vision.
  • Captain America: Civil War – Mind Stone in Vision’s head
  • Doctor Strange – The Eye Of Agamotto – The Time Stone
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – mentioned Power Stone again
  • Thor: Ragnarok – Thor was looking for the Stones from when he had that vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

So, counting the above, in order to understand Thanos and the Infinity Stones (minus the Soul Stone.. WHERE IS THAT BAD BOY?) before going into Avengers: Infinity War, a person would have to have seen ten of the eighteen movies over the last 10 years just to understand everything that doesn’t have to do with our main characters. But is all that necessary? Could we shorten the list? Or, alternatively, how short can we make the list and still have it all make sense?

How many movies do you need to watch to even understand this promotional image? Where is Thanos’s helmet? Source: Marvel.com

Let’s start out with movies from above you could skip as they are unrelated to most of the Infinity War plot (either secondary mentions of Thanos/Infinity Stones or no mentions).

  • Thor
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

Then let’s take out movies that can have single line explanations in Infinity War to remove the bloat:

  • Captain America: The First Avenger – By the way, the Cosmic Cube/Tesseract was the macguffin of this movie and is seen in The Avengers.
  • Doctor Strange – The necklace Stephen Strange wears and uses in this movie has time powers and is the Time Stone
  • Thor: The Dark World – The Aether (aka red mist) was from this movie and that is actually an Infinity Stone.

So removing those means that only four five movies in the MCU have to do with the actual events of Infinity War from an understanding of the villain, giant cast of characters, and major plot points.

[UPDATE]: After seeing Avengers: Infinity War I would recommend that you watch All NINE of the below films for the most effective enjoyment of this film aka THE NEW HOTNESS. My recommendation is less due to the plot in all nine movies and more attributed to the character arcs and relationships that help push the plot of the new movie forward. However as far as plot goes, Thor: Ragnarok has been added to the list as it leads directly into Infinity War.

  • The Avengers
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Thor: Ragnarok

Not bad. But let’s add in some movies to round out character motivations, and side characters that may be pertinent to Infinity War:

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Arguably the best MCU movie and introduces The Winter Soldier who’s a pretty major character at this point.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – MORE GUARDIANS (for real they added another member to the team in this movie. Plus, BABY GROOT!).
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming – Gives you more information on Spider-Man and his relationship with Tony Stark.
  • Black Panther – Many of the locations and characters from Black Panther are sure to be important in Infinity War based on the trailers alone.
Clearly, Black Panther is important. Look at all that Black Panther stuff going on. Source: Marvel.com

In conclusion, here is this comic nerd’s list of the movies you should probably watch before Avengers: Infinity War. Additionally, if you swap Avengers: Age Of Ultron for Iron Man (the first) these may be the best movies of the 18 MCU films anyway. The list below is in viewing order (by MCU chronology) with bolded titles being the MUST SEE four films.

  1. The Avengers
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  5. The Avengers: Age of Ultron
  6. Captain America: Civil War
  7. Spider-Man Homecoming
  8. Thor: Ragnarok
  9. Black Panther

With all nine of these movies under your belt, anyone should be able to enjoy Avengers: Infinity War to its fullest.

Have any suggestions or edits to this list? Let me know in the comments below!


Taylor Katcher doesn’t like sand. It’s coarse and irritating and gets everywhere. But he loves comics, typefaces, and most other things to a fault…mostly. You can follow Taylor’s unbridled love for stuff on Twitter.

2 thoughts on “Spotlight: The Marvel Minimum – The Five Movies To See Before “Avengers: Infinity War” UPDATED

  1. Hey, thanks for this list! I think I’m gonna watch your four over the next few days in order to prepare myself for Infinity War. Cheers! 🙂

    1. It’s probably worth pointing out that Taylor has had second thoughts about this since he saw Infinity War this last weekend. Not that the four he mentioned were inappropriate, but that maybe there were more movies worth watching.

      For example, Thor: Ragnarok (at least the ending) and Black Panther both have a significant place in the events of Infinity War.

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