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Chris Evans (front) leads his crew in a still from Avengers: Infinity War.

Ahead of Infinity War, how to understand the Marvel Cinematic Universe in seven films or less

How many Marvel superhero films do you need to see to bring you up to speed for the upcoming Infinity War? From Iron Man to Thor Ragnarok, here are seven must-see films

How many Marvel Cinematic Universe films does one need to watch to understand Avengers: Infinity War? Some are obviously not needed; no one has to watch The Incredible Hulk. Other films might be really good but aren’t essential to understanding characters or plot-lines.

With Black Panther out, we rank Marvel Cinematic Universe films from the worst to the best

I have reduced the number of necessary films from 18 to seven. Note that these films are not necessarily the best in the MCU; indeed, I have omitted some of my favourites.
Chris Hemsworth and the characters Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) in a still from Avengers: Infinity War. Photo: Film Frame
My criteria was whether a newbie, after watching these films, would be properly introduced to as many characters as possible and to key plot points to explain the current state of the MCU.

With those two factors in mind, you need to watch these films, in this order:

1. Iron Man (2008)

Jon Favreau’s film defines the MCU aesthetic in surprisingly short order. Iron Man is introduced, and the idea of the Avengers is properly teased out.

2. Thor (2011)

Kenneth Branagh’s film introduces us to Thor and his brother, Loki, and we get a cameo of Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye to boot. This is probably the worst film on this list, but there’s no way to understand later films without getting some sense of the backstory between Thor and Loki.

3. The Avengers (2012)

I would wager that Joss Whedon’s film is the best of the bunch. The film’s ability to juggle six different protagonists is impressive, and it works as an effective team-building exercise. This film tells Captain America’s backstory in less than a minute, making it unnecessary to watch that film. Plus, Thanos is introduced, and I hear he’s going to be an important part of Infinity War.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

James Gunn’s film introduces us to the space-bound members of the MCU. We see Thanos continue his scheming, and we are introduced to “We are Groot”.

5. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

It’s not Whedon’s greatest film, but it’s necessary to watch to understand that Thor and the Hulk are going off the grid. It introduces the Avengers 2.0, with Vision and Scarlet Witch. And if you haven’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it offers a decent introduction to the Falcon.

6. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

This film contains the best battle sequence in the entire franchise, but for our purposes that is merely a bonus. Without watching any other films, Civil War introduces the newbie viewer to Ant-Man, Spider-Man and Black Panther, thereby eliminating those films as required viewing. Equally important, it gives a rough guide to the status of the Earth-bound Avengers for the start of Infinity War.

7. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

One of the funniest of the MCU films, it’s necessary to know what Thor and the Hulk are up to while Civil War is going on. An added bonus is that you meet Doctor Strange, thereby eliminating the need to watch that film.

And that’s it! With these seven films, a novice viewer is exposed to every superhero in the MCU films and will have a rough guide to where they are as Infinity War begins. Obviously, you won’t know every character or backstory – Iron Man 2 and Black Panther would be the next films to add on that score. Still, I think after anyone watches these films they’ll be ready for Infinity War.