Here's what to watch and know before Avengers: Endgame

You have just over a week, so get cracking. We've outlined which MCU films you *must* watch and how long it'll take you.

Caitlin Petrakovitz Director of audience
Caitlin Petrakovitz studies the Marvel Cinematic Universe like it's a course in school, with an emphasis on the Infinity Saga years. As an audience expert, she rarely writes but when she does it's most certainly about Star Trek, Marvel, DC, Westworld, San Diego Comic-Con and great streaming properties. Or soccer, that's a thing she loves, too.
Eric Franklin Former Editorial Director
Eric Franklin led the CNET Tech team as Editorial Director. A 20-plus-year industry veteran, Eric began his tech journey testing computers in the CNET Labs. When not at work he can usually be found at the gym, chauffeuring his kids around town, or absorbing every motivational book he can get his hands on.
Expertise Graphics and display technology Credentials
  • Once wrote 50 articles in one month.
Caitlin Petrakovitz
Eric Franklin
6 min read

It's been more than 10 years in the making: The moment every Avenger and superhero bands together to fight Thanos. Again? Yeah, we're pretty sure our idea of the Avengers will be drastically altered (again) on April 26 when Avengers: Endgame hits theaters. And since we now know that the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film will be just under 181 minutes (3 hours and 58 seconds, the Russos joked at CinemaCon), we also know it will be the longest of the Infinity Saga.

That's quite an investment of your time. So as the Infinity Saga comes to a close, we want to help you go into it uber-prepared and ready to enjoy the finale. If you're a newbie, this is the easiest way to get caught up so you can experience the fireworks with the whole rest of the world (judging by those record-breaking presale numbers). 

If you personally are all caught up, here's a quick refresher on what happened in Infinity War, and you can use the list as a crash course for your friend who wants to tag along to the biggest film of the Saga. (Or you could just drag them to the mega-Marvel movies marathon, if you have 59 hours to spare.) And if you've been through all the films before, be it in chronological or with our huge MCU timeline, maybe this "quick" refresher on all things MCU and Avengers will just be fun for you.

See how much time you have below, note the important films you want to watch, calculate their runtimes (which we did for each section) and then find out where to stream the MCU movies.


The first outing.

Marvel Studios

One day: Less than 10 hours

If you're only willing to devote Saturday or Sunday to a catch-up session (or you only have a day to get a friend up to speed), these are the absolutely must-see movies.

The Avengers (2012): 143 minutes (2 hours, 23 minutes)

The first team outing, this one gives a good overall intro to the core team we see in Infinity War. More importantly, it introduces us to the power of the Mind Stone, the depths of Loki's desire for power, and Thanos himself.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): 141 minutes (2 hours, 21 minutes)

Yes, the second Avengers outing brings James Spader (as the voice of evil AI Ultron), but it also brings Vision to life. While Ultron is the first AI Tony Stark/Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr. experiments with (and botches BTW), Vision (played by Paul Bettany) is a honorable "man" and it's important to get to know him as a man/human/host/robot -- since he's literally powered by something Thanos wants.

Captain America: Civil War (2016): 147 minutes (2 hours, 27 minutes)

Sure, it's not technically an "Avengers" tentpole movie, and if you wanted to skip it, we wouldn't blame you since its importance isn't obvious from its name. But most of what you get from Civil War is poised to be very important. It's the last movie with this many heroes in one film; we're introduced to Spider-Man; we discover where Bucky ends up, how and why (plus a quick primer on who he is for newcomers); and there's the follow-up to the ethical debate that plagued the team in the previous Avengers film (and that will likely only continue).

Avengers: Infinity War (2018): 160 minutes (2 hours, 40 minutes)

If you decide to watch just one movie before Endgame, this must be it. If you haven't seen this one, we'd imagine even watching trailers for the new movie leaves you with questions. Watching this won't answer all of them, but it will definitely give you a chance to see where all the Avengers are before the new movie.

Total time to devote: 591 minutes (9 hours and 51 minutes). Looks like you still have time for food and bathroom breaks, and can catch up with this video before the biggest movie event.

Watch this: Avengers: Endgame -- Everything you need to know

The first Guardians movie set records for the MCU and proved there was room in our hearts for more than one team of heroes.

Marvel Studios

One weekend: Still less than 24 hours

If you have two days to kill, these four movies are great additions since they each feature an intro to an Infinity Stone backstory. (And yeah, Dark World is hailed as pretty much the worst Thor movie, but it's a look at the Aether, aka the Reality Stone.)

You should watch these four in this order the first day, and the One Day movies the next (but we suggest you watch them in order and split up the days how you want): 

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011): 125 minutes (2 hours, 5 minutes)

Tesseract. Shirtless Chris Evans (before and after the super serum). What else? Oh, right, the introduction to Bucky. (But again, in case you're on the fence: shirtless Evans.) 

[There's also Cap's character, the Rocketeer-inspired WWII aesthetic, Peggy Carter, Cap's relationship with Bucky, Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, but yes, Chris Evans' pecs are reason enough to watch. -- Eric Franklin]

Captain Marvel (2018): 125 minutes (2 hours, 5 minutes)

While it's "just" another look at the power of the Tesseract, this one's also your intro to the hugely powerful character of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson). We know she'll be a factor in Endgame, but more than that this movie also gives you some seriously fun nostalgia vibes. 

Thor: The Dark World (2013): 112 minutes (1 hour, 52 minutes)

Like we said: Aether/Reality Stone and the importance of understanding these things. Natalie Portman isn't spectacular, but she's pretty integral to this story and if you get through it you'll get some good Thor backstory, some of which pays off in Ragnarok. 

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): 121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)

First, why do you need a reason to watch Chris Pratt (Star-Lord) and Zoe Saldana (Gamora)? Second, throw in a foul-mouthed raccoon, the most loquacious character in the MCU, and a look at the Power Stone and this is an easy win and watch. Finally, Gamora and Drax (played by Dave Bautista) give you a small glimpse into their own personal vendetta against Thanos, setting up their eventual drive to be involved in the coming fight.

Doctor Strange (2016): 115 minutes (1 hour, 55 minutes)

The trippiest of MCU films, Doctor Strange features an extended (and potentially way relevant) look at the man in charge of the Time Stone (known in the movie as the Eye of Agamotto).

Total time to devote: 598 minutes (9 hours and 58 minutes). In addition to the 591 of the four Avengers-centric movies above, that's 1,189 min or 19 hours, 49 minutes (or two 10-hour days, the choice is yours). That's just a really long time to stay awake! 


Ragnarok is all about this extremely pure moment of two friends who think this is a perfect high-five.


One weekish: Plan accordingly 

You can get through all of the above plus these five in plenty of time before Endgame (but to be safe you should get started soon). In this instance especially, we'd really suggest going through based on the MCU timeline order.

Iron Man (2008): 126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes) 

This one's the "godfather" of the MCU. Getting an introduction to Tony Stark isn't necessary for a crash course, but especially because this is where it all began, starting here is worth it. 

Black Panther (2018): 134 minutes (2 hours, 14 minutes)

T'Challa and Wakanda are a major force in Infinity War. In this record-breaking film, you get to know him and his people. 

Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014): 136 minutes (2 hours, 16 minutes)

Cap's second outing fleshes out Nick Fury and Black Widow. Plus, it introduces Falcon. (Also, Robert Redford.) 

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017): 136 minutes (2 hours, 16 minutes)

While the story in this one is much slower than the first, the main reason this sequel's worth watching before Infinity War is the development of Nebula's and Gamora's relationship, plus the backstory of their tumultuous life with Thanos.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017): 130 minutes (2 hours, 10 minutes)

One, it's hilarious and Thor gets the most character development since his first movie. Two, we get a really good look at WTF happened to these two while the rest of the Avengers (and their new friends) were hashing out the fallout of the Sokovia Accords (a conversation that no doubt will continue). Third and finally, the post-credits scene leads right into Infinity War.

Total time to devote: 662 minutes (11 hours, 2 minutes). Along with the nine other films above, that's a whopping total of 1,851 minutes or 30 hours and 51 minutes. While that sounds totally daunting, careful planning will easily help you get all caught up before April 26 (and if you're seeing Endgame after that, you have even more time!).

How to watch every Marvel Cinematic Universe film in the right order

See all photos

This piece was originally published April 18, 2018, ahead of Infinity War and has been updated to reflect what to see before the true end of the Infinity Saga.