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What to watch before you see Avengers: Infinity War

Whether you have a day, a weekend or a whole week to prepare, we've outlined which MCU films you *must* watch and how long it'll take you.

It's been 10 years in the making: The moment every Avenger and superhero bands together to fight the Big Bad, Thanos.

We're pretty sure our idea of the Avengers will be drastically altered on April 27 when Avengers: Infinity War finally hits theaters. We've recently learned that the newest Marvel Cinematic Universe film will be 149 minutes, making it the longest Marvel universe movie to date.

Editors' Note: This is it y'all, the final stretch. If you're seeing the film opening day or this weekend, you have a limited amount of time to catch up. 

Now playing: Watch this: Watch these movies before Avengers: Infinity War

Because that's quite an investment, we want to help you go into it uber prepared. Since you've probably already gone through our huge MCU timeline previously and now only have a weekish before Infinity War opens, we've mapped out an easy refresher on all things MCU and Avengers -- or to use as a crash course for your friend who wants to tag along to the biggest film event of the year.

Find how much time you have below, note the important films and their runtime, and then find out where to stream the MCU movies.


The first outing.

Marvel Studios

One day: Less than 8 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 three absolutely must-see movies.

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

The first team outing, this one gives you a good overall intro to the core team we expect to see in Infinity War. More importantly, it introduces us to the power of the Mind Stone and the depths of Loki's desire for power. All signs point to him siding with the Children of Thanos in Infinity War, and if so, I'd think this movie provides the best look at why.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): 141 min (2 hrs, 21 min)

Yes, the second outing of Avengers 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 min (2 hrs, 27 min)

Sure, it's not an "Avengers" movie, and if you wanted to skip it, I wouldn't blame you since its importance is not obvious from its name. But most of what you get from Civil War is poised to be very important: it's the last movie we have with this many heroes in one film; we get 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 which will likely only continue).

Total time to devote: 431 minutes (7 hours and 11 minutes). Looks like you still have time for food and bathroom breaks! 


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: An extra day

If you have two days of time to kill, the these four movies are great additions since they each feature an intro to a different Infinity Stone backstory. (And yeah I know Dark World is hailed as pretty much the worst Thor movie, but it's 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 (or watch them in order and split up how you want): 

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

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 Evan's pecs are reason enough to watch --Eric Franklin]

Thor: The Dark World (2013): 112 min (1 hr, 52 min)

Like I said: Aether/Reality Stone and the importance of understanding these things. I know 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 min (2 hrs, 1 min)

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 min (1 hr, 55 min)

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: 473 minutes (7 hours and 53 minutes). In addition to the 431 of the three above, that's 904 min or 15 hours, 4 minutes. That's less than two full-length workdays! 


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


One week: Plan accordingly 

If you pair up two films per day, I think you can get through all of the above plus these five in the weekish we have before Infinity War premieres (you should get started quickly though, I think). In this instance, I'd suggest going through based on the MCU timeline order.

Iron Man (2008): 126 min (2 hrs, 6 min) 

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 min (2 hrs, 14 min)

T'Challa and Wakanda will be a major force in Infinity War. Here you get to know him and his people. Yes, this is still in theaters only, but the record-breaking film deserves your patronage.

Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014): 136 min (2 hrs, 16 min)

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 min (2 hrs, 16 min)

While the story 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 min (2 hrs, 10 min)

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 we think leads right into Infinity War.

Total time to devote: 662 minutes (11 hrs, 2 min). With the seven other films, that's a whopping total of 1,566 min or 26 hours and min. While that sounds totally daunting, careful planning gets you all caught up before April 27 (and if you're seeing it after that, you have even more time!). 

Good luck and check back in next week for all of our Avengers: Infinity War thoughts!

This piece was originally published Wednesday, April 18, 2018, and has since been updated to reflect that you have very little time before Avengers: Infinity War opens to catch up.

Watch every MCU movie and TV show in the perfect order: Yes, *every* movie and show presented for you in a mega timeline, in the perfect viewing order.

What Marvel needs to stay on top at the box office: We sat down with Marvel President Kevin Feige to discuss Spider-Man: Homecoming, Phase Four and why diversity is top of mind for Marvel.