“Ant-Man and the Wasp” arrived in theaters this weekend and dominated the box office with almost $80 million in ticket sales.
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The 20th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe fits into a bigger, larger superhero picture.
Some moviegoers are concerned they won’t understand major plot points or inside jokes if they’ve missed a bunch of the other movies.
Don’t worry — “GMA” has you covered! If you haven’t seen the almost 42 hours of action thus far prior to “Ant-Man,” don’t stress!
Here is what you need to know about all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films dating back to 2008.
As always, especially at the bottom, beware of spoilers!
1 – “Iron Man” (2008)
Hero — Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr.
Villain — Obadiah Stane, a.k.a. the Iron Monger, played by Jeff Bridges
Arms dealer Tony Stark is in the Middle East, where he is attacked and taken captive. He builds an arc reactor to power a magnet to keep shrapnel in his heart from killing him. That reactor will later power the Iron Man suit. After escaping, Stark Becomes a superhero, which forces him to have a change of heart about selling weapons of destruction. But his mentor Stane wants this suit, his arc and him out of the company. Actually, he’s the one who paid the insurgents to kill Stark in the first place. Stane, with his own iron suit, and Stark face off at the end of the film.
How it ends — Iron Man prevails, and after Tony Stark tells the world “I am Iron Man,” Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, recruits him for the Avengers Initiative.
2 – “The Incredible Hulk” (2008)
Hero — The Hulk, played by Ed Norton
Villain — Abomination, played by Tim Roth
Scientist Bruce Banner was hit with gamma radiation, which turns him into a green, raging monster when he gets angry and his heart rate is elevated. General Ross, played by William Hurt (He’s also in “Civil War”), wants this technology for the military. Banner just wants to be left alone, but is also in love with Ross’ daughter Betty. Roth’s character starts taking a Super Soldier serum to catch the Hulk, but takes too much and turns into an evil Hulk, known as Abomination. After Abomination starts destroying the city, Ross wants the Hulk to fight and stop him. Hulk subdues the monster and runs away to live far away from people he may hurt or kill.
How it ends — In the post-credit scene, you see Stark run into Ross at a bar and ask about the Hulk in order to recruit him for the Avengers.
3 – “Iron Man 2” (2010)
Villains — Whiplash, played by Mickey Rourke
Six months after his “coming out” as Iron Man, Tony Stark’s superhero career has him on the top of the world, having “successfully privatized national security.” However, the technology that’s keeping Stark alive is also killing him. Stark does battle with the twin demons of palladium poisoning and the bottle, only to have to face Ivan Vanko/Whiplash, a Russian physicist with an ax to grind against the Stark family and a fearsome supersuit powered by a homebrew copy of Stark’s arc reactor. Vanko finds a deep-pocketed ally in arms dealer Justin Hammer, and uses his resources to build a drone army to try to destroy Stark and his legacy.
How it ends — After Iron Man and War Machine take down Whiplash, we see a hammer in the middle of the desert — Thor is coming.
4 – “Thor” (2011)
Hero — Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth
Villain — Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston
Loki is jealous of his older brother Thor, who is set to become the next king of Asgard after his father Odin retires. But after an attack on his home, Thor disobeys his father and is banished to Earth, minus his powers and his hammer. While on Earth, he falls in love and learns humility. Loki also tries to kill him, but Thor regains his power and returns to Asgard to fight and conquer his misguided brother. Thor vows to watch over Earth, where Loki fell to after the final battle scene.
How it ends — Nick Fury recruits a doctor friend of Thor’s to work on alien technology — the tesseract. But Loki is lurking in the shadows!
5 – “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)
Hero — Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, played by Chris Evans
Villain — The Red Skull, played by Hugo Weaving
World War II has broken out and all that tiny Steve Rogers wants to do is enlist and fight the Nazis. But he’s too fragile and doesn’t meet requirements. So, the government experiments on him with a Super Soldier serum and it works! He’s athletic, strong and ready to take down the bad guys. After he is mainly used for propaganda, he breaks command and rescues his best friend Bucky Barnes from Hydra, a Nazi-like organization also bent on taking over the world. He eventually meets and faces off against the Red Skull towards the end of the war and thwarts his plan. Bucky is presumed dead in this movie, but we later find out in “The Winter Soldier” that’s not the case.
How it ends — Cap lands his plane in frozen ice after taking the Red Skull out. He is found and thawed out 70 years later. In the post-credit scene, Nick Fury approaches Cap about a mission, now in the year 2012.
6 – “The Avengers” (2012)
Heroes — Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner
Villain — Loki and his alien army
Loki makes a deal to work with this alien army to take over Earth after he failed to conquer Asgard. The Avengers unite — while bickering and fighting with each other at times — and band together to fight Loki and this army. The catalyst is when Loki kills SHIELD’s Agent Coulson, a snarky, yet lovable ally. They win and go their separate ways, vowing to protect Earth or at least “Avenge” it.
How it ends — We find out who gave Loki his power to try and conquer Earth — it’s Thanos, possibly the most powerful villain in all of the Marvel universe.
7 – “Iron Man 3” (2013)
Heroes — Iron Man and War Machine
Villains — The Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley, really played (we find out later) by Guy Pearce
The Avengers’ Battle of New York has left Tony Stark wracked with PTSD. He spends his sleepless nights tinkering with a legion of armored suits in a frantic attempt to protect his one true love, Pepper; a mere “man in a can” in a dangerous new world of gods and aliens. A new threat arises closer to home, however, when the mysterious Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) launches a series of terror attacks, leaving Stark’s former life in ruins. Stranded without access to his suits and only his wits to rely on, Tony discovers Mandarin is merely an actor under the employ of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a scientist with a grudge against Stark, and access to the terrifying super soldier serum known as Extremis. Killian kidnaps Pepper to blackmail Tony into perfecting the deadly tech, leading to an epic showdown — and Stark’s realization that even without his armor, he’s still Iron Man.
How it ends — Funny scene where Stark tells Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Hulk, his story in a therapy-like session.
8 – “Thor: The Dark World” (2013)
Hero — Thor
Villain — Malekith the Accursed, played by Christopher Eccleston
Jane Foster, Thor’s girlfriend, is cursed with a dark matter called the Aether, which will eventually kill her. But Malekith wants the Aether to take over the world. After Thor and Loki’s mother is killed, the estranged brothers unite against Malekith, and Loki ends up sacrificing himself to save his brother. After Loki’s apparent death, Thor is able to defeat Malekith by banishing him. Thor tells his father he doesn’t want to be king after the victory and would rather watch over Earth. But it’s not his father, it’s Loki in disguise, who actually survived.
How it ends — A link to “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Thor’s friends visit the Collector to give him an infinity stone to hold for safe keeping.
9 – “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (2014)
Heroes — Captain America, Nick Fury, Black Widow and the Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie
Villains — Winter Soldier, played by Sebastian Stan, and Alexander Pierce, played by Robert Redford
Marvel’s red, white, and blue hero finds himself increasingly ill at ease with his employer S.H.I.E.L.D.’s shades of grey, especially after Steve Rogers discovers Project Insight: a plan to eliminate the agency’s enemies before they strike. “This isn’t freedom. This is fear,” Cap sums up to S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury – who is felled by a mysterious assassin known only as The Winter Soldier. After the agency targets Rogers, he and Black Widow go on the run, and discover Hydra has been festering inside S.H.I.E.L.D. for decades — and that The Winter Soldier is none other than Cap’s old friend Bucky Barnes, thought killed in World War II, but brainwashed to be a triggerman for the evil group. Along with Sam Wilson AKA Falcon, former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill, and Widow, Rogers vows to burn down both Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. — and save his former friend.
How it ends — We get our first look at Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who are locked up in cells in a Hydra bunker, where they are being enhanced by the power in Loki’s staff.
10 – “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)
Heroes — Starlord, played by Chris Pratt; Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana; Drax, played by Dave Bautista; Groot, played by Vin Diesel; Rocket, played by Bradley Cooper
Villains — Ronan, played by Lee Pace; Thanos played by Josh Brolin
Everyone is after one of the infinity stones, which all wield immeasurable power. Ronan plans to destroy a planet he’s been at war with by using the stone. But the gang bands together and defeats Ronan. In the process Starlord survives holding one of the stones, which is impossible for a human. There is reason to believe he’s part alien, something ancient.
How it ends — The Collector’s home where he keeps his treasures is destroyed and we see Howard the Duck for the first time in 20 years on screen.
11 – “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)
Heroes — Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision, played by Paul Bettany
Villain — Ultron, played by James Spader
Iron Man and the gang take down Hydra and recapture Loki’s scepter. But Tony uses the stone inside the weapon to create artificial intelligence, Ultron. This backfires and Ultron wages war against the Avengers and the human race. You start to see a real break in the team between Cap and Iron Man on their beliefs. They eventually take down Ultron, but at the cost of countless lives after the city of Sokovia is destroyed.
How it ends — After countless failures to get him the Infinity Stones, Thanos is seen vowing to get them himself.
12 – “Ant-Man” (2015)
Hero — Ant-Man, played by Paul Rudd
Villain — Yellowjacket, played by Corey Stoll
Scott Lang is a convict who was jailed after he was doing what he thought was right. He gets recruited by Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man to get his shrinking technology out of the hands of his former protege, Darren Cross, who eventually creates a suit of his own. The two battle and Rudd defeats Cross. In the middle of the film, Rudd has a run-in with Falcon at the Avengers facility. This ties into the post-credit scene.
How it ends — After Rudd impressed Falcon, they are looking for another Avenger to help out with a mission. It’s explained to Lang that they want the Ant-Man.
13 – “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)
Hero – This is a tough one. This film is hero vs. hero.
Villain – Baron Zemo, Crossbones and depending on whose side you are on, maybe Captain America or Iron Man.
After the events that kick off this movie and past events like “Age of Ultron,” world governments are sick of the Avengers dropping buildings and cities on innocent people. And who could blame them.
A document called the Sokovia Accords gives the U.S. government the right to control the team before they go into a war zone to save the world and such. Iron Man thinks the Avengers need to be put in check. Captain America believes in people, not governments.
Zemo does his best to tear the team apart and Cap sides with his friend, Bucky, aka the Winter Soldier, over Iron Man. This leads to an all-out battle between the two heroes and their allies that ends up splitting the team. In the end, Cap walks away from Tony, but later sends him a note that he’ll always be there for him despite their differences.
We meet a few newbies in this film too. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man joins Iron Man in his big battle against Cap, and Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther also makes his flashy debut.
14 – “Doctor Strange” (2016)
Hero – Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch
Villains – Kaecilius, played by Mads Mikkelsen
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Stephen Strange, a well-respected doctor, whose career is ruined after a tragic car accident.
He hunts down The Ancient One, who teaches him to use his inner power via the mystic arts. After The Ancient One dies, Strange leads his allies against Kaecilius and his fanatics who follow Dormammu, a powerful being who has the ability to take over and destroy the world. Don’t you hate when that happens.
How it ends – Strange succeeds and becomes the Sorcerer Supreme. He is key, because the mystic arts are important for the impending war the Avengers will have with Thanos, possibly the most powerful villain in Marvel. That movie is set for 2018 and expect Strange to play a big part.
Also his partner in the battle, Mordo, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, no longer believes in The Ancient One or Strange. He thinks he’s seen the light and basically turns bad, looking to take out all the other sorcerers.
15 – “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)
Heroes — Starlord, played by Chris Pratt; Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana; Drax, played by Dave Bautista; Groot, played by Vin Diesel; Rocket, played by Bradley Cooper; Yondu, played by Michael Rooker
Villains – Ego the Living Planet, played by Kurt Russell; Ayesha, played by Elizabeth Debicki
The gang is back! They have made a go of saving the galaxy time and again and are getting good at it. Until Rocket steals something from Ayesha and her people, which has them running for their lives.
Eventually the team splits up as Star-Lord’s father, Ego, finds him and offers to take him back to his planet. The team eventually finds out Ego is a bad guy who plans to take over the galaxy.
How it ends – Good guys win and Peter finds out that it takes more than just having a kid to be a father. In fact, Yondu, who raised Peter, becomes that figure for him and he couldn’t have been happier. Ego is destroyed and the galaxy is safe once again.
“I had a cool dad,” Peter says at the end of the film after Yondu sacrifices himself to save his boy.
This is another movie that has ties to the universe but really lives in its own reality. The team will unite with the Avengers and more for “Infinity War” in 2018, that much is for sure! We also meet Adam Warlock in a post credit scene. He’s a character with a rich history in Marvel and is very powerful. This might only play into “Guardians 3” though.
16 – “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)
Hero – Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland
Villain – The Vulture, played by Michael Keaton
Peter Parker has been dying to fight crime and become an Avenger ever since the events of “Captain America: Civil War.” But Tony Stark has other plans. He wants the kid to remain a kid and learn before going up against real villains.
Meanwhile, Michael Keaton’s Vulture is angry with the Avengers for causing havoc in New York City and not thinking of the little guy in the process. Keaton goes on an all-out crime spree and Spider-Man steps in to stop him … or at least he tries.
How it ends – Spidey wins the day and wins the respect of Stark in the process. But in the end, he agrees with Tony’s original assessment and turns down a spot to be in the Avengers to remain everyone’s favorite “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.”
17 – “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)
Hero – Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth
Villain – Hela, played by Cate Blanchett
After his father’s death, Thor meets his long-lost sister Hela, the goddess of death and is easily defeated, with Hela destroying his hammer in the process.
Thor winds up in Sakaar, a planet where his Avengers teammate The Hulk has been living and fighting competitors in a gladiator-style arena. The Hulk is beloved here and hasn’t turned back into Bruce Banner in years.
After an epic battle between Thor and Hulk, the two team up, along with the mischievous Loki and Valkyrie, an Asgardian warrior, to return to their home and face Hela, who has taken over Asgard.
Thor and Hela face off again, where he loses an eye, but also realizes even without his hammer, he is the god of thunder and lighting, and he is able to stand up to her.
How it ends – Hela gets her power from Asgard itself, so Thor revives an old villain to destroy his beloved home and seemingly kill Hela in the process. Thor saves what’s left of his people and they embark to find a new home.
18 – “Black Panther” (2018)
Hero – Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman
Villain – Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan
Wakanda is the most technologically advanced country in the world, but almost no one knows it even exists.
This is about to change as Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger invades the African nation and challenges the current king, T’Challa, aka Black Panther, to the right to the throne. After besting the Panther, Killmonger plans to use the technology to help other minorities in the rest of the world overthrow the current hierarchy.
How it ends – The Black Panther comes back and, in a fight to the death, beats Killmonger. But he decides to break tradition and share Wakanda’s riches with the world to help those who cannot help themselves.
The ending also sets the stage for what’s coming in “Infinity War,” as Wakanda will play a major role in the action.
19 – “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)
Hero – Every Marvel superhero you can think of!
Villain – Thanos, played by Josh Brolin
He’s here! Thanos continues his quest to collect all the Infinity Stones and wipe out half the galaxy. In this film — a decade in the making — the Mad Titan finally meets the Avengers and crazy action ensues.
We learn more about his mad plan and why he wants to kill billions across the galaxy. We also see the Avengers, led by Iron Man and Thor, come up with their own plan to stop him. But do they?
How it ends – Wow! Thanos achieves his mission but barely after a showdown with Thor. We see half the universe start to just disappear and the film ends with a satisfied Thanos, now able to rest after doing what he thinks will save the galaxy.
But that’s not all. Before disappearing himself, Nick Fury sends out a signal to Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), who will factor in big next year in the “Infinity War” sequel. Watch out Thanos, don’t celebrate just yet!
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