As a parent, I am excited at the prospect of a common interest with my daughter. But this gives rise to an interesting question: What are the fewest number of MCU films to watch to understand “Infinity War”? Some are obvious; no one needs to watch “The Incredible Hulk.” Other films might be really good but not essential to understanding characters or plotlines.
After giving it some thought, I believe I have reduced the number of necessary films to watch from 18 to seven. Note that these films are not necessarily the best ones in the MCU; indeed, I have omitted some of my favorites. My criteria was whether a newbie, after watching these films, would be properly introduced to:
- As many characters as possible
- Key plot points to explain the current state of the MCU
With that in mind, here are the necessary films to watch, 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 simply 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 entire MCU. 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. Also: 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 Earthbound 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 my daughter watches these films she’ll be ready for “Infinity War.”
To repeat: These seven are not my favorite films in the Marvel Universe. While some of these are among my favorites, so are the Captain America films and “Black Panther.” All I’m saying is, these are the necessary movies to watch if you have a child who was too young to grow up on these films but REALLY wants to watch “Infinity War.”