We're introduced to Tony Stark, a playboy billionaire with a knack for building cool tech. Stark uses his father's arc reactor to develop a suit of iron armor that will help him escape the clutches of a terrorist group and makes it his mission to fight the bad guys. Oh, and he also has an electromagnet in his chest to keep him alive.
Why it matters: Stark is visited by S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury, who says he wants to discuss the "Avengers Initiative."
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'The Incredible Hulk' (2008)
Scientist Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk after coming in contact with gamma radiation. He's on the run from the military (ordered to kill him by his girlfriend's dad) and has to take on the Abomination.
Why it matters: This is the last time we'll see Edward Norton in the MCU—Hulk is later played by Mark Ruffalo.
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'Iron Man 2' (2010)
Tony Stark's fame has spread now that the world knows what he can do as Iron Man, and the government wants in on his high-tech weaponry. Meanwhile, in Russia, the bitter son of a former Stark employee seeks revenge on Stark, building an arc reactor of his own to take down Iron Man.
Why it matters: Stark encounters Russian assassin Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) for the first time.
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Far away in Asgard, Norse god of thunder, Thor, and his friends start a war, and he is banished by his father Odin to Earth and stripped of his powers. On Earth, Thor falls in love with a scientist named Jane Foster. Their romance is interrupted when Loki, Thor's adopted brother, tries to kill him after discovering that he was adopted. Thor gets his hammer and his powers back, and the brothers duke it out. Thor wins the fight, and Loki gets lost in space.
Why it matters: We find out that the Tesseract (which contains the Space Stone) is being held at a top secret S.H.I.E.L.D. facility.
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'Captain America: The First Avenger' (2011)
In 1942, a young Steve Rogers gets rejected from military service. A scientist gives him an experimental serum that transforms him into Captain America, a superhuman war hero with a perfect body (no seriously, it's perfect). Terrorist organization HYDRA discovers the Tesseract and plans to use it in their nefarious plans, but Cap'n thwarts their plans. He is injured in a crash and enters into a 70-year-long coma, waking up in 2011 to Nick Fury (S.H.I.E.L.D. director, remember?).
Why it matters: The Tesseract is discovered in the Arctic Ocean by Howard Stark (Tony's dad), who founds Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S to study its powers.
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'The Avengers' (2012)
Loki arrives on Earth, intent on taking over the planet and enslaving humanity. In response to his intergalactic invasion of New York City, Nick Fury assembles the Avengers—Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye.Why it matters: Loki's alien army is a gift from Thanos, who wants to use the Asgardian to acquire the Space Stone (inside of the Tesseract).
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'Iron Man 3' (2013)
Tony Stark, dealing with PTSD after the Battle of New York, is a little off his game; in his distress, he builds a small legion of powered suits to protect him, and he's fighting with his girlfriend Pepper Potts. When a terrorist threatens the safety of Pepper and the entire world, Stark has to step up.
Why it matters: Potts is infected with the Extremis virus, which gives her powers.
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'Thor: The Dark World' (2013)
When a cosmic event called The Convergence opens up the portals of the nine realms, Thor's girlfriend Jane is exposed to the powers of the Aether, a red space substance with the power to convert matter into dark matter. The Dark Elves sense the Aether's presence on Earth, and Thor and Loki team up to fight them off.
Why it matters: After the battle, the Aether is sent to the Collector, who actually ends up solidifying the liquid into what we now know as the Reality Stone.
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'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' (2014)
When Captain America finds out that HYDRA agents have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., he and Black Widow work together to expose the organization's misdeeds. However, a violent run-in with the Winter Soldier (who's really his old war buddy Bucky Barnes) leads him to discover that HYDRA has been up to much more than Captain America realized.
Why it matters: HYDRA also is in possession of the scepter that Loki used in his alien invasion, and the weapon contains the Mind Stone.
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'Guardians of the Galaxy' (2014)
Half-alien, half-human thief Peter Quill betrays his band of fellow space pirates after stealing the Power Stone, an orb that Kree war commander Ronan the Accuser is also after. When a bounty is placed on his head, Quills finds himself on the run as he's chased by everyone, including Thanos' adopted daughters, a talking raccoon, and a humanoid tree. The group is arrested but escapes, turning against Ronan and stopping the destruction of the galaxy.
Why it matters: Ronan the Accuser is obsessed with Kree purity—so obsessed that he's been invading other planets and killing off thousands.
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'Avengers: Age of Ultron' (2015)
The Avengers fly to HYDRA's Sokovia headquarters to retrieve Loki's stolen scepter. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner create an A.I. program called "Ultron" that will allow a group of Tony's iron men to protect the world from harm, but Ultron gains sentience and decides to destroy mankind. In response, the Avengers develop another A.I. to fight Ultron.
Why it matters: Vision comes to life when Thor strikes Vision's body (and the Mind Stone implanted in his head) with a lightning bolt. Hulk goes missing. Also, we see Thanos slip on his Infinity Gauntlet and officially begin his quest for the stones.
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'Ant Man' (2015)
Scammer Scott Lang receives a strange proposition from former S.H.I.E.L.D scientist Hank Pym: Become the Ant-Man. Armed with a suit that helps him shrink down to the size of ants, Lang battles Pym's protege in the Quantum Realm.
Why it matters: Pym's wife Hope has not been seen since she disappeared inside of the Quantum Realm years ago, and Lang's survival suggests that she may still be alive.
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'Captain America: Civil War' (2016)
Post-Ultron, the world isn't really feeling the Avengers; their very presence is attracting supervillains, and they literally destroy every city they fight in. As a result, the UN wants to regulate the team's activity, and the superheroes are split on the decision. When the Bucky Barnes sets off a lethal chain of events that fatally injures the king of Wakanda, his son T'Challa hunts him down in order to get revenge.
Why it matters: Peter Parker is recruited (kinda) to join the Avengers, but the squad is fractured when Iron Man and Captain America nearly kill each other. Scarlet Witch and Vision enter into a romantic relationship. Bucky and Captain America head to Wakanda with T'Challa to seek asylum.
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'Doctor Strange' (2016)
When Dr. Stephen Strange's hands get mangled in a car accident, he travels to a sorcerer's enclave in Nepal to learn magic that can heal his injuries. Instead, he trains under an ancient sorcerer to protect the world with his new magic abilities.
Why it matters: Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to defend the Sanctums, and the relic's magic comes from the Time Stone inside of it.
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'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' (2017)
The Guardians accept a high stakes job from Ayesha, High Priestess of the Sovereign, in exchange for the release of Nebula. Just as things are going awry, a man named Ego shows up—he's a god-like being and also Peter Quill's father, and he's got a master plan that could result in the destruction of the universe.
Why it matters: Mantis reveals that Quill is in love with Gamora, and Gamora finally reconciles with Nebula.
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'Spider-Man: Homecoming' (2017)
Peter Parker resumes his life in Queens, NY, as a full-time student and part-time vigilante after Tony Stark tells him he's not ready to be an official member of the Avengers. A threat from a bitter weapons dealer compels him to suit up and protect his city.
Why it matters: Parker grows very close to Stark as a result of his mentorship.
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'Thor: Ragnorak' (2017)
Thor and Loki are forced to reunite once more when their father tells them, near death, that they have a sister: Hela, the goddess of death. Hela is released from her prison once Odin passes and attacks her brothers, inadvertently transporting them into another part of the galaxy. Thor is forced to fight the Hulk (who hasn't been able to change back to Bruce Banner for two years) in an intergalactic tournament and unlocks his true power as the god of thunder. They return to Asgard to fight Hela.
Why it matters: Loki steals the Tesseract from the trophy room. Thor loses an eye and his hammer in battle. Asgard is destroyed, leaving the survivors to flee in a ship, and they come face to face with Thanos.
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'Black Panther' (2018)
After the death of his father in Captain America: Civil War, T'Challa returns to Wakanda to officially become its king. However, his succession to the throne is countered by the appearance of Erik Killmonger, his Oakland-born cousin with a vendetta against the home he never knew.
Why it matters: Wakanda is, for the first time, revealed to the world as a technological giant. T'Challa's younger sister Shuri reverses the brainwashing of Bucky Barnes.
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'Avengers: Infinity War' (2018)
Thanos actively pursues the rest of the Infinity Stones in order to achieve his mad goal: restoring the balance of the universe by decimating half of its population. The Avengers and a few new friends try to stop him, but he is able to acquire all six stones and does away with half the planet in one snap.
Why it matters: Doctor Strange willingly hands over the Time Stone to Thanos, telling Iron Man that there is only one way for them to defeat the titan. Thanos kills Heimdall, Loki, Vision, and Gamora. Half of the Avengers—Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Bucky Barnes, Mantis, Groot, Drax, Star-Lord, the Wasp, Scarlet Witch, Shuri, Falcon, Nick Fury—are dusted. Nick Fury uses a beeper to call Captain Marvel before Fury disappears.
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'Ant-Man and the Wasp' (2018)
Scott Lang is reunited with Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne when they approach him to re-enter the Quantum Realm and retrieve Janet. A woman named Ghost halts their plans when she steals Pym's portable lab in order to cure her of her unstable physical state, which was caused by exposure to quantum material.
Why it matters: Van Dyne is able to escape the Quantum Realm after decades, but Lang is stranded inside of it when the snap happens.
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'Captain Marvel' (2019)
In 1995, a Kree warrior known as Vers struggles with memories of a past she can't remember. A mission gone wrong lands her on Earth, where she encounters Nick Fury (with two eyes!), and they discover that she is really Carol Danvers, a former fighter jet pilot who gained cosmic abilities after absorbing a photon blast from a light speed engine built by Kree operative Mar-Vell.
Why it matters: Funded by Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S, the light speed engine runs on the energy of the Tesseract. Captain Marvel shows up at the Avengers headquarters after the dusting, having been signaled by Nick Fury right before he disappeared.
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