“Avengers: Endgame,” the final chapter of 11 years and 22 movies of storytelling from Marvel Studios, will be released this Friday, April 26. The film, with a massive 181 minute runtime, is expected to blow fans’ expectations away with an emotional ending to the character arcs of the original core Avengers team, made up of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Although I haven’t seen the film yet, I can guarantee that viewings and overall knowledge of the Marvel movies that have come before will be necessary to gain full understanding of “Endgame.” 21 movies can be a bit daunting to dive right into, especially with the final film in the saga landing in theaters soon. I’ve narrowed it down to 6 films out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s library that will be absolutely essential to viewing “Avengers: Endgame.” The films I selected aren’t based on their quality, but their overall importance to where the story appears to be going in “Endgame.”

The first film that is obviously an essential watch is the original, “The Avengers.” You’ll obviously miss out on the individual hero movies that are great for further character development, but for a strong introduction for what to expect from your marathon, “The Avengers” is a great place to start. It introduces the core team who will be at the forefront of “Endgame” and explores their interactions with one another. You get the beginning of the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America, as well as the aggressive relationship between the Hulk and Thor. You’ll really get a strong sense of each of these characters from “The Avengers,” in addition to it being a blast to watch. The end credits scene of this movie also introduces Thanos (Josh Brolin), the big, bad Titan that lurks for the entire saga before making his move in “Avengers: Infinity War” and is the main villain of “Endgame.”

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is arguably the best Captain America led film and is Marvel’s introduction to how awesome the character can be. It also fleshes out the working relationship between Cap and Black Widow, which appears to be present in “Endgame.” The film explores Cap’s conflicting views with the current state of the world as he attempts to uncover a conspiracy within the agency, “S.H.I.E.L.D..” Cap’s character in the modern world is explored here thoroughly for the first time in the saga and is essential for understanding his character arc in the rest of the movies.

The third film in the “Captain America” trilogy and the third in your marathon should be “Captain America: Civil War.” Due to the destruction occurring because of the Avengers’ missions, the government passes a law to control all superhero activity. This creates a rift between the Avengers team with one side, led by Cap, demanding their freedom, and the other, led by Iron Man, abiding to the law. This film will introduce you to the complete Avengers roster up to this point with characters like Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), the Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland). The conflict between Cap and Iron Man is what fuels the film and divides the Avengers for greater future threats. The reunion after their fight in this film is something I am highly anticipating in “Endgame.”

An unorthodox pick for the next in this viewing order is “Thor: Ragnarok.” Not only is it a total blast, but it will be the first formal introduction to Thor if you are watching only these films. Since Thor is completely different in the series than he is before “Ragnarok,” it makes sense to start here. This will be the first time in this viewing order that Thor’s father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), is seen, as well as their home, Asgard. You’ll also be introduced to Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), who may possibly have a role to play in “Endgame.” Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) also has a small cameo that explains his importance to the universe without needing to watch his origin movie. Chronologically, this film leads right into “Avengers: Infinity War,” with the opening scene of that film taking place minutes after “Ragnarok’s” conclusion.

“Avengers: Infinity War” is an obvious pick to make the list. It will serve as the first time in this method of viewing that the Guardians of the Galaxy are on screen, which is always fun. But, most importantly, this film is a direct set up for “Endgame.” If you wanted a barebones story for “Endgame” and not have to worry about any character arcs or throughlines that the other movies might have, I would recommend just to watch “Infinity War.”

Lastly, although it’s definitely not one of the best, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” will carry vital knowledge about what appears to be a major part of “Endgame”’s story. In the final act of the film, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) dons a white and red suit for diving into the Quantum Realm, a micro-molecular plane that is a large topic of interest in the “Ant-Man” films. Many of the trailers for “Endgame” feature the core Avengers team, as well as Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), suited up in the same kinds of suits, leading speculation that the Quantum Realm will play a large role. Watching this film will be your key to learning about what the Quantum Realm can do, as well as putting Ant-Man into position for “Endgame.”

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