Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Marvel. Marvel comics, Marvel television, and even Marvel films. More specifically, you’ve probably heard of some of their enormous, action-packed, blockbuster movies in the MCU. While some have been fans since the beginning, not everyone was eager to jump on the bandwagon.

Personally, I didn’t even see a Marvel film in theaters until Avengers came out in 2012. Even then I didn’t become a full-fledged fan until two years later when I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Ever since then, I’ve become the leading expert on Marvel movies between the majority of my friends. Consequently, I’ve introduced several people to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU for short.

If you were getting into the MCU a few years ago, it was a lot easier to catch up. However, now that the MCU is ten years old and consists of twenty films – and counting – it can be a rather large time commitment. So if you’re interested in Marvel movies but feel a little daunted by the task – here are five films to watch to get to know the MCU.

1. The Avengers (2012)

MCU films are organized by release date into groups called phases. The Avengers is the final film in Phase I that brings together all of the heroes from prior films. Even if you haven’t seen said films, this movie does a good job of introducing each major character so you won’t be lost. This makes it a great place to jump right in.

More importantly, this film represents what the MCU is really about: awesome team-ups and epic stories. In fact, the MCU made a name for itself by producing movies about team-ups. No other film series had taken the time to build up each character in solo movies before bringing them all together in a massive ensemble film. 

It was a real cinematic event and although there have been several since then, it remains one of the best. As one of the most defining films in the MCU, it’s safe to say that you definitely must watch it.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

In the middle of Phase II, which consists of sequels, Marvel introduced the world to the Guardians of the Galaxy. Discover how a ragtag group of outlaws in space come together to save the galaxy.

Unlike Avengers, this movie actually doesn’t require any prior knowledge of the MCU since it introduces an entire team of brand new characters. Even better, it gives some much-needed exposition about Infinity Stones which are notably important for future films.

This movie sets itself apart in several ways.  First, it wasn’t based on the most well-known comic so it was virtually unknown to the general audience. It also differs in style and tone from each of the prior MCU movies, especially in terms of its humor.

While the Thor movies are partially set in space, Guardians ventures out to new places and fleshes out the cosmic areas of the MCU. Overall, it’s a really fun movie with an interesting cast of characters and an awesome soundtrack.

3. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

I’ll be honest: if you haven’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Avengers: Age of Ultron, you might not understand what’s going on in this movie. That being said, this film is pretty important in the grand scheme of things. Captain America: Civil War kicks off Phase III, the current Phase, with some major superhero drama.

It also brings a couple of new characters into the fold, namely Black Panther and Spider-Man (who will be important later). While it may technically be a solo film, the Russo brothers packed it with heroes, dragging everyone into the fight. If you’re trying to stay up-to-date on the MCU, you really don’t want to miss this one!

Even if you don’t fully understand the plot, this movie still has a lot to love.  As I said before, Marvel is all about awesome team-ups and this movie is full of them. The only difference is that instead of teaming up against an evil baddie, they’re fighting each other.

The drama may be intense, but it balances out with moments of humor.  And let’s not forget that this film features some of the best action sequences in the superhero genre. This movie is without a doubt worth a watch.

4. Black Panther (2018)

Unlike the other films on this list, this film is actually a solo story. While it may not appear to impact the overarching story of MCU like the other films on this list, it’s still a great movie that deserves recognition.

Earlier this year, Black Panther burst onto the scene, breaking box office records left and right. Now that a few months have passed, some may be over the hype. Nevertheless, it’s a solid film with a lot to offer. It also provides a nice transition from Civil War to Infinity War.

Black Panther centers on the story of T’Challa, a prince who is about to become king. Enter the world of Wakanda, a fictional African country unlike anything you’ve ever seen. In addition to the beautiful setting, this film features a stellar cast.

This includes Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, one of my favorite MCU antagonists. The writing is spot on and the story is set to a great soundtrack. Amongst all of the other Marvel movies, this movie really stands out in the best possible way.

5. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

It all leads up to this movie! Ever since the first Avengers, Marvel has slowly been building up to this universe-shaking event. Avengers: Infinity War is the third movie in the Avengers series and includes almost every hero seen on the big screen.

This film is a true culmination of every film that came before and a cinematic event on an enormous scale.  The stakes have never been higher and this film will leave you asking:

“When can I see the next one?”

The Avengers come up against their greatest foe yet: Thanos. We catch glimpses of him throughout the years, but this time he takes center stage and it will take every hero under the sun to defeat him. As a result, we get to see some of the coolest team-ups in the MCU thus far. 

Check out Thanos Rising (Marvel Now) if you want more Thanos!

The team-ups in Civil War are great, but Infinity War takes it to the next level with new entertaining combinations. Watch the characters you’ve gotten to know and love meet each other: hilarity ensues! But it isn’t all fun and games. If you’ve been on the internet in the past few months, you’ve probably heard that this movie also packs an emotional punch.

Frankly, nothing can really prepare you for the feels but it’s all part of the experience. This movie is not one to miss!

Welcome To The MCU!

Whether you’re already a casual fan or you’ve never seen a Marvel film before, this list should give you a firm grasp of the MCU. Of course, this list only contains five out of twenty movies so there’s plenty to hold you over until Avengers 4 comes out next year.

…And before you go, welcome to the Marvel fandom!