"Avengers: Endgame" is THE most anticipated movie of the year. (Although I would entertain cases for "Spiderman: Far From Home, the new "Star Wars", or the live-action "Lion King".) You had to have been living under a rock last April and May to have missed the massive success of its predecessor, "Avengers: Infinity War". So, if you really want to be at all culturally competent for the upcoming summer months, you probably will find yourself in a theater watching "Endgame".
And while I will completely welcome so last-minute bandwagon Marvel Fans (for I, myself, was a bandwagon fan at 2011's "Captain America: The First Avenger" - but what can I say, Chris Evans won me over), if you want to understand the storylines - and not annoy the massive number of MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) fans that will most definitely populate the theater (probably for 3+ viewings) - you're going to have to get a little background knowledge. Or find your resident fan-friend and be ready for a sit-down seminar that can quickly turn into a dissertation on the inter-workings of the MCU. And while this may not seem like a big deal, the MCU does consist of over 20 films that each run around 2 hours and 20 minutes apiece. In fact, it would take nearly 44 hours and 14 minutes to watch them all, all the way through. And as any good Marvel fan knows, you have to watch all the way to the end - those Easter Eggs are important!
So, if you have 1 full day and over 20 hours to spend (and don't need to sleep) - I would highly recommend watching all of them. But no one really has that time, so I'm sure most people just want the basics. What do I need to know to at least (mostly) get this new film? While I can't guarantee anything, since Marvel is ridiculously good about keeping the plot of their films under-wraps, I can give you *my* suggestions for what movies you should definitely see before walking into the theater on April 26th.
1. "Iron Man" (2008)
This is the one that started it all. It gets to acclimated to what is to come, and intro to RDJ's Tony Stark, and really gives you an idea on what Marvel built off of.
2. "The Avengers" (2012)
While all the intro-solo movies between "Iron Man" and "The Avengers" are important, you should be able to fill in the blanks by watching some of the more recent films later on in this list. A lot of what happens in there is alluded to later - so just watch for context clues.
But "The Avengers" is a must-watch. If you can only watch one on the list - it's this or "Infinity War." There are rumors that events from this film will directly influence "Endgame". I can't vouch for this, but I can and will say this is my favorite Marvel film. It also introduces you to more Avengers faces and Thanos for the first time.
3. "Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014)
Another group of heroes in the MCU, originally kept very separate from The Avengers, are the Guardians. This is also the highlight film for when the MCU mad its comedic transition, and Chris Pratt is as hilarious as ever. This is another good film for getting acclimated to characters (although if you want the more recent escapes of these heroes you can watch Vol. 2 also).
4. "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015)
Many would argue that this is the weakest Avengers installment, and I wouldn't disagree. But it is still something that you should watch if you want to get the whole arc and impact of "Endgame". This film will give you more insights into the personal lives and psyches of the Avengers, be the epicenter of legislation that will impact all the following MCU films, and introduce you to a few more important characters.
5. "Captain America: Civil War" (2016)
This movie is jokingly called the Avengers 2.5, and it does include almost all the characters that you've been introduced to so far. The impact of this film directly relates to how the characters engage in "Infinity War" and resolving these differences will likely be a big-emotion aspect of "Endgame." Plus it would (if you follow this list) be your first viewing of Paul Rudd's Ant-Man and introduces Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther and Tom Holland's Spiderman, so that's another big plus.
6. "Black Panther" (2018)
If you missed this last February - where were you? It was recently nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars and all the other awards shows on the circuit. It even won a couple of them. This film definitely one of Marvel's most critically successful.
On top of its critical success, it also makes for one amazing movie. It expands on the country of Wakanda and the Black Panther, introduced in "Age of Ultron" and "Civil War" respectively. Plus, a large chunk of "Infinity War" took place in Wakanda, so spatially this movie is really helpful for a novice.
7. "Avengers: Infinity War" (2018)
This basically goes without saying, since "Endgame" is basically part II of the Thanos storyline that came to the forefront in this film. This movie gives you a culmination of all your hard work - the Avengers, the Guardians, Spiderman, and Black Panther all come together to fight a massive threat encompassing the entire universe. Plus if you're following my list, this is the first you'll see of Doctor Strange, and who doesn't love Benedict Cumberbatch?
But Warning: Be ready to cry at the end.
8. "Ant-Man and the Wasp" (2018)
This is where my list starts getting a bit theoretical - you have to at least watch the end credits scene because it directly relates to "Infinity War." But, as fan-theory rumors would have it, the plot and Quantam Theory explored in this movie could play a big part in "Endgame", so this could be some good background knowledge to have if you want to understand that potential plot-thread.
9. "Captain Marvel" (March 8, 2019)
Where should you be this Friday? In a theater - watching "Captain Marvel." This movie, released on International Women's Day (nice marketing Disney), is the first stand-alone MCU movie for a female hero. It is already extremely hyped and test-audiences are loving it. The one (probably) sure fact of "Endgame" is that Captain Marvel will be introduced to help the Avengers fight Thanos, so it'll be helpful to be familiar with this most recent addition to the MCU.
So hopefully you'll end up in the theaters on Friday, and again on April 26th!