The Oscar Project
For anyone who has been keeping track of films in the past year, you know about the phenomenon that is Avengers: Infinity War and the anticipation that has come along with the pending release of the final film in this chapter of the MCU, Avengers: Endgame. While I'm not quite ready to give my nominee watch rundown of this film yet, I am taking this month to re-watch all 21 films in the MCU leading up to Endgame.
In conjunction with this mini-project, I will be writing reviews for the website for each film, culminating with a review of Endgame itself at the end of the month. The review for the first film (Iron Man) is already posted and I have provided a full list in the post below which I will update with links to each review as I post them.
If you have to catch up on any of the films, head to your local library and borrow them while you have a chance or check them out on the digital streaming service of your choice. I have included links below to watch the films on Netflix if they are currently available there as well as purchase links to Amazon for the physical copies. Note: the Amazon links are affiliate links which means using them will help support this site but won't cost you any more if you choose to buy.
MCU Phase One
Iron Man (2008) - Directed by Jon Favreau
Our introduction to what would eventually become the Marvel Cinematic Universe came with Iron Man, aka Tony Stark. Stark shows up as a playboy businessman and owner of Stark Industries, supplying weapons to any interested buyer around the world.
When he is kidnapped by terrorists in Syria and forced to build them a version of his latest high tech weapon, he builds his first Iron Man suit and busts out of captivity only to find that the biggest threat to his company is closer than he thinks.
The Incredible Hulk (2008) - Directed by Louis Leterrier
The second installment of the MCU arrived later in 2008 with Edward Norton playing everyone's favorite big green guy. Bruce Banner, aka Hulk, is on the run in this film, trying to find a cure for the condition that turns him into Hulk when he gets angry.
At the same time, the government tries to use him to develop a program of super soldiers and Banner/Hulk must face off against a power hungry soldier who becomes a bigger, badder version of himself.
Iron Man 2 (2010) - Directed by Jon Favreau
Tony and friends are back in the sequel that pits Iron Man against not one but two foes in Mickey Rourke's Ivan Vanko and Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer. Vanko is more of the hands on villain, facing Stark in the famous race car scene that appeared in many of the trailers, while Hammer is very similar to Jeff Bridges's character from the first film.
Iron Man 2 also sees the introduction of the MCU staple character of Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson. After Iron Man himself, Black Widow has probably appeared in the second most Marvel films to date.
Thor (2011) - Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Yes, a Marvel film was directed by the master of Shakespeare films himself (see Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet), that Kenneth Branagh. In our third introductory film, Chris Hemsworth takes on the role of the Norse God of Thunder, wielding his signature weapon Mjölnir.
Natalie Portman makes her MCU debut here as Thor's love interest, Jane Foster, with Tom Hiddleston as Thor's brother Loki and Sir Anthony Hopkins as their father Odin.
The film centers around Thor being banished to Earth while Loki plots to take over their home of Asgard. Thor must prove himself worthy to return and face off against his brother for the sake of Asgard.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) - Directed by Joe Johnston
MCU regular Chris Evans makes his first appearance as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, in this adventure film set against the backdrop of WWII.
Captain America faces off against the Nazi scourge Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) and thwart his plans to use the mysterious Tesseract to fuel his pursuit for world domination.
Marvel fans will know that the Tesseract is a central part of the overarching MCU story as it contains the the Space Stone, one of the fabled Infinity Stones.
This film also introduces viewers to characters including James "Bucky" Barnes, Peggy Carter, and none other than Iron Man's father, Howard Stark, who creates Steve Rogers's famous round vibranium shield.
Marvel's The Avengers (2012) - Directed by Joss Whedon
After four years of setting up the story with individual films, the hints that Marvel was dropping in the post credits scenes of Nick Fury recruiting for a special mission finally come to fruition with the arrival of Marvel's The Avengers.
One new recurring character shows up in this film with Jeremy Renner's bow and arrow wielding Hawkeye/Clint Barton. Mark Ruffalo also takes over the role of Bruce Banner/Hulk, a role he has continued in through the rest of the series.
The film features the coming together of the Avengers team made up of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye in an ultimate battle against Loki and a horde of aliens brought to Earth through a massive rift in space itself by Loki's use of of the Tesseract.
MCU Phase Two
Iron Man 3 (2013) - Directed by Shane Black
Jon Favreau gives up the reigns for the final Iron Man feature as Tony Stark struggles to deal with the events in New York that make up the climax of Marvel's The Avengers.
Guy Pearce arrives as Aldrich Killian, the latest in the line of advanced technology businessmen Stark must deal with and Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery, initially thought to be The Mandarin, voice and face of a mysterious terrorist organization call the Ten Rings.
We also get to see James Rhodes, still played by Don Cheadle in a larger role as Iron Patriot along with a series of new Iron Man suits that Tony has developed over the years since his first foray in the original Iron Man.
Thor: The Dark World (2013) - Directed by Alan Taylor
Hemsworth and Portman and much of the supporting cast return in the second installment of the Thor films as Thor teams up with his brother Loki in an effort to save the Nine Realms from dark forces threatening their existence.
One of the central parts of this story is the use of a substance called the Aether that will again allow alien beings to rule over Earth. (Are you sensing a theme here yet?) Not to spoil things, but once the plot is thwarted, it is revealed that the Aether is actually the second Infinity Stone, namely the Reality Stone.
We start to see how these plots are all tying together over this and the previous two films as it becomes clear that there is more at stake than just a few bad apples here on Earth.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) - Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
After a break from the action, Captain America is back in his second standalone film with Natasha Romanoff and Nick Fury to help him as he fights against his former best friend Bucky whom he believed to be dead back in the 1940s.
This Captain America film takes place entirely in the "present day" with a few flashbacks to the war. In addition to adding Bucky as the supervillain/superhero Winter Soldier, this film also introduces Sam Wilson/Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie.
We get to see more of S.H.I.E.L.D. in this film and expand the ongoing fight that they have against Hydra, the organization we were introduced to in the first Captain America film and that becomes the main adversary for the long running television show Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. We also get more helicarriers, which is never a bad thing in my book.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) - Directed by James Gunn
The first Guardians of the Galaxy film introduces viewers to an entirely new cast of characters including Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel), and Rocket (Bradley Cooper).
This motley crew band together while in prison and manage to escape and help the Xandarians fend off attack from a baddie called Ronan the Accuser and his Kree warriors.
The third Infinity Stone (Power) shows up for the first time in this film along with Thanos himself appearing in a few scenes with Ronan. Ronan attempts to take the stone for himself, believing he would be able to kill Thanos using its power, but ultimately faces a different threat in the Guardians themselves who have learned to work together as a quasi family.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) - Directed by Joss Whedon
The second Avengers film saw the team coming back together to fight against a different threat to world order, this time something more homegrown, but still stemming out of use of the Mind Stone which was embedded in Loki's scepter.
We meet two new supers, the twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, aka Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. They are posited as villains but ultimately join the Avengers in their fight against Ultron, the AI program created by Banner and Stark that took a mind of its own to rule the world.
This film also sees the introduction of Vision, an embodiment of Stark's J.A.R.V.I.S. computer program turned superhero through the use of the Mind Stone (Infinity Stone #4 for those counting along at home).
Ant-Man (2015) - Directed by Peyton Reed
If you thought we were done being introduced to new characters, you were wrong. Ant-Man brings a little levity to the series with Paul Rudd's comedic timing as he takes on the mantle of the title character.
Rudd's fresh out of prison Scott Lang tries to stay on the straight and narrow, but ends up falling back into a life of crime, breaking into the home of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and stealing his Ant-Man suit.
Pym works with Lang to perfect the technology and keep the technology out of the hands of Hydra.
We are also introduced to Hank's daughter, Hope van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly who will eventually become The Wasp in the sequel.
MCU Phase Three
Captain America: Civil War (2016) - Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Here is where it all starts to fall apart. As the title and the poster would suggest, this film brings about a rift between the Avengers themselves. Not everyone has agreed on everything all along, but this film brings everything to a head and shows just how volatile things can get when the argument comes to blows.
Iron Man and Captain America take sides here and split off several of the Avengers on each side over whether or not they should sign the Sokovia Accords requiring superheroes to register with the government and have their locations tracked around the world.
This film includes that famous airport fight and culminates in a 2 on 1 battle of Iron Man vs. Captain America and Bucky Barnes. We are also introduced to Tom Holland's Spider-Man and Chadwick Bosman's Black Panther in this film, both receiving their own standalone films just down the page a bit.
Doctor Strange (2016) - Directed by Scott Derrickson
The film in which we meet the Time Stone (Infinity Stone #5) and Doctor Stephen Strange, who strangely enough really IS a doctor. Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, and Tilda Swinton all feature prominently in this film where Doctor Strange develops his powers of wizardry.
A much more mystical film than any that came before, Strange ultimately tangles with the mysterious Dormammu in a wonderful time travel bit at the end of the film that very adeptly shows his use of the Time Stone, facts that will become important down the road.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) - Directed by James Gunn
After saving the galaxy once already, the Guardians are back in their own sequel that sets up their situation leading into Avengers: Infinity War.
In this film, the team discovers a god-like creature named Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be Peter Quill's father. Excited to learn where he comes from, Peter is initially fond of Ego, but the team discovers a plot by the being take over the universe with Quill's help.
This film introduces the character of Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and gives us a cameo from none other than Sylvester Stallone himself.
Netflix | Amazon
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) - Directed by Jon Watts
We return to Earth for a visit with Spider-Man and his antics on a high school field trip to Washington D. C. that bring him face to face with Adrian Toomes/Vulture, played by Michael Keaton. He is forced to save his friends Ned and MJ.
This is one odd film in the bunch because Spider-Man was at the time owned by Sony which means this film was not distributed by Disney. Fortunately the studios were able to work together to tie this film into the greater story and also include a few bits with Iron Man and other Marvel characters we have come to know and love.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017) - Directed by Taika Waititi
In one of my favorite Marvel films to date, Thor returns for his third movie and brings his brother and the Hulk along for the ride.
As seems to be par for the course, Thor must once again fight to save Asgard from the apocalypse (Ragnarok). He drops in on Doctor Strange for a tip, runs into Hulk in a gladiatorial arena on an alien planet and finally teams up with Loki once again to try and defeat their long lost sister Hela, played by Cate Blanchett.
Jeff Goldblum shows up in this film as the Grandmaster, one of the "Elders of the Universe" and Tessa Thompson as the Asgardian warrior Valkyrie along with some of the funniest cameos in the series near the beginning of the film. I don't want to spoil it, but I laugh every time I see it!
Netflix | Amazon
Black Panther (2018) - Directed by Ryan Coogler
Yes, it's the first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. It didn't end up winning, but did take home the awards for Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design and it's easy to see why.
This film gives us much more focus on T'Challa/Black Panther as he struggles to lead his country of Wakanda following the death of his father in Captain America: Civil War. He must team up with his sister Shuri (Leticia Wright), Captain of the Guard Okoye (Danai Gurira), and American spy Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) to defeat the man called Killmonger who places a claim to the throne of Wakanda.
The new faces in this film come fast and furious. In addition to those mentioned above, Lupita Nyong'o appears as Nakia, T'Challa's love interest, Angela Bassett as his mother, Daniel Kaluuya as his best friend, and Forest Whitaker as the elder Zuri. Andy Serkis also appears in the film, reprising his role of Ulysses Klaue from Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Netflix | Amazon
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) - Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
I'm not going to take the time to list everyone that appears in this film. Just know that if you want to be able to keep track of who everyone is, you should take the time to get to know them in the previous 18 films.
This is the beginning of the end of the story and the one that everyone had been waiting for...until they got to the end of the film. Thanos is finally front and center and arguably the main protagonist of this film, despite the fact that he's technically the "bad guy."
With events taking place across the galaxy and various factions of the Avengers spread out over those places, they must forge new alliances (along with new weapons) to fight against the threat of Thanos.
Even if you haven't seen the film yet, you've probably heard about "The Snap" that Thanos uses to wipe out half the life in the universe in an instant. This occurrence left audiences aghast in theaters and has led to tremendous speculation across the internet in the year since its release as to who will really be dead and who might survive to fight another day.
Infinity War is the all time fourth highest grossing film at the box office both in the U.S. and worldwide and edged out Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the highest opening weekend box office in history last April. Based on reports of ticket sites crashing at the demand for Endgame, I suspect the final Avengers movie may crush all those records and more.
If there is one film you must watch before checking out Avengers: Endgame, this is the one.
Netflix | Amazon
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) - Directed by Peyton Reed
Scott Lang is stuck under house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War, but that doesn't stop him from making plenty of big trouble with the help of Hope van Dyne, aka The Wasp.
Ant-Man's travels this time take him to the quantum realm where things are extraordinarily tiny. He battles Ghost who is searching for technology that will help control her own phasing in and out of reality while at the same time helping Hank Pym find his long lost wife who has been living for years in the quantum realm.
Netflix | Amazon
Captain Marvel (2019) - Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Marvel takes its second leap back in time (see Captain America: The First Avenger) to explore the history of one of the most powerful superheroes around, Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel.
The film explores her relationship with a young Nick Fury and sets the stage for her to answer the page he sent her at the end of Infinity War, seconds before he was dusted by Thanos's snap.
Available on Blu Ray June 11th, 2019.
Avengers: Endgame (2019) - Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
It all leads up to this grand finale with the tag line "Avenge the Fallen." The entire crew is back for this film including some of those you might have thought were truly gone after Infinity War.
This film is a true epic from beginning to end and wraps up the Infinity Saga nicely. Strap yourself in for a huge finale that doesn't even feel as long as its 3 hour run time.
Available on Blu Ray Summer 2019
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) - Directed by Jon Watts
This film isn't out until July of 2019, but I included it here in the interest of completeness. I will be sure to link to the review once I have one and replace this bit here with a summary.
One additional note, the date of the theatrical release was moved up to early July, 2019 and information from Kevin Feige came out indicating that this was truly the last film in Phase 3. I have therefore moved it from Phase 4 to Phase 3 and left Phase 4 empty for the time being until future films can be confirmed.
MCU Phase Four
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?