MCU recap: A complete rundown of every Marvel movie up until Spider-Man: Far From Home

Phase 2

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Months after the battle of New York, Stark is suffering from PTSD and, unable to sleep, he throws himself into improving his suits (such as implanting devices in his arm which can remotely control them). This creates problems between him and Pepper. Pepper is back running Stark Industries and meets Aldrich Killian, who tries to get her to invest in a new technology. She turns him down.

Meanwhile, a string of bombings by a terrorist known as the Mandarin. After Happy gets injured an attack, Tony issues a threat to the Mandarin on live television giving out his home address. The Mandarin responds by destroying his home.

Stark survives but finds himself thousands of miles from home. The world believes him dead. He manages to get a message to Pepper, who is hiding out with the Stark scientist Maya, who helped create something known as the Extremis virus. 

Stark hides his broken suit in 10-year-old Harley’s garage and goes to investigate one of the Mandarin's bombings sites. There, he realises that these are not bombings, but people exploding because they have been treated with Extremis.

Stark tracks the Mandarin to Miami where he infiltrates his headquarters using improvised weapons. There he realises that the Mandarin is actually British actor Trevor Slattery, who’s just been playing a part. Tony is captured and becomes aware that Killian has been using Maya’s Extremis technology to create an atmosphere of fear around the United States. Killian reveals he’s also captured Pepper and used Extremis on her. When Maya tries to stop him, he kills her. 

Killian has also captured Rhodey’s War Machine - now rebranded as the Iron Patriot - and has his lacky wear the suit to accompany the President of the United States onto Air Force One. However, Stark escapes using a remote controlled suit and, along with Rhodey, they try to warn the President of the attack. However, the President has already been taken to Killian, who plans on killing him, all so the Vice President - working for Killian - can take over.

Stark calls all his other suits (which have been unearthed from the rubble of his house) to attack Killian’s agents while he attempts to rescue Pepper. Rhodey secures the President. Extremis has made Killian almost indestructible, though, and it’s eventually Pepper who kills him using her Extremis powers. 

Stark orders J.A.R.V.I.S. to destroy all his suits and he stabilises Pepper's Extremis effects. He also undergoes surgery to remove the shrapnel fragments near his heart, but maintains that he will always be Iron Man. In the post-credits scene, Stark wakes up Bruce Banner, who’s fallen asleep listening to his story. 

Things you need to remember:

  • Pepper is back running Stark Industries
  • War Machine has been rebranded as Iron Patriot
  • Tony Stark no longer has shrapnel trying to kill him every day
  • The Mandarin was a lie... Was...

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

(Image credit: Marvel)

Thor takes Loki and the Tesseract back to Asgard after the events of The Avengers. Odin locks Loki away and stores the Tesseract safety in the vaults. The Convergence, a rare alignment of the Nine Realms, is about to happen and, as it approaches, portals linking the worlds appear at random.

On Earth, Jane and Darcy are in London investigating one of those portals when Jane gets sucked into it and is transported to another world where she’s infected by the Aether. Heimdall alerts Thor that he can no longer see Jane. Thor panics and travels to Earth just in time to see Jane come back through the portal. He realises something is wrong with Jane and transports her back to Asgard for help. Odin recognises the Aether in Jane and tells Thor that it will likely kill Jane and bring about a catastrophic prophecy.

The Dark Elf Malekith is awakened by the Aether's release and attacks Asgard.. Thor's mother Frigga is killed protecting Jane and Malekith is forced to flee without the Aether. Odin orders Thor to keep Jane at Asgard while they fortify their defences, but Thor knows that Jane will die if they do nothing. He reluctantly teams-up with Loki to secretly escape Asgard. 

They travel to the Dark Elf homeworld and use Jane to lure Malekith out. Loki tricks Malekith into drawing the Aether out of Jane, but Thor’s attempt to destroy the exposed substance fails and Malekith merges with it and leaves on his ship. Loki, who was mortally wounded during the attack, seemingly dies in Thor arms. 

Jane and Thor travel back to London where they reunite with Darcy and Dr. Erik Selvig. They realise that Malekith plans to unleash the Aether at the centre of the impeding Convergence in Greenwich, London, so that he can destroy all Nine Realms. There, Thor battles Malekith and wins and reclaims the Aether. 

Thor returns to Asgard, where he tells Odin he cannot take the throne because he wants to be with Jane and returns to Earth. However, that was not Odin, but Loki, who is alive and is impersonating Odin. 

Volstagg and Sif take the Aether to The Collector, telling him that, with the Tesseract already in Asgard’s vaults, it would be a bad idea to have a second Infinity Stone so close by. As they leave, the Collector states his desire to get the other five Stones. 

Things you need to remember:

  • Thor is on Earth with Jane
  • The Aether is a powerful Infinity Stone and is in the hands of the Collector
  • The Tesseract is another powerful Infinity Stone and is at Asgard
  • Loki is ruling Asgard by imprisoning Odin, but we don’t know where the real Odin is

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

After the events of The Avengers the world has changed. S.H.I.E.L.D., keen to stay one step ahead of global and extraterrestrial terrorism, has created Project Insight - a trio of always-flying Hellcarriers that can strike any target, anywhere in the world, at any time. Cap takes issue with this, and argues with Nick Fury about the necessity of the project. Fury agrees and when he drives to meet a fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, there’s an attempt on his life by someone known as The Winter Soldier. Fury narrowly escapes.

Later that day, Cap returns home to find Fury in his apartment. The S.H.I.E.L.D. leader is then shot, and apparently dies, but not before he hands Cap a data stick obtained by Black Widow while on an espionage mission. Rogers is questioned by Alexander Pierce - a senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official - about why Fury was in his apartment. He refuses to discuss it, and later that day Pierce brands Cap a fugitive, leading to a thrilling battle as the super soldier escapes S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ. 

Working with Black Widow, the pair visit a military bunker in New Jersey, where they discover that Hydra has been growing inside S.H.I.E.L.D. Cap and Romanov are almost killed by an incoming missile strike, and they seek the help of Sam ‘Falcon’ Wilson, a former US pararescueman who pilots an advanced flight suit. The trio target Jasper Sitwell, who they know to be a Hydra mole, and he reveals that Project Insight has been created to eliminate undesirables. They’re ambushed by the Winter Soldier, who Cap recognises as his childhood friend Bucky Barnes. Bucky has been healed by Hydra and programmed to be a loyal assassin. 

Cap, Falcon, and Black Widow hatch a plan to strike at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. They infiltrate the Triskelion and call upon all loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. members to rise up against Hydra. All the Hydra traitors are leaked to the world. Fury, alive, turns up and kills Pierce. Cap faces off against the Winter Soldier on board a Hellcarrier, and, although the fight leaves Bucky incapacitated, Cap helps him escape the wreckage. Bucky, having flashbacks, eventually saves Cap as the aircraft comes crashing down, after which he disappears into the woods.

Romanov is interrogated by a Senate committee for her covert operations, which were part of the leaked Hydra/S.H.I.E.L.D. data. A secret Hydra group, led by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, are working on a special project, bringing in the age of "miracles", and Bucky Barnes visits the Smithsonian to look at a history of himself.

Things you need to remember:

  • S.H.I.E.L.D. has secretly been Hydra for years and is now effectively disbanded
  • The Winter Soldier is actually Bucky and he's on the run
  • Captain America and The Falcon are searching for Bucky
  • A Hydra splinter group are working on a secret project

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

A young Peter Quill says goodbye to his mother, who dies in hospital while handing him an Awesome Mix tape. Quill runs outside and is abducted by an alien ship. 

Years later, Quill, calling himself Star-Lord, finds a mysterious orb on a dead planet. However, a group attack Quill. They belong to Ronan, a Kree fanatic tasked with getting the orb for Thanos because it contains an Infinity Stone. 

Quill escapes with the orb and heads to Xandar where he attempts to sell it. There, he gets in a fight with Gamora - one of Thanos’ adopted daughters - who trying to retrieve the orb. Bounty hunters Rocket and Groot get involved, too, as they want the reward put on Quill's head, and all four of them end up getting sent to prison. Here, they meet an inmate called Drax, whose family was murdered by Ronan, and the five of them form an unlikely alliance to escape.

Having broken out of prison, they head to Knowhere and try to sell the orb to The Collector. He reveals the orb is an Infinity Stone and The Collector’s museum ends up being destroyed by one of his slaves. Meanwhile, Drax has informed Ronan of their whereabouts because he’s desperate to confront his enemy. They face of against Ronan and Thanos’s other adopted daughter, Nebula. Ronan takes the orb wile the defeated Quill and Gamora are picked up by a crew of Ravagers, lead by Yondu Udonta - Star-Lord’s former Captain and the alien who originally abducted him as child. Groot, Rocket, and Drax find the Ravager ship and get invited on board, where they get together with Quill and Gamora to try and hatch a plan to recover the orb and the Infinity Stone inside. 

Ronan decides to keep the Infinity Stone for himself, defying Thanos, and uses it to attack Xandar. However, the Nova Corps (Xandar’s airforce) are waiting, thanks to a warning from Star-Lord. With the upper hand, Quill's group break onto Ronan's ship, Gamora confronts Nebula, and the team attack Ronan. However, he’s too powerful, and they are only saved when the aircraft comes crashing down and Groot prevents them all from dying by weaving a wooden shield around them. 

Ronan also survives and, just before destroying the planet,  Quill distracts him with a dance-off. They eventually take the Infinity Stone back and save the day. The stone is then held in a vault on Xandar and it's revealed to Quill that he's not pure human. The team - who are now officially known as the Guardians of the Galaxy - head out on a new adventure. Rocket has saved a piece of Groot, and is growing a new version of him in a pot.

Things you need to remember:

  • The Power Infinity Stone is currently in the Nova Corps vault on Xandar
  • Quill's mum is dead, and he doesn't know who his father is
  • Yondu and his crew of Ravagers raised Quill
  • Quill isn't just human... he's also something else
  • Gamora and Nebula are the adopted daughters of Thanos
  • Groot is dead but Baby Groot has been born

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

The Avengers assault a Hydra stronghold, where Wolfgang von Strucker has been running experiments on Loki’s staff, stolen at the end of The Avengers. The team encounter Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver on the battlefield, but Tony Stark manages to grab the staff and take it back to Stark Tower. There he and Banner run experiments on it to try and create Ultron - an AI capable of protecting the planet.

Ultron is born and takes control of several Iron Legion robots and fights the Avengers. When they defeat him, Ultron retreats into the internet and begins building an army of robots from the Strucker's Hydra facility. Ultron tracks down smuggler Ulysses Klaue, who has stolen a stack of Vibranium from the nation of Wakanda, to build himself a new body. The Avengers attempt to shut Ultron down, but most of the team are incapacitated by Scarlet Witch, who is working with Ultron as she despises Stark.

During the battle, Scarlet Witch infects The Hulk, who then tears up a nearby city. Tony Stark is forced to call in the Hulkbuster, but the damage is done and the world starts to lose trust in the Avengers. The team is forced to lay low, which they do on Hawkeye’s farm. Nick Fury is there and tells them the only way to stop Ultron is by fighting together.

Meanwhile, Ultron has enlisted the (unwilling) help of Dr Helen Cho, who has built a body for him out of Vibranium, replicated human tissue, and the Mind Infinity Stone which was in Loki's staff. He reveals his true intentions to wipe out the human race. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver decide that's too much for them, and switch sides. The Avengers show up to steal Ultron's new body, and, after a massive fight, they manage to steal the body, but not before Ultron captures Black Widow. 

Stark insists on implanting J.A.R.V.I.S. in the body, believing it's the only way to stop Ultron. The result is The Vision, who agrees to fight alongside the Avengers against Ultron, who they’ve finally tracked to the city of Sokovia.

When they arrive Ultron has put booster jets under the whole city, which he plans to raise into the atmosphere before crashing it back down to earth as a meteor, wiping out the human race. The Avengers show up and, joined by Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, evacuate the city while it’s floating upwards. Vision manages to lock Ultron out of the internet, so he can’t transfer his consciousness, and Ultron is destroyed. Quicksilver saves Hawkeye’s life but dies from a bullet-wound. 

Banner is last seen flying away in a stealth jet, to try and keep away from the team and avoid The Hulk’s damaged reputation. Back at the new Avengers HQ, Black Widow and Captain America begin to oversee the training of the new members of the Avengers: Vision, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, and War Machine.

Things you need to remember:

  • The Vision has the Mind Infinity Stone implanted in his head
  • Ulysses Klaue is a Vibranium smuggler, and he lost his arm to Ultron
  • Vibranium comes from Wakanda
  • No-one knows where Bruce Banner/The Hulk is
  • There's a new group of Avengers being trained up

Ant-Man (2015)

(Image credit: Marvel)

Scott Lang has just been released from prison and is trying to start a new life, but he’s struggling to hold down a job because of his criminal record. Needing money for his daughter’s child support, his friend and flatmate, Luis, talks him into breaking into a house to steal the contents of a safe, but all he finds inside is a weird looking suit. He takes it.

The suit, Lang discovers, can make him shrink down to the size of an ant. While trying to return the suit, he gets arrested. While in jail, Hank Pym - former S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist and owner of the suit - makes contact and persuades Lang to break out using the suit. Once the pair come face-to-face, Pym reveals that he manipulated Scott’s friend into persuading him to steal the suit because he believes Lang could be the next Ant-Man. 

Turns out, Hank developed the shrinking serum for S.H.I.E.L.D., but left the organisation when they tried to make their own version. His former student, Darren Cross, is close to perfecting a new version of the serum and Hank needs help stopping him from selling on the serum. Hank's estranged daughter, Hope Van Dyne, returns to her Dad after learning of the threat Cross poses, but thinks she should be the one to stop the villain.

Lang agrees to become Ant-Man so he can become the father his daughter deserves, and helps Hope realise that her dad is just trying to protect her. Hank finally reveals what happened to Hope’s mum, Janet van Dyne: that she used to be a superhero called The Wasp, but she disappeared into a subatomic quantum realm when she had to shrink smaller than atoms to disable a Soviet nuclear missile. Hank warns Lang that the same thing could happen to him if he’s not careful.

A training montage later and Hank sends Lang to an apparently abandoned Stark warehouse to retrieve a device. Unfortunately, the building has been transformed into the Avengers headquarters and Lang gets into a fight with the Falcon. However, he still manages to steal the device. 

Meanwhile, Cross has perfected his serum and created the Yellowjacket suit. Lang, Pym, and van Dyne try to stop Cross, but get captured. Cross plans to sell the Yellowjacket and Ant-Man suits to Hydra. Lang breaks free and defeat Cross's goons, while the super villain escapes. 

Lang and Cross, both wearing their suits, fight. Lang has to shrink to subatomic size to penetrate Cross. Cross dies in the process, but Lang seems to be lost to the quantum realm until he’s able to reserve the shrinking process and return to normal size. His return makes Hank wonder if it’s possible his wife may one day come back. Hank shows Hope a new Wasp prototype suit designed for her.

Luis tells Lang that the Falcon is looking for him. Meanwhile, Falcon and Steve Rogers have Bucky Barnes in their custody and are talking about how they can’t ask Tony Stark for help because of “the accords”. Falcon says he knows someone who could help. 

Things you need to remember:

  • Ant-Man has the ability to shrink down into the Quantum Realm
  • Hank Pym used to be Ant-Man and his wife, Janet van Dyne, used to fight with him as The Wasp. She has been presumed dead for many years
  • Ant-Man and the Falcon had a fight
  • Falcon and Rogers have found Bucky
  • Those accords are going to be important

Click through to page 3 for Phase 3 of the MCU

Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.