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The upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder is one of the most hotly-anticipated films of the year, but if you’re not a Marvel Cinematic Universe die-hard (and you’ve got some time on your hands), you might want to catch up with a bunch of films before hitting the theater. Of course, the best movies can be enjoyed on their own merits, and that was certainly the case with the last Thor film, 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. Like Love And Thunder, Ragnarok was helmed by Taika Waititi. Love And Thunder also features the Guardians of the Galaxy. So below, we’ll give you the movies (as well as a few Disney+ series) that you might want to catch so you’ll be up to date.

  • Thor - 2011

    This was our introduction to Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Asgardian Thunder God who is cast out of that kingdom by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) for his arrogance and immaturity. He ends up falling in with a group of American scientists: Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Jane’s best friend and intern, Darcy Lewis (the hilarious Kat Dennings). His love affair with Jane starts here, and that’s something that is obviously central to Love and Thunder. In this film, Thor has to regain his dad’s respect to be once again worthy of wielding his mighty hammer, Mjølnir (being worthy to pick up the hammer is an ongoing threadline through the MCU). We also meet Thor’s brother/sometimes enemy/sometimes ally Loki (Tom Hiddleston), their mother Frigga (Rene Russo), Heimdall (Idris Elba) who guards the Rainbow Bridge which connects Asgard to other realms (including earth), Thor’s crew Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Fandral (Josh Dallas) and Lady Sif (Jamie Alexander). The film splits its time between earth and Asgard, giving us our first view of the cosmic aspect of the MCU. Thor ties into the previous MCU films because of Clark Gregg’s SHIELD Agent Coulson, who appeared in 2008’s Iron Man and 2010’s Iron Man 2. We also get our first glimpse of Thor’s future fellow Avenger Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) in a brief cameo. The movie is good but not great; Hemsworth was a relative unknown at that point, going toe-to-toe with much more experienced actors like Portman, Russo and Hopkins. But he held his own and you can see glimmers of his other super power – charisma – that came out much more in his future appearances as Thor.

  • Marvel's The Avengers - 2012

    Thor and Loki’s stories continue here, and Loki’s inclusion was fitting, as he was the villain in Avengers issue #1 back in 1963, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby. But here, Loki joins forces with the aggressive alien race the Chitauri – he promises to give them the Tesseract, and they will, in turn, help him conquer the earth… which he wants to do, just to spite Thor! So Catty! Worse, he’s taken control of Dr. Selvig’s mind to help him pull off his scheme. So Thor joins forces with Tony (Iron Man) Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve (Captain America) Rogers (Chris Evans), Bruce (the Hulk) Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha (Black Widow) Romanoff (Scarlett Johnansson) and Clint Barton, along with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson.

    Jane Foster is mentioned, but not seen (other than in a photograph) in the film; Thor wants assurance that she’ll be safe. The Avengers defeat Loki and the Chitauri in what becomes known as “The Battle of New York” and Thor returns to Asgard with Loki.

  • Thor: The Dark World - 2013

    Generally considered one of the weaker films in the MCU, it’s been only slightly redeemed in retrospect thanks to scenes in Avengers: Endgame and the Loki miniseries. Like Thor, it splits its time between earth and Asgard, and like Thor, the earth scenes tend to be more fun. It’s a pretty complicated plot, but: an ancient enemy race of the Asgardians returns for revenge, Jane is infected by the Aether (which we later learn is the Realty Stone), Thor brings her to Asgard, Frigga dies defending her, Thor teams up with Loki and they save the day, but Loki dies (OR DOES HE?). Meanwhile, on earth, Dr. Selvig has gone a bit crazy after being under Loki’s control in The Avengers, and Darcy has an intern of her own!

    Jane and Thor pine for each other from the beginning of the movie — Jane hilariously tries to date a guy named Richard (a funny performance by Chris O’Dowd). But when they reunite, Jane is understandably upset. She knows he returned to earth (“The Battle Of New York” was big news, obviously). Depsite the fact that the plot isn’t great, Hemsworth, Portman and Hiddleston give great performances. The post-credit scenes were important here: in one, Thor returns to earth to be with Jane. In another Lady Sif and Valstagg give the Aether to the Collector (played very campily by Benicio del Toro). When he asks why they’re giving it to him, they note that Asgard already has the Tesseract and it would be “unwise” to have two Infinity Stones in such close proximity to each other.

  • Guardians of the Galaxy - 2014

    Since the Guardians co-star in Love and Thunder, we’re including their films here too. And besides, the first one is one of the very best films in the MCU. But, it was a big gamble: unlike Thor, Hulk, Captain America and the Avengers, there wasn’t a lot of awareness of the Guardians outside of comic book readers. But that didn’t matter: James Gunn, who co-wrote and directed the film had a vision for the movie. He created a huge outer-space adventure that was fun, funny and — at its core — was about what makes a family. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) had some daddy issues, as he was brought up by a space pirate named Yondu (played by Michael Rooker). So did Gamora (Zoe Saldana), whose father is Thanos (Josh Brolin); she and her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) have something of a sibling rivalry (not unlike Thor and Loki’s). It was a joy to watch them come together with Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper). A classic movie that you definitely should see, if you haven’t already.

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron - 2015

    The Avengers assemble again; they travel to Sokovia where they retrieve Loki’s staff which is powered by the Mind Stone. They encounter Pietro (an “enhanced” human with super speed, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda (his incredibly powerful sister, played by Elizabeth Olsen). At first, they’re at odds with the siblings but eventually they team up to battle Ultron. Ultron is a defense program designed by Stark to protect the world, but when it encounters the Mind Stone, it becomes sentient and — surprise! — a threat to all life on earth. The Mind Stone ends up on the forehead of another android, known as the Vision, who was created by Ultron (it’s complicated). Is he a friend of foe? When he’s able to lift Thor’s Mjølnir, we realize that he’s a force for good. (He also creates a cape for himself, seemingly a tribute to Thor.)

    As with the first Avengers film, Jane is mentioned but does not appear, although things seem to be pretty good between them. And at the end of the film, Thor leaves earth to return to Asgard, suspecting that something cosmic has been manipulating events on earth.

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 - 2017

    It’s another fun space adventure for the Guardians, as they add a member — Mantis (played by Pom Klementieff) and we learn that Quill’s real father is a planet. Literally: he’s called Ego, the Living Planet, and he’s a bad guy (played by Kurt Russell, whose son Wyatt would later score a big role in Marvel’s Falcon and the Winter Soldier). We also meet the Ravengers, Yondu’s former team, led by Stakar Ogord, played by Sylvester Stallone(!). The rest of the team includes Martinex (Michael Rosenbaum ), Charlie-27 (Ving Rhames), Aleta Ogord (Michelle Yeoh) and Mainframe (voiced by Miley Cyrus!). While James Gunn has said that Guardians Vol. 3 will end that team’s story, there have been rumors (which are a bit hard to believe) that the Ravengers might get their own spinoff.

  • Thor: Ragnarok - 2017

    Taika Waititi was clearly influenced by what James Gunn did on the first Guardians film, because he brought some of that sense of fun, humor and brightness to the third Thor film. It wasn’t a reboot, obviously, but it was a revamp of sorts. Gone were most of Thor’s earth friends: we learn that he and Jane broke up (the rumor mill seems to insist that she dumped him), and we don’t see Darcy or Dr. Selvig. Odin dies. Asgard is destroyed. Hogun, Fandral, and Volstagg are murdered (Lady Sif avoided a similar fate, since Jamie Alexander was occupied with her starring role in NBC’s Blindspot at the time; happily, she’ll return in Love and Thunder). Even Thor’s trusty Mjølnir gets smashed! We meet Thor and Loki’s murderous older sister Hela (evil never looked like this much fun, thank you very much Cate Blanchett).

    There were some cool new characters: Asgardian warrior Skurge (played by Karl Urban, aka Billy Butcher from Amazon’s The Boys, and Dr. “Bones” McCoy from the rebooted Star Trek films*). Heavy drinking Asgardian ex-pat Scrapper 142, aka Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), sweet rocky warrior Korg (Waititi), Miek (a CGI-created non-vocal character) and another villain, The Grandmaster, played hilariously by Jeff Goldblum. The Grandmaster is said to be the Collector’s brother; here’s hoping we see them together at some point! Also, we see the Hulk/Bruce Banner: what a coincidence that he and Thor both left the earth in Age of Ultron, and they both ended up at the same place (and so did Loki!).

    This is anther jewel in the MCU’s crown; it’s one of their best movies. And it leaves you with a big cliffhanger in the post credits bonus scene: the vessel that Thor, Valkyrie, Loki, Hulk, Korg and the surviving Asgardians are travelling in are approached by a very scary looking and much larger ship.

    *Fun fact: one of Hemsworth’s first roles was as Captain Kirk’s father, George Kirk, in 2009’s Star Trek; he died aboard the USS Kevlin while battling Romulans in the first few minutes of the film.

  • Avengers: Infinity War - 2018

    Infinity War, helmed by Anthony and Joe Russo, who had already done an epic Marvel tale with their Avengers Vs. Avengers story in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, went even more epic with Infinity War and its sequel, Endgame. It was triumphant: the films combined storylines from all the Avengers’ stories, as well as Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy (and in Endgame, Captain Marvel and Ant-Man). It advanced storylines, but told a cohesive story, and had real emotional weight.

    Infinity War picks up moments after the end of Ragnarok; Thanos and his sidekicks have beaten the crap out of Thor, Loki and the Asgardians; he even gives Hulk a beating. He murders Loki (this time, it’s for real) and murders Heimdel, who in his final moments, transports Hulk back to Earth. Thor, meanwhile, ends up floating, unconscious, through space, until the Guardians bump into him and take him on board their ship. After some tension between him and Quill, he recruits Rocket and Groot to go to Nowhere, to have the greatest weapon maker in the universe create something that will replace Mjølnir. Eitri, King of the Dwarves of Nidavellir (played by Peter Dinklage) eventually comes through (in a sort of slow storyline) and creates Stormbreaker. They then return to earth where Thor reunites with his fellow Avengers for the Battle of Wakanda. Thor attacks Thanos, launching his new blade into Thanos’ chest; it cuts him, but it’s too late. The villain mutters, “You should have gone for the head,” a line that will haunt Thor for years. He snaps with his Infinity Stone-filled gauntlet, deleting half of the living creatures in the universe out of existence.

    Unusually for a Marvel film, the movie ends with our heroes soundly defeated.

  • Avengers: Endgame - 2019

    It starts 23 days after the end of Infinity War. Tony Stark returns to earth, barely alive, thanks to Nebula, and immediately leaves the Avengers. Thor, Steve, Banner, Natasha and James Rhodes (Don Chedale), along with Rocket, Nebula and their new ally Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) track down Thanos. Thor takes his advice literally: he immediately decapitated him.

    Five years later, he’s living a secluded life in New Asgard — a small village in Norway — where the surviving Asgardians, including Valkyrie, live. Thor is somewhat out of shape, living with Korg and Miek, mostly eating, drinking beer and playing video games. Hulk (who has combined Banner’s brain with his big green body) and Rocket convince him to rejoin his fellow Avengers to try to travel back in time and change history. Thor and Rocket then travel back to Asgard, circa The Dark World, to get the Aether, aka the Mind Stone. But when they get there, Thor has an anxiety attack, leaving Rocket to extract the Stone from Jane (Natalie Portman didn’t shoot any scenes for the film; the footage of her was outtakes from Dark World). Thor has a reunion with Frigga, giving him some closure, and he also retrives Mjølnir.

    Later, the Avengers find themselves battling a time-traveling version of Thanos (it’s complicated),and they’re ultimately successful and everyone returns back to life, five years after they vanished. Thor puts Valkyrie in charge of New Asgard, and takes to the stars with the Guardians. Gamora died in Infinity War, but they encountered a time traveling of her (she was with her dad. Like we said, it’s complicated). Quill, heartbroken over “his” Gamora’s death, seems intent on tracking this variant version down. But there’s tension, of course, as to who is in charge of the ship: Thor or Quill? We expect that Love and Thunder picks up soon after they leave the earth.

  • Bonus: Wandavision - 2021

    To be fair, Wandavision doesn’t have much to do with Thor. But we learn that Darcy the intern is now Doctor Darcy Lewis, thank you very much. We’re bummed that Taika Waititi isn’t bringing her back for Love and Thunder (boooooo!) but we hope that there’s truth to the rumor that she and Randall Park’s FBI Agent Jimmy Woo (who was introduced in 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp) get a spin-off together. They’re both hilarious and they made a great team. On another note, Wandavision, Marvel’s first Disney+ series, is excellent and you should see if if you haven’t. Besides being a great MCU series, it tackles a bigger issue: how do you deal with grief.

  • Bonus: Loki - 2021

    Yeah, we said that Loki really died at the beginning of Infinity War. But in Endgame, while Thor and Rocket visited Asgard, Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Banner/Hulk and Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) traveled back to the “Battle of New York.” Their interfering with the timeline caused the captured Loki to grab the Tesseract and escape. That’s where Loki starts. Owen Wilson hilariously stars as Mobius M. Mobius, an agent of the Time Vairance Authority, who are trying to undo the damage that this “variant” Loki has done. The series expands on the concept of the multiverse (which was first explained by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) to Banner in Endgame) and also introduces a character that is likely to be one of the MCU’s biggest threats. No spoilers here, sorry! Like Wandavision, it asks big questions: Are you doomed to repeat the mistakes of your past? Can people really change?

  • Bonus: What If...? - 2021

    What If…? is an animated anthology series, narrated by the Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), and each episode looks at Marvel stories with one detail changed (like, “What If… T’Challa Beame a Star-Lord?”). Many (but not all) of the major actors voice their characters, including Hemsworth and Hiddleston. In episode 3, “What If… The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes,” Loki leads and Asgardian army to earth to avenge the death of Thor (who was accidentally killed by Clint Barton). Episode 7, “What If… Thor Were An Only Child?” saw Hemswroth, Portman, Hiddleston, Dennings, Waititi, Jamie Alexander, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeff Goldblum and Clark Gregg voicing their characters. The season finale, “What If… The Watcher Broke His Oath” saw the formation of “The Guardians of the Multiverse,” which included Hemsworth as Thor, along with Hayley Atwell as Captain Carter (a role she returned to briefly in Dcotor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) and Chadwick Boseman (rest in peace) as Star-Lord T’Challa.