Joe and Anthony Russo’s Captain America: Civil War caps off the trilogy that began with Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger back in 2011, but it is so much more than just another film about Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers. In fact, there are key elements of the movie that can be traced back to just about every single Marvel Studios title that has come before it, really giving it the sense that things have all been leading to this point (even when there’s still so much more to go). Of course, this means that having a refresher course on the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be quite useful, so that’s exactly what we’re here to provide.

Below you’ll find that we’ve gone movie-by-movie, starting with 2008’s Iron Man, and have examined exactly how each title has influenced the MCU to this point and what elements fans can expect to see pay off in Captain America: Civil War. Enjoy the read, but be warned that each section contains major spoilers for each individual title, but NO SPOILERS for Civil War itself!

Iron Man
Iron Man
Iron Man wasn’t the first superhero to exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (we’ll get more into that later), but his arrival on the scene did have an incredibly significant impact: it ushered in the "Age of Heroes." When Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark stood on that podium and announced his secret identity, he both directly and indirectly ushered in an entirely new age for the world. It’s an age that would see the collection of the Avengers, and eventual debate over the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War.

Of course, we can’t talk about Iron Man without also talking about the arc of Tony Stark – who begins the Jon Favreau-directed film as a billionaire playboy without a care in the world, and over the course of the story finds his humanity. He gets an up-close view at the work of some very bad people, and he can’t fight the urge to do something about it, disregarding international laws, no-fly zones, and military regulations entirely. Tony Stark gets a taste of what it’s like to protect the world in the movie, seeding what would ultimately become an obsession for the armor-clad hero.

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