Watch The Marvel Movies In This Order & You'll Be Prepared For 'Civil War'

I don’t know if I have the emotional fortitude to endure Captain America: Civil War, but damn if I’m not counting the days until it’s in theaters anyway. The next movie up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon is a battle for the ages; the marketing and the buzz-y reactions from preview screenings are clear on a very important point: Civil War is going to go hard and pull no punches. Audiences are used to seeing the Avengers and their friends take on external forces, not one another. I may not be able to prepare my heart for what this movie is going to do to it, but I can brush up on my Marvel knowledge. If you want to get in on it too, watch the previous Marvel movies in this order to get ready for Civil War.

I’ve broken the list up into two sections: the Musts and the Optionals. There are 12 MCU features to consider, and unfortunately, life doesn’t stop when the summer movie season begins. (What if it did though?) If you only have time to rewatch a few, go with the six movies at the top. The rest are nice bonuses, but less essential to enjoying Civil War . Even the lesser Marvel movies are more fun than almost any other kind, so you can’t really go wrong.

The Musts:

1. Iron Man

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Stark Industries and Team Iron Man would like your attention. Remember how Robert Downey Jr. owned this part from the second he put on Tony's expensive sunglasses? If Iron Man hadn't caught on like it did, this would be a very short list.

2. Iron Man 2

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Not quite as great as the first, Iron Man 2 earns its place on the Must list with the introduction of Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow and Don Cheadle taking over Terrance Howard's spot as War Machine.

3. Captain America: The First Avenger

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Consider this a recruiting ad for Team Cap. Get to know Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes (well, the old Bucky Barnes) in the film that ends with an introduction to SHIELD's Avengers Initiative.

4. The Avengers

Not all of the Avengers appears in Civil War , but obviously the ensemble films are mandatory watching. The conflict among the team has roots in the government's reaction to disasters like Loki's attack on New York, so The Avengers is kind of a direct Civil War prequel.

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5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Is Bucky Steve's Achilles Heel? He's not prepared to stand back and give up his brainwashed old friend to that super soldier assassin life — not in The Winter Soldier and not in Civil War.

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6. Avengers: The Age Of Ultron

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Save this one for the end of your marathon. Age Of Ultron marks the first appearance of Civil War participants Scarlet Witch and Vision, and features more of that death and destruction that some think necessitates superhero monitoring.

The Optionals:

1. The Incredible Hulk

With apologies to former Hulk Edward Norton, this is probably the most skippable MCU film for these purposes.

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2. Thor

Thor will be sitting Civil War out, along with Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner, but it's never time wasted to watch a noble god lurch all over Earth like a bull in a china shop.

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3. Iron Man 3

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This movie sews some seeds for Tony taking the position that he does in Civil War. In Iron Man 3, he's dealing with the personal fallout of the attack on New York. But it's the least of the Iron Man movies, and thus just optional.

4. Thor: The Dark World

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The Thor sequel takes place almost entirely in another realm, which makes it only a very, very distant cousin to Civil War. Always a good one to watch if you're missing Loki, though. (Every day.)

5. Guardians Of The Galaxy

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Star-Lord will be coming out to play in Avengers: Infinity War in 2018. But for now, Peter Quill and his band of intergalactic misfits are out there causing trouble in their own run of standalone movies.

6. Ant-Man

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Scott Lang will be fighting on Team Cap in Civil War, and it'll be great to see him on screen with more of the Avengers. Ant-Man is a predominantly self-contained story about Scott Lang's redemption, but, if you've got the time, you may want to relive his evenly matched one-on-one with the Falcon outside the Avengers base.

And with that, I've prepared you as much as I possibly can for the heartbreaking team conflict of Marvel's Captain America: Civil War .

Images: Walt Disney Studios; Giphy (12)