As the culmination of a decade of stories, Avengers: Infinity War is as much its own movie as it is part of the much larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film marks the first time that all of the heroic teams in the MCU take on a common goal -- with that goal being to stop Thanos from collecting all six Infinity Stones and destroying half the universe.
Given that massive scope, it's natural that Infinity War contains various nods and references to the movies that came before it. Some of the references are pretty direct, coming in the form of brief recaps of events that pop up in the natural course of conversation as characters interact or meet one another for the first time. Others are more subtle, a little line here and there to gently remind the viewer that the MCU really is one large universe with one big, overarching story.
Because Infinity War is such a big movie with so much going on, we've tried to compile here all of the references to past MCU movies. Not every film in the MCU gets a direct nod -- we haven’t' yet spotted a direct reference back to Captain America: The First Avenger, nor did we notice a direct reference to Ant-Man, but it's important to remember that even without a direct wink and nod to what came before, every film in the MCU is part of Avengers: Infinity War. After all, the story has been leading the heroes to this very moment. The nods we've collected here aren't based too much in plot and are mostly things that are, for long-time fans of the MCU, pretty clear. You can check them out below.
But, just a note before you scroll on: There are MAJOR SPOILERS for Avengers: Infinity War below this point!
One of the earliest and easiest MCU references to spot in Avengers: Infinity War is a nod to one of Marvel Studios' more recent entries, Thor: Ragnarok.
In the scene where Thor meets the Guardians of the Galaxy for the first time, he references his murderous half-sister, Hela, the death of his father, the destruction of Asgard at Hela's hand, and how he in turn had to kill her. It serves not just as a reference to the MCU, but also as a kind of recap of events leading up to Infinity War, especially since the movie picks up directly following the end of Thor: Ragnarok as it is. We catch back up with Thor, Loki, and the Hulk facing off with Thanos on the Grandmaster's vessel after Asgard's remaining citizens had boarded it to flee Ragnarok.
In that same opening scene there's also a reference to Marvel's The Avengers. When Loki goes up against Thanos he says something that serves to remind viewers of just how far the Marvel Cinematic Universe as come. Loki tells Thanos "we have the Hulk" as a way of explaining that they aren't without defenses against the Mad Titan. It's an almost humorous moment as, in The Avengers, it was Tony Stark who used the line "we have a Hulk" against Loki.
For the record, Hulk smashed Loki solidly in The Avengers. Things didn't have quite the same outcome in Infinity War.
When Peter Parker/Spider-Man ends up staying on the Q-Ship instead of being taken back to Avengers headquarters like Tony Stark/Iron Man planned, to say that Tony wasn't pleased is a bit of an understatement. An alien ship heading into space and likely towards a homicidal and massively powered foe really isn't the place for a high school student, after all, which is what Tony tries to explain to Peter when he says "this ain't Coney Island."
The line is a reference the final battle between Vulture and Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming as Coney Island is where Spidey faced off with the villain. When Tony says it, though, it should also serve as a sobering notice to Peter as the Coney Island battle was by no means easy for Peter and facing off with Thanos is going to be far, far worse.
Given Thanos' massive role in Infinity War, a nod back to a Thanos moment in another MCU might be expected, but when it shows up it's a surprise just the same.
When Bruce Banner tries to get The Hulk to emerge and help fight the Black Order, the Hulk refuses to come out and smash and who can blame him? Thanos easily beat him in the film's opening. However, just because Hulk is too scared to smash doesn't mean that smashing can be avoided which leads to Bruce declaring "fine, I'll do it myself."
The line is a direct quote of the mid-credits scene from Avengers: Uge of Ultron where we see Thanos don the Infinity Gauntlet for the first time.
In Guardians of the Galaxy -- and honestly its sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as well -- Rocket has an obsession with body parts and that continues in Infinity War. First, he ends up giving Thor an eye that he stole previously and then, upon meeting Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, Rocket asks him how much for the fancy cybernetic arm.
If Rocket asking about a prosthetic sounds familiar, that's because in Guardians of the Galaxy Rocket declares that he needs a fellow prisoner's leg as part of the plan to break out. It turns out that Rocket was kidding about needing the leg -- he simply thought it would be funny to see the guy hopping around so we can only imagine that Rocket thinks Bucky would be hilarious without an arm as well.
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America kept lapping Sam Wilson/Falcon while running and would always call out "on your left" as he passed, much to Sam's chagrin. In Infinity War, someone else gets to utter those words.
When the armies of Wakanda run at the Outriders, Captain America and T'Challa run out ahead of everyone else with Captain America outpacing T'Challa. With him coming up on the Wakandan king's left side, Winter Solder calls out "on your left".
Hey, at least it wasn't Sam getting lapped this time.
Infinity War isn't the Guardians' first dance with an Infinity Stone. The team dealt with the Power Stone during Guardians of the Galaxy and they did it in a pretty creative way.
Ronan the Accuser embeds the Power Stone in his warhammer and is prepared to destroy Xandar with it. It's an act that would have been devastating not just to Xandar but the whole galaxy, but Peter Quill/Star-Lord challenges Ronan to a dance-off. Ronan is confused and demands to know what's going on which is all the opportunity the heroes need. The dance-off was just a distraction. Drax and Rocket are able to destroy the warhammer with Star-Lord grabbing the stone.
Drax mentions this universe-saving dance-off in Infinity War, but it's not going to be that easy this time around.
Black Panther may have just come out in theaters back in February, but there's a visual nod to the record-breaking movie in Infinity War. When Bruce fights Cull Obsidian, there's a scene with the fight in a waterfall pool in Wakanda. It's visually similar to T'Challa/Black Panther's fights with both M'Baku and Killmonger in Black Panther.
Yes, there are a lot of Guardians of the Galaxy references in Infinity War. That's a good thing as they bring quite a bit of humor, though this one is particularly subtle.
When Tony Stark first meets the Guardians on Titan, he refers to Peter Quill/Star-Lord as "Mr. Lord". Quill is quick to correcty Tony, telling Iron Man to simply call him "Star-Lord". It's a little nod to the first time audiences met Quill in the first Guardians film where he kept insisting people call him Star-Lord only to get met with some humorous and exasperating confusion in the process.
One of the franchises that doesn't have a lot of major references in Infinity War is Iron Man but there is one slight nod back to Iron Man 3. Near the beginning of Infinity War, Tony and Pepper Potts are out together in the park with Tony talking about his dream of them having a child together. Pepper isn't so sure about this and makes a reference to what appears to be an arc reactor on Tony's chest. She notes that he doesn't need that anymore.
At the end of Iron Man 3 two things happen that render the arc reactor unnecessary for Tony. First, Tony undergoes surgery to remove the shrapnel embedded near his heart eliminating the need for him to wear an arc reactor to keep him alive -- something he's needed since Iron Man. Then, he promises Pepper that he will leave his life as Iron Man behind. Obviously that ended up not being the case, but when Pepper points it out in Infinity War, Tony says that he only has it as a "just in case" measure to keep them safe.
Avengers: Infinity War is in theaters now.
Did you spot any references that we've missed? Let us know in the comments!