“We’re in the Endgame now.” 

That was one of the last things Doctor Stephen Strange said before he faded away into dust along with half the universe in Avengers: Infinity War. On April 26th, the world will finally see what that means when Avengers: Endgame hits theaters. 

Although fans didn’t know it at the time, the above quote wasn’t an admission of defeat, but a foreshadowing of what was to come. Throughout its 10+ year history, the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been building to Endgame. Just like Doctor Strange, many of the MCU’s characters helped moved its overall narrative forward with only one line of dialogue. Starting from the beginning, here are the quotes that helped the MCU’s story move forward. 

“I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative.” – Nick Fury, ‘Iron Man’ (2008)


Fans had just witnessed Robert Downey, Jr. put Iron Man on the map. A character only die-hard comic fans knew at the time, the first movie in the MCU will always be something special. The post-credits scene (which Marvel did not invent, but certainly perfected) gave us a glimpse of what was to come. The Avengers are a team, and you can’t have a team with just one person. This line told fans that there were more Marvel heroes on the way. 


“What if I told you we were putting a team together?” – Tony Stark, ‘The Incredible Hulk’ (2008)

The success of Iron Man, which came out the month before, was hard to ignore. So much so that the filmmakers of The Incredible Hulk put Tony Stark’s appearance in the TV spots for the film. And what an appearance it was. Within this particular context, it’s hard to decipher whether Tony wanted the Hulk to join the team, or use the group and hunt him down. Regardless, this was Marvel’s way of telling fans that the scene in Iron Man was not a one-off. Big things were coming. 


“Sir? We found it.” – Phil Coulson, ‘Iron Man 2’ (2010)

Even though Marvel announced future moviesit still didn’t seem real that we were getting closer to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes coming together. That changed with four words at the end of Iron Man 2. After being pulled from his mission “babysitting” Tony Stark, Phil Coulson is sent to investigate a strange phenomenon in New Mexico. When the camera pans out to reveal Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, it cemented the reality that the rest of the Avengers were on their way. 


“Know this, Son of Coul. You and I, we fight for the same cause: the protection of this world. From this day forward you can count me as your ally.” – Thor, ‘Thor’ (2011)

After proving himself worthy once again to wield Mjolnir, Thor defeated the Destroyer before it caused any more damage to the New Mexico town where the exiled God of Thunder was staying. Confronted by Phil Coulson, Thor deemed him a worthy ally. Slowly but surely, Coulson is becoming the catalyst that brings the Avengers together as a cohesive unit one year later. 


“I had a date.” – Steve Rogers, ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ (2011)

Steve Rogers sacrificed his life to save his country. Yes, he is still alive in the present day, but the life that he knew was over. All of his friends were either dead or much, much older. The love of his life had moved on and started a family. The line itself tells us what Steve lost, but the defeated tone with which he delivers it helps us understand how the lost Rogers feels like a man out of time. 


“They’ll come back.” “You sure?” “I am.” “How?” “Because we’ll need them to.” – Nick Fury and Maria Hill, ‘The Avengers’ (2012)

After four years, the Avengers finally assembled. After defeating Loki and the Chitauri, the team went their separate ways. Nick Fury knows this is only temporary. The Chitauri are defeated. That doesn’t mean that they are the only global threat ever to try and destroy the planet. It’s just like the comic book said, the Avengers are there to “fight the foes no single hero could withstand.” 


“You can take away my house, all my tricks and toys. One thing you can’t take away? I am Iron Man.” – Tony Stark, ‘Iron Man 3’ (2013)

Iron Man 3 was arguably the beginning of a character change for Tony Stark. Since the first Iron Man, despite his “Stark Exterior,” Tony felt the burden of protecting the Earth fell squarely on his shoulders. It makes sense that we jumped from Mark VII to Mark XLII over the span of a year. It caused him a plethora of mental health issues. Thanks to Pepper, Rhodey, and Harley, Tony was able to come to grips with his place in the world. Regardless of what suit he is wearing, either one that flies or one that’s fly, Tony Stark is Iron Man. 


“And how are you different than Malekith? – Thor, ‘Thor: The Dark World’ (2013)

Following the death of Frigga at the hands of Malekith, ruler of the Dark Elves, Odin is in a blind rage and wants nothing more than to get his revenge. The unexpected voice of reason? His son, the God of Thunder. Thor and Odin take on a complete role reversal from the first film, where Thor waged war with Frost Giants, making him unworthy to wield his hammer. Odin has always wanted Thor to take the throne of Asgard. Here, Thor proved that he has matured and is more than capable of being a strong leader, which will help in the years to come. 


“I’m with you ‘til the end of the line.” – Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers, ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ (2014)

Originally said by Bucky in a flashback scene, Steve used this phrase to help his brainwashed friend finally begin to remember who he is. The Winter Soldier was becoming Bucky Barnes, member of the Howling Commandos once again. This phrase emphasized just how strong the bond is between these two friends and heroes. It’s a bond, however, that would cripple another strong friendship two years later.


“Before creation itself, there were six singularities…the remnants of these systems were forged into concentrated ingots. Infinity Stones.” – The Collector, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014)


The MacGuffin of Guardians of the Galaxy was an orb. It wasn’t until the meeting with the Collector that our heroes realized they were carrying one of the six Infinity Stones. While teased during Thor: The Dark World, this was the first time anyone named them in the MCU proper. Considering where the MCU has gone since, and where it is now, this is arguably the most important line in the entire narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 


“Fine. I’ll do it myself.” – Thanos, ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (2015)

Thanos donning the Infinity Gauntlet was the beginning of the end; we just didn’t know it at the time. It turns out that every supernatural artifact the Marvel heroes came into contact with had been an Infinity Stone. Here, Thanos accepts that he can’t rely on anyone else to gather the Stones for him, so he sets off on his journey. This line established the MCU’s overarching Big Bad, his motivation, and foreshadowed the inevitable battle between Thanos and the Avengers. 


“I spent half my life trying to keep this technology out of the hands of a Stark. I’m sure as hell not going to hand-deliver it to one now.” – Hank Pym, ‘Ant-Man’ (2015)

Hank Pym had a falling out with Howard Stark in 1989 when S.H.I.E.L.D. attempted to replicate Pym Particles (the compound which allows Ant-Man to shrink) without Hank’s permission. The grudge carried over years later when Hank refused to go to the Avengers for help in stopping Darren Cross from selling the formula to the highest bidder – which is why he tapped Scott Lang to be the next Ant-Man and brought the awkward superhero into the MCU. Viewing Hank as his mentor, Scott Lang took this to heart and agreed to aide Captain America during the superhero Civil War.


“That shield doesn’t belong to you. You don’t deserve it. My father made that shield.” – Tony Stark, ‘Captain America: Civil War’ (2016)


This quote is what you could call the companion quote to the one from Winter Soldier. Tony and Cap’s friendship stretched itself to the limit throughout the entire movie. For Cap to choose the man who killed Howard and Maria Stark was too much for Tony. Seeing Cap carrying a creation of his father was an insult to his memory. When Cap gave up the shield, he not only set the parameters for his relationship with Tony, but also began the creation of his “Nomad” persona seen in Infinity War. 


“You’ll wear the Eye of Agamotto once you’ve mastered its powers. Until then, best not to walk the streets wearing an Infinity Stone.” – Wong, ‘Doctor Strange’ (2016)

Doctor Strange introduced the MCU to the world of magic. The Eye of Agamotto is one of Doctor Strange’s prized possessions and greatest weapons in the comic books, so it was not surprising when its powers helped him defeat Dormammu. Wong’s reveal that the Eye was in actuality an Infinity Stone told fans two things: It confirmed that the Stones are intertwined with the entire universe. It also confirmed that a confrontation with Thanos was inevitable – and that Doctor Strange would be a pivotal character in that fight.


“I will help them by killing Thanos.” – Nebula, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2’ (2016)

Nebula is always on a mission to kill someone. Following her reconciliation with Gamora, she sets out to kill her abusive adoptive father, the Mad Titan Thanos. We know her quest at the end of this film, and we see the result of her pursuit during Infinity War. Unfortunately for Nebula, the results were not to her liking. Still, it’s it’s hard to imagine that, as one of the surviving heroes post-Snap and the one with the most knowledge about Thanos, Nebula won’t play a crucial role in the fight to come.


“If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” – Tony Stark, ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ (2017)

In Tony Stark’s quest to rectify his past mistakes, he becomes a father figure to young Peter Parker. Following Captain America: Civil War, he realizes he should never have put a 15-year-old in that kind of danger. He spends Homecoming trying to make up for it. When Peter doesn’t follow directions while wearing his Stark-designed suit, Tony takes it away. The punishment was the MCUs way of teaching “with great power comes great responsibility” without having to say it. Tony’s tough love helped Peter grow where he needed to, which made him a better ally during Infinity War and set him on the path to becoming the do-gooding, courageous Spider-Man we know.


“Tell me, brother. What were you the god of again?” – Hela, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (2017)


Thor: Ragnarok helped to make the Thor franchise feel new again. Taika Waititi’s vision helped the God of Thunder become more powerful just by finding the humor in things while not forgetting the gravity of the situation on a personal level. Thor leveled up in his powers; Loki was redeemed. In fighting their sister, Hela, Thor achieved his full potential, going Super Saiyan by the end. Hela’s arrogance in asking this question catalyzed the new King of Asgard, who tapped into himself and found himself able to channel his upgraded powers without the need of a hammer. Thor would soon need all the strength he could harness with Thanos lying in wait. 


“Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We cannot. We must not.” – T’Challa, ‘Black Panther’ (2018)

Wakanda is the greatest nation the world had never heard of until that moment in Black Panther. Revealing its actual resources would change the world of the MCU forever. It took much soul searching for T’Challa to reach this decision, agreeing with Killmonger’s criticism but wanting to go about introducing Wakanda to the rest of the world the right way. What T’Challa didn’t realize is that he would be sharing the Wakandan battlefield with more than he bargained for as it would later be where the Avengers made their futile stand against Thanos. 


“Oh, God.” – Captain America, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ (2018)

Two words were all it took from arguably the world’s greatest hero to show he had, at least temporarily, been broken. Two words to signify that the Avengers had failed. Two words to express the emotion of losing not only friends and family but precisely one-half of all living creatures in the universe. The Avengers, regardless of the obstacle, always came out on top in battles past. But not this time. Those two words from a grief-stricken Steve Rogers to sum up what it was like to not only lose for the first time but to suffer the loss at the worst time possible.  


“Ha-ha, very funny.” – Scott Lang, ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ (2018)


When we heard the static from the radio in the mid-credits scene of Ant-Man and the Wasp, we knew what had happened even before they showed it. Scott thinks it’s the Pyms joking around. Unfortunately, his “ha-ha” went unheard because Hank, Janet, and Hope had all just become the victims of the Snap. When Scott thinks they’re pranking him, it reiterates the fact that the world has never seen anything like the power of Thanos before, and as of yet, there’s nothing they can do to stop it. 


“I have nothing to prove to you.” – Carol Danvers, ‘Captain Marvel’ (2019)

The hero that is going to lead the MCU into its next phase has to be a hero with confidence. They have to be someone who can stand up for those that can’t stand for themselves. They have to be someone with nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. By pulling a Raiders of the Lost Ark on Yon-Rogg, Carol Danvers showed she has what it takes to be at the forefront of the next generation of Marvel Superheroes. Her emancipation then in the ’90s was the groundwork for her to become the secret weapon the Avengers need in the upcoming fight against Thanos.

The MCU has 21 released films. That’s 21 lines of dialogue that helped push the narrative to where it is today. As we are on the precipice of the Endgame, we can only hope the quote that helps drive the story to its final climax is the one Marvel fans have been waiting since 2008 to hear: “Avengers, ASSEMBLE!”     

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