The MCU is separated into “Phases,” with three under its belt at the moment and many more likely on the way in the coming years. Phase 1 hit theaters around a decade ago with Iron Man and its first sequel, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, and The Avengers.
Avengers: Endgame didn’t quite mark the end of Phase 3 – that distinction will go to Spider-Man: Far From Home this summer – but it did mark the end of the “Infinity Saga,” so it’s close enough. Many moments from Phase 1 finally paid off in Endgame. So, here are 10 MCU Phase 1 Moments That Foreshadowed Endgame.
10 Tony builds the Iron Man suit
What caused critics to draw parallels between 2008’s Iron Man and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was its emphasis on realism. While the franchise would later involve living planets and Norse gods, its first installment was surprisingly grounded.
It was set in the real world, in the center of the conflict in the Middle East, and its hero didn’t just magically acquire his powers. We saw the trial-and-error process that led to the creation of his suit. He continued to tweak and update the suit’s technology over the years, and in the end, with the invention of the Iron Gauntlet, that technology would save the universe – twice.
9 Howard Stark gives Cap his shield
In Captain America: The First Avenger, a young Howard Stark makes Captain America’s shield out of a vibranium alloy and arms him with it. Years later, in Captain America: Civil War, when Howard’s son Tony found out that Cap knew his friend Bucky had killed Howard and his wife and kept it from him, he took back the shield.
Then, in Avengers: Endgame, after forgiving him, Tony gives the shield back and tells Cap, “He made it for you.” Later, Tony and Cap travel back in time to 1970 and Tony gets one final moment to talk with his dad about being a parent.
8 “The Tessaract is where it belongs. Out of our reach.”
This Nick Fury quote from The Avengers set up the Tesseract – or Cosmic Cube, or Space Stone, or whatever you want to call it – as an important part of the makeup of the MCU. In that movie, Loki used it to turn Erik Selvig and Clint Barton into “his personal flying monkeys” and almost destroy Earth with an alien invasion.
Aside from being an Infinity Stone, which made it integral to the Thanos storyline, the Tesseract will continue to appear in the MCU, since Loki used it in Endgame to disappear into an alternate timeline during the Avengers’ “time heist.”
7 The Hulk attacks Black Widow on the Helicarrier
In The Avengers, Loki puts Bruce Banner under his spell on the Helicarrier, causing him to Hulk out and attack Black Widow. Back then, no one could’ve anticipated the story arc that would follow: Black Widow would become the go-to lullabier to talk the Hulk down, the two would fall for each other, and eventually, the Hulk would mourn Black Widow’s untimely death on Vormir.
By this point, he had found the middle ground between Banner and Hulk and become “Professor Hulk” (also known as “Smart Hulk”), so he wasn’t having any more outbursts that put his fellow Avengers in danger.
6 “You think you’re the only superhero in the world?”
At the end of 2008’s Iron Man, the movie that started it all, Nick Fury approaches Tony Stark and asks him, “You think you’re the only superhero in the world?” before introducing him to “the Avengers Initiative,” setting up all the characters that joined the franchise throughout “the Infinity Saga.”
In the Battle of Earth at the end of Avengers: Endgame, there are 36 main characters fighting and hundreds more soldiers hailing from Wakanda and Asgard. By this point, Tony is blatantly aware that he’s not the only superhero in the world – but he is the one to give his own life to save everyone else’s.
5 Odin places an enchantment on Mjolnir
In the first Thor movie, Thor is exiled to Earth, stripped of his godly abilities, and Odin places an enchantment on his hammer, Mjolnir, that means only people who are “worthy” will be able to lift it. The fact that only “worthy” people can lift it became an important plot point for Avengers: Endgame.
For all the humor that Endgame wrings out of Thor’s alcoholism and weight gain, we find him in a really dark place five years after Thanos’ genocidal finger-snap. But he gets his groove back when he goes back in time to Asgard, circa 2013, and is still able to summon his hammer. And then, of course, Cap finds that he is also worthy.
4 Iron Man saves a young Peter Parker
The kid wearing the Iron Man mask that Tony Stark rescues in Iron Man 2 has been retroactively identified as a young Peter Parker. When Spider-Man officially debuted in the MCU in Captain America: Civil War, he was recruited by Stark and the two quickly developed a sort of surrogate father-son relationship.
They became so close that in Endgame, when Tony sacrificed himself to save the universe, it wasn’t Pepper or Rhodey who spent the most time at Iron Man’s side as he died – it was Peter. He told his beloved father figure, “We won,” and moviegoers across the world had to wipe away tears.
3 The Avengers assemble
Fans had to wait 11 years to hear Captain America utter his immortal words, “Avengers, assemble!” on the screen. But we saw the team assemble long before that. It’s arguable that there still hasn’t been as memorable a shot in the MCU as the sweeping pan around the Avengers during the Battle of New York.
Back then, the team only consisted of Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, the Hulk, and Hawkeye. Cap wouldn’t utter the phrase until Endgame, when the team had added the Masters of Mystic Arts, the armies of Wakanda and Asgard, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and a handful of other superheroes.
2 Cap and Peggy make a date
Right before he gunned Red Skull’s plane into the ice to stop his weapons of mass destruction from destroying the world, Captain America said a tearful goodbye to Peggy Carter. They’d spent the movie falling in love and even arranged a date to go dancing, so there was an added poignancy to Steve Rogers’ sacrifice.
He ended up spending 70 years cryogenically frozen before being thawed out, leading the Avengers through many a battle, and eventually going back in time to marry Peggy and spend a happy life with her. In the last scene of Endgame, we see Steve finally have that dance with Peggy.
1 “I am Iron Man.”
Robert Downey, Jr. improvised this line from 2008’s Iron Man, but it ended up setting the tone for the entire MCU. The idea that the world at large knows who all the superheroes are would become a common theme throughout the franchise (except for Spider-Man).
It also became the line that kickstarted the entire Infinity Saga, so it made sense that the same saga ended with Tony Stark repeating the line. Thanos repeats his own line, “I am inevitable,” before Tony nabs the Infinity Stones from him, says, “Yeah, and I am Iron Man,” and snaps his fingers, sacrificing himself to save the universe.