Avengers: Infinity War spoilers ahead!
After ten years and 18 movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become pretty self sufficient. While Avengers: Infinity War was obviously drawing its major plot points and some fun scenes straight from its comic book source material, the majority of the movie was actually layered with callbacks and references to other MCU movies--and some of them may not have been all that obvious.
So if you didn't happen to brush up on your MCU history, or if you decided not to do the 31-hour long marathon prior to your Infinity War viewing, don't worry too hard. We're looking out for you. Here is a breakdown of Infinity War's biggest Easter eggs, references, and callbacks to previous MCU movies and beyond.
1. Asgardian Refugees
Infinity War opens with a distress signal from an Asgardian refugee ship in the process of being attacked by Thanos and the Black Order, so if you skipped Thor: Ragnarok, this might have been a little out of left field for you. Ragnarok ended with Asgard being completely destroyed by the demon Surtur, with the survivors narrowly escaping on a spaceship. The post credits sequence, however, showed that same ship coming face to face with Thanos's fleet, apparently just moments before the start of Infinity War.
2. We Have a Hulk
In a last ditch effort to get Thanos and his Children off their ship, Loki attempts to con him into a fight with the ultimate punchline "we have a Hulk." This is a callback to Iron Man pulling nearly the exact same move on Loki himself back in the first Avengers movie. Apparently Loki's learned a few lessons since then.
3. Loki and the Tesseract
It was Loki's possession of the Tesseract that ultimately sealed the Asgardian refugee ship's fate. But until that moment, we weren't actually technically sure that he even had it. Loki was shown giving the Tesseract a suspicious glance during Thor: Ragnarok as he moved through Odin's vault before the ultimate destruction of the planet, but the camera cut away before we saw if he picked it up or not. Unfortunately, the fact that he did really isn't a surprise--Loki's infatuation with the Infinity Stones has been a major motivating factor in just about all of his betrayals dating back to the first Avengers movie (and it was in just about every trailer).
4. The Stark/Potts Wedding
Tony Stark and Pepper Potts are engaged! But we knew that, of course, because we actually got to see him pop the question back at the very end of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Apparently Pepper said yes, though it happened offscreen, because things definitely seem to be going pretty well these days--at least until the whole Thanos thing happens.
5. That's the Cauldron of the Cosmos
After being summoned by Doctor Strange, Tony wastes no time using sacred artifacts in the Sanctum Sanctorum as his personal furniture. The Cauldon of the Cosmos that Tony takes up leaning on is one of Strange's time-bending tools from the comics which allows him to look into the past and alternate futures.
6. Rhodey's Price
We briefly see James Rhodes out of his War Machine armor discussing the Sokovia Accords, where he talks about the "price" he's paid for his choice to sign. This is a direct nod to his tragic accident after the airport fight in Captain America: Civil War--which also happens to be why he's wearing a harness over his hips and legs. The accident left him with limited mobility, maybe even partially paralyzed from the waist down.
7. Even the MCU loves Spongebob
During their first encounter with Cull Obsidian and Ebony Maw, Tony wastes no time in tossing out a couple of witty rejoinders. He calls the Maw "Squidward" before properly engaging him in the fight--and while the resemblance is certainly uncanny, the Maw doesn't seem all that bothered by the comparison.
8. Strange's Parlor Tricks
Poor Doctor Strange is no stranger (get it?) to people not quite taking his powers seriously. During he and Tony's first fight side-by-side, Tony makes a wisecrack about Strange making "balloon animals," which places Tony squarely in the ranks of the dubiously canonical MCU late night hosts club where this Jimmy Kimmel sketch exists.
9. Rocket's Prosthetic Problem
When Rocket, Groot, and Thor arrive on Earth during the battle for Wakanda, Rocket almost immediately teams up with (or, rather, is picked up by) Bucky Barnes. First, he wants to know how much for Bucky's gun--not for sale--then, he wants to know how much or Bucky's metal arm. Bucky rolls his eyes by way of response, but Rocket's not that worried. He's gonna get that arm.
Rocket's love for prosthetics, especially cybernetic enhancements, dates all the way back to the first Guardians of the Galaxy's scene in the Kyln prison. And honestly, at this point, it's a borderline fetish. He doesn't make good on his promise to disarm the Winter Soldier this time around, but hey, there's always Avengers 4.
10. Like Footloose?
During their first encounter, Drax urges Star-Lord to tell Tony, Peter, and Strange about the "dance off to save the universe," which gets a predictably mixed reaction from the Avengers. He's of course referring to the final battle with Ronan the Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 1, in which Peter started, well, dancing to distract Ronan from the Power Stone. Peter's love of Kevin Bacon and Footloose were his inspiration for the move.
11. Space McDonalds
During their first major encounter with Thanos, Quill snaps that he looks like "Grimace" who, of course, is one of the classic McDonalds mascots--more specifically, the giant purple chicken-nugget shaped guy. Grimace was originally introduced as "Evil Grimace" in, uh, McDonalds lore(?) so Quill's probably more accurate here than even he realizes.
12. The Collector's Infinity Stone
While Thor explains the situation to the Guardians of the Galaxy during their first encounter, he tells them The Collector in Knowhere has the Reality Stone. When they assure him that isn't possible because "only an idiot" would entrust a Stone to someone like The Collector, Thor fires back "or a genius." His defensiveness is rooted in the fact that two of his close friends -- Sif and Volstagg -- were actually the ones to give the Stone over to him in the mid credits scene of Thor: The Dark World.
13. Reality Warping with Mantis and Drax
During their first big fight with Thanos in Knowhere, Mantis and Drax are two of the Reality Stone's most obvious victims. Drax is turned into a heap of cube-shaped stone and Mantis is unfolded like a spool of ribbon. Don't worry--they both get better the second Thanos leaves. Their temporary "deaths," however, were actually direct call outs to the fates of Nebula and Eros in the original Infinity Gauntlet comics mini series.
14. The Fate of the Power Stone
Thanos actually starts the movie with one Infinity Stone already set into the Gauntlet -- the purple Power Stone, which he got by "destroying Xandar." We got a firsthand look at both Xandar and its ruling body, the Nova Corps, during the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, where the stone was left in their care.
15. The Iron Spider Suit
The end of Spider-Man Homecoming is actually where the Iron Spider suit was introduced, but Peter rejected it the first time around. Thank goodness Tony kept it around, or things would have gotten pretty dicey for our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in this movie.
17. Torturing Strange
While Ebony Maw holds Doctor Strange captive on his spaceship, he uses a series of crystalline needles to effectively try and torture the Time Stone out of his grasp. This is a repurposed scene from the comics event Infinity, where Strange is actually imprisoned by the Maw in his own mind and tortured in a strikingly similar way.
18. Teen Groot is a Gamer
Teen Groot is a pretty relatable kid, considering he's actually an all-but-immortal tree alien. He spent about 80% of his time on screen in Infinity War with his face buried in a video game, the title of which is actually a double Easter Egg. It's a reference to both the game Defenders and Marvel's Defenders, the team of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage who currently exist in the strange liminal space of the Netflix MCU.
19. The Blue Man
The Russo Brothers continue their valiant efforts to blend the MCU and the world of Arrested Development after Civil War's Bluth Stair Car cameo. This time, it was Tobias Funke himself, in full Blue Man regalia, locked away in the Collector's vault. Apparently he blew himself straight into space.
20. The White Wolf
Bucky Barnes, the (ex?) Winter Soldier, is brought into the fray by T'Challa as he enjoys what looks like a pretty quiet, pastoral life. If you're confused as to exactly what happened to Bucky between the end of Captain America: Civil War and this moment, look to the post credits scene of Black Panther, where we see Bucky wake up in Wakanda, his brain washing "cured" by T'Challa's sister Shuri.
21. Doctor Strange's Time Stone
Like Thanos, Doctor Strange also starts the movie in possession of an Infinity Stone, but he didn't exactly destroy an entire planet to get it. The story of Strange and his relationship to the Eye of Agamotto, the locket in which the stone is kept, can be found in -- surprise! -- Doctor Strange, where he used it to defeat the ancient cosmic demon Dormammu.
22. Bruce Banner's Green Problem
Bruce Banner spends the entirety of Infinity War completely unable to transform into the Hulk. While we're still not exactly sure why that is, a lot of hints can be found in Thor: Ragnarok, where we learned that, prior to ending up on the ill fated Asgardian refugee ship, he spent several years on the planet Sakaar unable to turn back into Bruce Banner. It's also possible that Hulk simply doesn't want to emerge again after being defeated by Thanos in Infinity War's opening scene. The two of them have a lot to work out, and not a lot of time to do it.
23. The Secret Avengers
There's still quite a bit of tension between the two separate factions of the Avengers in the wake of Civil War, which is why it's actually a pretty big deal that Vision and Wanda were having their little romantic liaisons even now. It's also why Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, and Natasha Romanoff were able to burst into the scene like a well oiled machine when Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight attacked--they've been spending the last two years operating as fugitive superheroes.
24. Vision's Consciousness
While Vision obviously has the Mind Stone, a major element of Infinity War's plot revolves around the idea that more than just the Stone is what's keeping him sentient. Bruce banner rattles off a list of different sources for Vision's identity including himself, Tony Stark, Jarvis, and Ultron as different AI consciousnesses that are working and learning from one another inside him. We actually see this in action during Vision's creation back in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where he's first introduced as a repurposed body Ultron intends to hijack.
25. Killed by a Dark Elf
While Rocket tries to (awkwardly) console Thor prior to their arrival at Nidavellir, Thor gives a pretty bleak run down of his family history. We just watched Thanos murder Loki at the start of this movie. The sister? That's Hela, the villain of Thor: Ragnarok, which also happens to be the movie where Odin died. His mother who was killed by a Dark Elf? That's Friga, who was murdered by Malekith in Thor: The Dark World. And the "best friend," of course, was Heimdall, who also died in Infinity War's opening.
26. Off to Vormir
It may not look like much on screen but the planet Vormir actually is a place from Marvel comics--it's just not a very populated or important one. Vormir is a relatively backwater planet in one of the many arms of the Kree Empire, populated by lizard-like people who apparently have all either died off or peaced out for the MCU incarnation.
27. Keeping up with the Quills
When Peter tries to one-up Thor's tragic backstory, he talks about his traumatic experiences with his father--which also just so happens to be the plot of Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2. There we learn that Peter's father is actually Ego, the Living Planet, who seduced and impregnated his human mother in the process of trying to create a perfect heir.
28. Welcome to Nidavellir
To replace his lost hammer Mjolnir, Thor, Rocket and Groot travel to a place called Nidavellir, home of an ancient and magical forge built around the heart of a dying star. Nidavellir is actually one of the "nine realms" of Marvel's Norse mythology, recast for the MCU to actually be a totally independent planet-slash-space station rather than some sort of alternate dimension.
29. Watching the Sun Rise
Thanos's final moments in the film show him living out his own prophetic wishes--he wanted to watch the sun rise on a universe grateful for his accomplishments. This moment is actually borrowed and repurposed from the Infinity Gauntlet mini series where Thanos becomes a humble farmer after having his eyes opened to the truth of his endless quest to woo Mistress Death.
30. Calling Captain Marvel
In the final moments of the post-credits scene, we see that Nick Fury has sent a distress signal using what looks suspiciously like a very sci-fi 1990s beeper. The symbol on the screen loads as a gold star across a blue and red background--an icon associated with Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, who is set to debut in her very own solo movie come 2019.