After 10 years of storytelling and world-building, the MCU has become the epitome of franchise filmmaking, and there’s some pretty genius foreshadowing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that helped get to this point. Even when Iron Man first hit theaters in 2008 and Marvel Studios barely had an idea of how large their franchise would become, they were dropping hints about a bigger universe. From that film on, every addition to the MCU continued to push toward a boiling point, and that happened in Avengers: Infinity War.
Marvel Studios hid clues about Infinity War in plain sight for more than a decade, and although most of them were caught by obsessive fans, there were still plenty of surprises left. The Infinity Stones themselves were teased, introduced, and explained across multiple films, and Thanos made several cameos before taking a lead role. Not all foreshadowing was quite so obvious, however. Even seemingly innocuous lines of dialogue throughout the MCU pointed towards the destiny that would one day arrive.
Thanos’s Very First Appearance Hinted At His Deadly Intentions
Thanos has no dialogue during his brief post-credits appearance in The Avengers, but he does flash a smile to the audience that hints at his dark intentions. The grin comes as a response to The Other’s statement that, “to challenge [Earth] is the court death.” While many fans and critics at the time thought that this was a reference to Thanos’s infatuation with the personification of Death in comic books, it turned out to be foreshadowing for his deadly cosmic culling in Infinity War.
The Infinity Stones Were Officially Named In 'Thor: The Dark World'
Although three Infinity Stones — Space, Mind, and Reality — had already appeared in the MCU by the time Thor: The Dark World ended, that film’s post-credits scene marked the first time that they were actually referred to by their true name. In the scene, Volstagg and Lady Sif deliver the Aether (the Reality Stone) to the Collector for safekeeping in Knowhere. Volstagg notes that, “The Tesseract is already on Asgard. It is not wise to keep two Infinity Stones so close together.” Ten movies later, Thanos came knocking to retrieve the Reality Stone.
Thanos Hints At His Potential When He Dresses Down Ronan The Accuser
Thanos only appears briefly in Guardians of the Galaxy, but it was more than enough for audiences to see his potential as the ultimate villain of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thanos gives Ronan the Accuser a vicious verbal smackdown after an entire film hsetting him up as an incredibly powerful bad guy. When Thanos tells Ronan he has the “demeanor of a pouty child” and notes that Ronan's politics bore him, it gives a hint that Thanos is on an entirely different level than the everyday villains of the MCU.
In 'Guardians Of The Galaxy,' We First Hear That Thanos Loves Gamora The Most
In Guardians of the Galaxy, when Thanos blames Ronan the Accuser for alienating his "favorite daughter, Gamora,” it seems more like a cruel comment directed at his other daughter, Nebula, was in the room at the time. Of course, once Infinity War rolled around, audiences learned Thanos truly meant what he said. It hints at just how important Gamora is to her adoptive father, and prepares us for Thanos trading the one thing he loves to receive the Soul Stone.