Famous to some and infamous to others, the fabled Guardians of the Galaxy are prepped and ready for one last ride with the hugely anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The film is primed to be the definitive conclusion of a decade-long journey. The ragtag team of space-faring adventurers, consisting of Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Nebula (Karen Gillan) have been fighting intergalactic bad guys since 2014. In that time, they’ve fought a hammer-wielding zealot, a self-absorbed living planet, a gem-hunting mad titan, and more, but not even those adventures can adequately prepare them for their next adventure.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is being marketed as the ultimate swan song for director James Gunn‘s beloved franchise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The tagline itself implies this is the end with the phrase “Once more with feeling.” As the Guardians prepare to face their fears, their pasts, and a bold new enemy in the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), it’s fair to ask how we got here. If you’ve been searching for a comprehensive history of the Guardians of the Galaxy in the MCU up until this point, look no further, as we at Collider can quickly recap everything you need to know before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 gets us hooked on a feeling one more time.
Peter Quill Becomes an Unlikely Leader in the First ‘Guardians of the Galaxy
The story of Guardians of the Galaxy begins with the original film of the same name. Here, we’re introduced to once-normal human Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), who prefers the epic title of Star-Lord. When Peter was a child, a group of space pirates called the Ravagers abducted Peter shortly after his mother died of cancer. The Ravagers were hired by Living Planet and Peter’s father, Ego (Kurt Russell), to retrieve the boy. The Ravager captain Yondu (Michael Rooker) had a soft spot for the boy, though, and allowed him to join the crew. Thus, Peter became a self-proclaimed master thief and outlaw, repeatedly butting heads with Yondu but still harboring a level of respect for each other. Peter’s life changes forever when he gets a tip about a powerful artifact, which ends up being one of the six Infinity Stones.
Peter isn’t the only one who wants the stone, as he quickly gets the unwanted attention of Thanos the Mad Titan (Josh Brolin) and Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), who then set Thanos’ adopted daughter Gamora after the stone. Unbeknownst to the villains, Gamora isn’t keen on galactic domination and becomes an unlikely ally to Peter. While trapped in prison for causing a stir on Xandar Prime, Peter, and Gamora recruit three other crew members with genetically engineered raccoon Rocket, a repetitive tree alien named Groot, and a vengeful meathead named Drax. They are hardly as tight of a unit as the Avengers, but ultimately, the newly formed Guardians unite to defeat Ronan and save the galaxy.
Peter Loses a Father Figure in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 picks up relatively soon after the first film’s events, as Peter and the rest of the Guardians have developed a stellar reputation across the galaxy for stopping Ronan. That’s not to say they still don’t get into trouble. They do when Rocket decides to steal some batteries from the Sovereign Empire – a group of gold-skinned bureaucrats who see themselves as the ultimate lifeforms in the galaxy. While escaping the Sovereign, the team meets with Ego and his empath assistant Mantis. Ego quickly reveals himself as Peter’s father and tells his son that he is part Celestial, making Peter an all-powerful god.
On the other side of the galaxy, Yondu is also reeling from the first film’s events, wishing he could repair his damaged relationship with Peter. Yondu gets his chance when Peter and the Guardians discover what kind of a monster Ego really is. Not only does Peter learn that Ego murdered his mother, but he also plans to erase all life from the galaxy and start over. The Guardians know they have to stop Ego (and the still-angry Sovereign who wishes to kill them), but they’re able to just barely to stop Ego’s plan. This is not a happy ending though, as Yondu sacrifices his own life to keep Peter alive, leaving the Guardians and his fellow Ravagers to mourn him.
The end credits scene also reveals we haven’t seen the last of the Sovereign, as Queen Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) is set to make an all-new perfect lifeform in Adam Warlock (Will Poulter).
Gamora Meets Her End in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’
All facets of the Marvel Cinematic Universe collide in Avengers: Infinity War, and the Guardians find themselves in the middle of the conflict when they answer an Asgardian distress signal. When they arrive at the destroyed ship, they run into Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who tells them that Thanos has already acquired two of the six Infinity Stones. Thor takes Rocket and Groot with him to get himself a new weapon, while the rest of the Guardians head to Knowhere – the base of the Collector (Benicio Del Toro) who has the Reality Stone. The team walks right into a trap and Thanos takes Gamora with her to find the location of the Soul Stone.
Thus, Thanos and Gamora ultimately arrive in Vormir, but as the guardian of this vast domain tells the Mad Titan, the only way to get the stone is to sacrifice what he loves most. With psychotic tears in his eyes, Thanos hurls Gamora over the cliffside, killing her instantly. Unaware that their team member has been murdered, Peter, Drax, and Mantis have allied with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) to set a trap for Thanos. The trap succeeds, but Peter loses his cool when he learns Thanos murdered Gamora, and unintentionally frees Thanos to go get the rest of the Infinity Stones. As a result, Thanos commits the infamous snap, erasing all the Guardians of the Galaxy members out of existence. All except Rocket.
Rocket Helps the Avengers Undo the Blip in ‘Avengers: Endgame’
The next five years are a challenging time for the remaining heroes of the MCU, especially for Rocket, who has now lost his entire family. He does find some comfort in Nebula – Gamora’s sister who went from a fierce enemy of the Guardians to a dedicated friend. Odds are Rocket and Nebula would be willing to do anything to get their friends back, and thankfully they get their chance when the Avengers crack the code on time travel. Through the use of Pym Particles and a lot of luck, the Avengers are able to get all the Infinity Stones and undo the Snap. However, their time-jumping adventures attracted the attention of a past version of Thanos, who is now bringing his entire army with him to defeat these troublesome heroes.
With the snap undone, the Guardians of the Galaxy have been brought back for Avengers: Endgame‘s climactic finale. That is all except Gamora, who of course died before the snap. However, the past version of Thanos all brought with him a past version of Gamora, though she is from a time before she met Peter and the other Guardians. Still, this variant of Gamora still has a conscience and ultimately sides against her father in the battle. Thanos and his army are finally defeated thanks to Iron Man’s sacrifice, but the Gamora variant does survive and goes off to find a new place in the future she now lives in. Not knowing what else to do, the Guardians grab their ship and go back to stopping galactic crime, now having a temporary new member in Thor.
The Guardians Briefly Help Thor in ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’
Thor’s tenure with the Guardians of the Galaxy is short-lived in Thor: Love and Thunder, but they did embark on quite a few adventures in that time. Thor was perhaps a bit too overpowered for the crew, being able to eliminate entire armies as if they were nothing. Despite his awesome power and good-hearted nature, the Guardians were getting tired of Thor and his clear case of untreated depression. Thor decides to depart the team when he learns of the god-butchering Gorr (Christian Bale), but Peter gives the God of Thunder some encouraging words about coping with grief before they go their separate ways.
Mantis Gives Peter the Best Christmas Ever in ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’
The most recent appearance of the Guardians of the Galaxy came in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which is much more than a disposable short. We get some big information here, such as that the Guardians have bought the settlement of Knowhere and that Mantis has secretly been Peter’s sister this entire time. Peter is also still in a deep depression after losing Gamora, and Drax and Mantis come up with the idea of giving Peter is first Christmas celebration in decades. It’s a messy ordeal as they kidnap Kevin Bacon to make Peter happy, but the team overall has an incredible familial celebration for the holiday season. The special ends with Mantis revealing her secret to Peter, showing that the rugged space scoundrel still has family left in the galaxy.