Braving AMC Theatres’ epic Avengers movie marathon today? We applaud your stamina – and your chutzpah. (Not just anyone has the stones to fake the flu so they can watch grown men run around in silly costumes for nearly 14 hours.) Contrary to some joyless jerk’s belief, watching six movies in a row isn’t easy; while the spirit is willing, the flesh requires multiple snack and bathroom breaks. Luckily, EW is here to help.
We’ve carefully examined all five Avengers prequels – Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America – to determine when it’s safe to duck out of the theater without having to worry about missing anything important. (Read: Fight scenes and shots of Scarlett Johansson.) Load up this page before the marathon starts at 11:30 – by the time midnight rolls around, you’ll be prepared to sit still for a full two hours and 22 minutes as Joss Whedon’s new epic plays.
You’re welcome, America.
Break #1: The Incredible Hulk’s incredibly inessential chase scene
The marathon’s first flick is Iron Man – an action-packed joyride that’s pretty perfect from start to finish. Because it’s such a strong movie – and because it plays at the beginning of the marathon, when you’re still convinced that watching six of these in a row is a good idea – we recommend staying put throughout its run. Your attention may flag at the beginning of The Incredible Hulk, though.
We’d understand leaving during the opening credits, which explain the Hulk’s back story via montage. But it makes more sense to stay seated until around 16 minutes in, when the forces of nefarious Emile Blonsky arrive in Brazil to capture Bruce Banner. The chase that follows is pretty dull, especially since Banner doesn’t even transform into his green alter ego until he’s been pursued for nearly eight minutes. As it plays, you’ll have time to both visit the porcelain throne and refill the popcorn tub you devoured during Iron Man.
Break #2: Justin Hammer’s endless weapons revue
After seeing Hulk smash up Harlem, you’ll welcome Tony Stark back for Iron Man 2. Stay in your seat until about an hour and 10 minutes into the movie, when Nick Fury gives Stark a box of his father Howard’s stuff. After this scene, defense contractor Justin Hammer shows up at Edwards Air Force Base and proceeds to show off a bunch of different guns for three plodding minutes. It’s fun to watch if you’re into artillery – but skippable for everyone else.
The next scene, in which Tony goes through his dad’s box, also isn’t crucial viewing – though it is a kick to see Mad Men’s John Slattery play Stark the Elder in an old video. Take this six-minute opportunity to quickly call your own parents and tell them you love them.
Break #3: Thor’s pit-stop-worthy romantic interlude
The most fantastical Avengers flick is also the franchise’s funniest movie; at times, it’s more “ ‘Crocodile Dundee’ meets Hagar the Horrible” than superhero epic. But don’t skip out on the scenes that are there for comic relief – you’ll want a bit of levity before the more serious and earnest Captain America plays.
Instead, hang tight until after evil Loki tells sentry Heimdall that the gatekeeper is now under his command. If you leave then – around the hour and 11 minute mark – you’ll only miss a pair of inconsequential scenes: Thor brings a drunk Dr. Erik Selvig back to Jane Foster’s trailer, and then he and the lady scientist share a moment by a crackling fire. Take five minutes to run to the bathroom. Only look in the mirror if you dare.
Break #4: Captain America’s bad German
You’re in the homestretch now – this patriotic humdinger is all that stands between you and sweet, sweet Avengers assemblage. Its Arctic prologue is a bit of a snooze, but we don’t recommend taking a break that early in the film. Stick around through Steve Rogers’ epic transformation, a thrilling rescue mission, and the heartbreaking (apparent) death of plucky Bucky Barnes – around an hour and 30 minutes of movie total.
Following Bucky’s fall, Col. Chester Phillips brings a juicy steak to Nazi baddie Arnim Zola, and wicked Red Skull fires up his computer-generated Hydra troops. As these scenes play, feel free to peace out for five-ish minutes and visit the concessions stand. There, you can enjoy a piping hot dog – the steak of movie theater snack bars.
And after that? Return to your seat, sit back, and relax. It’ll only be an hour and change before The Avengers finally hits your screen. Congratulations, soldier; you’ve earned this.