Guardians of the Galaxy: the story so far ahead of the release of Guardians Vol. 3

Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 hits us this May, reuniting us with the most irreverent collective in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It's set to be writer-director James Gunn's final Guardians movie and, indeed, last ever Marvel movie, so you don't want to miss this historic moment in the saga.

Will this, in fact, be the final ride for the Guardians altogether? Never say never, but it can't be denied that these oddball outlaws have provided us with some of the most purely entertaining moments in the history of the MCU. And since it's been a while since the Guardians had the big screen all to themselves, we thought we'd recap the journey so far.

If you don't know your Quills from your Gamoras, your Yondus from your Nebulas, you've come to the right place. Starting with the very first Guardians of the Galaxy and spooling through to Guardians 3, here's the exhaustive history so far.


Guardians of the Galaxy (2014):

  • In 1988, the young Peter Quill loses his mother and is soon after abducted by space pirate Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his fellow Ravagers

  • In 2014, the now-adult Quill (Chris Pratt) has adopted the mantle of Star-Lord

  • He is apprehended on the planet of Morag while attempting to steal a mysterious orb

  • The treasure is coveted by the violent and power-hungry Kree fanatic known as Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace)

  • Escaping with the orb, Quill discovers that a bounty has been put on his head by Yondu



  • Meanwhile, Ronan has tasked Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to track down and kill Quill and retrieve the orb

  • Quill is later incarcerated by the Nova Corps forces along with Gamora, talking, gun-wielding, biologically engineered rodent Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and the tree-like humanoid Groot (Vin Diesel) who can only repeat the words 'I am Groot'

  • They also meet inmate Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) who is seeking revenge for the death of his family

  • Together they plot an escape to the planet of Knowhere, which is actually the gigantic, disembodied head of a dead Celestial

  • There, they discover that the orb actually houses the Power Stone, one of the all-powerful Infinity Stones that will eventually be coveted by Gamora's adoptive father Thanos (Josh Brolin)



  • Ronan's forces arrive and retrieve the stone, and he later threatens to use it to destroy Thanos

  • Thanos' other adopted daughter Nebula (Karen Gillan) sides with Ronan out of hatred for her father who has long tortured her and transformed her body into a biomechanical onslaught 

  • During the climactic battle on the planet of Xandar, Quill's team and the Nova Corps pair up to destroy Ronan who now has the stone embedded in his war hammer

  • In the process, Groot sacrifices himself, Nebula escapes and Quill acts as a distraction, grabbing the stone along with his compatriots and using its power to destroy Ronan

  • Now cemented as the Guardians of the Galaxy, the team has their criminal records wiped and Groot starts to grow again from a fresh sapling

  • Yondu reveals his relief that he didn't deliver Quill to his father as per the Ravagers' initial contract

  • Peter finally plucks up the courage to open his final present from his late mother: an Awesome Mix tape of her favourite songs, and the true meaning of the name Star-Lord is revealed




Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017):

  • Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Baby Groot are tasked by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), leader of the Sovereign race, to protect valuable batteries from Abilisk, an inter-dimensional monster

  • This is in exchange for Gamora's estranged sister Nebula, who was caught attempting to steal the batteries

  • Rocket betrays the Sovereigns and the team beats a retreat, only to find the Sovereigns' forces are destroyed by the mysterious Ego (Kurt Russell)

  • He reveals himself as Peter's demigod biological father and Ego then invites the Guardians to a sanctuary on the planet he created for himself

  • Meanwhile, Yondu is tasked with retrieving Quill but he vacillates, regarding himself as Quill's adoptive father



  • Nebula vows to track down and destroy Gamora, blaming the latter for the torture inflicted on her by Thanos

  • Ego, a Celestial, spins the story of how he came to Earth in humanoid form and fell in love with Quill's late mother Meredith (Laura Haddock)

  • Ego reveals he hired Yondu to collect the young Quill after Meredith's death, but the boy was never delivered and Ego has been searching for him ever since

  • Ego's grand plan involves terraforming multiple versions of himself on different planets by impregnating many different women across the galaxy

  • However, his terraforming plan cannot come to fruition without the combined power of two Celestials



  • All of the subsequent children born out of Ego's unions are revealed to have been killed by him after failing to attain the appropriate Celestial power

  • Peter is the only surviving child to bear these extraordinary abilities

  • Ego also reveals that he killed Peter's mother, implanting a brain tumour in her head after she posed a distraction to his mission

  • Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Ego's empathic servant, warns Drax of her master's plan, and Gamora and Nebula, now under a reluctant truce, also discover the truth about Ego's true nature

  • Ego attempts to draw his Celestial power from Peter to propagate his influence across the galaxy



  • Peter and the Guardians ally with Yondu's Ravagers to fight back against Ego, who is eventually killed 

  • With Ego's planet also destroyed, Yondu dies in the process, leading to a solemn process of remembrance

  • The vengeful Ayesha creates Adam Warlock, a genetically engineered super-being who will be used to destroy the Guardians



Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

  • The Mad Titan known as Thanos despairs at what he perceives to be the imbalance in the universe

  • He plots to track down the Infinity Stones to destroy 50% of all life in existence, and only the disbanded Avengers team stands in his way

  • To realise his plan, Thanos requires the Power, Soul, Time, Mind, Space and Reality stones that he will then insert into his Infinity Gauntlet

  • The Guardians of the Galaxy answer a distress call and rescue Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who has witnessed Thanos extracting the Space Stone from the Tesseract before killing his adoptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston)

  • Thor, Rocket and Groot travel to Nidavellir to enlist the dwarf king Eitri's (Peter Dinklage) aid in creating the battle-axe Stormbreaker



  • Meanwhile, Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, and Mantis travel to Knowhere, only to discover that Thanos already has the Reality Stone

  • Thanos kidnaps Gamora, who discloses the Soul Stone's location to save Nebula from torture

  • On the planet of Vormir, a conflicted Thanos is informed by the spirit of the villainous Red Skull (Ross Marquand), the former nemesis of Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), that he must make a sacrifice in order to retrieve the Soul Stone

  • Thanos ultimately sacrifices his favourite daughter to claim the gem

  • Nebula compels the remaining Guardians to meet her on Thanos' home planet of Titan where they also meet Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and Doctor Strange/Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)



  • On the verge of being subdued and disempowered without his Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos then mockingly tells Quill that he has killed Gamora

  • Enraged, Quill snaps and Thanos seizes the advantage, again overpowering his enemies and wounding Stark

  • Strange offers the Time Stone in exchange for Stark's life, and also reveals that he has searched the breadth of time and space for an infinitesimal chance of the Avengers defeating Thanos

  • In the kingdom of Wakanda, Thanos claims the Mind stone from the head of Vision (Paul Bettany), completing the gauntlet

  • The newly arrived Thor, now wielding his new axe Stormbreaker, almost succeeds in destroying Thanos but the latter snaps his fingers and teleports away

  • 50% of all life in the universe is extinguished including most of the remaining Guardians; only Nebula and Rocket remain behind



Avengers: Endgame (2019)

  • Five years after the 'snap', an unexpected saviour emerges in the form of Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who was stranded in the timeless Quantum Realm during Thanos' rampage

  • He convinces the remaining Avengers that the Realm can be used to time travel, allowing them to go back and prevent Thanos from claiming the Infinity Stones in the first place

  • Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Rocket travel to Norway to enlist the help of the now overweight and despondent Thor who has never forgiven himself for failing to stop Thanos

  • Using the Quantum Realm, Rocket and Thor travel to Asgard in 2013 where the former extracts the Reality Stone from Jane Foster (Natalie Portman)

  • Again using the power of the Realm, Nebula and War Machine/James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) travel to Morag in 2014 to retrieve the Power Stone before Star-Lord can claim it



  • The 2014 iteration of Thanos learns of the Avengers' intentions when Nebula's cybernetic implants link with her past self

  • Realising his future self is poised for success, 2014-Thanos sends 2014-Nebula forward in time to prepare for his arrival

  • Returning to the present day with the Infinity Stones, the surviving Avengers, now absent the recently sacrificed Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), build a new gauntlet to reverse Thanos' actions

  • Banner snaps the gauntlet as he reasons he is best positioned to withstand the radioactive fallout from the snap



  • However, 2014-Nebula, impersonating her future self, has already managed to transport 2014-Thanos and his warship to the present, and the Avengers compound is destroyed

  • In the final battle with Thanos' forces, all seems lost until Stephen Strange arrives through a portal, having mustered the newly revived and unblipped forces to battle against Thanos' army, including the resurgent Guardians of the Galaxy

  • Stark eventually gains the upper hand, snapping the gauntlet with the Infinity Stones inserted and destroying Thanos for good

  • Following Tony Stark's funeral, Thor appoints Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) as the king of new Asgard and joins the Guardians aboard their ship



Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

  • Following their brief appearance at the start of Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), the Guardians are treated to their first solo movie in six years

  • Peter Quill must come to terms with the fact that 2014-Gamora does not love him as much as the original Gamora who died during the events of Avengers: Infinity War

  • Rocket Racoon, meanwhile, comes to terms with his bio-engineered past at the hands of the villainous High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji)

  • The High Evolutionary is a scientist from Counter-Earth who specialises in creating hybrid creatures, seeking to forcibly enhance all living beings into a "special race"

  • With the help of the similarly engineered Cosmo the Spacedog (Maria Bakalova), the Guardians confront the High Evolutionary's cruel legacy

  • On top of all this, the Guardians must contend with the super-engineered Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) who has been specially created to destroy them



Up to speed? Excellent – then hit the link below to secure your Guardians tickets. The movie hits Cineworld screens on May 3rd.