Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 will be arriving in theaters on May 5, 2023. Vol 3 is the second movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Five, following another threequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Marketed as the final outing for this iteration of the Guardians team, the movie offers writer and director James Gunn a chance to sign his Guardians trilogy before he disappears into the undiscovered country (that is, running the picture show for the Distinguished Competition).

In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know heading into the third Guardians flick. Be forewarned that this article includes spoilers for every MCU movie and Disney+ special featuring the Guardians (excluding the forthcoming Vol 3).

Star-Lord & Co.

Gamora (Zoë Saldaña), Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), and Groot (Vin Diesel) in a lineup for the Nova Corps.

“What a bunch of A-holes.”

The titular team made their first appearance in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. This groundbreaking MCU movie captivated audiences from its very first teaser trailer, which featured footage of sci-fi action and adventure set to a soundtrack of “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Suede. The movie introduced Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), aka Star-Lord. Abducted from Earth by Yondu (Michael Rooker) and the Ravagers as a child, Quill’s attempt to obtain an orb leads him into conflict with the characters who will eventually become part of the Guardians’ roster. These characters include Gamora (Zoë Saldaña), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel).

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The Guardians took the orb to the Collector (Benicio Del Toro) on Knowhere, a space station located within a late Celestial’s skull. Here the Collector revealed the orb contained the Power Stone. The power of the stone caused the destruction of the Collector’s facility and the subsequent escape of both Howard the Duck (Seth Green) and Cosmo the Spacedog (Maria Bakalova). Unfortunately, the stone fell into the hands of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). Hired by Thanos (Josh Brolin) to locate the stone, Ronan instead hoarded its power for himself.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Powered by the stone, Ronan attacked Xander. Concurrently, the Guardians attempted to recover the Power Stone. Meanwhile, Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) also sought to recover the stone, motivated by a need to prove herself to their adoptive father, Thanos. Ultimately, the combined efforts of the Guardians gave the team the ability to physically seize the stone from Ronan and save Xandar. However, the elder Groot died during the battle. The team was rewarded by the Nova Corps with a rebuilt Milano and the exoneration of their criminal records.

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During the end credits, it is revealed that Groot has regenerated as a small dancing sapling. In addition to the movie’s irreverent comedy and impressive visual effects, audiences were wowed by the retro pop song soundtrack. The diegetic music was comprised of retro pop songs from a mixtape made for young Quill by his late mother, Meredith Quill (Laura Haddock). 

At the conclusion of Vol 1, Quill finally opens a wrapped gift from his mother, revealing a second mixtape.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista),Peter Quill (Chris Evans), Ego (Kurt Russell), and Gamora (Zoë Saldaña) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.

Family time.

The eponymous team returned in the sequel, 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In the opening sequence, the team defeats an unimaginable horror from beyond the stars. This gig is performed on behalf of the Sovereign, led by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). In exchange, the Sovereign-imprisoned Nebula is released to the Guardians. However, Rocket steals from the Sovereign, resulting in their pursuit and the destruction of their ship, the Milano.

While marooned, the Guardians meet Ego (Kurt Russell), who takes them to his living planet. En route they also meet Mantis (Pom Klementieff). On Ego’s planet, it is revealed that Ego is Quill’s father. Furthermore, Ego has impregnated many women, hoping to impart his superhuman abilities to his offspring. However, these attempts have proven fatal for most of the mothers and children. Learning this information is what inspired Yondu to raise Quill rather than deliver him to Ego.

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In the meantime, Nebula escapes captivity and attacks Gamora. Eventually, the sisters come to an uneasy alliance. The original Guardians team is joined by Nebula, Mantis, Yondu, and next-generation Ravager Kraglin Obfonteri (Sean Gunn). While they eventually prevail against Ego, Yondu dies during the battle. However, his status as an official Ravager is posthumously reinstated.

At the conclusion of the movie, Kraglin gifts Quill a Zune filled with Earth music. Meanwhile, Nebula departs from the team. Elsewhere, it is revealed that the Sovereign possess a cocoon containing Adam Warlock (Will Poulter).

Avengers Time

Quill (Chris Pratt), Groot (Vin Diesel), Gamora (Zoë Saldaña), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Rocket (Bradley Cooper).

A growing team.

Thanks to narrative proximity to Thanos, the Guardians played a significant supporting role in the next two Avengers movies. During these appearances, they traveled aboard a new ship, the Benatar. In 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, the Guardians team rescued Thor (Chris Hemsworth) after his Asgardian refugee ship was destroyed. Soon they became embroiled in an outright conflict with Thanos during a return trip to Knowhere. Subsequently, Gamora was captured by Thanos, who revealed he was torturing Nebula. 

Thanos extorts Gamora into helping him obtain the Soul Stone. In the process, Gamora is killed. Later, on a distant planet, the Guardians and several Avengers confront Thanos. The team-up is almost successful in their objective of defeating the Mad Titan. However, Quill realizes Thanos killed Gamora. His subsequent assault allows Thanos to regain the upper hand and disintegrate half of all life in the universe. This includes Quill, Mantis, Groot, and Drax.

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The surviving Guardians continue to work together over the five-year in-universe interval, until the events of 2019’s Avengers: EndgameEventually, temporal shenanigans lead to the presence of time-travel duplicate version of Nebula. The younger version of Nebula infiltrates Avengers Headquarters and uses the time machine to bring time-travel duplicate versions of Thanos and Gamora to the present day. Thanos subsequently destroys the facility. However, 2023 Nebula eventually is able to dispatch her younger self. 

Fortunately, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is able to use a set of time-travel duplicate Infinity Stones to un-do the fatal effects of Thanos’ snap. With the entire Avengers roster reinstated, dozens of heroes join forces to defeat Thanos. Later, the time-travel duplicate Gamora vanishes, and the Guardians leave Earth accompanied by Thor.

Phase Four

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) in Thor: Love and Thunder.

Tied-up Star-Lord.

The post-Blip Guardians team appeared in 2022’s Thor: Love and Thunder, directed by Taika Waititi. During this period, Thor and Korg (Waititi) joined the Guardians for several adventures. Eventually, Thor and Korg departed from the team roster. The Guardians appeared only in the movie’s first act.

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The Guardians returned to being written and directed by Gunn in 2022’s The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special on Disney+. This hilarious special saw the team taking over Knowhere, where Cosmo continues to work and reside. Meanwhile, Drax and Mantis attempted to cheer Quill up with a special holiday gift: Kevin Bacon. The Special also saw the debut of the new Guardians vessel, the Bowie, as well as the revelation that Ego was also the father of Mantis.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

While it isn’t currently clear what circumstances will arise to cause the reunion, it has been confirmed that Gamora will be returning for Vol 3. Are you looking forward to tripping through space with the Guardians one more time? What songs do you hope will be included on the final soundtrack?

The MCU movies and shows are available for streaming on Disney Plus.


Avery Kaplan