This post was originally published in 2016, but has been updated throughout.
MacGuffin, MacGuffin … now where did I put that MacGuffin? You may find yourself asking this question as you struggle to remember the locations of all of the magic Marvel-movie rocks known as the Infinity Stones. That’s a bit of a problem, as they’re quite important to the MCU’s overall arc — the franchise’s Big Bad, Thanos, is on the hunt for them. When he inevitably obtains (at least some of) ’em, technicolor hell will break loose in Avengers: Infinity War.
Here’s their overall deal: They’re six glowing rocks infused with immense mystical powers. They were forged eons ago by some elder gods known as the Cosmic Entities, and were then scattered across the cosmos. Anyone who can gather them all up and put them in a big ol’ glove called the Infinity Gauntlet will become near omnipotent. Thanos is an intergalactic nasty-man who wants to avenge the death of his home world of Titan by taking out half the life in the universe, and his plan is to use the Gauntlet and its Stones to carry out that confusing task. However, first he’s gotta catch ’em all. Here’s a rundown of all six and what we know about them, so far.
The Space Stone
What it is/was contained in: The Tesseract, that glowing blue cube from The Avengers.
What it does: Lets you travel anywhere in the universe.
Where we’ve seen it already: This was the first Stone we saw and we’ve seen it plenty of times since then. In Thor, we learned that Asgardian alpha papa Odin had his paws on the Tesseract for a very long time, but it ended up on Earth — Norway, specifically — for about a millennium. It was dug up by the world’s ugliest Nazi, the Red Skull, during World War II, but Captain America snatched it from him during the climax of Captain America: The First Avenger and crashed into the ocean with it in the back of his plane. Tony Stark’s dad found it and gave it to the prototype version of S.H.I.E.L.D. for analysis. Loki showed up to steal it and subsequently used it to launch his invasion of Earth in The Avengers. After he was defeated, his half-bro Thor took it back to Asgard, only for Loki to regain it in Thor: Ragnarok. Trailers for Infinity War seem to confirm that it’s still in his possession.
The Reality Stone
What it is/was contained in: The Aether, the red goo from Thor: The Dark World.
What it does: Gives you superstrength and sundry other superpowers.
Where we’ve seen it already: Like the Tesseract, the Aether was a Thor-related treasure. As we saw in Thor: The Dark World, a group of naughty fellows known as the Dark Elves used it as a weapon in an ancient war against the Asgardians. The latter clan, victorious, claimed it and hid it away. The Dark Elves came back and snagged it once again, but Thor and his plucky gang stole it back again, again. His Asgardian chums gave it to an outer-space eccentric known as the Collector for safe keeping, but the Collector also expressed his desire to track down the rest of the stones for his own purposes. It’s unclear what happened to the Reality Stone after the Collector’s lair got blown up near the end of Guardians of the Galaxy.
The Power Stone
What it is/was contained in: The Orb, the metal sphere from Guardians of the Galaxy.
What it does: Fires off enough energy to destroy planets, if you use it right (er, maybe “right” isn’t a good word choice).
Where we’ve seen it already: This was the thing everyone was after in Guardians. The Orb was hidden in a vault in a galaxy far, far away, but Star-Lord stole it. Right afterward, Ronan the Accuser stole it from him on orders from Thanos, but decided to use it as a weapon to blow up Planet Xandar. The Guardians foiled his plot, got the stone-containing sphere, and gave it over to the interplanetary police force known as the Nova Corps. Doesn’t seem like things’ll work out super well for them.
The Mind Stone
What it is/was contained in: Loki’s Scepter from The Avengers, then Vision’s head.
What it does: Processes information like a very advanced computer; allows you to control people’s minds.
Where we’ve seen it already: Thanos had this one, initially. He gave it to Loki when he bade the latter to invade Earth on his behalf in The Avengers. Screwup that he is, Loki managed to lose his stone-containing Scepter to the Avengers, who then gave it to S.H.I.E.L.D. Unlucky for them, a frustrated employee sold it out to the sinister HYDRA network, but the Avengers grabbed it from them in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Tony Stark tried experimenting on the Scepter, but his evil robot baby Ultron stole it and used it to hypnotize a scientist named Helen Cho into helping him build a humanoid robot. The stone brought the robot to life, but he turned out to be a good guy, earning the moniker of Vision. Vision, with the stone on his forehead, is now an Avenger.
The Time Stone
What it is/was contained in: The Eye of Agamotto from Doctor Strange.
What it does: Manipulate time, duh.
Where we’ve seen it already: This sucker was the last to pop up onscreen, making its debut in 2016’s Doctor Strange. There, it was contained in the amulet known as the Eye of Agamotto, which we first see as a relic held by the ancient order of sorcerers that Strange enters. Strange reads about the Eye and tests it out, learning that it has the ability to move objects and people backward and forward in the fourth dimension. He ends up using it to memorable effect in the climax of the film, running time backward to enter another dimension and confront the dread Dormammu, a villain whom he routed after sticking the two of them in a torturous time loop. Strange was last seen wearing the Eye in a necklace while having a chat with Thor and Loki in Ragnarok, so presumably the strange doctor still has his delicate mitts on it.
The Soul Stone
What it is/was contained in: Unknown.
What it does: Who knows! This baby hasn’t shown up yet, as far as we know. In comics lore, the Soul Stone (well, the Soul Gem — the stones are all called gems there) has hard-to-describe properties, like the ability to steal your soul or return you to your natural state if you’ve been warped in some way.
Where we’ve seen it already: We haven’t! Unless this guy was cleverly disguised as something else, he hasn’t made his debut. Presumably, Infinity War will reveal where it’s been stored away. Black Panther took us to the South Korean city of Busan — maybe the soul stone is stored in that nation’s capital?