In the opening scene on planet Earth in the year 1988, young Peter Quill sits in the waiting room of a hospital, listening to the Awesome Mix tape no. 1 on his walkman as his grandpa (Greg Henry) comes out and gets him so he can say goodbye to his mom who is dying from cancer. His dying mom gives him a present and tells him his father was an angel and that Peter is just like him. She asks for his hand, but he's too scared to take it. Just then, she dies. The distraught Peter runs outside and is abducted by a spaceship.
26 years later on the planet Morag, an adult Peter Quill A.K.A. The Star-lord (Chris Pratt) is searching for a mysterious Orb. He finds it as Korath (Djimon Hounsou) and his henchmen find Peter. After a shootout, Quill escapes and returns to his ship, Milano.
His partner/mentor Yondu (Michael Rooker) calls and tells him to give him the Orb. Quill decides he's going to sell it on his own.
On the Kree Warship, the Dark Aster, Korath reports to Ronan (Lee Pace) that he failed in getting the Orb and that it's in the hands of Quill. Ronan sends assassin Nebula (Karen Gillan) after him, but before she can go, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) volunteers instead.
On the planet Xandar, Quill takes the Orb to a buyer and asks what it is because Ronan's goons were after it too. The buyer suddenly doesn't want anything to do with it and kicks Peter out of his shop. Outside, Gamora jumps Peter and tries to retrieve the Orb herself. Nearby, Rocket Raccoon (voice of Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) see there's a bounty on Quill's head, so they join in the fight. Its not too long before they're all arrested by Nova HQ and sent to a space prison called The Kyln. (Note: Stan Lee has a cameo appearance as an old man on Xandar, chatting up with a young lady - Rocket calls him a pervert)
Pretty much everyone in prison wants to kill Gamora because she's the daughter of Thanos. Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) has a personal vendetta against her because Ronan killed his wife and daughter, so he wants to avenge them by taking the life of one of his family members in return. Gamora explains that shes also against Ronan and was planning on double crossing him. Quill steps in and helps argue in Gamora's favor.
At Sanctuary, Ronan reports to Thanos (Josh Brolin) that Gamora is a traitor. Thanos tells him to take care of her and get the Orb. He also notes that Gamora is his favorite daughter, which pisses of Nebula (his other daughter).
Everyone gets the stuff they need and make it to a guard station near the top of the prison. Rocket is surprised that Quill actually got the leg and says he didn't really need it. It was a joke. Rocket rigs up the stuff to turn off the gravity in the prison and to use the security droids as jets to fly the guard station out of the prison. They escape, but Quill goes back and gets his walkman from one of the guards.
Yondu goes to his broker and finds out Quill still has the Orb.
Before they can meet with the Collector, Drax, Rocket and Groot (all drunk) get into a big fight. Drax thinks Groot is dumb and Rocket is tired of people calling him a rodent. The Collector's assistant fetches them and they all go to meet him. Drax goes off on his own and makes a call.
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