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I was re-watching the Marvel Phase 1 movies and I couldn't really understand Loki's motives for conquering Earth. During Thor he falls to his apparent death and in The Avengers we find out that he hasn't died but has been with Thanos who gives him his new sceptre and the Chitauri army to conquer the planet.

But what is Loki's plan? Isn't he after Asgard and Odin's throne, and how does Earth fit in all of this?

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So ruling the entire Earth isn't good enough motive for you? – Valorum Mar 14 at 10:28
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Loki is quite keen to rule Asgard but it looks like he'd be happy ruling at least one of the Nine Realms (one of the nice ones, anyway) as a booby prize – Valorum Mar 14 at 10:29
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He wants people to bow down to him and to respect him as a king – sluger Mar 14 at 11:11
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Earth has nothing to do with Thanos' plans. Loki just wanted somewhere to rule. In exchange of Loki's services to Thanos, Thanos granted power and army for Loki. Thanos only wanted the Tesseract which Earthlings had at that time. To achieve this, he gave Loki the Scepter and the army. Loki failed anyway (or did he?)... But if we focus on the reason why Loki chose Earth to become its ruler, I'd say, it's because his jealousy of Thor. Because Thor's relationship with humans on Earth and becoming an ally to them, Loki went after the throne of Earth. – apollo Mar 14 at 12:03
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Does he need a reason? Loki is basically the Joker of the MCU. He's the Trickster God. Sometimes he just does things for no reason because it seems like fun. – Darrel Hoffman Mar 14 at 19:53

There are multiple reasons for why Loki attacked Earth.

The first and most obvious motive is also the simplest - Revenge.

From Avengers Assemble;

Thor: We were raised together, we played together, we fought together. Do you remember none of that?
Loki: I remember a shadow, living in the shade of your greatness. I remember you tossing me into an abyss, I who was and should be king!
Thor: So you take the world I love as recompense for your imagined slights? No, the Earth is under MY protection, Loki!

Loki has always felt that he was over-looked by Odin in favour of Thor, the true born son of Odin and the first in line for the throne. He's jealous and angry, and he thinks that he would make a much better king than Thor would - so after Thor ruins his plan to rule Asgard (the events of Thor), he chooses to take revenge against his brother by attacking the world that Thor loves.

The second reason is that he was asked to.

A long-running but (as of yet) unresolved plot throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far is that Thanos wants to unite the six Infinity Stones. One of these, the Space Gem, is stored inside the Tesseract, which the Red Skull used to power Hydra weapons in Captain America: The First Avenger and at the start of Avengers Assemble is being experimented on in SHIELD.

Thanos gifted Loki the sceptre that he wields throughout The Avengers in order to retrieve and return the Tesseract to him. In return, he gives Loki a Chitauri army with which to attack the planet. This is beneficial for both Thanos and Loki - Loki gains the ability to travel to Earth and an army with which to take it, and Thanos gets the Space Gem.

The third reason is a little more complicated and (as of yet) mostly guesswork - but Loki needed to return to Asgard.

After falling off the Bifrost Bridge, Loki had no real way to return to Asgard, the place that he wishes to rule. However, by attacking Earth (and losing the war), Thor takes him back to Asgard to be imprisoned in the dungeons. Loki later uses this imprisonment to his advantage, and as of the end of Thor: The Dark World actually manages to take control of Asgard without anyone knowing - becoming the King that he originally wanted to be way back in Thor.

How much of this was planned out in advance is still currently unknown, but knowing that Loki is the God of Mischief means that this could well be a very valid reason for why he attacked Earth - the first part in a much larger plan.

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According to the junior novelisation for Avengers Assemble, Loki's motive in trying to take over Midgard was ... erm ... so that he could take over Midgard.

Loki was pleased. Thor and Odin thought him dead. He’d tricked them when he fell from the Bifrost. They would not be interfering with his plan. He’d find a way to send himself, body and soul, back to Midgard, and once he was there, he would rule these simple mortals, in a way he wasn’t able to rule Asgard.

A Realm would be his at last — just as he deserved.

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I would like to add to Dr. R Drizzle's good answer with the following Loki quotes:

Kneel before me. I said, KNEEL! [Loki stamps his scepter on the ground, causing a shockwave that intimidates the crowd into silence as they all kneel before him] Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It's the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life's joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.

And the memorable scene at the end of the movie before the Hulk rag-dolls Loki:

Enough! You are, all of you are beneath me! I am a god, you dull creature, and I will not be bullied by... [Hulk smash]

Loki is a god. As such he demands worship and believes that dominating earth is simply the natural order of things.

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