Sad news, everyone: it's almost time for the final Marvel project of the year.
The Marvels brings the curtain down on the studio's 2023 line-up when it arrives on Friday, November 10 and, with the the now-resolved writers strike and ongoing actors strike resulting in numerous Marvel Phase 5 production delays, it could be the last one we see for a while. In short: make the most of it and Loki season 2's finale, which also drops this Friday.
Ahead of The Marvels' release, we suspect you'll be conducting a Marvel re-watch to catch up on what you need to know about the film's titular heroes (Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, and Monica Rambeau/Photon). Below, we've compiled a list of the six most important Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies and Disney Plus shows that are must-see before it flies into theaters. So, what are you waiting for? Load up Disney's primary streaming service and get binge-watching!
Carol Danvers' origins story is necessary viewing ahead of The Marvels, aka one of the final new movies of 2023. Indeed, it doesn't just introduce us to one of the MCU's most powerful heroes – it also plays a big role in setting up the events of The Marvels, and why the villainous Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) has an ax to grind with Danvers/Captain Marvel.
Captain Marvel wasn't a smash hit among fans and critics when the first female superhero-starring Marvel film arrived in March 2019. Sure, it raked in over $1 billion, so it was commercially successful, but some fans and critics weren't totally enamoured with its by-the-numbers approach to the plot, character development, or action sequences. Even worse, misogynistic pockets of the MCU fan base bizarrely hit out at Marvel and main star Brie Larson for having the nerve to, well, center an MCU flick around a female lead, which created plenty of discourse post-release.
Our verdict? It's an entertaining popcorn movie that deserves more respect than it gets. See where Captain Marvel placed in our best Marvel movies list while you're here.
Avengers: Endgame isn't vital viewing ahead of The Marvels. However, given Captain Marvel's fairly big role in its first 25 minutes, plus her more prominent appearance in the third act's spectacular final battle between Earth's Mightiest Heroes and Thanos' army, we'd advise you to stream it.
If nothing else, the fourth Avengers film proves just how powerful Captain Marvel is. She single-handedly goes toe-to-toe with Thanos, for crying out loud – Iron Man, Captain America, or Thor couldn't do that with all three of them at once. Plus Avengers: Endgame is one of the best – if not the best – MCU movies ever made, so it's always worth watching the three-hour-long flick and enjoying everything it has to offer.
Like Avengers: Endgame, this Marvel Phase 4 movie doesn't need to be seen to enjoy The Marvels. However, Shang Chi's mid-credits scene has a cameo from Captain Marvel who, alongside Bruce Banner, Wong, Shang-Chi himself and his friend Katy, discuss the importance of the Ten Rings that Shang-Chi now wields.
To sum up the scene in question: the rings appear to be of alien origin and they've started sending out a message (or "beacon", as it's described) into the cosmos. Of course, we don't get any answers about what any of this means in Shang-Chi – hey, Marvel likes to play the long game – but it's an interesting scene to note, especially with the alien tech Kamala Khan/Ms Marvel comes into possession in her TV show. But more on Kamala later because, first up, we need to discuss…
WandaVision, the MCU's first TV series – and, depending on who you ask, one of its best Disney Plus shows – is requisite viewing. That's because it introduces audiences to Monica Rambeau and serves as a superpowers origins tale for the daughter of Maria Rambeau, aka Carol Danvers' deceased best friend.
An agent of SWORD (a government intelligence agency founded by her mom), Monica Rambeau is sent to investigate the unusual goings-on in Westview by acting director Tyler Hayward. It's during this mission that she gets her own superhuman abilities (thanks, Wanda) and lands on ex-SHIELD director Nick Fury's radar.
Because of her heroics in WandaVision's final episode, Fury – by way of his Skrull allies – recruits Monica (in WandaVision's mid-credits scene) for SABER, an aerospace defence organization set up by Fury that protects Earth from extraterrestrial threats. That's where we find Monica at the start of The Marvels, but that's the only spoiler we're giving away about The Marvels' plot.
The Marvels' third lead is Kamala Khan, who made her MCU debut in her self-titled Disney Plus series, Ms. Marvel.
A show entrenched in Gen Z culture, Ms. Marvel shone a light on U.S-Pakistani dual nationality, her humorously endearing family, and the trials and tribulations they've faced since Kamala's grandmother emigrated to America. It did a pretty good job of doing so, too, with our Ms. Marvel review calling it "another satisfying MCU production that continues Marvel's gradual but necessary push for inclusivity".
The TV show changed her origins story from the comics, though – in Ms. Marvel, she gains her abilities from her grandmother's superpowered bangle, which is derived from the Noor dimension and believed to be of Kree origin (a detail that links back to Captain Marvel). Oh, and – spoiler – she was also seemingly revealed as the MCU's first mutant in Ms. Marvel's final episode. You can read more about that shock reveal in our Ms. Marvel ending and end credits scene explained article, which also sets up one of The Marvels' main plot points in its post-credits stinger.
We're just going to come out and say it: Secret Invasion is a bad Marvel show that failed to deliver a story worthy of Nick Fury. Its plot lacked cohesion, truly thrilling moments (especially for an espionage-positioned TV series), and infuriated fans with its blasé approach to killing off some of its supporting cast. Secret Invasion's final episode was so bad that Marvel fans tore it apart upon release in July. That's a pity, too, because, in our review of Secret Invasion's first two episodes, it had the makings of being a passable MCU TV series.
It pains us to advise you to watch it in full, but there are two or three important details threaded through its frankly disappointing plot you need to be aware of heading in The Marvels. If you don't want to subject yourself to all six episodes, read our Secret Invasion ending explained guide instead to get the lowdown on all you need to know. And, to lighten the mood, check out our Nick Fury MCU appearances rated article for a (in our view) fun-filled trip down memory lane involving everyone's favorite eyepatch-sporting secret agent.
For more Marvel-based coverage, find out how to watch the Marvel movies in order. Alternatively, read our guide on Marvel's Echo, which is the studio's first MCU project of 2024, or see how we ranked every Marvel Phase 4 movie and TV show.
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.
An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.
Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.
Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.