Secret Invasion looks to stand apart from the usual MCU fare by shifting the focus away from its powered heroes and toward the shadowy world of spies. While that means that Samuel L. Jackson‘s Nick Fury is at the center, he’s not alone which means that this Ultimate List is quite a bit busier than most. If you want to get your homework done before Secret Invasion‘s June 21st premiere, you better get started.
Tier One projects are non-negotiable essentials to be watched/re-watched before streaming Secret Invasion. If you want to understand what’s happening, these six projects–listed in chronological order– lay the foundation.
While the next chapter in Carol Danvers’ story will be told in The Marvels, which hits theaters in November, Secret Invasion is every bit of a sequel to 2019’s Captain Marvel as well. The film introduced Talos and his refugee Skrulls–including his daughter, G’iah– to the MCU and set the stage for Fury’s relationship with them. As explained by Emilia Clarke, the faction of Skrulls looking to take over the Earth are sick and tired of waiting for Fury and Talos to make good on the promise of finding them a home world which is essentially what’s going on in Captain Marvel making that one a must on the rewatch.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Who do you trust? If you’re Nick Fury, you don’t trust too many folks at all. The Winter Soldier tore Fury’s life to shreds but he escaped and rose from the ashes like the fiery phoenix with an eye on taking down Hydra. Though she’s not featured in it, The Winter Soldier goes a long way in revealing just how much Fury trusts Maria Hill, who is set to play a big role in Secret Invasion. It also provides all sorts of opportunities for Fury to have been simmed and replaced by a Skrull, so if you’re rewatching it, try it through that lense and see how it might change the film for you.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Though Fury doesn’t play a pivotal role in the Avengers’ defeat of Ultron, the second Avengers film goes a long way in revealing just how little anyone really knows about Fury and just how capable he is of pulling off major surprises. If he helped hide the Bartons from the world and can happen to full a Hellicarrier out of thin air, what other surprises does Fury have up his sleeve? Or is that even Fury’s sleeve?
Captain America: Civil War
James Rhodes’ MCU story has truly been fascinating but the events of Civil War altered the trajectory of the character’s arc more than any project to date. After joining the New Avengers following the events of Age of Ultron, Rhodey found himself on the wrong end of a tragic accident that certainly made him rethink which type of suit he’d like to spend the rest of his life in. Obviously, he went on to help save the world because that’s what heroes do, but by the time Secret Invasion rolls around it seems as though he’s looking to step out of the armor for good. Or is he? Or is it even him?
Spider-Man: Far From Home
The post-credit scene to Far From Home is quite possibly more important to the ongoing narrative of the MCU than the entire body of the film. The revelation that Talos and his wife, Soren, had been simming Fury and Hill while Nick was on space vacation–meaning an entire movie’s worth of Fury events didn’t include Fury–should make us all question whatever we think it is we know about the MCU. This certainly wasn’t the first time Talos posed as Nick…and it certainly won’t be the last.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
All we know so far about Everett Ross’ role in Secret Invasion is that he’s sneaking around in the shadows as one of Fury’s allies. And while you might think all you’d need to know is how he escaped government custody at the end of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the additional backstory that film provides for him is worth the watch.
Once you’ve seen the Tier One projects, you’d be just fine settling in for Secret Invasion without feeling lost. That said, if you’ve got the time to dig deeper and get a little more context on the not-quite-necessary-but-still-important events in the main characters’ lives, the Ultimate List will point you in the right direction.
Avengers: Infinity War
The beginning of a two-film arc in which audiences really got to see Cheadle elevate the role of Rhodey, Infinity War comes close to a Tier One project but falls a tad short. Rhodes’ dismissal of General Ross’ order should have cost him his USAF career but it didn’t seem to derail it at all given where he is as Secret Invasion begins.
The Russos carved out a pretty meaty role for War Machine here and it’s by far one of Cheadle’s most enjoyable performances in the role. From tossing around the idea of killing baby Thanos to helping retrieve the Power Stone during the Time Heist, Endgame gives Rhodey a ton to do even if none of it seems to really be impactful in setting the stage for Secret Invasion.
If the completist in you is telling you to watch them all, then we encourage you to do so.
The beginning of James Rhodes’ MCU journey, Iron Man introduces the character as one of Tony Stark’s best buddies. Played here by Terrence Howard, Rhodey is constantly frustrated with Tony but can’t seem to say no to the guy. The film also marks the MCU debut of Nicholas J. Fury as he begins the work of assembling his Avengers by sneaking into Tony Stark’s Malibu mansion.
Iron Man 2
Don Cheadle stepped in as Rhodey in the 2010 sequel which is only really worth watching to track the character’s work with the U.S. Government, which is a major plot point in Secret Invasion.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Part of Nick Fury’s MCU story, Captain America: The First Avenger gave a very fair impression of the lengths The Spy would go to in order to sell a lie.
One of the best MCU films to date, The Avengers is worth watching at any point in time; however, it paints a very murky picture of Fury and just how willing he is to keep secrets from anyone and everyone. The project also marks the MCU debut of Fury’s right hand, Maria Hill, who looks primed to play her biggest part yet in Secret Invasion.
Iron Man 3
While he gets relegated to a bit of a sidekick role in his adventures with Stark, Rhodey’s political career is advanced here when President Matthew Ellis upgrades him to the Iron Patriot and puts him front and center in the battle against The Mandarin.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier
In his last appearance before we see him in Secret Invasion, Colonel Rhodes and Sam Wilson have a discussion about Sam’s decision to place the Captain America shield in the Smithsonian.