Chris Hemsworth is returning as the titular superhero, Natalie Portman will reprise her role as Jane Foster after almost ten years, Tessa Thompson is King Valkyrie this time around, and Christian Bale will make his MCU debut as the villainous Gorr the God Butcher. Members of the Guardians of the Galaxy will also have a role in Love and Thunder. It has been described as both a romance and a “midlife crisis”, so it will definitely be an interesting addition to the MCU.
There are 17 total recommendations, and they are listed by likely importance. First, there are projects that are essential to watch before the fourth Thor solo film. Second, there are projects that we would strongly encourage you to watch but likely are not strictly necessary. Third, there are extra stories that could heighten your Love and Thunder experience but may ultimately have very little impact on the film itself. You have until the film releases on July 8, 2022, to get prepared. Let the god butchering begin.
There are seven films that will undoubtedly be directly important to Love and Thunder: Thor; Thor: The Dark World; Thor: Ragnarok; Avengers: Infinity War; Avengers: Endgame; Guardians of the Galaxy; and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. But some are likely much more important than others—below is the list of these in essential films in order of how important they will be to understanding and enjoying Love and Thunder.
1. Thor: Ragnarok
The third installment of the Thor solo franchise tops the list of what you should watch before Love and Thunder for several reasons. Probably most influential is the fact that Thor: Ragnarok is the first and only other MCU film to be directed by Love and Thunder director Taika Waititi. His eclectic, colorful, visually stunning, and humorous style is unmatched in the God of Thunder’s franchise in the MCU as a whole. There is very little question about which MCU film will be most related to Love and Thunder for that reason. Many important Thor 4 characters were also introduced in Ragnarok: Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, Waititi’s Korg, and Korg’s best bud Miek. This film also explains why New Asgard exists on Earth, Thor’s loss of his father and homeworld, and the destruction of Mjolnir.
Considering Love and Thunder is the latest installment in the character’s solo franchise, taking it back to the beginning is always important. Thor, of course, introduces the superhero to the MCU and explains his origins, Mjolnir, and generally lays the foundation for all things Thor-related—Asgard, Loki, Odin, Frigga, Heimdall, you name it. To be fair, all of those are dead now. But it also introduces Natalie Portman’s future Mighty Thor, Jane Foster. Most of what we know about Jane in the MCU comes from this movie, as the sequel does not expand on her personal story or background all that much. Of course, their romantic relationship begins in Thor as well.
3. Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Endgame is arguably more important than Avengers: Infinity War, but in terms of watching order, it makes the most sense to watch the third Avengers before the fourth. Infinity War shows the immediate aftermath of Ragnarok and Thor’s grief stemming from those events. As was made obvious in Endgame, this emotional journey was pivotal for the character. Stormbreaker was forged here, and this is where he first met the Guardians of the Galaxy. Lastly, absolutely vital to any enjoyment of Love and Thunder is Infinity War’s explanation as to why Thor no longer has an eyepatch after Ragnarok.
4. Avengers: Endgame
We last saw Thor in Avengers: Endgame, and Thor’s whereabouts, physical state, and mental state in Love and Thunder are coming directly from the end of Endgame. The Love and Thunder trailer showcased the notorious “Fat Thor” working out before we see a return of Thor’s more traditional physique. The character’s interest in settling down we see in the trailer is also likely a result of his processing of the events beginning in Ragnarok and continuing through Endgame. The fourth Avengers film also introduces New Asgard, Valkyrie as the new King of New Asgard, and ends with Thor going off with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Essentially, Endgame is the immediate predecessor for Love and Thunder, even if Thor is not the main character.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
While it is unclear how much of a role the Guardians of the Galaxy will play in Love and Thunder, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the last outing of the team other than Infinity War and Endgame. It also introduces Pom Klementieff’s Mantis who we see in the Thor 4 trailer. In general, it highlights the most recent roster of the Guardians, including some work with developing Karen Gillan’s Nebula. The Guardians’ journey will undoubtedly be explored more in next year’s Vol. 3, but it is safe to assume Vol. 2’s team is the best foundation for what to expect of them in Love and Thunder.
6. Thor: The Dark World
If you have ever existed, you probably already know that Thor: The Dark World, the follow-up to Thor, is one of the least-loved films in the MCU. Nevertheless, it is a Thor film, and watching it will round out your Thor franchise viewing ahead of Love and Thunder. It is also the last time we see Jane Foster, so The Dark World is pretty significant to her character considering she was only in two movies about a decade ago. It shows the death of his mother, which is significant to his character and I suppose could be referenced in the upcoming movie. But needless to say, if you skip any Thor movie, this one is a good choice.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy
Since the Guardians likely may not have a huge role in Love and Thunder, getting acquainted with their first outing is not as vital as the other films. Still, they will be there and Guardians of the Galaxy introduces most of the main players and is fundamental to who they are in the MCU. It also is a great survey of some cosmic MCU elements that have otherwise not been explored extensively, even by the Thor franchise. Judging by the Love and Thunder trailer, the cosmos will get some more attention soon.
These next five projects have a strong chance of being directly relevant to Love and Thunder. But even if you are not familiar with them, their potential influence on the Thor outing should not be so important that you would be missing something. Still, if you have the time and you want to be totally prepared, these encouraging films and series are great additions to your watchlist.
8. Black Panther
While the bulk of Black Panther might not be all that helpful to the Love and Thunder experience, the film lands at the top of this section because there seems to be one specific connection. The Goddess Bast had been rumored to be part of the movie and looks to have been spotted in an official still from the film. According to Wakandan legend in the MCU, Bast led Bashenga to the Heart-Shaped Herb, granting him the power to become the king and the first Black Panther. Outside of the MCU’s current lore, Bast or Bastet is a member of the ancient Egyptian pantheon, which is explored a bit further in Moon Knight.
9. Moon Knight
Much of the rest of this watchlist centers around Love and Thunder‘s villain, Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher. As his title would suggest, he probably likes to kill gods. Thor 4 is set to introduce more MCU gods than we currently know, but we did recently meet a whole gaggle of new ones. The Disney+ series Moon Knight introduced ancient Egyptian gods to the MCU, including Khonshu, Ammit, Osiris, and Taweret. There is plenty of room for Gorr to butcher some of these or related gods without it having a major effect on the MCU or even any potential Moon Knight follow-up, but it would allow Love and Thunder to give Gorr some credits to his God Butcher name.
This one is a little trickier, but the Celestials introduced in Eternals could be relevant to Gorr’s journey. Celestials are sometimes known as “space gods”, but they are not the traditional types of gods as we are used to—Asgardian, Egyptian, Greek, etc. One major fan theory floating around believes that Gorr may have killed the Celestial whose head is now known as Knowhere (as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy). So if Celestials (or even the Eternals) could be “gods” to Gorr, there’s no reason why he could not target them at some point in Love and Thunder.
11. Avengers: Age of Ultron
If you want to get the full scope of live-action Thor, you will need to watch or rewatch the first two Avengers films as well. While neither seems like they will be overly relevant, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a bit more important because Mjolnir gets a little time to shine. When the Avengers try to lift the hammer and when Vision actually does, there is some focus on what makes someone “worthy”. This is a concept that will presumably play into Jane Foster’s Mighty Thor and her use of the repaired Mjolnir.
There is not much for Avengers to add to the rest of the list other than that is part of Thor’s story and journey in the MCU. If you’ve watched everything else so far, watching Avengers will finish up your viewing of all things (live-action) Thor. Although, if you do plan to watch these all, doing it in chronological release order is probably the way to go.
Loki is somewhat like Eternals in the sense that it could be relevant. Unlike Eternals, though, the Tom Hiddleston-led series does not have any obvious gods for Gorr to butcher. But the reason it is on the list is that the introduction of Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror Variant likely sets up one of the MCU’s next big bads. While Love and Thunder does not have any known major multiverse connections, it cannot be completely ruled out in the Phase Four project. Also, if Gorr the God Butcher is roaming the universe killing gods, it is not too wild to think that he could come across another villain that is acting as a universal conqueror. If Marvel is going to build Kang up more ahead of his lead role in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, he could have a brief appearance in Love and Thunder or even in a post-credits scene. In any event, Loki obviously showcases Loki, Brother of Thor, even if he is no longer on the same timeline as Thor.
These last few recommendations really speak for themselves. With the exception of What If.. ? they are not even related to the MCU, but they’re a love letter to the Love and Thunder experience and are perfect to get into if you still can’t get enough prep for the fourth Thor.
14. What If… ?
If you want to make sure you have seen every single appearance of Thor in the MCU in its entirety, you’ll need to check out What If… ? “Party Thor” makes an appearance in Episodes 7-9, which includes his own episode (with Jane Foster) and the final two episodes of the season.
15. Hercules (1997)
Hear me out. We know Love and Thunder will feature the Olympians, and we got a hint of Russell Crowe’s Zeus in the teaser trailer. There is no MCU foundation for this group of gods yet, so if you’re already watching all your Thor content on Disney+, you only have to scroll a bit to find the ’90s animated classic, Hercules. You will get some sort of survey of Greek gods including Zeus and Hercules, and Love and Thunder might hit harder if you feel like it’s some sweet singing cartoons that Gorr is butchering.
16. The Dark Knight Trilogy
Speaking of making Love and Thunder hit harder based on unrelated films, get your Christian Bale fix and get the ability to picture Batman the God Butcher if you’re so inclined by revisiting Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
Director Taika Waititi has described Love and Thunder as a full-blown romance film. It is hard to picture an MCU movie featuring a “God Butcher” as a true love story, but maybe that’s the point. Waititi has the skill the bring a completely unexpected film to the table, and he has several times teased the “love” in Love in Thunder. If you think you might have trouble getting into the mindset for a romance, watching the most financially-successful romance movie of all time could help you out.
Thor: Love and Thunder hits theaters on July 8, 2022.