Secret Invasion is almost here. The next Marvel TV series – the first episodic TV show to launch on Disney Plus in 10 months – debuts on the streaming service on Wednesday, June 21. And, if you’re anything like us, you’ll be eager to dive into the first Nick Fury-led Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) project.
We suspect, then, that you’re wondering what MCU movies and shows you need to watch to understand Secret Invasion‘s premise and overarching story. Below, we’ve rounded up five of the most important Marvel films – plus two other productions, which include important MCU plot points – to stream before the next Marvel Phase 5 project arrives.
Before you read on, be sure to read our spoiler-free Secret Invasion review of the first two episodes to learn if it really is the reassuring win Marvel needs right now. Once you’re done, stealth your way down this list to see which MCU movies and TV series are must-see before Secret Invasion is released.
Full spoilers follow for multiple MCU films and TV shows released between 2008 and 2023. Proceed at your own risk.
Iron Man (2008)
The movie that kickstarted Marvel’s cinematic juggernaut, Iron Man is the first time we met Samuel L Jackson’s live-action take on the cocksure Nick Fury. Okay, the at-the-time SHIELD director doesn’t have a big role to play here, but Iron Man‘s inclusion on this list is important for the other film and TV show entries that follow.
Appearing in the film’s post-credits scene – a calling card that would become synonymous with every MCU flick from then on – Fury is seen in a crowd-pleasing cameo. Emerging from the shadows in Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr) living room, Fury informs everyone’s favorite billionaire playboy philanthropist that Iron Man isn’t the only “superhero in the world”. Fury also teases something called “The Avengers Initiative”, which nicely leads us onto…
The Avengers (2012)
Helping to lead Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in their battle against the power-mad Loki and his Chitauri army, Fury brings bravado and vital leadership in equal measure. It’s Fury who rallies the Avengers after the major loss they suffer at Loki’s hands – the Asgardian trickster murders Agent Coulson, too, for good measure – midway through the film.
It’s also Fury who puts the World Security Council in its place over the threat that the Avengers themselves pose to the world’s population – something that’s proven true in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Still, hearing Fury’s badass response to their concerns (at the time) was grin-inducing, and proved he had the mettle to take the heat off his superpowered charges.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
That was the case, anyway, until the idealistic Steve Rogers butted heads with Fury in 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Unwilling to compromise his beliefs about what a free world actually is, Rogers argues against Fury’s (and, by proxy, SHIELD as an entity) vision to keep the world safe through the lens of being afraid. “This isn’t freedom, this is fear”, Rogers famously says after Fury introduces the former to Project Insight, a trio of helicarriers linked to satellites whose long-range weaponry can put a stop to any terrorist, criminal or intergalactic-related threats before they begin. Or Fury says, before HYDRA – which infiltrated SHIELD decades earlier – gets their hands on them, but that’s a story for another time.
Captain America 2 ended up being the first MCU movie that Fury had a significant supporting role in. Sure, he played his part in The Avengers, but The Winter Soldier was the Marvel movie that showed off his impressive skillset (including evading capture from an overturned jeep) as well as the obvious flaws in his character. Those being, being arrogant and single-minded in his ambitions that he failed to notice the enemy within his own walls. In short, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the film where Fury evolved from largely supporting background character to a fully-fledged, three-dimensional player in Marvel’s cinematic playground.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
After The Winter Soldier, Fury spent the next few years laying low in the MCU. Aside from a brief appearance in Avengers: Age of the Ultron, the former head of SHIELD was nowhere to be seen in many Earth-based films, including the disastrous dissolution of the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War.
That was until the universe-shattering events of Avengers: Infinity War, however. After Thanos (Josh Brolin) successfully acquires all six Infinity Stones, snaps his fingers, and wipes out half of all life in the MCU. Fury is unfortunately one of the Mad Titan’s billions-strong casualty list. Appearing in a mid-credits stinger, we see Fury – plus second in command Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) – watch on in horror as planes drop out of the sky, cars crash into each other and people start ‘Blipping’ out of existence. It isn’t long before Hill and Fury are turned to ash by Thanos’ cataclysmic finger-snapping, too, but not before Fury uses a certain pager to call for aid from one of Earth’s most powerful beings. Who is that exactly? Well…
Captain Marvel (2019)
With 2019’s Captain Marvel set in the early ’90s, Jackson was able to reprise his role as Fury – albeit one de-aged by VFX – and play a big role in how this film’s plot plays out.
Of all the movies on our list, Captain Marvel‘s MCU debut is the most important one to stream pre-Secret Invasion. The Marvel Phase 3 film is the first to also introduce the Skrulls, an alien race of shapeshifters who are, for the most part, the primary antagonists of Secret Invasion (it’s more complicated than that, but saying much else would spoil the series’ narrative).
As much as Captain Marvel offered a route into the MCU for the titular superhero, then, it also sets up Secret Invasion‘s key story beats. Equally, it gives us enough information on Fury’s backstory, including events that led to him forming SHIELD and setting up ‘The Avengers Initiative’, how he lost his left eye, and why he was one of the Skrulls’ closest allies until recently.
Once you’ve watched those five films – find out how to watch all of the Marvel movies in order while you’re here – you might want more details on Fury and the Skrulls heading into Secret Invasion. Below are two bonus productions to stream for additional context:
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
At first glance, it seems that Fury – having been brought back in Avengers: Endgame when the supergroup reversed the effects of Thanos’ finger-snap – plays a small but integral role in the second Spider-Man film that’s set in the MCU.
But there’s more here than *ahem* meets the eye. As we learn in one of the film’s post-credits scenes, the Nick Fury and Maria Hill who have cameoed throughout aren’t the Fury and Hill we know after all. Instead, it’s the Skrulls known as Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and his wife Soren (Sharon Blynn) who have been masquerading as the pair on Earth for some time now.
Okay, so where are the real Fury and Hill? Until Secret Invasion, we’re unsure about the latter’s whereabouts. However, Fury is overseeing the creation of a new organization in the final few seconds of the second post-credits stinger. Titled SABER, Fury’s new endeavor is an intergalactic space force that patrols the universe for anything that may post a threat to the Earth (this would have been really handy at the end of Eternals, eh, Nick?). That’s the last we see of Fury until Secret Invasion, too.
Yep, you guessed it, it’s all to do with WandaVision‘s mid-credits scene. During the Westview clear-up after Wanda and Agatha Harkness magic-based battle, SWORD agent Monica Rambeau – who gets her own superpowers in the series – is approached by a mysterious individual. This character asks Monica to follow her into Westview’s destroyed theater for a debrief of her mission.
Once they’re alone, the agent reveals themselves to be a Skrull. They tell Monica that “he would like to meet you”, before they point towards the sky. Essentially, the unnamed Skrull is referring to Fury, who wishes to meet Monica and recruit her from SABER. We know this is what happens because of The Marvels, the final MCU movie of 2023, whose first trailer showed Monica working for Fury and SABER. This, then, is how WandaVision and The Marvels tie into Secret Invasion, which has been referred to as the first official Marvel crossover event (although, as we mentioned earlier, The Avengers film might have something to say about that).