Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the 25th chapter on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an ambitious project encompassing a cast of hundreds and constantly gaining speed for more than a decade. Or is Shang-Chi the 28th chapter of the MCU, given that Marvel Studios is now producing and releasing TV shows with their movie stars? And should we count What If…? What about the Marvel One-Shots? The moral of the story is that it can be confusing following every Marvel production out there, especially if you are a newcomer who only wants to enjoy a nice superhero movie with kung-fu fights.

As we know, not everybody has the time to rewatch the entire MCU line-up in preparation for every new movie that comes out, so we selected a list of essential films you should check before catching Shang-Chi. This list encompasses every film somehow connected to Shang-Chi, be it for major plot threads or just for funny cameos. So, while we are holding back on spoilers for Shang-Chi, some of the entries in this list might tease who you might see on the big screen. Also, we’ll give spoilers from previous MCU films, so you should tread carefully if you haven’t seen every movie on this list at least once. So, with no further ado, these are the productions you should definitely watch before Shang-Chi, so you don’t miss any callbacks.

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Shang-Chi is not the first Phase 4 movie to hit theaters. However, considering that Black Widow is a prequel set just after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Shang-Chi can be regarded as the first significant chapter in Marvel’s new adventure in movie theaters. But what the heck “Phase 4” means, you ask? Well, that’s where Avenger’s Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame comes into play. Both movies, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, work as the epic conclusion of Marvel’s three first phases, now named “The Infinity Saga.” We still don’t know what threat will unite Marvel’s heroes in Phase 4 — it might involve the Multiverse and multiple timelines. However, to understand the current state of the world where Shang-Chi takes place, you first need to know how the Avengers left things by the end of Phase 3. And if you need a refresher on what films are essential to understand all the three previous phases, we also have a handy guide for that. While not essential, Spider-Man: Far From Home can also help you understand the world post-“Blip”, the apocalyptic event caused by Thanos.

It’s curious to notice how Shang-Chi introduces a comic book hero unknown by the general public in grand style, not unlike 2008’s Iron Man. Also curious is that both movies are deeply connected, with the criminal organization Ten Rings being a part of the origin story of both heroes. In Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is kidnapped by the Ten Rings, and while in captivity, the millionaire playboy builds the first version of his combat armor. As for Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), the hero is the son of the Ten Rings leader, Wenwu (Tony Leung Chiu-wai). Shang-Chi is also on a journey to escape the evil organization, but for a whole different reason, as the hero’s supposed to lead in the place of his father. Watching Iron Man once again, then, will get you ready to understand how the Ten Rings are one of the most significant forces in the MCU, responsible for directly shaping two of the mightiest heroes of the cinematic universe.

The Ten Rings were back to torment Tony Stark in Iron Man 3. Well, kind of, as the movie’s true villain is actually Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). To hide his criminal activities, Killian produces propaganda pieces featuring the Ten Rings and its leader, the “Mandarin”. It turns out everything was fake, and Iron Man 3’s Mandarin was actor Trevor Slattery played by Ben Kingsley. As Shang-Chi introduces Wenwu, the real Mandarin, Iron Man 3 should definitely be on your watchlist. If you want to get some extra credits on your MCU studies, you should also check All Hail the King, a Marvel One-Shot short film released with Thor: The Dark World discs. The short film follows Slattery in prison, from which he gets rescued/kidnapped by “the real Mandarin”. Kingsley is confirmed to be a part of Shang-Chi, so you can be sure the upcoming movie leaves no stone unturned while connecting to the inception of the MCU.

RELATED: How the ‘Iron Man’ Trilogy Makes the Case for More Contained MCU Stories

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is set to play a big part on Phase 4 of the MCU, with an upcoming crossover with Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) in 2022’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and a vital part to play in this year’s Spider-Man: No Way Home. However, Strange’s influence goes beyond his character, as the Sorcerer Supreme presented a world full of magic to fans of the MCU. Shang-Chi deals with a different kind of magic than Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange, as the new movie is not concerned at all with the academic study of the mystic arts. Nevertheless, Shang-Chi is a movie where magic has a central role in the story, so it’s no wonder that both movies are somewhat connected, especially since early Shang-Chi’s trailers even confirmed the cameo of Doctor Strange’s right-hand man, Wong (Benedict Wong). If you need to remind yourself how magic was introduced in the MCU and who’s Wong, you should check Doctor Strange before watching Shang-Chi.

Wong is not the only character from previous movies to show up in Shang-Chi’s trailers, as the kung-fu movie goes back to 2008’s The Incredible Hulk to rescue the Abomination, a villain played by back Tim Roth in the original story. While at first glance the Abomination is a strange addition to Shang-Chi, the character is also set to return in the upcoming She-Hulk series, so it makes sense the arch-enemy of the Emerald Giant to return to the big screen and remind fans of his existence. So if you need a refresher of who the Abomination is and how he’s a powerful threat, it’s time to rewatch The Incredible Hulk. You’ll have the extra fun of seeing Edward Norton playing Bruce Banner before the character was recast and Mark Ruffalo took over the part.

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The upcoming superhero team-up game is scheduled to come out in early 2022.

Marco Vito Oddo is a writer, journalist, and game designer. Passionate by superhero comic books, horror films, and indie games, he writes for Collider and develops games for Mother’s Touch Games.

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