“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” Watch Order

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a fun and unique addition to the MCU family of films. Many people who have never been exposed to the MCU before have expressed interest in this movie and may not know what’s needed before jumping into it.

It is absolutely possible to watch Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings without any prior MCU experience. You can generally understand what’s going on without issue. People who had a special interest in this film, but not the rest of the MCU have jumped in without anything else and generally been fine. But if you’re looking for a watch order, that’s probably not you. You probably want more. And I’m here to help provide that.

 

The story has a lot of wuxia elements (though it’s not strictly a wuxia film), which attracts fans of that genre. I’ve also known many who saw it because they wanted to see the first major American superhero film that had a primarily Chinese and Chinese-American cast. It has been especially appealing to people I know who are first or second-generation immigrants and I’ve seen a lot of praise for its depiction of this experience. 

Overall, it’s been appealing to a large range of people who usually wouldn’t see a superhero film or who don’t have a strong MCU background. If that describes you, I’ve put together a few options for those who want to go into it with some added context. There are a few options to choose from, so read my below recommendations and choose accordingly.

An Intro to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

The story follows the character Shang-Chi, who was trained to essentially be an assassin for his father. On his first assignment, however, he ran away and came to America. For a decade he’s lived in hiding in the United States under the assumed name ‘Sean.’ However, his past soon catches up with him and he’s compelled to go on a journey back to his homeland to save his sister and battle his father.

Shang-Chi’s past is filled with secrets involving magic and dangerous criminal elements. His father wields the Ten Rings, which are a superpowered tool that grants him immortality and enhances his combat ability. As a result of this power, he creates a criminal organization that bears their name and spends centuries toppling governments and other organizations as he sees fit. He’s basically an incredibly powerful crime lord. And a really old one.

Shang-Chi’s mother comes from Ta Lo, a secret village that harbors mythical beasts. When Shang-Chi is young, his mother dies. His father, who had seemingly given up his life of crime for his wife, becomes enraged and returns to his criminal ways. This drove a wedge in their family that never properly healed, and everyone has been suffering as a consequence of this ever since.

Beyond Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings:
MCU Complete Watch Order

This article is part of an ongoing Phase 4 series that will highlight each property in a way that makes it accessible to newbies, and also provide fun rewatch orders for long-time fans. We’ll be posting articles for all the Phase 4 content thus far, as well as suggested rewatch orders for upcoming properties. We also have the complete rewatch order, which will be updated throughout the year.

So stay tuned, because there’s a lot more coming after this one!

Short Watch Order – Trevor Slattery

Who Should Watch: Anyone who wants to understand the character Trevor Slattery, who plays a fairly central role in the story.

If you are short on time, this is a decent watch order to go through. It’s literally just one feature-length film and a one-shot short film. You can get through it in about two and a half hours.

However, they do explain this character within the narrative so it’s not strictly necessary to watch the film to understand him. It definitely adds to the story, though! So it’s not at all a waste of time. 

Trevor Slattery was actually a surprising gem in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. I strongly recommend watching his prior appearances so you understand his strange little character a bit better. He’s quirky in a fun way and probably delivers the most laughs out of anyone.

Watch Order

  • Iron Man 3
The Mandarin Iron Man Trevor Slattery
The Mandarin.

While this is often considered the weaker of the Iron Man films, it provides great context for the character Trevor Slattery and some background on the reputation of the Ten Rings. What we see in this film is not actually the Ten Rings, but the concern people have regarding the group conveys exactly what you need to know about them. 

Trevor is a fairly central character in the second half of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and his presence could be confusing without seeing this film. When I hear from people who went into the film with no prior knowledge, he was the most baffling aspect. They still managed to keep up with it, though. It’s up to you.

  • Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King 

This isn’t an actual film, but was part of Marvel’s early One-Shot series that they introduced in the early parts of the MCU franchise. There are quite a few similar One-Shots for various other characters, too. This one features Trevor Slattery and more information about the Ten Rings organization. 

You can find this and other One-Shots listed under the “One Shot” section under the Marvel tab on Disney+.

Medium Watch Order – Option 1: Trevor, Wong, and Abomination

Who Should Watch: Anyone who wants to enjoy all of the character cameos

This has the above films introducing you to Trevor Slattery, but also an introduction to Abomination and Wong. The latter two characters are less confusing in the context of Shang-Chi. It’s still nice to know who they are.

Watch Order

  • The Incredible Hulk

This film can’t be found on Disney+ at the moment and it’s often skipped in full rewatches. That said, a character from the film, Abomination, appears briefly in Xialing’s club. For longtime fans, it was an interesting callback because we’ve mostly written the Hulk solo film off as mostly unimportant. This confirmed it is still part of the main MCU franchise even if we tend to ignore it.

If you need to cut a film from this list, however, this is the one. He’s in just one scene. You’ll be fine. Don’t stress if you can’t find it. But if you find it, you might as well watch, eh?

  • Iron Man 3

See Notes Above.

  • Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King 

See Notes Above.

  • Doctor Strange

In the Shang-Chi film, Abomination is fighting a character named Wong. Wong is introduced in Doctor Strange and has been featured in numerous films since then. He has slightly more weight than Abomination as he appears again later on in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. His second and third scenes serve to introduce larger aspects of the MCU and tie this film into Phase Four in a more solid way.

At this point, Wong’s character has been used as a way to tie a lot of the MCU franchises together, sort of like how a character named Agent Coulson was back in Phase One. So he’s a good guy to get to know in general. This is especially true if you plan on continuing with the MCU. He also appears in Spider-Man: No Way Home and is slated to be in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Both of these take place after Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Medium Watch Order – The Ten Rings

Who Should Watch: Anyone who wants to understand the reputation of the Ten Rings organization before we get properly introduced to them.

Prior to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the Ten Rings organization was mostly known as a brutal crime group with not a lot of details about them within the narrative of the MCU. They’ve popped up briefly in numerous films as such, and have even been faked for clout. This film is the first time we’ve seen what the organization is at its core and truly understand what they’re all about.

Watch Order

  • Iron Man

The Ten Rings organization was first introduced back in the first Iron Man film when Tony is abducted by terrorists. The group depicted in this is an Afghanistan-based cell of the organization. We don’t know much about them at this point but we get the general vibe that they’re certainly up to no good. That’s generally all we know here, though. But at this point, that’s all we needed to know.

  • Iron Man 2

The antagonist of the film, Ivan Vanko, is directed toward Tony Stark as an act of revenge for what happened to the Ten Rings cell in the first film. Ivan has his own agenda, though. Once he finds Tony he goes at him aggressively pretty independently of the organization. Ivan has a lot of anger issues, and he’d have wanted to go after Tony regardless. The Ten Rings helped him find Tony, though. As such, they’re still a major instigator of the plot even if they don’t directly take part in the violence against Tony Stark.

  • Iron Man 3
Ten Rings Iron Man
The Ten Rings banner is being held behind Tony Stark in this scene.

See Notes Above.

  • Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King 

See Notes Above.

  • Ant-Man

The Ten Rings organization seems to be interested in the Yellowjacket suit. And that’s pretty much it. They could have been swapped out with any other criminal organization here without it impacting the plot, but it’s a nice little tie-in with the rest of the MCU. It also shows just how far-reaching they are.

But honestly, you should watch Ant-Man because it’s a super fun film. Genuinely. Just go watch. Enjoy!

Long Watch Order – Everything Together

Who Should Watch: Anyone who wants to understand everything that’s going on whether it’s the cameos or the Ten Rings organization.

Do you absolutely hate being left in the dark about things? Are you annoyed that longtime fans seem to be cheering for random characters that pop up on the screen and laughing at in-jokes while you just sit there wondering what the heck is going on? Then, friends, this watch order is for you. This will cover everything.

Watch Order

  • The Incredible Hulk

See Notes Above.

  • Iron Man

See Notes Above.

  • Iron Man 2

See Notes Above.

  • Iron Man 3

See Notes Above.

  • Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King 
Wong Shang-Chi Infinity War
Wong in Infinity War

See Notes Above.

  • Ant-Man

See Notes Above.

  • Doctor Strange

See Notes Above.

  • Avengers Infinity War

This is the first new addition to this list. Wong is in this film, but he’s not crucial to it. The plot also isn’t mentioned in Shang-Chi at all. As such, it didn’t really belong on the short or medium watch lists.  

That said, if you use Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Ring as a gateway to the wider MCU, this film will be crucial. The vast majority of films and shows that came out after these films directly reference these events and deal with the fall out of them. The only ones I can think of off the top of my head that don’t reference these events are Shang-Chi itself, and the Moon Knight series (as of this writing, though this could change once the series is complete).

You will also be introduced to the new Bruce Banner, who has an incredibly brief cameo in the film. He’s played by a different actor now (Mark Ruffalo instead of Ed Norton).

  • Avengers Endgame

Pretty much all the same notes I put for Infinity War are relevant here, too. Wong is in it. He’s not terribly crucial and the plot isn’t referenced in Shang-Chi. Might as well watch it anyway since you’re here, though, yeah? Especially if you plan on continuing with your MCU journey.

You will also be introduced to Captain Marvel here. She has a brief cameo in an end-credits scene.

Now Your Ready for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Congratulations on making it to the end of your watch. Whichever watch you chose, you’ll be going into this film with more knowledge than you had previously.

If by chance you’ve become interested in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, we’ve put together several other watch orders for you. My favorite Phase Four properties so far have been Loki and WandaVision. Both deal with a lot of magic, which is a theme in Shang-Chi. If that appealed to you, maybe check those out too!

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.


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