If you’re interested in watching The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series on Disney+, but don’t have any experience with the MCU, where the heck do you start? Do you have to watch all of the 24 films that came before it? What about the Netflix and Hulu shows? Or the shows on ABC? Well, let’s talk about it!
Let’s be real here, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is huge and incredibly daunting. Those of us who have been watching since the beginning have had to keep up with enormous amounts of content. But what about the newbies who may see something they like and want to jump in, but have no idea where to start? What if, for example, someone is really intrigued by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and they aren’t sure if they need to watch all the films that came before, or what TV shows are a must to understand what’s happening? It can be all rather confusing.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is very popular among audiences, as is evident by their two MTV Movie and TV Award wins (Best Hero – Anthony Mackie, Best Duo – Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan) and strong social media community engagement. The series has also received critical praise for its depiction of the Black experience in America, touching on racial injustice issues through the framework of the superhero world of the MCU. This is especially important as the MCU moves forward; they’ve often been taken to task for being primarily driven by white male leads. But Marvel’s framework is changing, and this is a huge part of that.
Also, the action is truly top tier. Dare I say it’s some of the best action of the Disney+ MCU shows so far? I’m not sure if I dare say that, actually, because MCU fans can be rather opinionated and they’ll probably come for me in the comments. But you know what? Yes. I do dare say it. It has some of the best action scenes so far of the Phase Four shows (don’t worry newbies, I’ll explain more below!) Come at me if you must!
Thankfully there’s an easier way to catch up without subjecting yourself to hundreds of hours of entertaining, but maybe not directly releveant content. The Hulu, Netflix, and ABC shows are not required to understand what’s going on here. While newer installments of Phase Four (or the media post the Infinity Saga which ended after Avengers: End Game), such as Hawkeye and Spider-Man: No Way Home, reference the shows, Falcon and the Winter Soldier does not. You can easily catch up with just a handful of the canonical films and get the gist of what’s happening. Depending on how fast you can binge watch movies, you can be ready for the show in just a couple days or a couple weeks.
As promised, this Watch Order is part of our overall Watch Order Guide to the MCU. We’ve separated this one into two main watch orders. You can do this in as little as 30 minutes (Short Watch Order) or as long as 17 hours (Long Watch Order). You may notice that, unlike my other watch orders, there’s no Medium Watch Order here. There’s only one movie from the Long order that would be cut, so it felt kind of pointless to separate them. That said, I will make a note for that film in the list itself. You can skip it if you choose, but I strongly recommend watching it anyway.
An Intro to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
The iconic superhero mantle, Captain America, has been held by Steve Rogers since World War II. He was the first to hold the shield, using it to bring hope to people during a turbulent wartime period. Even if you don’t have experience with the MCU, you can probably recognize the iconic star-emblazoned shield as a symbol of the role.
Steve was experimented on with a super soldier serum, gaining superhuman strength and agility as a result. While he did spend about 70 years of that time frozen in ice, he continues his heroics when he emerges in our modern society, joining the newly forming team of superheroes, ‘The Avengers.’
But ‘Captain America’ is a title, and not a person. And Steve Rogers, even though he’s had an incredibly long life, will not be around forever. As such, when it came time for Steve Rogers to end his time as the iconic hero, he chose to pass on the shield to one of his closest friends, Sam Wilson, also known as the Falcon. The series picks up shortly after Steve makes the decision to pass on the shield to him (which you can see near the end of Avengers: End Game).
The other titled character of the series – Winter Soldier – is Steve’s oldest friend, Bucky Barnes. Bucky, like Steve, is a World War II veteran and super soldier. Unlike Steve, however, he spent this entire time awake and active. Unfortunately he’d been brainwashed by the nefarious Hydra and spent this time as an elite assassin. He does eventually break free from this, which you’ll experience in this watch order.
The series focuses on Sam and Bucky as they make sense of a post Avengers: Endgame life, and the new challenges they face in a post-Endgame world.
Beyond The Falcon and the Winter Soldier:
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 through the year and contains a breakdown of each phase.
So stay tuned, because there’s a lot more coming after this one!
Short The Falcon and the Winder Soldier Watch Order
Who Should Watch: New fans with extremely limited time, Old fans who need a quick refresher
Approximate Run Time: 29 Minutes
I don’t recommend this watch order for newbies because it only touches on the extremely relevant highlights of the plot. A lot of the deeper character moments get glossed over. This is a series that thrives primarily on its characters and the accompanying emotional beats. Without that background, much of what happens in the series may ring a bit hollow.
That said, if you are really short on time and don’t value character development as much as I do, this could be an okay way to tackle it. I just advise against it.
For those long-term fans looking to jog their memory about certain things, though, this is perfect. I watched each Legends episode as they got released and appreciated the refresher.
Marvel Studios Legends: Falcon, The Winter Soldier, Zemo, Sharon Carter
Long The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Watch Order
Who Should Watch: Everyone. Literally Everyone.
Approximate Run Time: 17 Hours
- Captain America: The First Avenger
This is the film that started the Captain America franchise! It’s an absolute must-watch. And not just for this watch order, but in general. Go watch it!
Since this is the first film in this specific sub-franchise, you don’t need to know too much going into it. However, to understand the ending of the film it’s a good idea to have some context about the larger MCU world you’re stepping into.
Captain America: The First Avenger takes place about ~70 years before the Phase One MCU films. The character at the end of the film with the eye patch is Nick Fury, and he was primarily used as a way to tie a lot of the Phase One films together in our current timeline. His sudden appearance without explanation is on par with most of the other films at this point in the MCU, so you aren’t missing too much.
And yes, that’s Samuel L Jackson. And yes, he’s awesome in this role. Enjoy.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Between the first Captain America film and this one, Steve has joined that elite superhero group, the Avengers. He’s also adjusting to life in modern times and taking vigorous notes. Things aren’t easy, however, and history comes back to haunt him.
This film marks the first appearance of Sam Wilson in the MCU. It has some of the best character moments in the entire franchise, too. The thing I love specifically about the Captain America portions of the MCU franchise is their focus on character development. It’s top tier.
It also has some of the best meme fodder, so you may have many moments of startling realization that this is where that meme from the internet came from.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an iconic installment in the MCU franchise and continues to be a fan favorite. Out of the 24 films in Phase One through Three, it’s one of the most popular. If you enjoy these characters as much as I do, you may find yourself going back to it over and over again.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
Age of Ultron focuses on the continual formation of the Avengers, which is important for most of Phase Four so far. This will land on almost every watch list for Phase Four content as a result, so get used to it popping up all over the place.
Sam Wilson is very much a side-character in this film, but it’s worth watching it to note the development of his character and understand where he’s going within the larger MCU plot. Even if he’s generally a side kick here, there’s important moments that may leave you a bit confused down the line if you skip it.
Additionally, it sets up the next film on this watch nicely and that one’s crucial on many levels. A lot of the plot elements are carried over directly into Captain America: Civil War.
This film does come with a warning, though. Avengers: Age of Ultron has quite a few problematic elements. If you’re watching it and feel a bit uncomfortable at a few moments, you aren’t alone. After you’ve watched it, check out my review. It’s unfortunate that a movie with so many problems is so necessary to so many Phase Four things, but here we are. It’s still relatively fun, at least.
- Captain America: Civil War
Civil War finds its way onto a lot of watch lists because numerous crucial events happen. It basically changes the trajectory of the Avengers and sets up the arcs for almost every character going forward. Six years later and we’re still feeling the repercussions from the events that unfold here.
As pretty much everyone is involved in this film, there are going to be a lot of characters that you don’t know. Unless you want to do a full watch, you’ll just have to get used to that. Thankfully their stories are fairly easy to understand so not much preparation is necessary going into it. I think Scott Lang is probably the one with the last context, but the way he’s introduced covers the important things you need to know, so you should be fine.
Civil War does, however, introduce Zemo, who is crucial to the Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Between the film and the series, he really becomes one of the more fleshed out secondary characters/antagonists in the MCU.
- Black Panther
This is the one film that you can cut from this watch list to make a Medium Watch List. This is it. And nothing else.
That said, this is the highest rated MCU film to date on the TomatoMeter (though Spider-Man: No Way Home has been threatening its place there). The impact it made on the MCU cannot be understated and it’s worth a watch no matter what watch list you’re following. It’s even worth watching as a solo film, if you feel like it.
The important part of this film is the introduction of the Dora Milaje, and how they relate to Bucky. This is another thing you can kind of figure out from context clues within the show, but it’s a lot better watching the films. The character interactions between them have a lot of deep history that you’ll miss without watching it.
Also, stay for the end credit scene. I mean, you should always do that for MCU films. ALWAYS. But it’s worth mentioning just in case you forget.
- Avengers Infinity War
Brace yourself for heartbreak. That’s all I’m going to give you for this one. Good luck.
- Avengers Endgame
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier takes place about six months after the conclusion of this film. You can watch this and then dive into the series right away without missing much. The only content that came out between them is Spider-Man: Far From Home and WandaVision, neither of which impacts the story here.
Now You’re Ready for the Show!
Congratulations! You’re probably in a lot of pain after Endgame. That’s okay. Totally normal response. Wipe away the tears and prepare to move into Phase Four. Now you’re ready to watch the aftermath of Endgame through the experiences of Sam and Bucky.
Good luck and enjoy!
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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