What to Watch Before You Watch “Deadpool & Wolverine”

“Deadpool & Wolverine,” the third Deadpool movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), is set to hit theaters this July. MCU is a very complex system, so if you’re interested in watching this movie, you have to do your homework beforehand.

Here is a “watch guide” that will hopefully help anyone become a Marvel superfan prior to viewing “Deadpool & Wolverine.” Two notes before starting: one, be warned, this article will contain a few spoilers, particularly about the X-Men films. Second, as stated previously, MCU is grossly complex. So, most of the theories discussed are just that: theories, not actual facts from Marvel themselves. I, like everyone else, am still trying to make sense of Marvel’s (many) worlds.

To fully understand who Deadpool is, you must examine the timeline and universe he exists within. To do so, let’s discuss the X-Men. The X-Men are a group of mutant superheroes who are led by Charles Francis Xavier, better known as Professor X. There are 13 current films apart of the X-Men franchise, making “Deadpool & Wolverine” the 14th addition to the collection.

It is my recommendation to watch the X-Men movies in order of release if you are completely new to Marvel. However, if you are familiar with the superheroes and some of their backstories, “chronological” order, in my opinion, is the most fun way to watch the series. Chronological is in quotations because the order of how events actually unfold gets a little choppy.

“X-Men: First Class,” which debuted in 2011, takes place in the early 60s and is the origin story of how the X-Men formed. The next film, “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” starts in a desolate 2023, but largely takes place in the 70s. In this movie, Wolverine is tasked with going back in time to save the world. After this film, the chronological order of events becomes a topic of debate for MCU fans.

Some fans believe that though Wolverine travels back in time, ultimately saving the world by preventing a particular event from occurring (I won’t spoil that for you), the timeline has a way of resetting. This can be super confusing, so the best way I can explain it is using an example that is, yes, a huge spoiler. In “Days of Future Past,” Wolverine suffers from flashbacks of his “past” (more quotations because when he’s in the 70s timeline, it’s really his future). One event in particular, Wolverine killing fellow superhero, Jean Grey, continues to haunt him throughout the movie. However, when Wolverine finishes his work in the 70s, he returns back to 2023 to find Jean Grey alive and well. Keep in mind when Wolverine originally left 2023, Jean was dead. Are you confused yet?

Well, many MCU fans argue the chronological order to watch the X-Men movies is as follows in Figure A:

How to Watch the X-Men in “Chronological” Order:

  1. “X-Men: First Class” (2011)
  2. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014)
  3. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009)
  4. “X-Men: Apocalypse” (2016)
  5. “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” (2019)
  6. “X-Men” (2000)
  7. “X2” (2003)
  8. “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006)
  9. “The Wolverine” (2013)
  10. “Deadpool” (2016)
  11. “The New Mutants” (2020; Can be watched after “Deadpool 2” as well).
  12. “Deadpool 2” (2018)
  13. “Logan” (2017)

This timeline would indicate the changes Wolverine made in the 70s saved the world but didn’t prevent other events from occurring. In other words, Wolverine experiences everything prior to his time travel all over again; he kills Jean Grey twice.

The other half of MCU fanatics argue that after “Days of Future Past,” Wolverine creates two completely separate timelines. If you believe this theory, the movies are as follows (in figure B)?:

Original X-Men Timeline:

  1. “X-Men: First Class” (2011)
  2. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009)
  3. “X-Men” (2000)
  4. “X2” (2003)
  5. “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006)
  6. “The Wolverine” (2013)

Then, Watch the Timeline Due to Wolverine’s Time Travel:

  1. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014)
  2. “X-Men: Apocalypse” (2016)
  3. “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” (2019)
  4. “Deadpool” (2016)
  5. “The New Mutants” (2020)
  6. “Deadpool 2” (2018)
  7. “Logan” (2017)

Remember, if you believe this theory, you must consider the idea that Wolverine would be the only character in the entire universe to remember both of the timelines. In my opinion, both ideas of “chronological” order are quite messy and don’t perfectly align when considering the characters, their backstories, and the dates in which they were alive. But, it sure is fun to think about.

To understand Deadpool, you don’t have to watch the entire X-Men series. However, because Wolverine is an integral part of the upcoming movie, giving them a watch couldn’t hurt. At the very least, watching the Wolverine mini-franchise “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “The Wolverine,” and “Logan,” is beneficial because viewers receive their first introduction to Deadpool here. Most obviously, watching “Deadpool” and “Deadpool 2,” are also very essential.

The rest of the movies and television shows you must watch before viewing “Deadpool & Wolverine” really depend on if you believe the film takes place at some point on the X-Men timeline or in a different timeline altogether.

Let me explain (using spoilers). I believe, along with many MCU fans, that “Deadpool & Wolverine” must take place in a different timeline. First, Wolverine is alive in the movie’s trailer; Wolverine dies at the end of “Logan.” Second, Deadpool’s fiance, Vanessa, is alive in the trailer; in “Deadpool 2,” Vanessa dies. These two facts could simply place “Deadpool & Wolverine” earlier in the timeline of X-Men, before Wolverine and Vanessa pass.

However, the new trailer also features the Time Variance Authority (TVA), an organization that controls the complex timelines of MCU and “zaps” variants. According to Marvel’s official website, the TVA dates all the way back to the original “Fantastic Four,” but to get a general understanding of the organization, you should watch “Loki,” a series streaming on Disney+.

Further, the presence of this authority leads many to believe “Deadpool & Wolverine” takes place in a separate timeline from the previous films. This being said, are the characters in this film different versions of themselves, similar to how MCU has three versions of Spiderman? Or, are the characters the same ones from previous films but are “variants” in the wrong timeline?

The trailer also hints at a crossover between the X-Men universe and the Avengers universe, which have been primarily separate throughout franchise history. “The Marvels,” which was recently released in 2023, has a teaser trailer at the end of the film that also suggests the crossover. Though, of course, before watching “The Marvels” you must watch the Ms. Marvel series and “Captain Marvel,” which would snowball into essentially having to watch all the Avengers films to truly understand the bigger picture.

I know, that was a lot. Realistically, you can sit down, watch, and enjoy “Deadpool & Wolverine” for the action and adventure, while not truly understanding the underlying story of the film. But, what’s the fun in that?