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Here’s What to Watch Before ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’

Rocket Raccoon flying a ship

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is fast approaching! But what if you’re new to the franchise? What if everyone keeps telling you how good these movies are, and you want to experience one on the big screen before it’s too late, but there are so many Marvel Cinematic Universe movies out there and you don’t know where to start? What do you do!?

Relax! Here’s what to watch before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, depending on your cinematic goals.

If you just want to know who the main characters are

The Guardians of the Galaxy roster has grown over the years, but if you’ve never seen a Guardians of the Galaxy movie and you just need to know who Green Lady, Blue Guy, The Raccoon, Is That a Tree?, and Chris Pratt are, watch the original Guardians of the Galaxy (later renamed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1). Some stuff will go over your head in Vol. 3, and you probably won’t feel all the emotional beats as deeply as you’re supposed to, but you know what? Thor: Ragnarok was the first Thor movie I ever watched, and I was fine. If you only watch one movie before seeing Vol. 3, make it this one.

If you want to get the core Guardians of the Galaxy story arc

Here’s where things get tricky, thanks to the interconnected nature of the MCU.

The obvious movies to watch, before you head into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, are Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and 2. That way, you’ll get the whole trilogy, which tells their story from the formation of the team to whatever’s in store in Vol. 3. The trilogy leaves out large parts of the saga (thanks, Marvel), but you’ll get most of it.

If you want to know why the Guardians are on Knowhere now

When Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 begins, you’ll notice that the team is now in charge of a city in the skull of a dead Celestial. Why are they there? What’s going on? To find out, you’ll have to watch The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special on Disney+. Spoiler: the explanation they give for why the team is on Knowhere isn’t at all satisfying. But there is a revelation about Mantis, which also ends up not being satisfying. Honestly, the main reason to watch it is that Kevin Bacon’s in it.

If you want to follow the love story between Peter and Gamora

Remember how I said the trilogy leaves out a big chunk of the story? So Peter and Gamora start falling in love in the first movie (oh, relax, that’s not a huge spoiler) and their love story continues in Vol. 2. However. If you want to see the real meat of the story—and find out why Gamora doesn’t remember any of them in Vol. 3—then you need to watch Avengers: Infinity War.

If you want some extra Rocket Raccoon

As one of the only surviving team members of the Blip in Infinity War, Rocket gets a lot of screen time in Avengers: Endgame. You don’t really need to watch it to understand the story in Vol. 3, it’s just fun.

If you want to watch every single thing the Guardians of the Galaxy are in between now and Friday

That’s cool that you have so much free time! What’s it like?

If you’ve never seen any Guardians stuff and you want to get completely caught up, here are all the movies in which they make an appearance, in order:

Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Endgame
Thor: Love and Thunder
Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

If you don’t want to watch anything at all and just go and enjoy the movie

Then do that. The characters give you a lot of exposition. They try to catch you up. You won’t understand every reference, but you’ll still have a great time.

(featured image: Marvel)

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Julia Glassman (she/they) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and covers film, television, and books for The Mary Sue. When she's not making yarn on her spinning wheel, she consumes massive amounts of Marvel media, folk horror, science fiction, fantasy, and nature writing. You can check out more of her writing at, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.