What to watch before Doctor Strange 2

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
(Image credit: Marvel.com)

We've already bought our tickets for Doctor Strange 2 (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness if you want a mouthful), but with multiple weeks standing between us and its May 6 release date, it's time to talk prep. Because this looks like one of the more confusing MCU movies or shows this side of Moon Knight

Not only do you have multiple Doctor Stranges in the trailer, but the film appears to be very tightly linked to the most recent events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that ties across both films and Disney Plus shows, so it's harder than ever to just pick and choose the kinds of upcoming Marvel movies and shows to pay attention to.

Fortunately, we've pulled together all of the big titles, including links directly to their pages in Disney Plus. This list will have you more than ready to enter the multiverse (or at least as ready as one can be).

Oh, and ... well, there's one movie we could have added to this list, but we're not here to make people watch stuff they don't want to. Look closely enough in the Doctor Strange 2 trailer and you might notice that Strange is being marched around by a bunch of familiar robots. Beings that look a lot like Ultron. But we doubt you'll need to be really familiar with Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is not a good movie. In short, one of Tony Stark's super-smart AIs turned evil — in a giant shiny robot form — and it didn't go well. That's where Wanda lost her brother Pietro. There, you're caught up.

Now, you're ready to watch all of the good movies and shows you need to see before you see Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness.

Doctor Strange (Disney Plus)

This is the obvious one, It's always good to watch the previous editions of a movie before you watch the sequel. But in this case I think it's very much needed to help set the stage for the cast. You may know Stephen Strange from other movies on this list, as he played a crucial role in the fight against Thanos and helped Peter Parker and his friends get into college (among other things), but Strange's origin story explains a lot about his motivations going into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

We won't spoil anything here, but in order to properly walk into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, you should have a good idea of who Christine Palmer (played by Rachel McAdams) and Karl Mordo (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) are. Just from the trailer alone, it's clear that the former is a huge part of Strange's current mental state and that the latter is a key antagonist.

Stream it now on Disney Plus

Avengers: Infinity War (and Endgame)

Arguably a better introduction to Doctor Strange than his own first movie, Avengers: Infinity War introduced Stephen Strange's mystical powers to the Avengers squad. Bouncing lines off of the other heroes (primarily Tony Stark), Strange becomes a more fleshed-out character here.

Just as importantly, his contributions to the fight against Thanos show how he's able to contemplate every single possible outcome of a moment or decision. Here is where we get a glimpse of how Strange is the ultimate coach figure for other heroes. His decisions loom large over Endgame as well, so don't feel bad about finishing the series by jumping straight to that follow-up.

Stream it now on Disney Plus

WandaVision (Disney Plus) 

While Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is technically a Doctor Strange movie, you don't have to have parsed every individual frame of its trailers to see that Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) is going to be extremely important. Just like Strange, the MCU's resident Witch is having her own nightmares that seem too true to be real.

But to understand her emotional struggle, you're going to want to watch WandaVision, the first Marvel show on Disney Plus. The series serves as an introduction to Wanda and The Vision's children, Billy and Tommy, who are haunting Wanda's dreams. Stay through to the WandaVision post-credits scene to be fully hyped.

Stream it now on Disney Plus

Loki (Disney Plus)

When we talk about multiverses in the MCU, we often think about the trials of Loki. Or, well, the trials of a Loki, and many other Lokis as well. This Disney Plus series broke brains left and right by confirming that Loki is gender-fluid as it introduced modern audiences to Sylvie, the female Loki. There are also other Lokis, many of whom you meet as the show progresses.

This, dear reader, was one of the big, real steps into multiverse theory in the MCU. Here, the Time Variance Authority and its sentient animated mascot Ms. Minutes explained how timelines splinter and variants — different versions of the same person — emerge. Then, at the very end of the series, there's a huge event that could/should have an irrevocable impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe's history when it comes to timelines. 

Stream it now on Disney Plus

What If...? (Disney Plus)

Curious about that weird-looking kinda-evil Doctor Strange from the Doctor Strange 2 trailers? You should watch What If…?, one of the lesser-loved MCU shows on Disney Plus. This series — an animated anthology series of hypotheticals, adapting the popular comic of the same name — will clue you in on what's going on. 

It's narrated by The Watcher, a follically-challenged being who is sworn to never meddle in the affairs of the events he monitors across the multiverse. In one episode, we see The Guardians of the Galaxy's Star-Lord re-cast as T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman's voice acting is his final contribution to the MCU), and in another we see a MCU beset by a zombie outbreak.

If you're pressed for time, though, you can just skip to episode 4, "What If... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?" where Strange refuses to let history play out as he's told it must. And his decision breaks Strange into two versions (variants?) of himself.

Stream it now on Disney Plus

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Whether you want to call him Stephen or Doctor Strange (just not Mr. Strange), you'll probably love the MCU's resident wizard's most recent outing, Spider-Man: No Way Home. Currently available to buy or rent digitally or on DVD/Blu-ray, No Way Home isn't just a phenomenal movie and excellent bit of fan service. It appears to set up a major plot-point for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: the trial of Dr. Strange.

Strange's decisions in this movie, which have seismic ramifications for all involved, definitely play in all the concepts of multiverse theory (as you've undoubtedly already seen and heard). Also, you get to see Benedict Cumberbatch say the phrase "Scooby-Doo this crap," which is just amazing. 

Buy it on Amazon

Bonus: Watch the first X-Men movie

While Morbius has shattered the public's trust in Sony's ability to make an honest trailer, people still have reason to think that one of the most important X-Men characters will be in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. If you're reading this, you don't need to watch this movie to get familiar with the character or actor, but it's on my list.

Stream it now on Disney Plus

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.