By the time Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow began spying on Tony Stark in the Iron Man sequel — which was the first step in her becoming a founding member and the first lady of the live-action movie Avengers — Don Cheadle had replaced Terrence Howard as James Rhodes/War Machine. Edward Norton was also on his way to not coming back to the role of Bruce Banner after his 2008 “The Incredible Hulk” movie (a role Mark Ruffalo eventually settled into). Black Widow, alongside Iron Man, quickly became a superhero that Marvel fans expected to be around for a while.
The heroine would eventually become the queen on the Marvel Studios chessboard, able to move anywhere, starring in every Avengers movie and becoming a vital part of the Captain America franchise alongside Chris Evans’s Steve Rogers.
Yet despite her many effortless bad-guy takedowns and ability to hold her own in any scene with any Avenger — from Iron Man to her MCU BFF Hawkeye (played by Jeremy Renner) — Black Widow also represents one of Marvel Studios’ few blunders.
Johansson’s Black Widow was the only woman on the original Avengers roster of big boys with superhero toys, but she was not Marvel’s first female superhero to star in her own film. That honor went to Brie Larson in 2019’s “Captain Marvel.” Even Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment, which to this day are still working on perfecting their modern-day superhero movie formula, developed two Wonder Woman movies before Black Widow’s name appeared in the title on the big screen.
After being delayed last summer due to the pandemic, Black Widow is finally ready for her solo movie debut.
If you’re looking to dive into her key moments before the new film is released in theaters and on Disney Plus (for purchase) on July 9, here are seven movies to watch, all of them are available to stream on Disney Plus.
‘Iron Man 2’
In her first appearance, Black Widow uses her stealthy spy skills to fool the biggest brain in the MCU, Tony Stark/Iron Man, under the guise of the world’s best executive assistant who just so happens to know martial arts. Carefully plucking Stark’s playboy strings and playing on his billionaire “there is nothing I can’t have” attitude, she eventually reveals her true self to Iron Man, becoming an ally and a bridge between Stark and her boss, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), a new alliance that is the first step in the formation of the Avengers.
In the first mega MCU team-up featuring all of the original Avengers, Black Widow gets a close-up moment against the movie’s big bad guy, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) — who is now starring in his own Disney Plus series. Thor’s sneaky brother is being held captive by the Avengers after plotting to take over Earth. This is Black Widow’s deep background scene, where she reveals to Loki that she, too, was once the bad guy, so much so she was on the radar of the good guys she now works with. She’s an assassin trying to clean the old blood off her hands through heroic deeds. Loki, being the God of Mischief that he is, pounces on Black Widow’s emotional reveal, but instead of getting an advantage, he accidentally reveals a key part of his evil plan — just as Black Widow wanted him to. The exchange proved that even without superpowers, Black Widow could hold her own against the most powerful supervillains.
‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’
Black Widow and Captain America are working side by side. The organization they’ve fought for together for years begins to crumble from within due to an infiltration that neither could see, led by a foe from Captain America’s past that Black Widow has fought before. “The Winter Soldier” is considered the MCU’s best movie by many , and a big part of its reputation is Johansson matching Evans’s screen presence in both action-filled and humorous moments. Evans and Johansson also have an undeniable on-screen chemistry that is never acted on. (Both are destined for other loves in the MCU, but if you’ve got some Captain America/ Black Widow fan-fic romance ideas, check out the duo in 2007′s “The Nanny Diaries.”)
‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’
In her first meetup with “WandaVision’s” Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), who is not yet an Avenger, Black Widow falls under the spell of the future Scarlet Witch’s powers and reveals key memories of being trained in the sinister Red Room to become the ultimate spy. “Age of Ultron” also takes a deeper look at a budding romance between Black Widow and the Hulk, featuring romantic scenes with Bruce Banner (Ruffalo) and moments where she helps cage the big green monster within him.
‘Captain America: Civil War’
An all-out brawl where the superheroes are constantly punching each other in the face, this movie leads Black Widow to fight her two biggest MCU allies — Captain America and Hawkeye — over differences about how the government should regulate superheroes after the events of “Age of Ultron.”
‘Avengers: Infinity War’
In the battle against Thanos — the biggest supervillain the MCU has ever seen — Black Widow helps lead a fight against his forces on the Wakandan lands of the Black Panther.
After Thanos wipes out half the universe with the powerful Infinity Gauntlet, Black Widow helps the surviving heroes go on a time-traveling mission to restore all of humanity. Her mission, alongside Hawkeye, is a fatal one, as she is forced to sacrifice her life to retrieve the Infinity Stone needed to save the universe. Her death is permanent, even as the Avengers bring back all of the previously fallen. Don’t forget, “The Black Widow” is a prequel of sorts, taking place before one of the most impactful deaths (right alongside Iron Man) in the MCU.