Can I Watch John Wick 4 Without Watching 1 And 2?

by Barbara

The “John Wick” franchise has become a cultural phenomenon since the release of the first film in 2014. With its unique blend of stylish action, intricate world-building, and a standout performance by Keanu Reeves, the series has garnered a dedicated fan base. As we approach the release of “John Wick 4,” many newcomers might wonder: can you jump straight into the fourth installment without watching the first two films? In this article, we’ll explore this question in depth.

Understanding the John Wick Universe

Before diving into whether you can watch “John Wick 4” without the context of the previous films, it’s essential to understand the universe in which these movies are set. The “John Wick” series is known for its rich and detailed world-building. It’s not just about a man seeking revenge; it’s about an entire hidden society of assassins with its own rules, codes, and hierarchy.


The first film introduces us to John Wick, a retired hitman seeking vengeance after a group of men kill his dog, a final gift from his deceased wife. This act pulls him back into the world he had left behind. The subsequent films expand on this universe, introducing new characters, locations, and deeper layers of the assassin’s society.


The Plot of the First Three Films

John Wick (2014)

The first film sets the stage for the entire series. John Wick, grieving the loss of his wife, is drawn back into the underworld after a gang of thugs steals his car and kills his dog. This seemingly simple act of violence unravels a much larger story about loyalty, revenge, and the personal code of honor among assassins. Key characters like Viggo Tarasov, the Russian mob boss, and his son Iosef, who becomes the target of John’s wrath, are introduced.


John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

The second film delves deeper into the intricacies of the assassin’s world. John is forced out of retirement once again when Santino D’Antonio, an Italian crime lord, calls in a marker – a blood oath John swore to Santino in the past. The plot takes John to Rome, where he must fulfill his obligation by killing Santino’s sister, Gianna. The movie explores themes of duty and betrayal, as Santino turns on John, leading to a climactic battle.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)

The third installment picks up immediately after the events of “Chapter 2.” John is now a marked man, with a $14 million bounty on his head after killing Santino on Continental grounds, a neutral territory where no business (i.e., killing) is supposed to take place. The film follows John’s desperate attempts to survive as he seeks help from old allies and new acquaintances. It further expands on the lore, introducing The Elder, the one who sits above the High Table, and showcasing more of the Continental’s global influence.

Do You Need to Watch the First Two Films?

Character Development

One of the primary reasons to watch the first two films is to understand John Wick’s character development. The emotional weight of his journey is built upon the losses and betrayals he experiences. Each film adds layers to his personality, motivations, and the choices he makes. Without this background, his actions in “John Wick 4” might seem less impactful.

World-Building and Lore

The “John Wick” series is renowned for its meticulous world-building. The rules of the assassin’s society, the concept of markers, the significance of the Continental hotels, and the intricate power dynamics are all established in the first two films. Jumping straight into “John Wick 4” might leave you confused about these elements, as the series doesn’t spend much time re-explaining established lore.

Recurring Characters and Relationships

Many characters from the first two films play significant roles throughout the series. Winston, the manager of the New York Continental, Charon, the concierge, and Bowery King, the underground crime lord, are all crucial to the story. Their relationships with John evolve over time, and understanding their history adds depth to their interactions in “John Wick 4.”


What You Might Miss

If you choose to skip the first two films, here are some key elements you might miss that are crucial to understanding the full scope of “John Wick 4.”

John’s Motivations

Without witnessing the death of his wife and the loss of his dog, you might not fully grasp the personal stakes for John. These events are the catalysts for everything that follows, driving his actions and decisions.

The High Table

The High Table is the governing body of the assassin’s world, and its significance grows with each film. By the time “John Wick 4” comes around, the High Table’s influence and the rules it imposes are central to the plot. Missing out on the earlier films means you might not understand the full extent of its power and why it’s such a formidable force.

Markers and Blood Oaths

The concept of markers and blood oaths is introduced in “Chapter 2” and plays a significant role in the series. These are binding agreements that cannot be broken, and they heavily influence the plot. Understanding these elements is crucial for following the story.

Character Backstories

Characters like Winston, Charon, and Bowery King have rich backstories and complex relationships with John. Their motivations and actions are better understood with the context provided by the first two films.

Can You Still Enjoy John Wick 4?

While watching the first two films undoubtedly enriches the experience, it’s possible to enjoy “John Wick 4” on its own. The series is known for its action sequences, which are visually stunning and choreographed with precision. Even without the full context, the sheer spectacle of the fights, the stylish cinematography, and Keanu Reeves’ performance can still make for an entertaining viewing experience.

Visual Storytelling

The “John Wick” series excels in visual storytelling. The action sequences are not just about violence; they tell a story through movement, choreography, and cinematography. These scenes are designed to be thrilling and engaging, even for viewers who might not be familiar with the entire backstory.

Standout Performances

Keanu Reeves’ portrayal of John Wick is compelling and charismatic. His performance alone can carry the film and keep viewers engaged. Additionally, the supporting cast delivers strong performances that add to the overall appeal.

Universal Themes

At its core, the “John Wick” series explores universal themes of revenge, loyalty, and survival. These themes are relatable and can resonate with audiences even without prior knowledge of the series.

Tips for New Viewers

If you decide to watch “John Wick 4” without seeing the first two films, here are some tips to help you follow the story and appreciate the film:

Read a Summary

Before watching “John Wick 4,” consider reading a summary of the first three films. This can provide you with a basic understanding of the plot, characters, and key events.

Watch Recap Videos

There are many recap videos available online that summarize the events of the previous films. These can be a quick and engaging way to catch up on the story.

Pay Attention to Visual Cues

The “John Wick” films often use visual storytelling to convey information. Pay close attention to the settings, costumes, and actions of the characters. These details can provide context and help you understand the plot.

Focus on the Action

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the backstory, the action sequences are designed to be visually captivating and can be enjoyed on their own merit. Focus on the choreography and the artistry of the fight scenes.


In conclusion, while watching “John Wick 4” without seeing the first two films might leave you missing some context and depth, it is still possible to enjoy the movie. The “John Wick” series offers a unique blend of action, style, and storytelling that can appeal to both longtime fans and new viewers. If you’re willing to put in a bit of effort to catch up on the backstory, you’ll likely find “John Wick 4” to be a thrilling and satisfying experience.

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