Marvel mania: All the MCU movies, ranked from worst to best
On May 2, 2008, Tony Snark uttered the words “I am Iron Man” and thus one of the most lucrative film franchises was born. Launching Marvel as a movie studio, Iron Man marked the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its ever-growing slate of films. Fast forward to the present day and this year’s blockbusters Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and the Wasp have earned $3.7 billion worldwide.
The MCU’s growth shows no signs of slowing, with Venom, Captain Marvel, and Avengers 4 just some of the soon-to-be hits currently in the pipeline. To mark the ten-year anniversary of the MCU and its bright future ahead, we’re taking a look at the twenty movies that make up the cinematic universe, ranked from worst to best.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
While Thor: Ragnarok knew how to use its ridiculous premise to poke fun at itself and pump humor into the narrative, The Dark World was just a bit generic. It hit all the superhero beats – but in a cinematic universe that’s filled with intergalactic supervillains, afrofuturistic nations, and WW2 settings, the sequel suffered from a lack of edge.
Chris Hemsworth did his best, but even his presence wasn’t enough to make The Dark World exciting. And that’s saying something.
Doctor Strange (2016)
Benedoozle Cumberbombs as an arrogant, sorcerer superhero? That’s a big fat NOPE from us, thanks!
Iron Man 2 (2010)
The curse of the sequels was in full force with this one – the MCU was still struggling to find its footing with regards to universe-building and Iron Man 2 suffered as a result. While its purpose was to serve as a preamble for what was to come, the conflict of Iron Man 2 was kinda forgettable. That said, Mickey Rourke as Whiplash was pretty great.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Another film to suffer from the curse of the sequel, no one was all that mad for Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. This was definitely not helped by the fact that Ultron as a villain was a generic yawnfest. Avengers, stop assembling and sit back down.
Oh, Thor – thank the lawd you redeemed yourself with Ragnarok, because before that you were floundering with the old-timey vibe that came off a bit like a Game of Thrones / LOTR knockoff. One positive is the villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who holds the story up and keeps it going with his sociopathic spirit.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Hitting all the right notes of a superhero flick and serving a storyline beyond the Hulk’s origin story, The Incredible Hulk contained enough action to keep the fandom satisfied. That said, does anyone remember how or why Edward Norton ended up portraying the titular character?
While he did what he could with the role, the unsurprising love story and dismissable big bad meant that the film suffered from a severe case of averageitis. It speaks volumes that the MCU hasn’t followed the story up – and if it did, no doubt the fandom would be crying out for Mark Ruffalo to continue as the big green monster.
This movie captured the environment of World War II perfectly, making it one of the most unique superhero movies on the circuit. The pacing was a little wobbly and takes far too long to get to the action, but Chris Evans does a fantastic job as the feeble brooklynite-turned-beefcake who transforms into the titular hero to fight the Nazis and their fallen demon Red Skull.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
If you’re looking for a breezier beat from the MCU, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a welcome sojourn. It’s original, simple, contains some genuinely funny moments, and stars Paul Rudd as a crime-fighting Ant-Man. What’s not to love?
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Definitely better than the middle film but not as good as the first, Iron Man 3 was an entertaining addition to the Iron Man canon. It also showed off the range of the MCU, as the middle section of this threequel was basically an existential buddy comedy about Tony Stark and a 10-year-old kid.
While it doesn’t snap as much as some of the other MCU additions, for a superhero flick, Iron Man 3 contains enough fun and excitement to keep the popcorn crackling and saw yet another stunning performance from Downey Jr.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a playful space sequel that pops with energy, color, and vibrant humor. It was also the perfect opportunity for a reunion between Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel).
It’s not as fresh as the original, sure. But it’s a helluva lot of fun and that’s all we ask for from Marvel, right?
What we love about Ant-Man is that unlike some of the films in the MCU canon, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It takes the genre’s cliches and rolls with them with a comedic spin, and this was in full force in Peyton Reed’s action heist. Oh yeah, and Rudd, obviously – so much love.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
While Avengers: Infinity War would rank the highest in a “most ambitious” list, it was for this reason that the film felt a little overstuffed.
Don’t get us wrong – it’s an incredible cinematic feat and did well to balance so many character arcs within the context of Thanos (Josh Brolin) and those goddamn stones. But there were just a few too many Avengers assembling for the film to actually do anything inherently unique or new.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Our Spidey Senses are telling us that the placement of this movie at number eight is going to piss off a few people – come at us.
It’s not higher simply because there are Marvel films we enjoyed even more. But overall, Spider-Man’s homecoming was one to remember thanks to Tom Holland’s stunning performance as Peter Parker, some finely tuned humor, an absolutely killer suit, and the fact that it’s not just another origins story. Thumbs up!
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
It’s not the strongest Captain America flick, but it’s definitely not the weakest, and packs a lot of characters in without feeling overstuffed – including the introduction of Spider-Man and Black Panther (not to mention the glorious moment Lang meets and is subsequently enamored with the Captain).
It was also a good move on the Russo brothers’ part to have the climax focus on the conflict between Cap and Tony Stark on opposing sides of an ideological divide, rather than an intergalactic space war. Captain America: Civil War is ultimately a movie about friendship and that’s why it works.
The Avengers (2012)
It’s hard to remember a time when a superhero crossover movie of this scale wasn’t old hat, but back when the original Avengers assembled in 2012, the idea of sandwiching all of Marvel’s most major superheroes into one movie seemed like sheer lunacy.
However, Marvel did well by the fandom and Whedon executed the ambitious project with finesse, bringing together Iron Man (Downey Jr.), Captain America (Evans), Hulk (Ruffalo), Thor (Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) for an epic battle against the mischievous Loki (Hiddleston) and his alien army.
It was perfectly balanced between plot, action sequences, and character arcs, proving Whedon’s moxie when directing the film that paved the way for Marvel’s future crossover hits.
The Winter Soldier is not only the best Captain Marvel movie, but also one of the best MCU movies overall.
Its Cold War setting, the on-screen chemistry between Cap and Black Widow, a fantastic turn from Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, the establishment of Bucky Barnes’s character (Sebastian Stan), and that elevator scene all contribute to why The Winter Soldier is such a smart and compelling entry into the MCU.
Iron Man (2008)
This is the film where it all stemmed from – the film that changed the game for the superhero genre forever. Iron Man earns props purely for being so original upon its release, where Marvel took a major risk by turning its attention to a character that was relatively unknown.
And it worked, kick-starting the cinematic journey of one of Marvel’s now best-known characters – the loveable a-hole, Tony Stark.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Two years after the Avengers assembled, the Guardians of the Galaxy got together for an intergalactic battle of their own.
Marvel took us away from the human-filled lands of the Avengers and took us into the most fantastical sci-fi settings we’ve seen from the MCU. It has everything you could possibly want from a Marvel film: Solid humor; a unique storyline; epic cosmic settings; gripping action sequences; a group of beloved superheroes; and a talking tree. And everything’s wrapped together with a sense of lightness and fun. Nailed it, Marvel!
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
It was a wise choice to put Taika Waititi behind the camera for Thor: Ragnarok. Doing away with the old-timey theaterics of the first two and replacing them with a retro, surrealist vibe, Waititi transformed the Thor franchise by turning goofiness into charisma and creating the funniest movie in the MCU canon by far.
Also, Tessa Thompson as the tortured, beer-guzzling Valkyrie is pure 🔥.
Black Panther (2018)
With Ryan Coogler at the helm, and the acting talents of Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, and Letitia Wright, we knew Black Panther was going to be good.
However, no one was prepared for just how compelling our trip into Wakanda turned out to be. In addition to the gripping narrative based around a nation as it dealt with both internal and external conflicts, Killmonger made for a compelling, terrifying, and yet totally relatable villain.
Not only did it hit all the right superhero beats in a sci-fi / fantasy setting, but it also pointed a lens towards the issue of power systems, the practices of social change, and the history of race relations, topics the MCU had never touched upon with such depth and brevity before Black Panther.