Every Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Ranked From Worst to Best
We all have Marvel to thank for every major studio rushing to make an extended cinematic universe around their owned properties. Since 2008 with the release the Iron Man, Marvel has owned the superhero landscape on the big screen. Characters that we never thought would get their own films are now beloved by millions. But how does each film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe stack up? Let’s take a look:
#18: Iron Man 2 (2010)
Iron Man 2 is by no means a disaster, but it is certainly a letdown after the brilliance of the first Iron Man film. Robert Downey Jr. is still great as Tony Stark, but Iron Man 2 largely acts as an Avengers set-up movie with large breaks between action set pieces that really make the movie drag while Tony sits around and eats donuts. Iron Man 2 has one of the weakest villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Whiplash and is not very rewatchable. At least the ending action scene with War Machine ends the movie on a high note, however.
#17: Thor: The Dark World (2013)
The Dark World certainly has its moments such as Loki teaming up with Thor in combination with a very funny script, but the movie as a whole is very forgettable with a very contrived plot that comes off at times as a convoluted way to introduce the Aether to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thor 2 also has arguably the most forgettable villain in the dark elf Malekith (which is saying a lot considering the competition). Thor: The Dark World is definitely watchable, but it fails in comparison to many other Marvel movies.
#16: The Incredible Hulk (2008)
This movie unfortunately gets lost in the shuffle when people discuss the MCU movies, in part because Edward Norton did not return to play Bruce Banner after this movie. The Incredible Hulk is fun, turn-your-brain-off movie that contains massive gamma-infused monsters demolishing a neighborhood. Just don’t expect too much character or plot depth.
#15: Iron Man 3 (2013)
While it definitely is an improvement over Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3 doesn’t really fit in to the MCU like all the other movies. RDJ once again brings his A-game in an action-packed movie, but director Shane Black seemed to hamstring movies to come after it, cutting emotion out of Civil War by getting rid of the arc-reactor in Tony’s chest while also (in many people’s minds) ruining the Mandarin along the way.
#14: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
After the original Guardians of the Galaxy surprised us all, expectations were sky-high for the sequel. Unfortunately, Guardians 2 was a bit of a letdown for this critic, failing to create a compelling plot for the lovable characters at its core. However, the film is still a solid addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it gives us more of what we loved from all of the Guardians, giving us all a movie that is still fun despite its flaws.
*To read my full review of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, please click here.
#13: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
The First Avenger serves as a great origin story to Steve Rogers/Captain America while also serving as a really fun retro backdrop to World War II. You have to love how Marvel always changes up the genre of their superhero films, with The First Avenger being the period piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cap has a worthy adversary to go up against in Red Skull, but ultimately we all have to wait a little too long for the action.
#12: Thor (2011)
Thor was the first risk for the MCU as they tried to make a god and Asgard seem believable within the realm of the already established cinematic universe. Chris Hemsworth is an absolute perfect match for the title character, adding the masculinity and hilarity needed for the character to be a hit. The movie was also everyone’s introduction to Loki. I like to think Thor is one of the more underrated movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a visually stunning, witty movie with some solid performances along the way.
#11: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
While it is overstuffed and unfocused as it tried to set up all the Phase 3 MCU movies to come after it, Age of Ultron is a worthy, action-packed sequel to the first Avengers movie. Although Ultron is a little of a letdown as the villain, he is still definitely a presence on screen with James Spader doing some great motion-capture work. The entire Avengers cast continues to improve and grow in their characters as well. Age of Ultron is most definitely divisive, but I’ve really began to appreciate this movie more and more for how it set up movies like Civil War and the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok while being a self-contained, fun movie on its own merits.
#10: Ant-Man (2015)
Marvel most definitely scraped the bottom of the barrel when they decided to make Ant-Man into a feature film. But the movie succeeds thanks mightily to the charm of Paul Rudd as Scott Lang. Ant-Man is a clever heist movie that is very different from the other MCU movies, but still obviously fits in well to the big picture of the cinematic universe. The movie was very refreshing in that it scaled back the stakes of the movie, making it a more personal storyline rather than a massively scoped, impending Earth destruction type of movie that has been beaten to death in superhero movies.
#9: Doctor Strange (2016)
Doctor Strange is worth repeat viewings just to see its mind-being special effects. One image really stands is during the final action sequence where Doctor Strange and the other sorcerers are fighting Kaecilius and the other evil sorcerers while everything around them is moving backwards in time. The ending with Dormammu was a refreshing take on the final boss as Strange messed with time once again. Tilda Swinton (amid whitewashing controversy) stole the movie as the Ancient One.
*To read my full review of Doctor Strange, please click here.
#8: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Zany and fun, Thor: Ragnarok proved that Marvel is going to continue to push the envelope. With bizarre characters and an even crazier sense of humor, Marvel allowed Taiki Waititi to operate as he pleased — creating a very different Marvel film in the process.
The film updated Thor into a charismatic, funny individual. Clearly, the Shakespearean act wasn’t going to work much longer.
Above all else, Ragnarok is pure fun. Sometimes, that’s all you need in a film.
*To read my full review of Thor: Ragnarok, please click here.
#7: Iron Man (2008)
We all have Iron Man to thank for the multiple Marvel movies released per year these days. Iron Man has a great take on terror in the Middle East and made a C-list Marvel character into a household name. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark gave us our favorite arrogant superhero while also including arguably the best origin story in the MCU. One thing about this movie that a lot of the MCU movies fail to do is that it felt realistic and grounded in tandem with superhero elements.
*To read my full review of Iron Man, please click here.
#6: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Thanks to Marvel, we finally have a new version of Spider-Man that everyone can get behind.
Tom Holland expresses all the inexperience, charisma, and quick wit that many expect from the webslinger, becoming arguably the best Spider-Man to date. Thankfully, he also has a worthy adversary to go up against in Michael Keaton’s Vulture who is much more than the typical villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Above all else, Homecoming is flat out fun, which is a lot more than many movies can say about themselves.
*To read my full review of Spider-Man: Homecoming, please click here.
#5: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
After Marvel created a hit movie with a talking raccoon and a tree, it was obvious that we were going to see every Marvel movie on opening weekend from there on out. Guardians of the Galaxy is the space opera that the MCU needed to broaden the universe even further. Guardians has all the heart, humor, and action that we want from a Marvel movie. Fueled with hilarious banter between the Guardians, this a superhero movie we never thought we wanted. Now, we can’t wait for subsequent movies with the Guardians to come out.
#4: Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
We have this movie to thank for the zillion team-up movies currently in development. Avengers does such a fantastic job juggling every single character and giving them a chance to shine. It’s so memorable and fun that every movie since has tried to copy a lot of its elements with things such as disposable armies and sky beams coming from the sky. While the first half of the movie somewhat drags on in repeat viewings, Avengers was so iconic and fun that Warner Bros. is kicking itself for not getting the DCEU started earlier.
#3: Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Civil War builds on the blueprint developed by The Avengers. The so-called Avengers 2.5 handled even more characters while finding a way to be even more action packed. I contend that the airport scene is the best action scene in a comic book movie. Just within one scene you have every single character doing something absolutely incredible, especially Ant-Man turning into Giant Man. But this movie is much more than just that scene, it’s fueled with true emotion and passion. You feel that every single character is out for blood, a trait that not many Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have.
#2: Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther changed the game for the MCU. Not only did it deliver on an entertaining superhero film, it all had something to say. Built into the plot is a discussion of protectionism that is very relevant today.
Set in a fully realized world, Black Panther has true emotion and depth. Marvel has developed a reputation for creating light and fluffy movies. Thankfully Black Panther does not fit into that mold.
At this point, everyone should be excited to see whatever movie Ryan Coogler directs next.
*To read my full review of Black Panther, please click here.
#1: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Winter Soldier is the best example of changing genres within superhero films, being a political spy thriller with some of the best villains the MCU has had so far in the Winter Soldier and Alexander Pierce. Cap 2 has some amazing hand-to-hand combat, maybe the best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From the opening action sequence, you know that this is a much different movie than The First Avenger. The idea of Hydra slowly building within SHIELD was a very interesting plot point. It even had massive ramifications for the MCU in the movies afterwards. The Winter Soldier is the reason we love Cap so much to this day.
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