30 films down, 30 more to go.
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It’s been fifteen years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe first set sail, and though most of that time was spent exploring a sea of mediocrity, the franchise has seen its fair share of great films – and absolutely terrible ones – along the way.
And with the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, it felt like a good time to rank every film in the ambitious franchise from worst to best.
Disclaimer: This is my list, and if you don’t agree with it, you can post your own or, alternatively, get bent.
Let’s get things started with the absolute last bottom entry on the list, which is pound for pound the worst MCU film in existence.
30. Eternals (2021)
Kicking off the list is the one film that pretty much everyone collectively agrees is the worst MCU entry to date – Eternals.
A pretentious superhero story wrapped in Disney’s desire to pander to woke groups for clout, you’d be seriously hard-pressed to find anyone willing to defend this on the merits of its characters or story.
The only people who ever argue against its objective place at the bottom of the rankings are those who value ‘diversity’ both behind and in front of the camera because they can’t enjoy fiction if it doesn’t center on people who are just like them.
After all, nothing like some postmodernism tied together with bright lights and big CGI monsters to distract the audience from the absence of a compelling story.
29. Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
Kat Dennings and Natalie Portman are back. Yay…
Chris Hemsworth once said that Thor: Love and Thunder was a movie that a 7-year-old would make – and it shows.
An all-over-the-place disaster that attempts to be a Thor and Jane-centered rom-com and simultaneously a drama dealing with the very serious reality of the latter’s cancer, every attempt to give an air of seriousness to Jane’s morality is snuffed out by director Taika Waititi’s (aka David Cohen) habit of injecting comedy where it isn’t needed (it’s particularly unbearable in his Nazi Germany-set Jojo Rabbit).
Love and Thunder makes it clear that Waititi has no idea what he’s doing as a filmmaker.
28. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
One of the few MCU entries that Disney doesn’t like to talk about, Thor: The Dark World was so forgettable that I honestly can’t event remember who its villain was or what its plot was about.
The film is one of the most uneventful in the entire MCU and about as interesting to watch as the Denver Broncos’ offense.
Thor’s mom dies, the end. That’s the movie.
The best thing about this film is that it kept Natalie Portman away from the MCU for 9 years until Cohen decided to ruin everything.
27. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Iron Man 2 is NOT a movie. This is a $200 million commercial for Marvel’s The Avengers.
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The drop-off in quality from Iron Man to Iron Man 2 is truly astounding.
From the debut of Black Widow, the lead in to Thor, and the set-up of S.H.I.E.L.D., the film was so focused on setting up future MCU outings that it forget to set up a plot of its own.
Instead of a worthy follow-up to the film that started the MCU, Iron Man 2 gave us Mickey Rourke with a laughable attempt at a Russian accent as Whiplash and threw the potential for H.A.M.M.E.R. out the window seconds after they introduced it.
But hey, at least Scarlett Johannson looks good enough to distract you from her own character’s lack of a Soviet speech pattern.
26. Thor (2011)
While Thor starts out strong with its Asgard storyline, the second they leave the realm is the second you stop caring.
Loki might be the true bad guy pulling the strings, but outside of his ‘plans’, the biggest threat in this movie is a giant suit of armor.
Thor’s adventures in Asgard have all the makings of a classic coming-of-age fantasy story, but the film slams the brakes on that plotline in favor of watching the God of Thunder’s ‘fish out of water’ human interactions.
And by the way, have I mentioned that Dennings is a garbage-tier actress yet?
The one good thing about this film is that it has Hemsworth both putting in effort to play and being given a good script for his portrayal of Thor, as each subsequent outing has seem him less jacked and less Thor-like in his actions (thanks, Waititi).
25. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Let’s talk about the film that ruined The Mandarian, A.I.M., and the Iron Patriot in one fell swoop.
The first true taste of the standard bait-and-switch marketing Marvel ahs employed ever since, the reveal of Trevor Slattery as the Mandarian left a bad taste in the mouths of near everyone who saw this film.
From there, threw away Marvel’s second most famous ‘villain organization’ for an ending where Pepper Potts saves the day at the last second and relegated one of the comics’ coolest armors to all of about seven-minutes of total screentime.
And to top things off, Tony blowing up all of his suits was just stupid, especially as we all knew Downey Jr. was contractually set to return to his armored identity in future films.
A movie that was seemingly set up as a dark thriller involving Tony Stark that ultimately turned out to be a joke, Iron Man 3 was a massive misstep, especially coming fresh off the heels of the first Avengers movie.
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24. Captain Marvel (2019)
The Stage 2 Cancer diagnosis for the MCU, Captain Marvel was the film that not only killed Rotten Tomatoes, but also destroyed the enormous amount of goodwill the franchise had earned among its fans.
Sure, the film has a handful of genuinely enjoyable moments and splashes of shiny CGI strewn about its long stretches of middling boredom, but despite having a massive studio budget, the whole thing feels overall like the result of cutting corners and skimping on costs.
And after all the insults and disingenuous hit pieces that were leveled towards fans in its defense, the Patient Zero for the current direction of the M-She-U ended up being nothing more than yet another soulless project crapped out of Marvel’s assembly line.
But hey, who can forget the greatness that was Goose The Cat?
23. Black Widow (2021)
Scarlett Johannson may be the main attraction of this film, but Florence Pugh is the true star of Black Widow.
In what may be her breakout performance, Pugh overcomes the character limitations of being a Black Widow clone to become the character with the most heart and best-written arc in the entire movie.
But outside of that, this film has nothing else to offer. There’s no reason for it to exist.
Shortfalls in the film’s writing can be traced back to its production stage, where after hiring WandaVision creator Jac Schaeffer was to write the initial script, Marvel brought in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby screenwriter Ned Benson to rewrite the entire thing, only to eventually call Thor: Ragnarok and Godzilla vs. Kong writer Eric Pearson to make sense of their mess.
Serving mainly as a final goodbye to Johansson and her 10-year-long run in the franchise, at the end of the day, it follows the same studio gameplan as every MCU film: make money and don’t stand out.
22. Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
This film is the prime example of what happens when a studio demands that a surprise hit get a sequel.
Filled with forced humor and too many callbacks to the first film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 tried way too hard to recreate what audiences loved about the first film.
When you look at the final product, you realize just how empty the film and how badly it undid all the goodwill generated by its predecessor.
As a result, fans got a mediocre sequel – the norm for the MCU by this point.
It even found a way to waste Kurt Russel, for f–ks sake.
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21. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
The cardinal sin of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever isn’t that it’s a bad movie, but rather that its uneventful and has no clear direction of what it wants to be.
The unexpected and sudden death of Chadwick Boseman following a years-long battle with colon cancer stunned the entertainment world, and in the weeks that followed, Marvel announced that , they would not be recasting the role of T’Challa
However, according to Disney, the show had to go on and the story of Wakanda had to continue.
But rather than recast the role of T’Challa, despite the outpouring of demand for the studio to do so from not just fans but even the actor’s own brother, the House of Mouse decided it was time to replace the Black Panther with his little sister.
This decision to kill off T’Challa left the movie to be carried by a bunch of secondary characters who are not strong enough to lead a movie by themselves.
It is very difficult to recommend anyone give three hours of their time to a film that hoped to ride the wave of a man’s death to once again cash in on the black community.
20. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
At face value, Spider-Man: Far From Home is just another typical MCU film.
It’s not that great, but it’s not that bad, and it plays up to the old tropes of “OMG that’s the guy from the other movie I’ve watched” to distract you from the fact that Disney laughed all the way to the bank after just robbing your ass blind.
Largely boring and eventful, the film just passes the bare minimum of what qualifies as entertainment to justify not asking for a refund.
Even Spider-Man fans don’t have much to say about the web-slinger’s European adventure. This film only appeals to adults who feel like the only way to keep their childhood alive is by swearing a blood oath to Disney.
19. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
For those who thought this film would be a sequel to Doctor Strange, you were mistaken.
No, this is a Scarlett Witch movie starring America Chavez and guest-starring Doctor Strange.
Between this bait-and-switch and its attempt to prop up Wanda as a sympathetic character even after she murdered everyone on screen for completely selfish reasons, the film did itself absolutely no favors.
Before leaving the project over creative differences, returning Doctor Strange director Scott Derrrickson wanted to turn this film into an R-rated horror film, but Disney wouldn’t allow it because they were (and still are) too busy trying to groom children with their programming.
Once again, because studio committees have taken over the roles of screenwriter and director and virtually killed all creativity in the industry, a much better movie gets trashed before it ever got to see the light of day.
18. Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015)
Speaking of bait-and-switches, the first genuine one in the MCU was Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Remember how this film’s trailer made it look like its story was going to be a dark epic that saw the Avengers pushed like they had never been pushed before?
Instead, Joss Whedon decided to waste James Spader’s performance as one of the most menacing in the Marvel Universe on knock-knock jokes.
One massive commercial for future MCU films disgused as an Avengers story, Age of Ultron will go down as one of the biggest letdowns in the history of the MCU.
17. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
Much like every other MCU film, Shang-Chi is littered with moments where humorless, scene-killing attempts at comedy are played up for cheap laughs.
After a beautiful opening sequence that sets the tone for a story that mixes elements of fantasy and romance, we are dumped into a modern timeline and bombared with joke that wouldn’t even be worth of a a modern Saturday Night Live sketch.
And of course, because it’s a Marvel superhero film, everything ends with a giant CGI monster fight to keep casual fans happy enough to make them believe their $15 was money well spent.
While it isn’t a bad film, Shang Chi is certainly a missed opportunity to be so much better.
16. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The Marvel movie that Disney pretends doesn’t exist because it technically belongs to Universal Studios.
This movie on its own is a solid film, but because of said ownership issues and the amount of turmoil that went on behind the scenes caused by the actors, the studios, the licensing, and the need for it to set up an the Avengers movie, it’s been silently buried by the ranks at Disney.
And it’s a shame, because it’s so much better than the try-hard efforts of the MCU’s last two phases.
Oh, and I like Edward Norton FAR BETTER than I like Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk.
15. Black Panther (2018)
Having a civil rights movement unfairly attached to its name aside, Black Panther is a solid film with many original ideas.
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My biggest gripe here was I felt like the character of Black Panther himself was portrayed better in other MCU entries – namely Captain America: Civil War – that his own movie.
Meanwhile, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger ranks among the franchise’s greatest villains, but I don’t know if that says more about him or the MCU’s inability to properly book a good villain.
In terms of rankings, Black Panther is the film begins the break away from the worst that the MCU has to offer in favor of its better films.
14. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
David Cohen may be a one-trick pony, but at least his trick worked better here than it did in Love and Thunder.
Ragnarok improved the God of Thunder’s cinematic track record by leaving behind many fans’ least favorite parts of the on the past two Thor films – like Kat Dennings.
But in the process, you can tell he picked up a lot of influence from the Guardians of the Galaxy series, dumping in lots of references to 1980s pop culture in an attempt to win over hipsters and making sure to get every cents worth out of its licensing of Led Zepplin’s ‘Immigrant song’.
I’ve also got to give the film credit for coming up with an unconventional ending to the film similar to, albeit not as happy as, the one we got in the first Doctor Strange.
13. Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)
It’s pretty obvious that Ant-Man and The Wasp was intended to be a light-hearted, upbeat comedy that brings up the spirits of the audiences – and it delivers exactly that.
Doubling down on all the elements of the original that audiences liked, director Peyton Reed delivers a sequel that is honestly better overall than the first.
Plus, even though he joined the Ant-Man series halfway through the first film’s development, Reed manages to keep intact the feel of what we know of Edgar Wright’s original vision for Marvel’s shrinking sensation.
That’s to say nothing of the role Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Douglas play in the film’s enjoyment, as the performances of the charismatic trio enhance an already humorous script filled with great dialogue – which exists as a feat in and of itself seeing as how the film has 5 writers.
12. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
It’s hard to set a new direction for Spider-Man given how his film series have been rebooted like three times in 15 years, but with Homecoming, we finally get a high school version of the wall-crawler that isn’t thirty-years old.
Centering on the psuedo-father/son relationship between Tony Stark and Peter Parker and featuring Michael Keaton delivering an out-of-the-park performance as the Vulture, Homecoming is wall-crawler’s best solo film since Spider-Man 2.
You will definitely nitpick some of the creative decisions, but how much they effect your overall viewing experience is on you.
Spider-Man: Homecoming exemplifies Disney’s strengths with the MCU by delivering a super hero outing that’s both fun and undeniably entertaining.
11. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
For many Marvel fans, this film is considered the end of the MCU as they knew and loved it.
If you followed any part of the film’s eleven-year build-up, you will definitely like Endgame.
Jam-packed with moments of fanservice included specifically for fans to mark out to in theaters, fanboys will love it and general audiences will enjoy the experience.
Featuring such now iconic scenes as Cap, Iron Man, and Thor facing against Thanos and the climactic assembly of every hero who had appeared in the films thus far, Endgame marked the last chapter in the ‘quality’ era of the MCU.
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10. Doctor Strange (2016)
Years out from its initial release, Doctor Strange is still one of the most visually creative films in the entire MCU.
With an aesthetic best described as essentially Inception on steroids, the Sorcerer Supreme’s first film gets an ‘A’ not just for its visuals, but also its ‘Batman Begins with magic added to the mix’ origin story.
Further, the film stars Benedict Cumberbatch in a role that feels entirely natural for him and features what is arguably the best ending out of the entire MCU.
Suffice to say, Doctor Strange deserves all of its high praise.
9. Ant-Man (2015)
If only Disney had let Edgar Wright finish his original take on the Tiny Titan’s silver screen debut – I mean they let Rian Johnson destroy Star Wars for the sake of his ‘vision’, but they couldn’t let Wright do the same for Ant-Man?
Regardless, I dig the creativity that went into creating the world that Ant-Man lives in and making it stand out as visually unique.
Plus, Paul Rudd is an underrated hit in his role as Scott Lang, though Michael Peña nearly steals the entire movie from him
Its villain is weak, but that’s an MCU problem as a whole rather than Ant-Man specific one.
This is definitely one of the few films you can rewatch and still be entertained with.
8. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Another movie that’s highly underrated compared to its peers, Steve Rogers’ introduction to the MCU both well done and gives you persepctive on why his relationships with Bucky and Peggy were so important to him.
The First Avenger is also served well by its respective casting of Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving as Colonel Phillips and the Red Skull, not to mention its dedication to recreating 1940s America.
Everyone may know how this film has to end, but its still provides a great ride along the way and sets the stage for Cap to have the best series of films in the MCU hands down.
7. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
In my opinion, this is where the MCU truly ended. After this, everything else might as well be non-canon.
As a moviegoer, this is the perfect popcorn film for audiences – escapism at it’s finest.
As a comic book fan, this is everything you have waited a decade for – Thanos is finally here and he is ready to end half of all life in the universe.
There are many things I liked about the film and many things that I didn’t like, but ultimately, none of them will matter much in the face of the ‘snappy’ culmination of the world’s first – and so far only successful – shared cinematic universe.
6. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
Still standing as the gold-standard for the MCU, The Avengers is the film that successfully proved the concept of a shared universe could work and arguably ruined Hollywood as a result.
Before Joss Whedon’s life fell apart, he put together the film that created a newfound sense of pride for comic book fans and nerd culture alike.
On one hand, you can’t deny that seeing all these superheroes come together in one movie was a game changer for the entertainment industry and quite the ‘Marvel’ for audiences to see.
On the other, the success of The Avengers kicked off a ‘shared universe’ arms race between major Hollywood studio, which in turn led to a number of ‘nerd culture’ IPs being haphazardly optioned for such a potential endeavor.
At the end of the day, whether or not this was a good or bad development all depends on your personal tastes.
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5. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
Even though it’s driven purely by nostalgia for the web-slinger’s past Sony films, No Way Home still makes it into the Top 5 due to just how enjoyable it is.
Breaking the chains of the mediocre ‘Phase 4’ it found itself in, No Way Home dramatically cuts the filler in service of steering the franchise back in the direction of what Spider-Man is all about: engaging storylines, life lessons, and the hero’s iconic rogue gallery.
This is, without question, the best Spider-Man film to star Tom Holland behind the mask. Of course, that’s due in large part to Andrew Garfield, whose return has the most people talking.
It took a while, the gamble of having cast three different Spider-Men in the span of 15 years finally pays-off with No Way Home.
4. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
You can call it Avengers 2.5 all you want, but this Cap-led effort was far better than Age of Ultron, mostly because of who was involved.
After winning over audiences with their spy-thriller take on the Star-Spangled Avenger in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the combination of the Russo Brothers behind the camera and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely on story writing duties has proves itself to be the Grand Slam formula for the MCU with Civil War.
Featuring, the story of the Winter Soldier, the debut of Spider-Man, the political divide between the two-sides, and one of the most intriguing and effective villains in MCU history, Civil War delivered a better superhero mash-up than either of the first two Avengers movies.
Hell, Black Panther was even a better ‘Black Panther’ in this movie than in his own feature film.
3. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 1 (2014)
A film starring an obscure group of superheroes and led by a former WWE champion and the fat guy from Parks and Recreation, this movie should not have worked but it did.
A space opera atmosphere backed by 1970s pop music, a cast of actors who each made their chemistry work by bringing something different and compatible to the table, and featuring humor that is funny in a way that doesn’t clash with its tone, Guardians of the Galaxy is a winner because it is the most fun you can possibly have in the MCU.
Also, Nicole Perlman does not get enough credit for writing this film.
2. Iron Man (2008)
The film that jumpstarted the entire MCU is a textbook perfect origin story for a superhero.
Believe it or not, Robert Downey Jr. was a massive casting risk at this point in his career due to his then-struggles in his personal life.
So much so that Marvel brought in Terrance Howard – the film’s first cast and highest paid actor – to serve as the star power insurance behind their gamble on Downey Jr.
Lucky for Marvel, RDJ’s performance as the Armored Avenger paid off, jump-starting the world of Marvel as we know it today.
How the times have changed.
Grounded in a sense of realism thanks to its lack of outright ‘super’ or ‘magical’ powers and willingness to avoid many of the superhero film tropes of its time, Iron Man was the superhero movie that comic book stories could be enjoyed by even non-fans.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The absolute best movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to be Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Flipping the MCU on its head with the revelation that HYRDA had been running S.H.I.E.L.D in secret for decades, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely wrote The Winter Solider (and Civil War) as a cautionary tale against the dangers of government overreach – a theme which, according to their political hot takes, apparently flew far over the heads of the film’s stars.
Further, not only does the film feature great acting all around, it also sees the Russo Brothers eliciting each franchise actor’s best respective MCU performance to date.
The Winter Soldier isn’t just the best MCU movie, but also – as the test of time will prove – one of the best superhero movies ever put to film.
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