Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies Ranked from Worst to Best

What a decade it’s been.

Back in 2008, when the Marvel Cinematic Universe launched with barely B-list hero Iron Man featuring fading star Robert Downey Jr. at the helm, no one could have predicted the heights the MCU would reach.

Twenty movies later, gazillions of dollars in the bank and a renewed sense in the wonder of comics, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has spawned one of the most enduring movie franchises in cinematic history.

And this week, the decade-long story finally comes to an end with the release of Avengers: EndGame.

Let’s revisit the 21 films that have defined the MCU from bottom to top.


thor21. Thor

While not a bad movie per-se, our first jaunt into Asgard doesn’t hold up to Marvel’s lofty standards. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston’s portrayals of super-jock Thor and scheming sorcerer Loki are magnificent, but the lightweight plot doesn’t give them much to do. Bet you don’t even remember the climatic final battle against the CGI TINFOIL WARRIOR. Ugh. It’s a good intro for Thor and his space-viking brethren, but not much else.



The_Incredible_Hulk_poster20. The Incredible Hulk

Hulk is one of those properties that’s tough to translate on screen, especially when Bruce Banner spends every waking moment trying to suppress the title character. While most Hulk films have been abominations (see what I did there?)  Norton does a solid job of portraying the burdens of the downtrodden Banner. It’s too bad the supporting characters are so underdeveloped.




Iron_Man_2_poster19. Iron Man 2

One of the biggest criticisms of the MCU films is that they feel like placeholders for bigger films. That’s definitely evident here, arguably the most forgettable of all the MCU films so far. Despite that, there’s a lot to love, thanks to Robert Downey Jr.’s effortless portrayal of Tony Stark. Justin Hammer and Whiplash might not be highly-regarded villains but they wind up being great intellectual and physical threats, respectively. Yeah, it feels more like a launch pad for the Avengers team-up than a standalone film, but there’s lot to love.


thor the dark world18. Thor: The Dark World

The sequel to the original Thor built upon the promise of the original film. We get a decent nemesis in Malekith, fan-favorite Loki becomes an anti-hero (for a little while, anyway) and Earth actually faces a serious threat this time, thanks to the Kool-Aid-like Plot Device of Doom known as  the Aether. There are enough twists, turns and crashing buildings to captivate audiences and give Thor a chance to shine on his own.



avengers-age-of-ultron17. Avengers: Age of Ultron

When you’re tasked with following a game-changing blockbuster like The Avengers, chances are pretty good that the bar has been set too high to hurdle. That was the case for Avengers: Age of Ultron, a solid action film that just couldn’t measure up to its predecessor. Make no mistake, it was still a fun outing but the bloated cast and criminally underused megavillain Ultron made this one a slight misstep. It’s more of a forgettable popcorn flick than franchise turning point we expected.



ant man16. Ant-Man

Let’s be honest, not too many of us expected Ant-Man to be any good. Between studio spats over direction and the fact that, even at his best, Ant-Man works better as a side character than main attraction, expectations were lower than Hank Pym’s six-legged pets. But our fears were quickly alleviated. Scott Lang’s misadventures played out like a hyperactive heist film, giving it a different feel that most other entries in the series. It was a fun introduction to a character who destined to play a bigger role in the MCU.


ant man and the wasp15. Ant-Man and The Wasp

Ant-Man’s films continue to be MCU’s most underrated (Infinity) gems. Thought by some critics to be an unnecessary stopgap on the road to the Avengers finale, Ant-Man and The Wasp was unfairly dismissed. Some of y’all missed a treat. Building upon the heist theme from the previous film, this entry retains the same manic energy and adds even more chemistry between Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly’s titular characters. The MCU may be known for high-stakes battles and universal consequences, but it’s the small stories that really stick with us.


captain marvel14. Captain Marvel

Your least favorite fanboy’s least favorite Marvel movie! Eh, they’ll get over it. Despite a mountain of divisive press, Brie Larson’s introduction as Carol Danvers is a pretty solid offering, steering away from the usual origin story cliches to present a perspective for Marvel’s newest heavy-hitter. It probably would have been better received if it landed earlier in the MCU canon and not so close to the final showdown, but regardless, the no-nonsense space cop’s maiden voyage shows there’s lots of potential for the character.


doctor strange13. Doctor Strange

Here’s yet another property I’d never think we’d see on the big screen. If we’re talking visuals alone, Doctor Strange is a masterpiece – the psychedelic journey into Marvel’s realm of magic was truly a sight to behold. And Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the good doctor was spot on. Some formulaic origin story tropes keep this one from soaring to the heights of the astral plane but it’s a great intro into the Marvel’s world of mysticism.



Iron_Man_3_theatrical_poster12. Iron Man 3

THE IRON MAN 3 HATE CAMPAIGN MUST END. I get it fanboys, I was just as annoyed when Ben Kingsley’s brilliant portrayal of the Mandarin was turned into cheap comic relief. It was also pretty annoying that Tony Stark spent most of the film outside of his iconic armor. And when he did don the armor, half the time it broke apart like 30-year-old Legos. But beyond those quips, Iron Man 3 was a highly entertaining piece of summer escapism, with Tony learning to embrace the man outside the armor. It didn’t stick closely to its comic roots, but it’s undeniably fun.


Captain_America_The_First_Avenger_poster11. Captain America: The First Avenger

My expectations weren’t set very high for the first Cap film. I worried the World War 2-era back story would cause the story to drag and, quite frankly, squeaky-clean Steve Rogers certainly isn’t my favorite superhero. But the film works extremely well, thanks to Chris Evans’ spot-on portrayal of Cap. He’s unwaveringly noble without descending into parody. The film uses its 1940s nostalgia to craft a fulfilling story that bridges eras. It still stands as one of the more enjoyable experiences in the MCU so far.



spider-man-homecoming-poster10. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spidey fatigue? Nah. Sure, Spider-Man:Homecoming is the SIXTH Spidey film over the course of 15 years, but unlike most of its predecessors, it’s the titular character’s youthful exuberance that fuels this film. Whereas earlier franchises focused on the dour death of poor old Uncle Ben and Peter Parker’s hapless love life, this film served as a coming-of-age story. Petey’s just a clumsy kid learning to be a hero, and his journey kept us hooked. It wasn’t the near-flawless work some critics claimed due to some glaring pacing issues but it was the best Spidey has looked on the big screen in years.


guardians of the galaxy 29. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

If it’s not broke, why fix it? Guardians Vol. 2 rode the wave of its impressive predecessor (more on that one later…) by using the exact same blueprint – hilarious banter, big-time space fights and a whole lotta heart. But what kept this entry from being a simple retread was its surprisingly tender message about family and fatherhood. Come for the laughs, stay for that tear-jerker of an ending.



Ironmanposter8. Iron Man

The one that started it all. Give Robert Downey Jr. props for taking what was essentially a C-list superhero to the mainstream. At this point, Iron Man is just a tier below Batman and Superman, and it’s thanks to this film. Iron Man succeeded because it defied the usual superhero genre tropes – it didn’t take itself too seriously, it didn’t get overly creative with its source material, it just relied on lighthearted atmosphere, stellar character development and magnificent effects to tell its story. It set the blueprint for the entire MCU.



thor ragnarok7. Thor: Ragnarok

With the previous Thor films hovering at the tail end of the list, it’s no surprise that my expectations weren’t very high for the third entry in this list. But third time’s the charm – Thor: Ragnarok threw out everything that didn’t work in the previous entries (boring plot, unnecessary drama) and heaped on everything that HAS worked for other Marvel entries (lots and lots of jokes). The result is the most refreshing revival in the MCU thus far, a hilarious space romp filled with rapid-fire jokes and enthralling fight scenes. This film finally embraces Thor for what he truly is – a loud, violent jock with a heart of gold.


Captain_America_The_Winter_Soldier6. Captain America: The Winter Solider

The coolest thing about the MCU – and the thing that has contributed to its longevity – is that all the films have a different feel. Thor brings the fantasy elements, Iron Man is all about sci-fi, and the upcoming Ant-Man flick seems to have the feel of a heist film. Cap 2 is just as unique – it’s like a Bond film souped up with super-solider serum. It scales back on the CGI stuff to make it feel more authentic and is driven by a high-energy plot filled with constant twists. And the titular Winter Solider is one of the best adversaries we’ve seen in the MCU thus far.


the avengers5. Marvel’s The Avengers

The Avengers proved to be the Voltron of MCU – separately, the main cast is pretty cool, but their real power is in their unity. On the surface, the storyline isn’t groundbreaking (save the world from the aliens!) but it’s the ensemble cast that really makes this special. What could have easily wound up as a bunch actors clawing for screen time gels into a super-sized buddy-cop flick. Except the cops have lasers and enchanted hammers n’ stuff. The Avengers wasn’t just the culmination of years of film storylines, it became the measuring stick for all superhero films.


civil war4. Captain America: Civil War

Truly the culmination of all the films prior to it, Civil War showcased the genius of building a cinematic universe. Years of plotlines converged into one massive battle royale between heroes and man, it lived up to the hype. There’s no way the underlying tension that put Marvel’s flagship characters at odds could have been built in one standalone flick. Credit those 12 prior films – along with timely, real-world sociopolitical issues – for laying the foundation for the one the smartest and most thrilling superhero movies ever made.


avengers infinity war3. Avengers: Infinity War

The beginning of the end never felt this good. I initially had reservations this film being too ambitious, considering it features well over two dozen characters from previous movies. But Infinity War never feels bloated, never drags and refuses to be weighed down by the heft of its starpower. Of course the true star here is Josh Brolin’s Thanos, a menacing yet surprisingly sympathetic despot who has to be in the conversation among greatest villains in cinema history.  It does suffer a bit by feeling like a piece of an incomplete puzzle but, hey, its job is to lay the groundwork for this story’s massive conclusion. In that case, job well done.


GOTG-poster2. Guardians of the Galaxy

When I asked my wife if she’d accompany me to see this film, she scoffed. She said she had no desire to see a “talking raccoon” that “looks stupid.” Yet after we watched the film, she spent the rest of the evening quoting the stupid raccoon. That dumb ol’ raccoon and his raggedy band of miscreants recaptured all that made space operas like Star Wars so much fun — it was action packed, loaded with memorable characters and bursting with heart. Best of all, the self-referential humor always kept the flick very down-to-earth, even when the crew was blasting baddies in space. Sure, it wasn’t a perfect film — as per most MCU films, main villain Ronan was underdeveloped — but the Guardians captured the suspense and magic of comics like no other movie before it.


black panther1. Black Panther

For those movie snobs who still scoff at superhero movies, I present Black Panther. It’s so much more than buff guys in tights dropping one-liners against CGI backgrounds, though there is plenty of that too. The tale of Wakanda is almost Shakespearian: A newly crowned king struggles to find his purpose while dealing with the threat of an usurper to the throne.  But true magic of the film is in its subtle narratives – the dangers of seeing family members as infallible, black women as the driving force of a society and how circumstances can make villains out of all of us. Ryan Coogler didn’t just craft a superhero movie, he created a near-perfect narrative of the black experience.


Which movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe are your favorites? Share ’em below.



  1. Amazing list. Black Panther was such a flaw free movie. I really loved Ragnarok, Civil War and Guardians 2 as well. The best thing about Captain Marvel is how its mere existence brings out so much fury in virgin fanboys.

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