Worst to Best: The MCU
Worst to Best: The Marvel Cinematic Universe
Today instead of our usual Throwback Thursday review, we are looking back and ranking each and every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe from least to greatest! (Of course this is excluding the next Spider-Man as that is… yet to release.) Please take in mind that this list is very subjective, and several of these could switch back and forth at any time. In fact I swapped several of these while making this list. So yeah, let’s dig in!
26. Eternals (2021)
Marvel’s latest blockbuster is arguably one of its boldest, as well as one of its worst. Eternals features some genuinely great ideas, and the film breaks from the formula enough that I hope we will see more (and better) films follow in its footsteps. Sadly it is also the dullest Marvel movie we have had to date.
25. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Thor: The Dark World was the gold standard for bad MCU films until Eternals, and for good reason. While Tom Hiddleston makes the film an overall enjoyable viewing experience, the cookie-cutter filmmaking set to a bland color palate with a story that fails to feature an emotional center and one of the most forgettable antagonists in film history don’t do this film any favors when it comes to rewatchability.
24. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Iron Man 3 is half ambitious comedy, half typical Marvel formula. And as you would expect, about half of this film works. Very well as a matter of fact! RDJ brings his A-game once again, and the film is a fun time! Sadly the messy villain choices hurt the film’s ability to be taken seriously, as do some of the ‘funny’ moments that seem to drag on forever.
23. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Captain America: The First Avenger is probably one of the most fun times I had watching a Marvel movie for the first time! And one that I rarely feel the need to revisit… While the story is occasionally moving and the quality is unquestionably solid, the WWII setting feels completely wasted on an average origin story like this. What really hurts the film for me is actually how much I enjoy DC’s World War counterpart Wonder Woman (2017).
22. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Iron Man 2 is a complete mess, existing simply to build to The Avengers (2012) whilst rehashing plotpoints we had already seen to beef up the runtime. That said, thanks to a few key components like Sam Rockwell’s energetic performance, it is a fun mess with some genuinely great moments!
21. Black Widow (2021)
Black Widow is a few years too late. While the film tells a solid story through some strong performances and entertaining action sequences, the emotions hit way softer than they should thanks to a protagonist we already know the fate of. On top of that, Black Widow features not one, but two of the worst villains in the MCU! But I am so very excited to see Florence Pugh join the rest of the cast!
20. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
When I first saw Taika Waititi turn Thor into a comedy, I hated it. The loose improv doesn’t work, the film never takes anything seriously, and Infinity War (2018) practically ignores this film’s existence. However the film has since grown on me. It is one of the most flat out enjoyable films in the entire Marvel series, and it boasts all those bold choices that I want to see more of in these films!
19. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
James Gunn’s follow-up to his 2014 hit was a tough act to follow, but he did about as well as expected. The film gets too carried away with the humor and, like Thor: Ragnarok, never takes much seriously. But it ends on this wonderfully somber note cementing the emotional core of this film and its father-son relationship and dang it- that’s good stuff!
18. Captain Marvel (2019)
Captain Marvel plays it safe, maybe safer than most Marvel movies. It’s stuck between Infinity War and Endgame (2019), and that probably didn’t help. But aside from a pretty average story, the film has some imaginative steaks of storytelling, editing, and even acting that propel this movie to above average for me!
17. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Call me weird, but I like Edward Norton as Bruce Banner more than Mark Ruffalo! And while the film does boast an evil version of the protagonist as its main villain, I really enjoy the focus on science, relationships, and even character building that this movie has! Sure it barely feels like it’s in the same series, but I enjoy it reguardless!
16. Doctor Strange (2016)
Doctor Strange is another very typical origin story with lousy villains and- it’s also just stunning. I mean the effects, the unique nature of the magic we are introduced to, heck even the action scenes are great! I don’t love it, but it absolutely gets a creative pass from me.
15. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Ultron is such a mixed bag full of awesome and terrible choices that balance out surprisingly well to create an all-around entertaining experience. It is great? No. Has it aged well? Eh. But considering its production problems and the pressure from the first Avengers, this one isn’t too bad!
14. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Okay so Ant-Man and the Wasp is easily the loosest story in the MCU, and you know what? I kinda love it. The Ant-Man films (more on that to come) don’t really care what we think and exist just to have this awkward, self-aware dive into superhero films that, thanks to the grounded performances from everyone involved, is not lost in this wacky comedy.
13. Ant-Man (2015)
I mean yeah, everything I just said but in a heist film. The story it pretty standard but it is a little more straightforward than its sequel. Plus while it does have a very typical villain, I think this film justifies his mental instability fairly well!
12. Thor (2011)
The original Thor is Kenneth Branagh’s foray into Norse mythology in Marvel, and it is quite entertaining! Everyone from Chris Hemsworth to Chris Hemsworth’s blonde eyebrows works hard in this film and really sells the silly (at the time) concept. The score is probably one or Marvel’s best too, which helps balance the 156 Dutch tilts in the film…
11. Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)
I have one reason why Far form Home isn’t my favorite of the two new Spider-Man films: drones. No I kid, Far From Home is really awesome! The film is a heartbeat behind the original thanks to a standout villain in Jake Gyllenhall and some riveting action sequences!
10. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Of course what would Far from Home be without Homecoming? And for that matter, what would Jake Gyllenhaal be without a standout performance from Michael Keaton as this film’s heavy? Homecoming was such a nice surprise that, despite marketing giving the entire film away, had me very moved by Tom Holland’s portrayal of the titular character.
9. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
Now a few films (like Doctor Strange) on this list follow a very strict formula very well, and Shang-Chi might be the best of the bunch… Despite feeling like a Marvel movie with a big CGI finale and all, the blend of martial arts, Chinese lore, and a wonderful antagonist (as well as some top notch comic relief courtesy of Awkwafina) really help this film stand out!
8. Iron Man (2008)
Nothing quite beats the first Iron Man. The grounded story and more gritty tone mixed with a perfect performance from RDJ is just, well, marvelous. Sure the film feels a bit small on hindsight, and there are more moving films in the MCU to come, but I cannot overlook how well the film that started it all has aged. Bravo Favreau.
7. The Avengers (2012)
Fun Fact: I saw The Avengers five times in theaters. There was just nothing like it. Now there are a ton of films like it… But gosh darn it if I don’t still get excited watching this film remembering how I felt seeing all these heroes together on screen for the first time! The Avengers is what dreams are made of.
6. Captain America: Civil War
Controversial call here, but I really dig Civil War. Many accuse the film of being forced or lacking feeling, but I see it as a critical part of the MCU as it really drives home the character arcs for Steve and Tony. I mean the way it is written essentially treats Tony as a sympathetic antagonist! How bold is that?? I feel this film in my gut every time I watch it.
5. Avengers: Infinity War (2019)
So remember that feeling I was talking about in The Avengers? I got it watching this too. I thought about dropping Infinity War a bit lower because the finale feels a bit empty, but wow seeing the beginning of the culmination that Marvel has been building to is just so epic! And on top of that, the tones never clash! How- how can you mix the Guardians of the Galaxy with the rest and not make it feel strange? I don’t know, but they did it.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Speaking of Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel scored a hit with James Gunn. The film is loud, bold, and absolutely hilarious! I love the soundtrack. The score sucks but I freaking LOVE the soundtrack!! Heck this film even has a poor villain and some really cheesy moments, but for every cheesy moment there are three fantastic ones. It’s just the most fun I’ve had watching a Marvel movie.
3. Avenger: Endgame (2019)
Okay it’s really hard not to get all choked up during this film. Marvel had to take like twenty films and wrap them up, and gosh darn it what a job they did! Endgame is some quality stuff, and you get to sit back and really enjoy every minute of this three hour nostalgia trip. Also have fun crying in a big, dumb superhero movie. Ugh get’s me every time.
2. Black Panther (2018)
Speaking of tears, the death of the late but great Chadwick Boseman makes Black Panther even more powerful. Unlike almost every film in the MCU, this film really has something to say, and wow does it do a great job! The social themes are profound as they are carried by easily the greatest villain in the MCU. Tack on some Oscar worthy performances and plenty of heart and yeah- it’s a freaking great movie! War rhinos and all.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
So I’m a sucker for political thrillers. And Winter Soldier (AKA the introduction of the Russo Brothers to the MCU) goes full Tom Clancy. Sure there’s a typical death fake-out that I always make fun of, but the relationships, character arcs, villains, score, cinematography, action- it all works! Winter Soldier is in my opinion one of if not the most thrilling Marvel film, and it’s no coincidence that this film also has something to say. Gotta love anti big-brother messages!
So that’s my ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe! But don’t let me have all the fun, how would you rank these films? Any that I was too hard on or too nice to? Be sure to let us know in the comments below! And leave a like! It helps us know whether or not we should to more of these! Thanks for reading!
-list by Ryan Prince