What Marvel Studios has done is extremely unprecedented. Because they didn’t own the rights to their most popular characters like X-Men or Spider-Man (at the time), they were forced to take their B/C- level characters in Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and make movies about them. However, they took the time to flesh out these characters and humanize them and eventually, made them household names. As a result, they are now the biggest franchise in the world.
Now that the final film (Far From Home) in the Infinity Saga is out, I want to take a moment and rank all the 23 MCU movies. As always, this is subjective and I’m sure I like/dislike some MCU movies more than you.
23. Iron Man 2 – IM2 is by no means an awful movie. RDJ is once again excellent as Tony Stark, who also has a great arc in the film. This is also our first introduction to Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, who has a really kickass fight scene in the latter half. However, this movie felt like a set-up movie to The Avengers, and the SHIELD storyline simply existed to serve that purpose. In addition, this movie juggles with a lot of storylines without properly spending time on some of them. Not to mention, the villain is extremely sub-par. Even though there are definitely redeeming elements in this film and some enjoyable sequences, it remains the worst MCU movie.
22. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 – I know most people really like this movie but unfortunately, I am not one of them. The first movie had a great balance of humor and emotions, but this goes overboard with the humor. Drax, who is great in the first movie, becomes more of a caricature and a joke-machine, which left me massively dissatisfied. Not to mention, the plot is one of Marvel’s weakest and there are way too many villains in this one. That being said, the visuals are stunning, Peter-dad relationship is extremely poignant and Yondu’s death left me quite lachrymose. Overall, GOTG vol 2 is a massive step-down from the original.
21. Thor: The Dark World – Yes, Thor’s second outing has a lot of issues – terrible romance, the worst MCU villain-to date in Malekith, and an unfocused plot. However, it kinda works because the majority of the focus is on the relationship between Thor and Loki. Even though they are constantly bickering and trying to fight each other, deep down, they still love each other. This movie also has a good amount of humor, which sometimes does land in the cheesy territory. Despite entertaining action sequences and an emphasis on Thor-Loki sibling rivalry, the Dark World is one of Marvel’s weakest films.
20. Ant-Man & the Wasp (A&W) – After the universe-ending stakes of Infinity War, A&W was a really nice palette cleanser. This movie doubles down on the comedy, with some hilarious moments. The visual effects are also pretty solid, and I liked how the filmmakers utilize the characters’ abilities to shrink and grow. However, it’s lack of tie-in to Infinity War is also one of its shortcomings as it ends up being an okay yet forgettable film. The villain is pretty bland and the plot remains one of the weakest.
19. Iron Man 3 – One of the strengths of IM3 is that the filmmakers built the movie around Tony Stark, not Iron Man. After the harrowing events of the Avengers where he almost sacrificed his life, Tony starts dealing with PTSD which helps humanize him further. The action is also a big step up from the previous 2 Iron Man films, especially the sequence where Tony activates the House Party protocol and all his suits come to his assistance. Goosebumps!! However, the fake-Mandarin twist just ends up feeling like a cheap gimmick and the true villain, Aldrich Killian, ends up being another disposable villain.
18. The Incredible Hulk – The 2008 Hulk film has its fair share of detractors, but I like this one more than most. Even though Mark Ruffalo is clearly the best incarnation of the character, Ed Norton is decent as Bruce Banner. I also really enjoyed the action sequences between the Hulk and Abomination. But one thing this movie solidified is my belief that the Hulk works the best with an ensemble, not in a solo movie. There is only so much you can do with the character without getting stale and redundant and so far, his appearances in other people’s films have had a bigger impact on me than in his own films.
17. Doctor Strange – The movie boasts of a star-studded cast with the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, the lovely Rachel McAdams! The visuals are absolutely out-of-this-world and warrant at least one viewing in 3-D. In addition, Cumberbatch’s surgeon-turned-magician is a relatable character and his back-and-forth with Wong is fun to watch. Unfortunately, the 2 antagonists (Kaecillius and Dormammu) are pretty underwhelming (a trend in the MCU) and the humor often felt forced. Nonetheless, this is a solid, entertaining film and set the stage for Dr. Strange in Infinity War. PS – Don’t text and drive. Unlike Dr. Strange, you won’t get to become a magician.
16. Captain Marvel – If you saw my review for Captain Marvel, you know that I really like this film. It has one of the strongest plots in the MCU and with its focus on Carol Danvers and Nick Fury, it felt like a delightful, buddy-cop flick. In addition, the twists with the Skrulls being the “good guys” who are just seeking refuge makes this film a relevant film in our political climate today. However, Brie Larson’s mediocre performance, coupled with lackluster visuals puts this film slightly near the bottom. Again, this movie’s rank and my positive opinion of the film is a testament to how good most Marvel movies have been.
15. Black Panther – After a glorified cameo in the Civil War movie, Black Panther returns to take up the mantle as the king of Wakanda, an extremely advanced African nation. This movie has a lot of great world-building, solid performances (especially from Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger) and a wonderful score. Black Panther also has some of the strongest female characters in the MCU, with Shuri, Okoye, Nakia who all have very distinct personalities. More importantly, the movie’s political themes make this especially relevant today. However, this movie ranks pretty low on my list for a few reasons. Like Dr. Strange, the humor is hit-or-miss and the CGI, especially in the climactic battle, is poor. More importantly, Black Panther being in an indestructible suit drastically lowers the stakes. Yes, this movie won a lot of accolades (including Oscar wins and Best Picture nomination), but in my humble opinion, this is the most overrated MCU film.
14. Ant-Man – Sans Spider-Man, Ant-Man (the character and the movie) remains one of Marvel’s most charming additions to the universe. The movie has a well-rounded cast but Paul Rudd’s casting as Scott Lang is the big reason for this film being so enjoyable. Rudd is so dam likable in the role and his passion is infectious. Not to mention, it isn’t so focused on saving the world than it is to see Scott save one person, his daughter. It’s definitely a nice change of pace from ‘The world is at stake!” Lastly, Michael Peña’s Luis is one of the funniest Marvel characters and his story-telling abilities are so f*n funny. Yes, you have a rushed romance and a one-dimensional villain but the problematic elements are minuscule, just like the titular character.
13. Avengers: Age of Ultron – Most people enjoy the second adventure of the Earth’s mightiest heroes but it tends to rank lower on their MCU ranking lists. For me, this is one of Marvel’s best. This movie focuses a lot on the characters and their relationships (intimate in the case of Nat and Bruce) with each other, something people tend to overlook. Even with the amazing Hulk-Hulkbuster scene and the party scene, my favorite scene in this movie is the farmhouse scene and I will argue with anyone about the brilliance of this scene. The Avengers were truly broken (at least until Thanos’ snap) and seeing the conversation with Nat and Bruce about their inability to have kids is heartbreaking. Yes, it does shove a lot of storylines, relies way too much on jokes, and Quicksilver’s death scene is laughable. In addition, Ultron could have been a menacing villain but ends up another disposable villain. However, it’s still a character-driven film, despite the crazy visuals, and laid the seeds for Civil War.
12. Thor – Being one of the most “out-there” and cosmic characters, Thor’s introduction seemed challenging. He’s an arrogant, Norse god with immense powers and a hammer that is virtually indestructible. Thus, the filmmakers decide to take those weapons away and have him learn humility. The sibling rivalry and the relationship between Odin and his 2 sons are poignant and add a really different layer to a superhero movie. What differentiates Loki from other villains is that at his core, he simply yearns for and seeks the love and respect from his adopted father, Odin. The performances are great, the action is fun to watch and the fish-out-of-water comedy is perfect for the film.
11. Spider-Man: Far From Home – The newest entry in the MCU is also one of Marvel’s best. You can check my review here but I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Mysterio is another great addition to the villainous roster and the post-credit scenes have major implications for the next Spidey film and the future of the MCU.
10. Iron Man – The movie that started it all! Iron Man is arguably the most popular character in pop-culture today but people often forget, he was a ‘nobody’ in 2008. Marvel took a huge (financial) chance with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man with a then-box office poison in Robert Downey Jr. This is a wonderful movie, with terrific performances and slick production design. More importantly, this movie set the tone for the MCU and teased the Avengers with the post-credit scene where Nick Fury talks to Tony about the “Avengers initiative”
9. Captain America: Civil War – After 2 amazing predecessors, I was teeming with anticipation for the second Russos-helmed movie, which would be semi-inspired from the Civil War comic. This movie does a great job of explaining both sides without necessarily choosing sides. At its core, it’s about the clash of ideologies, something Batman v Superman failed at. Albeit enjoyable, the airport battle is really unnecessary and as I watched it, I was afraid of the film having a huge third-act battle. Instead, the Russos smartly decide to make it small-scale with a personal, emotion-fueled battle between Cap and Bucky against Iron Man. Civil War is also an obvious example of the character journeys of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. The former blindly followed protocol and order but grew to distrust the government. Tony, on the other hand, didn’t trust the established system but realized that reporting to a higher authority is essential. Zemo, the “villain” of the movie, is still one of Marvel’s best, most sympathetic villains. This was our first introduction to Black Panther and a new incarnation of Spider-
BoyMan and both are utilized really well.
8. Captain America: The First Avenger – Captain America was never my favorite character from the comics. Pardon my phrase but he was too much of a “goody two shoes.” Even though this movie goes that route, Chris Evans’ performance makes this movie one of the best. His sincerity and earnestness to do the right thing, no matter the consequence, is extremely inspiring. The romance between Steve and Peggy is so earned, which is one reason for the dance scene in Endgame being so powerful. The First Avenger also has, hand’s down, the best quote in the MCU. Before the experiment, Dr. Erskine tells Steve, “The strong man who has known power all his life, may lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength and knows… compassion. Whatever happens tomorrow you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.” Chills!!
7. Spider-Man Homecoming – When Sony/Marvel announced another Spider-Man movie, I admit I was a little fatigued and apprehensive. However, Homecoming turned out to be one of the biggest, pleasant surprises in the MCU. This movie is such a refreshing film, with hilarious characters and gut-wrenching laughs. Civil War did a great job, but Homecoming is the first Spider-Man film to truly understand the character. Yes, saving the world is important but so is the date with a girl you have a crush on. Tom Holland showcases his dramatic skills especially in the scene where he is stuck underneath the rubble. Oh, and Michael Keaton as the Vulture? Sign me up! Homecoming proved that nobody is more menacing (not even a CGI villain trying to destroy the world) than Keaton staring directly at Peter and speaking in a growly voice in a car. If that happened to me, I would definitely pee my pants. Jokes aside, Homecoming also nicely ties into the Avengers mythos and Tony essentially becomes the ‘Uncle Ben’ figure to Peter.
6. Guardians of the Galaxy – GOTG was one of the biggest risks Marvel had ever taken. Characters like Iron Man or Captain America were at least semi-familiar characters but the Guardians were unheard of, even amongst Marvel fans. Once again, Marvel surprised us. The characters of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot are such different characters, but you absolutely buy this band of misfits becoming a family. It is a gorgeous film to look at and has the best soundtrack of any MCU film to-date. Unfortunately, a poor villain and a ridiculous ending (the Guardians holding hands and absorbing the power of the infinity stone to beat the villain) preclude the film from joining the Top 5.
5. Thor Ragnarok – Ragnarok is the single funniest MCU movie to-date. The director Taika Watiti, who also plays Korg, exploits the comedic sensibilities of its lead Chris Hemsworth and literally takes the character to a new direction – a comedic, buddy-cop, space opera! The new additions like Korg, Valkriye, Hela are all great! Jeff Goldblum plays Jeff Goldblum, which is always charming! Aesthetically speaking, this movie has some of the best visuals in the MCU and the color palette is visual eye-candy. But don’t let the comedy fool you into thinking that this movie is inconsequential. Ragnarok is also one of Marvel’s darkest films, with Thor losing his hammer, eye, father, friends, Asgard, etc. Aside from a little too much emphasis on jokes undercutting some dramatic moments, Ragnarok absolutely deserves to be in the Top 5.
4. Avengers: Infinity War – Just looking at the sheer number of characters in the film is more than enough to scare any filmmaker. However, the Russo brothers somehow make this movie work. Each and every character gets a moment to shine but the focus is still kept on the film’s main characters – Thanos and Thor. Speaking of, after glorified cameos in the 2 previous Avengers movies and Guardians 1, Thanos finally got his due with this film and boy, he commands the screen. Thanks to Infinity War and Endgame, he’s now my all-time favorite villain. Infinity War contains a lot of fun character meet-ups and interactions, with Thor meeting the Guardians, Iron Man meeting Dr. Strange, etc. The (numerous) action sequences are some of the best in the MCU and the cliffhanger of an ending left everyone in the theatre in shock!
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – When asked about their favorite MCU film, many often reply with the Winter Soldier and I can totally see why. This film completely changed the “goody two shoes” nature of Steve Rogers by putting him in the “real world” and addresses current issues of espionage, surveillance, etc. For the first time, Steve is forced to distrust the government and the system, and the movie does a good job building up to that. It’s a political thriller with some genuine twists I didn’t see coming. The hand-to-hand combat sequences are some of the best in the MCU, and we witness wonderful friendships between Steve, Nat, and Sam Wilson (Falcon). Honestly, this is the movie that made Captain America become my favorite character in the MCU. Minor complaints aside, this is easily the best, solo superhero film in the MCU and absolutely deserves a spot in the top 3.
Spoiler alert – My top 2 MCU films are 2 Avengers films. However, the reason they are so high on my list is because of the solid groundwork/set-ups and character-work laid in the solo films.
2. Avengers: Endgame – Like Captain America himself, I can talk about this film all day. Here is my full, in-depth review of Endgame. In summary, Endgame is such a satisfying conclusion and is all the more rewarding to those of us that have carefully seen the other films and been a part of the journey. There are so many call-backs, references to the other films but they serve a purpose in the story. The actors arguably deliver their best performances to date and the final third-act battle is everything the Marvel fan in me could have ever hoped for. Like all of you, I love this movie 3000.
1. The Avengers – Tied with Jurassic Park as my favorite movie(s) of all time, The Avengers is still the benchmark for all the comic book films. This is a movie that I never dreamed would ever happen and boy, it did! Joss Whedon understood these characters and smartly wrote his movie around them. The characters and their interactions with each other, the action, the humor, the story are all great and make for the best, the most enjoyable film in the MCU to-date. Not to mention, The Avengers is also endlessly quotable.