Hello interweb, Nate here. So it seems like every Marvel fan on the internet is ranking all 23 (or 22, if you made this before Far From Home) movies produced by the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the first story arc of the MCU has finally come to an end. Because of this, I decided to take a crack at it! So here’s my personal ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it currently exist in July of 2019. Cause that’s when this list was made! Duh!
Now I wanted to touch on a few things before I got this list rolling. First, while I probably should go on a week-long marathon of every one of these movies just so they’re fresh in my mind, I don’t have that sort of time to do that. This does unfortunately mean any of these films I haven’t seen recently might leave a different impression on me if I re-watched them since I’m pulling these things out of my memory, so definitely keep that in mind! Second, this list is purely favoritism and personal opinion. So if I ranked a movie you really loved too low on this list, or maybe worse, if I rank a movie you really hate high on this list, keep in mind that everyone has different tastes in films and look for different things in movies. Third, to make things easier for me, I’m going to make four official rankings that each movie will fall under: movies that kinda suck, movies that are “good” but not “great”, movies that are genuinely great, and movies that are literal cinematic masterpieces. Some of these categories are fairly straight forward but I’ll go over them a bit more as I reach those sections. One last thing, this may be a given just on the nature of a list, but I will give each film a mini review. Mini mini mini review. Just so you can know my general thoughts on the film itself. With all that established, let the ranking begin!
MCU Movies that Kinda Suck
This section is fairly straight forward. Not every movie in the MCU is as great as I would’ve liked them to be and if they’re kinda on the sucky side they’ll wind up here. Whether they’re forgettable, make weird creative choices, or was just straight up terrible then they belong in this section!
#23 – The Incredible Hulk
Starting off this list, is The Incredible Hulk. The biggest reason why this is so incredibly low is I just straight up forget this is even set in the MCU! I know Nick Fury shows up in the end-credit scene (I think…am I remembering that right?), but this movie just reminds me of Daredevil with Ben Affleck, Spider-man 3, and Ghost Rider. I.E. Classic Marvel movies back in the early 2000s that were dark and gritty and just overall really shitty. It just doesn’t feel like an MCU film! Sorry, it just doesn’t! Doesn’t help much that Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner in this and not Mark Ruffalo, who I honestly feel really bad for cause I doubt Marvel is gonna let Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk have his solo movie any time soon. And if they do, would it be considered a sequel to this movie? It would technically be the second MCU Hulk film? That is a weird though…see! This movie just f***s everything up!
#22 – Thor: The Dark World
What even happened in this movie? Like, seriously! What even happened! I’ve only seen this film once – and admittingly this is one of those movies I probably should’ve re-watched before making this list – and I don’t remember ANYTHING about it! What was the plot? What’s the “Dark World”? Whose the villain? What was the villain’s goals and motivations? I don’t know! I think there was an infinity stone introduced in this movie so technically it had some importance to the MCU, but I literally don’t remember anything that happened in this damn film! Now you could argue that because I can’t remember anything from this movie that giving a negative review is unfair and it’s my fault that it’s so low on the list, but I would argue back that there’s plenty of movies I’ve seen only once before this movie that I can still remember very well. If it was a good movie, I would remember something about it. But I don’t.
#21 – Iron Man 2
Now, here’s where some of my bias really plays a role in the ranking of these films. Back in 2010, I was not an Iron Man fan. I used to find Tony Stark to be an obnoxious dick and just not somebody who I thought was a good hero. And this film played a part in that. Just seeing Tony act like an irresponsible idiot with the Iron Man suit really bothered me and made me wonder why he was the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now eventually I warmed up to his character as I understood what the MCU was doing with his overall story and character. By the time Avengers: Endgame came out, we had a very different Iron Man due to the amount of growth this character has received. Now, I love the guy, but since I’ve only seen this film once and I still have those memories of not really enjoying it, it’s pretty low on this list. Maybe if I re-watched it I’d develop a stronger appreciation for it, but for now it just kinda sucks.
#20 – Ant-Man and the Wasp
Ok, I might get a little but of hate for this, but I didn’t like Ant-Man and the Wasp. I didn’t find it particularly funny (barring a scene or two), the villain was bland and boring just when I thought Marvel was starting to spit out really good villains like Killmonger, Vulture, and Thanos (No, I was NOT expecting the villain to be freaking Thanos level good, but still!), and I really think the placement of this film hurt it the most. This film came out right after Avengers: Infinity War and so soon after, in fact, that I was still on my Infinity War high. I just didn’t bother seeing this in theaters and good god I didn’t waste money on the ticket. If this movie came out a lot sooner, maybe I’d like it better, but as of right now it just kind of sucked.
MCU Movies that are “Good” but Not “Great”
Ever heard somebody reviewing a Marvel film and call it “a typical marvel film”? These are those movies! The movies where, yeah they’re good! I like them! But they’re just a typical Marvel movie. Cookie cutter plots, predictable story lines, usually an average villain, etc. I was actually expecting more movies to be in this section to be completely honest with you lol.
#19 – Ant-Man
Now Ant-Man is the definition of a “typical Marvel movie”. Sure, I like it! It’s a funny movie that’s written as more of a heist film then a superhero film; but it’s nothing that I find myself freaking out over. Like, if somebody wanted to watch it with me, I wouldn’t protest, but at the same time it’s not my go-to film to watch. Yellow Jacket is boring but the climatic fight was fun to watch since it literally took place on a Thomas the train engine set. Ant-Man himself isn’t really that interesting of a villain to me. Yeah, he’s divorced and trying to see his daughter, but otherwise it’s just kinda meh. This is a fun movie. I’ll leave it at that! A fun movie!
#18 – Thor
Thor is a very strange Thor movie. Now, if you’ve never seen this film, what would you imagine an MCU Thor movie would be like? A mythological adventure? Kinda like Disney’s Hercules but, ya know, Norse? And not animated? A Shakespearean quest for the mighty god of thunder! What we got was Thor spending most of the movie in the middle of nowhere on Earth while he hangs out with Natalie Portman. Huzzah!??? Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie! Thor is a compelling character who does go through a story arc in the movie. His arrogance leads Odin to banish him from Asgard and he has to essentially sacrifice himself to become worthy for Mjolnir again. I like this movie, I really do! But, again, it’s just a strange direction to take a Thor movie?
I have a very odd relationship with this movie. Before it came out, I was expecting it to be Avengers x3! Like, Avengers was a fun movie, but it was also a pretty shallow one. It’s fine to be a bit shallow since it wasn’t meant to be a very complex film that dived into each character’s psyche, but it was still just a bit shallow of a film. Given a different cultural context, I feel like it wouldn’t be as highly praised as it is today. This film, I was hoping would up the ante. And the trailers basically advertised this film as a darker and grittier Avengers film, so I couldn’t wait to see it! Instead, this film wasn’t anywhere near as dark and gritty as the trailers advertised and Ultron was kinda botched. Instead of being a heartless robot programmed with pure logic bent on wiping out humanity, we got a computer based on Stark’s personality that cracked jokes. Lots and lots of jokes. My disappointment with this film came from the trailers advertising one thing, me expecting something because of that, and the movie just not reaching those expectations. And, judging from fan reactions online at the time, many people felt the same. So, if I made this list a while ago, this film probably would’ve been in the “MCU Movies that kinda sucks” category of this list. But upon further inspection, this movie is actually better then I think I gave it credit for. It did some psyche diving and developed these characters in ways that changed the MCU forever. Vision and Wanda were introduced, Tony took responsibility for his mistakes, Hulk left Earth after feeling like his rage was hurting too many people. Hell, even Black Widow gained some character development that I think most people weren’t expecting. Overall, while it is the weakest of the four Avengers films, I still think this is a good movie with lots too offer.
#16 – Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange! AKA, magical Tony Stark! I mean, he essentially is! Doctor Strange is a good movie with great visuals (later surpassed by Mysterio, strangely enough…I swear that pun was completely unintended), but the visuals is really the only thing that stands out about this movie. Even then, if you’ve ever read a Doctor Strange comic, you’d realize that the visuals are actually very tame compared to the comics. In the comics, he can see bizarre magical creatures everywhere and travel through space to crazy worlds. Here, he can movie s*** around and make buildings fold in on each other. Honestly, in the MCU at this point, he’s not Doctor Strange he’s Doctor A Tad Bit Unusual. Hell, Harry Potter makes Doctor Strange look like a below average Joe! I realize for a film I claim to like I’m kinda bashing it a lot, but it honestly is a really fun film with really entertaining fights.
#15 – Captain America: The First Avenger
Ok, first off that subtitle makes zero sense. If you’re talking about founding membership, Tony Stark beats you. If you’re talking about age, Thor beats you. If you’re talking about name, Carol beats you. How are you the first of ANYTHING here? Tangent aside, Captain America is honestly one of my favorite MCU superheroes and his first film really kick started my love for this guy! (Maybe I should rank MCU superheroes next?) Steve Rogers is kinda like Superman in a way. Big blue boyscout that just wants to do the right thing. He doesn’t become a superhero for some strong sense of responsibility, guilt, dark backstory, or because he was asked to. He became a superhero because he doesn’t like bullies! Hell, Steve Rogers was a hero before he even became Captain America and if you’ve seen this movie you know damn well what I’m talking about! Just talking about this movie makes me want to rewatch it! Which, I probably will right after this review!
#14 – Spider-man: Homecoming
Boy, this movie was a really good disappointment. On one hand, it’s a really fun movie. On the other hand, it didn’t meet the hype I built up for it. On the first hand, it’s a Spider-man movie! Yet, it’s left in the shadows of Spider-man 2. However, it’s fun the see the MCU from a suburban high school level. But…okay, you get my point. My biggest problem with this movie is that it’s a Spider-man movie, a freakin Spider-man movie, that’s made as if it’s just another Marvel movie on par with Ant-Man and Doctor Strange. I like those movies just fine, but neither of those characters are A-list superheroes like Spider-man, whose one of the greatest superheroes in all of comic books. So if you see this movie as a Spider-man movie set in the MCU, you’re going to be very disappointed. However, if you see this as an MCU movie that stars Spider-man, then maybe you’d enjoy it better.
#13 – Iron Man 3
Now Like I said above when reviewing Iron Man 2, I really didn’t like Iron Man until within the past couple of years so my knowledge of Tony Stark’s history and character in the comics is somewhat on the weak side. Because of that, everyone complaining that they botched the Mandarin is probably right, but I’ve never cared because I don’t know who the Mandarin is. What I do know is that I really like this movie and felt like it was a pretty decent conclusion to the Iron Man trilogy. Seeing Tony struggle with the PTSD post-Avengers was really interesting to see since Tony really is the most normal dude of the Avengers (well, him and Hawkeye) and he came the closest to death out of all of them. Plus, I do feel like he’ve grown a lot since the first Iron Man and a lot of that showed here. Also, I loved seeing Pepper Potts being the one to finish the bad guy in the end! That was dope! Usually, superhero girlfriends are damsels in distress or somebody for the hero to try and impress. Seeing Pepper actually kick some ass is kinda dope!
#12 – Captain Marvel
I’m gonna be honest guys, this one hurt me to place here. I love badass women in fiction. I love Brie Larson. I love overpowered superheroes like Superman or Wonder Woman. Hell, I loved 2017’s Wonder Woman and was hoping so much that this film would be as good if not better. But, it’s just not and I would be dishonest with myself if I actually placed it in the “Great” category of this list. Now this film is awesome! I love it! Plus, it came out long after Avengers: Infinity War so I was no longer on my emotional high from that movie, but it came right before Avengers: Endgame so it got me hyped back up again for that movie! I do hope that the sequel really wows people, because the hate for this film in particular feels pretty unwarranted to me. I actually placed this movie in the top 10 of my initial draft for this list, but I just knew I was kidding myself and that that spot was being dishonest. Maybe Captain Marvel 2 will be there! I can hope! Also, Marvel, why the f*** did it take you so long to give a woman a lead in a Marvel movie? Dafuq?!
MCU Movies that are Genuinely Great
Now these! These are the top of the top! The movies that we all (or at least I) point to when I wanna show that Marvel is more then cookie cutter plots and simply characters! The above average Marvel films that are so great and not just your “typical Marvel movie”! Also, this is the part of the list that gets excruciatingly painful to form. Literally, the hardest decisions for me are placed in this section. So many good movies! Whenever I take a movie I adore down a spot, it physically hurts! Like, I want movie A to be in my top 5, but these 5 movies are clearly better, but are they really? Ugh! By the way guys, out of this entire list, the order of these movies are the ones I’m most likely to change in the future if at all.
#11 – The Avengers
This movie I truly believe deserves a spot on the “actually great” list because of how revolutionary this movie was. It’s the movie that prove cinematic universes can work and took the cinematic landscape in a direction it has never gone before. Comic book fans have decades of comics with different titles and stories but are all under the same universe. Before this movie, we never had that in movie format (then again I’m not a major movie buff so maybe we have and I just don’t know it). In the past, you could create a Spider-man movie. You could create an Iron Man movie. You could even make a Thor movie. But, until this film, they couldn’t be part of a larger cinematic creation all building upon the same universe and expanding the world to the degree it is today. Despite all that, this is a fairly shallow yet fun film. It doesn’t have many complex and three-dimensional characters, but it does have some kick ass action! In the context of cinema as a whole, it’s an ground breaking and revolutionary movie that changed things forever. But looking at the movie as it’s own thing, it’s just a fun little action flick.
#10 – Spider-man: Far From Home
I just did a review of this movie! But, let’s pretend I didn’t for a minute and discuss the film on it’s own. This is Marvel Studio’s first actual Spider-man movie. It still suffers a bit from a lack of epicness and doesn’t feel quite on par with some of the MCU other greats, which is why it’s still a tad lower on the greats, but it takes what Homecoming made and expanded on it. Giving us some of the classic elements of Spider-man missing in THAT movie, and used it to improve this one.
#9 – Iron Man
It’s actually kinda funny, Iron Man doesn’t FEEL like an MCU film simply because it’s the FIRST MCU film. 2012’s The Avengers did a lot to establish the tone of the MCU to the point where everyone now knows what to expect when watching a Marvel film. Watching this film, however, is interesting cause it doesn’t have that same vibe to it. I can’t really explain it, but if you’ve seen this film you know what I mean. This film is genuinely a great film and seeing Tony Stark witness the destruction is technology is causing and turning himself around to use said technology to protect people instead is an awesome thing to witness and really shows how far he’s come in his first movie alone. And he’ll progress even further as the MCU matures and advances.
#8 – Guardians of the Galaxy
This movie was honestly almost as revolutionary as The Avengers in a way when you really think about it. Sure, super soldiers, gods, and billionaires with supersuits are pretty abnormal, but we did NOT hit “weird” territory until they made a movie featuring a talking raccoon and a tree! Guardians of the Galaxy really pushed the limits on how weird and bizarre the MCU was allowed to go to see how audience would accept. If you read Marvel comics, you’re used to weird and bizarre characters and story lines. But are general movie-going audiences ready for it? Guardians of the Galaxy says YES! James Gunn put his heart and soul into making each of these characters fleshed out human – er – alien beings with personality and character. Quite frankly, this movie is even more strange then Doctor Strange’s movie! What gives, Marvel? You were willing to push the envelope here but not there? Hell, if Guardians of the Galaxy pushed the envelope, Doctor Strange taped it shut! (I hope that analogy made sense).
#7 – Black Panther
I wanted this movie higher on the list, I really did. But, I just couldn’t with the other movies up there! Anyways, while The Avengers may have been an important movie for cinema, Black Panther was an important movie for society. In a cinematic landscape that lacks diversity, Black Panther breaks that barrier with an afrofuturistic movie (which, by the way, I vaguely know what that term means lmao) made by black people for black people. Hell, maybe this movie would be higher on this list if I was black and had a stronger connection to the themes presented in this film. The country of Wakanda is an African country untouched by colonialism leaving levels of fantasy for black people who experience racism here in America (as well as other parts of the world). Meanwhile, Killmonger is the best character in the entire movie as he comes from the lower class areas of America and experiences racism from the country he grew up with while seeing Wakanda, a flourishing African society drowning in it’s own tech and money, and wanting to use these resources to help those experiencing the oppression he went through. Again, I’m white, so perhaps black people see more in this movie then I do or understand the themes better. Either way, it’s an important movie that I think deserves the praise it gets.
#6 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I may get some hate for not putting this in the top 5… For a while, this was the BEST movie the MCU spat out. A political spy thriller that took the MCU to the next level of amazing and showed the world that these movies were more then just flashy action sequences. I think the biggest thing that I took out of this movie was Steve’s relationship to Bucky that were more fully expanded as their story expanded. This relationship is so famous in the MCU that there’s memes about it, the ever so popular Stucky , #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend popped up, AND they even poked fun of it in Endgame. I think what I love most about the MCU is the relationships developed in these movies and the twists and turns these relationships go through. In fact, I think that’s a common theme with all of my top 5 barring #4, but we’ll get to that!
#5 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
I had to re-watch this movie twice before I really decided how much I liked it. The strange thing is, when I saw it in theaters I thought I liked the first movie better. Then, I watched it again with my family, and I really questioned my initial judgement. It took a third watching (and a video essay by one of my favorite YouTubers…check out Lindsay Ellis’s video, please!!!) to really finalize my thoughts on this movie. This film took the relationships made in the first film, and expanded them. Gamora’s relationship to her sister, Nebula, was well realized as both women grew closer out of their mutual hared towards their shared abuser, Thanos. Star-Lord (who is by far my least favorite Marvel superhero) develops an interesting relationship with his father that makes for a shattering reveal near the middle of the movie. But, the one thing that really sold me on this movie and even made me cry watching it, was Yondu’s relationship with both Peter and Rocket; ESPECIALLY Rocket. Hell, seeing this asshole raccoon who constantly has his guard up and push others away shed tears when Yondu dies in space ACTUALLY MADE ME F***ING CRY! A f***ing CGI raccoon made me shed tears. God damn, Marvel, what did we do to deserve you!
#4 – Thor: Ragnorok
And the reward for the most re-watchable Marvel film goes to… So yeah, this movie is a freaking anomaly on this list. Logically speaking, it really doesn’t belong this freaking high. I prefer complexity in characters, this movie has some but not a lot. I prefer complexity in villains, Hela is just a goth goddess with knives. This movie is mostly just a very (very [very]) FUN adventure with Thor. And I mean it when I say FUN. This is probably the funnest Marvel movie in their roster. While the characters don’t have a lot in complex relationships or motivations, the story is a really good story and you do see Thor grow as a character more then he has in literally any other Marvel film. Sure, he makes huge changes in character between Infinity War and Endgame, but there’s a difference between changes and development. Development is slow and you can see it occur on screen. Changes can happen in and instant or even between movies. But I think that’s what I love most about this movie. The development in Thor’s character turned him from a typical Marvel hero to probably one of my favorites. I do find it funny though how Infinity War basically erased half that development though.
Ragnarok: You don’t need Mjolnir, Thor, for the power is within you!
Infinity War: Never mind, here’s Storm Breaker, you’re gonna need it!
Ragnarok: Here’s an eye patch is a physical representation of your connection to your deceased father
Infinity War: Never mind, here’s a lame robotic eye for you to pop in there.
Ragnarok: Asgard isn’t a place, it’s a people. So long as they’re safe, that’s all that’s important.
Infinity War: Oh, by the way, here’s Thanos. He’s gonna kill you all. Bye!
I still love the movie and the development Thor goes through, but c’mon! Also, why the f*** are there two bisexuals in one movie and neither are confirmed as such on-screen!?
#3 – Captain America: Civil War
Avengers 2.5: Civil War is one of the most interesting movies in the MCU. The funny thing is it’s also the most political, but since it uses fictional politics over real world politics I think it’s a lot safer to discuss it. (Although, does this poster suggest Cap is a democrat and Iron Man is a republican? Hmm…). Should superheroes be held accountable by the government? or, is placing the government in charge of what battles can be fought and what battles can be ignored dangerous? That, is the ideological divide that this movie revolves around and it broke the MCU apart! Thor and Hulk were in space, so the MCU was already somewhat divided, but this movie actually split the Avengers up! The relationship that Steve and Tony was building as fellow Avengers became shattered and almost irreparable by the war itself, but learning that Bucky killed Tony’s parents and Steve hid it from him? Plus, Steve defended Bucky even when everyone was against them. When I said earlier that relationships were the best part of the MCU, I think film shows the most complex relationships of any Marvel movie to date! And you know what? I don’t believe I can think of a single flaw with this film! At least, I don’t have any problems with it! I think this is just one of the greatest MCU movies to date that showed us why a cinematic universe is so important.
MCU Movies That Are Literal Cinematic Masterpieces
Now, here’s the weird thing about me. I’m not much of a movie buff. In fact, if I claimed I was then I bet actual movie buffs would laugh at me since I haven’t seen some really big films like the Godfather, Titanic, Seven Samarai, etc. Movies that I hear talked about by critics like their cinematic staples. With that said, I rarely ever use the term “masterpiece” with movies or art in general. Art is highly subjective, I’m aware, but I really only call something a “masterpiece” if it genuinely moves me to a degree where I just can’t call it anything else. Maybe Marvel fans or movie buffs will scoff at me for calling these two films “masterpieces”, but they genuinely are in my book.
#2 – Avengers: Infinity war
#1 – Avengers: Endgame
I’m not combining these two, I did give them different rankings on this list, but I am talking about them at the same time because I feel as if they are two halves of the same movie and you really can’t talk about one without the other. Hell, Avengers: Endgame was even originally called “Avengers: Infinity War Part 2”!
Anyways, these movies are cinematic masterpieces for several reasons. For one, this is the epic conclusion to a 22 film story that NEEDS all 22 films to work properly. This movie would not have worked in a trilogy. And if EVERY MCU film was advertised as Avengers films, I feel like this story would’ve died a long ass time ago. “Avengers 22: Endgame, now in theaters!” The glue that ties these movies together is Thanos. Thanos was turned from some alien dude who was being friend zoned by Death as his main story arc, and turned into a character with heroic intentions and the willpower to, in his eyes, save the universe. Thanos is probably the greatest example I’ve seen of a villain who believes they are the hero and will stop at nothing to accomplish what he desires. And the most shocking thing is, he does. He wiped out half the universe, and our heroes failed. Even Thor, god of motherf***ing thunder, who managed to slam an ax into Thanos’s freaking chest failed to save the universe from the largest genocide ever witnessed. Now simply imagining what it would be like to live in the MCU while half the universe turned to dust as horrific in and of itself. Imagining seeing your friends and family just vanish is f***ing terrifying. But seeing our heroes in the aftermath during Endgame is hard to watch. The biggest criticism I’ve heard towards Endgame is essentially that it’s slow at the beginning, but it needs to be slow so you can absorb the atmosphere of the world. Granted, the time travel was a tad hokey in Endgame, but the final fight between all our heroes and Thanos was spectacular. I don’t even know what else to say about these films. If they didn’t live up to your expectations, then I wonder what the hell you even wanted?