How does one rank 29 movies (and counting)? It seems like such a Herculean task and yet it looks like everybody else has already done it. Perhaps, I should have kept tabs along the way or perhaps I should have been more ruthless in my final decisions. Nevertheless, here it is…my ranking of the MCU from best to worst. I’ve chosen to split the films and television shows into two separate categories because they are designed differently. The films have a single runtime which usually maxes out at 3 hours, whilst the TV shows split many hours of content over 9-ish episodes in a televisual format. Also, fitting them in was too hard but know that they all make the lower quarter of the list.
I’d love to tell you this is the final ranking but it will continue to fluctuate for as long as I live. It won’t fluctuate by much, however, meaning everything here is in roughly the correct order. “Correct”, of course, being my own subjective opinion.
Avengers: Infinity War
The beginning of the end of 10 years of build-up. It can also be seen as the last part of the Infinity Stones Saga if you wish to disown Endgame. It’s full of a decade worth of payoff and features an astounding ending that still provides chills.
Captain America: The First Avenger
The best of Phase One, featuring the most likable and relatable of its heroes. Steve Rogers was the everyman and, despite his newfound powers, continues to fight for the everyman. Hugo Weaving also provides a stunning performance as Redskull and it doesn’t shy away from the nazi angle. It’s technically a War Flick and I thoroughly enjoyed it, which is something I can’t say of that genre as a whole.
Despite spending years in development hell, this managed to be the funniest of all the MCU installments. Casting the ever-likable Paul Rudd definitely helped and giving him relatable issues makes him sympathetic. Also features the best Thomas the Tank Engine cameo of all time.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
This was a surprise. I fully expected a film built on fan service and callbacks but instead it was a solid story that provided a decent continuation of old stories for the most part. Still works better if you’ve seen the prior Spider-Man franchises but doesn’t rely on them. Also, Defoe is allowed to go full ham and it’s thoroughly engaging.
The best of his trilogy, the original story for the God of Thunder is gorgeous. Director Kenneth Brannagh was a perfect choice to bring a very Shakesperean reality to life and Hemsworth is inherently likable despite playing somebody who is kind of selfish. Grand in scale, shot wonderfully and it introduces Hawkeye.
The very first and one of the very best. RDJ was a perfect pick for the role and the warmongering subplot has remained annoyingly relevant throughout the years. Remember when superhero films used to be about something important, as opposed to pandering to fans? We’ve come a long way from the pseudo-realism in this film but it remains great.
I wouldn’t have this one so high on the list if it wasn’t the end of an era. There are elements that still annoy me to no end and I disagree highly with several character decisions but that final battle clenches it. It also doesn’t destroy the ending of Infinity War, allowing the heroes to live with their failure.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Marvel really decided that this character was going to have hilarious, relatable and often tragic installments. It’s more cohesive than the first but no less energetic and it’s about family. Perfect little palette cleanser before the last two Avengers films.
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2
Again, it’s about family. James Gunn is known for stories driven less by plot and more by character actions and dynamics with this being no exception. Big one for Marvel fans with Daddy Issues and fans of David Hasselhoff. From here on out, the films are going to be what I’d classify as “lower-mid tier” so this is a good one to look at before the fall.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
An action flick featuring Steve Rogers should be an instant win but this is more of a generic film. It also heavily features Black Widow who is wasted by this franchise on top of being a bland character. Good Nick Fury angle though.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
More Nick Fury! He truly is underutilized in this franchise, not that he should ever be a focal point. The highlight of this one is the demonstration/adaptation of Mysterio’s powers and Jake Gyllenhaal gives a delightful performance. Was never keen on this Peter Parker so it’s a little difficult to become invested.
Captain America Civil War
A definite turning point in the MCU but not entirely for the better. This marked the beginning of a solo movie no longer being entirely focused on the titular character, with this one getting dubbed Avengers 2.5 by fans. Held together by a moderately compelling story and Baron Zemo.
Iron Man 3
Underrated, but not perfect by any means. Acts as the conclusion to Tony’s arc but isn’t particularly memorable. That said, it has some excellent moments such as the destruction of his home.
The Incredible Hulk
Also underrated. This one is more of a character analysis than a plot-heavy flick but it does feature a magnificent performance from Tim Roth as The Abomination.
Fairly forgettable aside from being a major deal for people of colour. The final battle sequence noticeably needed more time and Martin Freeman isn’t the greatest of actors. Kept afloat by brilliant performances, especially by the late Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan.
Benedict Cumberbatch is really trying his best with that accent but it’s just not working. As origin stories go, this one isn’t particularly notable although it does feature Wong. It’s the special effects that save this one, especially if you saw it in 3D.
Guardians of the Galaxy
It’s fun enough and the characters are likable enough but the romance between Starlord and Gamora really drags this one down. When people talk about “Marvel Humour” this is one of the films where it’s more prevalent, except James Gunn at least writes engaging characters.
Entertaining on a first watch but grating whenever I revisit it. Thor has always been one of the most underdeveloped MCU characters and he shows a little growth here but it gets undone by the end. Also the comedy is prime “Marvel Humour” which is a shame because Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett are in this.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Kind of a mess, though still not as bad as some fans claim. Ultron is entertaining, the battles are intense and The Avengers are constantly on edge but there are too many plot threads that don’t really get resolved. It’s another set-up movie, which is a hindrance.
Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Ah, the second best movie of Phase 4… not that it’s a high bar. For all the talk of Martial Arts films as inspirations, this comes off as more of an imitation than a homage. Those snappy Marvel edits remain intact and the final battle is primarily CG, which has become tiring. Sam Liu as Shang-Chi is lovely and it was a delight to see Trevor Slattery again.
The Vulture is the only thing keeping this film from being closer to the bottom of this list. Peter Parker’s determination to please Tony Stark and Tony’s consistent presence throughout the plot, really don’t feel necessary. It draws the focus away from Peter and his adorable little friendship with Ned.
Thor: The Dark World
Another installment that’s an absolute mess, but isn’t as bad as fans claim. Kat Dennings as Darcy has always been underappreciated and Loki’s story in this one is full of melancholy but it does feel like several different films spliced together.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
This should have been better with Sam Raimi at the helm with this premise. I talk a lot about managing fan expectations, but with a movie title that promises madness across the multiverse, it’s reasonable to expect that. This film doesn’t deliver it and has the most obvious fan pandering I’ve ever seen with The Illuminati. Visually cool though.
Iron Man 2
This one is just really mean-spirited. Tony is at his most unlikable, Arnie Hammer has too similar a personality and Whiplash is underutilised. Plus Pepper and Tony are going through a rough patch and Rhodey has to be the one to restrain him. Just unpleasant to watch.
A lot of fun with a colourful aesthetic but categorically basic as films go. Designed primarily to pander to a female market who presumably are sick of being pandered to (I know I am). Rushed to introduce the character before she serves as a Deus Ex Machina in Endgame. Even if this was Top Tier Marvel, the motives drag it down.
There’s no denying how culturally important this film is but when you strip that away, it’s not that good. The camerawork is astoundingly bad with constant close ups and cuts during scenes. The dialogue is very “of the director” too, who obviously doesn’t deserve to be named. It looks and feels like an episode of TV and it’s the only MCU film like that, which only makes it more jarring.
Remember when people wanted this film when the character was introduced in 2010? And then they didn’t make it until 2019, only releasing it after the character had been wasted for a decade and murdered violently? And then they refused to release it during The Pandemic, causing a lack of already waning interest? And it was a basic spy flick, which seemed designed to set up the next generation of Black Widows, with bad greenscreen effects?
Thor: Love and Thunder
The levels of cringe radiating off this film are unparalleled. The shots are flat, the characters wasted, the tone uncaring. Yet it seems so smug about its own existence. Gorr the God Butcher and The Mighty Thor both deserved better than this, considering they were the highlights.
This one reeked of Oscar-Bait and the studio did not attempt to hide it. That kind of vibe doesn’t fit the MCU but, worse than that, most of these characters suck. Kingo, Karun and Phastos retain my interest but the rest are bland or unlikable. For the most part, the film also looks exceptionally grey, like an early DCEU movie. Uninspired and dull.
Clint Barton has gone unappreciated in his time, so it’s great to spend more time with him. He also has an adorable relationship with Kate Bishop who is a lovable dork. Plus it has all the vibes of christmas.
The only one on this list that justifies being a show instead of a film. It makes good use of different sitcoms for the first half, with excellent performances from Liz Olsen and Paul Bettany. It also brings back Darcy, which is an instant win.
The running theme here seems to be “characters I care about” and Loki is no exception. His relationship with Mobius is great and it doesn’t make a mockery of time travel. The series finale also sticks the landing, which is a nice change.
Full of interesting ideas but it never carries any of them to fruition. The primary interest here is The Watcher, who could be one of the coolest characters in the MCU if they allow it. The worst aspect is that, despite occurring over multiple dimensions, every iteration of each character looks the same.
Came the closest to being like the Netflix Marvel shows but refused to fully commit to the violence or dark themes. Oscar Issac is trying his best with that accent and there are interesting elements throughout the series but it could have been more condensed.
Blurs the line between Disney Channel and Marvel without ever being good at either. Kept afloat by a wonderful performance from Iman Vellani and Kamalas relationship with her family.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
This one really wanted to be about something but again it refused to commit. It’s difficult to have a show about how prevalent racism is when you’re also trying to condem people who think that *checks notes* there shouldn’t be borders because the world works better that way.