Avengers: Endgame brings to completion the massive 22 movie arc of the Marvel Comics Universe. So which are the best and worst MCU movies? Jenna Guillaume ranks all 22, from worst to best.
Avengers: Endgame brings to a close a 22 movie, 11 year arc for the Marvel Cinematic Universe that began all the way back in 2008 with the first Iron Man. With so many movies spanning across franchises and sub-genres, comparisons and rankings are inevitable – and also practically impossible.
Still, we try, because there’s nothing fans enjoy more than arguing over which of their faves is superior. With that in mind, here’s a ranking of every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is, of course, completely subjective – but also, of course, 100 percent right. At least according to my mood today…
This is probably a controversial pick for the bottom spot. I bet you thought it would be The Incredible Hulk, didn’t you? Sorry, the worst movie in the MCU is actually Doctor Strange. How did I come to such a decision? Well, I’ve managed to sit through The Incredible Hulk three times, something which was impossible for me to do with Doctor Strange (unless you count restarting the same scene more than once because I kept falling asleep). Doctor Strange is on the shorter side for a Marvel movie – under two hours! – but somehow it still manages to feel interminably long.
The Incredible Hulk is so despised in the MCU fandom that many skip over it during their compulsive rewatches. It’s true that it doesn’t bear a lot of relevance for what comes after it – although it does introduce Thaddeus Ross and, of course, Bruce Banner, albeit Edward Norton’s version. But there’s a reason it’s always at the bottom of these lists. It’s just not good.
If you’re anything like me, you like to rewatch the MCU in chronological order. And if you’re even more like me, you watch Iron Man and Iron Man 2 back to back. Which is unfortunate for Iron Man 2, because it only works to highlight all its flaws. The most egregious of which are the villains; Sam Rockwell’s Hammer and Mickey Rourke’s Vanko are tiresome and one-note, and they certainly don’t bring out the best in Tony Stark.
Avengers: Age of Ultron proves that incorporating the mega-cast of the extended universe into one movie with a cohesive plot is no easy feat. It demonstrates this by failing at it pretty abysmally. Age of Ultron is mess, and even though it’s full of one-liners, there’s none of the joy from the first Avengers present.
The title is appropriate, amirite? Thor: The Dark World is a pretty dreary affair. Here’s the thing: I still really like it! I don’t know, I’ve always been a sucker for Thor’s movies. But by the time that final battle comes around, even I am ready for it to all be over.
The best thing about this movie is the way it explores Tony’s PTSD in the wake of The Avengers. It sets him on a path that leads to Age of Ultron and Civil War, which ultimately paves the way for Thanos to conquer the already divided Avengers. So it puts into motion some big plot ideas, but it also tackles Tony’s mental health in a nuanced way. Not all Marvel movies can say that. What lets it down is, well, the main plot. The Mandarin, really?
Ant-Man is a little…okay, a lot goofy. But you know what? It’s super fun, and Paul Rudd as Scott Lang is a delightful addition to the MCU. Still, even Ant-Man wouldn’t rate Ant-Man too highly, especially when he’s up against the likes of Captain America 1, 2 and 3.
It’s remarkable how separate and alien Guardians of the Galaxy felt to the rest of the MCU when it first came out, considering how central Thanos came to be in the larger plot. Even then, it was hard to resist the appeal of the ragtag crew of Groot, Drax, Rocket and Gamora. Oh, and Star-Lord, I guess. His appeal has…lessened over time.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is very much a high school movie, and your enjoyment of it will depend on whether you like high school movies. I happen to love them, so I really dig Homecoming. However, while skipping over Peter Parker’s origin story, which we’ve seen on screen approximately 167 times in the last 20 years, was a smart move, it also robbed the movie of some emotional depth.
Ant-Man and the Wasp provided a much-needed breather after the devastation of Avengers: Infinity War. Set before the Snap, the stakes are extremely low comparatively speaking, but it’s refreshing. It was also great to finally see a female superhero share the spotlight equally – down to the title – with a male lead.
Ooft, this was a hard one to place. I still feel really raw after watching it, and three days later I’m still processing it. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that I was incredibly satisfied with some plots…and very dissatisfied with others. Which lands this movie pretty much at the halfway mark of this ranking. There were elements that were brilliant, but others that fell far short of where they should have been.
Captain America: Civil War is perhaps one of the most fraught entries into the franchise for fans, as we watch our heroes fight each other in a movie that is less about physical stakes and more about emotional ones. The repercussions of Civil War reverberate right through to the moment Thanos snaps his giant ugly purple hand.
Is this movie completely ridiculous? Yes. I mean, it’s about a god-like creature who turns his consciousness into a planet. And who turns out to be Peter Quill’s father. Like so many other MCU heroes, Star-Lord has serious daddy issues. Every time I think of the plot of this movie, I ask myself – really? You’re going to rank it this high? And yet every time I watch it, I have SO MUCH FUN. So yeah, I’m going to rank it this high.
After 20 movies, Marvel finally gave the world a sole female lead. The joy of watching this movie as a woman, and witnessing Carol Danvers’ moments of triumph, cannot be overstated. Her journey is very much centered on the challenges she faces as a woman in a patriarchal world, and it’s glorious.
Black Panther is stunning, with incredible action sequences as well as quieter moments that are both moving and powerful. It’s a relief to see that, this far into churning out those blockbusters, Marvel can still tell a story that feels both self-contained and complete, and part of something much larger.
This was a game changer in the MCU, revealing not only that Bucky Barnes was alive but also that SHIELD had been infiltrated by Hydra. What works best about it though is the emotional journey the Cap goes on, as everything he believes is challenged and he has to fight one of the people he loves most.
Ah, the movie that started it all. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia that makes this movie a cut above so many others – or perhaps it’s just really good. It all feels so small now, looking back, but there’s a charm in that. Robert Downey Jr was made for the role of Tony Stark, and it’s always wonderful to watch the beginnings of this character – and this whole wild journey.
Like I said, I’m a sucker for Thor. While Thor introduced other planets and dimensions into the MCU, Kenneth Branagh’s direction worked to tease out the giddy Shakespearean-ness of it all. Thor’s overall arc is about what it means to be a good leader – and a good man – and that’s set up here. But mostly Thor is what every decent superhero movie should be: a lot of fun.
Even all this time later, even after watching Endgame and seeing how it ends, I’m still reeling from the aftershocks of Infinity War. It was an ambitious venture, no doubt, bringing together so many characters and plot threads and superstars. For the most part, Marvel pulls it off, even managing to push forward several character arcs with emotional nuance in amidst the epic, blockbuster action. It takes my breath away.
The First Avenger is one of the most underrated movies in the MCU, frequently overshadowed by its follow-up, The Winter Soldier. For my money, it’s a better movie. Steve Rogers’ origin story shapes so much of the MCU, and while it’s a war movie, it’s also a beautiful story of love and friendship. And Peggy Carter is one of the best female leads in the whole damn universe.
In the wake of Infinity War and Endgame, The Avengers feels tiny these days. But there was something so thrilling about seeing these heroes come together for the first time. It was before the MCU had truly become the behemoth it is now, and it all still felt incredibly fresh and exciting. The chemistry between the original six heroes drove so much of this franchise, and their scenes together here are nothing but a delight.
Taika Waititi did THAT. Thor: Ragnarok is deeply weird but so damn beautiful. It’s the best comedy in the MCU, but it also balances the humour with an emotional depth that is incredible, allowing Thor to be both funny and layered. Hela, meanwhile, is definitely one of the better villains in Marvel movie history. It says a lot that I have major issues with some of the plot decisions in Ragnarok, and yet it’s such a joyful and meaningful ride, I’m able to let them go and enjoy it wholeheartedly anyway. If you don’t think this is the best movie in the MCU, sorry but you’re wrong.