Ranking the MCU Films

Deciding what movies are better in the decade’s biggest franchise


The Marvel Cinematic Universe was started in 2008 by Marvel Studios in the effort to create a connected universe of movies.

Will Campbell, Writer/Editor

Since 2008, Marvel Studios has brought 20 films based off of their popular comic properties to the silver screen. These movies have raked in millions, even billions of dollars, and have dazzled viewers with amazing visuals, clever humor, and stories of responsibility, power, and finding oneself.

Yet, not all films are equal, and Marvel Studios has released a few mediocre films. While we all have different opinions, this list will detail my favorite Marvel films that tie into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from worst to best.


20. Thor: The Dark World | Directed by Alan Taylor

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There is a lot wrong with the second outing in the Thor series. Lackluster writing leads to horrible sequences of long, boring monologues. The antagonist, Malekith, is forgettable. A lot of the blame for that goes to both the production team and Christopher Eccleston, who played Malekith. I barely even remembered the villain’s name by the time I started writing this review. In fact, the only reason I remembered him existing was because I had to look up a picture to put here.

It, by no means, is a totally horrible film. Some of the humor is funny, occasionally there’s even a good character moment. However, it is utterly dull and doesn’t push our character of Thor any further, except making him a bit less of a bumbling alien idiot than he was in the first film.

If you are looking for something to turn your mind off while watching, I would not even bother putting on this film. There are plenty of better Marvel films you can choose from.

19. The Incredible Hulk | Directed by Louis Leterrier

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Bet you forgot this one existed, huh? Big Green Man’s first and only solo outing in the M.C.U. was a horrible, horrible disappointment, though it is not like any of his earlier films have been any better. With a somewhat impressive cast including Edward Norton and Tim Roth, the film seemed to have good things going for it. The end credits scene confirmed a shared universe, which provided great promise… unlike the rest of the film.

While I do not mind Edward Norton- in fact, I think he is a great actor- I do not think he was the man for this role. Mark Ruffalo has done a much better job, and maybe that is because the ones in which he has portrayed Hulk are so much better. Not only that, but due to the recasting, the shift from this film to The Avengers was such a strange one that it was a little discombobulating.

Abomination is one of the M.C.U.’s worst antagonists. His motivations make little to no sense, his only purpose is so we can see Hulk punch some other big muscular guy and win. This movie was a pretty big disappointment, and it is a shame that we have not had any better Hulk films since.

Maybe someday, Green Guy. Maybe someday.

18. Thor | Directed by Kenneth Branagh

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Introducing Asgard to the M.C.U. was not going to be an easy task. I do not think this was a very good attempt, which is a little sad, since frankly, I think the way Thor is introduced in this film is one of the best elements. He is a cocky, arrogant warlord who wants nothing more than to fight and kill in the name of Asgard (at least in his mislead views of it). The movie starts with our main character being an unlikable jerk, which is something that we rarely see in films and shows. Yet, despite this interesting characterization of our protagonist at the start, the rest falls completely flat.

Besides Thor’s initial mood about life, Loki is the only semi-good thing about this film. While I have never understood the love for him, he is still one of the greatest parts of the film. It’s very difficult to give this film praise since it compares in quality to the The Dark World. Though, it surpasses the previous two movies ever so slightly by having Loki be a charismatic and unforgettable villain.

Frankly, I think this movie could have been a whole lot better, if only it had a little more substance. The costume design is actually really excellent, and Asgard is such an interesting location that I do not think we ever got enough of. Good news is that the next Thor film on this list is much, much better.

17. Iron Man 2 | Directed by Jon Favreau

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I think that Iron Man 2’s greatest failing is, like some other Marvel films, its antagonist. The film is fairly fun. We get a surprise appearance by Black Widow, even a little bit of a deeper look into S.H.I.E.L.D. We also get a good story about the sins of the father and the legacies we leave behind. But a story means nothing if there are no stakes.

Whiplash is cool for his first few scenes. He cuts Tony Stark’s car in half, he does the cool little walk-forward-while-swinging-your-whips thing. But otherwise, he is not very intimidating. And his final battle consists of a few punches thrown before he gets blasted into a million tiny pieces.

Really, the only good part about this movie is Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer. He has a smarmy attitude, is clearly trying to imitate Stark himself and provides a lot of hilarious moments. Any scene with him is a good scene.

This movie really could have been great if only Whiplash had been handled a little better, but it was instead uninteresting and quite boring.

16. Captain America: The First Avenger | Directed by Joe Johnston

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Captain America has always been one of, in my opinion, the least interesting Marvel heroes. It is truly a shame that his first appearance only cemented that opinion in my mind. This movie had so much potential. Hugo Weaving is an excellent actor, and now that I am older, I see the potential that his role as Red Skull could have had. Yet, just like Whiplash, he fell flat.

The first half of this movie is fun, it is well-written, it shows the creation of a man who would go on to become an Avenger, and have one of the best films in the entire series. In the second half, the film goes absolutely nuts. Sometimes, going absolutely nuts can be a good thing in your film, but not in this movie. It turns into a dumb action flick with little-to-no substance beyond laser guns and HYDRA goons.

However, it is still enjoyable, seeing a rather scrawny Steve Rogers become the hero that he was destined to be. If it was a little better written, and if Red Skull was given more time to shine, we might have had an excellent movie on our hands.

15. Avengers: Age of Ultron | Directed by Joss Whedon

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Age of Ultron is a bit of a mess. While it is an Avengers film, something that is quite a big spectacle, the movie’s test audiences doomed the film to have some awful scenes. Most notably, the scene in which Thor goes to a cave and experiences visions of the Infinity Stones. It is really ham-fisted and pointless and there is actually an alternate version of the scene that flows much better, but it was cut because test audiences didn’t like it.

This movie has a couple good things going for it, but the biggest is James Spader as Ultron. His performance is intimidating, yet oddly charming. Ultron himself is a very interesting character, because his destructive beliefs stemmed entirely from Tony Stark’s own mind. Ultron simply took what he was given, and interpreted it as the Avengers needing to die. However, he is too quippy. Lots of his scariest moments are ruined by a off-handed funny line.

Not only that, but the trailers set the tone for this film to be dark, maybe even the M.C.U.’s first horror movie, with an ominous version of No Strings On Me playing during the first teaser trailer. Instead we got one of the weakest films of Phase 2.

Age of Ultron is not a perfect film, but it is still fun to watch if you are really bored, or if you are rewatching the MCU. Otherwise, there are much better films to enjoy.

14. Iron Man 3 | Directed by Shane Black

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Looking back at the Iron Man franchise, it is a shame that it started out so strong and went downhill so fast. After the release of Iron Man 2, hopes were high that the next film in the franchise might be able to resurrect what everyone loved about the first one and bring the originator of the M.C.U. back into the frontlines, especially after his adventures in The Avengers. Instead, what we got is a movie that builds up expectations, only to let us down.

Never before has a plot twist disappointed me so much. The score is far from forgettable, but there are only a few good moments for each individual character. Otherwise, it is completely and utterly boring. Not only that, but Tony’s adventures hopping around rural Tennessee with a young boy slow the plot to a near halt, providing a laugh or two, but not much beyond that.

The only thing that saves this film from being at the very bottom of the list is Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin. He has always been an incredible actor and he brings such an intimidating presence to his role. One of my favorite moments in the entire film is one of the first times we see him. “You know who I am. You don’t know where I am, and you’ll never see me coming.”

However, this movie was let down by the reveal of the true Mandarin, whose identity I will not spoil, despite this movie being fairly old. Really a disappointing flick, though not without its bright moments.

13. Black Panther | Directed by Ryan Coogler

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Black Panther is probably the most overrated film I have ever watched.

I am gonna be as honest as I possibly can with this one. It really was not that good of a film. In fact, I think it was quite lackluster in the story and camerawork department, the characters were somewhat boring, and the fight scenes were horrendously shot, except maybe the casino one. The CGI was also pretty bad, but that is somewhat forgivable.

The weakest part of the film is how T’Challa is the worst character in his own movie. He was so much more interesting in his debut film, Captain America: Civil War. He lacks the air of mystery that made him so intriguing.

The only reason this one is not lower is because I love the soundtrack, including the album by Kendrick Lamar and also because Killmonger was a pretty solid villain. However, he was quickly beat by other villains on this list, so again, not really all that good. The afro-futurism and aesthetic of the setting was also pretty cool, but Wakanda’s streets didn’t look nearly as futuristic as the opening shot of the massive city-state led me to believe.

However, it stumbles through its first and second act and falls flat on its face with the third. With some dodgy CGI and poor characters, I think this is not nearly as good of a movie as people like to believe it is.

12. Captain America: Civil War | Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

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I get it. Civil War was a much-beloved comic storyline that everyone was excited to see come to life on the silver screen, but really, this film had a lot of problems. It was quite a mess, actually. The pacing was all over the place, the location jumping, while helped along with BIG WHITE TITLE CARDS, was a bit disorientating at times.

I think the few scenes I enjoyed in this movie were the ones with Spider-Man, who was definitely the biggest highlight of the film. His introduction made sense in the context of the already established universe, along with the introduction of Black Panther, who I think was much better in this film than he was in his own solo outing.

I also think one of the best scenes was the final battle between Iron Man and Captain America, because the stakes were high and it was genuinely upsetting to see the two figureheads of the MCU fighting. Otherwise, this movie was rather dumbed down by the use of other characters who did not have much need to be in the film.

This is one of the storylines that should have lasted for more than one film. Maybe over one or two.

11. The Avengers | Directed by Joss Whedon

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The year is 2012. Gangnam Style is still popular, The Hunger Games movie was being hyped up for its release in just two weeks, and thousands were shuffling into theaters to watch the latest Marvel film, The Avengers. A movie that had been anticipated by fans since the start of the M.C.U., back with the original Iron Man. It was finally happening!… and it was okay.

Not the best MCU film ever, but not the worst either. This one is the middle ground. Its villains were flawed, but it gave us some of the most iconic moments in a Marvel film to date.

Not much to add about this one, just that it was a pretty solid movie, and really the first movie from this entire list that I really, truly loved.

10. Doctor Strange | Directed by Scott Derrickson

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Wow, was this movie a trip. I don’t think I have ever seen such surreal, interesting visual effects in film.

Doctor Strange is what Inception wanted to be, but never had the ambition to shoot for. The mirror dimension, Dormammu, the initial sequence where the Ancient One transports Strange to different, bizarre dimensions, all of them are brought together by creative special effects work. Not only that, but the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch was basically perfect. He pulls off mean, uncaring, and self-centered perfectly at the start and makes Strange’s growth throughout the film believable.

Not only that, but the score by Michael Giacchino is fantastic, especially Doctor Strange’s main theme. Overall, this film was an excellent way to kick off Phase Three, following Civil War and was the start of a transition towards a better Marvel.

9. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 | Directed by James Gunn

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This movie is controversial to many. In fact, I think a lot of Marvel fans dislike it. I had a very hard time deciding where to put this on the list. I think Ego was an excellent villain, no doubt helped by Kurt Russell’s excellent performance. He was definitely a far better villain than Ronan.

Not only that, but there were so many good character moments. “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” or “He may have been your father, boy, but he wasn’t your daddy.” or “I know who you are, because you’re me!” All three of those are from the biggest improvement that this movie had to offer: Yondu.

Yondu was a much better character in this. I grew to love him, I laughed at his many comments, and had some of the most fun I have had in a while with a movie. Yet, the story was not nearly as good as the first, it was not as funny either and I think there was a lot of room for growth. But I still love it, despite its flaws, and I think people give this movie too hard of a time, when it deserves recognition for being different, yet still good.

8. Ant-Man | Directed by Peyton Reed

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I genuinely think this could have been one of the best M.C.U. movies if Edgar Wright had stuck around. He is an amazing director and screenwriter, he knows exactly how to create comedic moments and yet Marvel wanted an Edgar Wright movie, rather than what Edgar Wright wanted the movie to be.

Nonetheless, this movie is still hilarious. While the antagonist is bland, just another guy-in-suit-being-evil, Paul Rudd as Scott Lang was hilarious, and Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne provided an interesting and strong female lead. Plus, she plays Wasp in our next movie on the list, and is an excellent foil to Rudd’s Ant-Man.

This is one of the funniest M.C.U. movies yet, with jokes that consistently land, and also deviates from the typical Marvel formula, providing a fun heist movie with constant ups and downs.

7. Ant-Man and The Wasp | Directed by Peyton Reed

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With Infinity War behind them, M.C.U. fans looked to a film coming out in the near future for a lighthearted break from the depressing events of the newest Avengers film. Luckily, Ant-Man and The Wasp provided just that.

The most unique and interesting part about Ant-Man’s second feature film is the number of antagonists in the film. Unlike other films where you have one big villain, this film features no big villain and instead offers opposition from numerous different forces, all vying for the same thing.

The film itself is also very standalone. There are no cameos from other characters from different properties. There are barely any references, save for a few mentions of Captain America and the events of Civil War. While this does mean that the film gets to mostly avoid the dark tone of Infinity War, it lacks something that makes most M.C.U. films special, which is the constant reminders of the shared universe.

That being said, the end of this film does tie in with Infinity War, giving a grim reminder of Thanos’s victory in that film. I will not spoil what happens, but it is a shock to see at the end of such a comedic film.

With no more Marvel films until March of 2019, Ant-Man and the Wasp provides both a cliffhanger ending that leaves viewers questioning what will happen in Avengers 4. It is a fun, if flawed movie-going experience, giving good laughs and fun action scenes, while continuing the previous movie’s heist/chase theme, which makes it a unique addition to the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy | Directed by James Gunn

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Ah, Guardians of the Galaxy, how I hate you so for starting the Chris Pratt obsession. Really, it gets so annoying to see Chris Pratt in every other movie on the market. I get it, he is a good comedic actor, but he is everywhere!

However, that does not stop this movie from being excellent. While I was not sure if I would put Volume 2 higher than this one, or vice versa, I decided this was definitely the superior movie, with laugh after laugh, along with an Infinity Stone being introduced! Not only that, but we got funny performances from John C. Reilly, Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, and even Benicio Del Toro.

I think this was definitely one of the funniest movies on the list, but it just barely didn’t make it to my top 5, since the villain was rather disappointing. Also, #RehireJamesGunn.

5. Iron Man | Directed by Jon Favreau

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The one that started it all. When Iron Man released in 2008, no one had any idea of what was coming in the future. People didn’t know that this would grow to be one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. They had not a clue of how many iconic comic characters would be brought to life. The entirety of the M.C.U. was started by some playboy billionaire in a metal suit.

This movie, even today, is still a near masterpiece. Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man. Gwyneth Paltrow is Pepper Potts. The casting is perfect, the direction and writing is top notch, the only real flaw is the villain, and even then he is still a pretty good one. I mean, come on, he is played by Jeff Bridges!

A simple story that defined a generation, Jon Favreau’s Iron Man will likely go down in history as one of the best superhero films of all time. It deserves it, too.

4. Thor: Ragnarok | Directed by Taika Waititi

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When Marvel saw the direction that Thor was headed, especially after The Dark World, they decided he might need to be changed a little and made a little more comedic. This upset some people, who believed that he should be a serious, dark character. But I think Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok was a perfect direction to take him in.

This movie has synthwave and Jack Kirby’s iconic comic art flowing through its veins and it is oh so cheesy. Thor is a total doof, which some people have claimed just makes him another Star-Lord, but I think it was a setup for a much deeper character in Infinity War. The writing for this one was solid, there was good character development, we got the Planet Hulk storyline (sort of) and we got to see Jeff Goldblum in a Marvel film. What is not to love?

If you love this movie, I definitely recommend Taika Waititi’s other movies, including Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. He is really good at what he does, and what he does is stupid comedy and heaps of fun.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier | Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

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Captain America has never been the most compelling superhero. He’s like Superman; sure he is cool, but he is not emotionally deep at all… until this film.

The Winter Soldier is one of the best spy thrillers I have ever personally watched. The character of The Winter Soldier was such an excellent foil to Steve, along with the perfect emotional motivator. This is the film that changed how we view S.H.I.E.L.D. It was also one of the most tense films in the entirety of the M.C.U., due in part to the titular villain.

I think the score was also phenomenal, especially the theme of The Winter Soldier himself. The way that Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans play off each other is also pretty fun. Along with all the praise I have already given the movie, it also introduces the M.C.U.’s version of Falcon, who is a good comic relief, and the closest to a normal guy we get in this movie, which makes him a good character to convey the feelings of the viewers or just to point out the occasional absurdity of the situation.

Overall, this movie is near perfect, I do not even think I can pick out a flaw. It is just that good, and continues to remain one of the best movies in Marvel’s cinematic lineup to this very day.

2. Spider-Man: Homecoming | Directed by Jon Watts

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Okay, so maybe I’m a little biased on this one. I’ve always loved Spider-Man, even since I was a child. I never really enjoyed the Raimi films as much as other people, I sorta enjoyed the first Amazing Spider-Man movie, and didn’t like the second (though looking back now, both do seem kind of lackluster). But I really, really loved Spider-Man: Homecoming, for a couple reasons.

Tom Holland as Peter Parker and Spider-Man was phenomenal. He brought the good parts of both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s performances, and created the best Spider-Man to date. Not only that, but some of the character moments were really compelling, especially when the movie reminds us that, in his weakest moment, trapped under rubble, Peter is just a 15-year-old kid, in way over his head, while also giving us one of the most captivating moments from the comics.

There’s also the uniqueness of Vulture. He has never been an intimidating protagonist. Normally he’s some old dude in a green wingsuit. But this movie made him scary. From the moment you first see him fly into his warehouse and land, you know that he’s going to be a good villain. He’s a blue collar villain, something we don’t normally see in a cinematic universe full of superheroes. He’s a guy who just wants to support his family and get along, but he turns to the dark side directly because of the actions of Tony Stark and the Avengers. I think that makes him a deep, sympathetic character who added a lot to a story that definitely needed a villain who could properly carry the THIRD Spider-Man reboot in a decade. Not only that, but the plot twist of this film is one you will not see coming from a mile away, yet is easy to see on a rewatch. I will not spoil it, it is worth it to go into this film blind.

Yes, this film had flawed CGI at timesm but seeing this iteration of Spider-Man on screen made me fall in love with the character once again. With the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming slated to be the first to release after Avengers 4, and with Jake Gyllenhaal in talks to play the villain Mysterio, I think the sequel is going to be just as good.

1. Avengers: Infinity War | Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

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I think the craziest part about this movie, to me, is how dark it is, and how well Marvel pulls it off. The D.C. films have always had the problems of being too gritty, which brought them down, yet this movie pulls off bleak and miserable perfectly.

Every actor really brings their A-game in this film. There is not a single performance that is unsatisfying or badly done, but I really gotta give the highlight to a few in particular.

Robert Downey Jr., the godfather of this franchise, was phenomenal in this movie. He was the foil to Thanos, and was also one of the main players in the story. His interactions with Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange were hilarious and his interactions with Tom Holland as Spider-Man felt genuine, and further developed their father-son relationship.

Speaking of Tom Holland, he blew me away in this film. I will not give any specific details, but towards the end he really provides a new element to the story. It is clear that he understands his character, which is why I think he is one of the best iterations of Spider-Man ever.

The real highlight is Josh Brolin as Thanos. One of the most intimidating yet understandable villains ever. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and yet he is just as emotionally vulnerable as anyone else. I felt bad for him, I sympathized with him, I even understood his motivations. I am glad they brought a human aspect to his character, I feel like if they had gone with comic Thanos’s motivations, we would have had a very lackluster villain. Instead we got reasonable, believable actions from a well-written character.

This movie is as close to perfect as the M.C.U. has ever gotten, with more films on the way, such as Captain Marvel, and with the Disney/Fox deal appearing to be going through, we might even get X-Men and Fantastic Four movies as well.

The future is bright. Let u hope Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, handles it well.

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