MCU. The biggest movie franchise ever in cinematic history. It has been around for just about a decade but arguably no film franchise has brought so many movie lovers to cinema theaters. Since 2007, Marvel Studios has produced 22 films starting with Iron-Man and culminating in Avengers: Endgame. The series collectively has grossed over $20 billion at the global box office, making it the highest-grossing film franchise of all time. At this point, it is less of a franchise and more of a phenomenon.
Deciding to rank all the films in Marvel Cinematic Universe is a tough task, especially because there are so many opinions out there. But we still went ahead and did it — don’t hate us for that. Here’s the list of all MCU films, ranked from worst to best.
22. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
One of those rare MCU films which easily could be rated below average. The back story and character motivations are laughably sparse. Most of the characters seem one-dimensional, with the possible exception of Loki. The plot is a typical, and the writing seems to be absolutely lazy. The MCU has proved that it can make a film with a reasonable plot, pacing and good character arc but this just seems to be a ‘moneymaker’ sequel. I’m not particularly a fan of the first 2 Thor films as well, even though they were decent movies in general. This film is all over the map with scenes of badly choreographed action, bad comedy and acting. Definitely the worst film the MCU has put out and hopefully the worst it will ever put out.
21. Iron Man 2 (2010)
It is difficult to follow the success of the first Iron Man film. But by any stretch of imagination this version of Iron Man didn’t even come close to the first. Filmmakers didn’t feel the same pressure of making a quality product as the first one and as a result they end up making an action trash.
20. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Long before Mark Ruffalo donned the green suit, Edward Norton tried hands at playing Hulk not very successfully. While the Norton himself was quite good, it seems like the film suffered due to the creative differences between the actors and the producers. Anyway, what happened, happened. Let’s move on.
19. Thor (2011)
Let’s just say it what all of you wanted to say. “Thor” himself might be the strongest superhero in the universe, but in Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is quite possibly its weakest link. Right from the very first film, things have seemed off. Or may be the world of Thor seems so distant that it is difficult to weave an entertaining story around it. That changed a bit with the third film, but then you have to thank Hulk for it.
18. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Marginally better than the Iron Man 2, what this one does better is the execution of action sequences. In terms of story and plot, this one is again miles behind the best in superhero genre of films. Watch it once, and then never revisit it again.
17. Captain Marvel (2019)
Well, here’s the lesson to learn from Captain Marvel. A feminist film doesn’t automatically translate into a good film. Captain Marvel, the film, has a lot of shortcomings. It struggles with creating a sense of place and time and suffers from pacing issues. Captain Marvel herself lacks a real character in the film and in an effort to make her look strong, the filmmakers made her look emotionless and apathetic.
16. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Forget everything else. Let’s just talk about the sappy part of Avengers: AoU. The film is sappy and mushy for reasons no one can explain. This is a superhero movie; it’s not a movie where people solve their personal issues. The romance between BW and Hulk gets mushy which is not required. The introduction of Hawkeye’s family is another such moment in the movie. It is all entirely fair to show all the characters’ development in a silent environment but why to humanize them to such a level that they lose their image of being a superhero.
15. Guardians of The Galaxy : Vol 2 (2017)
This movie was bound to happen the moment we saw the credits roll on after the first one. It is replete with dazzling visuals and though not as thrilling as the first one, it still packs a punch. Centering around Peter Quill, the Guardians set out on an adventure in order to discover Quill’s lineage. New characters and villains are thrown in as the MCU sprawls into an infinite universe.
14. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Do any horror fans remember the debate teenagers have in Scream 2 as to which sequels surpass their predecessors. There are a few and the Thor movies almost make it a rule. The Dark World (2013) was miles better than the first one and Thor: Ragnarok completes the trilogy while making it better at the same time. The cheesy lines uttered by Hemsworth are still intact and so is the humor along with effective use of action packed CGI making it one of the highest grossing Marvel films.
13. Ant Man and the Wasp (2018)
Just like its predecessor, this one relies on its comic moments and effortless charisma of Paul Rudd. It’s not a superhero film in traditional sense; it is more a comedy-drama garbed under the wrap of a superhero film. Both the Ant-Man films will have a longer shelf life simply because they rely more on the story and less on the visual effects — unlike most other films on this list.
12. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ has some have-to-be-seen-to-be-believed action sequences that like Spider-Man 2 (2004) are truly epic, and of course is action driven. But the actors excel in their roles giving the film a beating heart and a soul. Holland might be the best Peter Parker yet, the best Spider Man yet, not sure about that, I just know he was great, fun to watch and entirely believable. Downey Jr. has always been marvelous as Tony Stark, the smug, arrogant billionaire who is also Iron Man, and here he is no different from before, a mentor of Peter. He must see in the kid what we do, a mini me of Stark really, bursting to get out. Keaton continues his career renaissance with yet another great performance that is a wonderful display of economic acting. This guy knows how dangerous he is, and anyone he speaks with sees it in his eyes, so a threat from him is indeed something to take very seriously.
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11. Black Panther (2018)
The action sequences are utterly breathtaking, some of the best committed to film in the last thirty years, with dynamic chases, stunts, and feats of courage and strength performed by Black Panther. When the end of the year comes around, this film will top many ten best lists, and if there is justice show up in the Oscar race. Ryan Coogler, an unknown five years ago will move to the top of the A director list with this film, boldly directed with a confidence that was thrilling to see. He remade Rocky with Creed (2015), refashioning the myth of Rocky Balboa in the film, and he brings that myth-making genius to this picture.
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10. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Captain America: The First Avenger rests on a simplistic plot without any attempt to over-complicate things. That’s why the film works even to this day. What it lacks in terms of supercool action sequences, it more than makes it up with its pulpy, retro vibe that you would probably will never get to see again in a superhero film.
9. Ant Man (2015)
Before Deadpool showed how superhero movies can be funny and yet enjoyable, ‘Ant Man’ nearly came close to doing exactly the same. Though not nearly as good — or as funny — as Deadpool, ‘Ant Man’ was a breath of fresh air. You know why? Because it was so different from rest of the over-powerful superheroes.
8. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
There is a saying “too many cooks spoil the broth”. Is that true with ‘Avengers: Infinity War’. Yes and No. Yes, in a sense that when you have so many superheroes in one film, you already know the focus of its makers is not going to be the plot. But at the same time, you also get to see some really mind-blowing action sequences. Not to mention, watching all Marvel superheroes in action at the same time on the same screen is just supercool.
7. Doctor Strange (2016)
Behold, the sorcerer supreme arrives in the world full of superheroes! MCU’s ‘Doctor Strange’ is the story of an egoist but acclaimed Doctor who loses his ability to use hands in an accident. Looking for a cure, he roams around the world before he reaches the mystic Kamar-Taj. There he learns the art of various realms and discovers the hidden world of magic. Unlike the comics, this serves as the origin story. The wonderful Benedict Cumberbatch plays the titular role and was much appreciated for his portrayal of the sorcerer supreme. The movie stands out for its spectacular and mind tripping visual effects.
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6. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
It is in no way the finest MCU movie, but it is the most resonant, the most poignant of the lot. While all the other MCU movies until this point, have had an aura of anticipation, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ was permeated with an essence of retrospection. If you want my personal opinion of it as a film, it’s good but not great. However, ‘Endgame’ is not just a film, it is a cultural phenomenon and a shared experience where the viewers are being rewarded for their loyalty and commitment to the franchise. As far as rewards go, we could not have asked for anything better, a film with emotions, action, resolution, and respect to its history.
5. Iron Man (2008)
The movie that laid the first stone of the massive MCU Empire, ‘Iron Man’ brought a fairly arrogant character that wasn’t even known outside die-hard comic nerds to the screen with the perfect casting of Robert Downey Jr. The actor who had been rebuilding his career after a hiatus leading to his substance-abuse problems, found a platform to catapult his way to the pinnacle of success. RDJ brought to his character a much-needed humor and cockiness that made Tony Stark an iconic superhero. Director Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr. And Jeff Bridges reworked the original script and more-or-less ad-libbed the dialogues to make a landmark movie. It also set the tone for its successors to follow.
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4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
When this movie released, I wasn’t as impressed with it as so many critics were, going to the lengths of even calling it the best Marvel movie. Upon re-watching the movie more than half a dozen times since, I have come around on my first impression. It was a risky for the studio to make a movie without a single scene with an established character. But the movie brought minor characters and formed a team of misfits. While most MCU movies have spurs of comedy, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is a riot of laughter. It manages to establish new characters to actually span a universe. The overuse of dated references mostly unknown to the target audience is forgivable for the interesting characters featured.
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3. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
The year 2016 had promised us two huge movies with superheroes fighting superheroes. But when ‘Dawn of Justice’ had disappointed a lot of fans, there was a ton of pressure on ‘Civil War’ to be good. And it was mind-blowing! I had read the Civil War comic story-line so I frankly was disappointed by the scale of the war. But I believe that it would be impossible to get a scale much bigger than what we got. The movie divided audiences into Team Iron Man and Team Cap but almost everyone changed teams at least once. This was a commendable achievement in direction as it let the audience choose whom they sided with, without antagonizing one or the other half of the protagonists. More importantly, we got an all out fight between the two sides with an underlying difference of opinion throughout the movie. We also got two new characters in Black Panther and the new Spidey. Can’t wait for Spiderman’s Homecoming this July!
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2. The Avengers (2012)
Now, it may seem quite normal to have multiple superheroes cross paths and even team up for a movie of two but before ‘The Avengers’ was made, it was unimaginable. What is a more nuanced issue is the fact that such powerful heroes had to get a more or less equal part in taking down baddies. It would also be absurd to have a team of powerful heroes fight a singular villain so they were made to battle an entire army of aliens. While this device has been overused since then, this movie was the first to do it on such a scale. The sheer joy of seeing your favorite superheroes fight together was immense but it was also a visual treat to experience. It is something that the DCEU has tried to replicate but failed.
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1. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)
The second installment in the Captain America solo movies, deviated from the superhero genre full of big explosions and powers beyond the realm of science, to venture into the field of spy thrillers. The movie was directed by the Russo brothers, previously known mainly for the comedy TV series, ‘Community’. They brought Bucky Barnes back from the dead as the eponymous Winter Soldier. The inner struggles that Captain America goes through, fighting his childhood friend, outline much of the story and set up important events of the Civil War. The movie was also instrumental in fleshing out the character of Black Widow since whatever time she previously had onscreen; she had shared with a lot of heavyweights.
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