Worst to First: Ranking the Films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

MARVELfilms

Back in 2016 I set out to rank all of the Marvel movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and beyond. Needless to say there have been several big additions since. So with “Avengers: Endgame” right around the corner what better time to rethink my list with the fresh batch of newcomers included. The only difference is that this time I’m restricting it to the 21 movies of the MCU.

Following the blueprint of my year-end Top 10 list, here is my #11-20:

  • #21 – “Iron Man 3” (2013)
  • #20 – “Thor: The Dark World” (2013)
  • #19 – “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)
  • #18 – “Ant-Man” (2015)
  • #17 – “The Incredible Hulk” (2008)
  • #16 – “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)
  • #15 – “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)
  • #14 – “Doctor Strange” (2016)
  • #13 – “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)
  • #12 – “Iron Man 2” (2010)
  • # 11 – “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018)

#10 – “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

GUARDIANS

Since doing my Marvel movie ranking in 2016 no movie has risen higher in my estimation than James Gunn’s first “Guardians” film. After another viewing more things clicked into place both storywise and with the humor. The motley cast of characters is the biggest draw and watching this band of misfits come together is a lot of fun.

#9 – “Captain Marvel” (2019)

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It may still be making money at the box office but for good reason. “Captain Marvel” is another example of the Marvel Studios taking a mid-tier character and making them a significant part of the MCU. It’s a movie with its own special flavor, it features Nick Fury’s meatiest role, and it has one killer cat. Oh, and it also sports a well-cast Oscar-winner as its star.

#8 – “Thor” (2011)

THOR

This is a movie that could have so easily failed. Bringing Thor to the big screen and even attempting to tackle his lore could have been insufferably cheesy. Instead they took just the right approach, introducing the God of Thunder through an often funny ‘fish out of water’ story. And Chris Hemsworth shows himself to be some of the best MCU casting to date.

#7 – “Black Panther” (2018)

Black Panther

The sheer scope of “Black Panther” is enough to get it top 10 consideration, but this is a movie with so much more to offer. Tops on the list is its fabulous world building. It also gives us a truly great villain, something often missing in many MCU movies. Culturally significant and truly epic in scope and scale.

#6 – “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)

FIRST AVENGER

There is so much about this movie that resonated with me. I loved its wonderfully realized period setting. I equally love how it handles the young Steve Rogers character and I’ve always had a soft spot for Red Skull as one Marvel’s top villains. It’s an earnest film with a ton of heart and its one of the MCU origin stories that is full of its own personality.

#5 – “Iron Man” (2008)

IRON MAN

The movie that started it all is also one of the very best the MCU has to offer. “Iron Man” was such a great mix of action and humor plus it features the unexpectedly perfect casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. It’s such a great lead performance and wonderful material to launch the key player who would lead Marvel’s bold new venture.

#4 – “The Avengers” (2012)

AVENGERS

Marvel’s insanely ambitious shared universe first came together in “The Avengers”. It was the initial big ‘event film’ the young MCU had been working towards. And what an absolute blast. With so many character threads and moving parts, it was an incredible accomplishment. It also proved that the MCU was no pipe dream and that there were big things to come.

#3 – “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)

CIVIL WAR

In many ways this was the Avengers movie I wish “Age of Ultron” had been. Not only did the movie pick up Cap’s individual story (which I think is the MCU’s best) but it shook up the entire universe, setting the stage for some big events to come. Great action, great tension, and some truly great storytelling puts this near the top for me.

#2 – “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)

INFINITY WAR

Nearly every single MCU movie for the last several years had been teasing us with what culminated in “Infinity War”. It was a massive undertaking but the results were pretty amazing. And then you have the ending – a wonderfully gutsy and grim way for Marvel to leave their audience hanging and anxiously waiting for “Endgame”.

#1 – “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014)

WINTER SOLDIER

When naming my favorite MCU movie there really is no comparison. “Winter Soldier” is based on one of my very favorite comic book storylines and the film does it justice. The Cap films have always put a priority on the human element and this one is no different. I also love the 70’s spy thriller vibe and its heavy use of practical effects and stunt work. The movie clicks from the opening scene to the end credits stinger. It’s easily tops on my list.

36 thoughts on “Worst to First: Ranking the Films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

  1. This is an interesting list. I’m working on my own at the moment and I think it might be quite different to yours.
    I may be completely wrong, but I am assuming you were ‘Team Cap’?!? 🙂

    • I love the Cap movies. For me they all have had such a strong human thread. Plus Cap has always been my favorite MCU character. The movies have done him justice. And being an old school comic book guy, I really enjoy the movies that stick kinda close to the source material.

      • He’s too self-righteous for me, every time he talks I want to punch him 😂🙈. I know Tony Stark is cocky and arrogant but he knows he’s flawed and that makes him more relatable.

      • HaHaHa! I actually don’t see it as self-righteousness but more of a symptom of the time he’s from. I like how he struggles with holding firm to his morality in a very different culture. In fact I would even say it proves to be a weakness at times. That conflict has always interested me.

  2. I’ve been meaning to do one of these lists before Endgame, but I did skip out on Antman 2 and Ragnarok. *hides*

    If I do have a list, we will agree on the top spot for sure! The Winter Soldier is just a brilliant adaptation, and a phenomenal film in terms of action choreography, drama, and overall narrative. Ah, so much love for the character. 🙂

    • Woo Hoo for “Winter Soldier”. That movie is easily my favorite. I wasn’t as high on “Ragnarok” as most seem to be. It’s enjoyable but it does so many weird things with the characters and their relationships.

  3. 4/10
    #21 THE INCREDIBLE HULK

    5/10
    #20 IRON-MAN 2
    #19 CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

    6/10
    #18 CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE 1ST AVENGER
    #17 CAPTAIN MARVEL

    7/10
    #16 THOR: THE DARK WORLD
    #15 THOR
    #14 IRON-MAN
    #13 IRON-MAN 3

    8/10
    #12 BLACK PANTHER
    #11 ANT-MAN & THE WASP
    #10 THOR: RAGNAROK
    #9 SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
    #8 ANT-MAN
    #7 CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
    #6 GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

    9/10
    #5 GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
    #4 AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
    #3 THE AVENGERS
    #2 AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
    #1 DR. STRANGE

    • I know a lot of people don’t like that Hulk movie. It came from a comic book story line that I really enjoyed. I just didn’t like its ending.

      REALLY surprised to see “Winter Soldier” rated so low. It’s one I could watch over and over.

      Love the inspired choice of Doctor Strange as #1. My son is a lot higher on it than I am. It definitely feels like a unique movie within the MCU.

  4. Interesting list . I have a very wide opinion on the movies in the MCU. My favs have been the First Cap movie ( love the tone , its was like my fav comics growing up ,its a 8.5 for me) both Guardian movies both a 9 , love the cast , the music , the heart .

    Then I go off the board a bit with both Ant-man movies both 8.5 , just loved the cast and enjoyed the light heartiness that worked for me .

    I enjoy all the Avengers movies with Infinity Wars my fav , its my number 1 for sure . They break down like this Avengers an 8 . Ultron a 8.5 and Infinity Wars 9 .

    Then Dr. Strange a solid 8 for me . Truly one of the better launch movies in my view . Thor as solid as well , maybe 7.5 .

    Captain Marvel was alright but it was something I can honestly say I have zero interest in seeing again .

    From there on it gets a bit different . Not a big fan of Winter Soldier , just felt distant to me . Black Panther grossly over-hyped and after watching 2 more times , my opinion keeps getting worse , Civil War let me down a bit . Iron Man 2 and 3 are weak .Same as the 2 Thor sequels . Ragnarök and its cloying humor , annoys me . Spider-Man Homecoming is , I will say it huge disappointment .

    As to the Hulk , I like that Hulk over the muted one we get now . Not a huge fan of Ruffalo as Banner either . He is a weak casting in my opinion compared to Norton. I get it why many dislike it but I think its a solid 7.5 and almost like an outsider .

    One thing I will say however , the casting of pretty much all the main characters is
    bang on . From Downey Jr. , Evans , Hemsworth to even the movies I didn’t like as much like Holland as Spidey or Boseman as Panther , they are great .

    Its been an amazing ride no matter and the success cannot be denied . Plus Im pumped
    to see Endgame and see how it changes the MCU going forward .

    As always truly enjoy your take on these movies .

    • Great thoughts. Enjoyed reading them and comparing. Really surprised that Winter Soldier felt distant to you considering one thing I love about it is how intimate and personal it feels to me. And it still has my very favorite MCU action scene. But you’re not alone. I’ve seen another person already mention it as low on their list.

      You’re so right about the casting. They nail it. I also think I agree on Ruffalo. He doesn’t really bother me but at the same time he doesn’t really fit the vision of Banner.

      Love what you said about Ragnarok. As some kind of wacky stand-alone movie it would probably work. But the way it portrays both Thor and Hulk clashes with their other MCU appearances.

      And Homecoming…you and I may be alone on that island. So many seem to love it. I have a tough time looking over some really shaky creative decisions.

      • Well my sons, age 25 and 29, big Spidey fans don’t like Homecoming either, so not totally alone. It just feels so off from the Spider-man that Lee and Ditko and later Romita Sr. gave us and was so good. Truly looking forward to Endgame and see how it affects the MCU going forward .Ill be there opening night .

      • So true. Plus it completely wastes a really good Michael Keaton. And I kinda hate the new “sexy” Aunt Mae, the no Uncle Ben angle, the weird Spidey suit with built in Jarvis, etc. etc. etc.

  5. THIS IS…. THE WORST COMMENT SECTION I HAVE EVER BEEN IN! IT’S JUST A BUNCH OF WHINY FANBOYS AND FAN GIRLS ALL MOANING ABOUT HOW THIS FILM IS NOT GOOD OR THIS FILM DOESN’T GET MUCH LOVE! GOD THEY’RE SO PATHETIC! I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE AVENGERS TO OUT THERE AND KICK ASS!!! MCU!!!!!

    I’m just joking. I had to get that out of my system. Here is my list so far. This is where I’ve been getting my rants from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jxf8bzL-8B8

  6. nice post Keith. I enjoy these posts even though am not a comic book expert. Was never a comic book collector so I tend to appreciate these movies as they appear onscreen.

    But i thought i was alone in disliking the portrayal of Captain America. I too think he’s a bit too self righteous onscreen that he comes across as superior and uninterestng. i have the blu ray of First avenger but rarely play it because of Captain America himself! However the Red Skull is one of my favorite villains, and do like the rest of the story.

    Favorite marvel films from your list are Iron Man 2, Doctor Strange, and Spiderman homecoming. Guardians of Galaxy 2 somehow brought down my liking for Guardians 1 a little bit.

    • That’s so interesting. I’ve never viewed Cap as self-righteous. I’ve always seen him as a product of his time. A man of strong moral conviction who was essentially made to be the symbol of an entire nation. Now he’s in a different time and that very morality is often shown to be a weakness. I love the conflict we see as he still navigates his place in this new time.

      • Maybe I don’t understand the character enough. just wondered if he might have been more interesting if he was given a bit more of a comedic angle. like how he deals with the technological advances in a funny way.

      • I will say the comics captured it a lot better. But that comparison is a bit unfair. They’ve had a lot more time to flesh him out.

  7. This is not to disagree with you, I mean I am, but it’s your list, I just view things a little differently. I like the Avenger movies the least, I don’t like the focus being spread among so many different characters, I like the idea of each of them living in their own unique world (I have next to no interest in the upcoming Avenger movie). I’d put Thor Ragnorak in the top 10, I like the lighthearted touch to most of the movie. Hemsworth does that sort of comedy pretty well.

    • As a huge Avengers comics fan since the 80s I like the Avengers movies quite a bit. I do think if the MCU was ONLY Avengers movies I would ultimately push back on them. I like the balance between the solo and team films.

      I think I would like Ragnarok of it was some completely disconnected thing with original characters. I adored Goldblum but felt it did so many weird things with Thor and Hulk – things that clashed with their personalities in the other MCU films.

  8. I’ve rewatched both Infinity War and Winter Soldier several times in the last several months since IW came out. I’ve surprised myself in thinking that Infinity War, despite a clunky start, actually turns into one of the best pure comic book film of the last decade, due mainly to the development given to Thanos, his relationship with Gamora, and the hopelessness of the Avengers’ attempts to thwart his plan. Winter Soldier is certainly up there, but I think IW captures more of the *heart* of comic book epic storytelling. That’s my 2c anyway.

    • I completely see where you’re coming from. When I was putting this list together I was stunned at how IW kept creeping up the list. But I am very confident in it being that high because it is a ridiculously ambitious achievement. The development of Thanos is a big reason it works so well. I so hope Endgame sticks the landing!

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