Marvel’s Infinity Saga comes to a close this week with Spider-Man: Far From Home. That means, once again, it’s time to rank all the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from worst to best.
I originally wrote this post last year, however, as I mentioned last time, opinions change, and new films come out, so this time around, some films are in a different spot, and four new films have been added to the list.
That’s right, not three, four – I’m also throwing Venom into the mix, due to the fact Sony clearly want it to be a part of the MCU, and there have been a fair few rumours and speculative articles as of late regarding a potential Spider-Man/Venom crossover. God help us.
If you’re not caught up, there will be the occasional spoiler for these films, however, the one from Spider-Man: Far From Home isn’t major, in my opinion, and is something that people with knowledge of Spider-Man will probably already know.
*After rewatching Spider-Man: Far From Home I’ve altered the list to reflect my feelings on the newest Marvel movie.
24. THOR: THE DARK WORLD
The reason writing a post like this can be fun is because between when I first watched the film and the present day, my opinions can change substantially, as mentioned up top. Unfortunately for Thor: The Dark World, no such change has happened. It’s still pretty bad.
Thor is one of my favourite Marvel characters, so after loving the first film and Avengers, I was very excited for his second solo outing. Needless to say, I was disappointed. While there are some touching emotional moments, the majority of this film is bland, messy and has perhaps the worst villain in the MCU: Malekith. No offence Christopher Eccleston, I still love you.
23. IRON MAN 2
Another strong contender for worst movie in the MCU.
While not terrible, Iron Man 2, like Thor: The Dark World, is similar in that it tries to do too much (more, in fact, than Thor) and the end result is a bloated mess.
However, considering this is a film featuring the MCU’s original quipster and the character that launched the whole franchise, its main fault is that it’s actually quite boring. Sure, you have that big explosive fight at the end, but considering what this film is trying to achieve, it ironically ends up being all style, no substance.
The first film in Sony’s desperate attempt to restart their own Spider-Man universe after the failure of the Amazing Spider-Man duology, except this time, said universe is devoid of Spider-Man.
Weird continuity decisions aside, Venom just isn’t a very good film. Sure, Tom Hardy gives an amusing turn as both Eddie Brock and Venom, but otherwise, this film is a mess. The script is awful, and the visuals aren’t much better. In fact, there’s only one point of the film that I looked back on fondly, and after rewatching it on YouTube… eh, it’s fine at best.
It managed to entertain the masses, but that doesn’t change the fact that Venom is a very poorly conceived and executed movie.
21. ANT-MAN AND THE WASP
Harsh? Maybe. But Ant-Man and the Wasp just hasn’t clicked for me like it has other people. When I’m watching a superhero/comedy film (like Deadpool) and I can count the times I’d laughed throughout with minimal effort (like Deadpool 2) then that’s a pretty bad sign, and unfortunately, that was also the case here.
Furthermore, the mass of writers who all seemingly wanted different things means that this film, despite having the chance to be the vision of one director, struggles to be one interesting and cohesive narrative.
The riffing between Paul Rudd and Randall Park was good though.
20. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2
Although it wasn’t exactly comic-accurate, the first Guardians of the Galaxy was a great film, and it gave me high hopes for the second. Unfortunately, this one didn’t really cut it for me. It’s a fine film, don’t get me wrong, but I felt too much was poured into this, when what it needed was a more streamlined and focused approach.
While I liked Kurt Russell as Ego the Living Planet, the rest of the film was bloated with hit and miss jokes and an overload of sob-stories (which is fine, but these could have been spread out across the movies), which, personally, couldn’t keep me invested.
19. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
The forgotten child of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I actually think this film has some really good things going for it. Not enough to make it into the top two-thirds of the list, mind you, but it should be given more credit than it gets.
First off, Edward Norton’s Bruce Banner is pretty good, and seeing him attempt to control his power makes for a fun (if at times overlong) watch. Furthermore, the way it has a touch of horror to it works especially well, and it’s just unfortunate that eventually, they have to give that up for your standard superhero brute punching showdown with the villain who suddenly goes crazy.
I don’t really have anything bad to say about Ant-Man. In fact, I genuinely like this movie. It was fun. And a nice bit of small scale action after Age of Ultron. It was funny, had a decent story and the cameo from Falcon was also quite enjoyable, and a great set up for Ant-Man’s big moment in Civil War (no pun intended).
Ultimately though, while fun and enjoyable, there are a lot of other films that rank above it, hence why it’s only at number 18.
If anything, its placement is a testament to the quality of the series as a whole.
17. DOCTOR STRANGE
The fact that this was magic’s entry into the MCU and for the most part all we got was glowy-weapon-martial arts was a bit of a let down (luckily, that would later be remedied in Infinity War), but aside from that, there’s a fair amount to like in Doctor Strange.
Now, I may be a bit bias, because Doctor Strange, like Thor, is one of my favourite comic book characters, but after rewatching this film, I think it holds up fairly well. There are some gorgeous visuals, and while the plot is the definition of the Marvel formula, there are some things it deviates from the norm with, such as forgoing a proper romantic subplot and swerving the final battle for some magical mumbo jumbo. A dazzling watch, if not all that deep.
16. IRON MAN
The one that started it all. Some might argue that this is quite low down for the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but again, I would argue that that is just a testament to how great the franchise this film spawned has become.
While this movie is revered by fans, I personally think that the third act set the stage for the sort of formulaic parts of all the films that would follow. The first two acts, in my opinion, were fresh and exciting, but in hindsight, by act number three, it just becomes your standard Marvel fare (still a good thing, and not its fault, but it just makes it easier for the following films to outdo it).
15. BLACK PANTHER
In the last iteration of this post, I commented on how Black Panther was on thin ice, and now that ice has fallen through. Because while the world raved about how amazing Black Panther was, I just saw something that leaned closer another formulaic and somewhat predictable Marvel movie with a different lick of paint. However, the reason it beats out the likes of your Ant-Man‘s, Iron Man‘s and Doctor Strange‘s is that lick of paint is important.
Sure, the story is fairly plain, the action’s not that good and Black Panther himself is more of a background character to Wakanda as a whole, but the aesthetic, the score, the incredible cast assembled and the themes of the story are what make this a landmark superhero film.
‘WAKANDA FOREVER’ (as long as they ditch that new suit – that really kills all tension).
14. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
Everyone rants and raves about how good the Phase Three films are, and Guardians of the Galaxy and Winter Soldier secured Phase Two a place in people’s memories, but I’ll be honest, Phase One had really great entries.
In Phase One, they were still finding their feet, so not everything had the exact same tone pre-Avengers, and as a result, we got the ultra campy and utterly awesome Captain America: The First Avenger. Like Iron Man, it does start to settle into a more standard formula by the third act, but before that, we’re treated to a completely different type of superhero film, as The First Avenger goes all out with its wartime setting.
Plus, that ending, where Cap realises he won’t make his dance with Peggy is heartbreaking.
Like The First Avenger, Thor is another standout from Marvel’s Phase One; my original favourite in fact.
As a big Thor fan, seeing the God of Thunder smashing his way onto the big screen was a delight. Under director Keneth Brannagh’s watchful eye, the film has the feel of a Shakesperean-esque tale, full of wonder and intrigue. Furthermore, it’s pretty amusing, and between Hemsworth’s acting and the wonderful music, the film presents a well-structured origin story for a character previously thought to be too ‘out there’ after the likes of Iron Man and the Hulk.
And, of course, it gave us the most enduring villain of the whole franchise in Loki.
12. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
I used to be pretty down on this film, mainly because of Ultron himself. I thought the character seen above was a mockery of the source material. In some ways I still do. But I’ve gotten over that. And for a time it even managed to rise up into my top ten. The reason this film ranked so highly is that previously, in a way, it was the only true Avengers film.
Assemble is great, but it’s about them coming together. Similarly, Infinity War isn’t about the Avengers so much as it is Thanos and the Marvel Universe. But in Age of Ultron, we get to see the heroes work as a team. There’s camaraderie, cool action sequences and them saving not only the world but also stopping to save civilians too.
Age of Ultron got a bad reception at first, but in reflection, it’s a solid superhero movie, if a little off in places.
11. CAPTAIN MARVEL
Captain Marvel has proved to be a controversial movie, in part due to a lot of people’s seeming hatred for Brie Larson (I can’t say I understand it, but it was hard to ignore – back when I did some editing work one of the writers seemed intent on slating the film at every opportunity). But I quite liked it. The beginning was your standard Marvel fare, but after things get to Earth and Samuel L. Jackson joins the show things really take off.
Larson’s chemistry with Fury is undeniable, and other parts of the film such as Ben Mendohlson’s Talos and Goose the Cat are delightful additions to the Marvel universe. Plus, watching Captain Marvel’s cathartic victory over the Kree was very enjoyable.
10. IRON MAN THREE
This one isn’t all that popular among fans, and it’s probably where people start to doubt my sanity, but when Iron Man Three came out, I loved it. Sure, at first, in the cinema, when the Mandarin twist happened, I was a bit burned that we weren’t getting the real Mandarin, but by the time it had made it to Home Entertainment, I’m pretty sure I watched this film every day after school for a solid week.
By taking Tony’s armour away for the majority of the film, we got a fun twist on the depowered superhero trope and mixed with incoming director Shane Black’s humorous sensibilities, it made for a very enjoyable film.
Granted, I haven’t actually watched this film in a few years, so my opinion may change next time I see it, but it made a lasting impression.
9. AVENGERS ASSEMBLE
Much like Iron Man Three, Avengers was another film that I constantly rewatched when it came out, but in hindsight, it takes a little while to get going. Sure, there are fun bits filtered throughout the build-up, but the thing this film is mostly remembered for is the massive end battle, which I think, at times, doesn’t hold up so well, hence why it doesn’t make my top five like it does a lot of peoples.
However, it’s still a monumental feat in filmmaking, and while it may seem less impressive after the likes of Infinity War and Endgame, there’s no denying that the first Avengers would change the lives of moviegoers everywhere.
Before Avengers, these were likeable characters. After it, they were icons.
8. SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME *
The newest film on the list, Spider-Man: Far From Home was hard to place. Initially, I put it into my top five, but after a rewatch, I think I’ve finally settled on where it ought to be.
Far From Home continues to deliver a perfect depiction of Spider-Man, and once again forgoes the heavy hitters from his rogues’ gallery to give some of the goofier characters some love. This time around it’s Mysterio’s turn, and while there was a lot to love in this movie, I think it may have been Mysterio who made it for me. Once they drop the pretence that he’s a good guy (as anyone who has ever read a Spider-Man comic will know is coming) and really cut loose, Mysterio becomes one of the most fascinating villains Spider-Man’s ever faced off against on-screen, and Jake Gyllenhaal, along with the rest of the cast, all give remarkable performances. Plus, there are some twists in here that, no matter how long you’ve been reading comics, will take you by surprise.
Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sold on some of the storytelling decisions made here, as while they are exciting, they don’t feel like they’re what’s best for the franchise going forward. So until Spider-Man 3 deals with the ramifications of this movie, Far From Home is relegated to number eight.
7. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
When Guardians of the Galaxy was announced, the general consensus seemed to be one of confusion. However, having read the comic-book run that the film was based off, I was pretty excited.
And sure, I could bemoan the fact that in the end, it didn’t turn out to be a very faithful adaptation, so much as it did a comedy movie wherein the characters are more or less similar to their comic-book counterparts in name only – the fact remains that what we got was one of the most enjoyable rides in all the MCU.
This film is filled with heart, some great visuals and an awesome soundtrack. Even better, it gives you that same euphoric feeling on repeat viewings, which is why up until now, it’s always held a position in my top five.
6. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
Thor and Doctor Strange are all well and good, but when it comes to my favourite super-heroes, Spider-Man will always edge them out. And while I liked the Raimi trilogy, and was a fan of Webb’s films (at the start, anyway, I’ve soured on them a bit since), neither really captured the essence of Peter Parker or Spider-Man the way Homecoming does.
For the first time, we get a Spider-Man who actually feels like a teenager, and is full of that youthful naivety. Furthermore, he clearly demonstrates the smarts and tech-savvy nature that Peter is famous for, while also giving off a strong underdog vibe. Perhaps one of my favourite things about this film, however, is the Toomes family. The Vulture gave us a new sort of villain, one who isn’t trying to rule or destroy the world, while his daughter reintroduced that famous Parker luck (or lack thereof, if you’re not into you comics) to the Spider-Man series in that she doesn’t end up with him at the end.
A great classic Spider-Man story told through a contemporary lens.
5. THOR: RAGNAROK
I was already a big fan of Taika Waititi, and I was already a big fan of Thor. And yet, when Waititi was announced as the new director for Ragnarok, I was sceptical. How would a tale as dark as Ragnarok work with a comedy director in charge?
Fortunately, Waititi proved to be the right man for the job, bringing us a vastly different Thor movie, better than both its predecessor, and, at the same time, delivering a solid Hulk movie. Mixing such vastly different storylines as Planet Hulk and Ragnarok shouldn’t have worked. But it did, and the result was the funniest film in the MCU, as well as one of the greatest superhero reinventions to date.
It also closed out the Thor trilogy really nicely, bringing back themes and musical cues that called back to the first movie (as long as you ignore the mid-credits scene).
4. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
The biggest and most anticipated movie in the whole franchise, Infinity War wowed everyone with its scale, characterisation and surprisingly morbid ending (well, if you’re not a comic-book fan, otherwise you probably saw it coming).
And to be honest with you, I could put this movie at the top. If you view it through it’s intended lense: that of a Thanos movie, then it could take the top spot. It revels in its achievements, delivering bombastic action, fan service and one of the stronger villains in the series, who brings with him some truly staggering stakes.
However, if you view this as an Avengers movie, as the title would suggest, then it’s an incomplete story, and for that reason, it cannot be number one.
3. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
My favourite MCU movie from four years ago, The Winter Soldier is great on so many levels. So great in fact, I thought it was worth giving a presentation on in a screenwriting seminar back in my university days.
Like Waititi on Ragnarok, The Winter Soldier saw a serious concept undertaken by former comedy directors. Yet unlike Waititi, the Russo Brothers didn’t lean into what they knew, instead delivering an intense action thriller with some of the best fighting choreography (which I’m all about) seen in superhero cinema to date.
On top of that, the film further fleshed out Black Widow AND fundamentally changed up the MCU unlike any film before it. But most importantly, it made Captain America seem like the coolest Avenger (at the time).
A lot of these films are great superhero movies. The Winter Soldier is a great superhero movie, a great action movie and just a great movie, period.
2. AVENGERS: ENDGAME
The film that delivered on all the promises Infinity War made, Endgame isn’t a perfect film, but it is a very satisfying one.
While Infinity War was great, and some might argue better than Endgame, the fourth chapter in the Avengers saga managed to wrap up the stories of most of the Avengers in a way that felt satisfying. The film juggled massive, dire stakes with a breezy time-travel adventure that was a heck of a lot of fun, and held a lot of callbacks to older films that made this newer movie seem more wholesome and the saga as a whole, more complete.
Plus that final battle was immense, and seeing Captain America finally rally all the heroes together with the battle cry ‘Avengers Assemble’ maybe my favourite moment in any film, ever. It was all the things I loved as a child coming to life on the big screen, and it was amazing.
I teared up several times, not gonna lie.
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Endgame is great, but no matter how great it is, it still wasn’t able to knock Civil War off the top spot. I love this movie so much. It’s not just one of my favourite Marvel movies, it’s one of my favourite movies; up there with The Big Lebowski and one of the Star Wars‘. When I want to just sit down, relax and rewatch a film, my mind will often go to Civil War.
Bringing everything great from The Winter Soldier with them, the Russo Brothers return as directors and turn everything up to 10 (I’d say 11, but really, Infinity War blew that idea out of the water). The fight choreography, the (relatively) grounded storytelling, the heartfelt character interactions; it’s all here. Not only that, but it lays the groundwork for Infinity War and Endgame.
Plus, it introduces Black Panther and Spider-Man perfectly, which of course leads into that airport scene. Which, frankly, is so full of delightful comic-book madness that I think it speaks for itself.
Furthermore, it rounds out what is now my favourite super-hero trilogy. If you’d said to me a decade ago that I’d end up thinking Captain America had the best super-hero film trilogy, I’d think you were insane (and yes, I realise The Dark Knight trilogy is great, but this just resonates with me more), but here we are.
Spider-Man, Thor and Doctor Strange were always some of my favourite characters from the comics, but Civil War cemented Captain America as my favourite MCU depicted hero.