A More Definitive Hench-Sized Ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
If this were a better world, we’d all be watching Black Widow on the big screen this weekend. If this were a better world, I’d have a giant stack of new comics to read and review this weekend. If this were a better world, Best Buy would have the Nintendo Switch in stock. But it’s not a better world. It’s a coronavirus world.
So let’s pass the time by ranking all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies!
Way back in 2015, about halfway through the MCU as we know it today, I did my first ranking of all the Marvel movies. I’m still fairly happy with the list. But a lot has changed since then. Most specifically, the Infinity Saga came to an end! And now it’ll be more than a year between installments as Black Widow and Phase 4 have been pushed back to November.
So yeah, on this traditional Marvel movie release weekend, join me after the jump to see my personal ranking of all the MCU movies! Keep in mind, I’m a devoted fanboy and I love all these films, even the ones other people say are bad. They’re all great. I just like some more than others.
Keep in mind: this is not a ranking of the quality of the films. This is my personal love of the MCU. Expect full bias and preferential treatment.
The first Thor movie is fine, but after all of these years, we can now look back and see it as a misstep. The Thor character, and especially Loki, would go in entirely different and much better directions as time went on. And Thor fighting in a small desert town against a robot suit of armor isn’t all that compelling in the grand scheme of things. I’m sure the movie still mostly holds up, but it’s the one I care about the least.
22. The Incredible Hulk
The forgotten step-child of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this movie came out before Marvel truly knew what they had on their hands — but there were glimmers. That Robert Downey Jr. cameo squeezed into the ending was a sign of greatness to come. And at the time, I loved this film. I was legitimately disappointed that we wouldn’t get to see Edward Norton’s Bruce Banner interacting with Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. I enjoyed this movie, the Hulk is great, and William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross has really taken off.
Count me among the faithful that hopes Marvel eventually does something with Abomination and Leader.
21. Iron Man 3
I just don’t care for Aldrich Killian and the Extremis baddies as villains. They don’t interest me, and Killian declaring himself the true Mandarin is lame. But I really enjoy everything else about the movie. I like the kid, I like Tony finding himself, I like Rhodey’s satirical role. I also love both facets of Ben Kingsley’s Trevor. I think he’s phenomenal as the pretend Mandarin, a truly menacing monster of a man. And I love the Trevor Slattery twist. I think it’s hilarious!
20. Thor: The Dark World
I truly loved Thor: The Dark World when it came out. I know a lot of people consider this a bad film, but I am not among them. Malekith is completely wasted as the villain, but I can remember this film being hilarious and enjoyable. The fight is pretty epic in the end, the attack on Asgard is cool, Thor teaming up with Loki is a nice start to their growing friendship; I think this movie has a lot to offer. Though, again, what came next for Thor was even better!
19. Iron Man 2
Another film that people don’t like that I really enjoyed. I thought it was a fine continuation of the first film. Whiplash is an imposing villain with a really unique portrayal. And having Justin Hammer as a secondary, brainy villain work perfectly. I wish Hammer had returned at some point in the MCU. He’d be great as the bad guy’s version of Tony Stark. He should bankroll the Masters of Evil or the Thunderbolts at some point. And the birth of War Machine is done really well. Quality all around.
18. Doctor Strange
I’ve never cared about Doctor Strange in the comics. Just like with Thor, and just like with Captain Marvel and Black Panther and their solo origin movies. So I just wasn’t personally jazzed with this film. But, as expected, it’s a quality Marvel movie. Benedict Cumberbatch is really good. The visuals are really cool. And that ending, where Strange tricks Dormammu instead of punching him, still holds up. The villain is so unmemorable that I don’t even feel like Googling how to spell his name so that I can use it in this entry. A waste of Mads Mikkelsen, whose spelling I did look up.
17. Captain Marvel
I was very pleased with Captain Marvel’s introduction and her use so far in the MCU. I like Brie Larson just fine, and I really liked Carol’s dry, sarcastic wit. People didn’t seem to get it, but I really liked it. She kicked butt, had a great buddy comedy thing going with Samuel L. Jackson and the cat was really funny. I also liked the twist with the Skrulls. Overall good film.
16. Spider-Man: Far From Home
I love Spider-Man in the MCU. He’s just so damn well done! But of the two Spidey movies we have so far, the second one is the lesser of the two. Not for any particular reason, it just is. The action in Europe is fun. Mysterio is a great villain. I love that J. Jonah Jameson reveal. The action and humor are great. It’s a wonderful Spider-Man film, just not as memorable as the first.
15. Avengers: Age of Ultron
I like Age of Ultron just fine. I think Joss Whedon does a perfectly good job with the sequel. The characters are handled well. The new Avengers are introduced well. I really like the comedic Ultron, and his plan is pretty damn epic. The scene at Hawkeye’s farm is perfect, and pays off so well down the line. And unlike most people, I really enjoy the Nat/Bruce relationship. I wish that had become a thing.
14. Captain America: The First Avenger
The first Captain America film is such a great little gem. I love it’s period piece nature, giving us the Marvel superhero treatment somewhere other than the modern day. Steve Rogers is such a hero in this movie. And there are so many memorable moments! From Steve’s various chats with Dr. Erskine, to that wonderful USO song, to Steve’s first memorable mission behind enemy lines. And I love Steve’s war costume! They perfected the Captain America outfit, one of the hardest to adapt to serious live action.
Ant-Man is my favorite hero in the MCU and his debut film is great! Granted, we all would have loved to have seen Edgar Wright’s full vision, but the replacement crew still does a bang up job with this superhero heist film. Paul Rudd is perfect casting, right alongside Michael Pena and Abby Ryder Fortson, among so many others. And the really great thing about Ant-Man is that he has actual super-powers. Most Avengers are just strong people who throw/shoot things. Ant-Man has actual powers! And they look great on the big screen!
12. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Like I said before, Spider-Man is pitch perfect in the MCU. He’s young, he’s impetuous, he’s earnest and he’s everything great about Spider-Man. And his first solo film was a great Spidey outing. They managed to make the Vulture awesome. They gave him a really cool supporting cast. And they really nailed the idea that Peter Parker has to be responsible above all else, without having the character just say it out loud every couple of minutes.
11. Captain America: Winter Soldier
Winter Solider took everything great about the Steve Rogers character from the first film and improved upon him in the modern day. They made the earnest, boy scout aspects of Steve’s character into a positive, turning him into a real standout hero. Add on an amazing action/spy plot and you’ve got an amazing superhero movie. Winter Soldier was awesome. Black Widow was a great screen partner, as was Falcon. This movie had everything.
10. Ant-Man and the Wasp
Love Ant-Man, love his sequel. It’s bigger, quite literally. It’s got a more interesting story. The Wasp gets to come into her own and adds a fun new layer to the character’s world. Everybody comes back to expand upon everything that happened before. And it’s darn funny! That cell phone scene is worth the price of admission alone.
9. Black Panther
The word that keeps coming to mind for Black Panther is ‘confidant’. This was a damn confidant movie. It knew what it wanted to say, knew what it was saying, and made it happen. T’Challa is such a powerful character as he commands the film, and he’s got a really fun supporting cast around him. I especially enjoy M’Baku. But the fight scenes are fun, the villain has a really good plan/motivation and this worked so well at fleshing out a new superhero.
8. Avengers: Endgame
Such a great movie! It lived up to all expectations. It brought an entire decade’s worth of marvelous, ongoing storytelling to an end with a huge movie that did not crap out at the end. They pulled it off. All those characters. All that action. All that story. And it all worked and was all super fun and exciting. There’s a reason why videos of audience reactions to this movie have been making the rounds recently. This movie was a real collective, communal joy all around the world.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
When it comes right down to it, I think this movie might be slightly better than the first, at least as an overall movie. All of the characters are on point. The villains are varied and very interesting. There are a ton of really emotional moments. The sound track still bangs. And I love how the character of Yondu was elevated from mere supporting antagonist in the first film to the emotional core of this sequel. I love it when background/supporting characters do that.
6. Thor: Ragnarok
Both previous Thor films were very low on this list. But here’s the third one, Ragnarok, just outside the Top 5. It’s all due to the genius sense of humor of director Taika Waititi and his all-star cast. Chris Hemsworth finally finds a real niche and character for Thor. Everybody else is just as good, especially the new characters. Hela isn’t that memorable a villain in the bigger picture, but she leads to some truly epic fight scenes and battle moments. This movie really grabbed on to Thor mythology and turned it all on its head, becoming probably the best superhero comedy in the entire lineup.
5. Captain America: Civil War
It’s that airport fight scene, man. What else is there to say? All of our favorite characters, plus a couple of new ones, just going at it on the big screen like we’d never seen before! No longer content with fighting a singular villain or swathes of faceless henchmen/aliens/robots, this movie finally brought us super-beings wailing on super-beings! I still think we need to repeat this scene with actual super-villains next time. That’s still an option. But this movie did a great job with hero-vs-hero. And it was all part of a story within the movie itself, and the larger story of the MCU. The fight scene, and this movie, served the characters, and that’s what makes it really stand out.
4. Avengers: Infinity War
Of the two Avengers films to cap off the decade of movies, I think Infinity War is stronger overall. I can remember that I wasn’t 100% enamored the first time I saw it, but I’m honestly chalking that up to crappy theater seats. Because I started loving it more and more with each repeated viewing. Infinity War is great not just for how well it handles all of the characters, but for how well it handles Thanos, the villain to rule them all. He’d been teased for years but never really accomplished anything on his own. Until this movie, the Thanos movie, where he proved himself to be a villain so awesome that he’s become part of the cultural lexicon. Marvel knew they needed to hit his one out of the park and they knocked a grand slam just for kicks.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
Right up there with Thor: Ragnarok as one of the funniest Marvel movies, the first Guardians of the Galaxy is also one of the best stories, with one of the best casts, and definitely one of the best feels. Director James Gunn exploded out of the gate with this film and now he’s one of the most exciting, in-demand filmmakers in Hollywood. I knew from the very first trailer that we were in for something special, and the actual movie did not disappoint. Funny, emotional, heartfelt, bombastic, this movie is peak Marvel. And the films just kept getting better. But Guardians of the Galaxy is a true gem.
2. Iron Man
The first film. The vanguard. The madness that Marvel put to film and revolutionized Hollywood! And it still holds up! From Robert Downey Jr.’s command performance, to the humor and humanity of the storytelling, to the phenomenal special effects, to the slapdash nature of the script, the first Iron Man was a revelation and still holds up easily to this day. This film earned and easily carries its legendary status. Everything works, and it works so well that this movie will be talked about for decades to come! You know, if there is ever a Hollywood to go back to.
While the Marvel movies just kept getting better, there’s nothing like the first time. The first Guardians movie with it’s humor and heart. The first Iron Man movie with its energy and charm. And the first Avengers movie with its everything. I am still so thrilled that this movie worked. It was a gamble. It was a challenge. But Marvel put the right man in charge, Joss Whedon, and everything worked so god damned well! The characters all felt like themselves, and came together so perfectly. The script was funny and likable, while adding an extra layer of tension. The characters easily shared the screen without tripping over each other. The villain worked. The danger worked. The teamwork worked. Everything worked with the first Avengers film and none of our lives were ever the same again.
Welp, that’s my ranking! What’s yours? Let me know in the comments!