What’s the best MCU movie? It’s a question that’s divided fans of the biggest shared universe ever conceived for nearly a decade and a half now. Each Marvel Cinematic Universe film has its defenders (with the possible exception of The Incredible Hulk), and all four phases have at least one dedicated follower.
Like Thanos donning his great gold mitten, we’ve finally committed to our own great work. We didn’t collect the universe’s most dangerous jewellery, though; we did something far more perilous and have ranked each and every MCU movie, from Iron Man all the way to Thor: Love and Thunder. It nearly killed us, but the work is done. It can never be undone.
I won’t lie, it was a difficult job. We love each, and every one of the Marvel movies (with the notable exception of The Incredible Hulk), and hard choices had to be made along the way – thankfully, we didn’t have to push anyone off a cliff to finish the list. So know that even if we’ve put your favourite MCU film is towards the bottom, there’s no judgement here anyway; here is our list of the MCU movies ranked.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Marvel Studio’s first crack at the not-so-jolly green giant had all the charm of a sulking toddler and was about as tolerable.
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With its dull plot and messy action scenes, the not-so-Incredible Hulk was an early misstep for Marvel and one of the few films in the MCU that’s a legitimately bad movie.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Speaking of legitimately bad movies, Thor: The Dark World (to borrow the phrase of a popular fictional film critic) stinks. Convoluted and incoherent, The Dark World is easily the worst film in Marvel’s Phase 2.
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It’s not all bad, though. The natural charm of Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth save the film from the bottom of the list but let’s be honest. This is no one’s favourite MCU film.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Less of a movie more of a pitch meeting for the wider MCU to follow; Iron Man 2 is easily the worst Iron Man movie. Still, Downey Jr’s got more charisma in his little finger than most people have in their whole hand (that’s still a lot), and he elevates what’s essentially an advert for the rest of Phase 1 into something more memorable.
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Points also for having one of the most underrated villains in the MCU, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). I just wish they hadn’t felt the need to include Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash as part of the Iron-Man cast, one of the most forgettable bad guys we’ve had.
Black Widow (2021)
We’ve officially crossed the rubicon now from not very good to just about OK with Black Widow. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Black Widow; there’s just not a lot right with it either. Its main problem is a deadly case of dreaded ‘prequelitis’ (one in five franchises suffers with this debilitating illness) that saps it of any immediacy. As such, the whole thing feels really unnecessary.
All that in mind, it’s a cinematic fact that adding Florence Pugh to your film adds instant value, and Yelena Belova is one of the best new MCU characters in some time. We’re also rather partial to the weird Black Widow family the movie introduces us to. It would just be nice if the film’s final reveal wasn’t the exciting origin of Captain America’s Infinity War plane.
Unfairly maligned Thor is a fun action-comedy that makes the most of its fish out of water concept and delivers some fun world-building. To be honest, I’ve never really understood the vitriol reserved for this movie. It gave us Hemsworth, Hiddleston, and Anthony Hopkins as Odin. What’s not to love? Well, aside from Hemsworth’s terrifying blonde eyebrows.
Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)
Wackier than a box of cricket bats, Ant-Man and The Wasp is an enjoyable heist thriller wrapped in silly, but brilliant trimmings of a comic book movie. Sure it may not have been the most essential movie in the wider MCU canon, but it served an important purpose.
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It was a palate cleanser between the unending epic misery of Infinity War and the over the top bombast of Endgame. Basically, it’s cinematic sorbet, it won’t fill you up, but you won’t regret eating it either.
You can criticise Eternals execution but not its ambition. Arguably Marvel’s first attempt at a ‘serious’ comicbook movie, Eternals swung for the fences, and we admire that.
Weird, epic, and different, Eternals captured the quintessential magic of Jack Kirby’s creation while bringing something new to the MCU; natural lighting.
Fun and surprisingly sweet (no wonder there are so many ants in it), Ant-Man is unfairly criticised in some circles. While it’s got its weaknesses – most notably, it wastes Corey Stoll – Ant-Man manages to bring anarchic creativity to its action scenes.
While most probably remember the final battle on the train set, there’s more fun to be had with the incredible shrinking man. I’ve always been fond of Scott’s battle against Falcon, where he manages to make the Avenger look a fool or Hank escaping from his lab with a tank he shrank and smuggled in. It also gave us Luis, and that’s got to be worth something.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
The Sorcerer Supreme returns in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Doctor Strange 2 is to be lauded for bringing the pulpiness of its comic book source material to the big screen. But while this makes for some pretty impressive visuals, as a cohesive whole, the film falls short of the mark.
The problem is the story which somehow feels overstuffed while also quite dull. We wanted a multiverse of madness, not three rooms and a green screen. Still the cast do a good job with Elizabeth Olsen being the standout.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. (2017)
Daddy issues the movie! Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 isn’t quite as sharp as its predecessor, but it’s still a fun action romp that builds on what director James Gunn established in that first movie.
Getting ’80s action movie star Kurt Russell to play Star Lord’s dad was a meta-masterstroke, and he clearly had a lot of fun with the part. Vol 2’s greatest weakness is that it never quite escapes the shadow of its predecessor.
It’s a bit harsh, but like Star-Lord replaying his ‘Awesome Mix’ tapes, again and again, you never shake the notion that Gunn’s just replaying the hits.
Captain Marvel (2019)
This ’90s throwback offers good humour, fun action, and is entertaining enough. The film’s biggest strength is Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson, who form a brilliant little double act. It’s also got a cat which earns it an extra star!
Captain Marvel’s greatest weakness is that it’s just a standard origin story that doesn’t really do much to break the patented Marvel formula. Speaking of which…
Doctor Strange (2016)
Doctor Strange is a great character. He’s powerful, pompous, and a bit of a prick, but beneath his little magician’s goatee, he’s got a heart of gold. Benedict Cumberbatch (flat American accent aside) does a good job giving the character some real humanity and really sells the frankly bonkers back story of a doctor turned sorcerer.
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The visuals are also breathtaking. By the time Doctor Strange was released fans thought they knew what an MCU movie looked like, but then director Scott Derrickson changed the game – most notably in the scene where the Ancient One flicks Strange around the multiverse with reckless abandon. It’s also important to remember how the look of the fantasy movie’s mirror dimension and the magic Strange wields became part of the visual grammar of the MCU.
The film problems are two-fold. Kaecilius is such a half-baked villain he’s basically still dough, while the actual plot isn’t the most daring, basically serving as a cut-and-dry origin story.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Some people say Age of Ultron is the worst Avengers movie, and yeah – but in the words of my teenage brother, “shut up”. Seriously, though, I’ve always had a lot of time for Ultron. It’s partly because it’s the only MCU film where we see what an average day looked like for the team without a looming catastrophe they need to stop (spoilers, they attack Hydra bases).
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More than that it has one of the scariest Marvel villains this side of Thanos’s purple chin, Ultron. Voiced by James Spader, Ultron is basically an evil AI version of Tony Stark, smooth and charming you’d almost buy into his way of thinking if he wasn’t proposing genocide as a solution.
It also features one of the best bits of foreshadowing in the MCU when Cap tries to pick up Mjolnir, and we see the hammer move just slightly (to Thor’s shock). Does anyone else kind of want a movie that’s just The Avengers hanging out?
Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
Taika Waititi’s second (thunder)crack at Thor doesn’t quite live up to the magnificence of Ragnarok, but it’s still the second-best Thor movie by some distance.
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Love and Thunder manage to embrace the silliness of comics while telling a surprisingly poignant story about how fundamentally we all need one thing, love. If that sounds a bit schmaltzy for you, don’t worry. It also has one of the MCU’s scariest ever villains, Gorr the God Butcher, as Christian Bale joins the Thor cast.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
No Way Home so low down the list? But it had three Spider-Men! Well, sorry, dear reader, but it takes more than a bit of nostalgia to impress us. Not a lot more, but a little more.
In fairness, No Way Home is actually a very good movie. That’s why we put it so high up the list; it’s just not as good as the other MCU Spidey movies.
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No Way Home relies a little too much on cameos and callbacks to be a truly satisfying movie in its own right. That said, we loved how bonkers it got exploring some ideas and concepts we never thought we’d see on the big screen and has one of the bleakest endings of any MCU movie. Plus, it has the best Spider-Man suit, you know the one!
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Possibly our hottest take but Captain America: The First Avenger is the most underrated movie in Phase One. Sure it’s an origin story (and ‘Skinny Chris Evans’ haunts my nightmares), but outside of Iron Man’s first film, it’s easily the best told and feels like a full story in its own right.
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Part war movie, part superhero film Cap’s first adventure is a lot like the Star-Spangled Man; it’s endearing, reliable, and surprisingly sweet.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
When people ask why we like Far From Home so much, the first thing we say is Jake Gyllenhaal. The second thing we say is Mysterio. If that’s not convinced you, then you’re beyond help, but don’t worry; like Spidey, we never leave anyone behind.
Far From Home works so well because it takes Peter Parker out of New York City and throws him into the unknown (Europe). There’s something quite special in seeing the Wallcrawler swinging over the canals of Venice or getting sticky on Tower Bridge.
As a huge Mysterio fan (who doesn’t love old fishbowl head?), there’s a real treat in seeing Spidey’s most theatrical villain brought to life by such an accomplished actor. Also, as the kids would say, that illusion fight scene is pure fire.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Marvel’s Phase 2 is often looked back on as the worst phase in Kevin Feige’s plan for multiplex domination. During this phase, the complaint that all superhero movies were the same was born, but it’s a really unfair reputation, in our opinion. Iron Man 3 is one of the films that best demonstrated how experimental the films in Marvel’s sophomore stage could be.
Directed by Shane Black, there’s barely any Iron Man in it. Instead, it’s about Tony Stark learning that he’s still a hero even without his armour. The PTSD storyline also nicely sets up some of Tony’s more extreme behaviour in later films. It also has one of the best twists of any Marvel film. You know the one.
The movie’s only major failing is probably the third act which turns into a bit of an explosion-fest, even if it’s fun seeing Tony jump from armour to armour on the fly. Had this been the last Iron man movie, it would have been a fitting send-off to the character that started the MCU, but as it stands, Iron Man 3 is like the last chapter of a book that doesn’t realise it’s over.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
If you show me, someone who was a fan of Guardians of the Galaxy before this film, I’ll show you a liar. OK, that’s not entirely true, but it’s undeniable that the Guardians weren’t on the same level as the Phase 1 heroes. There were jokes at the time that Marvel Studios was scraping the bottom of the barrel, but we should have had more faith in James Gunn.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a joyous picture that celebrates comic book silliness while being a solid science fiction movie. Its greatest strength is its cast of weird and wonderful characters that audiences almost immediately fell in love with.
Credit also has to be given to Gunn for introducing ‘space’ to the MCU, which became a whole other playground for movies down the line.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
The perfect demonstration that origin movies don’t have to be boring, Shang-Chi managed to blend wuxia action with the patented Marvel formula. The result is a fantastic and frenetic fighting film that doesn’t pull its punches.
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Simu Liu is one of the most exciting additions to the MCU in recent years, but if we’re honest, the show was stolen by Tony Leung as the true leader of the Ten Rings organisation. Shang-Chi’s greatest weakness is just how well-choreographed its practical fight scenes are, which make the CGI heavy ending a bit of a disappointment.
Iron Man (2008)
Some people will tell you that Iron Man 3 is the best Iron Man movie. Well, never let it be forgotten that you can’t trust people because when it comes to the adventures of a billionaire, philanthropist, playboy, the original is still the best.
Iron Man is the template from which all MCU movies draw inspiration, whether they know it or not. It’s all here, the good and the bad! The breezy banter, the comic accurate costumes, the explosive action scene, and the weak third-act battle.
At least it gave us one of the MCU’s best villains who really shouldn’t have been killed off, Obadiah Stane, as well as his memed-to-death rant about Tony Stark building an arc reactor with a box of scraps.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
The idea of Marvel ever pulling off a successful adaptation of Civil War would have seemed absurd when Iron Man was first released. The storyline was simply too big and controversial to ever make it to the silver screen. Well, we were wrong. How wrong? Very, because not only did Marvel adapt the story, they did it in style.
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As heartbreaking as it is seeing Earth’s mightiest heroes turn on each other, we’d be lying if we said there wasn’t a very visceral thrill in seeing Cap fight Iron Man. It’s like when you were a kid, and you’d have your favourite action figure fight each other. It’s just good fun.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
The first Spider-Man MCU movie is the greatest Spider-Man MCU movie. It’s taken me a while to get here, but I think Homecoming is the movie that best captures the spirit of Spider-Man. He’s not like the Avengers, who battle world-ending threats, he’s the type of hero who looks out for the little guy, and Homecoming is the film that exemplifies that idea best.
Unlikely his predecessors, who enjoyed being a bit mopey, Tom Holland gives the character a real youthful enthusiasm and energy that reminds you that being a superhero would be a thrill. Not that it’s all smiles and rainbows, Holland’s more than capable of tapping into Peter Parker’s infinite well of self-pity when the moment calls for it.
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Holland also gets to face off against one of the best Marvel villains in recent years, The Vulture, played by the inimitable Michael Keaton. Who can forget the reveal that he is the dad of Spidey’s crush? NASA Reported you could hear the gasps in space, probably.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Taika Watiti’s take on Thor is widely considered one of the best Marvel movies ever made and a necessary reinvention of the Thor character.
It’s hard to disagree. Few filmmakers have embraced the sheer weirdness of Thor as Watiti did, and he openly embraced the farcical nature of the character that previous filmmakers pushed away from.
Watiti also managed to tap into Chris Hemsworth’s natural comedic talents, changing the character of Thor from a serious warrior type to a bizarre and pompous alien who’s completely out of his depth.
The Avengers (2012)
The decision to reboot the Avengers with Uma Thurman as Emma Peel and Ralph Fiennes as John Steed was a misstep. Oh, wait, wrong, Avengers! The climax of Phase One, The Avengers, was when Marvel’s grand experiment paid off, delivering an exciting and fun action movie.
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Its most impressive feat is that despite its ensemble cast, none of the characters (arguably with the exception of Hawkeye) feel like they’re fighting for screen time. Instead, the film balances its major players, and the villain Loki, really well, with each character getting a hero movement.
It seems almost quaint to write now but pulling off a team movie where the characters were drawn from individual movies was a real technical achievement in 2012, and despite its relatively small scale (it seems bizarre to call an alien invasion small), it’s still an entertaining watch in 2022.
Black Panther (2018)
Bold, stylish, and well thought out, Black Panther’s a top-five Marvel movie if ever there was one. Its greatest strengths are its cast which probably ranks amongst the strongest in the MCU as a whole, and the exacting eye of director Ryan Coogler.
Everything in this film seems deliberate, and thought out, something you can’t always say about every Marvel film. Let’s just not talk about the dodgy CGI rhinos.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Endgame had the unenviable challenge of following up on one of the most shocking twists in modern cinema. It was always going to be difficult to try and push the emotion audiences felt at the end of Infinity War any further, so the Russos cleverly decided not to.
Instead, they moved the timeline on five years (I still remember the gasps when the card came up) and decided to go all out on the spectacle. This is the fan-service frosted dessert to Infinity War’s emotional main course of sad sausage and morose mash, and as far as puddings go, it’s a pretty sweet one.
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The promise of almost every other Marvel movie paid off here. Iron Man completed the journey his character’s been on since the begining (just seven years after they did that in Iron Man 3), we finally got the Avengers to assemble, and Cap picked up Mjolnir.
I’ll be honest if I’m feeling down; I put the scene of Steve Rogers batting Thanos around like a ping-pong ball to cheer myself up. What a scene!
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Conversely, if I’m feeling a bit too chipper, I pop on Infinity War and watch all my favourite heroes die. There’s only a sliver between them, but Infinity War is the superior film to Endgame.
It works better as a standalone film, effectively serving as Thanos’s solo movie, and has a really different tone for a Marvel film. The whole thing feels (to quote Thanos) inevitable, by which I mean there’s a hopelessness to the picture that is really engrossing.
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Sure we still get the snark, action, and over-the-top superhero fun. Still, you can never shake the feeling that Thanos’s big purple sausage fingers are about to pull the joy right out of your head while watching it.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
A tense spy thriller set in the MCU? Sign us up. Chris Evans isn’t wearing that awful Avengers costume anymore? I’ll be there tomorrow. Bucky’s back? I’m getting in the car now. I’ll meet you at the theatre.
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The Winter Soldier is probably the most grounded MCU movie, which makes it all the more impressive that it’s my favourite considering my love of the outlandish. Honestly, though, it’s just a superb action movie that balances some great set pieces with real suspense—points for getting Robert Redford as well.
Happy with how your favourite ranked? Let us know what you thought of the list, or check out the article Star Wars movies ranked. Or, look ahead at all the new movies coming to the MCU with our article breaking down Marvel’s Phase 5.