Time to rank this gargantuan of a franchise! This was pretty hard but each film was able to find a spot for me. This is just my personal opinion of the rankings and where I see them in relation to each other. Some of them were really hard to narrow down but this is how I felt at this moment where it ranks. And as with my top 10 lists, just because a movie got a higher score does not automatically equate it to a higher ranking. My score is just my initial thoughts on the film. Now, without further ado, here is my ranking! (Reviews are listed as well)
23. Thor: The Dark World
One of the more forgettable Marvel films, The Dark World wasn’t able to make us truly care about Thor or anything on Asgard. The villain was entirely one-dimensional, the rest of the actors other than Hemsworth and Hiddleston are just phoning it in, and the film is just too bland and dark to be any good. Loki is probably the best part of this movie with his constant tricks but other than that, this film didn’t offer anything of substance and necessitated a serious re-working of Thor to make him truly relevant moving forward.
22. Ant-Man and the Wasp
While its predecessor was a nice small scale film led by an excellent lead actor, this one completely drops the ball on entertainment value. Nothing really happens in this film and it does not feel as exciting as the previous one. The connection between Scott and his daughter is touching and it’s to see The Wasp in action but really nothing else works. There is no true villain, it’s overstuffed with plot points, it’s unfocused, and there really is no excitement that happens. This film was a real disappointment following the first Ant-Man and hopefully they can do something better soon.
21. Captain Marvel
Marvel’s first female led superhero movie was a little bland and felt like a step back for the franchise as a whole. Carol Danver’s was too unlikable with her stoic demeanor and I couldn’t connect with her through a pretty emotional journey. More than that the story was too confusing to follow with all of the flashback sequences and lining it all up together in the end. Seeing Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury was welcome, but I wasn’t a fan of the rest of the cast and what they were doing. Thankfully her character improved in Endgame so hopefully we can see more personality going forward.
20. The Incredible Hulk
This was only the second film in the franchise and you can tell that they were still experimenting with their characters to see what worked. Edward Norton’s rendition of Bruce Banner/Hulk gets a lot of criticism but it is actually a decent enough film, albeit it is too dark and boring at times. Seeing Hulk duke it out with Abomination in the finale was fun, but the buildup to that was too dreary and had a little too much brooding. Luckily, Ruffalo’s performance added new life to the character and Marvel eventually found out how to best incorporate the Hulk into the larger franchise.
19. Captain America: The First Avenger
Phase 1 was really an introduction to a majority of our characters and the origin story formula is really felt in these early films. The First Avenger is a decent addition to the franchise and able to give us a nice WWII setting amidst the creation of our first superhero. Evans performance really sold this iteration as he was able to portray a man just wanting to stand up for the right thing. The action is just all right and the villain was just a means to an end. There isn’t anything truly memorable about this film and it wouldn’t be until later where people really would start to care about Captain America.
Arguably, Thor never quite found his stride until very late in the game and his origin story is more of a slower film than a grand introduction to the character. While sometimes slow can mean more development, the film trades self-discovery for flirting and humor. It was hard to get grasped into this world and we really don’t get to see what Thor is capable of til the end of the film. However, it did introduce one of the franchise’s best villains in the form of Loki who proved to have a surprising amount of pathos yet treachery to make him a compelling character. Loki is really what makes this film stand out along with a nice ending battle that reels you in for the ride.
17. Iron Man 2
The first Iron Man was a monumental success and came out of absolutely nowhere. This film, however, suffers from sequelitis in which they were trying to pack in too much instead of focusing on Tony’s story. It introduced us to Nick Fury, Black Widow, and the larger Avengers universe but at the cost of developing Tony’s character and his conflict with the villainous Whiplash. Robert Downey Jr.’s performance is perfect and just seeing his presence is enough fun to reasonably enjoy the film. The new tech and battles with the armor helps make the movie more entertaining than others, but it is still pretty lackluster in terms of actual developments.
16. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Everyone had a massive hype for this movie and this was probably one of the biggest disappointments of my movie life. The movie had everything going for it: James Spader as Ultron, the return of the Avengers, a darker premise, and yet the film just feels a little underwhelming by the end. That’s not to say the movie is entirely bad, there are some great moments such as the Hulk vs Iron Man battle, the mind trips by Scarlet Witch, and the overall fun of seeing our characters team up and reunite. But Ultron was given very little development, not to mention the slower pace, and forced scenes to set up future movies. It’s a good enough follow-up but fails to reach the potential it could have had.
15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Instead of focusing on the excellent team dynamic that was established in the first film, the sequel takes a considerable risk in splitting the team up. The risk did not work out in the film’s favor as one side of the story has some great development while the other one is just filler and played for comedy. The best part of the film is when they all come back together so why even split them up to begin with? The film feels more like a solo outing for Peter than a true team effort. The music and cast are still excellent but it was always going to be tough to follow the first film.
14. Doctor Strange
Boasting an assortment of visuals and introducing us to the realm of magic, the origin story for the Sorcerer Supreme is effective and expands upon the world we have grown to love. Benedict Cumberbatch is a great casting imbuing a snarkiness to him that puts him on par with Tony Stark but also allows him to feel different. The action sequences are a treat to behold, boasting some impressive visual effects to make this a mind-bending trip. The film’s villain still isn’t up to par with where it should have been, but the film’s subversion of the third act “beam in the sky” made this outing a more memorable one.
13. Iron Man 3
I was always conflicted on this movie given how everything plays out in the end, but I have to say it is one of the deeper and bolder Marvel movies. Seeing Tony deal with PTSD and struggle to find his purpose is exceptionally compelling, but I wish there was more of it in the film. Having the film focus more on Tony rather than on his tech was a smart move and makes me appreciate the character even more. The Mandarin twist really worked for me and I felt it was both hilarious and smart play by the writers. The true villain may be too reminiscent of The Incredibles, but the psychology of Tony Stark paired with him really being on his own makes this film stand out for me.
The movie sounded ridiculous and yet it is one of the more fun and entertaining films in the franchise. Boosted by the fact it has smaller stakes, the film was able to relish in some creativity with how they can make a character like Ant-Man seem important and needed. The heist element of the film was a blast to watch, Michael Pena’s quick comedic timing is hilarious, and the third act really went all in with absurdity that the film really benefited from it. This was a stronger solo outing in the vain of the Avengers and provided a solid epilogue to Phase 2.
11. Spider-Man: Homecoming
After so many different iterations of Spider-Man he finally came back to Marvel Studios and delivered a solid film that was able to feel different from what came before. Tom Holland’s enthusiasm really sells this iteration of the character and the progression from Spider-Boy to Spider-Man was a nice subversion to make this version feel different. Michael Keaton’s Vulture had an exceptional amount of development given to him making the overall stakes of the movie feel more real and exciting. It was funny, exciting, and just fun to see Spider-Man in the larger MCU where he belongs.
10. Iron Man
Kicking off the top 10 films is the one that started it all. Even though it is the first in the entire franchise, it is still one of the best and holds up today. The character progression of Tony Stark was exceptional and Robert Downey Jr. as the titular character has never seen more perfect casting in our lifetime. The charisma behind him carries the film and more than that, the action sequences are brutal and exciting. From the opening cave battle to the destruction of weapons this film elevated what superhero movies could be and began a phenomenon that no one could match.
9. Spider-Man: Far From Home
While still fairly recent, Far From Home was another solid Spider-Man story that both gave a nice epilogue to the Infinity Saga while also furthering Peter’s progression into full fledged Avenger. Seeing Peter grow up and start to make more mature decisions was interesting and the high school drama provided for some great laughs. But the real reason this film stood out for me was Mysterio and Gyllenhall’s performance of bringing such an iconic villain to life. The mind sequences were something straight from the comics and the enthusiasm and presentation of his character was so much fun to see. I really hope he comes back and I can’t wait to see where Spidey goes in the vain of the film’s conclusion.
8. Captain America: Civil War
While the film features most of the Avengers cast, it still is able to keep its story focused on Steve Rogers and deliver a deeper and effective story. Seeing Captain America and Iron Man fight on both a sociological and physical level was captivating and kept the conflict grounded and more personal. The film is able to propel every character’s story forward while also successfully introducing newer characters without it feeling forced. And my goodness who could forget that impressive airport battle that had all the right amount of tension, action, and humor to make audiences watch it over and over again. There is also a surprise turn with the film’s villain of Zemo who, like most of the film, has a more personal conflict with the Avengers rather than wanting to destroy the world. Overall, this was a great follow up to both Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron and set the field for more powerful threats to come.
7. Avengers: Infinity War
One of Marvel’s most ambitious films in having to bring together a majority of their characters monumentally succeeded and delivered a well paced and balanced film. It also gave us a proper introduction to Thanos who after sitting in the shadows for a while breaks through in a masterful performance making him Marvel’s best villain to date. The films is truly Thanos’ story and seeing his ideologies almost make you side with him. More than that, the film gets a lot of fun and entertainment with teaming up and reuniting some of our favorite characters and see them throwdown against the biggest threat they have ever faced. It is also famous for its ending where we see everyone turned to dust and are left stunned at just how anyone could come back from this defeat. Needless to say, Marvel had a lot to live up to with its team ups after this film.
6. The Avengers
The first big large scale movie team up deserves some earned praise. It was the first movie to bring together characters from different movies and carry their own arcs and personalities into a new adventure. There is a lot of fun at just seeing our favorite characters interact for the first time and seeing them figure what exactly this “team” is provide ample amount of entertainment. It’s funny, exciting, and emotional at parts! I still get goosebumps when I see them all standing together in New York! Loki was a great villain to bring back and all though the threat was a little generic, it was all about building this team up and seeing what they could do. While some consider Iron Man to be the first of the cinematic universe, this paved the way for what a movie could be and cemented itself as one of the biggest franchises in history.
5. Black Panther
After having a grand introduction in Civil War, the King of Wakanda comes back to assume his position of leadership. Black Panther was refreshing and deep for a multitude of reasons. It had a villain who was extremely well developed and motivated to the point that our hero was swayed by their ideologies. We got to see themes of isolationism, racism, power, and the sins of the past all play out and it was presented beautifully. While the third act gets a little CGI heavy, it is the emotional and very real weight that this movie has that make it one of the best in the MCU. It certainly breaks a lot of molds that have come with a franchise and shows that superhero movies can blend social commentary and exciting action effectively.
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Before this film, Captain America was fine and he was just cool. This film elevated his character and just how badass and formidable of an Avenger he is. Adapting an espionage spy thriller feel, Winter Soldier elevated the MCU to new heights with more brutal action and an excellent story that changed the course of the franchise going forward. At the heart of it, it was still able to remain true to who Steve Rogers is while also heightening his character for a more action packed and tense sequel. It is a nail biter from start to finish and earned the Russo Brothers an incredible reputation moving forward.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
No one knew who these characters were or why they were even important. Marvel was really reaching for the bottom of the barrel with this film and it was a big risk to see if it would land. Luckily, that is the film’s greatest strength in that it introduced a new flavor to the franchise. From an impeccable soundtrack to hilarious characters, Guardians of the Galaxy takes unbeknownst characters and makes them iconic. Not only that, the bonds they form and the formation of their team is worth investing in and by the end you really care about their mission and they feel like a family. Entering a cosmic realm also allowed for a new breach of the MCU and it monumentally provided new opportunities to be explored. The characters really sell this film and James Gunn absolutely understands how to make a great film. Thankfully, he is coming back for the third one as well!
2. Thor: Ragnarok
At first, I thought this film was forgettable and not serious enough. I could not have been more wrong. Thor: Ragnarok is a masterpiece and allows for an exciting and bright new direction for the character of Thor. He needed a major rebranding and personality change, but also retain his heart to make for a hilarious adventure ride. The movie is just a blast to watch from all of the jokes, to great action sequences, to Jeff Goldblum’s performance as the Grandmaster. Everything works! Even if the film overindulges itself sometimes on the comedy, it is still highly original and exciting to watch. I could watch this one over and over again.
1. Avengers: Endgame
While still recent and fresh in our minds, this is undoubtedly my favorite Marvel movie. It wraps up everything so well and culminates in the most satisfying conclusion. It takes its time to show depth into our characters and motivates us to continue to root for their mission. It celebrates all of the accomplishments from the past and delivers a spectacular finale that will make any fan squeal with joy and excitement. There is an added layer of nuance to this film and definitively closed this phase out and paved the way for what’s to come. I laughed, I cheered, I cried, and I smiled! Everything works and there is rarely a flaw when watching this emotionally satisfying film play out!