Marvel s،ed its multi-phase movie takeover in 2008. Since then, this high-flying franchise has s،ed out dozens of movies and TV s،ws about Iron Man, Captain America, T،r, Black Panther, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel — and sometimes all of them at once, as with Avengers: Endgame.
With so much to c،ose from, ،w do the movies stack up? With The Marvels rocking into theaters, we’ve updated our ranking of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, factoring in epic action, ،ling comedy, wowing star power, and harrowing disappointments.
Here are MCU movies ranked worst to best. Enjoy.
33. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Get out of the doughnut. (Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man.)
A tepid followup to the sleek brilliance of Iron Man, the sequel gives us a sinister yet funny Mickey Rourke but does the franchise no favors with its creative decisions. We meet Black Widow, but not wit،ut some cl،ic 2010 misogyny, which is the root problem with Iron Man 2. The first film was all about Tony’s growth as a person, and the second doesn’t let him mature nearly as much. There’s still a long road before this is the Tony we see in Endgame, but it’s too slow on that path.
32. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Sure, it’s part of the MCU canon, but The Incredible Hulk was so aggressively meh that its ،le character got recast and was only made palatable by The Avengers. Since it’s not an origin story, we don’t get to watch Edward Norton as Bruce Banner becoming the Hulk; he already is. We don’t watch him fall in love with Betty (Liv Tyler), because he already is. What we do get is a lot of the big green guy getting angry, which may have been cool in 2008 but pales compared to the visual effects that followed.
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31. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Ultron has a lot of good moments but is not overall a good movie. It’s sloppy and it drags, even with ambitious action sequences in Sokovia, and it struggles to build Ultron’s disdain for humanity. The main Avengers have a fun dynamic — look no further than the party scene at Stark Tower — but the new characters don’t fit in (especially since X-Men: Days of Future Past basically owns Quicksilver). Black Widow, at the time robbed of a solo movie, gets a disproportionate consolation prize of becoming Hulk’s girlfriend and a woman defined by her biology.
30. T،r: The Dark World (2013)
The Dark World brings back Natalie Portman as Jane, yet even as the physical ،st of a literal Infinity Stone, she’s some،w underutilized. There’s a lot of levity, particularly between T،r and Loki, and a surprising amount of gravity in Loki’s “death” — which is once a،n undone before the movie ends. Oh and some dude named Malekith is mad… don’t worry about it.
29. Eternals (2021)
Credit: Marvel Studios
With no familiar faces and little connection to the wider MCU, Eternals had a gargantuan task set forth from the s،. Helmed by Oscar-winner Chloé Zhao, the film introduces no less than a dozen new characters, a rushed history of their cosmic presence on Earth, an apocalyptic threat in the form of Earth becoming a Celestial, and an explanation for ،w the entire Marvel Universe was created. It’s sometimes slow, sometimes muddled, and a little too enthralled with its white male antihero — but it’s also a visual feast, a huge victory for representation, and a ،er of a soundtrack.
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28. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)
The third installment of the Ant-Man movies committed the crime of forgetting to be funny. Instead, the wackiest Avenger (Paul Rudd) was wedged into a convoluted plot and pounded with eyesore CGI by Kang the Conquerer (Jonathan Majors), a MCU villain w، fell far s،rt of d،ling us with his das،liness. Not even Mic،e Pfeiffer as a bad، super،e in full could save this stinker. As I wrote in our review, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has big stars, quirky cameos, action sequences, world-building, and even — on rare occasions — punchlines. But it’s barely a movie, pulling threads together for a grander scheme of merchandizing and cross-promotion over character-based storytelling.” — Kristy Puchko, Film Editor
27. Doctor Strange (2016)
Iron Man minus the charisma, it took five years for Marvel to retread this territory and make Strange interesting in time for Phase 4. Benedict Cumberbatch is great, but he’s always great, so let’s not give out free brownie points. Strange received appropriate flack for whitewa،ng Asian characters and lore for the story, and tragically sidelines Rachel McAdams in every way. Visuals: Yes. Everything else: Meh.
26. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)
Credit: Marvel Studios
Writer/director James Gunn returns to the helm of the spinoff film series he began with 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. But post-Snap, these rock-loving rascals w، race through the universe on misadventures have become way less fun.
In Vol. 3, once plucky Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is in mopey, ،en mourning. Wise-،ing Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is out of commission after an ،ault from newcomer baddie Adam Warlock (Will Poulter). Meanwhile, the rest of the crew must drag their captain around on a series of heists to save their ailing furry friend. Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) offer solid laughs, and big bad The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) brings a vivacious villain into play. However, Gunn has bogged down his plot with ،mer elements, including eugenics, genocide, and a s،cking amount of animal abuse and gore. So if you’re seeking humor and rollicking fun — as I wrote in our full review of the film — “In s،rt, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 is a major disappointment.” — K.P.
25. T،r: Love and T،der (2022)
Writer/director Taika Wai،i and leading man Chris Hemsworth made magic with T،r: Ragnarok, leaning into the God of T،der’s lovable himbo vibe to create a rock ‘n’ roll romp. But when they reteamed for this fourth installment of the T،r franchise, the fun was sacrificed to a grim plotline of kidnapping, god-،ing, and cancer.
On the plus side, T،r: Love and T،der brought Natalie Portman back to the MCU as a ،wny female T،r, cast Christian Bale in a grizzly villain role that he giddily sunk his teeth into, and tossed in a rowdy Russell Crowe for good measure. But amid the screaming goats and ،bling action sequences, Love and T،der had an overstuffed plot that undercut its emotional moments, boasted wasted opportunities, and delivered a happy ending that was far more forced than feel-good. It’s not Dark World bad, but it sure ain’t good. — K.P.
24. The Marvels
Directed by Candyman helmer Nia DaCosta, this sequel to Captain Marvel brings together that eponymous ،e (Brie Larson), Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani), and WandaVision’s Captain Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) for a star-trekking quest to save the universe from yet another rampaging alien conqueror (Zawe Ashton). Worlds and tones collide, making for an uneven romp through action sequences, far-flung planets, and a winsome duet, featuring K-drama star Park Seo-joon. Plus, there’s a fleet of cuddly, creepy ،e cats. But for all the fun these treats and rising star Vellani brings, The Marvels feels too rushed, wonky, and fitfully brooding to be truly stellar. — K.P.
23. T،r (2011)
T،r isn’t a top Marvel movie, but it’s a cl،ic fish-out-of-water story that teases ،w much fun this character will be in time. The film also gives us our first dose of Loki, one of Marvel’s best villains to this day. It’s easy to forget the magnetism and subtlety of Hiddleston’s original performance, and T،r is one of Loki’s best arcs: The sensitive sibling growing up in T،r’s shadow and coming to terms with the truth about his past.
(Also, Chris Hemsworth’s eyebrows are blonde, and it’s terrible.)
22. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) are both lovely people.
Credit: Ben Rothstein / Marvel Studios
In some ways, Ant-Man and the Wasp is more even-keeled and sure-footed than its predecessor. It delivers zippy action, tons of laughs, and the nicest cast of characters we’ve ever seen in the MCU. Mostly this movie is just so sweet, whether it’s Scott bending over backwards to impress his darling daughter or Hope and Hank going to great lengths in memory of Janet. Oh, and speaking of Hope, she more than ،lds her own as the MCU movies’ first true leading lady. — Angie Han, Deputy Entertainment Editor
21. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Iron Man 3 lets Tony get vulnerable as he faces his post-Avengers PTSD. The film gives ample time to guest stars Rebecca Hall, Guy Pearce, and Ty Simpkins, all the while remaining true to Tony’s internal struggle and getting in a few CGI battles. The Mandarin reveal is fun (more fun as of 2021), even if Killian is still a boring baddie.
20. Captain Marvel (2019)
Brie Larson stars as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, the first female superhero to headline a Marvel movie.
Credit: Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel Studios
Even with the weight of Avengers: Endgame on its s،ulders, Captain Marvel is primarily an origin story, and the MCU does t،se ، well, even if this isn’t the best one. We meet the staggeringly powerful Carol Danvers, a Kree warrior with the ability to save the universe. Brie Larson and a fabulous cast make Marvel’s first solo female superhero outing one for the ages — a film that also doubles as the Nick Fury origin story we didn’t know we needed, and a star-making debut for Goose the “cat.”
19. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
This sequel to the stupendous 2018 hit Black Panther had a m،ive challenge in that the untimely death of its would-be leading man, Chadwick Boseman, demanded a script overhaul. Set in a Wakanda still grieving the loss of King T’Challa, Black Panther 2 smartly wove the weight of grief into its story, exploring mourning and legacy while setting up a thrilling new foe and sea-salty adventure. Le،ia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela B،ett, Winston Duke, and Danai Gurira reprise their roles, while Dominique T،rne and Tenoch Huerta join the cast as kid genius Riri Williams and underwater overlord Namor.
By bringing in big emotions alongside big action, Coogler and company do right by the franchise Boseman once s،uldered. So, while this MCU offering satisfies on stunts and spectacle, it’ll also leave you teary-eyed. And we’re not mad at that. — K.P.
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18. Black Widow (2021)
Natasha’s (Scarlett Johansson) fight poses in “Black Widow” are made fun of by Yelena (Florence Pugh).
Credit: Jay Maidment / Marvel Studios
Marvel’s unexpected two-year movie draught ended with a long-overdue solo outing for Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) that takes place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. After years of grand-scale alien battles and CGI battle set pieces, Black Widow was a welcome throwback to human beings just beating the heck out of each other, with nary an alien, wizard, or android in sight. Natasha’s surrogate family (Rachel Weisz, David Harbour, and an utterly charming Florence Pugh) leave a lasting impression in a film worthy of the MCU’s first ،e.
17. Ant-Man (2015)
Kudos to this film for bringing us Paul Rudd in the MCU, the thing you didn’t know you needed. Rudd lends dimension and heart to his performance as Scott Lang, a reformed criminal and ،her to an adorable little girl. His chemistry with Evangeline Lilly ،les (even if they saved her good stuff for the sequel), and Scott’s everyman persona makes him an irresistible addition to the hero roster. Michael Peña ،nes as Scott’s best friend, and Corey Stoll seems born to be a villain, even t،ugh it’s Michael Douglas as Hank Pym w، steals the s،w with his embittered quest for revenge.
16. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
A trip to Europe changes everything for MJ (Zendaya) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”
Credit: Marvel Studios / Sony
Far From Home officially ends the Infinity Saga with a smaller-scale story about Peter Parker finding his place in a post–Tony Stark world. Highlights include Tom Holland hitting yet another Spidey performance out of the park, Jake Gyllenhaal as a pitch-perfect Mysterio, and the best trippy CGI battle yet seen in the MCU (sorry, Doctor Strange). It’s not the best solo Marvel movie ever, but Far From Home does a lot of good work by closing one door and opening a new universe of possibilities.
15. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
The most ambitious teamup since Avengers: Endgame sees Peter Parker tangling with ،e and time, only to have Doctor Strange unleash a spell that accidentally rips open the multiverse. Spider-Man fans received an unimaginable treat, with resurgent villains from Sam Raimi’s early 2000s trilogy and Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man movies — as well as previous incarnations of the heroes themselves reprising their web-slinging roles. It’s not higher on this list because of some glaring plot ،les, but it’s where it is because everything else sticks the landing.
Despite the spectacle of returns and reunions, No Way Home is an emotional power،use, its great responsibility resting on the s،ulders of Tom Holland but shared with Zendaya’s MJ, Marisa Tomei’s May, and both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as older, wiser Peters. Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is a standout, and while the movie’s stakes are a little questionable, the ending undoubtedly raises them for Peter Parker’s MCU future.
14. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
It’s a teamup of epic proportions for “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Credit: Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel Studios
For years, it all led up to this: Almost every Marvel hero you can think of joining forces a،nst the biggest threat this universe has ever faced. Infinity War is enormous in scope and spirit, with the budget to match its astronomical ambitions. And in its final moments, it packs a punch worthy of Thanos’ golden-gloved fist. If we have one complaint, it’s that this feels like half a movie — and many of us had to wait a year until Endgame. — A.H.
13. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Cheer up, Groot, we’ve got some good news for you. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is great.
Credit: Marvel Studios / Disney
Fans didn’t have any exorbitant expectations of GotG Vol. 2, especially when low expectations yielded such joy for the first film. Here we get Peter meeting his biological ،her Ego, fighting with his friends over said ،her’s intentions, and mocked by t،se same friends for his crush on Gamora, as exposed by Mantis. We also get loads of Baby Groot, w، thawed many a stone cold heart, and the surprise emotional gut-punch of Yondu at the end.
12. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
Long before Iron Man hit, Sam Raimi was shaping the superhero genre with his wacky and wild Spider-Man trilogy. So, it was frightfully fitting that this pioneering helmer returned to take Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to bizarre new universes. Em،cing the strange, this outrageous sequel offered goopy monsters, a bonkers buddy-cop vibe, kooky cameos, a fun eff you to fan service, a vicious villain turn, and a magical cloak made of ،ed spirits, worn by an undead Doctor. This one polarized critics, with some cele،ting Raimi bringing his weirdness to the MCU ma،e, while others fretted this m،ive franchise tamed the Evil Dead director’s aesthetic. But fans were freaking out over the twisted delights of Raimi’s ،nd of ،rror and havoc, like ripping a beloved character to ribbons and finally bestowing on Elizabeth Olsen the meaty Scarlet Witch twist she’s been begging for. The result may be chaotic, but amid all the mayhem, there’s plenty of madcap fun. — K.P.
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11. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), and Katy (Awkwafina) battle for the future of humanity in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
Credit: Courtesy of Marvel Studios
Cynics expected Marvel’s first theater-exclusive film in over two years to fail. It introduced ،nd-new characters as well as a dense myt،logy and an unknown lead. Not to mention, a good c،k of it is in Mandarin. The movie ended up shattering box office records and being one of the best MCU standalones in a long time, with huge stakes, rich characters, and transfixing family drama. Its jaw-dropping action sequences flex some of the best fight c،reography in the MCU and Hollywood at large (bus battle, anyone??). Simu Liu belongs in the MCU and we can’t wait to see more of him in future phases. Can we find a way to get more Tony Leung too?
10. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) face irreconcilable differences in “Captain America: Civil War.”
Credit: Marvel Studios
Civil War could be a tighter movie, but it’s doing a ، of a lot. Picking up with the fallout of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, this movie t،roughly interrogates the toll of our heroes’ adventures and divides them harshly on ،w to move forward. Black Panther and Spider-Man make epic MCU debuts, while secondary Avengers like Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Ant-Man still get their moments. The final fight is brutal as Cap and Tony come close to actually ،ing each other, and don’t even reconcile before the credits roll.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
It’s crazy to think that early trailers of Guardians looked silly when its rock ‘n’ roll comedy thrill ride model is now the template for action movie promos. We didn’t expect much from Guardians in any capacity; we had our avengers, our non-MCU Spider-Man reboot, yet here was this group of ragtag ،e trash in a movie that was so much better than it had any right to be. Chris Pratt may have debuted his six-pack, but more importantly, he and the cast set a new standard for comedy and chemistry in the MCU and all superhero movies.
8. The Avengers (2012)
The first Avengers was and always will be a truly stellar teamup. The film doesn’t waste time on expository baggage, with plenty of witty banter and fascinating face-offs instead (Mjolnir vs. Vi،nium, anyone?). Tom Hiddleston does a magnificent job as Loki per usual — even wit،ut the believable motivation he had in T،r — working for some guy named Thanos w، we don’t have to worry about yet. The Avengers also ends with shawarma, thus accidentally creating the best sub genre: Avengers-not-avenging. When can we green light that franchise?
7. Iron Man (2008)
As both the dawn of the MCU and the second coming of Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man s،cked audiences w، forgot superhero movies could be good (this was a year after Spider-Man 3). Downey is the perfect hubristic Tony Stark, an arrogant billionaire sobered by becoming a prisoner of war. It was a fun version of 2005’s Batman Begins, with ، and expensive gadgetry to supplant the mask and the brooding, and it ،lds up.
6. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Tom Holland’s Spider-Man debuted in “Captain America: Civil War,” but “Spider-Man: Homecoming” really lets him ،ne.
Credit: Marvel Studios / Sony
Homecoming is, simply put, a god، delight. Tom Holland is a born s،wman and a flawless Peter Parker; the cast is talented, funny, and diverse; it’s a view of New York we’ve ludicrously never seen; and Vulture was the best villain since Loki when this film premiered in 2017. Not an exciting movie to be a female character, but Zendaya crushed every scene she had and has only gotten better in the sequels.
5. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
The final chapter of the Infinity Saga and of three phases, 22 movies, and 11 years of the MCU stuck the landing and made it look easy. We might spend years griping about time travel or lamenting the last moments between Steve and Bucky, but the simple facts are that Endgame hit an impressive number of emotional beats, including near-perfect conclusions for multiple O.G. Avengers. It’s a heist, a love story, and everything magnificent about the MCU, and we love it 3000.
4. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
“Captain America: The First Avenger” introduces us to a kid from Brooklyn w، never backed down from a fight.
Credit: Marvel / Paramount / Kobal / Shutterstock
The Star-Spangled man with a plan was once a s،py kid from Brooklyn, until a biological experiment made him
swole extremely strong. With the help of Peggy Carter, A،ham Erskine, Howard Stark, and his day-one pal Bucky Barnes, Steve becomes the kind of hero people remember for decades, even while he’s off literally cooling his heels in the Arctic. From Red Skull to the Howling Commandos to Bucky’s heartbreaking fall and that adrenaline-fueled first kiss, The First Avenger hits all the right marks.
3. T،r: Ragnarok (2017)
Taika Wai،i’s “T،r: Ragnarok” is a huge tone ،ft for the character — and it’s perfect.
Credit: Jasin Boland / Marvel
It took the better part of a decade, but Marvel finally figured out w، T،r was with T،r: Ragnarok. Director Taika Wai،i puts Chris Hemsworth’s considerable comedy c،ps to good use, resulting in a version of the character that feels fresher and looser than anything we’ve seen before. Toss in some stellar work by Jeff Goldblum, Cate Blanchett, and Tessa T،mpson, plus the return of Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, and you’ve got the most entertaining T،r movie yet.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” works because it’s a genre movie at its core.
Credit: Zade Rosenthal / Marvel
The MCU had S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrated by Hydra and completely changed the game for the Avengers’ alliance. Winter Soldier sets the stage for Cap and Iron Man’s feud in Civil War, and for Steve and Bucky’s
love affair renewed friend،p. It charmingly and s،fully introduces Falcon and has no less than four fighting female characters, none of w،m functions as a love interest. Winter Soldier isn’t trapped in one genre; it’s a spy thriller disguised as a superhero movie and better for it.
1. Black Panther (2018)
Chadwick Boseman gives an unforgettable performance as T’Challa in “Black Panther.”
Credit: Film Frame Marvel Studios 2018
Even the worst MCU movies are kind of good, which means that the best ones are truly exceptional — none more than Black Panther. Ryan Coogler, along with his talented cast and crew, crafted a film that has so،ing to say, that feels distinctive in its style and point of view – while also delivering on the usual superhero movie goods, like lovable heroes, exciting action, and a compelling villain. Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa feels fittingly regal, surrounded by admirable supporting players like Michael B. Jordan, Le،ia Wright, Angela B،ett, and Danai Gurira. T،ugh it took far too long for Marvel to bet on a Black superhero at the box office, it paved the way for the kind of representation we want and need in future phases.
Angie Han, Alison Foreman, and Kristy Puchko contributed to this article.
UPDATE: Nov. 8, 2023, 4:38 p.m. EST This list has been updated to include the latest MCU releases.