Marvel Cinematic Universe: the 23 movies ranked!

With the delay of Black Widow‘s release due to Covid-19 crisis to this November, all Marvel fans are starting to be impatient to see the future of the cinematographic universe that kept millions of people on the edge of their seat. Let’s look at the past movies and rank them, while we wait this fall for the story to continue!

23. The Incredible Hulk

Not the best follow-up film to a really good start marked by the release of Iron Man. The 2008 film directed by Louis Leterrier starring Edward Norton (in his first and last appearance as the green angry giant) fails to smash, in one of the most boring superhero movies of the genre. A villain that doesn’t convince, a story that doesn’t excite and a choral atmosphere that doesn’t feel part of the MCU we know today (even though the film is totally part of it). A wasted chance to build a new solo franchise for Bruce Banner, especially considering the high-level casting. Not a total “abomination”, but it is definitely the most forgettable film in the MCU.

22. Thor: The Dark World

Second film of the series, and second delusional experience for the fans of the god of thunder. The film never strikes the attention of the audience, guiding the watcher to the end with no real emotion or surprise. The plot never dares to exceed, and this linear story just flows by between some quite boring scene and some “Star Warsy” sequence that feels quite out of place: once again, the outstanding cast doesn’t help the good outcome of the film, as it doesn’t the good feeling between Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston and their constant tries to involve the audience in what is going on on the screen. Some of the audience doesn’t even remember that Christopher Ecclestone is actually in the film: his villain, Malekith, is one of the worst character that has ever hit the screen. This major failure, connected with the first one, will bring to a whole re-branding of the character and the universe surrounding him.

21. Iron Man 3

Yes, correct. Iron Man 3, directed by Shane Black this time, might have been loved by a lot of fans, and despite being a success at the box office, I can’t help but say that I completely hated this film. Until the second half of the film kicks in I remember I was quite enjoying it, until the disasters came in: the shocking revelation about The Mandarin (with Ben Kingsley’s character being a total idiot), a super-villain such as Guy Pierce, who’s definitely more interested in his hair than in his success, the constant mistakes in the fighting choreographies (Tony wearing armors that shoot lasers, rockets and similar always trying the close combat with enemies that have the ability of melting that armor is just irritating), and a final showdown worthy of the best B-movie. Such a waste, if you think about such an iconic villain as The Mandarin being used this way: surely, the fact that they tried to pack three comics’ stories in just one film didn’t help at all.

20. Iron Man 2

When Iron Man 2 was released there was a lot of pressure on it to keep the standard of the first Tony Stark solo movie, the film that generated everything. Unfortunately, the expectations weren’t really met and the film ends up just being a moderately entertaining superhero movie with some cool scenes that doesn’t particularly shine on many factors, and Robert Downey Jr. is worth the ticket price all by himself. The curse of the second-film of a trilogy strikes again.

19. Thor

The first movie about Thor Odinson might be a bit boring sometimes, but with a good direction and some good performances it is not the worst entry movie in the MCU. Not the worst, not the best, but you can’t always look out for perfection, can you?

18. Captain America: The First Avenger

Some good quality VFX (with the skinny body transformation of Chris Evans above all) for a film with a quite low budget, a nice background story on Steve Rogers’ character and a good Hugo Weaving as Red Skull doesn’t save this film from being a weak entry of Cap into the MCU, especially considering the levels reached by the two other films in the trilogy that sees him as the main character.

17. Captain Marvel

A film that has the extremely important role of introducing a strong character such as Carol Denvers, portrayed by Brie Larson, into the Marvel universe, especially with the final face-off with Thanos just around the corner. A film that manages to do its job of entertaining with quite an interesting plot-twist, but overall is just average and never excels. Carol doesn’t shine for sympathy, with the actress Brie Larson being at the center of some critics that even led to the creation of a petition to ask for her role to be given to someone else (which I honestly don’t agree with, since she gave her best with the material she had). Overall, the film will be remembered as the film that revealed how Nick Fury lost his eye… Ouch. Definitely not the best way you’d like to be remembered, especially as it feels just like an excuse to make a funny scene (and that doesn’t match the continuity…)

16. Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Another example of the “second-film in a trilogy curse”. Despite the success at the box office, Age Of Ultron is not what the fans were waiting for, after the huge appreciation showed for his predecessor: amazing visual effects, humor, the Hulkbuster and the introduction of new characters are not enough for this film to rank higher, unfortunately. Pathos is never really a thing, and some extremely delicate subjects such as AI are treated just superficially (when we know that at Marvel they know how to be “dramatic”), and across all film the Avengers never seem really challenged by Ultron, which could have been written in a much more interesting way.

15. Ant-Man

Some crazy effects and the in-miniature scenes make Ant-Man a quite enjoyable film that doesn’t have any particular high demands, apart from entertainment: mission accomplished.

14. Ant-Man and the Wasp

As the first installment in the trilogy, this sequel has the same goal to entertain and to not have any demands. It introduces to the quantum realm that will be fundamental to reverse the effects of Thanos’ snap. An enjoyable and entertaining film for everyone, that had the responsibility of easing the tension that had been created in Infinity War, that came out right before this.

13. Thor: Ragnarok

The film that marked Thor’s character mutation. Taika Waititi bring in his genial and irreverent sense of humor to revolutionize the whole surrounding environment and bringing it closer to the universe of the Guardians. A solid directing, good characters and an entertaining plot make the film enjoyable, even though the comic scenes sometimes fall a bit too much in the trivial category, lifting the film above the lines, but that’s the catch: either you love it, or you hate it. Waititi certainly deserves a lot of credit for revitalizing a dead franchise and innovating a character that, apart for the big team-up films, didn’t manage to shine on his standalone films.

12. Black Panther

A film that has an immeasurable importance for the whole history of cinema, not only for the Marvel universe, featuring the first African superhero leading a standalone film. Its impact was huge, both on a cultural and social level, leading the film to gross over $1.29 billion worldwide, placing it at the 10th place on the top-grossing films ever ranking. This facts are undeniable: though, for these reasons, the film is generally a bit overestimated. It is a good film for what it concerns the technical level, characters and story, but it is not the masterpiece that they tried to sell us. This is not a try to diminish what has been accomplished with the film, it is just that I strongly believe that there is so much better within the MCU films.

11. Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange had the credit of introducing a new world within the MCU, the world of magic. The magical universe was still unexplored until this film came out, even though – honestly- this universe could have been explored slightly deeper, as in the film they just scratch its surface. However, the superb performances from Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange and Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One are just remarkable, and this film has some of the best, coolest and amazing psychedelic sequences ever seen on the screen: the opening scene, with the fight between The Ancient One and Kaecilius adepts is one of the best I have ever seen, that are almost unmatched so far. Mads Mikkelsen deserves a mention of honor as well, despite his character is the usual anonymous villain in the entry-films of the MCU: with his performance he manages to give Kaecilius some kind of charisma that the script wasn’t able to give him.

10. Civil War

Not the Civil War that everyone was expecting, but the film keeps you on your seat: nice direction, good characters introductions (Spider-Man and Black Panther), and some nice fighting scenes, with the Avengers colliding against each other. That’s all we asked for, isn’t it? The ending is a bit anti-climatic to be fair, but the film is easy to watch and gifts a couple of hours of good entertainment, establishing the bases for next team-up films. Good job, Russo brothers.

9. Spider-Man: Homecoming

The celebration of Spidey’s return to his home-place in the MCU, after years of roaming around without a real purpose. That’s all the film feels like: a massive celebration, from minute one until the end. Homecoming does a good job telling the story of how Peter Parker slowly starts to turn from being a kid with superpowers relying on a tech suit provided by Stark, to a real superhero. The relationship between him and Tony will be one of the recurrent themes in the next films, and it is genuinely great to see something different from the usual Uncle Ben story. Moreover, it is so amazing to see them interacting with each other.

8. Spider-Man: Far From Home

The sequel of Homecoming picks up just after the events of Endgame, and is the last chapter of The Infinity Saga. Big pressure here. However, it was handled in a really good way: a brilliant villain, magnificently performed by Jake Gyllenhaal, a Peter Parker struggling with grief and guilt, outstanding illusion sequence and wonderful locations are the keywords within Far From Home. A nicely done sequel that manages to overcome its predecessor and, with its final twist, sets up the way for the future film within the MCU. Bravo.

7. Guardians of The Galaxy Vol.1

When Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.1 (almost) nobody knew these characters, let’s be honest. After its release, they become some of the favorite Marvel characters, and there’s a reason behind it: the genius of James Gunn, who turned these unusual superheroes and their surrounding environment into a cult. With ’80 soundtracks and several references to the pop culture the film paves the way for the future films that will be set in space after this: whenever you are in space, you know things are going to get eccentric. It couldn’t be any different: James Gunn managed to create a small masterpiece using some weird unpopular characters and to turn them into something unforgettable. Totally nailed it!

6. Iron Man

The film that starts everything, the film of the redemption for Robert Downey Jr. Marvel bosses made a quite risky bet by placing their chips on him, after all his past troubles, and they got hugely repaid for it: Robert Downey Jr ended up shaping Iron Man character, and not viceversa. He gave the start to the revolution of Tony Stark’s character, who just wasn’t who we are familiar with, nowadays. He is (together with Hugh Jackman and his Wolverine) the most iconic superhero character of this generation, and maybe for those to come. His charisma, his sense of humor and presence are just show-stealing: they’ll have to do a massive job at Marvel headquarters to make sure to fill up his absence. After 12 years the first film of the MCU still stands comparison with more recent films, and it aged very well. A real classic that will be forever remembered as the film that changed the game. Forever.

5. Avengers: Assemble

Nobody ever thought that a day like this would have come, back in 2008 when Iron Man came out, but there we were: the first, massive and spectacular team-up film in the history of the genre. Great directing, choral scenes and story, a lot of aliens and a massive ending clash: what could have we asked more? Avengers: Assemble is already a classical in the cinema history, especially in its genre. Pure adrenaline.

4. Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2

Remember all the things I mentioned in the Vol.1 section? Well, James Gunn, after loosing the surprise factor given by the unknown in the first moive, manages to bring everything further and a step higher. The interactions between the characters are simply amazing, starting from the dialogues: soundtracks, jokes, visual effects, emotions and feelings. Everything is in the right place at the right moment: who can forget the ending scenes on the notes of Father and Son? Who can’t just think about Stan Lee during those moments? Simply heartbreaking. James Gunn is the real deal.

3 Avengers: Infinity War

Avenger: Infinity Way had the toughest job ever: meeting the expectations of years of waiting for this moment to come, the moment when Thanos finally shows up and faces our heroes. With all the pressures against them, the Russo brothers managed to put on one of the best films in the MCU, giving Thanos the first film narrated by the point of view of a villain, as Infinity War is narrated from his point of view, the one of The Mad Titan. The rhythm is extremely intense from the first minutes and keeps on for the whole length of the movie, leaving no room to relax to the audience. The final is one of the most wonderful “upset” moments in the history of cinema, and the cliffhanger is just unbearable: this time, the bad guy wins. The feelings and the emotions we all felt the first time are indescribable and they open the way for the endgame to come. Wow.

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

To date, there is absolutely nothing like The Winter Soldier within the MCU. This extremely solid film has everything: amazing direction, intriguing story, great action scenes and it is a big turning point in the bigger pictures of the events. From this film, indeed, a lot of consequences will be felt across the films and series: for example, after the events told in the movie, ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. completely changed direction and raised the bar. The first film directed by the Russo brothers in the MCU it is the most mature film in the series, and it would deserve to be the king of all the Marvel films, standing on top of the rankings, but… Emotions can be a powerful weapon.

1. Avengers: Endgame

The final clash against Thanos. The final film for some members of the original Avengers, the final film for some extremely loved actors. Endgame is the film of goodbyes: an extremely emotional story that overwhelms the fans. I have never seen fans reacting like this while watching a film: people crying, screaming, cheering up as the scenes go on and on on the big screen. The film is not perfect and it’s not the best film among the 23 others (the previous two mentioned film are superior on a pure technical level), but the emotional load on this is so heavy that it was tough not to put it onto the top spot. Nothing is ever going to be the same after we reached the Endgame.

What are your considerations? Feel free to share your own rankings and your opinions on what position you would change: post your personal rankings in the comment sections!

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