An Ultimate Ranking of the Marvel Movies (2008-2021)

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Since its beginnings as the Jon Favreau directed Iron Man, Marvel has gone on to make 26 films in its Cinematic Universe.

By Josh Shippen, Reporter

Throughout the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel has produced a lot of great films, and a lot of duds to go along with them. Often, Marvel relies on fast paced action with slapstick humor to keep their audiences invested, but some films have either broken out of this mold or perfected the art so much that the movies become instant classics. With that said, here is the ultimate ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

26. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

From its release, Thor: The Dark World has been rightfully criticized to be the complete mess that it is. The plot is sleep inducing and each emotional moment is ruined by the watcher trying to figure out why anything on screen is happening. Overall, poorly executed emotional moments and an impossible-to-understand plot make this movie nearly unwatchable.

25. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The Incredible Hulk was a movie that was hoping to ride on the coattails of the successful Iron Man which was released only months before. Unfortunately, Ed Norton and Liv Tyler made absolutely sure that did not happen. This movie has by far the worst acting of any movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

24. Thor (2010)

The quality gap between this movie and The Incredible Hulk is quite a significant margin, but let’s not forget that this movie still has one of the most simplistic and eye roll including plots in the MCU. Additionally, much of the humor in this movie is poorly placed and Thor does by far the worst job of creating a convincing love interest in Natalie Portman’s character. This is especially due to the fact that she’s an actress that has refused to give a convincing acting performance, starting with her role as Padme Amidala in Star Wars.

23. Avengers (2012)

There is absolutely no denying that Avengers has one of the more interesting plots of the Marvel universe, but the melodramatic taunts of Captain America to “Put on the suit” in response to Tony Stark’s repeated jabs at Captain America’s age combined with a constant reminder that Howard Stark actually built Cap’s shield throughout the entire movie make it an incredibly tedious watch.

22. Iron Man 2 (2010)

Tony Stark’s sudden realization that the metal energy cube inside of his chest was actually killing him was an interesting plot device to play with, but what really killed this movie was the fact that Tony Stark had lost all of the charisma that made his past movies so fun to watch.

21. Black Widow (2021)

Scarlett Johansson’s final portrayal of Black Widow on the big screen was somewhat of a disappointing one. This movie was born to fail due to the fact that the arc of Black Widow had already ended with her death in Avengers: Endgame. That said, Black Widow did a modest job of creating a story that captured viewers attention and taught us a bit about Natasha Romanoff’s mysterious family. But tacky story aspects and a lack of fulfillment regarding Romanoff’s past makes the movie fall flat. This isn’t good for much more than a passive entertainment thriller, which in the end is all Marvel needed to accomplish.

20. Iron Man 3 (2013)

Robert Downey Jr. may be one of the most revered actors of all time, but he apparently had no experience acting like he had a panic attack. The melodramatic way each attack was being sold to us and the poor delivery of Downey’s character makes the focal point of this movie, an extremely weak one.

19. Captain Marvel (2019)

Captain Marvel certainly has a lot more going for it as far as intrigue and character building than most of the aforementioned movies on this list, but the constant confrontational nature of the main character detracts from the movie just as much as it did in Avengers. It should be noted that this movie does an excellent job recreating the time period and creating some funny jabs at the 90’s.

18. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

If Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had not made main characters such as Rocket and Peter Quill completely unlikable while ignoring the arcs of the other characters, this movie would have the potential to be one of the best of the franchise. Additionally, this movie suffers from poorly placed humor amidst a story that clearly has a level of self seriousness that was not present on the first iteration of the series.

17. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor: Ragnarok suffers from a similar problem to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Amidst the fall of a society that Marvel fans have grown to know and love, along with the salvation of a fading society, Marvel felt it necessary to shoehorn approximately three jokes per minute into this movie. As far as plot and characters, this movie is extremely strong, but a more self serious tone would be extremely welcome in this film.

16. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

The laugh out loud moments in this movie are all over the place, from Scott Lang picking up a building the size of a briefcase to Dr. Hank Pym asking Lang if he wants a box of apple juice and a string cheese. Ant-Man and the Wasp is no doubt one of Marvel’s lighter movies, and one that all passive audiences will be able to enjoy.

15. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Conceptually, Age of Ultron might be one of the better movies in the MCU. However Ultron’s execution as a villain and Tony Stark’s absolute insistence on making the same mistakes again detract from what had been the potential to be one of the best movies in the MCU. The concept of Vision, played by Paul Bettany, is also one of the better characters of the whole series.

14. Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange certainly features one of the more well executed character arcs in the MCU, and it’s completely fair to say that Benedict Cumberbatch kills his role as the doctor turned wizard. Doctor Strange could have benefited from spending more time on making its villain relevant, and making the love interest last longer than one movie, but fundamentally the things Dr. Strange does, it does very well.

13. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

The movie that kicked off the legacy of the man in red and blue did an amazing job of setting its audience in the time period, and in creating a character that people could get behind and root for. At times Captain America may become a little too righteous for some people’s tastes, but that does not change the fact that this movie is rewatchable and has an excellent plot.

12. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Shang-Chi manages to accomplish the best fighting choreography of any of the other 23 Marvel Cinematic Universe, and those who have seen the “train scene” will be quick to agree with that sentiment. This movie manages to be an enjoyable adventure that ties in some of the most likable characters from Iron Man 3, notably Trevor (Ben Kingsley) who was one of the best parts of the movie. Apart from some tacky story aspects and generous plot conveniences, this movie is certainly worth a watch, and possibly the most entertaining movie to come out of 2021.

11. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

For all intents and purposes, the third iteration of the Captain America series is just an Avengers movie. This movie showcases one of the most compelling villains of the MCU, a villain who Marvel would go to absolutely ruin in the corresponding Falcon and Winter Soldier Disney+ series. Civil War is worth a viewing for any audience that cherishes interesting plot and gripping action.

10. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

After two lackluster Spider-Man franchises featuring two dead Uncle Ben’s and a host of classic villains, Spider-Man: Homecoming did an excellent job of not being a direct cop-out of the movies that came before while still keeping the fundamental elements of Spider-Man that make his character so special. Peter Parker’s connection with Tony Stark is a relationship that could not have been executed better, and the inclusion of Happy Hogan brings a laughable stubbornness to Tony Stark’s arrogant character.

9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

This action packed sequel to the first Captain America film pulls off emotion extremely well, especially after Captain America’s revelation that his childhood friend Bucky Barnes had been frozen in ice and was still alive. That along with the grandiose music and the chemistry with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow make this one of the most enjoyable movies of the saga.

8. Iron Man (2008)

Tony Stark’s arrogant playboy lifestyle is the instantly recognizable trait that kicked off the Marvel saga, and one that fans have come to adore. No movie features so many well delivered one liners from Robert Downey Jr’s character, and the fact that this movie is able to still convey character development in Stark while still keeping the character entertaining is amazing. Iron Man is unquestionably, and deservedly an instant classic in the Marvel Universe.

7. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Marvel’s second installment of the Spider-Man series was a massive hit, and a tribute to the years of Tony Stark that were now lost due to the aftermath of Endgame. Peter Parker’s love interest, while sloppily transitioned from the last film, is still a cute story development to follow. This coupled with Happy Hogan acting as a great surrogate father for Parker following Tony Stark’s death, makes the movie lovable.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel’s best infusion of a mix of humor with a gripping storyline. Peter Quill’s boyish humor perfectly complements the sly sarcasm of Gamorra and the boastful bragging of Rocket makes the movie what it is. Guardians is a must watch film for all Marvel fans, and a turning point in the Marvel Universe.

5. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

To an extent, each Marvel movie ends with a happy ending with a “the world has been saved” storyline, but not Infinity War. This movie relies on each character’s experiences with personal failure, and manages to capture the horror of the villain Thanos’ plan, to wipe out half of all life on all planets. Even though mass genocide is obviously the wrong way to go about solving the numerous societal issues that the movie suggests including overpopulation and scarcity of resources, the sad reality should be noted that the plan that Thanos suggests would actually work. The film does an excellent job of introducing these types of moral quandaries.

4. Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther managed to capture an intensity that the other Marvel films have not been able to recreate, not only in its booming score and gripping plot, but also in the secrecy and obvious pride that lies within the Wakandan society amidst all its technological advancements. This film also brings up many interesting quandaries such as the willingness of helping struggling nations if it means emerging out of secrecy and revealing to everyone who you are. Ultimately, there is no right answer to the question, but Black Panther does an excellent job at supporting both arguments.

3. Eternals (2021)

This is a ranking that will likely come as a surprise to most people. After all, this is undeniably one of Marvel’s most disorganized movies, and features the worst character development by a long shot. However, Eternals attempts to tackle some of the heaviest themes that have been attempted by a Marvel movie, including but not limited to the limits of a divine creator, the extent of free will, and human development on a celestial scale. Not only does Eternals manage to present this in a way that is not a direct cop-out of Avengers: Endgame, it manages to create the most impactful and emotional moments of any of these three movies. Eternals is a heavy movie that not all audiences will enjoy, but it’s certainly worth a view.

2. Ant-Man (2015)

Ant-Man, aside from it’s obvious outlandish technology, follows a very believable story of a real man who just wanted to raise his daughter and have a family. Ant-Man’s lighthearted tone, excellent team dynamic, and hateable villain are all aspects that make this movie one of the easiest to watch and one of the most heartwarming of the whole series.

1. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

It’s incredible that Avengers: Endgame was able to take the emotion of 21 movies’ worth of emotion and nostalgia, and jam pack it into a movie that would be beloved amongst old and new fans alike. This film is three hours long, yet the movie never drags on. Each story aspect is gripping and keeps you invested for the whole movie’s run time until a final fight scene that will leave you with goosebumps.

From its humble beginnings with Iron Man to its all-star cast with Avengers: Endgame, Marvel has done an incredible job of producing an instantly recognizable brand. The lovable jerk in Tony Stark and the straight edged Captain America are both instant fan favorites, and the supporting superheroes make their stories all the more interesting. Despite each Hulk or Thor that might roll around, there is an Ant-Man or Endgame to support it.

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