While the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home has been stated as the last movie in Phase 3, the saga well and truly was wrapped up with the latest Avengers movie. This 22-movie ranking will span every movie from 2008’s Iron Man to the most recent 2019’s Avengers: Endgame.
The rankings will be based on box office, critical response, and MCU contribution. These are my personal rankings, so yours may look different.
Check out the list below:
22) The Incredible Hulk
Being the second installment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is never going to be an easy challenge and unfortunately Marvel’s answer to Jekyll and Hyde falls by the wayside.
With an already failed predecessor in 2003’s Hulk, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk had a lot of expectations to not only top said predecessor but also match what came before it with Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man.
However, with then leading man Edward Norton taking on the role of the scientist turned superhuman Bruce Banner aka The Hulk, fans predicted a turn-around akin to RDJ. This proved false as Norton demanded more money to appear in further Marvel projects.
While it’s domestic gross for opening weekend seemed to be high with $55.4 million, compared to how the majority of Marvel movies performed, these numbers are in fact small potatoes in the wider game.
Despite having one of the major MCU villains to survive past their original movie, Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky aka the Abomination has never been seen again and only mentioned in the small screen. In fact, the only character to reappear after the movie is William Hurt’s Thaddeus Ross who appears in three future movies years down the line. But even leading man Edward Norton is replaced for the Hulk’s next installment The Avengers with Mark Ruffalo taking over for the character’s tenure in the MCU.
To sum up, The Incredible Hulk is a forgettable installment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to its irrelevance to the wider universe and its lack of call-backs or references.
21) Thor: The Dark World
Knowing what we know now, Thor was really underutilized in his first two movies as the character does not have the comedic talent he has in the Avengers movies or Thor: Ragnarok.
However, director Alan Taylor seemed to substitute Thor’s humor and leadership qualities for instead ensuring his girlfriend stays safe after Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) absorbs the aether and becomes a target to the Dark Elves led by Christopher Eccleston.
The Thor sequel did surpass its predecessor earning $20 million more for its opening weekend domestically with $85,737,841, however the critical responses and Rotten Tomatoes score has the movie bottom of the barrel with The Incredible Hulk.
What this movie did well was turn Tom Hiddleston’s Loki from the MCU’s best villain to an anti-hero, a role he has been stuck in ever since. His actions in this movie did do well to set up the threequel however, albeit with no ramifications outside of the Thor movies.
Thor: The Dark World also introduces the Reality Stone in the MCU, being what powers the aether and eventually ending up in the possession of new character The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) in a mid-credits scene.
This movie is famously also the last movie Natalie Portman would star in as Thor’s main love interest, having behind the scenes quarrels concerning a bigger budget. It didn’t however stop Stellen Skarsgard’s Dr. Erik Selvig from returning in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
While not the greatest movie to be seen, it is a mandatory watch for fully understanding the thread of events throughout the MCU, not only for explaining the Reality Stone but also setting up the events of Thor: Ragnarok.
20) Ant-Man and The Wasp
It is not always easy following a star act, and that is what Ant-Man and the Wasp had to do as it was released a couple of months after the events of Avengers: Infinity War.
After the events of Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang is under house arrest after making a deal with the government. He has lost contact with the Pyms due to leaving them to go and help the Avengers and is busy being a literal stay-at-home dad.
However, when it becomes clear that Hank Pym’s believed dead wife is really alive and trying to communicate with Scott from the Quantum Realm, he joins the Pyms to try and get her back while stopping a mysterious phasing girl who has history with Hank as well as a random businessman trying to screw Hope over.
The movie had an okay opening weekend with $75,812,205 which beat the original Ant-Man which opened with just over $57 million. However, when you consider just a couple of months before this Avengers: Infinity War made almost $200 million more in it’s opening weekend, it does pale in comparison.
The best pitch for this movie was we were finally going to get to see Evangeline Lilly as The Wasp after being teased with it at the end of Ant-Man, however fans have criticized the actress for portraying Hope as the scorned ex who focuses more on being angry with Scott then being her partner in crime-fighting.
The supporting cast to Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly is quite strong with returning actor Michael Pena and Michael Douglas, as well as new additions Laurence Fishburne and Michelle Pfeiffer.
In summary, Ant-Man and the Wasp was a good movie, not as comedic as the first one but not as bland as other movies. Had it been released at another time; we may be having a different discussion.
19) Iron Man 3
Completing our first trilogy in the MCU after two movies already in Phase 1, Iron Man 3 promised to be a dark and a fitting end to the Iron Man trilogy. What we got instead was a potential racial debate that the movie has never fully recovered from.
Tony Stark is still affected by the events of The Avengers which is causing him to have panic attacks, things are made worse when a mysterious terrorist known as The Mandarin starts wreaking havoc and even hospitalizes long-time friend and bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). However, the plot thickens as it is revealed that The Mandarin is in fact a pawn in a terrorist organization’s plans and in the employ of Pepper’s old friend Aldrich Killian.
Financially, the movie did very well riding on the coattails of The Avengers and surpassing what the previous two Iron Man movies made on their opening weekends with just over $174 million.
There is a lot of debate over who the Mandarin in the movie is, either London actor Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley) or Killian (Guy Pearce) himself. Either way when you take a known comic-book character like the Mandarin and effectively “white-wash” him, there is bound to be some uproar.
On the positive side, this movie cemented RDJ as the MCU’s mainstay foundation as well as giving fans a geek-out moment in having Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts don the Iron Man suit albeit briefly…a sign of things to come.
Iron Man 3 is also one of the first superhero movies to join the $1 billion dollar club with predecessors The Avengers, as well as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.
18) Captain America: The First Avenger
Years before Wonder Woman blasted on our screens, Joe Johnston gave us a WWII movie which gave birth to the Avengers’ first recruit, Captain America.
Steve Rogers is a young skinny lad dreaming of serving his country and defeating the Nazis. A government organization called the S.S.R. helps make this happen by giving him an artificially enhanced physiology and turning him into Captain America.
In terms of box office, the movie is the second-lowest performer beating The Incredible Hulk by just over $1.1 million.
However, in terms of critical responses, the movie is well received as both an alternate history movie still portraying the perils of war as well as the very realistic chemistry between Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers and Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter.
Captain America: The First Avenger is also the first movie to introduce the Infinity Stones with the Tesseract being a major plot-point of the movie. The climax of this movie does also carry over to the next released movie, The Avengers, as government organization S.H.I.E.L.D. come into possession of both the Tesseract and Cap.
17) Iron Man 2
A movie that divides opinions but ultimately is a “mid-stack” movie, Iron Man 2 was a modest success at the time of its release.
After going public as Iron Man, Tony Stark catches the attention of Russian criminal Ivan Vanko and wormy businessman Justin Hammer. Both men decide to team up against Stark in order to bring him down. However, Tony needs to face reality with his health and personal relationships before being able to face-off against them.
This was one of the earlier examples of critics not reflecting audience reactions as while the movie is the highest grossing installment to Phase 1 aside from The Avengers, it is critically ranked as third from bottom overall.
At its core, this movie is a great feast of firsts; not only is it the first time we meet Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, but are reintroduced to Rhodey, played now by Don Cheadle, who becomes War Machine and a formal introduction with Nick Fury after one end-credits scene from Iron Man. But in terms of story, character development and action this movie does not really deliver like the first movie did.
Mickey Rourke tries being a Russian criminal but is a lot better during fights than dialogue scenes. Sam Rockwell tries being an antagonist businessman, but he’s just seen as a watered-down version of Jeff Bridges from the first Iron Man. Overall Jon Favreau tried capitalizing on what he brought the first time around, but he couldn’t quite grip the audience like he did before.
Thor was the first fish-out-of-water story told within the MCU while also combining Norse Mythology and all keeping within the tone of the other Marvel movies. Not an easy task for director Kenneth Branagh.
Thor is a Prince of Asgard destined to rule one day, but when he lets his arrogance endanger his kingdom his father strips him of his powers and banishes him to Earth. There he meets and falls in love with Jane Foster who helps him return to Asgard and thwart his adoptive brother, Loki.
As mentioned before with Thor: The Dark World, the problem with these first two movies is that there always seemed to be something missing when it came to Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of the character that Joss Whedon got right in the first two Avengers movies.
In terms of how the movie was received, it beat Captain America: The First Avenger at the box office by around $70 million, however the movie was less enjoyed by critics commenting on the blandness and poor humor.
Thor did help set up many future plot threads including the premise to The Avengers with both scenes in the movie and the post-credits.
Along with the soft introduction of Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye making a brief appearance, the movie can be considered a modest success at best.
15) Iron Man
The movie that started it all and still holds up today, Iron Man was deemed as ground-breaking storytelling for what the movie promised and set up.
Tony Stark is a playboy billionaire who is kidnapped by a terrorist organization and almost killed. Fortunately he is able to create a device that saves his life and a suit that he uses to escape. After these events, he decides to turn against his company’s iron mongering ways and becomes the hero that is Iron Man.
Alright, so because this was the first movie to start an entire universe, no one knew exactly how it would pan out and presumed it may last a trilogy and be done.
However, the box office did have the movie grossing at $585 million with the movie to this day being the third highest praised film of the franchise. The movie did also introduce a couple of key concepts for the MCU including S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers.
This was also the first to initiate the use of post-credits scene, with this one introducing Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.
14) Avengers: Age of Ultron
If you were already a fan of the comics, you would either enjoy this film for being its own thing, or dislike it for taking away a great story from one hero and giving it to Robert Downey Jr.
Tony Stark decides its time Earth had defenses against alien threats and so persists in creating Ultron, an A.I. android with the potential for peace in our time. The only problem is Ultron goes rogue and decides to try and destroy the world to remake it in his image.
Despite not being critically loved, this was the third highest grossing MCU movie and third to reach $1 billion dollars after The Avengers and Iron Man 3.
The movie also introduces a plethora of new characters with not only Ultron but also Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Ulysses Klaue, and Vision.
Avengers: Age of Ultron played as a fun reunion after several movies which were very hit and miss for fans, critics, and general audiences.
The movie no one thought would succeed turned out to be a tiny comedic gem in the MCU crown. Scott Lang is a thief who is released from prison only to return to thievery, he picks the wrong house though as he steals the Ant-Man suit from Dr. Hank Pym who recruits him to be the next Ant-Man and save his company from Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket.
While the movie didn’t make a sizeable dent in the MCU’s box office overall, it did make a commendable $519 million.
Paul Rudd is really suited to the role of Scott Lang just for his physical and dry humor alone but also the actor really puts his heart into the emotional scenes and the likeability radiates from him. The movie also stars Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, and Corey Stoll,
Despite some behind-the-scenes drama leading up to the movie, Ant-Man turned out to be a surprise hit for MCU fans, with size jokes in abundance.
12) Guardians of the Galaxy
The MCU obscure team of rogues had with a first outing that not only had fans and critics in agreement to the quality of the movie, but also allowed for a whole host of underrated actors to get their dues. The first Guardians movie was a rousing success.
Peter Quill is abducted from Earth at a young age and becomes a space outlaw. Coming into contact with other rogues and outlaws, the group attempts to protect the Power Stone from Kree warrior Ronan and his master Thanos.
Considering a space opera like this had not been done in the superhero genre before, fans were concerned as to if James Gunn could pull it off. The proof was in the box office as the movie earned a respectable $773 million worldwide. Providing comedy, action, adventure, and some rather emotional places, Disney and Gunn helped in turning the Guardians of the Galaxy into fan-favorite heroes.
11) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Chronologically this sequel could have almost immediately followed the events of the first movie. Guardians 2 pluses the first movie in terms of emotion, comedy and action.
The Guardians come face to face with an ancient powerful being known as Ego who reveals himself to be Star-Lord’s father, little do our heroes know that Ego has plans to recreate reality in his own image using his long-lost son as a power source. The movie has so many different storylines that it is brilliant to watch them all come together at the end.
If you’re not focusing on Star-Lord and his dad there’s Gamora and Nebula. If you’re not focusing on that, then there’s Yondu, Rocket, and Baby Groot’s prison break, or the fact an alien race of “perfect beings” are after the Guardians for stealing from them. The list goes on.
There’s such a powerful death scene at the end of the movie that had it been done in the first one I doubt anyone would have cared, but because Yondu goes on a redemption arc in this movie and Michael Rooker does such a great job with him you feel Star-Lord’s pain and loss.
As well as bringing new meaning to the Marvel end-credits scene with a record-breaking five scenes of both fun and factual moments, Guardians 2 proves why this branch of the franchise is the fun-loving section of the movies.
10) Captain Marvel
The first female-led Marvel movie came two years after Wonder Woman and therefore had a lot to compare to.
Carol Danvers is brainwashed into believing she is a Kree warrior under the tutelage of Yon Rogg and the Supreme Intelligence. However, after being stranded on Earth, Carol meets S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury and after reuniting with her old friend, starts remembering who she was and the powerful being she has become.
Being the Marvel movie to be released directly before Avengers: Endgame, this movie took great advantage of not only being the first female-led Marvel movie, but also still playing in select theaters even now that Endgame is released.
Introducing the Skrulls were a fascinating choice for fans because the possibility of what is to come is too great to ignore, despite how this movie almost humanizes the Skrulls rather than vilifies them.
Also read: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Ending Explained
Also being a period piece set in the 1990s, the movie is choc-full of fantastic 90s references including technology and locations. Brie Larson has made great strides in taking on Captain Marvel, with a great supporting cast potentially for a sequel, the sky is the limits for these movies.
9) Spider-Man: Homecoming
How many times can we see Peter Parker being bit by that radioactive spider? Almost as many times as we’ve seen Bruce Wayne’s parents be killed.
Fortunately, we already had a soft introduction to Peter Parker with Captain America: Civil War. We see Peter trying to prove himself to mentor Tony Stark as an Avenger facing off against the formidable Vulture while also trying to be a normal schoolboy.
The movie did as well critically as Thor: Ragnarok albeit for different reasons, praising Tom Holland as accurately portraying a teenage Peter Parker while also praising Michael Keaton for his glorious return to the superhero genre as the villainous Vulture. As well as the hero and villain of the movie, cast members Robert Downey Jr, Jon Favreau, and Marissa Tomei return as Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, and Aunt May respectively, as well as new cast member Zendaya debuting as Michelle “MJ” Jones.
With a sequel swinging into theaters this July, fans are looking forward to seeing this friendly neighborhood superhero take center stage once again.
8) Doctor Strange
Stephen Strange was name-dropped during Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 2014. Two and half years later and the doctor turned master of the mystic arts makes his debut in his own movie.
After being involved in a tragic accident forcing him to quit being a surgeon, Stephen Strange travels to the Far East to learn the ways of mysticism and become a Master in the Mystical Arts whose mission is to fight the dark powers of the entity known as Dormammu.
Doctor Strange was a modest success at the box office and with critics who praise the movie artistic choices that elevate the source material. Director Scott Derrickson presents a very Inception-like movie with the way magic and mysticism are presented. Not only with the reality-warping but also with the way magical combat and the climactic Time Stone confrontation is presented.
7) Thor: Ragnarok
Just when fans were ready to give up on the God of Thunder, he goes and gets himself a haircut and a new director.
After learning his adoptive brother is alive, Thor travels to Norway where his father tells them of their half-sister before he passes on. Half-Sister Hela arrives and seeks the throne of Asgard sending the two packing to a scavenger planet. There, Thor comes face to face with The Hulk who eventually helps him and new ally Valkyrie return to Asgard and face off against the Goddess of Death.
This movie was critically praised as a fun and colorful cinematic adventure that redefines the Marvel Cinematic Universe. An absolute thrill-ride from the first trailer brilliantly utilizing a rock song to director Taika Watiti’s masterful way of letting Chris Hemsworth bring his comedic brilliance out with Thor.
With Tom Hiddleston and Mark Ruffalo returning as Loki and Bruce Banner/Hulk respectively, newcomers Valkyrie and Hela more than hold their own portrayed by Tessa Thompson and Cate Blanchett respectively.
Giving new hope for Thor as a main character going forward, fans are awaiting confirmation as to where the character will go from here.
6) The Avengers
The Avengers is a true milestone in cinema that culminates five movies and four years of storytelling.
After Loki arrives on Earth and steals the Tesseract along with a couple of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Director Fury pulls out the big guns by bringing together Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, and Black Widow to assemble the Avengers to defeat Loki and his army.
If you were to adjust the box office for ticket price inflation, The Avengers is the highest grossing installment from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, beating out Black Panther by $5.6 million.
This was a spectacle for any comic-book fan to behold seeing the characters we’ve seen introduced over the last four years come together in this way. This is also the first formal introduction of Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye who joins the team later in the movie. Ending with a fantastic battle that would be referenced many times down the line in both movies and television, The Avengers truly is the start of something glorious.
5) Avengers: Infinity War
A movie ten years in the making and one that certainly did not disappoint in terms of spectacle, Avengers: Infinity War became the most talked-about movie of 2018.
Thanos proceeds in his quest of obtaining all the Infinity Stones, leaving death and destruction in his path. Our splintered heroes attempt to band together in order to stop the Mad Titan and save reality from decimation.
Being the second highest-grossing installment, or third highest-grossing installment if accounted for inflation, this movie created a movie-going experience that not only required homework of fans catching up on 18 movies of knowledge, while also giving fans a plethora of new information to divulge.
This movie combined comedy, action and drama all resonating from the knowledge fans know these characters from years gone by dating back to 2008. Ending in a climax that sent audiences reeling for months afterwards, Infinity War is definitely one of the MCU’s greatest experiences.
4) Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America: The Winter Solider offered us more than just a standard superhero movie, it also gave us a political thriller.
Captain America is left to doubt who he can and can’t trust when it’s revealed that his old enemies from HYDRA have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. and are working on terminating anyone not on board with their regime. Couple that with their secret weapon being an old friend of his and Cap has the fight of his life on his hands.
This movie, being the first in the MCU to be directed by the Russo Brothers, proved where the character of Captain America was best suited. Going from a war story to one of political espionage, as well as establishing Cap’s supporting players Black Widow, Nick Fury and new character Falcon (Anthony Mackie). Ending with a move that had ramifications throughout both television and movies, Cap’s mission went from protecting and serving to trying to find his long-lost friend.
The post credits scene also sets up Avengers: Age of Ultron introducing new players and a plot device for the opening scenes.
3) Captain America: Civil War
One of the greatest comic-book stories is adapted as the second film in the MCU made by the Russo Brothers.
When the government decides it is best to hold superheroes accountable for their actions, the Avengers must decide what side of the line they fall on. Becoming divided in their beliefs of what is right, Iron Man and Captain America are left at loggerheads while a new villain masterminds his plot from behind the scenes.
Not only is Civil War the sixth highest grossing installment to the MCU, it has been critically acclaimed as kicking off a new wave of movies with an action-packed and thought-provoking blockbuster of a movie.
Anyone who knows the comic-book story knows this isn’t the exact plot but rather an iteration that still works for the universe it inhabits. Introducing new heroes, Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), while beautifully setting up their own movies, this was definitely a movie ending with ramifications for the rest of the MCU.
2) Black Panther
A modern-day depiction of African culture coupled with a plotline that provoked wide debate among audiences, Black Panther deserves the Oscar nominations it earned.
T’Challa is struggling with the duties of being a just king, not only when an old enemy of Wakanda is found, but also when his associate is revealed to be a rightful rival to the throne. Escalating into a battle of morality as to what the country should but can’t do for its people, Black Panther must overcome his obstacles and realize the mistakes of the past shouldn’t reflect his future.
This is, to date, one of the highest-grossing movies in the MCU. This movie broke records not only being a superhero movie earning a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, but also a mainstream movie with an almost completely black cast and a movie that wasn’t afraid to ask hard-hitting questions about morality and whether or not the rich and wealthy should assist the poor and needy even if it means exposing themselves.
Ending with a powerful death scene that had audiences pondering whether villain Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) was right in his morality, Black Panther is up for debate as being the best Marvel movie or not.
1) Avengers: Endgame
Avengers: Endgame is the most recent installment to the MCU but still the best in a lot of fans’ opinions. There is a lot to be said about culminating 11 years and 22 movies of content into one 3 hour movie.
It’s still impossible to sum up the epic nature of this movie, but with an opening weekend box office of over $1 billion, the movie promises to be a record-breaking box office smash.
Bringing back almost every major player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to wrap up what is known as the “Infinity Saga”, no one could have predicted way back when in 2008 that 11 years and 22 movies later, this would be what the very first Iron Man was starting to work towards.
Avengers: Endgame, in terms of story, emotion, action, and drama, is definitely the best superhero movie to be brought to the big screen.
What do you think of this list? How would you rank these films? Let us know in the comments section below!