MCU Movies – The Definitive Ranking

(Revised 2023-11-29)

There are many lists of Marvel movies, but this one is mine. There’s no particular criteria for my rankings, though “rewatch-ability” is very important. Here is the Definitive Ranking of Marvel Cinematic Universe Films (in order starting from least favorite):

  • Thor: The Dark World — This movie just kind of a mess. It’s like a less-good remake of Thor (which itself wasn’t great.)
  • The Eternals — A gorgeous film (maybe the best-looking Marvel film?) and a great cast, but I’m not sure where this is going? I did not care about the characters or the plot, and it’s hard to see where this fits into the rest of the MCU storyline. Absolutely nothing that came out of this film has resurfaced anywhere else. This is the only MCU movie I have only watched a single time, and there is no need to ever watch it a second.
  • The Incredible Hulk — The forgotten MCU movie. This is the most optional of the films, so feel free to skip.
  • Thor — I think of it almost like two movies. The first movie is all of the “sword and board” action and royal politics — most of these scenes are a snooze-fest. The other movie takes place on Earth, and it is really fun. Sadly, there is too much of the former to overcome the latter.
  • Iron Man 2 — It’s Iron Man and it’s fun, but it’s the weakest of the trio, and has some reaaaaaally unfortunate sexism.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron — This movie felt overly long and I never quite understood the motivations of the antagonist (voiced by the always great James Spader.)
  • Thor: Love and Thunder — I enjoyed this more than a lot of people, but it definitely deserves some criticism. The tone of the movie was all over the place; it vacillated between goofball comedy and very sad tragedy. The film would have benefited greatly from leaning harder one way or the other. Maybe drop all of the Korg stuff so that Natalie Portman and Christian Bale (the best parts of the film) had more room to breathe.
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Some of the very best visuals and action sequences of the MCU. The first viewing of this movie was stunning on our newly renovated home theatre. Great cast, and the plot mostly worked for me (though I’m not sure where they are going with the Wanda character from here…) Definitely a few more horror elements than the typical MCU film, but not bad.
  • Doctor Strange — Our introduction to the mystical side of Marvel, this was a fun film. Stephen Strange is an arrogant asshole, but his origin story was great.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger — It took me a couple of viewings to really appreciate this film. I think this is one film where having an understanding of the origin of Captain America really helps you understand why this movie was actually pretty good.
  • Black Widow – A long overdue solo film for one of the founding Avengers. Great action sequences, but an inessential story. This film would have made more sense if it had come out in 2017, as a consequence of Civil War. Natasha’s final appearance in Endgame would have carried so much more weight if we had gotten this installment first. Instead, it exists mostly to set up Natasha Romanoff’s successor, as well as the Hawkeye series. Natasha deserved better.
  • Ant-Man — I did not expect to like this one as much as I did. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly were great.
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp — Low-stakes, lighthearted, and enjoyable. This was the first Marvel film with a female hero to receive top-billing. 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — Not the most *essential* entry in the MCU (other than advancing Quill’s daddy issues, I’m not sure what this film did other than set up Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?) Still though, this thing is hilarious and, at points, very moving. I love this cast and the care with which James Gunn has set up this corner of the cosmic MCU.
  • Avengers: Infinity War — Part 1 of the big payoff for all of these films. It’s still hard to believe that they managed to center this film around an entirely CGI character and make it work so well.
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home — So much fun. They masterfully balanced the humor with the post-Endgame sadness. 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 — An incredible coda for this iteration of the Guardians. This film solidified the James Gunn trilogy as my favorite of the MCU.
  • Captain America: Civil War — Almost an Avengers movie, there was conflict, politics, and solid action. This also introduced Tom Holland’s Spider-Man into the MCU.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy — This was the point where Marvel really started flexing. Up to this point, their films had been headlined by relatively established characters. Guardians was something else. With it, they absolutely nailed the introduction of a new universe of characters who were virtually unknown to non-comics readers. The script was hilarious and the casting spot-on.
  • Iron Man 3 — A slight shift in tone and stakes from the other two entries, but a solid film. Ben Kingsley steals the show.
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Marvel’s first film with a predominantly Asian cast. Loved every minute of this one. A really fun introduction to a new Avenger.
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home – There is a lot going on in this movie, maybe a little too much. So many cameos and fan-service, while also trying to explain multiverse theory to an audience that probably doesn’t understand it yet, while also doing a bit of a reset on the Spidey franchise as the Home trilogy winds down. Still though, fun movie with a lot of heart.
  • Captain Marvel — The first solo MCU movie with a female protagonist. A solid introduction to Carol Danvers, and the best use of Nick Fury in the MCU. And, unexpectedly, it’s an orange cat who steals the show.
  • Thor: Ragnarok — Maybe the funniest MCU movie? This one made me want more Thor films. Extremely re-watchable.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming — I love this iteration of Spider-Man (long my favorite comic character) and what Tom Holland brings. So great.
  • Marvel’s The Avengers — The gang finally comes together. Fun action, though I still think helicarriers are dumb.
  • Iron Man — The first MCU film from 2008. This one set the stage and the tone for the next decade. Somehow they lucked into casting Robert Downey Jr. and the rest is cinema history.
  • Black Panther — This was the first MCU film that actually felt important. Black Panther had things to say about race, isolationism, oppression, and family. An incredible film that could stand on its own outside of the MCU.
  • Avengers: Endgame — What a ride. This movie pays off ten years with fan service delivered in a way that I wouldn’t have predicted that Marvel could pull off, but they did! 
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier — I loved everything about this film. I think it had the best action scenes of any MCU movie to date, and echoed some of my favorite thrillers like Three Days of the Condor and Marathon Man To me, this is the most re-watchable entry in the MCU, and that’s why it is at the top.