MCU Movies – The Definitive Ranking

(Revised 2021-11-23)

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 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.
  • 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.)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — A visual spectacle, but this movie has always seemed like one of the least necessary entries 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • Thor: Ragnarok — Maybe the funniest MCU movie? This one made me want more Thor films.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.