Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies

This list is purely opinionated, and not factual in any way. Last edited on July 24th, 2015. Tell me how you’d rank the MCU films below, and I’ll use it in an upcoming post.

12. The Incredible Hulk

Putting the Incredible Hulk this low on the list is a bit sad, because it’s actually many times better than the first Hulk film by director Ang Lee. Edward Norton did a superb job of recreating a Bruce Banner we could have the utmost sympathy for. Unfortunately, this film’s stamp on the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the weakest. The only reprised characters are Bruce Banner himself (played by yet another actor) and General Ross (who shows up in Captain America: Civil War). Despite having an engaging villain, it’s probably the most forgettable of Marvel’s films.

11. Iron Man 2

With the second Iron Man film following in the steps of its predecessor, one would think this would be higher on the list. But ultimately the story was less compelling, and the villain even worse. Iron Man 2 is the first film to really start pushing the greater cinematic universe, which was very cool. It also introduced Black Widow, as played by Scarlett Johansson, to the moviegoing audience. But it couldn’t save itself from being sophomoric, with little else to offer.

10. Thor: The Dark World

The Phase 2 sequel of Thor added a boatload to the mix. It introduced us to all seven of the Norse realms at long last, and the battles waged within were truly epic. We got a glimpse at our second Infinity Stone, the aether, and that will have a ton of ramifications in the years to come. But despite putting an unseen level of darkness onto the heroes of the MCU, Thor: the Dark World also claimed the MCU’s worst villain to date, as well as the least positive critical response.

9. Captain America: The First Avenger

The First Avenger sees the MCU in its infancy for most of the film. Much of the movie takes place in the 40s during World War 2, and this is where we see the transformation of scrawny teenager Steve Rogers become the heroic and morally stable Captain America, thanks to a little something called the Super Soldier Serum. It’s rare for this to happen, but Captain America: The First Avenger is one of the only films to actually become less entertaining once he gets his abilities, thanks to nearly an hour of him doing zilch with the war effort. And although this was clearly an homage to the origins of the comic book character, it shouldn’t take up so much screentime. This drastically hurt the second act of the film, which is a shame because the first act included one of the greatest origin stories.

8. Avengers: Age of Ultron

This movie was huge. And it encompassed so much. We got to see a redemption for Hawkeye, the introduction of three new Avengers, and the fall of nearly everyone else. The villainous Ultron, although fantastic, wasn’t exactly hard to defeat, and his countless minions fell like flies. This movie suffers in the fact that it was filmed to be a 3 and a half hour film, but over a third of its content was left on the cutting room floor, leaving the film disjointed at best and confusing at worst.

7. Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 takes Tony Stark in a new, self-weary direction. After the attack on Manhattan in the Avengers, Tony is all over the place mentally. A new threat looms in the face of the so-called Mandarin, and the Extremis project that turns the worst of thugs into downright superpowered threats – the explosive kind. The Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley, turns out to be none other than a cracked-out, has been actor, a decision that took some guts on the Marvel production, as it’s a decision that made a lot of fanboys very upset. Have no fear fanboys, the Mandarin will likely have a bigger role in future films. This film makes the stakes for Tony very personal, as Pepper’s safety is put on the line.

6. Ant-Man

Marvel’s biggest surprise yet comes in it’s smallest package. Ant-Man takes burglar Scott Lang on a mission to save the world, all while trying to save his image enough so that he can see his daughter again. Paul Rudd is an excellent choice for the role, delivering just enough quirky fun to leave you satisfied and wondering what the company can cook up next. The villain’s delusional state likely comes from his exposure to his version of the Pym particle, and his intent to militarize the concept could have seen incredibly dangerous results for earth. The film introduces us to the quantum realm which we’ll surely see more of in films to come. That, and the injection of just enough MCU spice, a new Avenger included into the mix, make Ant-Man one of the better Marvel films in a while. Sadly, and perhaps expectedly, it didn’t do as great as its contemporaries at the box office.

5. Thor

Marvel’s first film to explore the more cosmic aspect of their universe, Thor is also one of the most memorable. Between smashing cups in diners and smashing Frost Giants on Jotunheim, Thor is one of Marvel’s more beloved characters, particularly for his brutish barbarism. We also receive one of Marvel’s greatest villains, Loki, the conniving, backstabbing, behind-the-scenes trickster. He is everything Thor isn’t, but they share an unbreakable bond in that they are brothers. Tragically, Thor loses his ability to wield Mjolnir, his mighty hammer. He must learn to humble himself in order to reclaim his right to be considered the Son of Odin. This film also introduces Hawkeye into the mix, although sadly his role was a tad too short.

4. Iron Man

The film that birthed the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a big bang, is also quite a miracle. It was the first hugely successful superhero film not based on one of Marvel or DC’s A-list characters or teams. It ushered in a new, faithful following for Marvel-produced films, and is still to this day one of the series’ best. Not only is the tale a redemption story for Tony Stark, but also for actor Robert Downey Jr. at the time. And now both Iron Man and Downey are A-listers in their own right. This is perhaps Marvel’s best standalone story, as it has very little in the way of external MCU easter eggs. Aside from that, a great villain, excellent direction, and a supporting cast that gelled with Downey’s ridiculous acting style, puts Iron Man all the way up at number 4.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This political thriller redefined what it meant to be a superhero flick, and was the perfect side adventure for Cap to embark on. We got an excellent team up with Black Widow, as the two are on the run, all the while trying to track down the Winter Soldier. The Winter Soldier turned out to be Bucky Barnes, an old friend of Steve Rogers from before the war, making his sudden behavior all the more heart wrenching. On top of that we see Marvel’s biggest twist yet with the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the unexpected return of Hydra. These ramifications are still being felt in recent movies, as well as heavily influencing Marvel’s television universe. The direction of Joe and Anthony Russo is some of the best seen, and is a major reason they’ll return again in future installments. This is Marvel’s most emotionally compromising films, and deserves its place in the top 3.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy

Forget not being an A-list comic book title. Guardians of the Galaxy was a relative unknown even for people who regularly read comics. And all of a sudden, before the film even arrived, it became a household name. And upon arriving in theaters, Guardians went on to become an instant classic, searing its imprint onto pop culture consciousness for years to come. This vagabond team of rejects and scum become Marvel’s second greatest team, travelling through space and cracking jokes at each corner of the galaxy. Guardians of the Galaxy not only helped affirm to the audience that Marvel always know what they’re doing, it has allowed the company to risk putting lesser known franchises onto the big screen, it’s redefined what it means to be a superhero movie (again), and it’s shown that space operas aren’t dead. Guardians of the Galaxy is also a highly important film in the scheme of Marvel’s master plan. It taught the audience what the Infinity Stones were, how dangerous they can be in the wrong hands, introduced Thanos in something other than a credits scene, and showed us the greatest glimpse of Marvel’s cosmic realm. I am groot.

1. The Avengers

What other film could really be at number one? While none of the films above were outright failures, critically or financially, Avengers is the most critically acclaimed and financially successful of the batch. It’s the first film in history to bring together 4 highly successful franchises and prove to the world that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a force to be reckoned with. And on top of that, it was the pinnacle of awesome, the (almost) perfect blend of character action, and the biggest threat the world had yet seen (up to that point). The direction by Joss Whedon is one to applaud, and the balance of storytelling never felt choppy. Never a dull moment, this film is often considered the greatest superhero film ever created, on par with the such greats as The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 2. Even the seemingly minor threat of Loki, who was truly only the face of the forthcoming evil, was enough to keep us at the edge of our seats. The Avengers has great re-watch value, and promises even bigger things from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the future.

How did I do? Does my list match yours? Agree or disagree, I wanna know. Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

For more Marvel goodness, check out some of my recent posts:

33 thoughts on “Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies

  1. I know its a little late, but here’s my list (i’m including the tv-shows cause they’re all so awesome):

    1. Daredevil
    2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    3. Ant-Man
    4. Guardians of the Galaxy
    5. Jessica Jones
    6. Iron Man
    7. The Avengers
    8. Thor
    9. Captain America: The First Avenger
    10. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
    11. Agent Carter
    12. Thor: The Dark World
    13. Avengers: Age of Ultron
    14. Iron Man 3
    15. Incredible Hulk
    16. Iron Man 2

    I know most people would disagree with The Avengers being ranked #7, and I can understand that, but its not nearly as good as Daredevil or TWS or, surprisingly, Ant-man.(I loved that movie. =]) Don’t get me wrong, I love every single movie in the MCU, but I just loved a few more than the others. There’s basically three sections to my list: 1. Numbers 1-4 are just INCREDIBLE! Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy had me laughing hours after I came out of the theaters, Daredevil and TWS both had dark, interesting plots (Daredevil more so) full of twists. 2. Numbers 5-11 are the bulk of the MCU and still amazing but not quite as good as the top 4. Jessica Jones was amazing and barely missed out on making it a top 5. Iron Man was the movie to start of the MCU and is comic book movie classic. The Avengers is..well, the name says it all. Thor was the first movie to show off part of the cosmic realms of the marvel universe, plus Chris Hemsworth was perfect as Thor. Captain America: TFA is better than people give it credit for. I, for one, loved, the best superhero origin story to date! Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would have been higher on this list if season 3 wasn’t such a let down(yes, I know its not over yet) the first 2 seasons great! Agent Carter was also great it just doesn’t compare to most of the other movies/TV-shows. 3. Numbers 12-16 are all decent…but not that great. Thor: TDW was good, but Malekith sucked. Avengers: AOU had great characters, but again, can’t compare to the great movies of the MCU. By now i’m running out of seen things to say, cause theses last ones I haven’t seen since they came out. Iron Man 3, Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man 2 just weren’t that good. They weren’t bad, just weren’t good.
    Sorry that this was so long, if you actually take the time to read this than, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing man! I have to consider where I’d place the shows, if I were to do so. Daredevil would definitely be at the top though! I definitely consider that the top Marvel property currently, by a long shot.


      1. Thanks for reading this! I didn’t think anyone would read this considering this post is from over 4 months ago. Just found your site a few days ago looking for a arrow/flash watch order(surprisingly enough, I had only just heard of these shows. I hardly watch/read anything dc). Just wondering, do you do any kind of news updates for upcoming comic book movies?
        I’ve been looking for a site that does that consistently.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. i would slot “Age of Ultron” right at the bottom. When compared to the bang that the first Avengers film was, the second was a resounding thud.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I pretty much agree with everything you wrote about each film, though I put them in a different order mostly based on how much I enjoyed watching them. It’s been a while since I saw some of these, but I think this is the order I’d go with. I acknowledge that Guardians is a good enough film that it should be higher on the list, but I like Thor and Cap’s characters so much that it bumps their films up for me. I was unexpectedly impressed with Ant-Man — from the trailers I wouldn’t have expected it to make my top 5.

    1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    2. Marvel’s The Avengers
    3. Iron Man
    4. Ant-Man
    5. Thor
    6. Captain America: The First Avenger
    7. Guardians of the Galaxy
    8. Avengers: Age of Ultron
    9: Thor: The Dark World
    10. Iron Man 3
    11. Iron Man 2
    12. The Incredible Hulk

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The thing that sticks out to me the most in all the MCU is how great the casting has been, not just for the superheros, but the villains and side characters as well. RDJ is the perfect Tony Stark, All three Chrises (Hemsworth, Evans, and Pratt) are fantastic in their roles. Hiddleston as Loki, Paltrow as Pepper Potts, and Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull are all great too. Being so consistently great at casting, despite different writers and directors, is a very impressive feat.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t really disagree a whole lot. I haven’t seen Age of Ultron or Ant-Man yet, so I can’t rank them at all. I would put Thor: Dark World last, though. It isn’t a horrible movie… but compared to all the others, it’s the one that I’ve had exactly zero thoughts of going back and watching again. It’s hard to pinpoint why I didn’t like it… but I didn’t like it much. I think (and just by moving Thor to the end accomplished this a little) I’d have Iron Man 3 and Incredible Hulk slightly higher than you do as well… I also might have the original Captain America movie a bit higher too. Most of the movies, though, were really good… so even if not as good as the great movies…. it’s just a slight drop for me, even though you end up #10 on the list, doesn’t mean it was 9 slots worse than #1… only Thor Dark World do I really separate and say I could be fine without that movie on the list at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My list would be a bit like this.
    1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    2. Guardians of the Galaxy
    3. The Avengers
    4. Iron Man
    5. Ant-Man
    6. Thor
    7. Avengers: Age of Ultron
    8. Iron Man 3
    9. Captain America: The First Avenger
    10. Thor: The Dark World
    11. Iron Man 2
    12. The Incredible Hulk
    I can’t give Avengers higher because so much of that film relied on you knowing who these characters were from their individual films. I give The Winter Soldier the top spot because behind the hero movie there was a lot of interesting social commentary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent list. I don’t think this is all that different from mine actually. Generally speaking you just swapped a few up and down. Nice. I see what you mean about the Avengers.


      1. Yes, I agreed with most so I just took yours and tweaked it to my liking. Lol. One thing I did realize is that while I liked them all to a certain degree, it wasn’t until 11 and 12 that I actively disliked them,

        Liked by 1 person

  7. The biggest flaw with a cinematic universe is that it only really makes sense when you can explain where the other characters are. Phase One works fine, because they’re all separated, but as soon as you bring them together it becomes “why isn’t [other character] helping?”. But I’m normally able to put that aside. I don’t want to see self-contained filler until the next team-up, I want each film to contribute something to the cinematic universe they’re developing. If I had to put them in order of preference, sans The Incredible Hulk which I haven’t seen (despite your placement and everything I hear about it, I still will, because Hulk), I’d go:

    Avengers: age of Ultron
    Guardians of the Galaxy
    Iron Man
    Marvel’s the Avengers
    Captain America: the Winter Soldier
    Iron Man Three
    Captain America: the First Avenger
    Thor: the Dark World
    Iron Man 2

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, they don’t all just hang out with each other all the time. Generally speaking they are all doing their own thing elsewhere while each is fighting his/her own battle.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I got to say, but, yeah. Even though a lot of which was setting up for what’s coming next, beneath it was a character study of Ultron being the antimatter version of Iron Man. I care less about narrative than I do about character, and worked best for me in that sense.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. You could make the same comment about the comics, but sometimes you just have to suspend that disbelief to allow for the story to develop and the characters to grow. Otherwise, every movie would be Ultron and it would get tired really fast.

      And to be fair, it seems like they are taking that into account in the next phase. Civil War should really lay the framework to how it’s all going to look going forward.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This is a great point. It would get extremely tired. And I think Civil War will pull the universe apart a bit further, before it needs to be cohesive again.


  8. Just made my list now – it’s come out looking a bit different from yours:

    01. The Avengers
    02. Iron Man
    03. Avengers: Age of Ultron
    04. Thor
    05. Guardians of the Galaxy
    06. Ant-Man
    07. Iron Man 2
    08. The Incredible Hulk
    09. Captain America: The First Avenger
    10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    11. Iron Man 3
    12. Thor: The Dark World

    Liked by 2 people

  9. If I were to make a list…

    1. The Winter Soldier – The blueprint for the modern action/spy film IMO
    2. The Avengers – Because of course
    3. Ant-Man – I haven’t genuinely laughed at a movie in such a long time, fresh take on SH genre
    4. Guardians of the Galaxy – “IIIIIIIIIIIIII’m hooked on a feeling!”
    5. Iron Man – RDJ steals the show
    6. Age of Ultron – Big spectacle, lots of unnecessary fluff
    7. Thor – Proof that ridiculousness can work with great characters
    8. Iron Man 2 – War Machine was cool, plot was a little lacking
    9. The Incredible Hulk – A little bit boring, but had some exciting action and Ed Norton was fun
    10. Captain America – Too corny for my taste, visual style was weird–too many washed out tones
    11. Thor: The Dark World – Snore fest, not even Loki could save this one
    12. Iron Man 3 – Lethal Weapon: Armoured Edition (and plot holes a plenty)

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I also see there being some real stark divides in quality, at least as far as my opinion/list is concerned. The top 6 are more or less all really great and can probably be mostly interchanged. Thor, Iron Man 2 and Hulk kind of exist in a bubble of mediocrity for me, and the bottom three are really just not that good overall.

        I find it strange how divisive Iron Man 3, Captain America and Thor are in general. I find those 3 to be the ones most hotly debated between people. I HATED Iron Man 3, I won’t sound off about it here though 😛 and found Thor to be much better than Cap. However, speaking with other people on these movies creates really interesting debate about their quality because I find people tend to really agree, or have the complete opposite opinion.

        All the other movies are more or less generally agreed upon from what I can see, other than some occasional discrepancies, like our friends view on Winter Soldier below (which he is completely entitled to of course!)

        Liked by 1 person

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