The best Marvel movies debate is often a contentious one. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have their own personal rankings of the 30 films to date, though some – such as Avengers: Infinity War – usually find themselves in everyone’s top five.
Still, we can’t but bring you our own take on the best MCU films discussion. Below, then, we’ve ranked every Marvel movie to date, which now includes Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the final MCU Phase 4 movie to land in theaters worldwide.
We’re sure you’ll disagree with where we’ve placed some entries, but it’s fun to see how fan opinion varies between the less popular superhero movie installments in Marvel’s money-spinning cinematic franchise.
Anyway, here’s ‘s complete rundown on the best Marvel movies, ranked from worst (starting at the top of the page) to best (which ends this guide).
30. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Oh dear, where do we start? Thor: The Dark World is as poor as it gets. It’s a shame, really, as Chris Hemsworth’s turn as the God of Thunder was a funny, charming, and much-needed part of 2012’s Avengers movie.
Here, though, the actor and the rest of the cast are stifled by an undercooked plot with a villainous non-event, aka Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith. The film’s story doesn’t really go anywhere, aside from featuring a moderately interesting invasion of Asgard.
There are a couple more standout moments, like Thor hanging Mjolnir on a coat rack peg, or getting on the London Underground. Generally speaking, though, it’s not much fun on a rewatch. In retrospect, Thor’s second solo outing was a blessing in disguise, showing the character needed a massive rethink and, thankfully, it proved to be Thor’s making with his third solo flick.
29. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
One of the weakest MCU movies – one that’s so boring it’s a surprise it didn’t derail the entire enterprise at the starting line.
The Incredible Hulk features Edward Norton as Bruce Banner in a dreary movie that oddly feels like a sort-of sequel to 2003’s Hulk. Despite several important connections to future movies including a Tony Stark cameo, not to mention a decent set piece where the green giant is fighting the army, it’s just a bit of a speed bump on a rewatch. Thankfully, the MCU would rarely be this dull again.
28. Eternals (2021)
The standard of Marvel’s back catalogue is so incredibly high that it seems so harsh to have Eternals all the way down at number 28, but that’s where it finds itself.
With nine Eternals to introduce, the film had to do an awful lot of heavy-lifting and ended up with a bloated runtime of almost two hours and 40 minutes. Director Chloé Zhao created some stunning visuals and it felt like different to the rest of the MCU in its feel.
However, in such a crowded field, it finds itself a long way down our list. It’s actually a lot of Marvel fans’ least favorite movies, judging by IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. With its exciting post-credits scenes – check out our Eternals ending and post-credits scenes explained article for more – the future could be bright for Eternals in a weird way, too.
27. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
If this film series’ first movie is slightly unlucky with its placement on our list, its sequel is deserving of its position.
Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn’t offer anything that the first film didn’t, and it certainly feels like a filler film in between the shocking events of Avengers 3 and 4. Again, there are a couple of genuinely funny moments to enjoy and it acts as a lighthearted palate cleanser to Avengers: Infinity War’s finale. Otherwise, there’s nothing noteworthy about this sequel, which is one of the many Marvel films to have that seemingly quintessential boring villain problem. Definitely not one of the best Marvel movies around.
26. Iron Man 2 (2010)
A generally uneven sequel to its 2008 predecessor fails to shed much more light on the Tony Stark character, and instead comes off as a bit aimless. Featuring a weaker villain in Mickey Rourke’s rough grandma-looking Whiplash, alongside Sam Rockwell’s irritating fast-talking Stark rival Justin Hammer, it doesn’t hit the heights of the first Iron Man.
Still, like The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2 maintains a few vital connections to future MCU movies, though it also commits the crime of making Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff seem extremely boring – something The Avengers would rectify. The first real stumble for Marvel Studios on its way to becoming a titan of the entertainment industry.
25. Doctor Strange (2016)
For a character who has proven to be instrumental in the MCU, Doctor Strange was a deeply average introduction for the Sorcerer Supreme.
The Benedict Cumberbatch-led flick about the surgeon-turned-magician is trippy and humorous in places, but it lags behind its counterparts in many aspects, including its villains and set pieces. It’s trying a little too hard to be the MCU’s version of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, managing to do relatively little with a terrific cast. Doctor Strange is a largely forgettable movie – and we’d argue the character leaves far more of an impact in the third and fourth Avengers movies.
24. Thor (2010)
The Thor movies are a strange bunch: almost everyone agrees The Dark World was the nadir of the quardilogy, but the original Thor never gets that much love either. That’s in spite of the fantasy-based film being one of the funnier early movies and successfully bringing a more outlandish element into the MCU without actually breaking it.
The blend of Asgardian fantasical elements and Earth-bound superheroics is reasonably effective, even if Thor’s journey in this film to earn Mjolnir is slightly too predictable. Still, it introduced us to arguably the best Marvel villain in Loki. That is, until Thanos finally got off his throne and did some work.
23. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
By far the weakest of the Avengers movies. Avengers: Age of Ultron sees Tony Stark – fresh from his PTSD episodes in Iron Man 3 – wanting to build a suit of armor to protect Earth against other cosmic entities.
True to form, his plan goes awry, and the Avengers find themselves battling Ultron (James Spader), a genocidal artificial intelligence (AI), and his lieutenants Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen).
Age of Ultron had a lot to live up to given its 2012 predecessor’s success. While it has its moments, it feels weighed down by those expectations, its overstuffed plot, and introducing key Marvel characters for future films.
22. Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
When Kevin Feige revealed that Marvel rehired Taika Waititi, the man who wowed everyone with Thor: Ragnarok, to direct an unprecedented fourth standalone movie, we got very excited.
Sadly, Thor: Love and Thunder was a bit of a damp squib and not a patch on its reinventive predecessor. It’s charming and funny, but the tale of Thor being forced from retirement to take on Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher who, as you can tell by his name, wants to kill the Marvel universe’s version of gods, didn’t deliver on the hype. It doesn’t make good use of its two-hour runtime or complex villain, instead choosing to shine a humorous light on cancer (never a good look) and those. Really. Annoying. Goats. At least Natalie Portman’s return as Jane was satisfying, while some aspects of Thor 4’s visuals were truly spectacular.
21. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Captain America: The First Avenger often gets a bad rep. Despite its decent critical reception at the time, it’s weirdly among the lowest-scoring Marvel films on IMDb.
Still, it’s definitely not bad – Steve Rogers is perhaps the easiest of the original MCU heroes to cheer for, because he was selected for the Super Soldier program based on his moral compass and spirit. As a World War 2 period piece, The First Avenger still works great and Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull is a pretty memorable villain. Steve’s relationship with Peggy Carter is genuinely well-handled, too, with a heartbreaking and head-spinning finale that leads into 2012’s Avengers.
20. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
Coming after the universal adoration for Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness represented a big of comedown for the MCU. Its $700 million-plus box office taking would suggest otherwise but, like Thor: Love and Thunder didn’t fully live up to fans’ expectations – even with those wild Doctor Strange 2 cameo appearances.
It is a big, expansive, and complex adventure – one that shows just how bold and adventurous the MCU can be, especially from a horror perspective (director Sam Raimi’s dread-inducing, campy filming style is evident throughout). The film does, however, feels rushed, cramped, and the pacing is slightly off, so it’s not one of the best Marvel movies by any stretch.
19. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
A bright, sparky, and adventurous new adventure for Marvel, director Destin Daniel Cretton’s first MCU movie – Shang-Chi – was a bold step and, even with its placement in our list, is criminally underrated by many.
We follow Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi, who is quietly slumming it in San Francisco when he’s suddenly forced to confront his past by his father Wenwu, the leader of the Ten Rings organization, who needs to hunt down a mysterious village and unimaginable power. A light-touch adventure that eventually goes a bit bat-crap crazy, it’s hugely enjoyable film, but it’s still up against tough competition – hence its 19th place in our ranking.
18. Ant-Man (2015)
A movie almost a decade in the making, Ant-Man’s eventual arrival on the big screen is an enjoyable heist-infused superhero flick with plenty of laugh out loud moments.
Paul Rudd’s comedic turn as thief-turned-superhero Scott Lang, and Ant-Man’s size shifting abilities, are used to great effect throughout. Again, this movie completely lacks a good villain – Corey Stoll’s Yellowjacket is just a jerk who you have no reason to care about. But it does feature a great final set piece around a toy train set and Michael Peña’s Luis is arguably the star of the show. A fun time all round.
17. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The Russo brothers entered the frame with this confident Captain America sequel, which once again pits Steve Rogers up against Nazi offshoot HYDRA – which has become deeply embedded within SHIELD. Facing off against mysterious assassin the Winter Soldier, Captain America: The Winter Soldier sees Steve has to dismantle his former employer to stop AI-powered helicarriers from murdering everyone.
This terrific movie has a superficial layer of All The President’s Men-style conspiracy thriller, enough to make it feel like it has real substance. At the same time, it confidently introduces Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) to the MCU, sparking another of Steve’s winning bromances – and there’s arguably no more fan-coveted relationship in the MCU than Bucky and Steve’s friendship, which is picked apart perfectly in this film.
16. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 was the perfect Avengers palate cleanser. As Tony Stark deals with PTSD from the Battle of New York – which, to be honest, only manifests as him being short of breath a couple of times – a terrible figure called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) targets the inventor and billionaire.
Or does he? While plot-wise this is not an essential movie in an MCU rewatch, it’s arguably the funniest MCU film (it’s really dependent on who you ask), showcasing Black’s skills in this department. Iron Man 3 also ends with a great final set piece, bringing a ‘house party’ of Iron Man suits together on-screen to beat some dudes up.
15. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
A Captain America movie doubling up as a mini-Avengers film, the Russo brothers’ second effort creates a schism between the MCU’s superheroes while also carefully introducing two more: Spider-Man and Black Panther. After the more divisive Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War manages to successfully dial in on Tony Stark and Steve Rogers’ relationship in a way that makes it devastating when they eventually come to blows.
A film tasked with an awful lot of setting up storylines that would only pay off at the very end of Phase 3, it handled it skilfully, even if the endless Cap vs Iron Man punch-ups start to feel a bit like Street Fighter.
14. Black Widow (2020)
Though its setting placed it before the events of Avengers: Endgame and Infinity War, Black Widow acts a fine send-off for Scarlett Johansson’s years in the MCU, as well as offering up some exciting options for the future.
We follow Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff as she hunted down her past, revived broken family connections, and saved a generation of women from ending up as Widows, elite assassins who do the bidding of some very unpleasant and very powerful men. A spectacular thrill ride, it also introduced us to Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, who has had a big role to play in the MCU since. Well, in Hawkeye’s TV show anyway.
13. Captain Marvel (2019)
Contoversially placed maybe, but Brie Larson’s full-length debut is an absolute delight with a banging 90s soundtrack full of big tunes. In Captain Marvel, Larson stars as Carol Danvers, an elite fighter pilot who discovers her past is much more complicated than first appeared.
A fizzy, quickfire and very fun entry in the MCU, it leans heavily on Larson’s charm and charisma to power it. Fortunately, she’s both in spades, even if a fair few MCU fans didn’t really enjoy her first solo outing (or appearance in Endgame). Still, we think it’s a terrific watch and, with a sequel coming in 2023, which includes WandaVision’s Photon and Ms Marvel, we expect Captain Marvel will be looked on more fondly from now on.
12. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
As the final film in the MCU’s Phase 3 arc, Spider-Man: Far From Home had a few things to live up to. It was the first post-Endgame movie, which meant that it had to deal with the fallout from that flick’s climax, while also telling a story with high enough stakes that the audience would still care.
Far From Home has a captivating villain in Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio and memorable scenes like Peter Parker’s captivating heart-to-heart with Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan – not to mention a jaw-dropping post-credits sequence that teases what’s next for the MCU. Aside from all of that, Far From Home is a middle-of-the-road romp that just showcases how charming Tom Holland’s Spidey is.
11. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Despite looking as incredible as its first entry and featuring a payload of solid one-liners, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 meanders when it comes to telling a good story.
Peter Quill finally meets his long-lost dad, Ego the living planet, and in the most obvious twist of all time, he’s not all he seems. This movie’s main problem is that it struggles to say anything new about its characters – particularly when it repeats plot beats with Gamora and Nebula already covered by the first movie.
If anything, we’d argue Infinity War is a better Guardians movie than Vol 2. It gives Gamora a lot more to do, brings out new sides of Peter Quill, and perfectly positions Rocket and Groot alongside a very depressed Thor. Still, this movie definitely has its moments, as well as much-loved merchandise icon Baby Groot.
10. Iron Man (2008)
The movie that started it all. Before the arrival of cosmic beings – and multiple villains born out of Tony Stark’s previous weapons manufacturing business – Iron Man offered a grounded but refreshingly energetic flick to kick the MCU into gear.
Robert Downey Jr. captured Stark’s cocky personality perfectly, while the supporting cast set a high bar for future films to match. Despite ending with a so-so final battle, Iron Man was arguably the strongest standalone MCU Phase 1 movie. It’s just a pity that his other solo adventures couldn’t live up to how stellar this wonderful movie was.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Tom Holland arguably stole the show with his turn as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, so much so that expectations for his first solo venture were pretty high.
Thankfully, Spider-Man: Homecoming was a breezy, colorful, and highly enjoyable John Hughes-style MCU debut for the wall crawler. Ably supported by the likes of Michael Keaton, whose intimidating turn as the Vulture is one of the MCU’s best villains to date, Holland is on top form as he navigated the perils of high school and being a burgeoning superhero. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a delight that deserves multiple rewatches.
8. The Avengers (2012)
If Iron Man set the MCU’s wheels in motion, The Avengers shifted gears, put the proverbial pedal to the floor, and chartered a new path for superhero movies.
Marvel’s first true attempt at a superhero team-up brought all of our heroes together – some more reluctantly than others – to halt Loki’s invasion of New York. It was funny, action-packed, at-times heartfelt, and revealed where Marvel wanted to take its expanding series of films.
Equally, The Avengers laid the foundations for the MCU’s future otherworldly events, all the while proving you could have multiple heroes in the same place, give them all plenty of screen time, and tie different story threads together to make one all-conquering movie.
7. Spider-Man: No Way Home
With a casual $1.8 billion in box office takings, a figure especially impressive given it was achieved in the midst of the pandemic, people have really taken Tom Holland’s Peter Parker to their hearts. And so they should.
Spider-Man: No Way Home’s plot is a fairly complex one. Desperate to have his anonymity back, Parker asks new superhero buddy Doctor Strange to use magic to make his identity as Spider-Man a secret again. When the spell goes wrong, a multiverse is broken open which allows visitors from alternate realities to enter Parker’s universe, including his predecessors in the Spidey suit.
It could easily been a sprawling mess, but it isn’t. It’s a suitably charming, scintillating rollercoaster ride that deserves its spot so high up in our rankings. Now, about that fourth Spidey MCU movie, Marvel and Sony…
6. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
How do you go about following one of the best Marvel movies ever – 2018’s Black Panther – with a sequel that surpasses it? When you’re Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the script is already written for you to do so.
Chadwick Boseman’s shock passing in August 2020, following a four-year battle with cancer, hit us all like a freight train – and yet the cast and crew of the first Black superhero-led superhero film had to pick up the pieces. Not only did they have to give their all again without Boseman to lead them, they also had to tell a profoundly moving tale that honored his life and legacy.
Black Panther 2 does all of that and more. It’s an emotionally powerful, thrilling, and thematically dense Marvel flick that doesn’t pull its punches. Its intricate and poignant narrative, introduction of key Marvel characters in Namor and Ironheart, celebration of Mesoamerican culture, and rich exploration of grief is packaged together in such expert fashion that few MCU movies can claim to be better. A sheer masterpiece of a film.
5. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
The third Thor movie is the only entry everyone can agree is actually great. Taika Waititi injects the series with his trademark offbeat humor, and sends the God of Thunder to fight the Hulk after he gets his ass kicked by Cate Blanchett’s Hela.
This was the kind of tonally distinctive approach the Thor movies desperately needed, and it’s one of the easiest films on this list to rewatch. You’ll laugh, you might cry, and you’ll certainly nod your head in unison that this is more than deserving of a top five place on our best Marvel movies list. An instant classic that does more for its characters than the other two Thor flicks combined – and that says a lot.
4. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
We’d argue that Infinity War is a stronger film than Endgame, and that’s probably because it’s got less to accomplish.
Endgame is arguably three films welded together – a story about the grim aftermath of the Blip, aka Thanos’ universe-shattering fingersnap, a time-traveling heist movie, and a massive war film. Subsequently, it’s not quite as elegantly told as the story of Thanos’ initial victory in Infinity War, yet it features countless all-time great MCU moments and a final battle that’s the ultimate piece of Marvel fan service.
Will theatrical movies ever feel this big again? Not until Avengers: The Kang Dynasty arrives in 2025. Even then, though, Endgame might be unmatched (save for its predecessor) as a movie that defined the cultural zeitgeist of superhero movies. Well, from a fan service-y perspective, anyway.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 (2014)
Marvel’s first big swing at an obscure set of characters was a triumph. Bringing together a ragtag group of criminals and oddballs, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 is essentially a superhero team film about outsiders – set against the gorgeous, previously unseen backdrop of Marvel’s Jack Kirby-infused cosmos.
James Gunn supercharges these no-name characters with real personalities out of the gate, even performing the magical feat of turning a talking tree into a pop culture icon. This film is tons of fun and manages to make you invested in a whole bunch of different comic book characters you’d never heard of before. It even circumvents the increasingly vexing climactic CGI showdown between heroes and villain with a comedy-infused endgame that’ll have you rolling off your couch with laughter.
2. Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War was extremely close to being our number one Marvel movie. After lurking in the shadows for so long, Thanos finally makes his play to acquire the Infinity Stones and wipe out half of all life in the universe.
Naturally, The Avengers’ growing ranks stand in his way, and what plays out is a tightly-knit, action-packed, and deeply shocking film that delivers the best, spine-tingling ending in MCU (and perhaps cinematic) history . The Russo brothers’ ability to juggle Infinity War’s ensemble cast alongside its thrilling and emotional plot delivered a brilliant blockbuster film that future Avengers movies – Endgame aside – will have a hard time beating. Easily one of the best Marvel movies and one that’ll have you saying “I was there when…” to your grandkids in decades to come.
1. Black Panther
Black Panther is the jewel in the MCU’s crown, and it’s easy to see why it grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide at release.
It’s a solo Marvel movie with extremely high ambition – revealing the secret nation of Wakanda and telling an epic story of a king T’Challa (the late Chadwick Boseman), contending with the sins of his father.
This is a thematically weighty film that was rightly hailed as groundbreaking for its primarily Black cast, behind-the-scenes talent, and celebration of African traditions and heritage. Yet it has everything that makes the MCU great, too: humor, terrific action scenes, and a whole host of characters you can’t wait to meet again in future movies. Why can’t all MCU solo films be this good?
For more Marvel-based content, find out how to watch the Marvel movies in order or read up on every Marvel Phase 5 film and TV show that’s in the works.
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