It’s a really good time to be a Marvel fan.
First, there’s a lot to look forward to in 2020. Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe begins on May 1 with the release of Black Widow. The long-awaited film, set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, will expand on Natasha Romanoff’s (Scarlett Johansson) backstory and answer questions about what really happened to her in Budapest.
Then, in November, Marvel will release The Eternals, a movie based on the Jack Kirby comic series of the same name that launched in 1976. Directed by Chloe Zhao and starring an ensemble cast that includes Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Kit Harington and more, The Eternals will tell the story of a fictional long-lived humanoid race meant to defend Earth against the monstrous Deviants.
And, of course, we know three more Marvel films, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (starring Simu Liu, Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Awkwafina), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (with Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen) and Thor: Love and Thunder (with Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman) are all coming in 2021.
That said, it’s hard to believe that Marvel can recapture -- or even surpass -- the success it had in the last decade with the first three phases of the MCU. The final film in the Avengers saga, Avengers: Endgame (2019), nearly toppled James Cameron’s Avatar as the top grossing movie of all time while getting plenty of favorable reviews from the critics. Captain Marvel made $1 billion at the box office, making it the first female-led superhero film in history to do so. And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the other epic Marvel films -- Deadpool, anyone? -- that were released in-between the big-budget blockbusters of the 2010s.
With so many great films in the Marvel library, we thought it would be a great time to rank each and every Marvel film to hit theaters, MCU or not, going all the way back to the 1998 Wesley Snipes film Blade. To do so, we used the Metacritic Metascore, a unique scoring system that weighs and averages movie reviews from the nation’s top critics.
Our list is filled with masterpieces… and a small handful of duds. (Hey, nobody's perfect!) Which Marvel movie took top honors in our ranking? Take a look for yourself.
The Fantastic Four reboot, starring Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan, is "worse than worthless," according to Rolling Stone.
A reboot of the Punisher franchise, War Zone is "another violently unsuccessful attempt to bring this comic book character to screen," per Empire.
The Ghost Rider sequel — with Nicolas Cage returning to play Johnny Blaze — is "a surprisingly underpowered excursion," says Empire.
Thomas Jane stars as the deadly vigilante in this "moronically inept and tedious piece of death-wish trash," according to Entertainment Weekly.
A spin-off of Daredevil, Elektra is "not stupid enough to qualify as good, dumb fun," per the Austin Chronicle.
The beloved Cage stars as a superstar motorcycle rider turned devil's bounty hunter in this film that's "great stupid fun as long as someone else is buying the tickets," according to the Boston Globe.
The third Blade film — also featuring Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel — is a "sucky vampire flick," per the New York Post.
The first film in the Wolverine standalone trilogy is "silly and typical," says the New York Daily News.
The first Fantastic Four is "an over-inflated B-movie with no grace, no subtext, no wit," according to Slate.
Before he was Batman, Ben Affleck portrayed blind lawyer-turned-vigilante Daredevil. The 2003 film is unfortunately "tacky and disposable," says The New York Times.
This final film in the X-Men saga failed to impress critics or moviegoers, raking in just $252 million at the box office on a $200 million budget.
"The good news is that Dark Phoenix is an improvement from its Apocalypse predecessor," writes our own Brandon Davis in his review of Dark Phoenix. "The bad news is that the bar was already pretty low."
This Fantastic Four sequel is "an improvement of sorts over the lifeless 2005 edition," says the Hollywood Reporter.
This 1998 vampire film "doesn't manage to work up a whole lot of suspense," according to The Globe and Mail.
The Blade sequel is "as soulless as they get," according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The ninth entry in the X-Men saga "feels flat, disjointed, with too many moving parts," says the Arizona Republic.
Andrew Garfield reprises his role as the friendly neighborhood Spidey in this sequel that is "bloated and often boring and has absolutely no reason to exist, but it also hits its marks," per New York Magazine.
The Thor sequel "has its moments of visual invention and self-aware humor — mostly when the hero’s trickster brother Loki is around — but otherwise it’s an awkwardly plotted extravaganza," according to the Boston Globe.
The biggest problem with Ang Lee's Hulk is "that there isn't enough Hulk in it," says the Miami Herald.
The fourth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is "eminently missable, though the mosaic design of Asgard, Thor's mythical realm, is pretty cool," per the Chicago Reader.
The sequel to Iron Man "isn't as much fun as its predecessor," says Variety.
The Last Stand is the "weakest chapter in the X-Men series," says Rolling Stone.
The third and final Spider-Man to feature Tobey Maguire as the web-slinging hero is "not dull, exactly, but neither is it much fun," according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine is "an intermittently exciting action film anchored by a strong performance by [Hugh] Jackman, who embodies Wolverine like no one else could," says USA Today.
Starring Edward Norton, The Incredible Hulk "gets the job done with minimal artistry and a lot of noise," according to the New York Post.
The third Iron Man is "missing that old Tony Stark spark," says the Tampa Bay Times.
Film.com says that X-Men is "nearly the perfect balance between straight-faced pulp action and amused wonder at the outlandish world of comic books."
Paul Rudd's debut as Ant-Man is "spry and often funny, despite its familiarity," per the Village Voice.
Though this fun Brie Larson-led film drew the attention of review trolls on Rotten Tomatoes, reviewers without an ideological axe to grind had generally positive things to say about it.
In his review of Captain Marvel, our own Brandon Davis writes the movie "offers up a complex, heartfelt tale which will leave audiences (especially the young girls watching) feeling inspired and satisfied."
This prequel to X-Men is "good enough to rejuvenate a franchise stuck on idle," per the Arizona Republic.
Ryan Reynolds' turn as the fourth-wall breaking vigilante Deadpool is "a big bowl of fun filled with great stunts, gory fight scenes, and sexy poses," according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
This reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, starring Garfield, is "probably not as good as you hoped or as bad as you feared," says Movieline.
The second Avengers film is "all rush and sensation with little substance," according to the Miami Herald.
The first film to watch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The First Avenger is "corny, old-fashioned pulp fun," says Entertainment Weekly.
The sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy is "an extravagant and witty follow-up, made with the same friendly virtuosic dazzle," per Variety.
The sequel to the first X-Men is "an obvious improvement on its predecessor: It looks more expensive, and its special effects seem to swoop out of nowhere," says Salon.
The followup to Deadpool is "very good at ... flattering the audience into feeling like it’s in on the joke," according to the Boston Globe.
CNET believes that Infinity War is "the best Avengers movie yet."
The original Marvel superhero ensemble is "more solid and satisfying than terrific," per the Chicago Tribune.
This 2019 sequel starring Tom Holland as Spider-Man and Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio sees our titular hero travel on a school trip to Europe.
The Ant-Man sequel is a "good-natured epic, dedicated to the non-tech principle of dispensing plain old pleasure," says The Wall Street Journal.
The second Captain America film is "an often breathlessly exciting action thriller told with humor and intelligence," per USA Today.
Benedict Cumberbatch's debut as Doctor Strange "boasts an underlying originality and freshness missing from the increasingly cookie-cutter comic-book realm of late," says Variety.
The original Spider-Man film is "disarmingly likable, and touching in unexpected ways," according to The New York Times.
Tom Holland's first standalone film as Peter Parker "gets everything right about this beloved Marvel character," according to our sister site GameSpot.
Ragnarok is "a goofy, kitschy- but- fun romp and the most purely entertaining of the three Thor movies," says IGN.
A pseudo-Avengers film, Civil War is "an exciting, often giddy pop pleasure," says Screen International.
Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax and Rocket's first adventure is "giddy, ridiculous fun, a witty, wacky and wonderfully generous sugary gift of a film," according to Time Out London.
Jackman's final film as Wolverine is "a rather brilliant mesh of dystopian and superhero tropes that proves to be as entertaining as it is timely," per the Film Stage.
The thrilling conclusion to the Avengers saga has broken all sorts of box office records: Avengers: Endgame has grossed nearly $2.8 billion worldwide.
Michael Burgin of Paste explains the magic of the film: "Comic book fans know the thrill of following all your favorite characters through a multi-issue storyline that culminates in a 'universe at stake' ending. Now, thanks to 21 movies in 11 years and one massive, satisfying three-hour finale, moviegoers do, too."
Robert Downey Jr.'s first turn as the billionaire playboy turned superhero "abounds in that rarest of superpowers: charm," according to Slate.
"Love, death, hope, and hatred: Spider-Man 2 has ’em all, in spades," says the Austin Chronicle.