Finally, after a decade of build-up and excitement, Avengers: Endgame is arriving in theaters this week. We are officially almost to the end of this journey, so we thought now would be a great time to take a look back at how we got here. What better way to do that than cause a controversy by definitively ranking the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe?
If you've been following ComicBook.com for a while, you may remember us embarking on a similar journey last year around the time of Infinity War's release. We ranked the MCU movies as a staff and published our results. This is pretty much the same process, but quite a bit has changed this time around. We've lost and gained some folks on the team, and Marvel Studios has put out some more awesome movies to add to our rankings. So we knew the second round would look a little different.
Now, there's no way we would ever come to an agreement on an official ranking among ourselves, so we decided to trust in the magic of statistics. Members of the CB editorial and video staff (22 people in total) submitted their personal ranking of the 21 MCU films, along with a comment about what they felt was their most controversial spot on the list, and we simply averaged them together. Thus, our ranking was born.
Below, you'll find our complete MCU rankings, considering every movie from Iron Man to Captain Marvel. Each slide will have the average ranking that film received (out of 21) as well as the official ranking that movie received in last year's project.
So, with all that said, let's take a look at the final ComicBook.com staff MCU rankings, shall we?
Welcome to Earth's Mightiest Week! From April 22nd to April 26th, ComicBook.com is celebrating the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far with a series of exclusive articles, lists, arguments, and more. If you'd like to check out some of our other offerings from this week, you can click the image above.
21. Thor: The Dark World
This shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone at this point. Not only was Thor: The Dark World at the bottom of this same list last year, but it's almost universally believed to be the worst of the MCU by the fans. Not that it's a horrible movie in its own right; it just can't hold a candle to the rest of the franchise.
Seven CB staffers have Dark World at the bottom of their list, including writer Cameron Bonomolo.
“Thor’s bland and forgettable sophomore outing is a lesser Marvel Cinematic Universe installment and the only entry that acts as a road bump in any rewatch leading up to Avengers: Endgame,” Bonomolo writes.
Average Ranking: 19.2 | Last Year's Ranking: 19/19prevnext
20. The Incredible Hulk
Ah, the movie that Marvel forgot. The Incredible Hulk.
Just like with Thor: The Dark World, The Incredible Hulk isn't a terrible movie. It just did so much less than most other films in this franchise, which is disappointing when you consider its all-star cast.
Part of the reason Hulk is written off is because of the casting controversy that surrounds it. Remember, Edward Norton played Bruce Banner in the movie and then was ultimately replaced by Mark Ruffalo before The Avengers started production. Most characters and plot threads from this movie have been largely written off in the MCU over the years, save for William Hurt's Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, who remains the only cast member to appear in any other movie.
One CB writer, Connor Casey, understands why Incredible Hulk doesn't hold up to the rest of the MCU, but also believes that the movie gets more hate than it deserves.
"This one is low on the list, but doesn’t deserve quite as much hate as it gets," Casey says. "The deleted scene of Bruce’s suicide attempt in the Arctic shows that this clearly wanted to play with some bigger ideas that wound up on the cutting room floor. It also doesn’t help that Mark Ruffalo seems to get better with the Bruce Banner character every time he’s on screen."
Average Ranking: 18.1 | Last Year's Ranking: 17/19prevnext
19. Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 is a largely forgettable movie. It makes sense for this film to be pretty low on our list, just as it makes sense that not a single staff member had something to say about it when sending in their lists. It just doesn't stick with you in any way.
To its credit though, Iron Man 2 does have a couple of things going for it. This movie introduced Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, it contained the makings of a solid villain in Mickey Rourke's Whiplash, and it really took James Rhodes to an exciting new level with a ton of help from the ever-charismatic Don Cheadle.
All that to say, Iron Man 2 is the shoulder shrug of MCU movies.
Average Ranking: 17.8 | Last Year's Ranking: 18/19prevnext
18. Iron Man 3
Unlike its predecessor, Iron Man 3 was most definitely memorable, just for all the wrong reasons.
When you think about Iron Man 3, odds are the first thing that will come to your mind is the Mandarin twist, in which we learned that Ben Kingsley's villain wasn't actually a villain at all, but rather a paid actor that didn't actually know what was going on. As you can probably remember, this pissed a lot of people off.
In the years since its release, Iron Man 3 has found redemption in the eyes of a few Marvel fans, like Connor Casey, who has the movie at #11 in his MCU rankings.
"This one gets so much undeserved hate," he says. "No, they could not have done the original comic version of The Mandarin, he’s a horribly dated racist stereotype. Having Tony deal with PTSD after the fallout from New York was a great idea for his character direction, and I loved how the relationship with Harley set up for how his relationship with Peter would be later on, and Pepper got to do more than just be the helpless girlfriend. Guy Pearce doesn’t quite stick the landing as the ultimate baddie, but this one is just fine."
Average Ranking: 16.8 | Last Year's Ranking: 16/19prevnext
17. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron has a lot of great stuff going on, but so much of it gets caught up in the creative issues between Marvel Studios and Joss Whedon. It's very clear (especially after seeing how Justice League and Suicide Squad turned out) that there were a lot of potentially exciting things left on the cutting room floor.
Most Marvel fans have this movie pretty low on their list. However, there are those of us that remember it much more fondly. Staff writer Jamie Jirak is by far the highest on Age of Ultron, listing it at #3 on her personal rankings.
"Ranking Ultron at #3 will probably seem bonkers to most people, but I’m a Brutasha apologist and lifelong James Spader fan who could watch the Mjölnir party scene everyday," she writes. "Most importantly, this film introduced me to Elizabeth Olsen, who has since become my favorite actress (go watch Martha Marcy May Marlene)."
Average Ranking: 14.9 | Last Year's Ranking: 15/19prevnext
Thor had a great supporting cast, a creative vision, and a fantastic performance from Tom Hiddleston. So why is it so low on this list?
Honestly, it's hard to say. The movie is still solid to this day, but it just doesn't reach the heights that Chris Hemsworth's God of Thunder has achieved since its release. Between Ragnarok and Infinity War, Thor has completely changed his image in the MCU, which keeps some people from going back to revisit this first movie.
Also not helping Thor's case are those damn eyebrows. Woof.
Average Ranking: 14.6 | Last Year's Ranking: 13/19prevnext
15. Doctor Strange
When you ask people about Doctor Strange, they will probably respond with one of two arguments.
Some fans will be quick to bring up the film's impressive visuals, easily outdoing anything the MCU had achieved to that point. Other fans will say that Doctor Strange is just a rehashing of Iron Man, but with magic. Hell, some people might bring up both.
The point is, Doctor Strange comes with both positive and negative feedback, keeping it around the middle of the pack.
Average Ranking: 14.1 | Last Year's Ranking: 14/19prevnext
14. Ant-Man and the Wasp
It's time for the first new movie on the list! Ant-Man and the Wasp debuts at number 14, but it had voters on both ends of the spectrum. Staff writer Patrick Cavanaugh had the film all the way down at #19 on his list, while contributor and critic Chase Magnett places it highest at #7.
"Despite featuring the immensely charming Paul Rudd and the badass Evangeline Lilly, Ant-Man and the Wasp feels like it was created by a committee consisting of every executive at Marvel Studios getting to have their say in a movie," says Cavanaugh. "The Marvel Cinematic Universe is often criticized for playing things 'safe' in terms of narratives and filmmaking techniques, and you'll be hard pressed to find a more lifeless, bland entry in the entire franchise than this sequel. The low stakes adventure's editing drains the energy and humor from every scene, leaving viewers with a painfully mediocre experience that never attempts to break the mold in any capacity."
"Both of the Ant-Man movies rank very high for me because of their relatively small scope," Magnett argues on the other hand. "While almost every Marvel movie features a threat to the Earth (or all existence), these movies focus on personal threats to a family. I really love that this sequel's primary conflict isn't another underwritten villain, but the struggle to maintain or restore family units. In addition to being humorous and fun, this movie also recognizes that every person in the world means the world to at least one person."
Average Ranking: 13.4 | Last Year's Ranking: N/Aprevnext
Ant-Man is the only singular franchise on this list where all of its films are ranked back-to-back. Coming in just after Ant-Man and the Wasp is the first Ant-Man movie, which introduced Paul Rudd to the MCU.
This movie was one of the smaller scale films in the MCU, which allowed it to play more with its sense of humor and the ever-important relationship between Scott and Cassie Lang. This made for an incredibly fun heist flick, but it also feels less important than the rest of the MCU.
While it works for most people, senior writer Jamie Lovett ranks Ant-Man at the very bottom the franchise.
"I just do not get what everyone sees in this movie," he writes. "The things people say they love are the things that tend to irritate me the most."
Average Ranking: 12.6 | Last Year's Ranking: 12/19prevnext
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Guardians of the Galaxy completely changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe when it was released in 2014, introducing the kind of lovable, zany style that fans have really come to love, laying the groundwork for movies like Thor: Ragnarok and Captain Marvel. The follow-up to James Gunn's Guardians had that same style, but isn't remembered quite as fondly as its predecessor.
It's easy to sum up Guardians Vol. 2 as being a film with higher highs and lower lows than the first Guardians. The emotional moments of the movie were some of the most gut-wrenching in the entire MCU, but there were several jokes and bits that fell pretty flat.
Megan Peters had Guardians 2 pretty low on her list, all the way down at #16, saying she was "let down" by the space-opera sequel.
"I was real let down with Guardians 2," Peters writes. "Its theme was cohesive, but much of the movie felt repetitive. If you asked me to separate this sequel from the first Guardians, it would be real hard."
Fun fact: Megan wasn't the lowest on Guardians 2. Associate managing editor JK Schmidt ranked the movie absolutely last in the MCU.
Average Ranking: 11.5 | Last Year's Ranking: 11/19prevnext
11. Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel absolutely soared when it was released in theaters earlier this year. On the shoulders of Brie Larson, Marvel's first female-led superhero flick quickly reached $1 billion at the box office, and it's no surprise that it came close to cracking our top 10.
Two of ComicBook.com's writers, Jenna Anderson and Nicole Drum, ranked Captain Marvel inside their top five.
"Captain Marvel told a story that I never thought I’d get to see on the big screen, with Brie perfectly encapsulating who Carol Danvers is as a character," explains Anderson. "It also feels like its the only solo movie in recent years that really adds to and elevates the MCU as a whole, as opposed to just expanding out one corner of it really well. Because of that, it very easily earns a spot in my top three."
"Captain Marvel is probably going to be my most controversial pick, but I absolutely stand buy where I put it in the #4 slot," Drum writes. "So frequently superhero movies are about showing the strength of hero in a tangible way -- Iron Man and all his sweet tech, Captain America being a physical marvel and badass, etc. Captain Marvel gave the MCU an opportunity to see strength in another way. Sure, Carol is insanely powerful as we see at the end of the film, but it's her vulnerability -- not knowing who she is, having to come into her own in a situation where there are those actively trying to hold her down -- that for me makes this movie such a powerful debut. And, of course, Goose the Cat is always a consideration!"
Average Ranking: 10.1 | Last Year's Ranking: N/Aprevnext
10. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Spider-Man: Homecoming is in a unique situation when it comes to the overall MCU, as it's the only modern entry to the series made by another studio. Yes, Kevin Feige and the folks at Marvel oversee production, and make the lion's share of creative decisions, but the movie is still put together by Sony.
Despite the studio collaboration, Homecoming makes it into our top 10 rankings, and a lot of that has to do with the performances of Tom Holland and Michael Keaton.
Holland is a fantastic Peter Parker, arguably the best we've ever seen on the big screen. His charm and innocence is exactly what we needed to see from the MCU's Spider-Man. Keaton delivered one of the franchise's best, most understandable villains with Vulture, and his twist reveal was one for the ages.
Average Ranking: 9.3 | Last Year's Ranking: 10/19prevnext
9. Captain America: Civil War
To say Captain America: Civil War was one of the most divisive movies amongst our staff would be a massive understatement. Two members of the video team, Richard Adams and Chris Killian, had the team-up movie ranked at the very top spot in their rankings. Four others had it in the top three.
However, there were plenty of us with Civil War much lower on our list, myself included. I, along with Chase Magnett and Jamie Lovett, ranked Civil War at #16, while Russ Burlingame had it lowest at #19.
"I can't watch Civil War," says Burlingame. "The movie fails to fix the fundamental problems in characterization, motivation, and logic that were presented in the comics it's based on, and it actually makes even less sense in the MCU, where basically every bad thing that happened in the lead-up to Civil War was traceable back to Tony Stark, whom we are apparently meant to root for."
Average Ranking: 9.2 | Last Year's Ranking: 9/19prevnext
8. Captain America: The First Avenger
You want to talk about a movie that has aged incredibly well? Look no further than Chris Evans' first outing as Captain America, which comes in at #8 on our list.
For years, The First Avenger was written off as nothing more than a standard origin story, leaving the fun and exciting world of modern superhero antics behind. However, now that we've had a horde of these films over the last decade or so, this movie's differences help it rise above the rest of the genre.
There is no other movie in the MCU filled with more heart and hope than The First Avenger, and that's the kind of flick we need now more than ever.
Average Ranking: 8.6 | Last Year's Rank: 8prevnext
7. Iron Man
Iron Man is the movie that started it all. Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. teamed up to change the face of superhero films forever, and dammit if they didn't do just that.
Even now, more than 10 years later, the movie holds up as one of the best origin stories on screen. In fact, Brandon Davis still considers Iron Man to be the best film in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
"Robert Downey Jr. embodies the character of Tony Stark more than any other actor with their respective MCU role," he writes. "The original Iron Man movie is fun, brave, and soars in every way."
Average Ranking: 6.9 | Last Year's Ranking: 7/19prevnext
6. Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War is very different from the rest of the films in the MCU, in that it centers around the story of the villain. It was all about Thanos, and it even ended with his victory.
The movie is a cinematic achievement on the grandest of scales, but it also feels like half of a story, which kept a few folks from ranking it very high. Only three of our staffers had Infinity War outside their top 10: Megan Peters had it at #17, Nicole Drum at #13, and Rollin Bishop at #12.
"Infinity War is likely to be my most controversial ranking here," says Bishop. "It is an impressive feat; the film is a literal marvel. But it is an overall mediocre movie. There's no stakes or tension thanks to the fact that we know there's a sequel film and multiple sequels in various franchises."
Average Ranking: 6.7 | Last Year's Ranking: T-5/19prevnext
5. Black Panther
It shouldn't be surprising that Black Panther has risen into our top five, as it's the only superhero movie in history to get nominated for Best Picture.
Not only that, but Ryan Coogler's stunning film was the definition of a cultural phenomenon, breaking records all around the world and teaching everyone the true meaning of "Wakanda Forever." It's also hard to talk about the success of Black Panther without mentioning the impeccable performance turned in by Michael B. Jordan as the film's villain, Killmonger.
A whopping total of 12 CB staffers ranked Black Panther in their top five, with Chase Magnett placing it in the top spot.
Average Ranking: 6.2 | Last Year's Ranking: T-5/19prevnext
4. Marvel's The Avengers
When it was released in 2012, the world had never seen anything like Marvel's The Avengers. The leads of multiple blockbuster franchises came together for a team-up movie? Unheard of.
There were doubters, but The Avengers managed to silence each and every one of them. It was nothing short of a critical and financial juggernaut, changing the entire blockbuster landscape upon its debut. However, Jamie Lovett thinks that, with the release of its sequels, fans have forgotten just how great The Avengers really is.
"This may be a weird thing to say about what was the biggest movie in the world ever at the time, but I feel like the first Avengers gets taken for granted these days," he notes.
Average Ranking: 5.9 | Last Year's Ranking 4/19prevnext
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy took the Marvel franchise and turned it upside down. There was a formula to how these movies worked, and audiences had come to expect a certain experience when going to see a new entry to the MCU. James Gunn changed that with a group of heroes most people had never heard of. Now you can't talk about comic book movies without mentioning Groot or Gamora.
"The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise is a breath of fresh air, mainlining energy and joy into a Marvel Universe that had gotten a little bit listless and formulaic," writes Russ Burlingame, who ranked Guardians as his top MCU film. "It would be hard to overstate how much more I like the MCU post-Guardians, with movies like Ragnarok and Captain Marvel drawing inspiration from what Gunn did."
While no one would argue against the merits of Guardians, it is one of the few movies that fell in our rankings from year to year, dropping from #2 to #3.
Average Ranking: 5.7 | Last Year's Ranking: 2/19prevnext
2. Thor: Ragnarok
It isn't by any fault of Guardians that the film dropped to #3. It just so happens that Thor: Ragnarok is gaining more and more love with each passing day. A lot of our staff members absolutely adore this genre-bending adventure, thanks to the bold work of director Taika Waititi.
"Thor: Ragnarok is one of the best movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it's hardly a competition," writes Adam Barnhardt. "There has yet to be a movie that depicts comic books as accurately as Ragnarok from adapting Jack Kirby's cosmic magnificence to the campy humor that comics are known for. There's something to be said about fighting the apocalypse with a smile on your face and Ragnarok executes it to perfection."
"I was almost surprised that I put this here myself, but no Marvel movie has stuck with me the way this one has," adds Jamie Lovett. "The combination of spectacle, great characters, and timely themes reminded me a bit of Mad Max: Fury Road, which is a pretty high bar for comparison."
Average Ranking: 4.9 | Last Year's Ranking: 3/19prevnext
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
For two years in a row, Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes the top spot in our staff rankings. From the hard-hitting fight scenes to the well-paced plotting, just about everything in The Winter Soldier works tremendously.
Eight total staff members, including Megan Peters and myself, had Winter Soldier at the top spot.1comments
"This needs no explanation," writes Peters. "Winter Soldier has it all; Twists, emotional turns, and some sweet action sequences. Throw in Bucky and Robert Redford and it becomes perfection."
Average Ranking: 4.6 | Last Year's Ranking: 1/19prev