28. Eternals (2021)
We’ll give Eternals some credit to begin. It’s an ambitious film. Eternals follows around a group of thousand-year-old life forms who are tasked with preserving the universe. The ensemble cast is certainly impressive — starring Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Kit Harrington, and many more. However, Eternals might have been even a bit too ambitious by Marvel standards. There are too many story arcs to follow, and none of them feel particularly fulfilling. It sports a different tone than the other films, but the new-found level of seriousness doesn’t seem to aid the film in any way. Eternals holds the worst Rotten Tomatoes score of any MCU film currently with a putrid 47-percent approval rating.
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27. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Up until 2021’s Eternals, the general consensus signaled another movie to be the worst in MCU’s history. That movie is Thor: The Dark World. The sequel to 2011’s origin story, The Dark World takes us back to Asgard as the God of Thunder faces a new foe. Who is that foe, you might ask? Nobody remembers. The villain in The Dark World — a dark elf named Malekith — is one of the many reasons why this movie flopped. He hardly makes an impact on the film and is vastly forgettable. Additionally, Thor’s personality is criminally withheld in the pre-Ragnarok era. It was the lowest rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes before Eternals released, currently holding a 66-percent approval rating on the aggregator website.
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26. Iron Man 2 (2013)
Sequels are tough. Especially when you’re attempting to live up to the expectations built by the first Iron Man movie which sent waves through cinemas across the world. Tony Stark returns in Iron Man 2, and now the whole world knows who is donning the suit. Iron Man’s identity being broadcasted to the world triggers an ex-convict named Ivan Vonko (Mickey Rourke) to seek revenge on Stark. Vanko’s father worked for the Stark family, and the son seeks vengeance on Tony following the death of his father. Some of the most visually-impressive suit-ups occur in this film, but it’s not nearly enough to carry a lousy plot filled with repetitive tropes.
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25. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
It’s easy to forget the 2008 Hulk film is even part of the MCU. Part of the disconnect has to do with the actor portraying Bruce Banner in the standalone film. Edward Norton plays the role of the scientist-turned-monster in The Incredible Hulk, but due to creative issues was not retained when the character appeared in later films. Norton was eventually replaced by Mark Ruffalo who has now become synonymous with the Hulk. Norton does an acceptable job as Banner/Hulk, but his performance is the only thing worth mentioning in this otherwise forgettable film.
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24. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
What’s better than one Ant-Man? How about two? Ant-Man and the Wasp gives Scott Lang a microscopic sidekick in the form of Hope van Dyne — also known as, Wasp. This film is primarily carried by the chemistry between Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly — with some support from Michael Pena’s Luis — but the praise stops there. Marvel Studious has a habit of finding a formula that works and sticking by it. While we can’t argue it works in terms of box office success, it typically leads to some stale sequels. That’s the case with Ant-Man and the Wasp which doesn’t do anything new or inventive during a near two-hour run-time.
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23. Thor (2011)
Essentially everything that is wrong with The Dark World was still present in Thor’s first film. 2011’s Thor is a terribly bland origin story for one of the most exciting superheroes in Marvel’s catalog. The studio hadn’t yet realized the talent they had on its hands. Chris Hemsworth — to no fault of his own — plays a painfully boring God of Thunder who engages in a uninteresting relationship with a human named Jane Foster. Tom Hiddelston’s Loki does shine in his first appearance, and we do get fulfilling cameos from Idris Elba, Kat Dennings and Anthony Hopkins, but Thor is certainly not Marvel’s best effort.
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22. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
This may be a bit controversial, but the origin of Steve Rogers’ ascent into becoming Captain America is arguably the most uninteresting storyline for the character itself. It’s not a coincidence that the proceeding Captain America movies were received in much higher regard than the first film. For one, seeing CGI pipsqueak Chris Evans for the first half of the movie really takes the audience out of it. Not to mention, the film’s main villain — Red Skull (played by Hugo Weaving) — is given a rather lazy backstory much to the chagrin of fans of the original stories. Marvel Studios missed the mark with this one, but they recovered with the shielded-hero in later installments.
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21. Captain Marvel (2019)
Introducing one of the most powerful heroes in the MCU, Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers – an Air Force pilot who discovers she has superhuman ability. Following those events, Danvers meets up with a young Nick Fury who enlists her help. Larson and Samuel L. Jackson play exceptionally well off of each other, and it’s one of the main bright spots of the film. While Captain Marvel contains plenty of action and excitement, it feels a bit empty throughout the majority of its run-time. The characters aren’t well-developed, and fans were left with an unfulfilling ending which seemed unfitting for such a hyped project.
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20. Iron Man 3 (2010)
While the second installment didn’t live up to expectations, fans’ adoration for the character never wavered. The desire of a quality resolution for Tony Stark was immense. While Iron Man 3 fumbled a few spots along the way, it does an overall good job of putting a bow on the series. The plot-twist midway through the film caught a number of people off-guard, though it shouldn’t take away from the movie as a whole. Robert Downey Jr. truly shines outside of the suit in this one as Tony battles with his inner-demons and attempts to find a life beyond Iron Man.
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19. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Far From Home has our friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man leaving the confines NYC for the beautiful scenery of Venice. Peter Parker and his pals take a school trip overseas in hopes of ditching his superhero duties momentarily. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Marvel movie without something going haywire. Parker is introduced to Mysterio — a “superhero” who claims to be from a different universe played by the always terrific Jake Gyllenhaal. Mysterio’s plans quickly unravel when it’s revealed that he’s a phony who uses lightshows and projectors to imitate superhuman powers. Far From Home isn’t an upsetting inclusion in the trilogy, but it’s clearly the weakest from a plot and pacing perspective.
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18. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 adapted a similar formula to the previous film with general success. The gang is back together, and this time they’re facing off with a more celestial foe. Namely, the film’s main antagonist is Peter Quill’s father, a god-like being named Ego (played by Kurt Russell). While Vol. 2 has plenty of humor and action to go around, it’s difficult to not compare it to its superior predecessor. The jokes feel a bit more forced in this one and it doesn’t feel as new and fresh anymore. While still a worthy inclusion in the MCU, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 fell a tad short of meeting its lofty expectations.
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17. Black Widow (2021)
2021’s Black Widow takes fans back in time to touch upon the mysterious background of assassin-turned-agent Natasha Romanoff. Scarlett Johannson is back in her familiar role as Natasha after biting the bullet in Endgame. Alongside Johannson is a wonderfully picked cast which includes Florence Pugh and David Harbour. Pugh enjoys a breakthrough performance as sister Yelena Belova, and we should see plenty of her moving forward. Filled with intense action from start-to-finish, Black Widow was a fitting send-off for one of Marvel’s most popular characters.
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16. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
Shang-Chi isn’t one of the more well-known heroes of the Marvel Universe, but the character certainly gained massive popularity after this solid film. Just the second movie in Marvel’s fourth phase, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings tells a captivating story while balancing action, emotion, and humor. The star of the film is Simu Liu as the titular character, and he absolutely thrives in this role. Liu’s charisma and command shine in every scene he’s a part of. He’s supported by the comedic efforts of Awkwafina who is one of the more refreshing and likeable sidekicks in any Marvel film. This movie is not without its flaws, but it exudes character and boasts some delectable fight sequences.
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15. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness (2022)
While we’re on the subject of not meeting expectations…To be fair, The Multiverse of Madness is a fun film for Marvel fans. We get to see a different side of Wanda with a few jaw-dropping cameos along the way. That being said, Multiverse of Madness has seen its fair share of critique since its release earlier this year. Most who didn’t enjoy the film credit its awkward pacing and repetitive storyline as the main culprits. As a result, Multiverse of Madness holds a 74-percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes– a considerably low-score for films within the MCU. While the movie does have a slow, uneven build-up, director Sam Raimi delivers a magnificent third act that is well-worth Multiverse of Madness‘ two-plus hour run-time.
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14. Ant-Man (2015)
On the surface, the premise of Ant-Man sounds ludicrous. A man who dons a super suit which allows him to shrink to the size of an ant. While this doesn’t sound like the recipe for success, Ant-Man delivered in a big way (no pun intended). Paul Rudd is tremendous in the role of Scott Lang, a former criminal who is far brighter than he seems. Ant-Man hits all of the classic MCU notes — funny, exciting, and filled with action from start to finish. It also produced one of Marvel’s most memorable supporting characters in Lang’s former cellmate Luis — who is played expertly by Michael Pena.
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13. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The sequel to the 2012 Avengers film, Age of Ultron ups the stakes with a computerized villain looking to wipe out all human life. After a bit too much tinkering by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, the artificial intelligence known as Ultron is born. Unlike previous villains, Ultron cannot be conquered with brute physicality. Instead, the Avengers must band together their wits to defeat the primary antagonist. It makes for a more dynamic story arc as our heroes cannot simply overpower their nemesis. Age of Ultron also showcases the first cracks in the relationship between Stark and Steven Rogers. Speaking of that…
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12. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Captain America vs. Iron Man. What’s not to like? Civil War pitted our favorite heroes against one another in an epic battle. After a skirmish with Hydra officials causes a building to explode, the United Nations push for a bill to regulate and register all superheroes. Tony Stark is for registration, while Steve Rogers has his doubts. It leads to turmoil between competing camps with all of our familiar heroes forced to pick a side. The clash builds up to a legendary showdown between all the heroes at an airport hangar — and the unforgettable debut of a certain fan favorite.
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11. Doctor Strange (2016)
Throughout the years, Marvel has told countless origin stories for its group of heroes. Doctor Strange is perhaps the most compelling of these stories. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange, the film tells the story of a neurosurgeon who loses the ability to use his hands following a debilitating car crash. In an effort to rehabilitate, Strange seeks the help of a convoy of wizards hiding in plain sight within New York City. Strange is nursed back to health through magic, and quickly learns of the presence of multiple universes and evil forces. Strange eventually becomes one of the most powerful and important characters in the entire MCU, and the first film does an excellent job of laying the groundwork for his potential.
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10. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
After making his presence felt in 2016’s Civil War, it was understood that Spider-Man would be getting his own standalone film shortly after. It had been just three years since The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit theaters and was critically panned. Following the release of the Sony production, Marvel Studios was granted the opportunity to release its own trilogy of Spider-Man based films. Homecoming depicts Peter Parker as a high school student who is just getting used to his role as the famed web-slinger.
Just like any other Spider-Man film, Peter has to balance his life as a crime fighter while living life as a New York teen. His plans for a smooth balance are thwarted by Adrian Toomes — also known as the criminal arms trafficker Vulture — who also happens to be the father of Peter’s girlfriend. Michael Keaton is truly excellent in this role and lives up the expectation built by previous Spider-Man villains. Homecoming was a perfect start to the Spidey series.
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9. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
What made the Guardians of the Galaxy so successful lies within its lovable cast of outlaws. There are no thunder gods or soldiers with a heart of gold on this team. Instead, the Guardians are made up of thieves, criminals, assassins, and a tree. From the very start, it’s plainly obvious that Guardians of the Galaxy is unlike any Marvel film that came before it. It carries itself with a certain swagger which exudes through its delightful soundtrack, dazzling visuals and eclectic humor. The cast is arguably the best of any standalone MCU film — consisting of Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, John C. Reilly, Glen Close, Djimon Hounsou and Benecio del Toro.
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8. The Avengers (2012)
Marvel had its work cut out for itself with the release of the first Avengers film. Four years had been leading up to the point where fans would finally see all (at that point, just six) of their favorite heroes fighting evil together. Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye make up the film’s mains protagonists as they attempt to thwart the sinister plans of the Asgardians trickster god, Loki. Avengers is a symbol for a simpler time in the MCU — before multiverses or anything of that sort. The team is small, and the threat — while significant — isn’t of the same magnitude as we would see in later films. We pay homage to a quality film which helped kickstart the interest level of countless fans for this iconic series.
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7. Captain America: the Winter Soldier (2014)
Three years after The First Avenger release, fans got their second taste of Captain America in the exquisite sequel, The Winter Soldier. What makes this film standout in the Marvel Universe lies within its realistic feel. There are no web-slingers, or wizards, or gigantic green beasts in Winter Soldier. Instead, we are treated to the excellent hand-to-hand combat from the likes of Cap, Black Widow, and two new characters — The Winter Soldier and Falcon. At its core, The Winter Soldier is an old-school action flick with some superheroes sprinkled in. Marvel took a chance with this one, and hit it out of the park.
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6. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
What’s better than one Spider-Man? How about three — plus a half-dozen villains. Spider-Man: No Way Home pulled the nostalgia card as fans are given three eras of web-slingers in one film. Tom Holland is joined by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield in this epic multiverse extravaganza. After Mysterio exposed Spider-Man’s true identity in the previous film, Peter Parker (Holland) is left with immeasurable guilt from the fallout. He seeks out Doctor Strange in New York City and asks for the wizard’s help.
Strange casts a spell to make everybody forget Spider-Man’s identity, but Peter’s incessant nagging causes a disruption. As a result, a portal to other universes is opened which leads to the pair of other Peter’s and villains like the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and the Lizard to appear. Seeing all of these characters share screen-time is enjoyable for all Spidey fanatics — new and old.
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5. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Through two films, Thor was struggling a bit compared to some of his peers. His films weren’t seeming to connect with the audience. And, it wasn’t plainly obvious why. After all, Thor is the God of Thunder, incredibly powerful, and wields a cool looking hammer. What’s missing? Oh, that’s right, a personality. Namely, a comedic side — which is on full display in Ragnarok. Chris Hemsworth shines in this film as he teams up with a confused Bruce Banner and Valkyrie as they attempt to flee the crazed Grandmaster. Ragnarok is a colorful adventure filled with memorable characters and some of the best humor in MCU history.
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4. Iron Man (2008)
The movie that started it all. While Iron Man wasn’t the first film based off a Marvel comic, it was the first film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Back in 2008, superheroes weren’t nearly the surefire cash cow that they are now. Sure, Batman, Spider-Man, and, even, Blade enjoyed various levels of success in the box office, but just as many attempts had flopped in the years prior. Marvel took a chance with unleashing Iron Man as its opening hero. Tony Stark didn’t have nearly the same popularity as some of his contemporaries. That is, until, Robert Downey Jr. took the role. RDJ smashed his debut as Stark/Iron Man, and has since become synonymous with the character. Couldn’t have asked for a better intro to the MCU with this action-packed origin story.
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3. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Before reaching the end game, there was Infinity War. Marvel’s most ambitious crossover event to date, 2018’s Infinity War is a melding of story arcs which began a decade prior to its release. In 2012, fans were introduced to Thanos — a genocidal alien with immense power — during a post-credits scene in The Avengers. In Infinity War, Thanos finally makes his presence felt, and he wastes no time doing it. The film’s opening scene involves Thanos easily dispatching The Incredible Hulk in a hand-to-hand matchup of juggernauts.
The plot involves the Avengers attempting to stop Thanos from gathering all Infinity Stones. As a result, we see several team-ups between familiar characters who otherwise hadn’t shared screen time — Thor grouping up with the Guardians of the Galaxy remains a fan favorite. It’s a roller coaster ride from the start to finish, and sets up an absolutely unforgettable finale…
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2. Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther was a phenomenon when it was released in 2018. Directed by Ryan Coogler and starring the late, great Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa, Black Panther is arguably the single most important and influential MCU film to date. The film truly had it all. The story was enthralling, the setting of Wakanda was divine, and the soundtrack was immensely memorable. Starring opposite Boseman is a mesmerizing cast which includes Michael B. Jordan — who plays one of the most engaging villains in Marvel history, Erik Killmonger. This is a film you can watch again and again, and never get sick of it.
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1. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
No ranking of MCU films is complete without Endgame taking the top spot. The Russo brothers had their hands full in diagraming how the story of all our favorite heroes would end, and they delivered. The culmination of 23 films (at the time) all came to a head in this epic finale. Endgame picks up where Infinity War left off, Thanos snapped away half of all life in the universe, and it’s up to the remaining Avengers to figure out how to bring everybody back. The last act of the film truly brings the series home. The film jampacks a dozen breathtaking moments within the final battle — including the unforgettable return of the missing heroes. Heroes triumph over evil.
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