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All Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies: Ranked from Worst to Best

11 November 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Emilio Santoni

marvel movies ranked

There is no doubt that comic book movies, and superhero comic book movies in particular, are reigning supreme in Hollywood right now. It’s almost hard to imagine that there was a time when these types of films were uncommon and successful comic book movies were virtually non-existent.

Before the millennium, the two exceptions were were Richard Donner’s Superman from 1978, Tim Burton’s Batman from 1989 and their sequels although both series had really already completely ran out of steam by the time the third entry hit the theatres. Most other superhero comic book films produced before the mid-nineties were all pretty sad affairs and didn’t seem to draw in anyone over the age of twelve.

But towards the end of the nineties, things started to change. 1998’s Blade was a clear precursor but it wasn’t until X-Men was released in 2000 that superhero films found large mainstream success. Ever since, all bets have been off and the popularity of the genre seems to have reached a fever pitch, with no end in near sight. This year alone, four Marvel properties were produced, which currently all rank within the top six most profitable films of the year.

Part of this surge has a lot to do with Marvel Studios, who, after having seen other studios been highly successful with their properties, started producing their own content and even surpassed the success of those other studios when they started creating the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). They first established separate superhero movies and then had them all come together in 2012’s The Avengers, which became the third highest grossing movie at the box-office ever.

With Warner Brothers ambitious plans to imitate Marvel’s model of a shared universe with their DC properties (they also announced no less then ten interconnected films for the next five years), Fox riding high on the success of their various X-Men movies and with a Fantastic Four reboot in the works and Marvel about to close their second phase of movies with next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and another ten movies scheduled for the next four years, it looks like superheros are going to reign supreme in the foreseeable future.

But before Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theatres May next year, let’s have a look back at the ten films that Marvel Studios has so far released in their MCU. So far, they are the only studio to have successfully pulled off anything on this scale, a fact which is even more impressive as its first in-house production was released in 2008 when they burst onto the screen with the first Iron Man.

Roughly speaking, half of the Marvel Studios’ movies so far have been great creative and high quality successes whilst the other half varies from not so good to passable fun entertainment. Let’s have a look.

 

10. The Incredible Hulk (Louis Leterrier, 2008)

The Incredible Hulk 2008

By far the worst film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, The Incredible Hulk was in itself a reboot of the 2003 Ang Lee effort, simply named “Hulk”. Whilst that first movie was produced by Universal and considered a critical as well as a bit of a financial flop, Marvel’s own reboot for their MCU didn’t do much better.

Both movies might have made their money back but neither broke the box-office and both films were panned by critics. The biggest problem with The Incredible Hulk was its director. Louis Leterrier has never made a good movie in his career and when compared to the other directors of Marvel’s phase one films, this becomes particularly apparent.

The film felt more like a building block in a franchise than a stand-alone entry and suffered greatly from a weak screenplay. All surface gloss and very little body and soul, The Incredible Hulk is without a doubt Marvel’s weakest entry so far and even though Edward Norton was fine in the role, it didn’t come as a major surprise that he was the only actor to be replaced when the character reappeared in The Avengers four years later.

 

9. Iron Man 3 (Shane Black, 2013)

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 might have been a giant financial success, becoming Marvel Studios’ second biggest film as well as the sixth most successful film of all time with its 1.2+ billion dollar box-office revenue, but it’s also one of Marvel’s worst movies so far. It’s success can be contributed to the fact that Iron Man, as played by Robert Downey Jr., is still Marvel’s most popular character and that the movie was the first film to be released after the giant success of The Avengers, which left the audience begging for more.

Once again the director is probably mostly to blame here. Directed by Shane Balck, Iron Man 3 felt like a re-tread of his eighties action movies, complete with a Christmas setting and an underwhelming climax on a freighter, which seemed to be a copy of the finale of Lethal Weapon 2.

On top of that, we saw Iron Man hang out with a kid and it certainly didn’t help that (spoiler ahead) the film’s iconic and seriously threatening villain was suddenly reduced to a goofy English actor, only to be replaced by a bunch of fire-breathing second-rate villains.

It’s not because I am a purist that I didn’t like what Black did to the Mandarin (in fact, Ben Kingsley is pretty damn funny in the role and it was a genuine surprise) but it simply left the movie without a worthy villain and if there’s one thing a good superhero movie needs, it’s a worthy adversary. A financial success but ultimately an extremely disappointing entry into the MCU, Iron Man 3 actually managed to be worse than the already disappointing Iron Man 2.

 

8. Thor: The Dark World (Alan Taylor, 2013)

Thor The Dark World

The sequel to Thor is not a bad film, it just is very average. It’s greatest assets are Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, who both perfectly capture their respective roles and have rightfully become fan favourites (Loki is still the best villain we have seen in any Marvel film so far).

Apart from that, the entire supporting cast is in fine form too and it’s only Natalie Portman who lets the team down. Not only does she fail to bring anything interesting to her character, her chemistry with Chris Hemsworth is also severely lacking, which is quite problematic since it’s supposed to be so central to the story arc.

The film did feel bigger than Iron Man 3, which was released a few months earlier, and exploring the different realms made for some interesting changes of scenery but an underdeveloped villain in the form of Malekith and a sometimes overly generic storyline and pretty silly plotting kept this one from reaching its full potential.

Basically pretty similar to the sequel to Iron Man, in that it’s sort of fun but nothing special, Thor: The Dark World is fun while it lasts but ultimately quite forgettable. The film does get special bonus points for that inspired Captain America cameo though. That was amazing and arguably the highlight of the entire movie.

 

7. Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010)

RASPUTIN

Just like the sequel to Thor, Iron Man 2 felt like Marvel playing it safe. And whilst they amped up the action, introduced both War Machine and Black Widow and opened up their universe, the overall effect of the movie felt less fresh than its predecessor and more like a set-up movie for The Avengers.

Robert Downey Jr. is the film’s strongest asset and director Favreau actually gave the movie a far more comic book-like feel than its predecessor but an unnecessary convoluted plot and an underdeveloped villain (even though Mickey Rourke is an imposing adversary) kept this one down.

Once again not as bad as the first two entries on this list but just overly safe and therefore just way too average, Iron Man 2 is fun enough for fans but a disappointment when compared to the first Iron Man film, which had kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe in style.

 

6. Thor (Kenneth Branagh, 2011)

Thor

The first Thor movie is a bit of a frustrating affair. It lands higher than the previous entries on this list as the first half of the movie is pretty damn great. Director Kenneth Branagh uses his Shakespearean background to great effect when setting up the story and introducing us to the world of Asgard. Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Anthony Hopkins all shine as the Nordic gods inhabiting this other world, the designs were grand and the first major action set piece, where Thor and his buddies take on the Frost Giants, is fantastic.

On top of that the rivalry between Thor and Loki is very well handled and placed front and centre whilst the film is also infused with a healthy dose of humour. It’s just such a shame that the second half of the movie, when the action moves to earth, is such a disappointing affair.

Set in a little desert town in New Mexico and with a completely underwhelming climax, the movie completely fizzles out as the stakes never seem all that high. It’s so bad that the second half of the movie almost makes one forget about the great stuff that came before it. A real missed opportunity, Thor nonetheless managed to deliver a solid origin story and introduced the audience to the third major Avenger.

 

 

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  • ManuelAlejndro

    1.- Captain America: Winter Soldier
    2.- Guardians of the Galaxy
    3.- The Avengers
    4.- Iron Man/Iron man 3
    6.- The First Avenger
    7.-The Dark World
    8.-Thor
    10.- Hulk/Iron Man 2

    That’s my list.

    • Richard McLin

      Great list

    • Brian Lussier

      You forgot one.

  • cristina willigs

    the winter soldier is the most boring of all this movieverse

    • Henry Wilson

      I strongly disagree, I think The Winter Soldier was very interesting.

      • cristina willigs

        i didnt liked becase despite all the stunning visuals and action scenes i knew none of the good guys was going to be killed, so most action scenes are too long and boring

  • Pablo Sanchez

    1.- The Avengers

    2.- Iron Man

    3.- Captain America: Winter Soldier

    4.- Guardians of the Galaxy

    5.- Hulk

    6.- Iron Man 2

    7.- The Dark World

    8.- The First Avenger

    4.- Thor

    10.- Iron man 3

  • Soumya Dham

    Totally agree. Glad to see someone loves Cap 1 as much as I do. 🙂

  • Milten Steel

    your picture for The First Avenger is from The Winter Soldier

  • Xavier Knoepffler

    All X-men movies are missing, by far the best movies out of Marvel Universe. The 2 Captain america’s are the most boring ones, The actor have no charisma, and the second even succeeds in making Scarlett looking ugly.

    • Brian Lussier

      X-Men isn’t part of the larger MCU. And Scarlett plays a character, not a pin-up girl. If you only go to the movies hoping to see hot girls, than you go for the wrong reasons.

      • Xavier Knoepffler

        Ah, it’s you… the one thinking the black widow is a character!!!
        Watch the trailer of the next Avengers. She’s as much a character as Jeremy Renner.
        And by the way wtf making a MCU distinction. We are flooded by super heros movies, anyway. In their great majority BS.

        • Brian Lussier

          What I mean is, the X-Men films were not even produced by Marvel Studios. The ten films on this list are the ten that were actually made by Marvel Studios. And BTW, you saw a trailer, good for you! Try watching the film now before judging the character!

  • Ted Wolf

    Really liked winter soldier as well. But I can’t wait for Dr strange

  • Charlie Watson

    1. Guardians of the Galaxy
    2. The Avengers
    3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    4. Thor: The Dark World
    5. Thor
    6. Captain America
    7. Iron Man
    8. Iron Man 3
    9. Iron Man 2
    10. The Incredible Hulk

    Would be my order. Bear in mind 1-3 are marginal as are 4-7.

  • Michael Griggs

    Iron Man 3 is an amazing movie. This list sucks.

  • Seth

    I seriously think Ang Lee’s Hulk is very underrated. He was more interested in exploring the Jekyll-and-Hyde relationship between father and son than exploding cars. It’s not even a superhero movie if you think about it. It deserves a second view.

    • Brian Lussier

      I agree, it’s a psychological drama. And as a piece of filmmaking and especially of storytelling, it beats all these movies. However, two problems with it: first, Hulk looks like a version of Shrek blown up on steroids, and I hate that dog fight. Two: as a movie it’s superior to all these, yes; but as a superhero movie (which is what it’s supposed to be, first and foremost), it fails miserably! But still, when people tell me that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was the first superhero franchise to attempt to explore serious themes and deliver a profound psychological analysis of its main protagonist, my answer is always: Ang Lee’s Hulk did it first! As such, it’s a brave film.

  • JP

    Pretty good assessment, but did you lose a bet or something that makes you have to squeeze the word “whilst” in at every opportunity?

  • gab ger gop

    It is obvious you must place Avengers in number one, but as far as storytelling goes, Guardians of the Galaxy beats them all.

  • BTW

    Yeah, well done completely overlooking the X-Men movies — especially considering this article is called “ALL Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies….” X3: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were FAR worse than The Incredible Hulk, which at least had strong leads and a somewhat-thought about plot that you could tell wasn’t just shat out.

    If nothing else, the fact that you employed Tony Stark’s hanging out with a kid as con just makes you an action-hungry deadhead, and disqualifies your list from much of any weight. Iron Man 3 took a break from Tony Stark in the suit and gave him some real humanity by showing that the suit isn’t the only thing in his life he’s got going for him.

    The first Captain America was fun for a bit, but there was absolutely zero character development. Steve Rogers is a pipsqueak who’s gungho about his life and his duty, and then he’s made into a supersoldier…who’s gungho about his life and his duty. Then he’s thrust into the future and basically told to suck it up and deal, and the movie ends. Nothing. I felt nothing. Gets way later on the list than your lack of logic suggests.

    • thegoddamnbatman

      Guys, it’s just the MCU movies, meaning the Marvel Cinematic Universe made by Marvel Studios. No Fox or Sony movies. Get it?

  • thegoddamnbatman

    1 – Avengers
    2 – Guardians of the Galaxy
    3 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    4 – Iron Man
    5 – Captain America: First Avenger
    6 – Thor: The Dark World
    7 – Iron Man 3
    8 – Thor
    9 – Iron Man 2
    10 – Incredible Hulk

    my choice.

  • Lord Darque

    Very good list. Can’t argue with the order at all. Very glad to see Captain America 1 at #3. It would have been so easy to screw-up and Joe did so well with it. Out of all the Avengers Cap’s was the hardest to tell so I suppose that is why the film does not get more love.

  • omac09

    1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    2. Guardians of the Galaxy
    3. Captain America: The First Avenger
    4. Iron Man
    5. The Avengers
    6. Thor
    7. Iron Man 3
    8. Thor: The Dark World
    9. The Incredible Hulk
    10. Iron Man 2

  • Nafis Ishraq

    captain america: winter soldier was way way way better than the 1st avenger….

  • Bailey Walker

    (the great)

    1. Captain America: Winter Soldier
    2. Guardians of the Galaxy

    (the good)

    3. Iron Man
    4. Captain America: First Avenger

    (after this point the movies are all awful)

    5. Iron Man 3
    6. Thor
    7. Incredible Hulk
    8. Avengers
    9. Thor: Dark World
    10: Iron Man 2

  • Carnage7

    1.avengers
    2. GOTG
    3. Winter soldier
    4. Iron Man
    5. Iron Man 3
    6. Thor 2
    7. First avenger
    8. thor
    9. Inc Hulk
    10. Iron man 2

  • Human … Work

    Seems stupid to restrict it to just the ones by one movie studio instead of all of them

  • Henry Wilson

    There was just one thing I strongly disagreed with. I think The Winter Soldier was an upgrade of The First Avenger, thus, Cap 2 should be number 3 and Cap 1 should be number 5.

  • Dennis E

    Finally someone who agrees that Captain America the First Avenger is underappreciated. I love that movie! It’s always so low on other lists.
    But I probably would still put Winter Soldier in the top 2 together with Guardians of the Galaxy.
    Only 4 movies I would consider ‘bad’:
    The Incredible Hulk
    Iron Man 2
    Thor 1 & 2

    Iron Man 3 is slightly better and the rest is great.
    I expect Phase 3 is going to be awesome.