Over the past 10 years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the most successful movie franchise of all time, earning over $15 billion at the global box office, which includes the revenue from the opening weekend of Avengers: Infinity War. Not only are the MCU movies great at the box office, but they are also great with the critics. There has yet to be a feature installment to the MCU that has earned itself a "Rotten" score on critic site Rotten Tomatoes, so that is certainly a remarkable feat.
While the MCU as a whole is great, not every Marvel movie in the series is as magnificent as the last. With that in mind, here is every MCU movie through Avengers: Infinity War ranked from worst to best.
19. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The Incredible Hulk
There's a reason why the MCU rarely tries to connect itself back to the second installment in the franchise. While it may have been the best Hulk solo movie we have gotten since the 1980s, The Incredible Hulk really doesn't fair well compared to the rest of the movies in the MCU. The largest issue with The Incredible Hulk was its hard-to-follow narrative, which was supposedly caused completely by the movie's star Edward Norton. Only weeks before the movie's production began, Norton delivered a brand new script written by him that he they demanded they shoot, otherwise he would walk. Frantic to keep their star but also to keep their original story, those in charge of the project chose to shoot scenes from both scripts. Though they fixed many of the movie's issues in post-production, this mix-and-match style really didn't hold up the best, making The Incredible Hulk the worst movie in the MCU to date.
18. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Iron Man 2
All in all, the MCU didn't have the best start, considering that its second and third releases were two of its worst. Iron Man 2 certainly did not stand well compared to the first Iron Man, which was a terrific origin story that arguably revolutionized the superhero genre. Iron Man 2 had the potential to be great, adapting one of Iron Man's best story arcs from the comics, Demon in a Bottle. However, the underdeveloped villains tried to take the spotlight of the movie, despite not having any relatability or posing much of a threat throughout the course of the film. While Iron Man 2 was certainly a fun experience that could have been a lot worse, it also could have been a lot better than it turned out to be.
17. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Thor the Dark World
Speaking of underdeveloped villains, the second Thor movie Thor: The Dark World is undoubtedly the pinnacle of Marvel's villain problem. In the comics, the villain Malekith the Accursed was one of Thor's most notable and beloved villains. Unfortunately, this did not carry out on-screen, as Malekith ended up becoming Marvel's most underdeveloped villain to date. The only redeeming factor of The Dark World was Loki, who had a beautiful arc throughout the movie following the death of his adoptive mother. However, Loki became notably absent during the third act of the movie, despite him being the only part of The Dark World audiences actually cared about. By the time Thor had to face off against Malekith at the climax of the movie, we really couldn't have cared less if Thor was successful or not, as the only part of the movie we cared for was no longer present.
16. Ant-Man (2015)
While Ant-Man wasn't necessarily bad, it wasn't necessarily great either. The movie proved itself to be an adequate superhero movie. It was better than most other superhero movies, but it was still under the MCU's standard. What Ant-Man did great was manage to keep us entertained and emotionally connected to a superhero who can talk to ants, which no one thought was possible. However, it was still not one of the MCU's best, leaving Marvel fans to wonder how much better the movie could have turned out had Marvel Studios not parted ways with the movie's original director Edgar Wright.
15. Thor (2011)
Like Ant-Man, there wasn't anything necessarily bad about Thor, but it also wasn't necessarily great. Most of the movie felt formulaic, following a basic storyline without many twists to keep us entertained. While Thor was undoubtedly better than its sequel Thor: The Dark World, it still wasn't the strongest movie in the MCU. It served as a proper origin for characters like Thor and Loki, but that's all it really stood as. It was an essential movie in the MCU, but it's not always the most rewatchable.
14. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Despite having some of the best reviews of any MCU movie, the third installment of the Thor franchise still doesn't hold up the best compared to the other movies in the franchise. The film certainly was one of the most fun movies in the MCU and kept audiences laughing, but it did so at the expense of emotion. Most of the emotional moments of Ragnarok were cut short in exchange for humorous punchlines. The movie featured numerous death scenes that killed fan favorite characters from the Thor series, but not even these moments carried any emotional weight, as the humor of the movie was clearly a much greater priority for those in charge of this project.
13. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Avengers Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron doesn't live up to the first Avengers movie, but it is still great at one thing: being a fun action movie. The plot doesn't always hold up the best, and parts of the movie were oversaturated with jokes or actions that were out of character for some of the heroes, but it was still a fun movie. Some moments certainly dragged in Age of Ultron, but moments like the Hulkbuster fight and the climactic fight sequences featuring all of the Avengers assembled together undoubtedly made up for it. While Age of Ultron doesn't hold up the best when compared to some of the stronger MCU movies, it still stands strong as a fun, action-packed, ensemble piece.
12. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Iron Man 3
The final installment of the Iron Man trilogy regularly gets a lot of hate from Marvel fans, mostly due to the shocking decision to make the fearsome Mandarin into a joke character, and instead making Aldrich Killian into the main antagonist. While many people saw this as a clever twist, many others saw it as a disgrace to the comics, where the Mandarin was one of the best villains to ever grace the page. Outside of the despised twist, Iron Man 3 still holds up as a good movie. It provides a fitting conclusion to Tony Stark's arc throughout the trilogy, in addition to shedding light on important topics like PTSD. Tony's interactions with Harley show more of his deep character, and overall Iron Man 3 is a wildly important part of Tony's journey as a character.
11. Doctor Strange (2016)
Doctor Strange was a visually innovative addition to the MCU, including groundbreaking effects in addition to finally showing the magic side of the franchise. It was a fun movie with some terrific performances and a third act that didn't rely on an epic duel between the hero and the villain. Where Doctor Strange fell flat, however, was with its storytelling ability. While the effects were undoubtedly innovative, its narrative was not, repeating the same character arc that we have already seen in movies like Iron Man and Ant-Man, but with a much less likeable hero. However, the fun parts of Doctor Strange made up for this, still making it a great addition to the MCU.
10. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Guardians of the Galaxy
The sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge hit, mostly due to the adorable Baby Groot and the well written build-up of the villain Ego. The character development of every member of the team is what sold Vol. 2 as a great movie, but it was also part of its downfall. While trying to give equal amounts of attention and development to all 8 protagonists, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 became stretched a little too thin, making many character arcs feel forced and too on the nose. While it was certainly an emotional and fun sequel, it still doesn't stand nearly as strong as the first Guardians of the Galaxy.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
The first Spider-Man movie to take place in the MCU managed to prove itself as the strongest Spider-Man movie we've seen in over a decade. The movie brought heart, humor, and an ensemble of supporting characters reminiscent of 80s and 90s high school movies. Homecoming also managed to introduce one of the best villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Michael Keaton's Vulture. Spider-Man arguably has the best rogue's gallery of any Marvel hero, so this movie had a lot to choose from. The decision to go with the Vulture and to make him feel like a normal guy trying to protect his family was a brilliant decision, being one of the few Marvel movies to actually make us feel for the villain.
8. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Captain America: The First Avenger
The first Captain America is quite possibly the most underrated movie in the MCU. This commonly overlooked superhero flick shows the true heart of the patriotic superhero we've grown to love over the years. It's a story of about standing up for what's right in the world, even if it means going against your superiors or taking your own life for the greater good. In addition, it has a beautiful theme about power, and the abuse of power that is commonly seen in the world. While MCU movies regularly have a villain that is essentially a doppelganger of the hero, The First Avenger is arguably the best movie to use this. Both Captain America and Red Skull had the same power, but Captain America knew how to use it without abusing, whereas Red Skull did not, reaching the point where he was literally consumed by power at the end of the movie. All in all, Captain America: The First Avenger earns its place in the Top 10 MCU movies to date.
7. Iron Man (2008}
Even after 10 years, the first movie in the MCU still holds up as one of its best. Iron Man proved itself to be one of the most innovative superhero movies of its time, with a relatable and hilarious character that is still beloved by fans to this day. In addition, the narrative of Iron Man easily managed to grab fans in, with an antagonist that managed to prove as the perfect foil to Tony Stark, while still being relatable with clear intentions and motivations besides just being "evil." Iron Man started the MCU that we know today on a great note that quite possibly set the tone for almost every superhero movie that's been released since.
6. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy
This comedic space opera strategically managed to make us feel for a ragtag team made up of a pirate, an assassin, a psychopath, a raccoon, and a large talking tree. Looking back on it, this movie should not have been successful, let alone good, yet somehow, Marvel pulled it off, and today it stands as one of the best movies in the franchise. Guardians of the Galaxy brought elements of fun and emotion together in a movie that we went into with confused expectations, and left in complete wonder of how Marvel managed to pull it off. Phenomenal performances, great writing, and a fun soundtrack came together to make one of the best space operas to ever hit theaters.
5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This government thriller / superhero hybrid exceeded all expectations. For whatever reason, seeing Captain America lose important parts of his life is a plot point that always works, so seeing him lose the thing he depends on most, the government, was a shockingly great element to put on the table. In addition, the entire arc with Bucky added stakes to the movie we had yet to see in a Marvel movie. The entire third act of The Winter Soldier was absolutely heartbreaking to watch, because Bucky had become pretty much the only part of Captain America's old life that he had left, and he refused to let him go.
4. Black Panther (2018)
Of all of Marvel's solo films, Black Panther is likely the most worthy of praise. The 2018 release not only told a beautiful narrative about redemption, but also managed to shed light on a part of the world and a culture that doesn't receive nearly enough attention in fictional media. The narrative of Black Panther was nearly perfect, giving a complete and interesting arc without an abundance of plot holes or moments that made us ask, "Why did they put that in there?" It opened audience's eyes to what is really going on in the world, making us see things from more eyes than just our own. This is more than can be said for most superhero movies, which is why Black Panther is so high on this list.
3. The Avengers (2012)
Up until 2012, the idea of a movie crossover featuring heroes from all sort of different films coming together to work side-by-side on screen felt like a fantasy. The Avengers proved not only that this can be done, but also that it can be done well. This movie arguably changed the movie industry, as many other production companies have tried to follow in The Avengers' footsteps, yet with none managing to pull of quite as grand of a crossover event. The story of The Avengers was simple, yet still in-depth enough for us to want to follow it. Additionally, it included one of the best villains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Loki, in what is arguably his best movie in the series. All in all, The Avengers smashed records and expectations, changing the way we perceive franchises forever.
2. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Avengers Infinity War
What The Avengers did right, Avengers: Infinity War managed to do even better. The third installment in the Avengers franchise brought even more heroes to the big screen than the first movie, making itself into another unprecedented event. Everything was bigger about this movie though, not just the cast. The villain and the stakes were much greater than ever before, and the overall quality of the movie stands above any Avengers movie before it. Though people had their doubts about Infinity War, considering the vast number of protagonists that the movie had, the movie did a fantastic job balancing the characters while still giving practically everyone an arc for them to develop in. Infinity War stands strong as one of the best made MCU movies, and certainly one of the most entertaining and emotionally powerful.
1. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War certainly stands alongside The Avengers and Infinity War as a great ensemble movie, but Civil War still goes a step further. Not only does it perfectly introduce great characters like Black Panther and Spider-Man, but it also geniusly manages to bring out just as high of emotional stakes as Avengers: Infinity War without bringing in the overused trope of stopping the end of the world. Having a superhero or team of superheroes fight to save the world can get a little old, which is what made Captain America: Civil War such a brilliant breath of fresh air for the MCU. The entire climax of Civil War wasn't to stop an alien invasion or an evil genius who plans to destroy the planet or the government. Instead, the entire conflict was between the team's heroes. The fact that this movie managed to pull on just as many emotional strings without the fear of losing millions of lives being present is truly remarkable. Captain America: Civil War stands strong as the best movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to its high emotional stakes in a setting we did not expect to see them in.
All in all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe stands as a brilliantly made franchise. While there have been a few bumps in the road for Marvel Studios with movies like Thor: The Dark World and The Incredible Hulk, overall the MCU still manages to hold onto a brilliant track record, leaving us anxious to see what will come next.