RANKED: Marvel Cinematic Universe

Now that the dust has started to settle after the theatrical release of the highly-anticipated Avengers: Endgame and the spoiler ban has officially been lifted per the directors, it's time to rank all 22 films that make up Phases 1 through 3 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When Iron Man debuted in 2008, no one knew that it would spawn a franchise at this grand of a scale. I re-watched all MCU films in timeline order (except one; it was my first time ever seeing it) to prepare myself for Endgame and it also helped me rank them from worst to best. SPOILERS AHEAD! (Final rankings were set before checking Rotten Tomatoes scores.)

22. The Incredible Hulk

Release Date: June 13, 2008

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%

Number of Times Watched: 2

I forgot how bad The Incredible Hulk was. I remember when Ang Lee's Hulk came out just five years before the MCU took it on and how lame that one was too. Marvel Studios still couldn't pull it off for whatever reason, but then again, it was only their second entry in a long list of films. Thank God Mark Ruffalo came in for Marvel's The Avengers. He's the only Hulk I will forever acknowledge.


21. Thor: The Dark World

Release Date: November 8, 2013

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 66%

Number of Times Watched: 1

Yes, The Dark World is the one MCU film I have never seen until just a few weeks ago. I don't know why I never got around to it. It just looked boring, and it was, but not as mundane as everyone had set it up to be. Crazy to think that this one movie plays such an important role in Endgame. I did laugh a little harder during Endgame, though, when Thor mentioned the Dark Elves and with a silly, spooky "oooh!" since they're easily the least exciting villains in the entire MCU.


20. Iron Man 2

Release Date: May 7, 2010

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%

Number of Times Watched: 3

After Iron Man blew away audiences 11 years ago, its predecessor is the true definition of a sophomore slump. Tony Stark having some sort of midlife crisis was exhausting and Rourke's Ivan Vanko was the villain that no one asked for. It was kind of sloppy and all over the place. However, I think we can all agree that we're grateful for Don Cheadle stepping in as Rhodey after the whole Terrence Howard debacle.


19. Avengers: Age of Ultron

Release Date: May 1, 2015

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%

Number of Times Watched: 3

There had to be a "worst" Avengers film. It's inevitable. After the crew saved New York City from aliens and Loki, they got cocky. Really cocky. The Natasha/Bruce love story felt weird, forced, and unnecessary. I feel like it started and ended in Age of Ultron. Tony Stark's global defense program goes awry, which then turns into Robert California from The Office, and they ultimately destroy the entire country of Sokovia in the process. They went from heroes to zeros, but then back to heroes, because, of course.


18. Thor

Release Date: May 6, 2011

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%

Number of Times Watched: 3

When Thor was first introduced into the MCU, it was as if no one was excited to see him. There's something about Norse gods and Viking-looking dudes that just aren't appealing I suppose, but Marvel Studios kind of got it right with Chris Hemsworth at the helm. The casting, in general, felt right for each character, which is about as interesting as Thor got. Well, we got to see Hawkeye for the first time for three seconds, but that's pretty much it.


17. Ant-Man

Release Date: July 17, 2015

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

Number of Times Watched: 2

Props to Paul Rudd for not only being the most unlikely actor (at the time) to be a Marvel superhero, but for also being the only actor in the entire MCU to contribute to their respective film's writing. I feel as if the Ant-Man movies are the most slept on, yet they carry so much weight in Endgame. They're actually really clever and charming. Michael Peña's story telling scenes as Luis are enough to make Ant-Man worth the watch.


16. Iron Man 3

Release Date: May 3, 2013

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%

Number of Times Watched: 2

Iron Man 3 gets a bad wrap. Probably because of the mixed response that the Mandarin received, and I get that, but take everything else into consideration. Obviously, it's much better than the second Iron Man film, but it's definitely the biggest and baddest of the trilogy. The special effects were definitely amped up and they clearly maxed out their budget with insane stunt work. The skydiving scene!? Tell me that isn't one of most intense sequences in all of the MCU. Also, Pepper Potts gets to kick ass and fly around in an Iron Man suit instead of be a damsel in distress? Hell yeah.


15. Captain America: The First Avenger

Release Date: July 22, 2011

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

Number of Times Watched: 3

Like everyone else at the time, I was skeptical to see Chris Evans portray a second Marvel superhero in just four years after Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer flopped, but luckily it paid off. He's much more suited to be Captain America and The First Avenger is a solid origin story with a stacked cast. It's cool to see what the beginning of an era would eventually become.


14. Ant-Man and The Wasp

Release Date: July 6, 2018

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

Number of Times Watched: 2

The second Ant-Man film was all fun. It was released just a few months after the depressing dusting of Infinity War, so it was a nice comic relief from that sad mess. Marvel still kept it captivating with not one, but two villains (one much cooler than the other). Also, Evangeline Lilly finally gets to suit up! Ant-Man gets bigger than he was in Civil War! Hank gets his wife back! More hilarious storytelling from Luis! Of course, it ended with more dust just to leave us hanging until Endgame.


13. Doctor Strange

Release Date: November 4, 2016

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

Number of Times Watched: 2

What makes Doctor Strange such a good movie is definitely the brilliant visual effects. From beginning to end, you'll find yourself asking, "How did they do that?" You can really see the time and hard work that was put into it. It was meticulously crafted. It's also well written with more jokes and one-liners than I was expecting. Though the stubborn Stephen Strange was annoying at times, he ultimately redeemed himself and turned out to be a worthy Avenger. Tilda Swinton also pulls off bald really well. Irrelevant to the ranking, but worth noting.


12. Captain Marvel

Release Date: March 8, 2019

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%

Number of Times Watched: 2

Sure, Captain Marvel is a middle-of-the-pack movie (that's made over $1 billon), but a 78% seems a bit harsh. If this list were in Rotten Tomatoes score order, it'd be 19th out of 22 and that just doesn't seem right. For the first female-led MCU film, it deserves more recognition. We finally see how powerful "the most powerful Marvel superhero" truly is, the twist of the Skrull being the good guys and the Kree being the bad guys kept it fresh, and they flawlessly took off 25 years off of Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg's faces. We also finally learn how Nick Fury lost his eye. That in itself deserves at least 2% more in its overall score.


11. Captain America: Civil War

Release Date: May 6, 2016

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

Number of Times Watched: 3

Avengers 2.5 introduced us to Black Panther and the much-anticipated Spider-Man. The Avengers don't have an evil villain plotting to destroy them this time around. Instead, it's an internal Red versus Blue and you don't know which side you want to root for and that's what keeps it exciting and fun to watch. To see all the superheroes you love fighting in hand-to-hand combat against each other is something we never wanted to see, but were also glad we got. They didn't even make up at the end! Something we expected, but didn't actually get until three years later.


10. Marvel's The Avengers

Release Date: May 4, 2012

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Number of Times Watched: 5

The first Avengers film legitimized how mighty a single movie franchise could be and it set the bar high. This was only the end of Phase One of a universe that's just about to commence Phase Four and it's only gotten bigger since 2012. Marvel's The Avengers was the crossover that the world wasn't exactly ready for, but once we got a taste, we knew we needed more of this and there was no sign of slowing that down ever since.


09. Iron Man

Release Date: May 2, 2008

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

Number of Times Watched: 5

Many love to argue that Iron Man is the best film in the MCU just because it's what started this whole frenzy and Robert Downey, Jr. was literally born for this role, but those aren't good enough arguments in my opinion. Yes, it's great. It's iconic, even. The visual effects were mind-blowing for 2008, it's what cleaned up RDJ's act, and it will always go down in history as "the one that started it all", but the MCU movies have come a long way in these past 11 years. Iron Man shines in its own seperate way.


08. Guardians of the Galaxy

Release Date: August 1, 2014

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

Number of Times Watched: 4

The first Guardians movie has a special spot in my heart. It was the first MCU film that I felt was more of a comedy than a superhero movie. A comedy with a kick-ass playlist. And, actually, they're not even superheroes; they're an unlikely band of intergalactic outlaws who still weren't sure what was right from wrong. They eventually became a dysfunctional family that we would all come to love and wish we were a part of. This movie also still has the best opening credits sequence to date.


07. Thor: Ragnarok

Release Date: November 3, 2017

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Number of Times Watched: 3

Ragnarok might be the only third film in a trilogy that would be considered the best of the three in movie history (except maybe Toy Story). Forget about Loki, the Destroyer. or the Dark Elves. Hela is the best Thor villain, I feel. In fact, she's one of the best villains throughout all of the MCU films and the only female one (so far). That's just one plot line of the film, too. The main story line on Sakaar is uproariously funny. They turned this chapter of the franchise into a buddy comedy starring the two strongest Avengers, Thor and Hulk. What a duo.


06. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Release Date: July 7. 2017

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Number of Times Watched: 3

Tom Holland is, without question, the best actor to ever portray Peter Parker and we have the team at Marvel Studios to thank for that. They got an actual teenager to play a teenager. The fact that they skipped the tired backstory of how Peter got his powers was also a smart decision. It gave the audience a chance to be entertained by this kid that's just trying to balance school life and superhero life. The side characters (Ned, Happy, Aunt May, MJ, Coach Wilson, Captain America) are the glue that hold it all together. Homecoming also has honor of donning the ugliest theatrical movie poster to date.


05. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Release Date: May 5, 2017

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

Number of Times Watched: 4

Upon my re-watch of Guardians Vol. 2, I came to the conclusion that it's much better than the original and a Top 5 MCU film, despite what the top critics say. The writing is much sharper, the comedic timing is incredible, and Baby Groot...is Baby Groot. We get to see characters we didn't like from the previous film turn into characters we ended up rooting for. Also, the villain is an entire planet. A PLANET. AND PETER QUILL'S DAD?!


04. Avengers: Infinity War

Release Date: April 27, 2018

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

Number of Times Watched: 4

Ah, yes. The film that started "the most ambitious crossover event in history" meme is definitely Top 5 material and for good reason. We thought The Avengers was epic and then Infinity War came in and said, "Nah." When I was told to watch the movie again, but with Thanos in mind as the protagonist and Thor as the antagonist, it changed everything. Watching it from that perspective was fascinating. Much like Black Panther's Killmonger, you can kind of understand why Thanos wants to do what he wants to do. Then the Snap happens and we all became depressed for an entire year. Infinity War is such a ride.


03. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Release Date: April 4, 2014

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

Number of Times Watched: 5

The Winter Soldier isn't just "the best Captain America" movie. It's also one of the best action movies to come out in the past five years and the first taste we got from the Russo Brothers in the MCU. Who would've thought these two brothers who were so used to filming episodes of Arrested Development and Community would be so successful with big budget movies? The Winter Soldier was at a 10 from beginning to end with some memorable action sequences. Remember the elevator fight scene? Or when Bucky grabbed a moving motorcycle from a motorcyclist, flipped it around, and just jumped onto it without skipping a beat? Holy shit.


02. Black Panther

Release Date: February 16, 2018

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

Number of Times Watched: 6

My most watched MCU film (so far) is definitely one of the best. It might even be one of the best movies on my "All Time" list. It's the first superhero movie that was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars for crying out loud. That's how much of an impact this film had. It didn't win the big award, but it won a lot of behind-the-scenes awards, which goes to show that it's more than just a Marvel movie. It's a Shakespearean play that's set in the fictional, tech-forward country of Wakanda with a mostly black cast. It features a respectable king, a memorable villain, and plenty of smart, strong women. What more could one ask for?


01. Avengers: Endgame

Release Date: April 26, 2019

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Number of Times Watched: 3

I watched Endgame three times in five days just to make sure that it's the best film in the entire MCU catalog and it honestly is. That's right. I spent nine hours of my life in a movie theater and I would still go see it again. Just because it's three hours long, has damn near every MCU superhero in it, or is the most recent MCU film to be released doesn't make it the best. It's what the past 11 years has led up to and it all unfolded perfectly. It has comedy, drama, call-backs, heart, and everything else you'd ever want in an MCU conclusion. There isn't one bad thing I can say about it. Read my full review here.

#Avengers #Ranked #MCU #Marvel

© Justin Recio 2019