Updated: Apr 20, 2019
Eleven years ago, Iron Man was released, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born. Since then we have been treated (or tortured, depending on how you want to take it) to twenty more films. Avengers: End Game is upon us, so it’s only right that I put together this list; a list ranking all the films that exist in the MCU from worst to best. You might not agree with everything, but hey, what’s the world without a bit of controversy?
21) Thor: The Dark World (2013) – Directed by Alan Taylor
I wanted to be nice, but I can’t even. I love Thor, he’s my favourite MCU character next to Captain America, but my goodness me, this film stinks. There’s no two ways about it, I can’t dress it up in any way, the only positive, and I mean literally the only good thing is the fact that we are introduced to the reality stone. In the Dark World, Thor and Loki work together to try and stop the Dark Elves led by Malekith from using the Aether to plunge the nine realms into an eternity of darkness. The film is poorly paced, it also carries an average score and a weak plot. Not to mention Christopher Eccleston, who’s a great actor was wasted in a poorly written role as Malekith.
Best moment/scene: The film isn’t ALL bad. The final battle between Thor and Malekith is somewhat of a saving grace.
20) The Incredible Hulk (2008) – Directed by Louis Leterrier
One of the most iconic superheroes in history produced one of the worst comic book films ever. If it’s any consolation, the 2008 MCU instalment of The Incredible Hulk is better than the 2003 version. Bruce Banner tries to recreate the super soldier serum used on Steve Rogers seven and a half decades before. In his efforts he is accidently exposed to gamma radiation that causes him to transform into a huge green monster and blah, blah, blah. Everyone knows the story of the Hulk. If I’m honest I can’t quiet put my finger on the main reason why I detest this film so much, Ed Norton’s underwhelming performance? Corny one-liners? A lacklustre final fight scene? Take your pick.
Best moment/scene: Cornered at a College campus, Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk while being ambushed by the army, we see one of my favourite moments in the MCU when an over-zealous Emil Blonsky is kicked into a tree by the Hulk.
19) Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017) – Directed by James Gunn
Do you know what main issue with this film is? No Adam Warlock. Especially seeing as we were teased with a post credit scene. Wait, no. That’s my second issue, my main, main issue is the horrific antagonist choice. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is a HUGE regression from Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). The plot, pacing and writing are all painful attempts to re capture the magic from the first film. We follow the Guardians as they flee from the Sovereigns after Rocket steals from them, they are rescued by Star Lord’s father and from then on, we are taken on a journey as Star Lord discovers his where he truly came from. Throw in some of our Guardians being caught in between an internal dispute between the Ravagers, and you’ve got yourself a half, no, a quarter decent hero flick.
Best moment/scene: The opening scene. The Guardians battle against a monster, being hired to do so by the Sovereign race. As they battle, baby Groot dances around while the opening credits roll.
18) Thor (2011) – Directed by Kenneth Brannagh
Who knew that comic book films could be so Shakespeare-n? The first Thor film isn’t all that bad, I just didn’t appreciate how it felt too much like a folk tale, especially when you compare to the films within its own trilogy, which both adopted a more practical style of direction and dialogue. Demi God Thor Odinson is casted to Earth and stripped of his powers and hammer by his Father, Odin as punishment for waking a dormant war. While on earth he must find his way back to Asgard by proving his worthy to wield his hammer and one day rule. Meanwhile his adopted brother, Loki, plans to take over the throne in his absence. The film isn’t terrible, I guess my reason for having it so low is that I wasn’t a huge fan of the direction.
Best moment/scene: Thor regains his powers and famed hammer after proving his worthiness on Earth. He uses his powers to make quick work of the ancient weapon, The Destroyer. That was sent to earth by Loki.
17) Iron Man 3 (2013) – Directed by Shane Black
When have you ever seen PTSD really explored in a comic book film? Iron Man 3 is an honest depiction of how Tony Stark struggles to cope with his own mind following the events of The Avengers (2012). Imagine having to battle PTSD, fight against a psychotic terrorist, and save your relationship? A tall order, even for Tony Stark. Iron Man 3 takes a different approach, the script and storyline allow the viewers to see a more vulnerable side of the arrogant, billionaire philanthropist that we hadn’t previously seen in the MCU. I would have it higher if the plot twist wasn’t so anti climatic and if Ben Kingsley wasn’t so pathetic.
Best moment/scene: Iron Man summons all the suits he had been working on during the film, that are being controlled by JARVIS and uses them in an effort to stop Aldrich Killian.
16) Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018) – Directed by Peyton Reed
Ant-Man and the wasp was everything I expected it to be. Funny, witty, light hearted and a perfect warm up for Endgame. That’s because are introduced to the quantum realm, which we can only assume will play a huge part in the MCU’s upcoming twenty second instalment. Scott Lang faces punishment due to his part in the events of Civil War. However, he is soon called back into action to help Hope and Hank, he must help them to uncover mistakes from their past. A sixteenth spot may seem harsh but I guess I just don’t think that highly of this film. It’s not BAD per se, but it’s a long way from its prequel.
Best moment/scene: Mid credits scene, Scott is left stranded in the quantum realm when Hope, Janet and Hank disintegrate from Thanos’ snap.
15) Captain Marvel (2019) – Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Something told me that this should have been higher, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought against it. Captain Marvel is nice, I guess. Vers is a Kree soldier who crash lands on earth during a mission gone wrong, after running into a young Nick Fury, she goes on a journey and discovers her life before what she now knows of on the planet Hala, and that everything she has been taught about Skrulls (the main target of Kree soldiers) has been a lie. Captain Marvel introduces one of the strongest characters in comic book history. If the pager at the end of Infinity War had you confused, this film here answers all your questions.
Best moment/scene: Captain Marvel channels the full potential of her powers and wipes out an entire Kree fleet in space, sending Ronan the Accuser into a retreat.
14) Iron Man 2 – (2010) – Directed by Jon Favreau
Dealing with your late Father’s old beef must be an absolute pain. Six months have passed since the events of the first Iron Man film, Tony Stark must juggle being hounded by the US government to hand over his Iron Man technology and his own health due to the arc reactor in his chest. Meanwhile, a Russian scientist, Ivan Yanko has developed similar technology and plans to use it against Stark in an act of revenge. Iron Man 2 also introduces future MCU and Avengers mainstays, Black Widow and War Machine.
Best moment/scene: Iron Man and War Machine fight side by side and destroy a flock of Hammer technology drones built by Vanko.
13) Avengers: Age of Ultron - (2015) - Directed by Joss Whedon
‘’Can we hold them?’’
‘’They’re the Avengers.’’
If this was a list based on which MCU films I personally enjoy the most, this would be in the top 5. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know why, but I have a special place in my heart for this film. However, when I watch it with an unbiased eye, the plot holes and overall faults are glaring. Too glaring for a top 10 spot on this list anyway. Tony Stark tries to build a peace keeping program using an artificial intelligence, and chaos ensues when it goes rouge. ‘’Ultron’’ starts to piece together a plan to eradicate all human life to save the earth, enlisting Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch to help him. It’s up to the Avengers to battle against his army of machines before his plan comes to fruition and the human race is wiped out.
Best moment/scene: The Avengers stand tall in front of Ultron and his army in Sokovia as the country, now a giant vibranium bomb, rises into the sky.
12) Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – Directed by Jon Watts
Enter Tom Holland. The best version of Spider-Man to date. From his debut in Civil War, I knew Marvel had gotten it more than right by casting him. This film on the other hand? Brilliant. Humour, a Tony Stark appearance, an authentic reinvention of the classic train scene from Spider-Man 2 (2004) and of course, Tom Holland’s excellent individual performance. The film also does a great job of showing us what it would be like if a 15-year-old boy from Queens, New York had superpowers. My only gripe with this film and the reason I don’t have it ranked slightly higher, is the super predictable plot twist.
Best moment/scene: After having his suit confiscated by Tony Stark, Peter matures overnight and finally does what is needed of him to stop the Vulture.
11) Ant-Man (2015) – Directed by Peyton Reed
From petty criminal to Superhero. Scott Lang is handpicked by Hank Pym to don the Ant Man suit, not only to exist as the new Ant Man, but also to steal the Yellowjacket plans from Darren Cross who plans to sell the suits to HYDRA once he’s perfected the shrinking formula. Ant Man is one of those films that exceeds expectation, and to me it is in that Ragnarok, Guardians of the Galaxy ball park in terms of humour… some might even tell you it’s even funnier. Shout out to Luis, the star of the film, and RIP Ant-hony.
Best moment/scene: When Yellow Jacket kidnaps Ant Man’s daughter, Cassie, the two of them butt heads and have a miniature yet epic battle on the young girl’s toy train tracks.
10) Iron Man (2008) – Directed by Jon Favreau
Welcome to the MCU, Ladies and Gentlemen. Tony Stark is the hotshot playboy owner of Stark Industries, and after being severely wounded and escaping Afghanistan within an inch of his life, he re considers his life path. Enter Iron Man. The first ever Marvel Cinematic universe film rounds out the top 10. Tony finds himself locking horns with his father’s old partner and friend, Obadiah Stane, who is against his decision to discontinue the company’s production of arms, while also trying to keep him discovering his latest project: an arc reactor powered suit of armour.
Best moment/scene: Cornered, Tony Stark uses his first ever suit of armour to over-power the Ten Rings and escape captivity in Afghanistan.
9) Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – Directed Joe Johnston
’’What kind of monster would let a German scientist experiment on him to protect their country?’’
I know what you’re thinking… all three Captain America films in the top nine? Damn, it’s almost as if he has the best MCU trio. In 1943, Steve Rogers tries to enlist in the USA Army, but the sickly, 5’4’’ 94lb young man is rejected because to a shopping list of health issues. He is, though, later recruited to join by Abraham Erskine, and following displays of wit and bravery he is chosen as the subject for the ‘’Super Soldier’’ experiment. The frail young man from Brooklyn is transformed into a 6’2’’ 220lb superhuman, taken to the absolute peak of physical human capacity. He, along with the Howling Commandos fight to wrestle the war back in the USA’s favour and cripple HYDRA in the process, while having to come up against Johan Schmidt, a psychotic German HYDRA commander who was subject to an imperfect attempt at the ‘’Super Soldier’’ experiment. All hail the first Avenger, and say hello to the Space stone.
Best moment/scene: Captain Steve Rogers is given his famous vibranium shield by Howard Stark.
8) The Avengers (2012) – Directed by Joss Whedon
’’Let’s do a headcount here. Your brother, the Demi-God. A Super Soldier, living legend, who kinda lives up to the legend. A man with breath-taking anger management issues. A couple of master assassins and you… you’ve managed to piss off every single one ‘em.’’
Just one of the many gems Tony Stark has dropped off on us in the last decade. We also all know how iconic the ‘’We have a Hulk’’ line has become. At number eight we have Marvel’s the Avengers, and even though I might not have it *that* high, I think that out of all MCU films, The Avengers has the most re play value. It’s an unforgettable ride of action and light comedy, it’s added value comes by way of the fact that this is the first time all our heroes share the screen for the first time, also we are indirectly introduced to the Mind Stone living in Loki’s sceptre. I guess Joss Whedon isn’t always completely useless.
Best moment/scene: The Battle of New York. Iron Man runs point as the Avengers fight to defend New York against Loki and the Chitauri fleet.
7) Doctor Strange (2016) – Directed by Scott Derrickson
One of my biggest film related regrets is not seeing Doctor Strange in cinema in 3D. Special effects on a MILLION and then some. I, for one wasn’t too sure on how the film would come out when I heard Benedict Cumberbatch had been casted for the titular role. Trust me, I was wrong to ever doubt him, he was flawless. Doctor Stephen Strange is a superstar surgeon who travels to the Kamar-Taj to find the Ancient One in hope of healing his hands after they are destroyed in a car accident. Unconvinced at first, he soon becomes a student of the Mystic Arts and has to defend the Earth against a group of zealots who serve Dormammu. The film has a lot for viewers to sink their teeth into, with subjects such as loss, betrayal and greed, we are also introduced to the time stone.
Best moment/scene: Dormammu. Demon. Living energy. Born from dark magic literally an infinity ago. Can’t figure out a way to defeat him? Fine, just figure out a way to trick him. Strange uses the time stone to lock the demon entity in a time loop, frustrating him into submission.
6) Captain America: Civil War (2016) – Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Loved it. Loved every single minute. My only issue is that it didn’t exactly live up to the billing of a ‘’Civil War’’ because there wasn’t, in my opinion, any dire or long-lasting consequences as a result of the events of this film. Following the events of Age of Ultron, the Avengers disagree on signing a set of accords that would make the them liable to the US government. This film is packed with action. The opening scene in Lagos, (this scene also sets the tone for the rest of the film) Bucky and Cap taking on a mob of Police officers in Austria, and of course who could forget the famous Airport fight between The heroes? Civil War also deserves a lot of love for finally bringing Spider-Man and Black Panther into the MCU.
Best moment/scene: Cap, Bucky and Tony track the films antagonist Helmut Zemo to an old HYDRA base in Siberia. He reveals that Bucky killed Tony’s parents twenty-`five years ago, sparking an emotional battle between Captain America, Bucky and Iron Man.
5) Black Panther (2018) – Directed by Ryan Coogler
This might have been the most anticipated film in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe aside from End Game and/or Infinity War. Believe me when I say Black Panther lives up to the hype and then some. If you haven’t already seen it, I promise you that the special effects and the score will blow you away before the storyline even gets warm. Set shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther follows T’Challa as he returns to Wakanda following the death of his father. He must deal with the pressure and constant challenges that come with being both the King and sacred warrior of his home country.
Best moment/scene: A previously defeated T’Challa storms the Wakandan plains to fight against his cousin Erik Killmonger and settle who belongs on the throne once and for all.
4) Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – Directed by Taika Waititi
Thor, God of Thunder. Not God of Hammers. When you consider the severity of what Thor is up against in this film, some may think it was an odd choice for Taika Waititi and the writers to turn it into a superhero buddy cop film. Having said that, me saying that it WORKED is an understatement. Thor, two years or so after the events of Age of Ultron must fight against his ultra-powered older sister, Hela, while also trying to prevent Ragnarok – the complete destruction of his home planet, Asgard. Ragnarok is the film that finally does Thor some justice. Before Ragnarok, I feel like we weren’t properly shown the extent of Thor’s power. For ages, the debate was: Who’s stronger? Thor or Hulk? This film puts that all to bed.
Best moment/scene: Inspired by a vision of Odin, Thor comes back from the brink of defeat at the hands of Hela and wipes out her undead army while The Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin blares in the background.
3) Guardians of The Galaxy (2014) – Directed by James Gunn
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s favourite group of misfits. In Guardians of the Galaxy, Ronan The Accuser, a Kree from the planet Hala wants to destroy the home planet of the Kree’s enemies, Xandar. The beings that eventually stand in his way? A green man with no social skills, a racoon, a tree, a wise cracking earthling and Thanos’ daughter. Guardians of the Galaxy is filled with action, laughs and heart-warming moments. We also see the introduction of the power stone and get a longer look at the Mad Titan Thanos. GOTG being so high on this list might surprise some of you guys reading this, but it’s close to flawless in my eyes. Only the Avengers (2012) rivals it in terms of re play value.
Best moment/scene: The Guardians channel the power stone to defeat Ronan The Accuser and save Xandar.
2) Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
The Big Daddy. We waited ten years for it, it is the culmination of eighteen films, and it was more than worth the wait. Infinity War is said to be set about two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War. We see the fractured Avengers join forces with the Guardians of The Galaxy to try to prevent The Mad Titan Thanos from collecting the six Infinity Stones. He plans to eradicate half of the living beings in the universe to restore ‘’balance’’ and preserve the universes ‘’finite resources’’. Everything is at stake in Infinity War, and despite the customary comedy sprinkled throughout, it is hard to ignore that this is one of the darker MCU instalments. Action packed from start to finish, Infinity War is one for the ages, and the ending speaks for itself.
Best Scene/Moment: Just as Thanos’ army begins to overwhelm our heroes, Thor arrives in Wakanda by channelling the Bifrost with his new Stormbreaker axe and restores the advantage.
1) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.
I couldn’t care less if you guys agree with this or not, but if you’re smart, you’ll agree. At number one we have the best comic book film ever made. That’s right. The. Best. Comic. Book. Film. Ever. Made. In the Winter Soldier, we follow Cap as he continues to try to get to grips with life in the 21st Century following his seven decades or so in the ice. He’s stunned by the return of his childhood friend, Bucky, the titular Winter Soldier, and alongside Black Widow and the debuting Falcon, he must fight to unravel the hidden partnership between SHIELD and HYDRA. The Winter Soldier is full of action, subtle comedy and realistic representations of real-life issues like as PTSD and betrayal.
Best Scene/Moment: Cap and Bucky come face to face for the first time since 1943 and exchange mittens in a breath taking fight sequence.
There you have it, guys… my list of all of the twenty-one MCU ranked from worst to best. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this even half as much as I enjoyed putting it together. Whether or not you agree with my order, I think we can all agree that the MCU is an amazing collection of films, and there honestly is something for everyone. Endgame is around the corner, maybe reading this will make you want to refresh your memory before it arrives? Maybe reading this will make you more excited for its release? Or not, who knows. Either way I expect everyone reading this to go and watch Endgame, and when you watch it, why not tell The Nerd Council what you think?
Written by Atlas (Twitter: @StringerAtlas) on behalf of The Nerd Council