The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is easily one of the most successful film franchises of all time. Beginning with Iron Man in 2008, the comic-based movie flourished into 22 more expansions, featuring interwoven plots that secured audiences to the big screen.
11 years after the first movie debuted, MCU has divided into three “phases” of the superhero multiverse. As the series moves toward a new era of cosmic superheroes, we look back on 23 films to rank them from worst to best. Check out this list and find out where your favorite MCU film stands!
Note: Rankings are based on the data consensus of Rotten Tomatoes, the leading online aggregator of movie and TV show reviews from critics.
23. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
In this sequel of Thor, Asgard’s successor to the throne fought against the evil race, Dark Elves, in order to save the nine realms including earth from destruction.
Critics gave it a 66% approval rate based on 283 reviews. They agreed it wasn’t the finest film from the Marvel franchise, but the humor and blood-pumping action scenes were worth catching.
22. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
When scientist Bruce Banner accidentally exposed himself to gamma radiation, he contaminated his cells, which created his alter, The Hulk. As he isolated himself from mankind, he faced a new threat in the form of another superbeing, The Abomination.
Critics rated the film 67% based on 237 reviews. The movie was generally agreed to be far from a success, although the “big green action makes up for its occasionally puny narrative.”
21. Iron Man 2 (2010)
After revealing to the world his identity as Iron Man, Tony Stark was forced to share his technology with the military for the country’s best interest. However, he was reluctant to do so for the suspicions that it might fall into the hands of the wrong people.
The film got an overall approval rate of 72% based on 302 reviews. As a sequel, it failed to stand up to its original, although it did come close.
20. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
A major technological error that resulted in a humankind threat prompted the Avengers’ reunion in this sequel. They battled Ultron altogether, and two newcomers with superpowers were also introduced: Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.
The movie received an approval rate of 76% based on 370 reviews. Critics found the movie overstuffed, noticing the obvious effort on maximizing each actor’s screen time. Nevertheless, it was satisfying, and the introduction of a robot as a foe was considered a fresh take on the usual villain.
19. Thor (2011)
King of the Norse Gods, Thor, was bound to ascend to the Asgard throne when Odin, his father, banished him to earth for being unworthy. Meanwhile, Thor’s brother, Loki, has assumed the throne after their frail father, and plotted a treacherous plan without his knowledge.
Critics gave the movie a 77% approval rate based on 289 reviews. It was praised for the right balance of wit, humor, and human drama. The casting was also on point, and the dynamics of Thor and Loki’s characters were totally commendable.
18. Captain Marvel (2019)
Extraterrestrial Kree warrior Vers (eventually, Captain Marvel) was having recurring nightmares of an older woman, which happened to be connected to her past. In an attempt to uncover the truth, she learned to unleash her superpowers and end the longstanding war between the Krees and the Skrulls.
Critics reviews resulted in a 79% approval based on 535 reviews. They lauded Marvel’s introduction of a female lead, saying it was inspirational, especially for young women. Moreover, it was packed with action, drama, and visual thrills that promised overall entertainment.
17. Iron Man 3 (2013)
After saving New York together with the Avengers from destruction, Tony Stark suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and built dozens of Iron Man suits to cope with his condition. Meanwhile, attacks from so-called Mandarin plagued the country, and Tony would once again bring his ingenuity to save the world and his loved ones.
The film received a 79% approval rate on Tomatometer, based on 327 reviews. Critics praised the movie’s stunning visual effects, which received nominations in the 2014 Academy Awards and BAFTA Awards. The only drawback might have been its lackluster antagonist.
16. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
In 1941, Steve Rogers wanted to join the military but was rejected due to his small stature. He then underwent an experimental program and turned into a supersoldier who would come head-to-head with forces of HYDRA, a Nazi-founded organization.
The movie received an overall 80% approval rate from 272 reviews. Its 1940s portrayal was lauded by critics, with many appreciating the comic book’s overall admirable adaptation. Evans’ performance was also praised for capturing both Captain America’s bravado and Roger’s awkward social skills.
15. Ant-Man (2015)
Dr. Hank Pym commissioned newly freed thief Scott Lang (Ant-Man) to operate a suit that would allow him to shrink in size, possess superhuman strength, and control an army of ants. Using these new skills, Lang prevented Darren Cross, or, Yellowjacket, from building the same technology and using it as a weapon for evil.
Critics gave the film an 82% approval rate based on 331 reviews. Consensus remarked that although the movie was smaller in scale compared to its predecessors, it offered the same thrills any other Marvel movie would have offered. Rudd’s brazen character took away the heavy and serious elements of a superhero, which made the film enjoyable.
14. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Now hailed as the Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill and his team were tasked by the Sovereign to safe keep their special batteries from invaders. However, Rocket decided to steal them, which prompted the Sovereign to attack their ship.
Critics reached an 85% success rate based on 417 reviews. While it did not have the novelty of its predecessor, the sequel was a visual spectacle. Performances of Rooker and Russell were also impressive and added depth to the emotional complexities Quill’s character developed throughout the film.
13. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Thanos continued his quest for infinity stones to execute his plan to exterminate half of all life in the universe. The Avengers, on the other hand, unite to stop himin what would be seen as the greatest war the MCU heroes ever fought.
The blockbuster hit received an 85% Tomatometer approval based on 478 reviews. Critics praised the Russo brothers’ excellent work to keep everything coherent, despite the colossal amount of characters and plotlines. The result was a thrilling and emotionally resonant film that successfully serialized Marvel’s gigantic ambitions.
12. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
After having visited the quantum realm, Scott Lang received a message from Janet, Dr. Pym’s wife, about her exact whereabouts. Donning the Ant-Man suit and joined this time by Hope van Dyne as the Wasp, the two went on an extraction plan to retrieve Janet from the quantum realm.
The movie was critically acclaimed, having an 87% approval rate based on 433 reviews. Consensus noted the action and comedy scenes were top-notch, with Rudd and Lilly’s chemistry strongly remarkable. It was a fitting reprieve and follow-up after the gut punch, Infinity War.
11. Doctor Strange (2016)
Dr. Stephen Strange’s life took a complete turnaround after a car accident that impaired his hands. In his quest to heal, he discovered a mysterious enclave that helped him battle the unseen dark forces bent on destroying reality and realized his existence as the most powerful sorcerer there ever was.
Critics gave the film an 89% approval score based on 378 reviews. It was a satisfyingly entertaining origin story with top class visual effects, musical scores, and casting. Marvel triumphantly introduced another distinct and alluring comic hero worthy of the assembly line-up.
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Director Nick Fury’s unprecedented ambush led him to believe and confide to Steve Rogers (Captain America) that S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised. Together with Agent Natasha Romanoff, they exposed Alexander Pierce as the leader of Hydra within S.H.I.E.L.D., while Rogers unexpectedly reunited with an old friend in the guise of Winter Soldier.
Based on 305 reviews, the movie was a critical success with an astounding 90% approval rate. Themes of conspiracy and suspense made the film a thrilling affair. Its political references and compelling narration highlighted Marvel’s position as a relevant content creator.
9. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Peter Parker’s European vacation got interrupted when Nick Fury showed up and recruited him for a mission to stop four elemental creatures from wreaking havoc across the continent. Parker suited up as Spider-Man and joined fellow superhero Mysterio in stopping the destruction caused by these evil entities.
Critics generally liked the film, giving it a 90% average approval rate based on 448 reviews. A joyous combination of adventure, romance, and action, the film was a fitting epilogue to close out the gloomy chapter of Thanos.
8. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Space adventurer Peter Quill found himself the target of bounty hunters after stealing a prized orb. He ended up in prison and later conspired with Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Gamora, and Drax the Destroyer to escape, sell the orb, and divide profits among them. But, when they discovered the orb’s true power and its possible cosmic threat, the group resolved to save the universe instead.
The critically acclaimed film received a 91% approval score based on 329 reviews.
7. Captain America: Civil War (2017)
Due to the damage incurred from Avengers’ battle with Ultron, the government forged the creation of a panel that would oversee the team’s activities. This resulted in a division among its members, with Tony Stark supporting the oversight and Steve Rogers advocating superheroes’ freedom to defend humanity without political interference. Meanwhile, a bombing incident eventually intensified the cold war, forcing the other Avengers to take sides and fight.
Critics collectively rated the movie with 90% approval based on 418 reviews. Consensus noted that Civil War actively explored thought-provoking themes, challenging ideologies and complex human emotions. The film was unexpectedly emotional, but nonetheless entertaining.
6. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
Thor’s wicked brother, Loki, got hold of the powerful tesseract and posed threat to Earth. S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury then assembled a group composed of Earth’s mightiest superheroes, including Iron Man (Tony Stark), Captain America (Steve Rogers), the Hulk (Bruce Banner), Thor, Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff), and Hawkeye (Clint Barton) to defeat the extraterrestrial force.
The film was not only successful commercially, but also critically, with a solid 91% positive rate from over 360 reviews. Experts concluded The Avengers lived up to its hype. The groundwork of introducing an ensemble cast while maintaining each character’s authenticity in this movie was commendable.
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Following the thrilling experience of fighting alongside the Avengers, Peter Parker started to embrace his newfound identity as Spider Man. Eager to prove he was more than just a friendly neighborhood superhero, he got himself entangled with the Vulture and his evil plans.
Based on 329 reviews, the movie received a 92% approval rating. It successfully delivered the reboot of a fan-favorite character in a thrilling and hilarious fashion. Parker’s colorful and fun adventure truly felt like a live-action straight from the comic book.
4. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Forced out of Asgard by his evil sister Hela, Thor subdued on a faraway planet and was forced into a gladiatorial match that pitted him against the Hulk, an ally and fellow Avenger. Using this opportunity, he convinced the Hulk to help him stop Hela from destroying his homeworld and the Asgardian civilization.
A resounding success both commercially and critically, Thor: Ragnarok received the highest approval rate of 93% among its instalment series. Consensus from these 431 reviews agreed that Waititi’s direction set the shift that rejuvenated the movie series.
3. Iron Man (2008)
Rich industrialist and genius inventor Tony Stark was conducting missile tests overseas when terrorists kidnapped him and forced him to build a weapon for mass destruction. Instead, he built an armored suit to escape and beat his detainers in the process. Upon returning home, Stark refined the suit and used it to fight terrorism.
Critics lauded the film with a 94% approval rate based on 280 reviews. It certainly lived up to its responsibility to launch Marvel Cinematic Universe into a captivating movie. Downey’s charismatic performance rendered a believable transformation of Stark’s once self-indulgent personality to a socially conscious and caring superhero.
2. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
In 2023, Scott Lang, who had just escaped the quantum realm, convinced the remaining Avengers that time travel was possible. As a result, Stark, Banner, and Rocket built a time machine, and the rest of the Avengers went on a mission to retrieve the infinity stones from the past and reverse Thanos’ actions in the present.
Receiving a 94% approval rate based on 539 reviews, critics concluded Endgame tastefully delivered a finale to Marvel’s epic Infinity Saga. It was surprisingly emotional, and while it ended journeys for some remarkable characters, it was the perfect send-off fans will never forget.
1. Black Panther (2018)
After the death of his father, T’Challa (Black Panther) ascended as the new king of Wakanda. When a powerful enemy reappeared, T’Challa had to face the responsibility of rallying his allies and releasing the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.
Boasting a 96% high approval rate based on 520 reviews, Black Panther is the most critically acclaimed of 23 MCU films. Critics lauded the franchise’s revel of diversity and culture that were barely touched on in past superhero films. Not only did it stand out as a thrilling superhero film, but it also masterfully conveyed important political issues the Black community faces.