Now that WandaVision is over, how will you pass the time until The Falcon and the Winter Soldier arrives? For the TechRadar team, ranking the Marvel movies felt like the right thing to do. Below, we've listed all 23 of these hugely popular superhero films from worst to best.
We worked this out using a points-based system, where every participating writer had to rank each of the films. We reserved the right to intervene if the scores gave out a result that was truly horrendous, and did swap a couple of movies with that in mind.
Some observations from our process: there aren't many bad Marvel movies as such, but there are quite a few that hover somewhere in the middle. Only a handful can be called truly great blockbusters. Ultimately, of course, these things are subjective – and our individual opinions on the movies below varied wildly.
Let's get started, and maybe this will incentivize you to update your own list of favorites.
23. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Oh dear, where do we start? Thor’s second solo outing is as poor as it gets. It’s a shame, really, as Chris Hemsworth’s turn as the God of Thunder was a funny, charming and much-needed part of The Avengers. Here, though, the actor and the rest of the cast are stifled by an undercooked plot with a non-event of a villain, Christopher Eccleston's Malekith. This film's story doesn’t really go anywhere, aside from featuring a moderately interesting invasion of Asgard.
Admittedly, there are a couple more standout moments, like Thor hanging Mjolnir on a coat rack peg, or getting on the London Underground, but generally speaking it's not much fun on a rewatch. In retrospect, Thor: The Dark World was a blessing in disguise. It showed that the character needed a massive rethink and, thankfully, it proved to be Thor’s making with 2017’s Ragnarok.
22. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
One of the weakest MCU movies – one that's so boring it's a surprise it didn't derail the entire enterprise at the starting line – features Edward Norton as Bruce Banner in a dreary film that oddly feels like a sort-of sequel to 2003's Hulk. Despite several important connections to future MCU movies including a Tony Stark cameo, not to mention a decent set piece where the green giant is fighting the army, it's just a bit of a speed bump on a rewatch. Thankfully, the MCU would rarely be this dull again.
21. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
If Ant-Man is slightly unlucky with its placement on our list, its sequel is deserving of its position. Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn’t offer anything that the first film didn’t, and it certainly feels like a filler film in between the shocking events of Infinity War and its much-hyped follow-up. Again, there are a couple of genuinely funny moments in Ant-Man and the Wasp, and it acts as a lighthearted palate cleanser to Infinity War’s finale. Otherwise, there’s nothing noteworthy about this sequel, which is one of the many Marvel films to have a boring villain problem.
20. Thor (2011)
The Thor movies are a strange bunch: almost everyone agrees The Dark World was the nadir of the trilogy, but the original Thor never gets that much love either – despite being one of the funnier early films, and successfully bringing a more outlandish element into the MCU without actually breaking it. The blend of Asgardian fantasy and Earth-bound superheroics is reasonably effective, even if Thor's journey in this film to earn Mjolnir is slightly too predictable.
19. Iron Man 2 (2010)
A generally uneven sequel to Iron Man fails to shed much more light on the Tony Stark character, and instead comes off as a bit aimless. Featuring a weaker villain in Mickey Rourke's rough grandma-looking Whiplash, alongside Sam Rockwell's irritating fast-talking Stark rival Justin Hammer, it doesn't hit the heights of the first Iron Man.
Still, like The Incredible Hulk, it maintains a few vital connections to future MCU movies, though it also commits the crime of making Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff seem extremely boring – something The Avengers would rectify.
18. Doctor Strange (2016)
For a character who has proven to be instrumental in the MCU, Doctor Strange was a deeply average introduction for the Sorcerer Supreme. The Benedict Cumberbatch-led film about the surgeon-turned-magician is trippy and humorous in places, but it lags behind its counterparts in many aspects including its villains and set pieces. It's trying a little too hard to be the MCU’s version of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, and manages to do relatively little with a terrific cast. Doctor Strange is a largely forgettable movie – and we'd argue the character leaves far more of an impact in the third and fourth Avengers movies.
17. Captain Marvel (2019)
Brie Larson's Carol Danvers is a worthy addition to the MCU, and this '90s-set movie has some fun elements, but it's a little paint-by-numbers as Marvel origin films go. The most interesting thing about Captain Marvel is how her back story is slowly unveiled to her within the events of the film, something the MCU hadn't tried before – but it also has the fairly common MCU problem of lacking a good villain, and generally doesn't include many memorable moments compared to some of the better solo films in the canon. A change of directors for the second movie might give it more energy.
16. Ant-Man (2015)
A movie almost a decade in the making, Ant-Man’s eventual arrival on the big screen is an enjoyable heist-infused superhero flick with plenty of laugh out loud moments. Paul Rudd’s comedic turn as thief-turned-superhero Scott Lang, and Ant-Man’s size shifting abilities, are used to great effect throughout. Again, this movie completely lacks a good villain – Corey Stoll's Yellowjacket is just a jerk who you have no reason to care about – but it does feature a great final set piece around a toy train set.
15. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Shane Black's Iron Man 3 was the perfect Avengers palate cleanser. As Tony Stark deals with PTSD from the Battle of New York – which, to be honest, only manifests as him being short of breath a couple of times – a terrible figure called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) targets the inventor and billionaire. Or does he? While plot-wise this is not an essential movie in an MCU rewatch, it's arguably the funniest MCU film, showcasing Black's skills in this department. Iron Man 3 also ends with a great final set piece, bringing a 'house party' of Iron Man suits together on-screen to beat some dudes up.
14. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
The first Captain America film often gets a bad rep. Despite its decent critical reception at the time, it's weirdly among the lowest-scoring Marvel films on IMDb. Still, it's definitely not bad – Steve Rogers is perhaps the easiest of the original MCU heroes to cheer for, because he was selected for the Super Soldier program based on his moral compass and spirit. As a World War 2 period piece, The First Avenger still works great, and Hugo Weaving's Red Skull is a pretty memorable villain. And Steve's relationship with Peggy Carter is genuinely well-handled – with a heartbreaking finale in this film.
13. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The weakest Avengers movie so far. Age of Ultron sees Tony Stark – fresh from his PTSD episodes in Iron Man 3 – wanting to build a suit of armor to protect Earth against other cosmic entities. True to form, his plan goes awry, and the Avengers find themselves battling Ultron (James Spader), a genocidal artificial intelligence, and his lieutenants Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen). Age of Ultron had a lot to live up to given its 2012 predecessor’s success and, while it has its moments, it feels weighed down by those expectations, its overstuffed plot and introducing key Marvel characters for future films.
12. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
As the final film in the MCU’s Phase 3 arc, Spider-Man: Far From Home had a few things to live up to. It was the first post-Endgame movie, which meant that it had to deal with the fallout from that flick’s climax, while also telling a story with high enough stakes that the audience would still care.
Far From Home has a fun villain in Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio, and memorable scenes like Peter Parker's captivating heart-to-heart with Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan – not to mention a jaw-dropping post-credits sequence that teases what’s next for the MCU. Aside from all of that, Far From Home is a middle-of-the-road romp that just showcases how charming Tom Holland's Spidey is.
11. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Despite looking as incredible as its first entry and featuring a payload of solid one-liners, the second Guardians meanders when it comes to telling a good story. Peter Quill finally meets his long-lost dad, Ego the living planet, and in the most obvious twist of all time, he's not all he seems.
This movie's main problem is that it struggles to say anything new about its characters – particularly when it repeats plot beats with Gamora and Nebula already covered by the first movie. If anything, we'd argue Infinity War is a better Guardians movie than Vol 2 – it gives Gamora a lot more to do, brings out new sides of Peter Quill, and perfectly positions Rocket and Groot alongside a very depressed Thor.
Still, this movie definitely has its moments, as well as much-loved merchandise icon Baby Groot.
10. Iron Man (2008)
The movie that started it all. Before the arrival of cosmic beings – and multiple villains born out of Tony Stark’s previous weapons manufacturing business – Iron Man offered a grounded but refreshingly energetic flick to kick the MCU into gear. Robert Downey Jr. captured Stark’s cocky personality perfectly, while the supporting cast set a high bar for future films to match. Despite ending with a so-so final battle, Iron Man was arguably the strongest standalone MCU Phase 1 movie.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Tom Holland arguably stole the show with his turn as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, so much so that expectations for his first solo venture were pretty high. Thankfully, Spider-Man: Homecoming was a breezy, colorful and enjoyable MCU debut for the wall crawler. Ably supported by the likes of Michael Keaton, whose intimidating turn as the Vulture is one of the MCU’s best villains to date, Holland is on top form as he navigated the perils of high school and being a burgeoning superhero. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a delight that deserves multiple rewatches.
8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The Russo brothers entered the frame with this confident Captain America sequel, which once again pits Steve Rogers up against Nazi offshoot HYDRA – which has become deeply embedded within SHIELD. Facing off against mysterious assassin the Winter Soldier, Steve has to dismantle his former employer to stop AI-powered helicarriers from murdering everyone.
This terrific movie has a superficial layer of All The President's Men-style conspiracy thriller, enough to make it feel like it has real substance. At the same time, it confidently introduces Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) to the MCU, sparking another of Steve's winning bromances – and there is arguably no more fan-coveted relationship in the MCU than Bucky and Steve's friendship, which is picked apart perfectly in this film.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Marvel's first big swing at an obscure set of characters was a triumph. Bringing together a ragtag group of criminals and oddballs, Guardians of the Galaxy is essentially a superhero team film about outsiders – set against the gorgeous, previously unseen backdrop of Marvel's Jack Kirby-infused cosmos. James Gunn supercharges these no-name characters with real personalities out of the gate, and performs the magical feat of turning a talking tree into a pop culture icon. This film is still tons of fun, and manages to make you invested in a whole bunch of different comic book characters you'd never heard of before.
6. The Avengers (2012)
If 2008’s Iron Man set the MCU’s wheels in motion, The Avengers shifted gears, put the proverbial pedal to the floor, and chartered a new path for superhero movies. Marvel’s first true attempt at a superhero team-up brought all of our heroes together – some more reluctantly than others – to halt Loki’s invasion of New York.
It was funny, action-packed, at-times heartfelt, and revealed where Marvel wanted to take its expanding series of films. The Avengers laid the foundations for the MCU’s future otherworldly events, and proved that you could have multiple heroes in the same place, give them all plenty of screen time, and tie different story threads together to make one all-conquering movie.
5. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
The third Thor movie is the only entry everyone can agree is actually great. Taika Waititi injects the series with his trademark offbeat humor, and sends the God of Thunder to fight the Hulk after he gets his ass kicked by Cate Blanchett's Hela. This was the kind of tonally distinctive approach the Thor movies desperately needed, and it's one of the easiest films on this list to rewatch – it's no wonder Marvel is going back to Waititi for more in next year's Thor: Love and Thunder.
4. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
We'd argue that Infinity War is a stronger film than Endgame, and that's probably because it's got less to accomplish. Endgame is arguably three films welded together – a story about the grim aftermath of the Thanos snap, a time-traveling heist movie, and a massive war film. As a result, it's not quite as elegantly told as the story of Thanos' initial victory, yet it features countless all-time great MCU moments, and a final battle that's the ultimate piece of Marvel fan service. Will theatrical movies ever feel this big again?
3. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
A Captain America movie doubling up as an Avengers film, the Russo brothers' second effort creates a schism between the MCU's superheroes while also carefully introducing two more: Spider-Man and Black Panther. After the more divisive Age of Ultron, this sequel film manages to successfully dial in on Tony Stark and Steve Rogers' relationship in a way that makes it devastating when they eventually come to blows.
As well as being the best Cap movie, this is perhaps the greatest Iron Man movie, too – and the airport battle in Leipzig is perhaps the most fun set pieces in the entire MCU.
2. Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War was extremely close to being our one Marvel movie. After lurking in the shadows for so long, Thanos finally makes his play to acquire the Infinity Stones and wipe out half of all life in the universe. Naturally, The Avengers’ growing ranks stand in his way, and what plays out is a tightly-knit, action-packed, and heartbreaking film that delivers the best, spine-tingling ending in MCU history. The Russo brothers’ ability to juggle Infinity War’s ensemble cast alongside its thrilling and emotional plot delivered a brilliant blockbuster film that future Avengers movies – Endgame aside – will have a hard time beating.
1. Black Panther
Black Panther is the jewel in the MCU’s crown, and it’s easy to see why it grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide at release. It's a solo Marvel movie with extremely high ambition – revealing the secret nation of Wakanda, and telling an epic story of a king, T'Challa (the late Chadwick Boseman), contending with the sins of his father. This is a thematically weighty film that was rightly hailed as groundbreaking for its primarily Black cast and behind-the-scenes talent.
Yet it has everything that makes the MCU great, too: humor, terrific action scenes and a whole host of characters you can't wait to meet again in future movies. Why can't all MCU solo films be this good?