Ranking all 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe


We are just shy of 24 hours away from the first Avengers: Infinity War showtime around the country. The movie is destined to break box office records, and early reviews and ratings have it as the single best film Marvel has made. I for one have never been more excited for a movie. It has seemed like centuries since that first trailer came out. However, before this weekend’s Marvel madness unfolds, let’s look back at the eighteen films that have set up Infinity War, yet all stand on their own as very good-to-great films. Here’s what I think about the past decade of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), ranked from 18 to one.


  1. The Incredible Hulk

Let’s start with this- Hulk is not a bad film, per say. It is just not great in a class of 18 films that are known for their greatness. This can also be said about many of the next few films on this list. That being said, The Incredible Hulk is considered by many, as well as by me, to be the worst in the MCU. Despite being a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes (which is actually pretty decent), it feels disconnected from the rest of the films. Aside from its post-credit scene featuring Tony Stark, the movie itself lacks the connection to the MCU as a whole the other 17 have. However, to be fair, this is most likely due to Edward Norton playing Bruce Banner, who was replaced by Mark Ruffalo for The Avengers and the films following. This switch contributes to why some fans don’t even consider The Incredible Hulk to be part of the MCU.


  1. Thor: The Dark World

With Loki being the main villain of The Avengers, fans expected more out of the character in this sequel, which opened only a year later. Thor and Loki’s stories are further explained, as well as now pointless plot development into Thor and Jane’s relationship. (Jane would later be written off in Age Of Ultron and Ragnarok) However, Dark World does do a lot of explaining and set up for the next phases of films, including Infinity War, which is needed in the long run of the MCU.


  1. Ant-Man

Paul Rudd gives us the closest thing Marvel has created to a full-blown comedy, which is both awesome and harmful. An appearance in the final battle of Civil War added more to Ant-Man’s character, but as for his stand-alone film, if you want a more light-hearted, comedic superhero film from the MCU, this is for you.


  1. Thor

Similar to its sequel, Thor seems to be less than it should be. However, that’s not to say the film isn’t full of action, and does a great job of introducing Chris Hemsworth as the mighty Thor himself. We also meet Hawkeye, and if the recent outrage of Jeremy Renner’s character being left out of the Infinity War poster shows anything, we were introduced to an MCU icon.


  1. Iron Man 2

This film is 100% what its title implies- the sequel to Iron Man. That is both good and bad, however the bottom line is simple: It is very similar to the original, but that doesn’t mean it is repetitive. We explore Pepper and Tony’s relationship, we first see the War Machine armor, and follow both the conflict of Tony’s health and two new powerful villains working together. Plus, we met Black Widow for the very first time. The conclusion is simple: The bridge of character development and introduction leading to The Avengers.


  1. Guardians Of The Galaxy V.2

Later down this list I will talk more about what made the first Guardians great. When it comes to the sequel, it does do a lot right, but ultimately it does the same thing as Iron Man 2. It is a classic sequel, full of the same comedic balance and character interaction that we loved in the first film. This is again good and bad. It does a little set up for future films, but not much. It is another separate story than the Avengers franchise, but continues to move forward to the crossover coming in Infinity War.


  1. Doctor Strange

Doctor Stephen Strange introduces himself as most likely the most overpowered hero in the MCU. His ability to reverse, freeze, bend, and completely control time not only makes for great action, but also for some of the most stunning special effects I’ve seen. It does feel separate from the rest of the MCU at times, but the times it does connect do a lot of explaining into the infinity stones.


  1. Thor: Ragnarok

In my opinion, Ragnarok is the undisputed gold medal of the Thor films. Despite being the threequel, Thor: Ragnarok brought back two characters we hadn’t seen since Age of Ultron: the Asgardian god himself, and the mighty Hulk. The scene where these two meet back up is the second best of the film, a gladiator-like fight on the planet Sakaar. The final battle is the best scene, introducing a new found lightning power Thor discovers he has always had. Not to mention, there was a small but important appearance from Doctor Strange, which introduces Thor and Strange prior to Infinity War and helps Thor in the storyline of Ragnarok specifically.


  1. Iron Man 3

Many will rank this threequel to the Iron Man films much farther away from first than I did, with critics not particularly loving this one. However, some of those people need to step back and take a look at it as a whole. It shows major character development of Tony, showing his personal trauma battle following the events of The Avengers. Also, the scenes of the new armors that fly on to Tony on command are great. Not to mention, the final battle of this film, where Tony calls for all of his suits, is one of the greatest in the MCU.


  1. Black Panther

After Chadwick Boseman originally showed us the power of the Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, fans knew why Marvel studios had a stand-alone film for the Wakandan king in production. The product was a dramatic, comedic, and action-packed film that maintained not only the greatness label given to MCU films, but also stood out as unique. The film also sets up Infinity War brilliantly, both in the movie itself and the post-credit scenes.


  1. Avengers: Age of Ultron

How do you follow up a film like The Avengers? How do you make a successful sequel to the icon that was the original? Enter Age of Ultron. From the opening “Avengers assemble” scene to the second-biggest final battle (after the first Avengers) the franchise had seen at the time, Avengers: Age of Ultron is full of action, comedy, flashbacks, and the same great crossovers that have made so many MCU films what they are.


  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Much like Black Panther, spider man had his debut as part of Team Iron Man in Civil War. The stand-alone film that came after did not disappoint. After Sony had its five Spiderman films, Marvel took a crack, brilliantly casting Tom Holland in the role and yet again creating a masterpiece. Tie all that in with enough Tony Stark appearances that it could be retitled Iron Man 4, Homecoming stands out as the best stand-alone movie in phase three and affirms a future for the MCU even after Infinity War.


  1. Captain America: The First Avenger

One of the most well-known comic book heroes of all time, it was destined that Marvel studios would have to include Captain America in The Avengers. However, before that, the MCU gave us their first prequel. Captain America: The First Avenger took us back to 1942, and showed us the inspiring story of Captain Steve Rogers, the very first super soldier and Avenger. With Tony Stark’s father, Howard, playing a large role in the film, Captain America does everything right, even the subtle foreshadowing and not-so-subtle connections to the rest of the MCU.


  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The Winter Soldier is unlike any of the other sequels to the stand-alone films in the MCU. It is different than GOTG V.2, Iron Man 2, and Thor: The Dark World. While those films were all very good, The Winter Soldier is in a whole different class. This sequel couldn’t be more different than The First Avenger, which is a great movie on its own. Winter Soldier has everything. We are reintroduced to Bucky Barnes, and we see Steve try to remind him who he is and was. We meet the Falcon, Sam Wilson, another veteran-turned-superhero. We laugh at Steve’s comedic attempts to catch up on the nearly 70 years of pop culture and news he missed while frozen. The chemistry between characters is great, with Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) and Nick Fury both playing huge supporting roles. The final battle remains today as one of the best in MCU history, the death of S.H.I.E.L.D. creating not only an incredible story but also an outstanding set-up for the films and stories to come.


  1. Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel took a shot in the dark with Guardians. The goal was to make a separate but equally successful franchise as the Avengers films, with the goal of a crossover in Infinity War. It’s not easy to introduce more than 10 new main characters without the crossover help they had used for new Avengers. In other words, this time Tony Stark couldn’t introduce us to them. It was an entirely new, seemingly unrelated story. But you can’t ever doubt the crew behind these films. Guardians of the Galaxy does nearly everything right. It introduces all five of the main heroes and the supporting characters in unique, action-packed ways. It has some of the best fight scenes in the MCU. The visual effects are stunning. In my opinion, it is the best balance of comedy and action out of all 18 films. It goes above and beyond all standards and single-handedly brought back 70s music.


  1. Iron Man

The one that started it all. The start of the Avenger initiative, and in my opinion, the best stand-alone movie in the MCU. In one of the most brilliant casting choices in history, we are introduced to Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark- who would soon become an icon to not just the MCU but the film industry itself. His wise-cracking, cocky, cool, and overall infectious personality make us want to root for him, no matter what. The fans’ love for this film and this character is what started the MCU, and it still stands as the bronze medal of all 18 a decade later.


  1. Captain America: Civil War

I’ve referenced Civil War a million times so far, and now we’re finally here. The references are due to the reason it’s so high up on this list: it is outstanding. The concept, the story, the chemistry between characters, the humor, and some of the best action scenes in the MCU. It is all there. It is titled a Captain America film, but it is through and through an Avengers film. It is the devastating yet epic breakup of the team, the chemistry and great Avenger assembling we saw in Age of Ultron split in half. Some agree with Tony Stark, that heroes need to reveal all their powers and identity to the government. The opposing side is led by the other godfather of the MCU- the first avenger himself, Captain America. The battle at the airport hangar near the end of the film is absolutely fantastic, the actors really showing how much they do not want to be fighting one another, but know why they need to. But it is when Tony Stark, Captain America, and Bucky Barnes meet in a cave for the final, final battle of the film that it insures itself as one of the best in the MCU.



  • The Avengers


Before Age of Ultron, Civil War, or Infinity War– “there was an idea to bring together a remarkable group of people.” An actual line from the film, it summarizes it perfectly. It was one of a kind, brilliantly planned out through four years and five movies of foreshadowing, planning, and greatness. Fans first heard of it in the post-credit scene of Iron Man, and got more and more excited as more was revealed and it seemed to be drawing closer. The Avengers still stands today as my favorite movie ever, and I know for a fact that I am not alone. Everything is done right. That same hype that surrounds Infinity War due to its massive cast of heroes we love was the same way for this film, and they went beyond any expectations. It was some of the first crossovers we had seen in the MCU, and seeing scenes like Thor and Captain America fighting side by side or the whole team assembled in a circle before they battle- that was what made this film the best in the MCU.