All the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies ranked


So before we move onto the next phases, it’s the perfect time to rank all 23 movies that make up the MCU, from the action adventure of Iron Man to the acid trip that was Doctor Strange, to the one everyone forgets about, The Incredible Hulk.

It’s actually not that easy. Well, the top five and the bottom five sort themselves out quite naturally, but there’s little separating the middle chunk.

Those guys at Marvel know what they’re doing, which means even if a movie is ranked 16 out of 23, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie, it’s just that the MCU is overflowing with really enjoyable and rewatchable films.

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23. THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)

Director: Alan Taylor

Box office: $US644.57 millionSource:Supplied

Director Alan Taylor pretty much disowned Thor: The Dark World, claiming the movie he shot wasn’t the one that came out. And Christopher Eccleston didn’t mince words when he described his experience playing Malekeith the dark elf as “a gun in your mouth”. Ooph.

There’s a decent plotline that develops the bond between Thor and Loki, by far the God of Thunder’s most enduring and complex relationships of the MCU.

22. THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)

Director: Louis Leterrier

Box office: $US263.42 million

Box office: $US263.42 millionSource:Supplied

Once upon a time, Mark Ruffalo was not in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Once upon a time, Liv Tyler was in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Seems like yonks ago but it’s only been 11 years.

The second MCU movie featured Ed Norton as the jolly green giant in a straightforward action movie that was, fine, maybe? I forget. So did you.

And so did Marvel because there were several story threads dangling from that movie that seem to have been written off, like as if it never existed. William Hurt’s Thunderbolt Ross is the only element that’s carried over to the rest of the MCU.

21. IRON MAN 2 (2010)

Director: Jon Favreau

Box office: $US623.93 million

Box office: $US623.93 millionSource:Supplied

Iron Man 2 is far from the list of MCU movies people rewatch — not even on a long flight. It’s as clunky as Mickey Rourke’s electric whips.

On the plus side, Iron Man 2 is where we meet Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow for the first time. And her fighting style is very cool to watch.

20. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 (2017)

Director: James Gunn

Box office: $US863.75 million

Box office: $US863.75 millionSource:Supplied

OK, Baby Groot is A.DOR.A.BLE. And the opening sequence while he dances to “Mr Blue Sky” is pure joy. Plus, Drax and Mantis’ banter is hilarious.

But the rest of Guardians 2 is very take it or leave it. Quill, who’s fast becoming one of the most irritating characters in the MCU, has a whole daddy issues thing that’s, well, Tony Stark already has that space covered.

The final act against Ego is far too grandiose and there’s an entire subplot with the Sovereigns that go nowhere, serving only to set up something way down the line, and stretching out the runtime by an unnecessary 15 minutes.

19. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

Director: Joss Whedon

Box office: $US1.405 billion

Box office: $US1.405 billionSource:Supplied

The all-in shot in the forest outside the HYDRA castle was cool. The runaway train in South Korea was cool. The rampage in Johannesburg, it was OK. The destruction of Sokovia? Too much. Way too much at the end of a movie that already had a lot going on.

Ultron was also a misfire as the big bad. James Spader’s malevolently silky voice was chilling but Ultron’s characterisation was all over the place — he thinks we’re too violent but also, yay violence? Ultimately, it made for a boring villain.

18. THOR (2011)

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Box office: $US449.32 million

Box office: $US449.32 millionSource:Supplied

There are two different movies in the first Thor. The first is the fish out of water story of Asgardian prince Thor bounding around on Earth with no powers and no clue. That movie is light, funny and definitely more enjoyable than the other one.

The second movie is this grand Shakespearean family drama with overwrought emotions and lots of shouting. It works less well.

17. ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018)

Director: Peyton Reed

Box office: $US622.67 million

Box office: $US622.67 millionSource:Supplied

Coming straight off the heels of the heavy emotionality of Avengers: Infinity War, the relatively small stakes of Ant-Man and the Wasp were a delightful contrast.

Eschewing a traditional power-hungry villain, the antagonists here are either broken characters with a strong, personal motivation you couldn’t really fault, or a two-bit crim out to make some money.

There’s a zany car chase through the streets of San Francisco — an homage to Bullitt, except here the cars can shrink and embiggen with the press of a button. Hilarious.

16. IRON MAN 3 (2013)

Director: Shane Black

Box office: $US1.214 billion

Box office: $US1.214 billionSource:AP

Shane Black previously made Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Robert Downey Jr, which is widely considered the A-list actor’s big comeback vehicle, so Black seemed a natural choice when Jon Favreau didn’t return to direct the third Iron Man instalment.

Iron Man 3 has a lot of that Shane Black wit and raucous energy, but is hampered by an overblown final act that just begs to be 30 per cent smaller.

15. DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

Director: Scott Derrickson

Box office: $US677.71 million

Box office: $US677.71 millionSource:Supplied

With only one movie, one barely supporting role and two cameos in the MCU so far, Doctor Strange has yet to be an impactful presence, apart from his Infinity War timey-wimey thing. But what we have seen of him so far works pretty well and Benedict Cumberbatch is always a welcome addition to any project.

While one of the more forgettable MCU flicks, what saves Doctor Strange from mediocrity is its cool psychedelic visuals, a hallucinogenic spectacle that makes Inception seem tame in comparison. The best way to describe it is MC Escher drawings on steroids. Dr. Timothy Leary would be proud.

14. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011)

Director: Joe Johnston

Box office: $US370.56 million

Box office: $US370.56 millionSource:Supplied

Captain America: The First Avenger is the ultimate origin story, complete with Nazi villains and a WWII battle. The story of Steve Rogers, the pipsqueak from Brooklyn who was too small and frail to enlist in the army, it’s a tale of determination and strength of character, and scientifically enhanced muscle mass.

It’s a well-balanced movie with exciting battle sequences and a kickarse supporting character in Peggy Carter — and the bond forged between Steve and Peggy was strong enough that his pining for her believably carried through for the next 17 movies.

13. ANT-MAN (2015)

Director: Peyton Reed

Box office: $US519.31 million

Box office: $US519.31 millionSource:Supplied

A fun and lighthearted heist movie, Ant-Man is perfectly cast with the wry and eternally youthful and charming Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, an ex-crim with a young daughter and a yearning to make her proud of him.

Ant-Man is probably one of the most accessible MCU movies and it’s very rewatchable, even if it’s just to watch Michael Pena’s little monologues again and again.

12. CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019)

Director: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Box office: $US1.12 billion

Box office: $US1.12 billionSource:Supplied

Captain Marvel is a total blast, and not just because Carol Danvers has the most fearsome powers in the MCU, but also because it has the most unusual but delightful pairing in the series: Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson.

It’s also refreshing to get a female superhero, a military figure no less, who isn’t burdened with some sappy love interest storyline.

The 90s setting, with its references to Blockbuster, Mallrats and True Lies and a soundtrack featuring Garbage, Hole and No Doubt means Captain Marvel is to 90s kids what Guardians of the Galaxy is to Gen-Xers.

11. SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (2019)

Director: Jon Watts

Box office after five days in release: $US150.02 million

Box office after five days in release: $US150.02 millionSource:AP

Venturing far beyond his home borough of Queens, Peter Parker and his friends go on a European adventure where he’s pulled between being a swoony teen with a crush and a superhero who needs to save the world.

Tom Holland is irrepressibly adorable as the unfailingly polite Peter Parker while Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio is a scarily relevant character for 2019. A sweet and fun coda to the Infinity Saga.

RELATED: Spider-Man Far From Home review

10. BLACK PANTHER (2017)

Director: Ryan Coogler

Box office: $US1.346 billion

Box office: $US1.346 billionSource:Supplied

Black Panther wasn’t just a superhero movie, it was a cultural movement, a touchstone in diversity of screen representation. Too long have audiences waited to see themselves on screen in a genre that generally caters to white men, and they were here for it.

It also happened to an invigorating story featuring vivid characters in a world that’s fictional but feels so specific. In Erik Killmonger, it had the most compelling MCU villain since Loki, a character that was violent and abhorrent but whose underlying philosophy was relatable and understandable. You’re not supposed to empathise with someone who had hurt so many people, but you do.

Black Panther would go on to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and win Academy Awards for its score and spectacular costume design and production design — the latter two were won by African-American women.

9. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

Director: James Gunn

Box office: $US773.32 million

Box office: $US773.32 millionSource:Supplied

Wacky and irreverent, Guardians of the Galaxy was the first MCU movie that successfully stepped outside of the tone the MCU had established. It’s also the first time it went interplanetary, so that may have something to do with it.

A scrappy half-human, half-alien bounty hunter unwillingly teams up with an even scrappier band of outlaws including a living tree, a talking genetically engineered raccoon, a monotonous criminal with a grudge and the adopted daughter of a genocidal titan.

If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. It’s a riotously good time, with a retro soundtrack featuring the likes of David Bowie, 10cc, Jackson 5 and The Runaways that’s probably more beloved than the movie itself.

Plus, Glenn Close’s wig is just brilliant. Shame Xandar got blasted by Thanos off-screen.

8. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

Director: Joe and Anthony Russo

Box office: $US2.048 billion

Box office: $US2.048 billionSource:Supplied

On the surface, Infinity War should be higher on the list, but drill down into it and there are a couple of glaring flaws in a movie that otherwise nails it on things like momentum, scale and action.

It’s not so much that Infinity War left everyone in the lurch at the end, which is its design, it’s that it did it with deaths you knew had to be reversed, which undercuts the loss and emotion of the ending.

And so much of the movie relies on the connection between Thanos and Gamora, which is terribly boring and overstretched.

7. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017)

Director: Jon Watts

Box office: $US880.16 million

Box office: $US880.16 millionSource:Supplied

When the world or the universe is usually at stake in any MCU movie, it’s a relief to have a story as contained as Spider-Man: Homecoming, a joyful teen superhero movie that really sticks to its own lane.

It has the right amount of web-slinging action and awkward teen situations.

At its heart, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a high school movie, with some heroics thrown in as Peter tries to figure how he and his powers fit into his teen experience. And Michael Keaton’s Vulture is weirdly relatable — plus the reveal of who he is is perfect.

6. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)

Director: Joe and Anthony Russo

Box office: $US1.153 million

Box office: $US1.153 millionSource:Supplied

When it comes to emotional resonance, it’s hard to go past Captain America: Civil War, a showdown between Cap and Tony and their two very different philosophies. But it’s not just that, because for both of them, it’s also personal — for Cap, the fight for Bucky’s soul, for Tony, the death of his parents.

Avengers old and new are forced to choose sides as they learn the greatest enemy is sometimes within, even when everyone has good intentions. Nothing here is simple, everything is swathed in a shade of grey.

Captain America: Civil War is complex, both grand and intimate at the same time, and it introduces two new heroes into the fold, Black Panther and Spider-Man.

5. IRON MAN (2008)

Director: Jon Favreau

Box office: $US585.17 million

Box office: $US585.17 millionSource:Supplied

The movie that kicked it all off, the original MCU movie gave us Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark, the billionaire playboy weapons dealer/genius who learns a valuable lesson after being stranded in a cave.

It had (a metal) heart, humour and action, and the power of Downey Jr.’s quips.

It was everything we didn’t know we were looking for in a movie and its crowd-pleasing and not-so-darkly funny tone launched a cinematic universe that we’re now obsessed with.

4. AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019)

Director: Joe and Anthony Russo

Box office: $US2.765 billion

Box office: $US2.765 billionSource:Supplied

Wow. What a mammoth, gargantuan and titanic movie. Yes, those are three words that mean big, but really, really big. It’s fair to say Avengers: Endgame was a movie event, a three-hour epic that offered thrills, weepy moments, laughter and closure.

Closure for an ambitious cinematic experiment that’s won hearts and devotees all over the world, and closure for the character journeys of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers.

Say what you will about the might of a corporation like Disney or blockbusters killing the mid-sized movie, but when they’re this satisfying, you’ll happily go along for the crazy ride.

3. THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)

Director: Taika Waititi

Box office: $US853.97 million

Box office: $US853.97 millionSource:Supplied

Hiring New Zealand director Taika Waititi for a soft reboot of Thor was a genius move. Taking the comedic elements of the character hinted at in Thor and then exploited by Joss Whedon in Avengers, refashioning the God of Thunder and plonking him in a trippy world where Jeff Goldblum exists in all his Jeff Goldbluminess makes for a refreshing and hilarious movie.

The bonkers Jack Kirby-inspired visuals, the dry-as-a-martini Kiwi sense of humour, the drollness of Korg, the over-the-top camp from Cate Blanchett’s Hela and Tessa Thompson as the hard-drinking Valkyrie equals a smashing good time.

2. CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER (2014)

Director: Joe and Anthony Russo

Box office: $US714.26 million

Box office: $US714.26 millionSource:Supplied

It’s Marvel meets The Manchurian Candidate, the MCU version of a paranoid spy thriller — it’s even got bonus Robert Redford in case it wasn’t clear enough.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a slick and thrilling chapter, and one that up-ended the established order of the MCU by essentially getting rid of SHIELD.

The Russo brothers’ first MCU flick is marked by taut action sequences and a story that teamed up Cap with Black Widow as they rooted out traitors in their own midst, unable to trust anyone around them. Old friends make surprise comebacks, new ones come on the scene and Cap discovers a grittier side — an essential MCU movie.

1. THE AVENGERS (2012)

Director: Joss Whedon

Box office: $US1.518 billion

Box office: $US1.518 billionSource:Supplied

The first Avengers movie is still the best thing the MCU has produced, a seamless coming together of these disparate heroes, facing off against still the most complex and watchable villain, Loki.

It’s the perfect blend of action, thrills, humour and emotional stakes, while still balancing the screen time between six Avengers. And the Battle of New York? Beautifully choreographed.

It’s only when you watch The Avengers after dipping into a couple of the other, even better, MCU movies do you realise Joss Whedon’s gift for dialogue writing is second-to-none — it pops and crackles like nothing else.

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