The Definitive Ranking of Every Movie in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe
The Age of Ultron is upon us, and so we thought it only appropriate to look back on the most financially successful movie franchise to date. Marvel has created a monster with its “Cinematic Universe” – an interconnected series of ten films released over the past seven years, the likes of which moviegoers had never before experienced, and every other studio now desperately wishes to copy. The journey thus far has had its share of bumps, but Marvel Studios now seem to have full control of their ship, and with the likes of the Guardians of the Galaxy proving that even the most obscure comic book characters can propel a blockbuster movie to mega-success, it should be smooth sailing from here on out. The sky’s the limit.
Here are the ten films that have thus far been released as part of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, as they are ranked by the users of Flickchart.
10. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
- Global Flickchart Rank: #2660
- Ranked 400,109 times by 55,579 users
- Wins 33% of matchups
- 4,495 users have it in their personal Top 20
Connor Adamson: The Incredible Hulk is the weakest Marvel film. While by no means terrible, it does suffer from lack of an interesting plot and some shoddy pacing. Edward Norton makes for an interesting Bruce Banner, though, and conveys the plight of the Hulk well. William Hurt encapsulates the role of General Ross through his subtle jadedness and desire to control the Hulk. Tim Roth is delightfully evil and plays the role of Abomination with glee.
The attempt to capture Hulk at the university is thrilling and makes use of some excellent cinematography. The final fight between the Hulk and Abomination is truly destructive and conveys the damage caused by these two monsters quite well. The Incredible Hulk is an imperfect beast of a film, but Marvel films never get this low in quality again.
Nigel Druitt: It’s not as visually innovative as the disowned Hulk directed by Ang Lee, nor does the title character smash as hard as he does in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. I also prefer the casting of the major roles that Lee got for his film. Yet Louis Letterier‘s gritty movie is a solid action film that makes for a solid introduction to the big green menace. The location shots in Brazil are beautiful, and the final confrontation between Hulk and Abomination is appropriately epic. Given the success of Marvel’s later films, however, it’s easy to see why The Incredible Hulk will wind up as something of a black sheep in the MCU.
9. Iron Man 2 (2010)
- Global Flickchart Ranking: #1713
- Ranked 184,780 times by 17,698 users
- Wins 50% of matchups
- 632 users have it in their personal Top 20
Nigel: Too much talking. Iron Man 2 suffers from having to lay out far too much exposition for The Avengers…which in turn wound up being a movie that was perfectly capable of standing on its own anyway. This is an action movie that only contains three major action sequences! Tony Stark’s second standalone film deserved the opportunity to stand a bit more apart, and not have to shoulder the MCU’s expository baggage.
Connor: Iron Man 2 never matches the high of the first Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr. still plays the flashy Tony Stark with pizazz and carries the film with his snappy dialogue and witty humor. I preferred Terrence Howard in the role of Rhodey, but Don Cheadle does a good job as well.
A welcome addition is Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow, who serves to introduce the audience to the wider concept of SHIELD. Yet SHIELD is also where the film’s weaknesses develop: The uneven pacing throughout and focus on setting up other films bogs down the proceedings. The middle half of the film has very little to do with the main villain, Ivan Vanko, who simply serves as a minor obstacle for Stark. Mickey Rourke‘s effort as Vanko is uninspired. Despite its flaws, though, Iron Man 2 is a fine film.
8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
- Global Flickchart Rank: #1634
- Ranked 34,163 times by 2419 users
- Wins 54% of matchups
- 107 users have it in their personal Top 20
Nigel: Whereas the best parts of Thor involved the title character attempting to assimilate into Earth society, The Dark World embraces all the “out-there” elements that took me out of the first film. Still, I slightly prefer the sequel, given Loki’s return and the frankly epic nature of the tale. Yet Thor remains the blandest major player among the Avengers, and his solo films pale in comparison to the first Iron Man, and Captain America’s outings.
Connor: While the weakest of the Phase Two films, Thor: The Dark World is still plenty of fun. The sequel improves on the flaws of the first film by embracing the fantasy side of the world it lives in. The film is quite silly, for better and worse. Though director Alan Taylor embraces it, the silliness sometimes overcomes the film. Even so, most of the fantastical elements are tongue-in-cheek enough to succeed.
Chris Hemsworth has improved in his performance as Thor, and fully embraces the character of the Thunder God. Tom Hiddleston continues to delight as Loki, and never disappoints. There are some heartfelt moments throughout the film as well that do help to ground some of the fantastical elements. The film does suffer from a fairly boring villain in Malekith, but despite the flaws there’s still plenty to like.
- Global Flickchart Rank: #1368
- Ranked 118,447 times by 9980 users
- Wins 54% of matchups
- 517 users have it in their personal Top 20
Connor: Thor is often derided and considered one of the weakest films in the MCU, but it’s an entertaining film full of high fantasy, magic, and delightful performances. Chris Hemsworth makes for a fine Thor and provides some grand fish-out-of-water moments during the Earth scenes. Tom Hiddleston is even more delightful as Loki, in a role that has since become beloved by fans. Stellan Skarsgard is a personal favorite of mine, and he doesn’t disappoint in his scientist role here.
Thor does have its share of flaws: Natalie Portman seems out of place as a scientist, though, ironically, she is very intelligent in real life. Aside from the occasional humorous moments, the Earth scenes are slow and dull in comparison to the Asgard sections. Even so, Thor is still a fun adventure film with wonderful and creative fantasy elements.
Nigel: In contrast, I prefer all the grounded scenes on Earth in this film, with Thor failing miserably at his attempt to blend into society on “Midgard”. Somehow, the fantasy elements here – while more palatable in The Dark World, where they are more fully embraced – had a way of taking me out of this story.
Tom Hiddleston single-handedly makes the movie worth watching. It is supremely fortunate for Marvel’s most vanilla big-screen Avenger that he has the greatest, most interesting villain. Hiddleston’s wonderfully slimy performance keeps this film from being totally lost in space.
- Global Flickchart Rank: #1151
- Ranked 113,145 times by 9466 users
- Wins 56% of matchups
- 554 users have it in their personal Top 20
Nigel: This is such a fun, old-fashioned adventure. I’m a big fan of The Rocketeer, so I’d hoped Joe Johnston would be an ideal fit for another period adventure film. I was not disappointed. Captain America should be Marvel’s most boring hero, but Chris Evans injects him with a lot of heart. The period setting goes a long way in setting up his ultra-patriotic attitude. And Tommy Lee Jones and Hayley Atwell provide fantastic support. Only Iron Man had a better origin story on this list.
Connor: Captain America is perhaps the most distinct from the other Marvel films. A World War II period piece, The First Avenger tells the most relatable story for most of the audience. Steve Rogers is a small guy with a heart of gold and is eventually able to get the physical attributes to match his moral ones. Chris Evans does a fabulous job with the role, and makes Rogers a very relatable character. Hayley Atwell portrays the strongest female character in the Marvel films thus far as Peggy Carter. Tommy Lee Jones is great in his usual tough-guy military role. Hugo Weaving plays a wonderful Red Skull, and hams it up just the appropriate amount.
The use of the Tesseract makes the film slightly flawed, though. While it’s necessary to set up The Avengers, the use of laser guns in a World War II piece does break the tone. The montage of war scenes also breaks the pacing of the film, and it never truly builds to a climax. The First Avenger is still celebrated as one of the best Phase One films.
5. Iron Man 3 (2013)
- Global Flickchart Rank: #1139
- Ranked 60,762 times by 4217 users
- Wins 56% of matchups
- 226 users have it in their personal Top 20
Connor: This is, perhaps, the most controversial film in the MCU, due to a certain twist that angered many fans. I, however, thought the twist was brilliant. For the first time, one of these superhero movies was unpredictable, and did something unexpected. It plays into the film’s larger themes of deception and truth.
Iron Man 3 is a hilarious film full of exceptional dialogue. Stark’s interactions with the kid, Marley are delightfully dark. The film is also great at showing Stark’s genius, relying less on the armor and more on the character. Ben Kingsley is delightful as the Mandarin in every way possible, and Guy Pearce is notable in his understated but on-point performance as Aldrich Killian. Though it has its detractors and isn’t a perfect film, Shane Black’s distinct direction is granted a voice, and Iron Man 3 succeeds on its stunning wit, character development, and starting a theme of consequences that has run throughout Phase Two.
Nigel: Obviously, the Flickchart community as a whole loves this movie more than I did. I’m no big reader of the comic books, but even I could tell that a disservice had been done to a character who is supposed to be Iron Man’s biggest nemesis. Still, the twist works for the film Shane Black wanted to make, and his irreverence makes an impression. And Tony Stark has got to be the most flawed superhero on screen these days; no wonder he connects so well with the audience. Yet Black obviously really knows how to make only one kind of movie, and he did it better with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. There were times here where I could swear I was watching another Lethal Weapon sequel…
- Global Flickchart Rank: #437
- Ranked 45,380 times by 2703 users
- Wins 64% of matchups
- 326 users have it in their personal Top 20
Nigel: This is how you make a sequel. I really appreciated the total genre shift in Cap’s second outing, and the Russo brothers display obvious love for the character. The political thriller is a perfect backdrop for Marvel’s most idealistic hero, dropping his black-and-white morality into the murky grey world of espionage that Black Widow embodies so fully. And the action hits hard. Praise be the film that finally gave Samuel L. Jackson‘s Nick Fury some real butt-kicking to do! The Winter Soldier is Marvel finally, truly nailing this universe they’ve created. There will be no stopping them now.
Connor: The Winter Soldier is, in one word, superb. The best Marvel film to date, it succeeds not only as a superhero movie, but also as a spy espionage film. Fully embracing the theme of consequences, it takes the moral paragon of Captain America and places him in the modern world. The film succeeds on many levels: The directing and cinematography are superb. The fight scenes are tightly made and feel very real. Offering plenty of twists and turns, the plot is exciting and engrossing.
Evans encapsulates the role of Captain America with ease. Sebastian Stan stands out as the Winter Soldier and portrays the struggle of the character well. Johansson’s Black Widow has a wonderful dynamic with Evans as the opposite of Steve Rogers’ shining morality. The Winter Soldier has plenty to say and says it well. Stunning action, remarkable acting, astonishing set pieces, and outstanding filmmaking make this the best film of the MCU thus far.
3. The Avengers (2012)
- Global Flickchart Rank: #233
- Ranked 169,732 times by 10,976 users
- Wins 70% of matchups
- 2145 users have it in their personal Top 20
Connor: The make-it-or-break-it for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. All of the previous films built to this. Marvel would see if their grand cinematic experiment could succeed. Luckily for them – and movie-going audiences – they knocked it out of the ballpark. Perfect pacing, snappy dialogue and the sheer coolness of seeing the Avengers assembled on screen for the first time make this film one of the best of the entire MCU.
The film isn’t perfect. Everyone seems slightly too clever, thanks to Joss Whedon’s dialogue. The finale is relentless destruction of faceless drone foes. As the Avengers clearly outmatch the aliens, there is little tension. Even so, The Avengers succeeds in a grand way, and is simply a fun movie to watch.
Nigel: The biggest problem with The Avengers is that it is too effective at standing on its own, thus rendering all the previous Phase One films somewhat…unnecessary. Yet that only speaks to Joss Whedon‘s power as a storyteller. This film seamlessly weaves multiple heroes into one clear story capped by one of the most inventive action sequences modern blockbuster cinema has ever seen. Hats off.
- Global Flickchart Rank: #224
- Ranked 717,189 times by 75,183 users
- Wins 63% of matchups
- 13,022 users have it in their personal Top 20
Nigel: This is still my favorite. Everything works: the humor, the action and Robert Downey Jr.‘s effortless performance. Some may gripe that the Iron Man/Iron Monger final fight lacks a little punch, but Jeff Bridges‘ Obadiah Stane is precisely the right kind of villain for Tony Stark’s first foray as a superhero: a betraying father figure for a damaged man with serious daddy issues. Yes, the infamous post-credits sequence hints at bigger things, but with this movie, Marvel started simple, and they did it very well.
Connor: The film that started it all. Were it not for the major box office success of Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe may never have come to fruition. The film certainly justified its box office grosses. Iron Man is a well-paced origin film spearheaded by the directive talents of Jon Favreau and the natural charisma of Robert Downey Jr. A memorable supporting cast including Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard all play their roles with finesse. The sound design is very well done, with each metal component carrying a distinct sound.
The groundwork is laid for the larger Marvel Universe while developing the best film prior to The Avengers. Iron Man‘s only flaw lies in its slower and more disjointed second half, but this doesn’t override the strengths of the MCU’s debut.
- Global Flickchart Rank: #216
- Ranked 48,336 times by 2872 users
- Wins 68% of matchups
- 468 users have it in their personal Top 20
Connor: Like The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy is a film that is essentially in another genre, though rather than a spy film, it’s a sci-fi adventure in the vein of Star Wars. Perhaps the riskiest film of the MCU thus far, it features a talking raccoon and tree. But Guardians manages to be one of the best of the MCU due to the wonderful direction of James Gunn and a cast that understands their roles well.
Gunn and his team have brought to life a wonderful world full of designs that distinguish it from other space adventure films. The script is full of wonderful dialogue and humor that embraces the silliness of its world with finesse. Chris Pratt is naturally charismatic as Peter Quill and helps guide the viewer through this world. Lee Pace has a grand time as Ronan the Accuser and is one of the better villains in the MCU.
One could not talk about Guardians without mentioning its wonderful soundtrack, full of glorious ’70s pop songs that create the tone for each scene and help make the humor work. Guardians shows that, for the MCU, the sky is not the limit. Even varying in tone and style, these films all succeed at allowing their creative elements free reign, coming together to create a wonderful cinematic universe.
Nigel: Who the heck are the “Guardians of the Galaxy”? Everybody was asking this. Then Marvel took their D-list heroes, dropped them into the hands of an indie director who is as quirky as they come, and shaped them into solid gold. This was the best time I’d had in a theater in years, and James Gunn totally pulled off the greatest magic trick of all: evoking genuine emotion for an ill-tempered raccoon and a talking tree.
Where will Avengers: Age of Ultron ultimately land on this list? Time – and your rankings – will tell. Joss Whedon’s epic sequel is in theaters, today.