“Avengers: Endgame” – Every Film In The Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ranked

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“Avengers: Endgame” – Every Film In The Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ranked

Sebastian Hunt, The Forum's Head Writer Of Film & TV

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Avengers: Endgame could be argued as the film of the century. A modern-day Return of the Jedi; it’s the conclusion to the biggest franchise in film history. As of this writing, I actually haven’t seen Endgame – it hasn’t opened to mass audiences – but I still felt a need to honor this occasion.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (commonly referred to as the MCU), has existed for just over a decade and cranked out over twenty films, and I think that a list like this is long overdue. So here it is. Every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe ranked, from Iron Man to Infinity War.

NOTE: This article has been updated to include Avengers: Endgame

 

  1. Avengers: Age of Ultron

Holding both the titles of the worst and the most disappointing, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a truly terrible film that exemplifies everything wrong with the Marvel format. It pushes aside story and characters in favor of set-up and exposition, a problem that plagued Marvel before, but more frequently (and annoyingly) in years since. The script got the Suicide Squad treatment in the sense that it was obviously hacked to shreds by execs, and the poor villain and unconvincing effects don’t help the film either. Age of Ultron may not be the worst in it’s subgenre, but it doesn’t come too far in some instances (but hey, the main ensemble is good, so that’s something).

 

  1. Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 ranks so low almost purely due to its negative effect on Marvel (and films in general) going forward. Iron Man 2 screwed practically the entire genre by introducing the issues prevalent in the worst big-budget blockbusters these days (i.e. favoring continuity and set up over story and character, destroying standalone films that have their own stories unconnected with other films of different titles). Also, it’s a rather dull, undercooked mess on its own merits, so that doesn’t help.

 

  1. Iron Man 3

While it’s far from awful, Iron Man 3 nonetheless suffers from a weak villain, dull plot, and delivers an overall disappointing and contrived conclusion to the Iron Man story (unless you count the films of other titles that he’s been in, which you shouldn’t have to). Oh yeah, it also ruined The Mandarin.

 

  1. Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel’s greatest saving grace is also its greatest weakness: it’s a dull, uninteresting slog of a film, but at the same time is so uninteresting and hackneyed that it slips the mind pretty easily and thus doesn’t extract the same visceral reaction of say, Age of Ultron. It’s the film equivalent of flavored water: a carbon-copy of nearly every other variation of the liquid (in this case other Marvel films), with a few barely-noticeable kinks that are supposed to make it a superior product.

 

  1. The Incredible Hulk

I maintain a lot of sympathy for The Incredible Hulk considering the highly creative direction Marvel took with it, treating it as more of a straight-up monster film than a superhero flick. Unfortunately, said ambitions do little to save the final product from its dull characters, bizarre tone, and heavily dated effects.

 

  1. Captain America: Civil War

A controversial choice, no doubt, but one I firmly stand by. Unfiltered fanboy excitement seemed to drive much of the praise behind Captain America: Civil War, as the arrivals of Black Panther, a Marvel-adjacent Spider-Man, and the semi-adaptation of an incredibly popular (but really not all that good) comic-book storyline apparently overrode any flaws present in this film. Flaws like the rampant overuse of computer effects, hideous cinematography, bloated story, and destruction of Marvel’s best solo franchise by way of transforming it into an Avengers sequel.

 

  1. Thor: The Dark World

The Thor films are something of a guilty pleasure of mine. Yes, they’re messy, weirdly toned, and have poor antagonists (save for Loki), but they’re fun. The visuals, action, and performances have all anchored the Thor films, and this is no exception. Therefore, despite The Dark World being a bit of a mess (hence the low ranking), it’s still an entertaining, largely self-contained watch.

 

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

While definitely above other Marvel films in aspects like antagonists and self-containment, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 plays like most comedy sequels in that it’s a mediocre, largely forgettable film that falls short of the original. Vol. 2’s quality is largely based on its ability to be funny (it is a comedy, after all), so it’s a pretty hit-and-miss affair.

 

  1. Captain America: The FIrst Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger is a perfectly decent film that only ranks so low due to its utter forgettableness. Nothing in this film particularly stands out, and you’d be forgiven for forgetting it exists at all. It’s a very ‘fine, I guess’ kind of film.

 

  1. Ant-Man

Ant-Man introduces fun visuals, interesting concepts, and good characters to Marvel, but it’s lackluster script prevents it from being among the better Marvel films. It’s far from bad, it’s just passable, which is what most of these films are. That training montage with the ants was pretty cool though.

 

  1. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp, despite the higher ranking, is basically equal to its predecessor. Everything that made the original so resoundingly ‘meh’ is still there, from a poor script to lackluster humor. Improved visuals and action scenes are the only reasons why it’s any sort of improvement.

 

  1. Doctor Strange

This film is like Ant-Man and The First Avenger in the sense that it has plenty to like, but a collection of errors/genericness cause it to fall under the umbrella of ‘passable’. Benedict Cumberbatch is a good enough lead, and the visual effects in this film are among Marvel’s best. However, it still has a derivative script, forgettable supporting cast, and mostly weak characters.

 

  1. Thor

Being fair to the previous three films on this list, Thor is roughly equal in quality to them. However, it came out at a time when I wasn’t so flipping fatigued with Marvel’s formula, so it feels better. Chris Hemsworth is an excellent fit for the role of Thor, and the supporting cast, while somewhat forgettable, is nonetheless enjoyable. Also, introducing Loki added a much needed good antagonist to Marvel.

 

  1. Thor: Ragnarok

While it suffers from some standard Marvel tropes, Thor: Ragnarok’s good script, fun direction, and excellent cast save it from being a Civil War-style disappointment. The effects are all a wonder to look at, and Hela, while not a great antagonist, is definitely one of the better Marvel villains. Also, I think I speak for all of us when I say that Thor’s new hairstyle is way cooler than his old one.

 

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming

It’s no doubt one of the worst offenders in terms of lacking self-containment on this list, but Spider-Man: Homecoming is such good fun on it’s own merits that it’s easy to ignore that. Tom Holland is an excellent lead, the supporting cast are all great (particularly Michael Keaton’s Vulture), and the setting/script are among Marvel’s most creative and best. It also helps that the kids in the high school look like actual high schoolers (sorry, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Marc Webb’s Amazing films).

 

  1. Avengers: Endgame

To truly do Avengers: Endgame justice, we mustn’t judge it as a film – instead, we must treat it as the comic-book crossover brought to life that its filmmakers intended it to be (for better or for worse), and based off that pedigree, it absolutely succeeds. Endgame is a roaring success of a film and a rare exercise in cinematic conclusion; the most satisfying finish for a franchise since Return of the Jedi. Is it a perfect film? Absolutely not: the screenplay is incredibly messy, the runtime a bit overblown, and some characters aren’t done complete justice. But there’s no denying that as a conclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s about as perfect as one could hope for.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War

In theory, I should hate Avengers: Infinity War. It’s levels of continuity and lack of self-containment dwarf even the likes of Age of Ultron and Civil War, and it doesn’t even act as a proper Avengers sequel. And yet, I just can’t – for once in my life, I’m allowing myself to be swept up in the Marvel machine, and thus I can’t help but enjoy Infinity War. Josh Brolin delivers a brilliant antagonist in Thanos, mixing the trademark insanity of the character with a new sense of humanity that makes him far and away the most compelling Marvel villain. And that ending? Insane.

 

  1. Black Panther

The first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture; Black Panther isn’t quite as great as its reputation suggests. But it’s not far from it: director Ryan Coogler breaks free from typical Marvel constraints, tapping into his artistic talents to craft an incredibly thoughtful as well as visually gorgeous superhero film. As for the cast, the same caliber of praise applies. They’re without a doubt one of the most diverse and well-balanced ensembles in decades, making nearly every other Marvel film look relatively weak character-wise.

 

  1. Iron Man

   Here’s where the legitimate great works of filmmaking start. Despite seeming destined to fail, Iron Man blew past everyone’s expectations and delivered as an excellent, heartfelt film. Robert Downey Jr. is a perfect fit for Tony Stark – an utter joy to watch, it’s no wonder he’s so overexposed today. The rest of the supporting cast is also stellar, and the brilliant screenplay does nothing but add to the greatness of this film. And I know we’re numb to it at this point, but man, the Iron Man suit is awesome.

 

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I’ve said this once, and I’ll say it again: Marvel films succeed the most when they branch out in different genres and take risks. And Captain America: The Winter Soldier is easily one of the best examples of that. Acting more as a political thriller than a superhero film, The Winter Soldier is a tense, exciting ride with a refreshing dark tone. It also delivers some of the best action in the franchise, and easily Chris Evan’s best performance as Captain America yet.

 

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy

Lavish with humor and emotion, Guardians of the Galaxy was without a doubt Marvel’s riskiest project (at least until Infinity War came along), and turned out to be it’s near-best. The jokes consistently land, and the script is nothing short of excellent. The dynamic between the main characters is great, each character a soon-to-be classic. The visuals are also all stunning, certainly more so than any other Marvel film. And perhaps best of all, it’s entirely self-contained (squeals).

 

  1. The Avengers

Just as Age of Ultron highlights everything wrong with the Marvel format, The Avengers highlights everything right with it. The ensemble is excellent, each actor coming into his/her own and bouncing off each other in immensely entertaining ways. Loki is once again a menacing antagonist, and the supporting cast, particularly Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, are all great as well. The screenplay is so brilliantly written that it’s easy to forget that at its core, this film is a very simple ‘stop the bad guy’ ordeal. And while it may have had some terrible ripple effects on the rest of the industry (hello, Dark Universe), it’s still a great film and easily among the superhero subgenre’s best.

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