Worst to First: Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Thor: Ragnarok is the seventeenth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  That’s really impressive when you consider that less than ten years ago, Marvel had never released a movie on their own.  These days, Marvel releases three superhero adventures annually.  With no sign of that pace easing up in the future, now is as good a time as any to rank the movies of the MCU from worst to first.

17. Thor: The Dark World

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 66%

Box Office: $206,362,140

What’s Good: Loki remains the best bad guy in the Marvel universe.

What’s Bad: Dark World attempts to embrace the fantasy elements of its protagonist.  Director Alan Taylor was primarily known for his work on TV shows like Game of Thrones.  Clearly the intent was to parlay that experience into the Marvel equivalent of a Lord of the Rings-type movie.  Unfortunately, Dark World just misses the mark.  There are also a couple of character deaths of note, but only the female character remained dead.

Introduced: Some evil elves we are unlikely to ever see again

Verdict: Even the worst movie in the MCU is still pretty dang watchable.  Dark World isn’t memorable, but it’s not bad either.

Next: The Incredible Hulk


Posted on November 3, 2017, in Movies, Super Heroes, Worst to First and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I think it’s instructive to note that most of the more recent movies are crowded together near the middle-top of the list. That might be an indication that they have been pretty good overall, but it also might be an indication that Marvel in general is running in place quality-wise. I would probably rank Ant-Man and Doctor Strange a little higher and Age of Ultron a little lower than you do here, but there’s nothing very wrong with your rankings overall.

    Age of Ultron is the movie that frustrates me the most. The indestructible robot is capable of being one of the most frightening and intimidating villains the Avengers face, but instead we got a quippy personality and as you point out, an unreasonably repetitive final battle with his army of robots. Ultron is fully capable of taking on everybody at once – – except the Vision. See how that writes itself while being not repetitive?

    I’m looking forward to seeing the new Thor movie tonight. Do you have plans to see it soon?


    • My take on the Marvel movies is that they range from watchable to really good. None are terrible, none are great. They aim for solid base hits and by and large they get them. At one point, they were taking enormous financial risks, but creatively I think it’s fair to say they have consistently played it safe. That’s not a major criticism. I think it’s pretty obvious that these movies are more commerce than art. As pieces of entertainment, they get the job done. I wouldn’t mind seeing something more ambitious from them. Maybe Infinity War will be that, although I expect it will be an even more over-stuffed affair than Civil War or Age of Ultron.

      I was initially pretty down on Ultron. Having watched it a few times now, I find I am able to enjoy the simple pleasures while ignore the flaws. I wish it could have been better. I think it suffered by the weight of essentially launching Marvel’s second act. As for the rankings, I could easily shuffle around a bunch of these. They aren’t separated by much in terms of quality. If anyone wants to argue with my top pick (which I fully expect) my response will be a shrug. The top five are all pretty good movies and the bottom five are all no worse than mediocre.

      Mindy has expressed some interest in Thor despite never having watched a Marvel movie. I’m thinking about catching an early show tomorrow morning. I like avoiding the crowd and buying cheaper tickets. I was hoping I could convince the kids to come along, but I am getting some resistance on the family movie idea. We’ll see. Wanna compare notes?


      • That’s what I was thinking. I generally really enjoy those shared articles and I like that it helps to pull the site together (almost like our own dynamic duo). I’m planning on seeing Thor tonight. I still haven’t seen The Dark World though. Hopefully that won’t be a problem.


        • I expect zero references to Dark World. Most of the regular supporting cast appears in cameos. This appears to be about as stand-alone of an adventure as Marvel movies get. Mindy has seen none of the preceding 16 movies, but I expect she will be able to follow along. She’ll probably be lost when it comes to the post-credits tags though.

          Go ahead and email me your opening salvo and I’ll respond once I have seen it. It will probably be early tomorrow afternoon when I get back to you. Sound good?

          Liked by 1 person

  2. A very enjoyable summary


  3. A good read. I agree with most of your assessments (leaving out those films I haven’t seen yet). With the partial exception of Iron Man 2, I have never been seriously disappointed by any of the MCU entries I’ve seen, and even that one gave us the debut of Black Widow. I gave five stars to The Avengers, Winter Soldier, Guardians 1, and Iron Man. The first three are the cream of the MCU crop for me, and Iron Man will always get some extra points from me for being the film that started it all, and for being a relatively rare MCU film that took a few chances (casting Downey was a bit of a risk at that point in time—while he was past his substance abuse issues, he didn’t exactly have a lot of hits on his filmography ten years ago). Age of Ultron and Civil War are good but seriously overstuffed with characters and subplots, and I kind of like Ant-Man, too. I might not rate The First Avenger quite as high, but I haven’t seen it in quite a while so I may need to re-watch it and do a re-evaluation. Doctor Strange and the Thor films are watchable if not exceptional. Haven’t seen Hulk or Iron Man 3, while Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians 2 are on my “watch this soon” list.


    • I had not thought about this in a while, but I was initially very reluctant to watch Iron Man. I had read the Civil War comic book and it just completely put me off the character. Being a Cap fan, I was naturally going to take Cap’s side. But so did most of the writers associated with that story. As a result, Tony was made out to be a Dr. Doom level fascist. Seriously, he had so much blood on his hands by the end of that story. I probably got a little too invested, but I just couldn’t stand Iron Man for a few years. It took the movie, which I waited several weeks to see and really only saw because I got a free ticket, to bring me around to the character.

      I actually skipped Iron Man 2, I think. I’m pretty sure the bad reviews caused me to wait for video. As a result, I wasn’t as disappointed as a lot of people I know. It wasn’t good, I was just prepared for badness. I remember watching the first act and thinking “I don’t know why people complained about this movie so much. It’s pretty good.” Then it went progressively off the rails. Still, points foe giving us Black Widow. Now someone get her a solo movie!

      I was initially more disappointed in Iron Man 3. Not for the reasons some people were (Kingsley’s character is divisive), but because so much of it is just so dumb. Most audiences didn’t seem to mind that as much as I did. On repeat viewings, I reluctant agreed the movie was fun on a Shane Black buddy movie level.

      When Downey was cast as stark, my initial reaction was “that’s brilliant.” I was surprised when others didn’t see it. However, I had no idea how much he would embody the role. Whenever he decides he’s done, Marvel’s going to have some problems.

      It is entirely possible, probably even, that I have rated First Avenger higher than most. I like to think I am pretty upfront with my Captain America bias. He’s in my profile pic! I remember geeking out really hard the first time he threw his shield on screen. I still love it. First Avenger is a really simple adventure movie like The Rocketeer. It’s not great by any stretch, but it entertains the heck out of me.

      I wouldn’t go out of your way to watch Incredible Hulk or Iron Man 3. If they are on TV and you have a couple hours to kill, there are worse ways to spend your time. Guardians 2 is jokier than the first movie, but it made me laugh a lot so I was pretty forgiving of its loose narrative. Spider-Man: HC is just a good, solid Spidey movie. I will be interested to hear your thoughts once you have seen them.


  4. Nice post! I should try to rank mine sometime. Agree with your top ones for the most part. Think Guardians of the Galaxy is my number one. Did thoroughly enjoy Thor: Ragnarok as well. I love funny Thor! I clearly go for the “fun” ones. 🙂


  5. Overall I agree with the ranking here.

    At one point a few years ago I was contemplating the fact that while I liked The Avengers a lot when I first saw it opening weekend, my view of it has lessened with time. I bought the DVD of it a few years ago and while I still found parts of it enjoyable on the whole, it’s one movie that does not hold up that well to repeat viewings. Then the more I thought about it, the more I realized that most of the marvel movies don’t. With the possible exception of Winter Soldier. That’s why I agree with its top ranking.


  6. Honestly, I find the MCU a little bit hit or miss but none of them are awful movies. At worst, their just a little derivative and unoriginal (Thor 1 feels like a big budget remake of Little Nicky while Ant Man feels like they just mixed the stories of Iron Man 1 and GOTG 1) but none of them are shockingly bad, like Batman & Robin bad or Fant4stic bad.


  7. Very nice overview even if I’d perhaps change some of the rankings.

    While I’d agree that the Hulk seems to be the hardest character for the Marvel movies to get right I think Black Widow is not far behind.

    A key part of the Marvel formula is making the main character look like, well, a dork from time time. Tony Stark and Thor are the kings of this but every movie has our hero go through one scene where they go through the equivalent of slipping on a banana peel and getting their ego punctured or doing a pratfall, or letting their tongue run away with them while trying to look cool. Scarlett Johansson can do comedy and has charisma to burn but her character might be the least suited to that sort of element in the series.

    It certainly doesn’t make her a bad character – James Bond is similarly very rarely a dork in even his most comedic films – but it does kick away a major plank in the formula.


    • I think Marvel spent some time figuring out Black Widow. When she showed up in Iron Man 2, she was defined by her looks. Whedon made her the most capable member of the Avengers in his first movie, but then seemed to loose the thread with Age of Ultron. As a supporting player, one of the least powerful heroes and for a time the only woman, I think it’s a good idea to let Natasha be the grown up in the room. When she gets to be the lead, she can show us some of her foibles. I also think it’s a problem that Widow is almost always defined by whose movie she appears in. This leads to her constantly flirting with the male lead or costar in one of the team movies. I would like to see one movie in which Natasha was allowed to do her own thing. She can even have a love interest, she just wouldn’t be the love interest. For that matter, did Gamora really have to be Star-Lord’s girlfriend?

      Uh oh. I’m building up to a rant about Marvel’s treatment of women. Better stop now.


      • To be honest I think the ‘token woman is the grownup in the room’ mentality is part of the problem there, though arguably it suits Natasha’s character. I’m reminded of ‘Neighbours’ where Rose Byrne’s character was originally intended to be the stock sane spouse before Seth Rogen’s wife pointed out she’d be acting up to.

        Again it isn’t that I think she’s a bad character it’s that I’m not sure Marvel would be willing or able to make her comedically flawed. Without that they are going to have a much tougher time making a film focused on her.

        (You are definitely right about her being defined by the leads of the movies she is in.)

        Sorry, guess I’m building up to rant to. I better stop to. 🙂


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