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Ranking the MCU movies


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SUBJECTIVITY ALERT: The following are merely my subjective views. Feel free to discuss or disagree, as my word is not the law on the matter, just so long as you respect and understand that this isn't intended to tell you what to feel and hold true, but merely to inform you of my feelings on the matter, and what made me arrive on these conclusions. This thread is not meant to create senseless arguments, but merely to provoke thinking


So. Civil War. Like it or hate it, it has been a rollercoaster of a movie. Therefor, with that in mind, I decided to rank the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, from best to worse! I'll also group the movies in tiers, to better expand upon their relative positions. The idea behind the tiers is how they affect the MCU at large. Generally speaking the difference of ranking inside a given tier is relatively negligible, more of a formality, if you will. Outside a given tier, however, the differense is much more pronounced and distinct, and the tiers are intended to examine the quality of the MCU movies in terms of their scope, and what they have to offer to the universe. Keep in mind that the tiers need not necessarily be populated. Also, I'll try and avoid spoilers, especially for the latest movie.


Cosmic Tier: The creme de crop. The pinnacle. The absolute best. The movies that define the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

#1. Avengers: This is the movie that gave the word Cinematic Universe its definition. A solid plot, coupled with pre-established and diverse characters bouncing off of each other, delivering a long awaited and much anticipated promise to the fans, and filled with iconic moments and imagery. Iron Man ended with the promise of a cinematic universe. Avengers ended with a bunch of dudes eating shawarma the promise of an overarching threat.

#2. Guardians of the Galaxy: Creating hype for an established in the public consciousness property is easy. Creating hype for an unknown title, though? And then delivering on said hype? And THEN some? Guardians of the Galaxy proved that the direction of its Cinematic Universe can transcend its comic book origins beyond doubt, and that a talking Raccoon can stand side by side with a charming rogue, a green skinned woman, a human-sized Ent, and a wrestler, with none looking any less badass for it. The only weak point of the movie is the villain, who could stand getting a bit more defining of his motivations and character, and a bit less characterization as a generic disposable doomsday villain.

#3. Captain America: Civil War: Taking the basic plot from a popular, if controvesial, comic book event, trimming the fat, adding direction, and lowering the scope of it, and you get a nigh-universally praised movie. Add some resolving for some tangling plot threads from previous movies, continuing to expand on the ever-increasing superhero cast, with some very worthy additions, and a resolution that feels both real and hopeful at the same time, and you've got yourself a winner. Calling it a Captain America movie and not an Avengers movie is a bit iffy, as while he IS the main point of view character, he does not eclipse the rest of the cast who get a far too significant amount of character development, especially Iron Man, Black Panther, and the Scarlet Witch (The Winter Soldier gets his, too, but, to be fair, he's always been a supporting character to Captain America, so he don't quite count), for them to be considered anything but not co-protagonists, but I digress. The only flaw in this movie is the villain, who feels tacked on, and whose masterplan depended on far too many coincidences to feel believable.

#4. Spider-Man: Homecoming: While he debuted (in costume, at least) on Captain America: Civil War, this is Spider-Man's first movie in the MCU proper, thus having one of Marvel's most popular superheroes return to the fold, despite the rights to his franchise belonging to Sony, is enough to warrant it Cosmic Tier status. That this movie gave us the best adaptation of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man's character, a layered and interesting villain, a solid supporting cast both within the larger MCU and without, and clear character development within an actionpacked plot, was the topping of the cake. However, it did have a couple of noticeable weaknesses. The titular Homecoming exists as pure background setting flavor, so the subtitle of this movie really only works in a Meta sense and at a couple of points, things go way out of Spider-Man's hand, but result in no fatalities or serious injuries(not even alluded), thus severely strainning suspension of disbelief. As such, it is definitely the weakest of all Cosmic Tier entries thus far.


Planetary Tier: The greats. These movies know what they want to deliver, and how to deliver. They help expand and round out the MCU.

#5. Guardians of the Galaxy 2: On a technical level, GotG2 is superior to GotG1 in almost every way imaginable. Not only did it carry the same character beats as its predecessor, it managed to expand them, examine how the team dynamics were shaping in the interim, and even allow for some pointed character development that characters from the first movie lacked. There was a great emphasis in exploring the characters' backstories, while also introducing a plethora of interesting new characters. The main villains this time were also better, having strong and colorful personalities, with defined and clear motivations, which lent the movie with some trully meaningfully high stakes. Even the lesser villains were, at the very least, fun, and did not tire the film with their presence. It tied many of the loose ends of the first film, the sequel hooks are interesting, and the potential of the newly introduced characters is astounding. The only reason this movie isn't Cosmic Tier, is the simple fact that it didn't have to work against the fact that GotG was an obscure, unproven Marvel property (as far as the larger moviegoer audience blah-blah). Otherwise, despite being ranked Planetary Tier, this movie has NOTHING to be jealous of the Cosmic Tier movies, and indeed can stand toe to toe with them.

#6. Thor: Ragnarok: Thor was good, but heavily flawed. The Dark World was boring and forgettable. 3rd time's the charm, though, as Ragnarok is full of character, charm, and a plot that doesn't waste a moment. It continues Thor's character arc, allowing him to mature to his duties as protector of Asgard, the ensemble cast is full of entertainingly colorful characters, Hela is an effectively threatening villain with some actual presence and motivation about her, and it all resolves in a surprising, spectacular manner, similar to Doctor Strange. The film does have one glaring issue, namely, that due the large cast and plethora of newly introduced characters, a lot of established characters are pushed out of focus, even out of the film entirely, and it ultimately prevents it from achieving its full potential. However, even factoring that in, the issue remains more of a nitpick than anything. In the end, Ragnarok is an absolute blast. A pure fun ride from start to finish

#7. Iron Man 3: From putting Iron Man outside of his comfort zone, to delivering the biggest and most entertainingly surprising bait and switch in the MCU, Iron Man 3 is pure fun.

#8. Ant Man: You will believe a man can shrink in size. The characters are great, the fight scenes are impressive and imaginative, and the villain is interesting, and appropriately menacing.

#9. Doctor Strange: Similar to Ant Man, this film keeps its plot simple and focused, and it delivers what it sets out to do with absolute competency. Unique to this movie, though, is the method of dealing with the big bad threat; instead of beating it to the ground, the titular protagonist sought a different route, one that combined using the film's (and MCU's) established lore in a smart, out-of-the-box way.

#10. Avengers: Age of Ultron: Boasting an enormous cast, and handling perhaps a few plot threads too many, Age of Ultron nevertheless managed to deliver a fun villain, incredible action scenes, the second biggest bait and switch in the MCU, and the first superhero death. And it also gave us Vision, the worthiest of all robots.

#11. Iron Man: The movie that put the MCU into motion. Great all around, except for the fact that the Iron Monger is in suit for a very small amount of screen time, to really establish him as a potent threat.

#12. Captain America: The First Avenger: A movie that perfectly sells just why Steve Rogers IS the good Captain. And the most tragic of endings. It did need a bit more Nazi/Hydra fighting, though.

#13. Thor: A week third act, but an otherwise excellent movie, full of fascinating characters. And Loki, who defines "interesting antagonist".

#14. Captain America: The Winter Soldier: While the main part of the plot about the Winter Soldier himself starts interesting, the rest of it about Hydra is not as strong, verging on forgettable at points, and ultimately undermines the movie's message about freedom and security. Still, this movie is a great examination of Captain America adjusting to the 21st century, introduces the Falcon, and its resolution creates a lasting impact in the franchise as a whole.


Street Tier: The merely ok. They may not be masterpieces of cinematography, but they still work great as a way to enjoyably pass the night with some pop-corn. They're harmless fun. Ultimately, the MCU may not gain anything by them, but nor will it lose, as well.

#15. The Incredible Hulk: It was ok. That's the most damning thing that can be said about a movie in the MCU.

#16. Thor: The Dark World: An Antagonist with a very weak presence, and a plot that ultimately is largely forgettable. But the rest of the characters are still good, and Loki is still a great and fascinating character.

#17. Iron Man 2: A filler episode, with unthreatening (if charismatic) antagonists. But between the new superheroes introduced, the resolution of the Tony/Pepper pairing, and the suited interractions between Iron Man and Warmachine, the end result is an enjoyable movie that just happens.


Minion Tier: The bad. These movies are to be observed only with MST3K-style commentary on the side. Their existance actively hurts the MCU, so it's better to pretend that they don't exist.

N/A (Thankfully, no movie has fallen this far. There might be a movie that fits this tier in the future? Who knows, the law of averages says there will, but that would also imply that the results the other movies in the franchise have proccured thus far are, in some way, random, and that's too simplistic, and not entirely accurate.)


Crisis Tier: The franchise killers. Going a few steps beyond merely bad, these movies create an avalanche effect that sucks the good out of all other movies as well. There's no ignoring to be had here; even if these movies aren't actively responsible for ending the MCU before its time, they still make all other related to them movies that much worse, simply by existing.

N/A (No movie here, as well. I hope I'm not jinxing it, either.)




Bottom line (thus far): At their best, MCU movies transcend the medium, taking advantage of their format to create a vast mythos that affect the general public consciousness in ways that other critically aclaimed and iconic movies and movie franchises, like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Aliens, etc, could never hope to achieve before. At their worst, they're a good way to pass the time.

Edited by Vahnyu
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Honestly, and this is perhaps colored much by my point of view as an American in the modern age, I'd have to put Captain America: The first Avenger at the cosmic tier.  There are two qualities I think elevate it.  First it was the first of the MCU movies to really feel like it was part of the MCU, with Howard Stark, the hints of Shields origins, the introduction of the cosmic cube.  All of it really felt like it was setting the stage for a broader setting than Ironman did with its teasing and very tony centric plots.  Secondly as you already said it really laid out what makes Cap Cap.  And what we love about him.  Now for the bit more cultural and amerocentric reasoning on that.  I'm an intensely liberal American, my sister even more so and She's not even a comics fan at all so she went in as most of us did expecting/fearing a very jingoistic "Hu-rah 'murica!" vibe of the literal representation of the 'greatest generation' punching fascism in the the face.  Now I had hedged my bets with knowing that Cap has had new deal liberalism stamped all over him for years so had some hope and was really jazzed they got it so very right.  She walked out shocked and amazed that they'd gotten her and her hyper liberal anti-establishment hipster friends feeling downright patriotic and very engaged with Steve and Company saving the day.


So I guess I elevate it because it is hard with a government as messed up as ours has been of late (IMHO) to get behind such obvious symbolism but the way it is presented makes it easy and that is more of a coup of filmmaking genius than I expected.

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Excellent points, Durf. It should also be noted that Captain America: The First Avenger, and Thor, both worked as direct prequels to the Avengers movie, as they both segue directly into the movie. Indeed, they were proof that by that time, Marvel was finally hitting its stride, in terms of planning and atmospheric mood.


However, in sheer terms of payoff, it is absolutely eclipsed by the Avengers, Guardians, and Civil War. Being in the planetary tier still means that the movie contributes in expanding and rounding out the universe. But I don't feel confident I would use it as the face for the franchise. Perhaps it could still receive a higher ranking in its tier, though? Because honestly, #4 to #8, I could easily see being arranged in a different order.

Edited by Vahnyu
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Yea I can see your point with that.  I'd probably move CA:TFA up to the top three, Iron Man 1 as well.  Need to see Ant Man to really know where it should fall but my thoughts mostly fall in line with how key to the MCU they are and Ant Man while it sounds like a very good movie seems a little disconnected from the MCU as a whole.  (granted not like Incredible Hulk or Iron Man 2 levels)  I really liked the Dark World.  But that may have been more for the characters being so spot on than the overall plot as the villain did fall very flat and it didn't feel very connected to the rest of the MCU which is a shame given how tied in so many of hte characters are.

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Agreed completely. The movies in the Street Tier are by no means bad. Their greatest sin is just that, that they contribute very little to the MCU as an interconnected universe. They still work great as character pieces, if that makes sense.


Without going into too much spoiler territory, Antman is actually very tightly connected with the up to that point established MCU, and also explains why he's in Civil War and on Cap's side.

Edited by Vahnyu
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On the Crossover Tier, which handles non-MCU movies that would be great if they were part of the MCU. The tier also has the Blade Trilogy, the Ghost Rider Duology, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Oh, and Nick Fury: Agent of Shield, with the addendum that Nick Fury is a legacy character.

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Updated with Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 joining the rankings. I tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible, and don't believe there's any in their entries, but if you haven't watched them yet, and plan to, I suggest you do that first before reading my comments on their entries.

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