If you sat down to watch the whole MCU it would now take 63 hours and 34 minutes. If you have the bladder for that kind of marathon there are several ways you could do it. You could watch the movies in the order they came out (starting with Iron Man), the order they’re set (with Captain America: The First Avenger), or our favourite, “the reverse ice cream sundae” method: starting with the soggy mess at the bottom and working your way up to the cherries on top.
This, then, is every MCU movie ranked from worst to best – the only way to binge the highest-grossing film franchise of all time.
29. ‘Eternals’ (2021)
The movie that brought art-house angst, Angelina Jolie and awkward sex scenes to the MCU is also the only Marvel movie that’s genuinely boring. A film about a supergroup of cosmic gods that spans 7000 years of human history really shouldn’t be this vanilla. The ambition was there, but the best bit was when Harry Styles showed up during the post-credits scene – just as everyone was leaving the cinema…
How silly is it? The only joke in the movie is also product placement for IKEA.
28. ‘Thor: The Dark World’ (2013)
Thor in the real world? Great. Thor in a weird space world? Brilliant. Thor in his own rainbow magic ice elf world? Ridiculous. Made before anyone realised Chris Hemsworth should always be played for laughs, the second Thor was a bloated mess of cod-Shakespeare, wannabe Game Of Thrones nods and Anthony Hopkins trying really hard to look like he cared about the words coming out of his mouth.
How silly is it? Just google “Dark elves Thor”.
27. ‘Iron Man 2’ (2010)
The problem with Iron Man 2 is that Iron Man isn’t in it. Showing up at the start to fight a topless Mickey Rourke with a whip, and again at the end to fight a load of flying CG drones, the rest of the film is just Robert Downey Jr. getting drunk, moping around and drooling over Scarlet Johansson’s bum.
How silly is it? Elon Musk is in it.
26. ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ (2015)
Following Avengers Assemble was always going to be tricky, but Joss Whedon’s baggy sequel ended up falling into all the holes his first film managed to avoid. Overlong, overstuffed and underwhelming, the film is still the most expensive MCU movie ever made – throwing everything at the screen to see what stuck.
How silly is it? Ultron’s whole evil plan is to pick up a city and drop it. (And he does!)
25. ‘The Incredible Hulk’ (2008)
Often overlooked because it’s only sort of part of the MCU, The Incredible Hulk is now more of a What If…? movie – imagining what the franchise would look like if Edward Norton didn’t argue with Marvel and ended up being replaced by Mark Ruffalo. Norton makes a great (angrier/meaner/sadder) Hulk, but his movie feels slightly forgettable.
How silly is it? Hulk’s entire backstory is crammed into the opening credits (presumably so he can get on with smashing things).
24. ‘Thor’ (2011)
Thor’s first film is the one where you can see Marvel working out the formula in real-time. Trying out a bit of serious Lord Of The Rings stuff alongside a bit of zany fish-out-of-water comedy, both halves of the MCU sat slightly awkwardly next to each other in 2011 – with Kenneth Branagh clearly more interested in royal politics than watching Chris Hemsworth eat Pop-Tarts.
How silly is it? Marvel President Kevin Feige had to publicly apologise for bleaching Thor’s eyebrows.
23. ‘Black Widow’ (2021)
Finally giving Scarlett Johansson a bit more to do than just kick people, Black Widow set her up with a decent stand-alone vehicle (even if it was a few years too late, and even if she was upstaged by Florence Pugh). Staying mostly grounded and gritty, the last act tanked when the action moved to a big flying factory in the sky.
How silly is it? None of the world’s top assassins can kill Ray Winstone because he smells too good.
22. ‘Iron Man 3’ (2013)
The best thing about Iron Man’s third solo outing was how genuinely funny it was – with writer/director Shane Black nailing the tone throughout Iron Man 3 to give Robert Downey Jr. the script he always deserved. The film didn’t stick the landing, but everything up to the messy finale was smart and witty and plenty of fun.
How silly is it? The big bad guy is actually an English actor called Trevor, pretending to be a big bad guy.
21. ‘Captain Marvel’ (2019)
Dropping an unstoppable superhuman in the middle of LA in 1995 should have been way more Terminator 2 than Captain Marvel made it feel. A cracking arrival scene and decent jukebox ’90s soundtrack aside, the rest of the movie ends up feeling pretty much like every other mid-range MCU entry. Brie Larson is fantastic, but she really deserved a better film.
How silly is it? She doesn’t have a Bat-signal, she has a pager. And it works in space.
20. ‘Ant-Man’ (2015)
It’s pretty hard to watch Ant-Man now after seeing the opening scene of The Boys season three. Putting that image a long, long way away, the smallest character in the MCU is the one with the biggest charm – Paul Rudd acting like he’s still in a Judd Apatow movie while disabling Soviet missiles and raising giant ant pets.
How silly is it? The big finale is a train chase on top of Thomas The Tank Engine.
19. ‘Ant-Man And The Wasp’ (2018)
Taking over the first movie halfway through after Edgar Wright jumped ship, director Peyton Reed took on the sequel and made Ant-Man very slightly better – turning in a fun caper that added extra Evangeline Lilly, a neat shrinking/growing car chase and some weird quantum realm stuff.
How silly is it? Paul Rudd rides a flying ant called Ant-onio Banderas.
18. ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ (2019)
Road trip! The MCU leaves its American/Eastern European backlots to blow up the prettiest bits of Venice instead. Peter Parker is still in school, giving Far From Home a nice teen energy that makes the talky scenes far more fun than most of the action. Also gets points for finally giving Zendaya more to do.
How silly is it? Spidey wears a pair of Tony Stark’s glasses that control an army of weaponised drones… called Edith.
17. ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ (2021)
No Spider-Man movie is better than Into The Spiderverse, and No Way Home made the mistake of trying. Spending far too long recreating that annoying Spider-Man pointing meme, Tom Holland’s third film still capped his Spidey trilogy with all of the fun and messiness (and actors) that $200million can buy.
How silly is it? Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire all play the same person.
16. ‘Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness’ (2022)
The MCU version of Everything, Everywhere All At Once was also the Sam Raimi version of Doctor Strange – a character who can do anything he thinks of and ends up tripping through alternate dimensions, fighting his evil self with musical notes and kickstarting a dozen other Marvel spin-offs with surprise cameos. A mad horror comedy for anyone who ever thought the MCU needed more zombies.
How silly is it? One scene is set in a world made entirely out of paint.
15. ‘Captain America: Civil War’ (2016)
Is this really a Captain America movie or just Avengers 2.5? The Russo Brothers proved how good they are at juggling multiple characters at once for a film about super-friends who start becoming super-frenemies. Smarter and cleaner than most of the proper Avengers movies (even if it doesn’t land with quite the same bang) it’s a slick example of how many blockbuster plates Marvel can keep spinning at once.
How silly is it? The whole film is an argument over privatisation legislation.
14. ‘Doctor Strange’ (2016)
What if Marvel made Inception? Nicking all of Christopher Nolan’s coolest VFX ideas and using them in a movie that you didn’t actually have to think about, director Scott Derrickson pushed Eastern mysticism through the Disney machine to make one of the most visually striking movies in the MCU (and all with a heavyweight cast more suited to a Terrence Davies drama).
How silly is it? One of the characters is a cape.
13. ‘Thor: Love And Thunder’ (2022)
Taika Waititi is great at being really silly and really sentimental at the same time, and his sweet and sour style is poured thickly all over Thor 4 – a film that’s great at making you laugh before kicking you right in the heart. Hemsworth’s love for his own hammer is hilarious, Batman brings grit, and one scene in particular leaves everyone wrecked.
How silly is it? The soundtrack is basically Guns N’ Roses’ Greatest Hits
12. ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ (2011)
Director Joe Johnston already made one of the best superhero movies around with The Rocketeer, so he was the perfect choice for Marvel’s own Saturday matinee swashbuckler set in an alt-WWII past. Chris Evans was brilliant as weedy Steve and super Steve, turning Cap into the MCU’s own Indiana Jones for one of the best backstories around.
How silly is it? The bad guy looks like a blood clot.
11. ‘Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings’ (2021)
Less of a superhero movie and more of an old-school Disney fairytale, Marvel’s first Asian-led outing has some of the franchise’s best action scenes. Partly because the special effects are so slick (dragons!), partly because they were edited to let you actually see what was going on (the bus fight!), but mostly because Awkwafina was in them.
How silly is it? The cutest character is a six-legged, headless wombat called Morris.
10. ‘Iron Man’ (2008)
The one that started it all is also the simplest movie in the MCU – mostly because it’s the only one that didn’t arrive with any baggage. 90 per cent of what makes Iron Man work is Robert Downey Jr., deadpanning and smirking through a rollicking great DIY robot movie like he didn’t know he was about to be locked into a film franchise for the next decade…
How silly is it? It’s about a billionaire who turns himself into a flying robot by building stuff out of rubbish he finds in an Afghan cave.
9. ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ (2017)
Probably the only Marvel superhero who could lead a franchise without even putting on a super suit, Spider-Man is the heart of the MCU. Other Spideys have been there before but Tom Holland did it better – giving us an awkward John Hughes high-school comedy about real teen heroics (and also a damn fine action movie that lands with Marvel’s lightest, brightest touch).
How silly is it? Spider-Man is a vlogger.
8. ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (2019)
It’s hard to separate both parts of the highest grossing films of all time since they’re essentially two halves of the same mammoth blockbuster – the pinnacle of everything the MCU was building towards since 2008, and two of the most enjoyably maximalist movies ever made. Endgame gets the best showdown (and most of the tears), but a baggier middle and weaker last gut-punch puts it just behind Part 1.
How silly is it? 50 per cent of the universe comes back to life because a big purple thumb man loses a glove to the Incredible Hulk.
7. ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ (2018)
There was a beautiful, horrifying moment in 2018 when everyone thought everyone else was dead. Ending with a snap that silenced the cinema (and left most kids distraught), Infinity War was the MCU at its bravest – even if it was all undone by a sequel that walked back most of the big deaths. Still one of the greatest downbeat cliffhangers in film history – at the end of yet another great superstar showdown.
How silly is it? 50 per cent of the universe dies because a big purple thumb man clicked his fingers.
6. ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2’ (2017)
It might not be quite as fun, funny or fresh as the original, but James Gunn’s sequel is still one of the sharpest tools in the Marvel shed. Running like a space rollercoaster and packing one of the best comedy casts in the MCU (now plus Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell and David Hasselhoff for extra ’80s cred), Vol.2 is multimillion dollar irreverence at its finest.
How silly is it? The bad guy is defeated by Pac-Man.
5. ‘Black Panther’ (2018)
Representing something far greater than the sum of its parts, Marvel’s first Black superhero got a solid gold stand-alone movie that arrived far too late. Arguably less revolutionary than the film that could have been made about the same character, Black Panther follows the same pattern as most other MCU movies but it did it with a much better cast and something genuinely worth saying.
How silly is it? Daniel Kaluuya rides a rhino (and Danai Gurira stops it charging with a mean stare).
4. ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (2017)
2017 was a good year for the MCU. Coming out straight after Homecoming and Guardians 2, Ragnarok doubled down on Marvel’s weird/funny new tone to hit the most stoic Avenger with florescent paint, space gladiators and Jeff Goldblum. Fired by Taika Waititi’s punk comic edge, Thor 3 finally gave Chris Hemsworth a god worth chewing on.
How silly is it? Jeff Goldblum improvised half his lines, so… pretty silly.
3. ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ (2014)
If Taika Waititi and James Gunn are the directors who make the MCU fun, the Russo brothers are the ones who give it weight. Inspired by the gritty political thrillers of the ’70s, the Russos brought in Robert Redford for a spy thriller with grounded action, a solid script and plenty of nuance. The one that feels like it would convert the most sceptics.
How silly is it? Not that silly at all (apart from the frozen WWII soldier who gets defrosted after 70 years).
2. ‘Avengers Assemble’ (2012)
If there’s a perfect MCU movie, it has to be Avengers Assemble. The most complete, balanced, joyful and exciting mix of everything the franchise does well came together in 2012 for the first super-team face-off. Marvel spent the next decade repeating the formula, to varying degrees of success, but they’ve never bettered the original – a movie that brought the whole band together to fight an alien invasion in the middle of New York.
How silly is it? It ends with all the world’s greatest superheroes eating shawarma.
1. ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ (2014)
As great as the first Avengers movie is, it can’t quite beat a talking racoon, a dancing pot plant and the best mixtape this side of Tarantino. Like Star Wars with jokes, the first Guardians showed us what the MCU looks like when no one involved takes anything seriously but the action – giving us a loveable gang of space pirates led by a regular bloke from Earth who looked like he was having far too good a time playing Han Solo to ask any questions. The ultimate summer superhero movie.
How silly is it? Just silly enough.