No ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will please everyone. We’re all looking for different things from the movies we watch. Some want big action set pieces. Others want humor and adventure. For me, I prefer a bit of gravitas. I like when the movie and characters take what’s happening somewhat seriously (with splashes of humor thrown in, of course). I want the choices, consequences, and drama to feel believable rather than treated lightly just because it’s a superhero movie. I don’t want “just a superhero” movie, I want a great story that happens to involve superheroes.
So the movies I rate “Awesome” I think do the best job of grounding the genre in genuine narrative stakes and logic while still leaning into the scale that a comic book movie allows for (or kind of demands). “Good” are just a step down. Some can be just a little too silly (like No Way Home). Or aren’t quite as epic as, say, Endgame or Civil War, so fall a tier below. The “Ups and Downs” are kind of messy. They’re still making some strong choices but never quite bring it all together. And then the “Somewhat Boring, Somewhat Bad” category is a bit self-explanatory. These are the films that feel to me like someone said, “Hey, we’re just making a comic book movie, let’s not overthink it and just have fun.” I’m sorry if your favorite is in this category.
Last updated: Wakanda Forever
- Avengers: Endgame
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Spider-Man: No Way Home
- Captain America: Civil War
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Iron Man
- Thor: Ragnarok
- The Incredible Hulk
- The Avengers
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
- Black Panther
- Spider-Man: Far From Home
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Black Widow
- Doctor Strange
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Ups and Downs
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
- Thor: The Dark World
- Captain Marvel
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Somewhat Boring, Somewhat Bad
- Thor: Love and Thunder
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Iron Man 3
- Iron Man 2
BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER
Wakanda Forever just kind of bored me. The specter of Chadwick Boseman’s loss definitely hangs over the film. Both narratively and emotionally. Emotionally, I thought they did a nice job of honoring Chadwick and not just moving on but allowing the characters and the audience a chance to mourn and find some catharsis. Narratively, eh. The opening scene with T’Challa’s passing was, I thought, pretty rough. Poor contextualizing. Too quick. It just felt anti-climactic to me. Everything was a bit anti-climactic. Talokan was a great concept, but the actual shots were murky and kind of failed to convey a sense of place, culture, or population. Some kids kicked a ball through part of a giant anchor? And someone else looks at a vase? And a girl waves at Shuri. Okay? Ironheart was a cool concept but she doesn’t do much. The Midnight Angel armor is joked about more than it’s actually used in battle.
Then Namor’s motivation never landed for me. He’s determined no one finds Takolan because he’s scared of what will happen. But everything he does only increases the likelihood Takolan is discovered and viewed as a threat. You might be able to chalk that up to total diplomatic ignorance because he’s literally isolated from the rest of the world. Except he seems very aware of world politics and is never shown to be ignorant, just a fierce protector. We’re never even shown where the vibranium mining that freaked him out so much is relative to Takolan. Was it literally right above them? Was it across the ocean? I guess “close enough” is the simple answer. I just didn’t think the movie did a good job of showing Namor was right to be worried or aggressively idiotic. It landed in some nebulous middle area that I wasn’t satisfied with.
Namor’s action sequences were awesome, though. He’s a literal sky walker. All of his action sequences conveyed a strong sense of power, intelligence, and superiority. Something I never really got from other characters. Nakia didn’t do much, action wise. M’Baku beat grunts and that’s it. Okoye had some cool moments but was limited by her repetitious boss fight. Ironheart didn’t get to do much. Even Shuri as Black Panther just had a couple of moments. Most of the spectacle of being a superhero went to Namor.
So it’s like…I didn’t get much from the action. I was pretty frustrated by the way Namor and Shuri were handling their business. And I just missed Chadwick the entire time. Angela Bassett as Ramonda was kind of the best part of the movie to me then she drowns in what I thought was a completely silly situation. I appreciated the heaviness of Wakanda Forever. But the actual narrative choices and scene by scene decision making was just too rough to me. Better than a lot of other Phase 4 films, so far. But not great. Or even good? Just okay.
THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER
It was kind of amazing to me how much less restrained this movie was. I get the impression that Feige was so happy with Taika Waititi and Thor: Ragnarok that he said, “Taika, just go ahead and go wild. It’s your show.” And some people will probably like (or even love) the result. Love and Thunder is just Taika humor to the max. Silliness reigns supreme. And that’s fun. Love and Thunder was fun. But we’re talking about a movie where kids get kidnapped and the main villain is nicknamed “God butcher.” Where a main character deals with stage four cancer. And I just never got a sense that Taika cared about that stuff. The character moments are either handled in a humorous way or in brief gasps that never have time to breathe. Christian Bale did his darnedest though. And the screaming goats were amazing.
DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS
I appreciated the style Sam Raimi brought to the movie. Visually, this was such a unique MCU entry. Unfortunately, the actual scene to scene logic often left me going, “Why would they do that? Why would they say that?” Problems and solutions both kind of appear out of nowhere rather than being built on action after action. Smart characters do dumb things. Dumb characters do more dumb things. It’s all very charming since it’s Benedict Cumberbatch doing his Cumberbest. And Xochitil Gomez as America Chavez was great. Elizabeth Olsen played the psychotic villain very well. I just wish there was a better story at the heart of it all. And a little more multiversing? I feel like the whole premise was a little underutilized. The best part was definitely when Professor X showed up and we heard the 90s X-Men cartoon theme music.
This probably would rank higher if it wasn’t for the final two scenes. Strange walks down the street and the third eye on his forehead opens and he’s distressed and it seems like this will be a huge deal. Then the very next mid-credit scene is him completely normal, also walking down a street, and running into Clea (Charlize Theron). She opens a portal and he opens his third eye and jumps in with her. It’s so jarring. Why start both scenes with him walking down the street? Why in the first one show him in so much shock when in the second one he’s completely fine with the eye? How much time passed between those scenes? I almost feel like one of those scenes was supposed to be cut and the other left in but someone decided to include both of them. And it was absolutely the wrong call. The Clea scene was the right answer.