The best Marvel movies, ranked: great films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Updated: Don't have time for every MCU film? Here’s our pick.
If you are a superhero fan, then you have been spoiled rotten this past decade - as this best Marvel movies list proves.
Marvel has released 24 MCU movies in total, and while the majority of them have been fantastic fun, a few have been duds (Thor: Dark World, we are looking at you). Here, then, is a definitive list of the best Marvel movies, the movies to catch up on if you haven't yet ventured into the MCU.
UPDATE: With Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings out, it has gone straight into our best Marvel movies list. It's a cracking origin story which features some of the best fight scenes ever seen in a Marvel movie.
Most of us don't have that much time to spare to watch all the Marvel movies, so we've worked up a list of the best Marvel movies you need to catch up on, or revisit for another watch. Give your favourite some upvote love if you think they are MCU movie highlights.
But if you really want to watch every single Marvel movie, then head to our how to watch the Marvel movies in order guide. We have also added in all of the TV shows, which add to the complete experience.
Best Marvel movies
1. Avengers: EndgameWatch now on Disney Plus
Prepare for tears, laughs and the inability to get out of your seat for a solid three hours. Endgame is the final movie in the Avengers series. And it finishes off the $5-billion-plus epic better than we could have hoped. It’s a direct continuation of the Infinity War storyline. And if you’ve seen that film, there’s little of chance of forgetting that ending. Sheesh. The film broke all pre-sales records, and raked-in $2 billion faster than any to date. And, yes, we're talking numbers to avoid spoilers.
2. Thor: RagnarokWatch now on Disney Plus
Thor: Ragnarok is a solid contender for the “funniest Marvel movie” gong. And we tend to thank director Taika Waititi for that. Before Marvel snapped him up, Waititi was known for quirky comedies like Eagle vs Shark and the wonderful Hunt for the Wilderpeople. He brings the wit of those films to one with a considerably larger budget. You also get to see Hulk and Thor go head-to-head in Ragnarok.
3. Avengers: Infinity WarWatch now on Disney Plus
What’s particularly impressive about the world-conquering Avengers: Infinity War is the sheer number of characters it juggles, with a narrative that still finds each of them something of note to do. No shortage of Post-It notes were presumably involved in the writing. Remarkably, it barely sags, too, and the interactions between Thor and Rocket are crying out for a spin-off movie of their own…
4. Captain America: The Winter SoldierWatch now on Disney Plus
Arguably the best of the impressive trio of Captain America films, what sets this aside is the push towards an undercurrent of political thriller. Plus, it marked the film where the Russo brothers brought their directorial talents to the MCU, landing the job in part after their work on superbly staged episodes of the comedy show Community. Their love of cinema shines right through, too, from exquisitely staged elevator fight moments, to the tips of the hat to the likes of Heat.
5. Guardians Of The GalaxyWatch now on Disney Plus
Hindsight is easy, of course, but in the run up to Guardians Of The Galaxy’s release, the internet was awash with thinkpieces suggesting this would be the movie where the MCU came a cropper. Pah. Under the stewardship of writer-director James Gunn (since fired from the franchise and now working on the next Suicide Squad), the MCU expanded properly into the cosmos, with wise-cracking, anarchy and a talking tree. No small achievement.
6. Avengers AssembleWatch now on Disney Plus
The moment where the rest of the world really took notice. In the same summer that The Dark Knight Rises hit big, Marvel hit bigger with its astonishingly accomplished, carefully built coming-together of its heroes. The biggest compliment to just what Marvel accomplished is how many people rushed to copy it, and failed. The inevitable high-profile example is Warner Bros’ Justice League film. Yet everyone who rushed to make a cinematic universe subsequently failed to appreciate the hard story work that led to this one.
7. Iron ManWatch now on Disney Plus
It’s easy to forget just what a huge gamble the original Iron Man movie was. Director Jon Favreau, who at that stage had Zathura and Swingers to his name, had to fight to cast Robert Downey Jr in the title role. Downey Jr at that stage was more known for on-screen problems than on-screen charm. But zoiks, did it hit big. Note too that it was Paramount Pictures, rather than Disney, that took the gamble on distributing it.
8. Captain America: Civil WarWatch now on Disney Plus
Watching Civil War back and it's amazing how 'small' the film feels now - and that's not a criticism. The plot is huge: The Avengers are split after the events of Age of Ultron. There are those who back Tony Stark's decision to sign up to the Hero Registration Act as he reckons superheroes need to be kept in check. Then there are those who are with Captain America who doesn't trust the government and would rather save the world without its help. We were promised battles between the heroes and you get them - but they take place in car parks and airports. It's all a far cry from the colour and space of Endgame. But this makes it more personal - we all think we want to see Iron Man fight Captain America but what will the consequences be? The film does a decent job of rounding up all the new Avengers that popped up in Ultron, as well as showcasing Black Panther and Spider-Man for the first time.
9. Black Pantherwatch now on Disney Plus
Marvel is now well into its groove of hiring interesting, not always obvious directors to helm its films, and giving them some space to do what they do. In the case of director Ryan Coogler (who at the stage he got the job had just two films to his name), what he does is make arguably the most acclaimed Marvel movie to date, and less arguably, the first to earn a Best Picture Academy Award nomination.
10. Spider-Man: Homecoming
What’s interesting about Spider-Man’s first full movie in the MCU is not only that a) it happened, but also b) this is the first film in the franchise that’s from the perspective of a character who’s seen the Marvel heroes grow up around him. Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker is a delight too, in a film that regularly tips its hat to 80s teen movies, but also serves as one the MCU’s lightest, most breezily entertaining movies. A shame Iron Man dominated the poster, though.
11. Doctor StrangeWatch now on Disney Plus
Doctor Strange was the breath of fresh air the MCU needed. Dipped in mysticism and the more ethereal aspects of the Avengers world. it is a gateway drug to the possibilities of the multiverse, which is essential for Endgame to work. The two Benedicts are great: Cumberbatch as Strange and Wong as, well, Wong. Rachel McAdams is underused, though, and the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One doesn't feel right, even if Marvel has said that her origin is meant to be Celtic. All of it is held together masterfully by director Scott Derrickson's horror-tinged eye. While he will be sorely missed for the sequel, we can't wait to see what Sam Raimi does.
12. Captain America: The First AvengerWatch now on Disney Plus
Officially the first movie in the Marvel Universe timeline, there was no better director than Joe Johnston to take on the origin tale of America's ass. His old-school filmmaking style suits the gung-ho World War setting. While Chris Evans is brilliant as the weedy soldier that becomes a super soldier, it's clear he's still finding his feet in the role, but he has the charisma to pull it off. The screenplay is written by the same folks that saw the MCU to its (current) end with Endgame - so it's lovely to see how the narrative threads they have put in place in the first movie weave into the bigger picture all those years later.
13. Shang-Chi And The Legend of the Ten Rings
Not another origin story?! That was our first thought when Shang-Chi And The Legend of the Ten Rings was announced but this really is a special Marvel movie. The first to kick off Phase 4 proper (Black Widow being a prequel doesn't really count), Shang-Chi is a brilliant mix of martial arts and superheroes. The best compliment we can give is that it doesn't feel like a Marvel movie until about two thirds in - the formula is fresh with this one.
14. Black WidowWatch Black Widow on Disney Plus
Black Widow was meant to be the movie that kickstarted Phase 4 of Marvel's plans. Instead, it was delayed because of Covid-19. It was worth the wait, though. The movie is a great look at Black Widow's past, while also showing us just what happened between Civil War and Infinity War. Let's just say that Natasha Romanoff wasn't napping.
15. ThorWatch now on Disney Plus
The three Thor films are each quite different beasts, but in hindsight, the first movie was one of the hardest Marvel films to launch. This, more than those than went immediately before it, brought a different world and different elements to the universe. In the ends of director Kenneth Branagh, an inevitably-somewhat-Shakespearean tale of two brothers turned out to be a masterstroke. Plus, Thor brought with him a rich seam of humour that the direct sequels had a lot of fun with
16. Captain MarvelWatch now on Disney Plus
It’s far from a perfect movie, but there’s no quarrel at all with the lead performance of Brie Larson in the title role here, nor the tale of female friendship underpinning Captain Marvel. It’s still bewildering it took more than 20 movies before Marvel had a female headline lead, let alone a female director (Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins was fired from Thor: The Dark World!). The de-ageing technology used on Samuel L Jackson’s face, meanwhile, is both utterly convincing, and a little bit terrifying.
17. Iron Man 3Watch now on Disney Plus
Comfortably one of the most divisive films in the MCU, Iron Man 3 – going light on spoilers here – has a shift in its story that’s really daring and risky. Does it work? Depends where you fall on the line, but at a time when comic book superhero movies were falling into a formula, Iron Man 3 was willing to take an enormous gamble. As with many Marvel films too, the score is quite something too.