I’m a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I don’t hesitate to get a baby sitter and see new releases in the theater and I’ve pretty much preordered every release (sans Guardians 2). I love the genre, but even more so I think the MCU represents some of the best movie writing of my lifetime. Consistently the MCU rolls out great content, so that even the worst MCU movie is still a great movie. Not even Star Wars can rival the consistent greatness of the MCU’s story telling.

Because I’m such an MCU nerd I often get asked to rank the movies from my favorite to least. That’s no easy task! I’ve tried this before with Star Trek and Star Wars where the disparity between a great movie and the bottom of the barrel is stark. In the MCU that disparity is narrow and sometimes hard to navigate. The middle of the list of also especially difficult to decide because they’re on such even ground with each other. Nonetheless for you, dear reader, I shall endeavor to order these movies. Please note, this list is fluid and I have no reservations about updating this list over time.

Lastly… don’t ever watch these movies in this order! The MCU should always be watched chronologically, period. Unlike Star Wars the release order matters, with but a few exceptions that, quite honestly, are not worth taking out of release order (looking at you Captain America: First Avenger and Captain Marvel).

  1. Avengers: Infinity Wars
  2. Avengers: Endgame
  3. Captain America: Civil War
  4. Iron Man 1
  5. Thor: Ragnarok
  6. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy
  8. Captain America: Winter Soldier
  9. Avengers
  10. Black Panther
  11. Captain America: The First Avenger
  12. Captain Marvel
  13. Ant-man
  14. Dr. Strange
  15. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  16. Iron Man 2
  17. Thor
  18. Age of Ultron
  19. Iron Man 3
  20. Thor: Dark World
  21. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
  22. Ant-man & the Wasp

A few words (possible spoilers below)…

  • Notice the italics? These are movies that I struggled to sort amongst themselves and I would not object to someone’s personal reorganization of 12-18.
  • Yes, Infinity wars tops Endgame. Why? Infinity Wars is arguably the best most complete story in the MCU. They weren’t afraid to leave you entirely hopeless and that made this an emotionally gripping movie. Endgame is great, especially the final scenes, but as a whole the film isn’t greater than the fantastic writing of Infinity Wars.
  • Why is Age of Ultron so low? Yes, we get Vision, Scarlett Witch and the fist mention of Wakanda, but while there’s some great stuff going on here it is all in all a weak movie with lots of holes. Bottom line is it could have been better. It’s critical to the development of the MCU’s story line but I never find myself going back and rewatching it because I want to.
  • Dark World: Elves, enough said.
  • Guardians 2 has one of the best opening 30 minutes in the MCU. It’s hilarious and just great entertainment. After that 30 minutes we slip into the “I’ve got daddy issues” phase of the movie and the writing just goes down the drain. I can also make an argument that this is the least valuable movie to the franchise. What does it add to the ultimate culmination of Infinity Wars? Nothing.
  • I wanted so badly to love Ant-man & the Wasp, especially since Ant-man has long been a favorite of mine. I was ecstatic that we got the Wasp and that she was so key to this film, but the problem here is the villain. Which one, you ask? Exactly! This movie struggled to identify a clear bad guy and suffered because of it. Yes, it was hilarious and yes the post credits scene is absolutely critical to Endgame, making it one of the most necessary movies to watch going into it, but all in all it was just bad writing. My biggest fear from this one is that they don’t make a third, because that would be a travesty.
  • There are a ton of Captain Marvel haters out there, but I am not one. The biggest criticism I’ve heard is about Brie Larson’s almost stoic performance. Those with this criticism simply don’t understand the character and clearly don’t understand the Kree. So if Brie Larson’s sometimes emotionless acting bugged you, go do yourself a favor and read up on the Kree. If there’s anything to fault this movie for it’s probably the lack of depth around Kree culture, but then again hey we didn’t need (or want) an Endgame-length movie here.
  • Why is Far From Home so high? Well, I just watched it! But more so than that it ended up being more of a comic book styled movie than other MCU flicks. It has great character development for Spider-Man too. I loved that it was intrinsically tied into Endgame without being fully dependent upon it. There are so many great nerd-nods in this movie that MCU lovers will gush over it. Lastly, it finally capitalized on BARF, this odd left field reference in the beginning of Civil War that had until now never been capitalized on. MCU fans have been patiently waiting for something to be made of BARF and now we’ve got it in Mysterio!
  • Many of my friends will recall that for a long time I strongly disliked the first Avengers movie. So it might seem odd that it now stands in the top 10. What changed? I have long loved the story telling and character development of the MCU far more than I did the special effects and elaborate battle scenes. This is why Captain America: The First Avenger sits so high on my list, when for many it is near the bottom. The first Avengers is an action movie that has an amazing amount of ground to cover and thus it spends a lot less time on character development than say Ultron. What changed my mind was actually Endgame. As I re-watched the entire MCU in preparation for Endgame I found myself coming back to that first Avengers movie and really appreciating how much is setup for the rest of the MCU in that movie. It’s this appreciation that drove it up so high on my list.
  • What about The Incredible Hulk? Well, what about it?