So what’s the best Marvel movie?
With the release of Captain America: Civil War, many discussions have sprung up surrounding the top movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While other studios have been hit-or-miss with comic book movies, Marvel manages to regularly churn out quality films. But which one is at the top?
To come up with a definitive ranking, I looked at opening weekend box office (initial excitement), total box office (sustained popularity), Rotten Tomatoes rankings (overall opinion), Metacritic (specific score), my personal opinion (my list).
Here is the definitive ranking of all 13 MCU movies, each with their specific numbers and ranking among the other Marvel movies.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Opening weekend: $55 million (13)
Total box office: $135 million (12)
Rotten Tomatoes: 67% (12)
Metacritic score: 61 (10)
My ranking: 13
Average score: 12
Edward Norton’s Hulk film is the most forgettable in the MCU.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Opening weekend: $86 million (9)
Total box office: $206 million (8)
Rotten Tomatoes: 66% (13)
Metacritic score: 54 (13)
My ranking: 12
Average score: 11
A weak sequel missing much of what makes other MCU movies great.
Opening weekend: $66 million (10)
Total box office: $181 million (9)
Rotten Tomatoes: 77% (9)
Metacritic score: 57 (11)
My ranking: 10
Average score: 9.8
The most interesting (only) interesting thing about Thor is Loki.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Opening weekend: $128 million (5)
Total box office: $312 (6)
Rotten Tomatoes: 72% (11)
Metacritic score: 57 (11)
My ranking: 11
Average score: 8.8
Disappointing sequel saved by impressive box office numbers.
Opening weekend: $57 million (12)
Total box office: $180 (10)
Rotten Tomatoes: 80% (6)
Metacritic score: 64 (8)
My ranking: 7
Average score: 8.6
A fun movie that got less attention than it should
Opening weekend: $65 million (11)
Total office: $177 million (11)
Rotten Tomatoes: 80% (7)
Metacritic score: 66 (7)
My ranking: 5
Average score: 8.2
World War II period piece that kickstarted Avengers.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Opening weekend: $174 million (4)
Total box office: $409 (3)
Rotten Tomatoes: 79% (8)
Metacritic score: 62 (9)
My ranking: 9
Average score: 6.6
Proof that Robert Downey Jr. is a box office draw as Iron Man.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Opening weekend: $191 million (2)
Total box office: $459 million (2)
Rotten Tomatoes: 75% (10)
Metacritic score: 66 (6)
My ranking: 8
Average score: 5.6
Huge box office, but missed opportunities with the film itself.
Opening weekend: $95 million (7)
Total box office: $230 million (7)
Rotten Tomatoes: 89% (5)
Metacritic score: 70 (4)
My ranking: 4
Average score: 5.4
A spy thriller that cemented Captain America as the most versatile Avengers character.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Opening weekend: $182 million (3)
Total box office: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: 91% (4)
Metacritic: 75 (3)
My ranking: 6
Average score: 4
The few weaknesses aside, this is a really fun, exciting movie that charts a new direction for the MCU.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Opening weekend: $94 million (8)
Total box office: $333 million (4)
Rotten Tomatoes: 91% (3)
Metacritic score: 76 (2)
My ranking: 2
Average score: 3.8
The jump in ranking from opening to total box office shows the incredible word-of-mouth for Guardians.
Iron Man (2008)
Opening weekend: $98 million (6)
Total box office: $318 million (5)
Rotten Tomatoes: 94% (1)
Metacritic score: 79 (1)
My ranking: 1
Average score: 2.8
The perfect movie to start the MCU, Iron Man is a fantastic movie that hits all the right buttons.
The Avengers (2012)
Opening weekend: $207 million (1)
Total box office: $623 million (1)
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% (2)
Metacritic score: 69 (5)
My ranking: 3
Average score: 2.4
The behemoth that all team-up movies will be judged against, The Avengers launched MCU’s Phase 2.
Four tiers of MCU films
There are three current phases in the MCU, but you can see four tiers of movies. The Incredible Hulk and Thor: The Dark World are unquestionably the worst films in the franchise.
Iron Man 2, Ant-Man and Captain America: The First Avenger are all good movies, but missed in some area. Either they were extremely successful but not critically appreciated, or the audiences who loved them were too small to move up the list.
The next grouping—Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Winter Soldier—are two films with massive box office numbers and decent reviews and one film with a decent box office and excellent reviews.
The top tier are movies that had overwhelming box office success and critical love: Captain America: Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man and The Avengers.
How can I catch up?
Not many people have time to sit down and watch 13 movies in a row, so what should you watch if you missed all the previous MCU movies and you want to get caught up now?
Four movies would be required viewing: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Captain America: Civil War. They will give you the main story of the universe and know enough to grasp most of what happens going forward.
All of the Marvel movies are leading up to the two Infinity Wars films that will focus on Thanos obtaining the powerful infinity stones. Four of the six stones have been featured in several MCU movies already.
In addition to the the four movies mentioned above, the most notably connections to the stones happen in Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Thor: The Dark World. But outside of just knowing of the existence of one of the stones, Thor: The Dark World is entirely skippable. Read the plot recap on Wikipedia if you really are curious.
Obviously, some of the other films contribute to the character development and world building of the MCU (like Iron Man, Ant-Man, and Thor), but their plots are more self-contained and aren’t as necessary to the broader storyline.
Upcoming MCU films
Of all the upcoming MCU movies, there are four that may have a chance to climb into the top tier. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the two Avengers: Infinity Wars films. The box office on all of those should be incredible. It will just depend on how well the stories are told.
Most of the other near future movies should fall somewhere in the middle two tiers: Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Ant-Man and the Wasp. Those all seem to be niche characters that will do well with critics, but may not have record-breaking box office hauls. (Though Black Panther may be a sleeper hit.)
The only film that could fall into the bottom tier is Thor: Ragnarok. The character has yet to prove to be a box office draw and Marvel has struggled with his story the most.
Why aren’t X-Men or Batman on the list?
We are talking only movies in the actual Marvel Cinematic Universe. That means no Batman films or any other DC comic inspired movies.
Earlier movies like Daredevil, Ghost Rider or 2003’s Hulk don’t count either because that were before the MCU officially started in 2008.
And even though they are Marvel properties, none of the previous Spider-Man, X-Men, Wolverine, Deadpool, or Fantastic Four films qualify because they were made by other studios.
So out of the 13 MCU movies, which ones do you think are the best?