The Definitive Ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Films

Marvel Cinematic Universe

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 posterThe Incredible Hulk (2008)

Opening weekend: $55 million (14)

Total box office: $135 million (14)

Rotten Tomatoes: 67% (13)

Metacritic score: 61 (11)

My ranking: 14

Average score: 13.2

Edward Norton’s Hulk film is the most forgettable in the MCU.

Thor the Dark World posterThor: The Dark World (2013)

Opening weekend: $86 million (10)

Total box office: $206 million (10)

Rotten Tomatoes: 66% (14)

Metacritic score: 54 (14)

My ranking: 13

Average score: 12.2

A weak sequel missing much of what makes other MCU movies great.

Thor movie posterThor (2011)

Opening weekend: $66 million (11)

Total box office: $181 million (11)

Rotten Tomatoes: 77% (10)

Metacritic score: 57 (12)

My ranking: 11

Average score: 11

The most interesting (only) interesting thing about Thor is Loki.

Iron_Man_2_PosterIron Man 2 (2010)

Opening weekend: $128 million (7)

Total box office: $312 (7)

Rotten Tomatoes: 72% (12)

Metacritic score: 57 (12)

My ranking: 12

Average score: 10

Disappointing sequel saved by impressive box office numbers.

Ant-Man posterAnt-Man (2015)

Opening weekend: $57 million (12)

Total box office: $180 (12)

Rotten Tomatoes: 80% (7)

Metacritic score: 64 (9)

My ranking: 8

Average score: 9.6

A fun movie that got less attention than it should.

Captain America The First Avenger posterCaptain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Opening weekend: $65 million (13)

Total office: $177 million (13)

Rotten Tomatoes: 80% (8)

Metacritic score: 66 (8)

My ranking: 6

Average score: 9.6

World War II period piece that kickstarted Avengers.

Ironman 3 posterIron Man 3 (2013)

Opening weekend: $174 million (3)

Total box office: $409 (3)

Rotten Tomatoes: 79% (9)

Metacritic score: 62 (10)

My ranking: 10

Average score: 7

Proof that Robert Downey Jr. is a box office draw as Iron Man.

Avengers Age of Ultron posterAvengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Opening weekend: $191 million (2)

Total box office: $459 million (2)

Rotten Tomatoes: 75% (11)

Metacritic score: 66 (7)

My ranking: 9

Average score: 6.2

Huge box office, but missed opportunities with the film itself.

Doctor Strange movie posterDoctor Strange (2016)

Opening weekend: $85 million (9)

Total box office: $233 million (9)

Rotten Tomatoes: 90% (4)

Metacritic score: 73 (4)

My ranking: 5

Average score: 6.2

A creative, envelope-pushing entry into the MCU.

Captain America The Winter Soldier posterCaptain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Opening weekend: $95 million (8)

Total box office: $230 million (8)

Rotten Tomatoes: 89% (8)

Metacritic score: 70 (5)

My ranking: 4

Average score: 6.2

A spy thriller that cemented Captain America as the most versatile Avengers character.

Captain America: Civil War posterCaptain America: Civil War (2016)

Opening weekend: $182 million (4)

Total box office: $408 million (4)

Rotten Tomatoes: 90% (4)

Metacritic: 75 (3)

My ranking: 7

Average score: 4.4

The few weaknesses aside, this is a really fun, exciting movie that charts a new direction for the MCU.

Guardians of the Galaxy posterGuardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Opening weekend: $94 million (5)

Total box office: $333 million (5)

Rotten Tomatoes: 91% (3)

Metacritic score: 76 (2)

My ranking: 2

Average score: 3.4

The jump in ranking from opening to total box office shows the incredible word-of-mouth for Guardians.

Iron Man posterIron Man (2008)

Opening weekend: $98 million (6)

Total box office: $318 million (6)

Rotten Tomatoes: 94% (1)

Metacritic score: 79 (1)

My ranking: 1

Average score: 3

The perfect movie to start the MCU, Iron Man is a fantastic movie that hits all the right buttons.

Avengers posterThe Avengers (2012)

Opening weekend: $207 million (1)

Total box office: $623 million (1)

Rotten Tomatoes: 92% (2)

Metacritic score: 69 (6)

My ranking: 3

Average score: 2.6

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 UltronCaptain America: Winter Soldier and Doctor Strange—are two films with massive box office numbers and decent reviews and two films with decent box offices 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 14 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 Avengers films that will focus on Thanos obtaining the powerful infinity stones. Five 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 GalaxyCaptain America: The First AvengerThor: The Dark World and Doctor Strange. 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 next two Avengers 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: 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. However, the trailer for the film has more of a Guardians of the Galaxy feel that, if extended to the entire film, may elevate the franchise.

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 14 MCU movies, which ones do you think are the best?


  1. Hey Aaron…My 1 & 1a of the MCU are Winter Soldier & Civil War. Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers character has become the heart of the MCU and I think the most interesting of all the characters currently in the MCU. Civil War, for me at least, is the best Avengers movie, even though it’s not technically an Avengers movie. I really like Guardians of the Galaxy but they came along after my comic book days so it’s still hard in some ways for me to think of them in the MCU. Ant-Man is a great addition to the MCU & I’m looking forward to its sequel. His role in Civil War was really well done.

    As much as I loved Thor as a kid, The Dark World wasn’t good at all. So I would actually put it a notch below The Incredible Hulk.

    As far as the origin movies of the MCU, I’d put Iron Man #1 (because it kicked off the MCU brilliantly), The First Avenger #1a (they nailed the scrawny kid wanting to beat up the bully), and Ant-Man #2.

    • Yes, I love Captain America. He is the best character in the MCU and shows how DC could have done Superman better as they have similar qualities to their characters and approaches to being a hero. I knew next to nothing about Guardians before the movie, but that is such a great, fun movie. And I’m with you, I liked Ant-Man much more than most. To me, Thor 2 and Hulk are interchangeably bad. Thor 2 at least matters to the MCU and has the same actor in the role.

  2. George

    Well, that was a definitive list. 🙂

    I’ve only seen four of these movies: Thor, Captain America the First Avenger, Iron Man, and The Avengers. I definitely want to see the other two Captain America movies. Which is odd because growing up I never was that big a fan of Captain America. Not that I didn’t like him, but I was always more of a Spider Man reader. Everything else in the Marvel world was second fiddle to Spidey. I guess it’s a testament to Chris Evans and how well he’s brought the character to life.

    I’m not terribly interested in seeing Guardians or the two Iron Man sequels. Ant Man I’d like to see, & Thor the Dark World if it’s got Loki in it.

  3. Joe

    I like you ranking very much. I agree in everything actually. I really hope Guardians vol. 2 kicks ass, and I know that Spiderman’s got the potential. Of course, I’m seeing this list a bit too late so, Dr. Strange is already out, and I think it qualifies for the second tier, maybe the best of the third tier. It builds up the MCU a broader perspective. I still can’t realize that we’re a little more than a year and half before the first Infinity War movie comes out. How is that going to look?!

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Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.