This list will be updated after each new film comes out for as long as the foreseeable future, comparing each and every movie the MCU has had to each other and keeping track of the tally from time to time.
Once in a while, there will be adjustments made upon repeated viewings and future films being added into the list.
** RANKINGS AS OF FEBRUARY 16, 2018 **
1. Iron Man (2008)
This and #2 are essentially tied to me, but I have to give the slight edge to the film that started it all, set the tone for everything to follow and did it without anything ahead of time to rest on.
Iron Man is just so goddamn good. All of the characters are engaging, the plot is incredibly tight and sound and has no superfluous elements while also managing to set up SO many factors of what's to come in the future, the humor is there, the action is there....it's just pretty much flawless.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The only reason Captain America: The Winter Soldier is #2 is because it couldn't exist without a handful of movies to set up the elements that pay off, similar to how you can argue Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope is better than Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back for the same reason, or The Godfather Part II relies upon The Godfather to execute half the story's setup.
Other than that, this movie is the one that I think is the most ambitious to change the tone and become something beyond a superhero film. It's a travesty that it wasn't nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay that year at the Academy Awards as I think it's one of the best political spy action films ever made while also setting the benchmark for how Phase 2 doesn't need to be just a repeat of Phase 1.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Who would have guessed such a ridiculous movie would be so beloved? I went into this film expecting it to be the first bomb that couldn't possibly work, but it's just such a fun movie from start to finish that it's hard not to rank it up high.
Some movies on this list struggle to give you interesting characters to get attached to, but this movie managed to make every single one of the main cast (save for Ronan) someone you want to see more of, even though one of them is a tree that speaks five words and another is a raccoon.
This is also chock-full of Easter eggs like the Celestials, Howard the Duck and all sorts of things that were blowing my mind when I saw it in theaters. Never did I think we'd get to this point in superhero films where it could get that deep and geeky and it would be accepted as quality entertainment instead of just nerd noise, but they pulled it off.
4. Marvel's The Avengers (2012)
There are elements to this movie that don't work as strong as a standalone film, but when you consider it to be Act III of the setup of previous movies where it's predominantly just the fallout action set pieces, it's just so fun.
This film changed the movie industry forever, like it or not. It proved that such a monumental task could be accomplished and that the end result wouldn't be a total mess, but could still be an enjoying ride.
5. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Here's a case where so much of this is just bonkers awesome, but there are a few problems that put it below the other films.
For instance, Baron Zemo sucks. His plan is one of those film-specific things that is dependent upon the plot happening exactly how it does, which makes no sense when you start to analyze it.
But man is this a geek's dream for a lot of reasons. Hinting at a relationship between Vision and Scarlet Witch? Tony and Steve arguing? Steve finally kissing Sharon while his two best buds give him a "dude, nice" head nod? Black Panther being the shit. Spider-Man being Spider-Man again! GIANT-MAN. We get a payoff of Stark's parents being killed by Winter Soldier. We get Crossbones. We get The Raft prison! Thunderbolt Ross is back. Aaaaaaah.
6. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
This is the first placement I'm doing immediately after watching the movie, as opposed to having a few months or years to reevaluate things, but a few hours ago, I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming and I loved nearly every aspect of it. I still find it frustrating that they had Michelle say to call her MJ and why they felt the need to not write Liz Allan to be Liz Allan (and for her to be Vulture's daughter...they just couldn't resist doing that, just like the Terminator series wanted desperately to make John Connor a Terminator...ugh) - but the tone of this movie is perfect for a Spider-Man film.
I feel like this is a movie I'll be revisiting in the future and enjoying just as much, as it seems like it has a lot of rewatch value. I may have to adjust this up or down after a second viewing, but we'll see what happens and cross that barrier when the time comes.
7. Black Panther (2018)
I rank this above Spider-Man: Homecoming as far as pure quality goes, but not in terms of what I think will be rewatchability. What this movie lacks in the fun of putting it on at any time and sitting through it, it makes up for in terms of just being so well-rounded.
All of the characters serve a purpose and stand out in their own ways, the themes tackled in it are heavy but done in a very sophisticated way to avoid snagging any troubles, and it's just damn good. Upon seeing it, my initial reaction was that I had almost nothing negative to say about it at all, which is just amazing, and I'm so glad to see that the reception it's received has been positive by the vast majority.
I feel like this is a movie that even people who aren't well-versed in the MCU could still enjoy, whereas plenty of other ones on this list require you to have done your research ahead of time.
8. Thor (2011)
I get why people can dislike the human characters and feel like the New Mexico stuff feels like everything is on a minimal sound stage, but the Asgard content in this movie and the story itself of Thor becoming a hero is one of the best things the MCU has put out.
Loki's story is amazing. The integration of S.H.I.E.L.D is perfect for what they needed to be going forward. Hawkeye's cameo is a bit meh, but hey, it's Hawkeye! There's tons of funny moments in the movie and this was the first to step outside of the comfort zone of being more grounded in reality, and we all bought into it without thinking twice that aliens could be doing all sorts of crazy stuff.
9. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
On repeated viewings, I've liked this film more and more over the years, but I do find some sections of it to be a bit underwhelming.
In my mind, Red Skull isn't as captivating of a villain as others think. He kind of just has two scenes with Captain America and that's it.
The same goes for the romance between Peggy and Steve, which feels better in retrospect now that we've had Peggy appear in more films and the Agent Carter spinoff. Now, I buy into their love, but in The First Avenger, it felt rushed.
Bucky is good, though, and the world-building was decent. There's interesting little bits and pieces all throughout the movie—whether it's the reference to The Human Torch or it's just how tasty the steak and potatoes look—and it holds up.
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
A lot of people shit on this movie and I don't quite understand why. Is it perfect? By no means. Is it awful? Absolutely not.
The biggest problem this film faces is that it has to cram in so much that it loses track of a few elements. For example, what's up with Thor's prophetic water dip? That just felt so strange seeing that for the first time and it seemed more like a necessary means to set something up for the future without serving much of a point in this individual film itself.
Quicksilver's death sucks, but where was the character going to go in the future? Plus, people say Marvel doesn't have the balls to kill a character and keep them dead. Well, have you seen him come back yet? Nope.
Ultron didn't measure up to the severity of an evil villain threat that he normally is, I'll admit that. We got Klaue, so that's cool. Also, we got to see The Avengers acting like The Avengers, along with S.H.I.E.L.D. stepping in for a cool scene at the end where we don't leave Rhodes out of the mix, nor even the one tech who supported Cap in The Winter Soldier. Nice touch.
I love parts of this movie for the references. Is Dr. Cho the mother of Amadeus? Does the healing skin machine come from Extremis technology? Vision as a byproduct of the Mind Stone is awesome. Even better, one of my favorite scenes of anything in the MCU is the characters all standing around, trying to pick up Thor's hammer, with Cap making it budge. That's how it should be!
11. Ant-Man (2015)
I feel like an extra 20 minutes or so could have really helped this movie by bulking out some of the thinner elements, like the relationship between Hope and Scott.
It's funny, but the funniest part is Michael Pena. The powers are interesting, but I don't know how they can make a second film without retreading familiar ground. I applaud them for pulling off a Scott Lang film rather than a Hank Pym one, which worried me to no end at first, but I also just think it isn't one of the strongest entries.
Ant-Man works best as a break between the bigger and more standard films just to take a breath of fresh air with something different.
12. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
If we're looking at these in terms of episodes of a television show, this is one of those entries where it was a lot of fun and enjoyable as well as a big step up from its predecessor (Thor: The Dark World, not Spider-Man: Homecoming) but at the same time, it annoys me that they killed off The Warriors Three and that they didn't give me more information about the impending threat of Thanos, which of course might be things that I change my opinions about once we see future installments and see where this is all heading.
All in all, this is a very fun movie seeing Thor and Hulk team up, and I enjoy some of the additions and some of the tweaks to how things were told in the MCU, but I can't help but also feel like it was a random offshoot rather than something that has the same gravitas as the first Thor or something like The Winter Soldier. The jokier these movies get, the less weight I give them.
13. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Liv Tyler was a fantastic Betty and I really want them to bring her back. I'm glad this movie acted as a sort of sequel to the original Ang Lee film without making it a TRUE sequel to it, as it didn't need to go over the exact same plot points, but just repackage a few of them in a different way.
Outside of a few decisions here and there in its execution, this is honestly the exact movie I would have made if someone told me to do a Hulk film at that point in time.
You're not wrong in thinking that it's a weaker entry, but I think if you act like it's an atrocious film, you're beating it up too much.
14. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
I was disappointed that this wasn't better. Basically, it feels like a kind of weak episode of a television series that happens to give us some good character moments, but seems like the story for that edition didn't quite come together.
The main driving force of the plot is that Rocket takes a few batteries? Really? The Sovereign only show up when we need an action sequence here and there, which is also kind of the same for The Ravagers, but I at least enjoyed Yondu's arc along the way.
If it weren't for the fact that these individual characters are so great, the movie wouldn't be as enjoyable, and I have a feeling I might end up moving this down the list upon a second viewing.
15. Iron Man 2 (2010)
A lot of the flack from Iron Man 2 comes from it not being as good as the first, but really, how could it have been? This movie is hindered by the massive need to build the world for the future and if you step outside of the bubble of judging it as a standalone movie, it ends up being enjoyable.
I can put this on in the background and get a kick out of certain elements to it. Robert Downey Jr. is always good to watch, for instance, and I like how they start to incorporate more elements of S.H.I.E.L.D. and even Captain America in the mix.
Yes, Mickey Rourke is awful, but Sam Rockwell is interesting. Yes, they didn't pull off "Demon in a Bottle" but they did a variation of it.
16. Iron Man 3 (2013)
The way The Mandarin was done in this movie just pisses me off and I have to rank it toward the bottom for that reason alone, at the very least. That was one of the biggest missteps in the entire MCU and it makes me wonder why they ever thought it was a good idea, knowing full well that people had been looking forward to seeing the character built up in the previous two films.
Killian isn't a good villain, nor are the henchmen interesting. Happy Hogan gets put out of action for a good portion of the film to be replaced with a little kid, which starts to give it a vibe of a standard action flick and not something in this series. It's almost like this is the shell of another movie that they slapped Iron Man onto and tweaked a few elements of the script to fit it.
17. Doctor Strange (2016)
This is controversial, I'm sure, but Doctor Strange is a flat film to me.
None of the characters are interesting or different enough. Strange is just Tony Stark but not charming. Christine Palmer is one of the most under-written female leads in the MCU (and Rachel McAdams deserved better than that). Kaecilius is as generic as most villains. Baron Mordo is on par with Sinestro from Green Lantern where his turn to evil isn't justified enough. I do like Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, and I do agree that the visuals are interesting, but that isn't enough.
People like to argue that other MCU films are "too similar" but can you really tell me anything other than the visuals for the magic scenes that are different about this film? It's a generic origin story, which in itself isn't bad, but since I don't like any of the characters, I'm not interested in their origins.
18. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
In my point of view, this is the hardest one to rewatch and it has the least substance to it. There are really only a few strong points to it, which include: 1) Odin revealing more information about the Infinity Stones, 2) Frigga's death, 3) Loki hinting that he might sacrifice his life for Thor despite all they've been through, 4) the Captain America cameo, 5) um.....hold on, I might be able to think of a fifth.
Everything with the humans is awful. Darcy is as annoying as ever, but she now has a pointless love interest buddy to tag along with. Selvig running around naked isn't funny. Jane just whines and looks confused the whole movie.
Malekith is one of the least interesting villains in the MCU, the action is forgettable, the film doesn't know if it wants to be a buddy team up with Thor and Loki or if it wants to be a story about Jane needing to be cured, the hybrid of medieval elements and spaceships feels jarring and every character that was charming the first time around seems wooden this time.