The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a staple of movie theaters around the world for the better part of 15 years now. In that time, more than 30 different films have come covering so many different characters from the popular Marvel Comics canon including some of the biggest and even lesser-known names. It’s difficult to consider the best Marvel Cinematic Universe films with how many there are, but some certainly stand on top above all the rest.
There will be some spoilers for some major events that have taken place in the MCU over the years, so a fair warning to anyone who hasn’t at least watched up through the latest Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
10. Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings
Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings manages to take a character that, on the surface, many would consider difficult to bring into the wider MCU considering his comic counterpart is basically just a guy who’s great at martial arts, and it blends him with the tone of the universe he’s just entered while still maintaining his unique elements. This movie has familiar MCU tropes, massive CGI fight scenes and a fairly formulaic story, alongside some entertaining choreographed fight scenes and also a pretty great giant monster fight. It’s certainly set itself apart among many of the later-stage MCU titles.
9. The Avengers
The original Avengers movie is a cinematic moment that’s difficult to describe to anyone who wasn’t there. At a time when the idea of multiple massive characters from different movies meeting up for one huge crossover felt impossible, The Avengers made it feel effortless. It pulled this off while establishing much of what the MCU has become known for to this day.
8. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Take the possibilities of a character like Doctor Strange exploring the multiverse, hand the reins over to the enigmatic Sam Raimi, and watch an MCU film spring to life that well encapsulates the namesake “strange.” Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness could have broken out of the formulaic story structure the Marve Cinematic Universe has become known for a little better, but it makes up for that with its willingness to do other things many films in this series haven’t been willing or able to do up until this point.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy
With the original Guardians of the Galaxy, director and writer James Gunn managed to take a cast of fairly obscure comic book characters and turned them into worldwide superstars that have now become as legendary in the minds of the masses as names like Captain America or Thor. He does it in this film by creating a cast that works effortlessly well together on screen and has them bounce off of each other the entire time. It’s a formula that has continued to work for the Guardians of the Galaxy to this day.
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The second film for the patriot superhero, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, does the best job of any in the trilogy to play off the strengths of the character. It’s stacked end-to-end with action, it delves more into what makes Steve Rogers more than just a beefed-up man with a shield, and it contains a supremely entertaining dose of espionage.
5. Avengers: Endgame
Avengers: Endgame took the impossible expectations set by years of build-up and a fantastic predecessor film and delivered a satisfying conclusion to the Thanos/Infinity Stones storyline. It’s fairly understandable when speaking about something of this scope that it doesn’t do everything perfectly, and certain characters do feel disappointingly underutilized, but those are minor gripes in the face of a movie that got so many other things right.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
The latest Guardians of the Galaxy movie is understandably being called a beacon of creativity in an era of MCU films that has been met with a lot of resistance from the fans. James Gunn tells a fantastically heartfelt story here that is still brimming with the wit and charm that the Guardians of the Galaxy have been known for since their first film.
3. Thor: Ragnarok
Taika Waititi pulled the Norse god’s legacy in the MCU out of a nosedive with Thor: Ragnarok and added a flavor that feels both hilariously MCU and simultaneously inseparable from Waititi’s known creative style. The film is a reinvention of Chris Hemsworth’s character that feels far more natural to the actor’s capabilities. It’s a shame that all of the elements that make Thor: Ragnarok great are exaggerated and stretched out to a teeth-clenching degree in its follow-up, Thor: Love and Thunder.
2. Iron Man
It’s impossible to talk about the best films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe without giving fair credit to the one that started it all, Iron Man. The initiation of the MCU does not in any way feel dated in retrospect, but rather it continues to stand as one of the best things the series has ever done. Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal combined with a story that’s refreshingly self-contained considering where things went from this point make a movie that can certainly be considered one of the best superhero films ever created, MCU or otherwise.
1. Avengers: Infinity War
What sets Avengers: Infinity War apart from every other film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is something that many never thought would happen and will likely never happen again: The good guys lost. The emotional weight this movie carries, not to mention the cultural impact this had on audiences around the world in the months following its release, is something that’s virtually unmatched by other blockbusters on the scale seen here.