The last ten years brought us an abundance Marvel films. Everything from the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the continuation of the X-Men franchise to the periodic reboot of Spider-Man contributed to 29 live-action titles gracing the silver screen under one Marvel banner or another. This decade of Marvel films brought us some of the massive super team-ups we’d only previously dreamt of, a few R-rated films that held their own (and then some) in a pg-13 dominated industry, some par for the course superhero flicks, and one of the worst superhero movies ever made.
With Avengers: Infinity War just around the corner and the Disney-Fox deal looming in the distance, the next ten years are bound to be just as Marvelous, if not more so. But before we launch into another decade worth of Marvel films, we couldn’t resist looking back for a moment to rank every live-action Marvel movie in the last ten years from absolute worst to greatest. As a frame of reference, we’ve included scores and rankings from Rotten Tomatoes and CinemaScores, but since we know they don’t always hit the nail on the head, these scores were not used as the determining factor when deciding placement.
29. FANTASTIC FOUR
If there’s a curse on any set of Marvel characters, there’s one on the Fantastic Four. Try as they might, they haven’t been able to get a decent movie. Ever. The most recent adaptation of Marvel’s first family is hands-down the worst, with scoring only 9% fresh with Rotten Tomatoes and receiving a C- from CinemaScore.
Where do we even start? Critics and fans alike have cited everything from casting and direction to special effects and character development when they call this movie even worse than the 2005 movie of the same name (and that is saying a lot). The story lags (even though it completely skips over three years at one point) and has one of the lamest name choosing scenes in quite possibly all of superhero history.
28. GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGENCE
As a sequel to the less-than-earth-shattering Ghost-Rider, it’s not surprising that Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was nothing to write home about either. Cursed with a lengthy exposition and a host of confusing and one-dimensional characters, it was hard to connect with Johnny Blaze’s personal quest for freedom (which of course he gives up after he receives it) or his mission to save a boy from his evil father.
Overall, it’s just not what you’d hope for in a movie with a flaming skull pitted against the forces of hell.
The plot is riddled with problems, and the confusing and unbelievable action sequences (even for a comic book movie) paired with questionable graphics didn’t do anything to improve it. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance has a 17% RT score and a C+ on CinemaScore.
27. PUNISHER: WAR ZONE
Unlike a few of the other R-rated Marvel films in the last decade, Punisher: War Zone was not an overwhelming success or even a decent one. The excessive and creative violence struck a chord with many Punisher fans, although it drew attention to some of the sorely underdeveloped aspects of the movie as well.
The dialogue in this sequel-like reboot is painfully cliche, and the plot is in need of some originality. While it featured many of the source material villains, the movie still managed to feel like a rip-off of The Dark Knight produced on a small budget. Good for a mindless action movie but not much else, The Punisher: War Zone has an RT score of 27% and has a B- on CinemaScore.
26. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Another of the more forgettable Marvel titles, The Incredible Hulk had a lot going against it. The movie was originally created to be a sequel to the 2003 Hulk movie, and even though it ended up as a reboot, it glossed over most of the origin story and went straight to the Hulk smash part, of which there was plenty.
That’s perfectly acceptable in a Hulk film, but it doesn’t make for a memorable story, just an acceptable picture of what we expect the Hulk to do: smash.
Of course, the nail in the coffin was that Ed Norton did not continue to play the Hulk in the MCU, although we can’t complain about Mark Ruffalo taking over the role. The Incredible Hulk has an RT score of 63% and an A- on CinemaScore.
25. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE
X-Men Origins: Wolverine started off on the right track, but fell prey to one of the titular hero’s main challenges. With Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting through every war from 1865-1975 in the opening credits, the story and action started out with a bang. Once the actual superhero fighting starts though, the problem with a super-healing mutant fighting other super-healing mutants gets old pretty quickly.
We can only watch them stab each other in the chest without any lasting effect so many times before it doesn’t matter how well choreographed the fighting is, or if one of these mutants is Ryan Reynolds as the pre-Deadpool Wade Wilson, since it goes on forever. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is 38% fresh on RT and has a B+ on CinemaScore.
24. THOR: DARK WORLD
Mixed in with the magical moments of Thor: Dark World are several “whys” that we never get answers to. While we’re laughing at Thor riding the subway or crying through Frigga’s funeral, we’re also wondering what the heck is up with Eric Selvic and what exactly Darcy is doing that requires an intern. Then there’s the Infinity Stone/evil water-like possessing thing called Aether, and that’s just plain weird.
Of course, Tom Hiddleston is such an awesome Loki that we almost don’t care about the plot holes, or about the movie’s actual villain, who just can’t compare with our favorite frost giant. Thor: Dark World is not the greatest Marvel Movie ever, but it’s not the worst, either. The movie scored 66% with RT and has an A- from CinemaScore.
23. THE WOLVERINE
The Wolverine had a lot going for it. It had a gorgeous location, beautiful costumes, and excellent music. And with Logan’s healing power on the fritz, there was an added element of personal peril that we don’t normally see from a hero who can survive almost anything a comic book movie can throw at a mutant, including an A-bomb.
With a well-struck balance between appeasing the comic fans while making sure the general audience knew what was going on, The Wolverine fared well until it neared the end, where many of the characters’ motivations (or lack thereof) made the ending fall short of what it could have been. We did get to see Logan beat up ninjas though. The Wolverine scored a 69% with RT and has an A- on CinemaScore.
22. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
It’s easy for a comic book movie to have too much going on. Usually, the reason is a combination of too many subplots and too many heroes (X-Men, Avengers and the like), but for the Amazing Spider-Man 2, it’s the subplots and the villains that make the movie feel just a tad crowded.
On top of that, Electro’s character is shallow and unbelievable, and we hardly get to see the Green Goblin in action.
The movie isn’t without its bright spots. The romance is tragic but sweet (although a touch repetitive), and the effects were top notch. While certainly with its high points, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was not as amazing as we would have hoped. The movie scored a 73% on RT and a B+ on CinemaScore.
21. IRON MAN 2
Iron Man 2 was a potentially great superhero movie that went the way of the typical sequel. Parts of it were what we expected — the continuation of a well-launched superhero story. However, with two new supervillains, a poisonous arc-reactor, a previously undiscovered element, and all of S.H.I.E.L.D. to introduce, there was a quite a bit to explain in just 124 minutes.
The movie also emphasized the Invincible part of the Invincible Iron Man a little too much, and while the dialogue was entertaining and Robert Downey Jr. was as fabulous as ever, the sense of actual danger you expect to feel when the world needs saving isn’t quite there. Iron Man 2 is 73% fresh on RT and has an A rating on CinemaScore.
20. X-MEN: APOCALYPSE
X-Men: Apocalypse had all the pieces for a great movie, but it still wasn’t all it could be. Everything was there: the now well-established cast, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine cameo, and even an impressive display of Jean Grey unleashing the Phoenix. In many ways, it delivered, with some intriguing action scenes, well-delivered humor, and the special effects you expect from a recent, high-budget superhero film.
And yet, it ended up as a less-than standout movie with a villain that didn’t live up to his hype, and flashbacks from previous movies hinting that this new chapter in the X-Men saga was not its finest. Falling prey yet again to too many characters to do them all justice, we missed out on some potentially intriguing stories. X-Men: Apocalypse scored 48% fresh on RT and received an A- from CinemaScore.
19. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
After it killed off most of its prominent characters, the X-Men franchise turned to the past for a prequel/reboot set in the comics’ original time period. X-Men: First Class told the origin story of the X-Men, Professor Xavier, and Magneto with a new cast and a Wolverine cameo thrown in for good measure. We also get an explanation for the X-Men name and their code names, as well an alternate history for the Cuban Missile Crisis.
There were either too many X-Men or there was not enough movie to tell the story to its full potential.
Although a fabulous cast with the like of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence made it as convincing as could be. X-Men: First Class has an RT score of 86% and a B+ from CinemaScore.
18. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
We didn’t exactly need a Spider-Man reboot when The Amazing Spider-Man came out, but the remake held its own pretty well. Andrew Garfield made an energetic Spider-Man, Emma Stone was an excellent Gwen Stacey, and the two had wonderful chemistry on screen.
As a reboot that we didn’t ask for, the movie had extra pressure to tell a different story from the previous trilogy while keeping what everyone knew and loved about Spider-Man intact. The added intrigue surrounding Peter Parker’s family may have missed the mark a little, but as a whole, the movie was a good remake of everyone’s favorite wall-crawler, and it was certainly an improvement from what we saw in Spider-Man 3. The Amazing Spider-Man scored 73% fresh on RT and has an A- on CinemaScore.
Ant-Man is that MCU movie that’s easy to forget about. Maybe it’s because all it added to the universe was Ant-Man, and it didn’t introduce an Infinity Stone or a relatable villain. Maybe it’s because parts of the plot are needlessly complicated or just don’t make sense. Maybe it’s because the Avengers cameo felt like an unnecessary fight scene only added to set up Civil War.
Was Ant-Man funny? Absolutely (it also had the most creative use for Thomas the Tank Engine ever). Did Paul Rudd make a great Ant-Man? Of course. Was it an enjoyable story? Yes, just don’t scrutinize the logic too closely. Ant-Man is a hard superhero to get right, and Marvel did a decent job bringing a small hero to the big screen. We just expected a little more from the MCU. Ant-Man scored an 82 with RT and has an A from CinemaScore.
16. IRON MAN 3
Learning its lesson from the all too invincible Iron Man 2, Tony Stark was a much more vulnerable character in Iron Man 3. In a comparatively darker movie than the previous two (some thought a little too dark), Stark had to deal with the aftermath of The Avengers.
On top of struggling through PTSD from “New York,” he also had to answer Captain America’s question of what Tony Stark was worth without his armor.
Despite the fact that the movie demotes Iron Man’s nemesis The Mandarin to a fictional concept (no matter how well Ben Kingsley played him, we were still jipped), Iron Man 3 was a strong conclusion to the Iron Man trilogy. The movie scored 80% fresh on RT and has an A from CinemaScore.
15. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
Based on a goody-two-shoes character created as WWII propaganda, Captain America: The First Avenger deserves more credit than it generally earns for turning the star-spangled Avenger into a character the 21st century could actually care about (just try reading some of the original Captain America comics and you’ll see what we mean).
Granted, we knew Cap was going to survive and make it to the 21st century from the beginning of the movie, and why the bomb things at the end of the movie were also some kind of plane is still a mystery. Still, it was a compelling story in a well-done setting with a refreshing romance, and Chris Evans was, of course, perfect as Steve Rogers/Captain America. This movie scored 80% fresh on RT and has an A- on CinemaScore
At first glance, Thor might appear like a movie with a relatively shallow hero who travels the all-too-familiar road to redemption as he falls in love and learns to put others before himself. To some extent, that’s exactly what the movie is, but this familiar hero’s journey is still well told in a very vibrant and beautiful setting.
We also have to give Thor credit for being one of the few superhero movies that isn’t bogged down with endless, often unnecessary fight scenes.
It also introduced one of the most beloved on-screen supervillains of all time: Tom Hiddleston as Loki. While not ground-breaking (apart from Loki), Thor deserves more credit than it normally receives. The movies has an RT score of 66% and a B+ on CinemaScore.
13. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
While there’s arguably not enough of the Winter Soldier in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the movie did provide a good (if brief) introduction to Bucky Barnes’ alter ego. Every once in awhile it made us stop and wonder if there was an easier way to stop Hydra, such as Cap calling Iron Man or the Hulk when he needs to stop a couple of souped-up helicarriers from wiping out millions of people instead of showing up on Sam Wilson’s doorstep after they’ve only met twice.
If you’re willing to look past that though, the fight scenes are expertly choreographed, and Steve’s struggle to understand his role as a hero and a soldier in a postmodern world is well-done and endearing. Winter Soldier scored 89% on RT and has an A on CinemaScore.
12. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
After Earth’s Mightiest Heroes assembled in The Avengers, they had a chance to fall in love and reflect on their lives. Amidst that, they also had to save the world and continue to set the stage for the slowly approaching Infinity War. A longer runtime would have made that easier to pull off, especially surrounding the brief hallucinations and dreams that gave us glimpses of the past and the future.
Die-hard comic fans also had to wrestle with how they felt about the historically hot-headed, womanizing Hawkeye having a sweet family and Black Widow delaying “Romanogers” for an unprecedented romance with the Hulk. Avengers: Age of Ultron didn’t quite live up to its hype, but it was still a good addition to the MCU. The movie scored 75% fresh with RT and has an A rating with CinemaScore.
11. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
If your franchise is in need of a retcon, you might as well make a movie about it. X-Men: Days of Future Past did what comics always do when they’re written into a corner: hit the reset button with a time-or reality-altering event. A couple of them, in this case.
Miraculously, the time travel actually makes sense and was an excellent method for tying in both the original cast and their younger versions.
There are way too many new X-Men who only have the opportunity to show off their powers for a few seconds, but they did serve as a nod to the massive, ever-changing roster from the comics. X-Men: Days of Future Past earned a 91% fresh rating from RT and an A from CinemaScore.
10. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Captain America: Civil War is not aptly named, as the civil war Captain America started was more of an Avengers affair than anything else. And let’s be real, we didn’t watch it to see Cap. We wanted to see the new Spider-Man, and Tom Holland did not disappoint.
What made Civil War great wasn’t the fight scenes (although the airport fight was pretty great), the one-liners (which came a little late), or an all-star superhero cast, but the story that simultaneously set up Phase 3 of the MCU and made you think really hard about who was right. Like, you probably had a heated discussion about your personal convictions or the role of the government with someone after you watched it. Civil War scored 91% fresh with RT and received an A from CinemaScore.
9. IRON MAN
As the starting point of the MCU, Iron Man would have a special place in our hearts even if it wasn’t fantastic, and of course, it was. The special effects were on point, and while there was quite a bit of Iron Man calibrating his armor or just sitting around and tinkering, most of it managed to come across as interesting and exciting.
Robert Downey Jr. basically is Iron Man, and the light-hearted tone of the movie was a refreshing contrast to the other superhero movies at the time.
And if you’re going to start a massive superhero franchise, why not start it out with a hero who gives his secret identity away after the first time he saved the day? Iron Man has an RT score of 94% and an A on CinemaScore.
8. MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS
We’d seen superhero team-ups on the big screen before, but nothing like the ensemble in Marvel’s The Avengers. With five movies worth of characters to draw from, the movie breezed through the introductions and went straight to moving the plot along. This meant we didn’t learn much about the one Avenger who spent most of the movie brainwashed, but we had a general idea who Hawkeye was and what he could do.
After years of build-up, we finally found out what happens when you put one of the best villains ever against a god, a genius/playboy, a genius/monster, an assassin, an archer, and a soldier from the ’40s, and it was awesome. While not without its flaws and an overabundance of taxis exploding in New York, The Avengers set the bar high for superhero flicks. The movie scored a 92% with RT and has an A+ from CinemaScore.
7. DR. STRANGE
Up until 2016, magic in the MCU was essentially sophisticated science. Dr. Strange gave us a first look at practicing sorcerers, the Dark Dimension, and the mystical battles that rage on while the rest of the superheroes fight aliens and Hydra. Somehow the plot still managed to sound like Iron Man, even though it was disguised with instantaneous travel, multiple dimensions, and the now-infinity-stone Eye of Agamotto.
Despite some all-too-familiar elements, the movie was an excellent addition to the MCU. Dr. Strange was a more obscure Marvel character before the film, but we aren’t likely to forget him after Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed him so well. The humor was tight and the mind-bending, Inception-like graphics made for some spectacular visuals and epic fight scenes. Dr. Strange has an RT score of 90% and an A from CinemaScore.
Bursting at the seams with fourth-wall-breaking, crude humor, and sex jokes, the R-rated Deadpool was definitely a different breed of superhero movie. Ryan Reynolds portrayed Wade Wilson/Deadpool flawlessly, and all with a script that would have had Cap saying “language” every other word.
The story itself followed a pretty familiar superhero pattern, despite Deadpool’s instance that he’s not a superhero.
The movie still followed a pattern, but the X-Men jibes, references to Reynolds, comments about the film budget and shop-talk about IKEA furniture almost made us forget that. We’d never really seen a superhero movie quite like Deadpool before, and we won’t see another like it until the sequel comes out in May. The Merc with the Mouth has an 83% on RT and an A with CinemaScore.
5. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
A sequel is rarely as good as the original, although the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie came pretty close. Keeping with the quirky style unique to Star-Lord and his crew, the movie managed to up its humor from the first movie (if Baby Groot holding up a severed thumb doesn’t make you laugh, we don’t know what will), while telling a story with a surprisingly strong emphasis on family. And let’s not forget the awesome music and spectacular visuals.
While the movie received an A from CinemaScore, it’s Rotten Tomato score was only 82% fresh. Many felt the changes in Drax’s and Yondu’s characters from the first to the second movie were unwarranted. While this may be true, this movie has one of the best characters ever to grace the silver screen: Baby Groot.
4. THOR: RAGNAROK
After the success of movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marvel powers that be decided the Thor trilogy would do well with a similar vibe. They were right. Thor: Ragnarok was an incredible combination of off-beat music, Jack Kirby-inspired art, strong characters, and Chris Hemsworth with short hair.
The film was a major change in tone from the previous Thor movies, as well as many of the comics that the movie was inspired by.
Some thought the change was too drastic and that the movie had too much humor, although the majority were happy with the changes. While opinions are somewhat split on whether or not the humor was dialed up too much, Ragnarok was a highly entertaining movie. The film received a 92% fresh RT score and a solid A from CinemaScore.
Breaking from the pg-13 standard for X-men movies, Logan proved yet again that you can make an R-rated Marvel movie that fans will enjoy. While the western-styled movie practically overflowed with chase scenes, fist fights, and a child gutting enemies with her claws, the real power of the film was the emotional content. In the midst of nearly non-stop violence, viewers were moved to tears as they bid farewell to Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in their long-held roles as Logan/Wolverine and Professor X/Charles Xavier.
If you’re not bothered by a child killing an insane amount of people and a story that (no matter how touching) still leaves some unanswered questions about the future of the world, Logan is an excellent movie. Critics and fans alike seemed to think so, as the film has an RT score of 93% and an A- on CinemaScore.
2. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Guardians of the Galaxy deserves a high spot on this list not just because it was hysterical from start to finish, or because it established the light-hearted, offbeat vibe the MCU has adopted as of late. What’s really impressive about it is that it easily could have been one of the stupidest movies ever.
With a raccoon with a gun, a tree that exclusively says “I am Groot,” and a petty outlaw who prevents a planet-wide genocide with a dance-off, there are so many ways this movie could have gone horribly wrong. Miraculously it all worked, and we have an all-star cast, awesome music and great direction to thank for it. Guardians of the Galaxy has a 91% fresh RT score and an A from CinemaScore.
1. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
Fans went crazy for Tom Holland’s Spider-man the moment he appeared in the trailer for Captain America: Civil War. By the time Spider-Man: Homecoming hit theatres, the expectations were dazzlingly high, especially since this would be the second major reboot for the wall-crawler. We didn’t necessarily see anything new in this iteration of Spider-Man, although that’s not a requirement when we’re talking about one of Marvel’s most beloved characters of all time.
Wisley skipping the origin story (because we didn’t need to see it a third time), the movie went straight to what we wanted to see.
This was an MCU Spider-Man struggling to survive high school and earn a place with the Avengers. With an excellent villain, great supporting characters, and the best Spider-Man we’ve ever had, Spider-Man: Homecoming scored 92% fresh with Rotten Tomatoes and earned an A from CinemaScore.
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