With every single 2022 release.
Well. It's over, ladies and gentleman. Phase Four has officially wrapped up with The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, and we are done with the MCU for the rest of the year. That means it's time for my yearly MCU ranking. I have added the following to this ranking:
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Thor: Love and Thunder
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
Werewolf by Night
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
Hope you enjoy!
40. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
Garbage. Absolute, hot, steaming garbage. I hated She-Hulk with a passion. The comedy was awful. I didn't laugh once. The characters were horrible. The writing was some of the worst I've ever seen in any TV show ever. Save for a solid episode with Daredevil, this show was basically unwatchable. And it's capped off by revealing it's main villain is internet trolls and a robotic Kevin Feige is canon in the MCU. Oy.
Thor is bad, but I'd still put it a tier above She-Hulk. I've never been a fan of when superheroes lose their powers in movies. Controversial opinion, but I don't like Spider-Man 2 either. Thor is just lame. It comes off like a dull fantasy epic that has a few moments of comedy, but is just insanely boring. I don't think I've ever been this bored watching a superhero movie. Loki is a good character, but everything else in this film falls flat.
Eternals is a complete and utter mess. From the characters to the story to the villains, everything is all out of place. They don't give any of our ten main characters enough development to make them interesting, so we spend nearly two hours and forty minutes with a bunch of characters we don't care about...and it all culminates in a huge CGI action sequence. This film feels so detached from the MCU, and I do not mean that as a positive. Eternals is bad.
37. Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel is a movie that I liked upon first watch, but as it's sat with me, I like it less...and less...and less. This is the movie that came out right before Endgame...and it feels pretty flat. Part of that is Carol Danvers herself. Brie Larson's cardboard performance makes the character feel so detached from the audience, and it certainly doesn't help that she has amnesia, so we get pieces of her backstory revealed throughout, which is never the best way to unravel a character. The villains are bad. The direction is bad. This movie isn't terrible. But it certainly, certainly is not good.
36. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
I know a lot of people loved Shang-Chi and have it as one of their favorite films in Phase Four. I wasn't a fan. I did like it initially, but as I've thought about it more, the bad parts stick with me so much more than the good parts. On the positive side, I do think that Wenwu is a great villain and makes up for the awful Iron Man 3 plot twist. But Shang-Chi suffers from being an MCU movie. It has to have big CGI boss battles and Marvel jokes throughout, and that completely ruins what would've been a compelling story about a complex relationship between a father and his son.
35. Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 is almost great. Ben Kingsley's Mandarin is a terrifying villain...until it's revealed that he's a doofus actor who makes poop jokes. After that happens, this movie falls apart. Aldrich Killian is an awful villain. And Iron Man's whole character arc is just dumb, because he learns that he doesn't need the suit to be Iron Man...and then they undo that in Age of Ultron. The MCU doesn't want to seem to acknowledge this movie, and I don't want to acknowledge this movie. It's bad.
34. Iron Man 2
Slightly better than 3 is Iron Man 2, which has touches of a good Iron Man sequel, but is way too messy and overstuffed to be good. This movie tries to have, like, five different plotlines. Tony's heart disease. His fight with Rhodey. Nick Fury, SHIELD, and Avengers setup. Whiplash. Justin Hammer. I'm sure I'm missing some. That is way too many storylines for a single movie, so Iron Man 2 is just a mess of a film that has some fun, but isn't very good overall.
33. The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk is...fine. It's okay. It's not as bad as most people will tell you it is. But it's not very good. It feels like a really weird entry in the MCU, because it just feels so detached from everything else in this universe. Not only was it distributed by Universal, but it stars Edward Norton as the titular monster, not Mark Ruffalo. It brings up some interesting ideas about Hulk's character and I think Abomination is a better villain than most people give him credit for, but the plot is murky and weak, and the film just isn't the smash that you'd expect from a Hulk movie.
32. Black Widow
Black Widow is a film that I've soured on with time. My initial thoughts on the film were slightly biased, considering that we'd gotten no MCU movies for two years at that point, so I was just excited to see another Marvel blockbuster in theaters. However, it's not that good of a film. It's extremely unnecessary. The only purpose it serves is introducing Yelena Belova. Taskmaster is almost as disappointing as the Mandarin was in Iron Man 3. And it collapses in it's big, bloated CGI finale. It's not terrible. It works as a decent spy thriller. But it's really not a movie I ever feel the need to rewatch.
31. Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel started off great, but slowly lost its way throughout. Episodes one and two were solid additions to the MCU that offered a fun teenage coming-of-age superhero story, but then episodes three-five went on a globe-trotting adventure to Pakistan where Ms. Marvel learns about her familial heritage. That part was rough. We come back to then high school-teen plotline in the finale, where she fights the Department of Damage Control and gets her name. It's a mixed bag. I don't hate it, but I certainly do not love it.
30. What If...?
What If...? was okay. I do appreciate it, because I think it's a cool concept, but because of that concept, the show was relatively hit or miss for me. Some episodes were great. Some were not. Unfortunately, the finale was disappointing. They collected the Guardians of the Multiverse and just had them fight Ultron for thirty minutes, which was uninteresting and lame. I'm interested to see what the second season will be, and maybe this show will move up after that.
29. Thor: The Dark World
I don't hate The Dark World as much as most people, but I do think it's ridiculously mediocre. It feels like a generic fantasy film. They make Asgard feel dull. They make Thor feel like a cliche god viking. Malekith is so insanely forgettable. Loki is the one redeeming quality of this movie. I don't necessarily think anything in this film is outright terrible (except for Malekith) but there's nothing in it that I think is outright great, either. So it's mediocre.
28. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
I like Guardians 2, but it definitely has it's fair share of problems. First off, the plot is way too overstuffed. There's so much going on in this movie and it's hard to keep track of. There's, like, three main villains in this movie. Plus you've got Nebula, who's kind of villain, kind of not. So that's a lot. And it doesn't help that the true main villain, Ego, is treated as a twist reveal in the finale. It's a mess of a movie, for sure, but it does have a lot of great things that the first Guardians has, so I still enjoy it.
27. Thor: Love and Thunder
Another film I don't hate as much as most. Love and Thunder is frustrating, because it's so close. It's so close to being awesome. But Taika Waititi just went way too far. The makings of a great Thor movie are in here. You've got a fantastic villain in Gorr. They did a good job with Jane Foster's story. But the serious parts are drowned out by the cartoonish, goofy tone that this film has. Taika just had no restraints, so everything is treated as a joke. And that's so, so frustrating.
26. Moon Knight
Moon Knight was wildly disappointing. The first two episodes were incredible. They setup this great psychological and supernatural mystery...and then it slowly becomes a globe-trotting, Egyptian adventure that ends with a giant CGI battle. Ugh. Oscar Isaac gives a great performance here, but this show really needed to follow in the footsteps of those first two entries to be great. And, instead, it devolved into generic Marvel and became one of the weaker TV shows.
25. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Also somewhat disappointing. Multiverse of Madness suffers from its title. This is not the multiverse of madness. This is the multiverse. But there's no madness. The story that they went with here was way too simple and the multiverse is so underutilized. They spoiled half of the cameos in the trailers. So that's frustrating. BUT I love that we have an MCU horror film directed by Sam Raimi. If this was just called Doctor Strange 2 and didn't make any promises about being a crazy, game-changing multiverse movie, than it'd probably be a lot higher.
24. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier wasn't great. It should've been better. But it's good. It's entertaining. I think it does a few things really right and a few things really wrong. I love what they do with Sam Wilson in this show. His growth and his acceptance of the Captain America mantle is awesome. John Walker is a fantastic character and I cannot wait to see more of him. Everything with the social commentary was top notch. Where it faltered was the main plotline. The Flag-Smashers aren't compelling villains, so the entire plot collapses around them. It's unfortunate, because this show probably could've been amazing, but the original plot involved a worldwide pandemic, so they couldn't do that. I still like it for what it is, though.
23. The Avengers
I don't love The Avengers. I think it's a good movie, but I don't think it's great. It's really fun to see all of our heroes team up for the first time and it works as an extremely satisfying conclusion to Phase One. There's some awesome action and Joss Whedon's crackling dialogue makes our character interactions fun. However, the pace is all out of sorts and the main story is a little bit weak when you actually think about it. Still a solid film. Still super impressive that they pulled it off.
22. Captain America: The First Avenger
The First Avenger is a really good Captain America origin story that falters near the end. I think it does a fantastic job of actually telling how Steve Rogers becomes the Star-Spangled Man, but once you move past that, it takes a severe dip in quality. Red Skull is kind of a cool villain, but he's also a little bit generic, and that causes a part of the film's downfall. The story becomes significantly less interesting after Steve gets the shield, and that's a little bit disappointing, because the first part of this movie is great.
21. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Slightly better than The Avengers (in my opinion) is Age of Ultron. Is this movie great? No. But I think it's a solid follow-up that has a really cool villain and kind of delves into the psychology of the Avengers. I think it does a great job of setting up Civil War, and, in turn, Infinity War, so I really appreciate it for that, but I also just love spending more time with the team as a whole. Now, it's overstuffed. The Natasha-Bruce romance is awful. Quicksilver probably shouldn't have been killed off so quickly. But I still really, really like this movie.
20. Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians has never stuck with me the way it has with other people. I still really enjoy it. I think it's a funny, quirky entry in the MCU that has a fantastic group dynamic between our five main heroes. And, while I do love the Guardians themselves, I think this film suffers when it comes to the plot. It's kind of generic, because Ronan is a generic villain, so that really takes it down a few levels for me. However, watching a group of weirdos come together and form a surrogate family is just heart-warming, and that's the strength of Guardians of the Galaxy. This is a good movie. I don't think it's great, but I do think it's good.
Ant-Man is fun. Part of that is the light-hearted tone and simple heist story that they chose to go with. The other part of that is Paul Rudd. This film feels smaller compared to most MCU movies, but I think that works in its favor. Sure, it's kind of derivative of Iron Man. Sure, Yellowjacket isn't the best villain. But this movie is just easy, digestible superhero entertainment, and I appreciate it for that.
18. Ant-Man and the Wasp
And just above Ant-Man is it's sequel. Ant-Man and the Wasp is slightly funnier and more entertaining. I think the plot is a little more compelling as Hank and Hope try to find Janet in the Quantum Realm. I love how the fallout from Civil War affects this movie. And I think the introduction of Wasp is cool. Once again, not a great villain. Not a super heavy film. Not a super consequential film, but I think that's okay, because this followed Infinity War, so we don't need a big, crazy Marvel movie. Like it's predecessor, this movie is just plain fun.
17. Iron Man
I give all the credit in the world to Iron Man. It started the greatest film franchise of all time. But I don't think it's great. I still think it's very good. I love Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark (obviously) and I love how this film kind of stands on its own when you compare it to the rest of the MCU. I don't think it's aged particularly well. You can point out problems with the plot. Iron Monger is a little more problematic of a villain than I think most people realize. The pace isn't great. But this is still a good film that's elevated by it's status as the first film in the MCU.
16. Werewolf by Night
Most of Marvel's Disney+ content has been subpar, but it seems like they've figured something out with these TV specials. Werewolf by Night is completely detached from the rest of the universe. It stands on its own as a cool little horror story in the style of the Universal classic monster movies from the 30s and 40s. That's awesome. It's a really fun, self-contained story that doesn't have a profound impact on the MCU, but that's a good thing. It's not trying to swing for the fences. It's just trying to deliver an entertaining hour of old-style horror, and that's what it does. It's great.
15. Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange is a super cool movie. Scott Derrickson crafts a cool origin story with mind-bending visual effects. I think this movie is smarter than most people give it credit for. It doesn't end with a slam-bang CGI finale. Instead, we get Stephen Strange doing what he does best: using his brains. I love the world building of Kamar-Taj. I love the character of Doctor Strange himself. I think this movie is awesome and slightly underrated.
14. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
The newest MCU project is fun. Like I said with Werewolf by Night, these specials are super cool. They are little, self-contained stories that don't overstay their welcome. They just aim to entertain for a little under an hour, and that's what they do. This special is sweet. It's about Mantis and Drax trying to steal Kevin Bacon as a Christmas present for Star-Lord. Sure, it's weird, but it's so Guardians of the Galaxy. It's funny. It's heartfelt. It's charming. How can you not love this?
13. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Wakanda Forever is a different kind of MCU movie. It has to be. It's devastating. You feel the loss and the absence of Chadwick Boseman all throughout this film, and that makes it kind of a tough watch. Ryan Coogler's direction is just as visceral as Black Panther. Namor is an awesome antagonist. And the way that they build up to Black Panther coming back is just powerful. It's an extremely cathartic film that feels unlike any superhero movie ever, and that is absolutely necessary.
WandaVision kicked off Phase Four with promise. It was so different. It was so weird. It's a combination of old sitcoms and The Twilight Zone, which is a strange mix in and of itself, but then place it in the MCU, and you've got something so, so special. The first six episodes of this show would have WandaVision in the top five. I LOVED the first two-thirds of this series. It falters near the end. The answers aren't as intriguing as the mystery. But I still really, really love this show.
On the flip side of WandaVision, Hawkeye was a really normal MCU story that was executed extremely well. The relationship between Kate Bishop and Clint Barton is awesome. The street-level story makes this feel like an actual TV show, not a movie split into six parts. It reminds me a little bit of the Ant-Man movies. It isn't high stakes. It isn't game-changing. It's lighthearted fun, and I love it for that.
10. Captain America: Civil War
Civil War may seem like fan fiction upon first glance, but this movie is actually extremely compelling and interesting. They craft a narrative where it makes sense that Cap and Iron Man would clash. It makes sense that the Avengers would be divided. The airport fight, of course, is fantastic. But what this film really comes down to is the deteriorating relationship between Steve and Tony that paves the way for Thanos to come in and destroy half of all life. Civil War is fantastic. I love it.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming
John Hughes + Spider-Man? Yes, please. Jon Watts and Tom Holland make a high school movie. That's what Homecoming is. It's a true teen film...with Spider-Man as the main character. Tom Holland's Peter Parker is actually a believable high schooler (unlike Maguire and Garfield), and that just makes for a charming, fun movie. Beyond that, Michael Keaton's Vulture is a very compelling villain that has a few awesome moments. This film has the biggest, most shocking plot twist in the entire MCU. It's just a fun, well-written, exciting superhero film. I love it.
Loki is the only entry in Phase Four that has felt consequential to the overarching plot of the Multiverse Saga, and I really appreciate it for that. It gave us an idea of where we're heading. It's an unpredictable, philosophical show that has twists and turns at the end of every episode. It's exciting and mysterious, and it actually sticks the landing. In the finale, we meet Jonathan Majors's He Who Remains, a variant of Kang the Conqueror that explains to us how the Multiverse Saga is going to play out. This show is awesome. I cannot wait for a second season.
7. Thor: Ragnarok
Ragnarok is the perfect blend of old Thor with Taika Waititi's humor. It's not overly serious like Thor and Dark World. And it's not overly goofy like Love and Thunder. It strikes a great balance, where you have a really funny, bright film that will make you laugh, but you also take the serious moments seriously. It made Thor an awesome character (for a little while, at least) and it gave us a huge, sweeping story about the destruction of Asgard. It's a little too joke-y at times. There are important deaths that are just shrugged off. But I love Ragnarok.
6. Spider-Man: Far From Home
People give Far From Home crap for not making sense. I get it. But I love this movie. If you move past the Tony Stark glasses storyline, I think this movie is awesome. It sets up No Way Home by showing Peter being irresponsible. It gives us a menacing villain in Jake Gyllenhaal's Mysterio. It gives us some of the coolest action sequences with Mysterio's illusions. It feels big. But it still has the John Hughes humor that Homecoming had. And it sets up No Way Home with a shocking after-credits scene that I adore. I think this movie is amazing.
5. Spider-Man: No Way Home
No Way Home is a gift. It's a special treat to Spider-Man fans. I think it works better as a Spider-Man movie than an MCU movie, but it's still awesome. It gives us some of the best fan service ever as we see Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield reprise their roles to fight old villains from their movies. It also completes Tom Holland's three-film character arc as he learns to be the classic Spider-Man that knows "with great power comes great responsibility." I love this movie to death. It was so much fun to see in the theater, and it's still so much fun to think about nearly a year later.
4. Black Panther
The only superhero movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture, Black Panther is an achievement. Most Marvel movies are praised for the action and the epic superhero-ness of it all. Black Panther crafts a compelling narrative rounded out by an ensemble of fantastic characters. Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger is an incredible villain that meshes with Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa perfectly. I love learning about Wakanda: it's history, it's traditions, all of that. This movie is nearly flawless. Save for some bad action and CGI in the end, Black Panther is phenomenal.
3. Avengers: Endgame
Nobody ever really steps back and looks at how impressive Endgame is. This movie needed to pay off twenty or so other stories. It needed to culminate ten years of filmmaking. And it did. In the best way possible. That is a feat. That is incredible. Endgame is thrilling. It's emotional. It's visceral. It delivers moments for every single character. It gives you some of the best earned fan service ever. It completes Iron Man and Captain America's character arcs in the best possible way. I don't have words that can describe how much I love this movie. It's incredible.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
In a universe where it's all about the Infinity Stones and the multiverse and the technology and all of that, Winter Soldier gives you a pulse-pounding spy thriller. The Russos first directorial effort in the MCU is amazing. It's a tightly written story that has layers and complexity. It's intense. It has some of the best action in the MCU. It has some of the best villains in the MCU. It takes on a darker and more mature tone, but that works in the film's favor. I love this movie to death. It's incredible.
1. Avengers: Infinity War
Infinity War is indescribable. I vividly remember going to see this movie a few days after it came out. I wasn't a huge MCU fan. I had watched the Marvel movies, but I didn't really know they were connected. And then I saw this film, and it changed everything. This movie came out about four and a half years ago. I think I've seen it fifteen times. That speaks volumes to how much I love it. It gives us a huge, epic, emotional story that delivers on one of the best villains in movie history. Thanos is so scary and so crazy, but he's also compelling and a little bit sympathetic. The thrilling action, high stakes, and shocking ending make for one of my favorite movies and easily my favorite film in the MCU.