Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is officially in theaters! I hope you all get a chance to see it this weekend. It's a truly emotional piece of cinema. With it finally out, I thought it'd be fun to rank all of the individual franchises within the MCU. From Iron Man to Wakanda Forever, there are eleven different franchises. This was a fun ranking to write. There's a lot of different content spread amongst all of the phases. That said, here's my ranking of all eleven MCU franchises from the worst to the best.
This includes: The Incredible Hulk and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
The Hulk franchise is not good. I don't hate The Incredible Hulk, but it's not a great film. She-Hulk is my personal least favorite MCU project. I do hate it. I find the characters to be extremely mediocre. Most of the characters from The Incredible Hulk are forgettable, and She-Hulk doesn't do the franchise any favors in that department either. I don't love where they've taken the Hulk at this point. He's too comedic and goofy. If they make a World War Hulk movie, maybe this franchise moves up, but, as of right now, it's at the bottom.
10. Captain Marvel
This includes: Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel.
Captain Marvel wasn't very good, and neither was Ms. Marvel. Brie Larson's titular character feels at arm's length from the audience. She's a little too self-absorbed and talks down to the Avengers too much. While I do enjoy Iman Vellani's Kamala Khan, I found that show to be pretty messy and strange. It would've worked better as a special presentation. I'm interested to see The Marvels. Hopefully that film is good, because I do think they can make this franchise interesting. But, so far, this has been a pretty weak franchise.
This includes: Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok, Loki, Thor: Love and Thunder.
The Thor franchise is a frustrating one. I hate the first Thor. I don't mind Dark World, but I don't really like it that much. Ragnarok is great. Loki is great. And Love and Thunder should be better. This franchise suffers from an inconsistent characterization of Thor himself. In the first two, he's way too serious. In Ragnarok, he's perfect. In Love and Thunder, he's way too goofy. They can never nail his character down. Loki is the best character in this franchise, and his show is probably my favorite entry in this franchise. It's frustrating, because Thor is a cool character, and I think he deserves better than what he's gotten so far in the MCU.
8. Iron Man
This includes: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3.
While Iron Man himself is the best character in the MCU, his movies have never really been a strong point of the franchise. The first Iron Man is obviously a classic. It started the MCU. But the second and third films are actually pretty weak entries. They don't really feel that impactful to the MCU as a whole, and they suffer from a lack of focus and some pretty bad villains. Tony is a great, great character, but his films are not representative of how great of a character he is.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy
This includes: Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. This is a controversial opinion. I don't love the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. They're fun. They're good. But, to me, they both feel like they're outside of the MCU. I love the Guardians themselves, but I've never really connected with either of these films. I find both of their stories to be alright. Not great. Guardians of the Galaxy is fun, because we get to see them band together and James Gunn knows how to make weird characters endearing, and Guardians 2 is just more of that. I don't have a ton of huge negatives. But I don't really have a ton of huge positives, either. I like these movies. But I've never loved either of them like I lot of people do.
6. Doctor Strange
This includes: Doctor Strange, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
I am a fan of both Doctor Strange films, but I don't love either of them. The first movie is a cool exploration of the fantastical side of the MCU. The visuals are awesome. It does feel like a template Marvel origin story, though. The second film is frustrating. Multiverse of Madness could've been awesome, but it isn't really the reality-shattering movie that it promised. I appreciate it for being a Marvel horror movie, but it's an extremely simple story that isn't really anything that special. I enjoy both films. But neither of them are top tier MCU.
This includes: Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp.
The Ant-Man films are refreshers. They're the big sip of water: you've been on the field for a while and you come off. You're sweaty, you're tired, and you need a big sip of water. That's what the Ant-Man movies are. Ant-Man comes after Age of Ultron. Ant-Man and the Wasp comes after Infinity War. They are small-scale. They have smaller, self-contained stories. They're light-hearted. They're fun. I enjoy them. I'm excited to see a change of pace as we get a big Ant-Man movie in Quantumania. That film is not a refresher. That's the first true Avengers-level Multiverse saga movie, so I'm excited. I love the character and I have fun with both movies.
4. Black Panther
This includes: Black Panther, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
The Black Panther franchise has a powerful real-life story. The first film was a cultural phenomenon. One of the greatest successes in Hollywood. And that great success became a tragedy when Chadwick Boseman died in August 2020. The franchise continued on with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, a deeply emotional and extremely powerful follow-up that honors Chadwick Boseman while advancing the plot of the franchise forward. A third film is inevitable, and I'm very interested to see what they do with that if it happens.
3. Captain America
This includes: Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
The Captain America franchise is great. There isn't a weak entry in the series. Even though the Captain America movies aren't Avengers movies, they always feel like they have the weight of the Avengers movies. First Avenger is a war epic. Winter Soldier is this paranoia spy thriller. And then Civil War is essentially an Avengers movie. All of them feel very different, but they all work together to form a fantastic set of films. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier isn't great, but it builds on the Captain America legacy to create a fun enough Marvel show that acts as a nice spin-off to the franchise.
2. The Avengers
This includes: The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame.
The Avengers movies are the soul of the MCU. It took everything in my willpower to not put this franchise at number one. I don't love Avengers or Age of Ultron. I don't think they are great movies. However...Infinity War and Endgame are basically perfect. Those are two of my favorite MCU movies, and they pay off the entire Infinity Saga so well. Watching the team come together and fight these epic, universal threats is always lots of fun, but Infinity War and Endgame just have a sense of danger and stakes that elevate them to some of the best superhero movies ever made. I love the Avengers franchise. It's great.
This includes: Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Spider-Man: No Way Home.
I know. I know. Most people don't agree with this. But all three Spider-Man movies are in my top ten of the MCU. And they all compliment each other so, so well. Homecoming is a really, really fun Spider-Man movie that feels like a John Hughes superhero movie. Far From Home is the perfect epilogue to the Infinity Saga that leads into No Way Home, which is a truly epic and incredibly satisfying conclusion to this era of Spider-Man films. I love all three of them for completely different reasons, but they are all great movies, so the Spider-Man franchise comes in at number one.