On the Road to Infinity War: Ranking the Entire Marvel Cinematic Universe

Updated on December 8, 2017
Alec Zander profile image

Alec is a film critic with a true passion for the film industry & hopes his reviews and articles will help launch his career.

Prologue

In this article, I will rank the entire MCU including the movies, TV and Netflix shows, one-shots, and shorts from the best to the worst. In what started as a risky move for Marvel Studios with 2008's Iron Man, the film catapulted us into the greatest shared universe of all time. Marvel went all in, bringing us shorts and tv series and Netflix series, expanding their ever-growing universe. Now that we are approaching the ten year anniversary with 2018's Infinity War, I thought I'd retake the journey. Now, for your pleasure, the MCU ranked from best to worst.

The Best

  1. Agents of SHIELD season 4 - I ranked this number one because of the three incredible storylines blended together to make one unforgettable season. Starting with Ghost Rider, we moved into LMD: Life Model Decoy, and finally Agents of Hydra. Everything came full circle in the final few episodes and gave us a glimpse into season five which promises to be off-rails incredible. I give it a 4 out of 4.
  2. Avengers: Age of Ultron - In second place comes the second Avengers film, with Tony Stark attempting to create a global peacekeeping program named Ultron. Ultron however saw humanity as a disease and sought to extinguish them off the face of the earth. The Avengers unite once again to stop Ultron from achieving his goal. The villain was menacing and perfectly voiced by James Spader. I personally find Ultron to be the best villain of the MCU as he was able to be everywhere, untraceable, ruthless, and used who he wanted to get what he needed. He seemed unstoppable and that was only one of the chilling qualities about him. I give the film a 4 out of 4.
  3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier - With SHIELD compromised and HYDRA slowly taking over from the inside, Captain America goes on the run with Black Widow to find out who the mysterious Winter Soldier is and take down HYDRA once and for all. Everyone was in top-form, especially Sebastian Stan who stole every scene he was in. I give the film a 4 out of 4.
  4. Daredevil season 2 - Daredevil continues his journey as a vigilante, coming face-to-face with his biggest challenge yet: The Punisher. The Punisher lost his family at the hands of killers and so he has dedicated his life to killing those who hurt others. Daredevil means to talk sense into him, and if that fails, take him down. Jon Bernthal has proved that he is a fantastic actor and dedicates himself to every role he takes on. Charlie Cox has improved since season one and really dives into his character further. What makes this season great is the fact that the line between Daredevil and Punisher is grey and makes us as the audience really think about where we stand not only as individuals but as a society. I give the season a 4 out of 4.
  5. Iron Man - Iron Man, the film that started it all, comes in at number five. The film follows Tony Stark, a weapons manufacturer who witnesses war up close and decides that it's time to make a change. The film is still astonishing and groundbreaking even 9 years later. Robert Downey Jr made his greatest comeback with this film, sobering up and becoming a hero to adults and kids both. I give the film a 4 out of 4.
  6. Luke Cage season 1 - After being experimented on, Luke Cage develops impenetrable skin and amazing brute strength. Mike Colter was the perfect choice for Luke. His acting, form, and overall attitude was perfect and fit the character completely. I give the season a 4 out of 4.
  7. Daredevil season 1 - The origin story of Daredevil is told the way it should be: dark, contemplative, and deep. Marvel truly revived the character in this Netflix series with amazing storytelling and a perfect casting with Charlie Cox. I give the season a 4 out of 4.
  8. The Defenders season 1 - Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist team up to combat The Hand, an organization that's even deadlier than HYDRA. The team-up we've been waiting for finally happened and it was outstanding. The way everyone was brought together was brilliant. The acting was fun and genius. I give the season a 4 out of 4.
  9. Captain America: Civil War - The lines are drawn after an attack on the United Nations causes the government to put The Avengers in question and each member takes a side either for or against the newly enacted Sokovia Accords. The film had its heartbreaking moments and the action was spectacular. Robert Downey Jr showed his emotional range in this film and dominates all of his scenes. I give the film a 4 out of 4.
  10. Doctor Strange - After losing most of the use of his hands in a car accident, Dr. Stephen Strange seeks help in the most unlikely of places and discovers worlds he never knew existed. Benedict Cumberbatch was the perfect choice to play Strange. He really researched the character and dove into his role. Mads Mikkelsen always plays a good bad guy and doesn't disappoint. Tilda Swinton wasn't The Ancient One that die-hard fans expected, but she still made the role her own and didn't shy away from any of the backlash and it definitely paid off. The effects were the best part of the film, ushering in a new age of special effects. I give the film a 4 out of 4.
  11. One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer - This short was hilarious and showed a side of Agent Coulson that we never got to see in the films. Clark Gregg has made Coulson my favorite underdog in the MCU. I give the short a 4 out of 4.
  12. Guardians of the Galaxy - This surprise hit literally came out of nowhere and put Chris Pratt on the map as an action hero and superstar. Who knew we'd love a tree and a talking racoon so much? I give the film a 4 out of 4.
  13. Thor: Ragnarok - Thor must defeat Hela the Goddess of Death in order to prevent Ragnarok, the Norse Apocalypse. I thought that the humor would be an issue but it actually fit perfectly and the story was well done. The only real issue I had with the film was that there was no explanation as to where Lady Sif was. Sif is a huge part of the Thor universe and for her to not be present or even mentioned was a major issue. I give the film a 3.5 out of 4.
  14. The Avengers - The team up that nerds everywhere thought would never hit the big screen finally happened and it surpassed all expectations. The only downside was the dialogue could be a bit awkward at times. It tried to be for all ages and came off a but iffy. Otherwise, it was perfectly well made. I give the film a 3.5 out of 4.
  15. The Punisher season 1 - Frank Castle's story of vengeance and retribution continues from season two of Daredevil with Frank trying to move on with his life but finding that he can't just ignore crime and returns to his killing ways. Jon Bernthal has come a long way in his career and just keeps getting better and better. I give the series a 3.5 out of 4.
  16. WHiH Newsfront: Attack in Lagos - With Christine Everhart leading the news story, we get the perfect setup to Civil War: Christine opposing the Avengers and stating that they need to be put into check. This sets the mood for the film and gets us ready for what's to come. The only issue I had with it was it showed the same 2 seconds of footage on repeat. They weren't allowed to use a bigger clip than that? I give the short a 3.5 out of 4.
  17. Ant-Man - Paul Rudd leads a great cast in a hilarious film about an ex-con who just wants to see his daughter again. He pulls off one last heist thinking he can get the money he needs but instead finds the future he never expected. Ant-Man has tons of laughs and a lot of heart. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly were perfectly cast and play off each other very well. Michael Douglas is just the icing on the cake, making the film that much better. Anthony Mackie's cameo was a nice surprise as well, linking up with the other MCU films wonderfully. I give the film a 3.5 out of 4.
  18. Agent Carter season 2 - Hayley Atwell returns once again as Agent Peggy Carter, this time trying to figure out what exactly Dark Matter is and why HYDRA wants their hands on it. It's such a shame that this series was cancelled after this season. Hayley was fantastic as Peggy and the stories kept me wanting more. The only reason I have to give it a deduction is because it ended on a minor cliffhanger which was never resolved. I give the season a 3.5 out of 4.
  19. Spider-Man: Homecoming - Tom Holland lands his own film as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Thankfully it wasn't yet another origin story but continued the story after his appearance in Civil War. The dynamic between Spider-Man and Iron Man was fantastic and showed a more caring, gentle side to Tony we haven't seen in a long time. The humor was steady and ever-present which could sometimes be a hinderance but other times a relief. Vulture was a good villain as he was relatable in many ways. Michael Keaton has such incredible range as an actor and proves he can be just as ruthless as he is caring. I give the film a 3 out of 4.
  20. Jessica Jones season 1 - Jessica Jones used to be the superhero Jewel but quit after enduring a trauma. She instead became a P.I. and has become world-weary with very little hope for humanity. The season also introduces Luke Cage, who we eventually saw in his own series. Krysten Ritter brings the insufferable Jessica Jones to life brilliantly in her debut season, mastering her attitude and personality. The only real issue with the season is how slow-paced the story is. The acting is perfect but the story drags out longer than it really should have. I give the season a 3 out of 4.
  21. Agents of SHIELD season 3 - The SHIELD agents discover Simmons has been sent to a remote planet where the HYDRA monster Hive also dwells. HYDRA means to release Hive on Earth in order to take control once again. This season's story was certainly interesting and kept me engaged and the acting was even better than the two previous seasons. The downfall of the season was the set design on the planet Simmons was transported to. A lot of it looked entirely fake and was not believable in the least. I give the season a 3 out of 4.
  22. Captain America: The First Avenger - Steve Rogers was a skinny, small man who just wanted to sign up to fight for his country during the tumultuous World War II. He was chosen to be the guinea pig in the government's Super Soldier Program, which transformed Steve into the heroic Captain America. When I first heard that Chris Evans had been cast for the role, I immediately thought "the guy that turned Human Torch into a joke?" But I was happily proven wrong. Chris embodied the spirit of Captain America and showed his dramatic and emotional side, keeping his usual comedic acting under wraps. The film itself can be slow at times and skips important details but it is still overall a success. I give the film a 3 out of 4.
  23. Iron Fist season 1 - Danny Rand returns to New York after 15 years and, as the new Iron Fist, he takes a stand against the evil underground crime organization The Hand. Finn Jones was a good casting choice for Danny Rand but I wish that he had been written better. He came off as more of a snotty brat than a warrior. If 15 years of severe focused training couldn't get the brat out of him, nothing will. Also, how many times does he need to tell the same people "I'm the Immortal Iron Fist, protector of Kun-Lun"? We KNOW! Jessica Henwick was fantastic as Colleen and, in many ways, was better than Danny was. Maybe she should be the one with her own series. David Wenham was utterly creepy as the series villain, something he has not done before. I give the season a 3 out of 4.
  24. Agent Carter season 1 - Hayley Atwell brought Agent Peggy Carter to the small screen in her season debut, hunting down the persons responsible for setting up Howard Stark. Peggy Carter's debut season was fun and immersive and I enjoyed her quick-wit and constant banter with Jarvis and Howard. The story was good and steady but there could have been more substance added. I give the season a 3 out of 4.
  25. Thor: The Dark World - Thor returns to battle the Dark Elves and keep Malekith from obtaining the Aether, one of the six powerful Infinity Stones. Thor's continued humility leads him to try to work with his war criminal brother in an attempt to save the universe. This film was much better than the first. It had a better villain, better humor, and more heart. Tom Hiddleston has improved since the first Thor and Chris Hemsworth has really grown into his role as the God of Thunder. Sure, it had its problems but it was overall a success. I give the film a 3 out of 4.
  26. One-Shot: Agent Carter - This short shows us Peggy Carter shortly after Steve Rogers went into the ice. She's grieving, hurt, and on top of that is treated like a stepping stool at her job. That is until Howard Stark calls, demanding she help him head SHIELD. The short is a good setup for the show and shows us the sensitive side of Peggy, one we don't see all that often. I give the short a 3 out of 4.
  27. Agents of SHIELD season 1 - The debut season focuses on the agents searching for people with special gifts. Skye, a skilled hacker, is recruited by Agent Coulson to help them track down these people. The storyline was good and kept me entertained but I thought the explanation as to how Coulson was alive was a bit flimsy but it did redeem itself later on in the season. I give it a 3 out of 4.

The Lesser

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Starlord finally discovers his father is Ego the Living Planet, but Ego turns out to have a secret diabolical plan that involves the deaths of trillions. While the overall story was good, there were several elements that made the film suffer. The soundtrack was outstanding but the songs were completely misplaced. The humor was also misplaced, making light of serious moments. The biggest problem, however, is when Starlord makes his mom's death sound no more important than a broken Walkman. I give the film a 2.5 out of 4.
  2. Agents of SHIELD season 2 - This season dealt with the fall of SHIELD and HYDRA all the while Skye discovers her father and deals with changes of her own. The season was a mess and all over the place. It jumped from HYDRA to Inhumans to Skye to Inhumans again. It was never one set storyline and was just a scrambled mess. I give the season a 2.5 out of 4.
  3. WHiH Newsfront: Scott Lang Interview - Christine Everhart interviews Scott Lang about the VistaCorp heist that landed him in prison. As funny as this was, it really didn't accomplish anything except set the mood for Ant-Man. I give the short a 2.5 out of 4.
  4. One-Shot: Item 47 - After the events of The Avengers, a couple steals one of the alien weapons and uses it to go on a bank robbing spree. This was entertaining, but I have to say the ending was such a cop out. That kind of thing hardly ever happens. Also, we never got to see these people again which is a huge disappointment. I give the short a 2.5 out of 4.
  5. One-Shot: All Hail the King - A newsman interviews Trevor Slattery, who is now in prison after the events of Iron Man 3. This was the last One-Shot that Marvel did and it got my hopes up only for them to be dashed yet again. Fans were excited to finally see The Mandarin in Iron Man 3 but was let down by the lame twist. And in this one-shot, we were given hope that the real Mandarin was out there somewhere and would show up at some point. But with Infinity War around the corner and the end of this generation of the MCU drawing near, it seems very unlikely that he will actually show up. I give it a 2.5 out of 4.
  6. WHiH Newsfront: VistaCorp Break-in Security Footage - This was basically the footage of the break-in that landed Scott Lang in prison. We really don't see anything except for what's going on outside. So, for lack of substance I give it a 2.5 out of 4.
  7. One-Shot: The Consultant - This one-shot basically expands on the end scene in The Incredible Hulk. As fun as it is, it really serves no purpose except to give closure about The Abomination and set up Hulk's appearance in The Avengers. I give it a 2.5 out of 4.
  8. WHiH Newsfront: Darren Cross Interview - Christine Everhart interviews Darren Cross, the new head of PymTech, about his new advances in technology. While this does set up the villain for Ant-Man, the short doesn't really tell us much info about what to expect or look forward to. I give it a 2.5 out of 4.
  9. Thor - Thor goes up against the Frost Giants and his manipulative brother Loki. Chris Hemsworth has the look and build of Thor and Tom Hiddleston was definitely the perfect choice for Loki. The problem with the film is that the villain Laufey was highly underwhelming. Loki himself is an awesome villain as he proved in The Avengers but taking second place to Laufey hindered him and made him look dull. I give Thor a 2.5 out of 4.
  10. The Incredible Hulk - The film focuses on Bruce Banner who is searching for a cure to rid himself of the Hulk once and for all. The love story is the best part of the film and the actors perfectly embodied their roles. The problem with the film lies with the fact that the villain is not very well established and a lot of the storylines that are begun here do not continue into any of the other MCU films. I give the film a 2.5 out of 4.
  11. WHiH Newsfront: President Ellis Discusses The Avengers - Christine Everhart interviews the President of the United States about what he thinks should be done about the Avengers and the damage they cause. The interview was straightforward but the stand the President takes is pretty obvious and nothing new. I give the short a 2.5 out of 4.
  12. WHiH Newsfront: The Avengers and the White House - Christine Everhart pretty much just states she's going to interview the President. Nothing's really achieved other than Christine continuing to stand against The Avengers and her co-anchor supports them. There is some entertaining banter in there but that's about it. I give the short a 2.5 out of 4.
  13. WHiH Newsfront: The Cost of Saving the World - Christine and her co-anchor continue their debate about whether the Avengers are good or bad for society, weighing in on the damages in New York, Washington D.C., and Sokovia. The debate is interesting but I really wish it could have gone on a bit longer. I give the short a 2.5 out of 4.
  14. WHiH Newsfront: Avengers Impact - Christine and her co-anchor set up their upcoming debate by drawing the lines and taking their stance either for or against the Avengers. The debate just gets started before it stops. It is a decent setup but these shorts really need to be at least a couple minutes longer. I give it a 2.5 out of 4.
  15. Iron Man 3 - The film follows Tony Stark as he not only battles PTSD after the Battle of New York but also The Mandarin his puppeteer Aldrich Killian. The film started out well but after the "twist" the film fell flat and became just another action film. The "twist" was a huge disappointment and a huge upset. I give it a 2.5 out of 4.
  16. Iron Man 2 - The sequel to the 2008 blockbuster finds Tony Stark facing off against Justin Hammer and Whiplash. The film could have been amazing but it was hindered by the constant arguing between Tony and Pepper. It did nothing for the film or the characters and was really a time waster. That time could have been used to expand on Whiplash's character or give us some more Nick Fury or Coulson. I give the film a 2 out of 4.
  17. Agents of SHIELD: Slingshot - This side story set during season 4 of Agents of SHIELD was decent but wasn't really necessary. It challenged the Sokovia Accords, which was interesting, but there wasn't much story or substance. I give it a 2 out of 4.
  18. Inhumans season 1 - Black Bolt, Medusa, Lockjaw...these are just a few of the names that got fans excited for the series. What the series turned out to be was a near-exact copy of Thor's story. A kid who becomes king, a jealous brother who sets up his king brother in order to steal the throne, and an exiling to earth. Loki was a much better manipulative brother than Maximus. Also, all the setup that Agents of SHIELD did for Inhumans was rendered pointless because it was explained completely differently in this show. Aside from the rip-off storyline, the sets and costumes were not well done at all. The acting was the best part of the show. I give Inhumans a 1.5 out of 4.
  19. WHiH Newsfront: Top Stories - Christine basically introduces Newsfront. Nothing's really accomplished but it does set up the short series very well. I give it a 1 out of 4.

Conclusion

When Marvel announced they were making Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr would be the start, people got pretty excited and for good reason. The film debuted in 2008 and it astonished billions and launched the MCU with major success. Now, here we are, 9 years later and still going strong. It's been an incredible ten years and I look forward to the next ten.

© 2017 Alec Zander

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