All 22 Marvel Movies Ranked Worst to Best Based From Source

Taken from Source Three critics rank all Marvel-inspired films from ‘Man-Thing’ to the best.

The record-breaking success of Deadpool will surely have many side effects, the most obvious of which being a sudden uptick in curse words spouted by Spandex-clad protagonists.

For genre fans who’ve spent recent years obsessing over the arcana of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though, the film serves as a reminder that there’s more to Marvel than the MCU. Marvel Studios, to its likely chagrin, isn’t the only studio raking in dough from Marvel Comics properties; it’s just the one whose business plan most closely resembles a supervillain’s world-domination scheme.

For those who’ve forgotten that vast swath of the imaginary universe that falls outside the view of Asgard and S.H.I.E.L.D.: Here, ranked from worst to best, are all the features based on Marvel Comics characters. [Note: This has been updated to include all the Marvel-based films up to and including 2018’s Black Panther.

22.
The Wolverine
2013


Courtesy of Marvel

Finally, a superhero movie that behaved like an unpretentious genre pic. (And reminded us that comic books come out once per month, sometimes going long stretches between world-threatening cataclysms.) If this had been the first Wolverine solo outing, Hugh Jackman’s razor-clawed beastie might have carried a whole series of his own films by this point.

21
Iron Man 2
2010


Courtesy of Marvel

Action-packed and delivering the same smart-ass kick of its predecessor, the second Iron Man go-round hinted at the overkill that would plague the next — and which, to be fair, tends to make most of these movies less fun than they oughta be. Paving the way for IM3’s dubious villain The Mandarin, Mickey Rourke munches all the scenery without swallowing his toothpick as the vengeful Russian Whiplash.

20
X-Men: Days of Future Past
2014


Courtesy of Marvel

Hard to follow? Yeah, kinda. But this time-travel story stayed digestible enough to justify the presence of actors we wanted to see from both the old and new incarnations of the team — while, natch, introducing new ones like Evan Peters’ Quicksilver. Whether future chapters (like May’s Apocalypse) can keep this conflicting-timelines notion afloat remains to be seen.

19
The Amazing Spider-Man
2012


Courtesy of Marvel

Yes, it was much too early for a reboot (unless we’re judging by Hulk standards), but Andrew Garfield brought an intelligent 21st century emotional edge to the 60-year-old icon of teen anxiety. Throw in Emma Stone, a richer love interest than comics movies (including Spider-Man ones) usually get, and you have an enjoyable first chapter whose promise went unfulfilled.

18
Thor: Ragnarok
2017


Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Director Taika Waititi successfully executed a left turn in the arc of this hero, whose name rhymes with “snore” for a reason. Deflating his pomposity with a shot of goofy humor and hinting that possessing godlike powers might actually be fun on occasion, the picture might remind comics fans of the period in the ’80s when writer/director Walt Simonson all but reinvented the hero in print.

17
Deadpool
2016


Joe Lederer/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Though overrated (sex and sadism! Ryan Reynolds making Ryan Reynolds jokes! and check out those box-office figures!), this quite funny jab in the side of the superhero aristocracy eventually slides into conventionality but has a lot of fun along the way. One can already feel the forces of corporate homogeneity assimilating its thorniness, looking for opportunities to naughty-up other properties on the assumption that an R rating accounts for Deadpool’s success. Sigh.

16
Captain America: Civil War
2016


Courtesy of Film Frame/MVLFFLLC/Marvel

Posing serious questions about violence and vigilantism while reveling in both, the third Captain America film is overlong but surprisingly light on its feet. It builds upon the plotlines of previous Avengers outings, bringing together known marquee quantities and introducing the Black Panther and a new Spidey in winning fashion.

15
Guardians of the Galaxy
2014


Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Wildly overrated upon its release because it was such a refreshing change from familiar formats, Guardians is a winner despite its occasional forays into ordinariness. It seemed to have as little to prove as its roguish lead characters, but that didn’t keep director James Gunn from treating this goofy corner of the galaxy like it was a real place inhabited by alien beings, not mere production-designed eye candy.

14
Captain America: The First Avenger
2011


Courtesy of Marvel

One of Marvel’s most boring major print characters became arguably their movies’ most likeable one thanks both to a note-perfect characterization by Chris Evans (thanks for not blacklisting him after Fantastic Four, Marvel!) and to the filmmakers’ rejection of “USA! USA!” jingoism. This Cap’s patriotism, however steadfast, never plays like propaganda.

13
Big Hero 6
2014


Disney/Screengrab

Didn’t know this absolute charmer was a Marvel adaptation? Sure was, though the screenwriter reportedly avoided reading the source material in order to keep his take on it fresh. Calling it a superhero team pic is technically accurate, though the core story — of a grieving teen inventor and his emotionally sensitive robo-protector — feels more like a classic kids’ movie that wins grown-up love as well.

12
Avengers: Age of Ultron
2015

It sometimes felt like a hangout movie focused on figuring out how these unthinkably powerful characters could share a room without their supercharged egos destroying space-time. But Ultron also offered one of the more conceptually appealing villains in Marvel-movie-dom, and almost offhandedly created a hero, The Vision, unlike any of his predecessors.

11
Logan
2017


Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Photofest

If his 2013 The Wolverine suggested how much fun it could be to treat superhero movies like more earthbound genre pictures, James Mangold followed through on his promise here, turning everyone’s favorite X-Man into both a world-weary noir protagonist and a Western hero simultaneously. Gritty in a very distinctive way, it also probably elicited more audience tears than all the other titles on this list combined.

10
Ant-Man
2015


Marvel/Screenshot

An outsider Marvel pic that didn’t work to make its novelty obvious, Ant-Man deflated overblown superhero pomposity like a pinprick to a giant balloon. The persistence of a team that saved it from development turmoil may be irrelevant to the merits of the finished product, but it’s certainly worth celebrating.

9
Doctor Strange
2016


Courtesy of Marvel

A visually dazzling picture that occasionally felt as fresh as The Matrix did in its day (despite its borrowing from Inception), Strange made sense of a character many non-geeks hadn’t even heard of. The unusually high level of talent in the cast might even have made some ignore how few Asian actors were in this Nepal-centric yarn.

8
X-Men
2000


Courtesy of Marvel

Sorry Blade, but this 2000 Bryan Singer film deserves credit (or blame, if you lean that way) for pulling the superhero movie out of its dumb-DC-sequels doldrums and initiating its current reign. It also clued Hollywood in to the wealth of characters birthed by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, et al. From here on out, Batman and his Justice League cohort had to work a lot harder for their big-screen cred.

7
X-Men 2
2003


Courtesy of Marvel

Adapting one of the comic series’ best stories, the franchise’s second installment deepened its social metaphors and, having done plenty of exposition in the first chapter, dug into its core characters’ personalities while introducing intriguing new ones. Wolverine came into his own, with Hugh Jackman’s charismatic performance explaining to uninitiated viewers what devotees always saw in the character.

6
Spider-Man
2002


Courtesy of Marvel

X-Men beat it to the screen by two years, but with its gimongous box-office take and certified pop appeal, the first of five (and counting) live-action Spider-Man features launched the superhero genre into its current stratosphere. As light on its feet as Tobey Maguire’s web-head himself, this fast and funny origin story holds up more than a decade later, especially in comparison to Marvel’s CGI-serious reboot.

5
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
2014


Courtesy of Marvel

With the WWII origin story out of the way, filmmakers didn’t stop to wallow in the culture shock of their frozen super-soldier’s 21st century awakening. They gave the square-jawed hero a hell of a conspiracy to face down, one that slyly encouraged viewers to question the kind of vastly powerful authorities another costumed hero might blindly obey.

4 52
Iron Man
2008


Courtesy of Marvel

Where Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man fulfilled every pimply nerd’s fantasy of superpowered liberation, the Iron Man embodied by Robert Downey Jr. understood the next phase of adolescence, in which a fanboy desires not just supernatural abilities but panache. Director Jon Favreau was the right man for this job, with one foot in the fantasy world of Zathura but a strong ear for contemporary swagger.

3
Black Panther
2018


Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Afrofuturism hit the multiplex in an MCU outing that didn’t just boast the not-like-the-others factor of Deadpool and Guardians but actually, more than any Marvel-sourced pic since the early X-Men, had something to do with the real world. It also created a world of its own — Wakanda — far more dazzling and myth-rich than Thor’s thinly imagined Asgard. And director Ryan Coogler did something too few of his predecessors even attempted, putting a personal stamp on the corporate property he was hired to envision.

2
Spider-Man 2
2004


Courtesy of Marvel

Though Batman would beg to differ, comic book sequels rarely surpass their predecessors. But Sam Raimi’s follow-up to his Spidey sensation improves on the first film’s action and f/x while giving us the best baddie in the Marvel screen universe. As the tortured Doctor Octopus, Alfred Molina’s psychological reach was as long as his tentacles, culminating in a rare case of super-villain suicide.

1
The Avengers
2012


Courtesy of Marvel

Single-hero pictures offer one kind of thrill, but Joss Whedon’s rollicking, bantery ensemble movie delivered something bigger: a giddy group dynamic one might imagine to be impossible for teammates who fly separately through the chaos, battling the forces of destruction. It captured the energy of a classic team comic while doing right by the diverse individual plotlines that team contained.

View all 52 ranked and reviews from Source

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