All 32 Marvel movies, ranked. How does ‘Guardians

Behold, your Guardians of the Galaxy, one last time.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3″ danced its way into theaters on Friday, featuring everyone’s favorite group of intergalactic misfits. Star-Lord, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Drax, Nebula and Mantis are all back as the Guardians adjust to life after the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” which brought an alternate version of Gamora into the fold — one who doesn’t remember her time with the team. It’s the third and final installment in the Guardians franchise and director James Gunn’s final work with Marvel following his departure for DC Studios.

It’s also the 32nd installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, coming at a time when Marvel could really use a win. With few exceptions, the MCU has been in a downward spiral since “Avengers: Endgame” triumphantly ended the Infinity Saga five years ago. Did “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3″ provide a satisfying conclusion to one of Marvel’s most beloved franchises, and how does it stack up to the rest of the MCU?

NJ.com’s resident Marvel nerd is here to rank all the films. No “Vol. 3″ spoilers, I promise — I could disappoint Groot like that.


32. “Thor: The Dark World,” 2013

Were you just about ready to give up on Thor as a character in the MCU? We don’t blame you. That’s how bad this movie is. “The Dark World” is universally considered the worst MCU movie — it’s basically a running joke at this point. Dark and dull scenery, a non-compelling plot and a nondescript villain nearly ruined things for the strongest Avenger. Marvel clearly hadn’t figured out how to utilize Thor yet. Thank the god of thunder they eventually did.

Rotten Tomatoes critics’ score: 66%

Box office: $644.6 million

Why it matters: We didn’t think it did! Until… they came back to these events in “Endgame” and used it to ad even more pathos in Thor’s redemption arc.

31. “Eternals,” 2021

The biggest swing and miss in MCU history. A cast loaded with accomplished actors and an Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao couldn’t save this ambitious project. Too many characters being introduced in a movie that is far too long (two hours and 47 minutes?!?) led to the biggest MCU flop in nearly a decade. It was visually impressive, but that enough to redeem this bloated mess. I’ve seen every Marvel movie at least twice. I fell asleep when I tried to rewatch this one.

Rotten Tomatoes critics’ score: 47%

Box office: $402.1 million

Why it matters: Does it? Aside from a few throwaway mentions, the MCU has progressed like the events of this movie never happened. Marvel has made no mention of a sequel, either.

30. “The Incredible Hulk,” 2008

The forgotten MCU film. Edward Norton never played Hulk again after this movie — he was replaced by Mark Ruffalo in “The Avengers.” But he wasn’t bad! Norton had an interestingly nuanced take on Bruce Banner, though Ruffalo’s aloof humorous approach fits the quippy Marvel house style better. This film holds up better than I remembered, though the action sequences with Abomination were a CGI mess.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 67%

Box office: $263.4 million

Why it matters: Introduced Bruce Banner and The Abomination, but so much of this movie has been retconned it is basically skippable in a MCU rewatch.

29. “Iron Man 2,” 2010

Before Jon Favreau brought the world Baby Yoda on “The Mandalorian,” he was director who helped launch the MCU with “Iron Man/” That was always going to be a tough act to follow, and “Iron Man 2″ lacked the winning charm of the first film. Mickey Rourke was comically bad as Whiplash, the villain bent on killing Tony Stark with a flimsy plan and an even flimsier Russian accent. The film did give us War Machine (Don Cheadle took over for Terrence Howard) and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. But maybe the worst Marvel baddie ever dooms this film, along with its shaky plot.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 79%

Box office: $623.9 million

Why it matters: Introduced Black Widow and hinted even more at the connectivity of the MCU.

28. “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” 2018

Marvel’s first movie after “Infinity War” was light-hearted and fun, just like the first Ant-Man film. An excellent example of Marvel’s use of humor, Paul Rudd once again charmed in the titular role and Evangeline Lilly a fun addition as Wasp. But in a lot of ways this movie felt like a rehash of the original film.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%

Box office: $622.7 million

Why it matters: The Quantum Realm, baby!

27. “Iron Man 3,” 2013

No one took the events of “The Avengers” harder than Tony Stark, and we see that in full effect in his final solo movie. Obsessed with building suits and unable to sleep, Tony learns he is Iron Man even when he isn’t in armor.. The plot twist with The Mandarin, the most iconic Iron Man villain, was tough to swallow for some. But seeing Tony operate without his suit for much of the movie makes up for it, and his character arc is strong even if “Captain America: Civil War” basically ignores that growth.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 79%

Box office: $1.215 billion

Why it matters: Subtly sets the stage for “Shang-Chi” with the introduction of The Mandarin.

26. “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” 2015

Director Joss Whedon’s swan song in the MCU was a far cry from his masterpiece, “The Avengers.” But upon rewatching, it actually holds up better than you would think. It’s one of the few times we get to see the Avengers at full strength kicking ass and taking names. Though that does lead to the creation of Ultron, who is voiced masterfully by James Spader. It suffers from middle-movie syndrome, tasked with moving the plot forward for “Captain America: Civil War,” but is still incredibly entertaining in the process.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 76%

Box office: $1.4 billion

Why it matters: Plants the seeds of conflict that will sprout in “Civil War” and more Infinity Stone talk.

25. “Captain Marvel,” 2019

The final MCU film before “Endgame” serves as a prequel for the formation of the Avengers. Brie Larson was thrilling as Captain Marvel, a human with superpowers she can’t yet control or even remember how she got. Ben Mendelsohn stole the show as Talos, the leader of the Skrulls, and Goose the cat was adorable. The third act was rushed, but the ‘90s throwback vibe was loads of fun.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 79%

Box office: $1.09 billion

Why it matters: Good luck defeating Thanos without Captain Marvel’s insane powers! Also, we learn where the term “Avenger” even came from.

24. “Thor,” 2011

It took Marvel three Thor movies to finally figure this character out and realize he didn’t need to be so serious and Shakespearean, but his origin story was unique enough and they brought Asgard to life in all its golden glory. Chris Hemsworth looks the part as Thor, and Loki is one of the best characters in the MCU. Natalie Portman is uninspired as Jane Foster and the New Mexico scenery is so campy it’s humorous, but at least they nailed the title character.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 77%

Box office: $449.3 million

Why it matters: Introduced Odin, Loki… oh yeah, and some guy named Thor.

23. Black Widow, 2021

Natasha Romanoff’s origin story would have resonated more had it been released years earlier — it’s frankly embarrassing it took Marvel Studios this long to get the only female original Avenger her own film. But it’s here now, and features some of the best combat and action scenes in the MCU, and Taskmaster is an intriguing (though underutilized) villain. Johansson is great as always as the titular character, but Pugh steals the show as her sister.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 79%

Box office: $379.6 million

Why it matters: Yelena’s introduction.

22. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, 2023

The first film in Phase 5 of the MCU was supposed to instill confidence after some surprising Marvel missteps in Phase 4. Instead, it had even the most devout fan Marvel fans wondering if the MCU was done for. This was likely an overreaction — “Quantumania” isn’t nearly as bad as its Rotten Tomatoes score would suggest. But it was absolutely a disappointment. Paul Rudd is terrific as Scott Lang as always, but suddenly he’s a bad father? Jonathan Majors is great as Kang the Conqueror, but he is still massively undeveloped in this film. And the less we talk about how this film looks, the better. Because man, there is some rough CGI in this one.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 47%

Box office: $474.5 million

Why it matters: Introduction of Kang the Conqueror.

21. “Doctor Strange,” 2016

Benedict Cumberbatch is spot-on as Doctor Steven Strange, with the same bravado and snark that makes Robert Downey Jr. so fun as Tony Stark. And the way they brought comic book artist Steve Ditko’s life to work with psychedelic special effects, which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects, was stunning. Unfortunately, Mads Mikkelsen was super-boring as the villain Kaecilius, a bad Marvel tradition they only recently broke.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%

Box office: $677.7 million

Why it matters: Not only Dr. Strange’s introduction, but the introduction of mystic arts in the MCU.

20. “Ant-Man,” 2015

There are so many reasons this movie shouldn’t work. I mean, nobody really grows up dreaming about being superhero who can shrink down and talk to ants. And Paul Rudd, as a superhero? Somehow, it works. Marvel leaned into the silliness of the character, and Rudd’s charm and self-deprecation makes this a surprisingly good addition to the MCU, providing a comedic note that helps round out the franchise.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%

Box office: $519.3 million

Why it matters: Ant-Man’s introduction, and he was shockingly important in the final fight against Thanos!

19. Thor: Love and Thunder, 2022

Considering how uneven Thor’s first two movies were, the odds weren’t very high he would become the first Avenger to have four solo films. But his third, “Thor: Ragnarok,” was such a revelation that director Taiki Waititi and Hemsworth reunited for the highly anticipated “Love and Thunder.” It didn’t reach the heights of the third film, but it was a hilarious rom-com and hit many of the same notes — though they may have leaned into the jokes a bit too much.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 63%

Box office: $760 million

Why it matters: The return (and death) of Jane Foster, and a potential conclusion for Thor’s arc.

18. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, 2021

Marvel absolutely crushed it with Shang-Chi, the franchise’s first Asian-led film. Simi Liu is an absolute star in the lead role, cinema legend Tony Leung is stupendous as Wenwu — one of the best villains the MCU has ever seen — and the martial arts made for some of Marvel’s most captivating combat. If not for an underwhelming CGI-fest finale, this would have been an elite Marvel film.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%

Box office: $432.2 million

Why it matters: Shang-Chi’s introduction.

17. “Captain America: The First Avenger,” 2011

If Captain America is indeed the first Avenger, you’ve got to get his origin story right. And Marvel did, striking a patriotic World War II vibe as they told the story of how Steve Rogers went from shrimp to stud. Several characters from this movie turned out to be even more important than we expected down the line, and somehow Tommy Lee Jones was in this?

Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%

Box office: $370.6 million

Why it matters: Captain America’s introduction.

16. “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” 2022

Scary. Campy. Trippy. Marvel promised “Multiverse of Madness” would be the first horror film in the MCU, and it did not disappoint. Sam Raimi, of “Spider-Man” and “The Evil Dead” fame, was the perfect director to weld these genres, putting his stamp on a film that is a welcome deviation from the MCU’s homogenous house style. Benedict Cumberbatch has effectively taken the Robert Downey Jr. role as Marvel’s resident quippy smart-ass who can vibe with just about any character. Elizabeth Olsen is terrifying as The Scarlet Witch and Xochitl Gomez is a star in the making as America Chavez. The Illuminati may make a brief appearance, but seeing Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier once again was a joy.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 74%

Box office: $955.8 million

Why it matters: Still figuring that out! But uh, the multiverse is real.

15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, 2023

No Marvel franchise makes us laugh and cry quite like Guardians of the Galaxy, and the final chapter in their story brought the feels even harder than the first two. The plot isn’t quite as seamless as the first two films, but the emotional core is as strong as ever as it tells Rocket Raccoon’s origin story. Chukwudi Iwuji plays the High Evolutionary with chilling perfection, the most hatable MCU villain since Thanos.

Rotten Tomatoes score: TBD

Box office: TBD

Why it matters: The end of the Guardians of the Galaxy as we knew them.

14. “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” 2019

The movie that cemented Tom Holland as the best Spider-Man ever. Peter Parker grapples with the death of Tony Stark and tries to enjoy a well-earned European vacation and finds an unlikely ally in Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio — or does he? The phenomenal globe-hopping action, quirky chemistry between Holland and Zendaya’s MJ and massively consequential post-credit scenes have this Spider-Man on pace to be better than the previous two.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%

Box office: $1.132 billion

Why it matters: Peter and MJ are finally together! Oh yeah, and the post-credit scene sets the stage for “No Way Home.”

13. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The follow-up to 2018 Best Picture nominee “Black Panther” was always going to be important. But it took on a different meaning when Chadwick Boseman died of cancer in 2020. “Wakanda Forever” pays homage to King T’Challa in heartbreaking and moving fashion. It’s far from a perfect film, but Marvel faced an impossible task after Boseman’s passing and somehow made it happen. Tenoch Huerta was stellar as Namor, instantly one of the MCU’s best villains.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%

Box office: $859.1 million

Why it matters: Dealt with the death of T’Challa and introduced Namor.

12. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” 2017

After “Guardians of the Galaxy” snuck up on us as a smash hit, the the pressure was on director James Gunn for the sequel. For the most part, he delivered. “Vol. 2″ hit many of the same emotional notes as its predecessor, and maybe even harder, while cranking out another spectacular throwback soundtrack for our favorite group of plucky intergalactic misfits — whose story only gets richer as we find out about Star-Lord’s origins.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%

Box office: $863.8 million

Why it matters: Major character development for just about every Guardian, the introduction of Mantis and… BABY GROOT!

11. “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” 2017

A third reboot of Spider-Man could have been an absolute disaster. I guess the third time is the charm, because Marvel absolutely nailed it with its signature superhero. Holland was an inspired choice to play Peter Parker, capturing a boyish charm and childlike wonder that previous iterations of the character couldn’t grasp. Michael Keaton was one of the best Marvel villains as Vulture, and the smaller stakes compared to the rest of the recent MCU films were a breath of fresh air.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

Box office: $880.2 million

Why it matters: Spider-Man was previously introduced to the MCU in “Civil War,” but this fleshes out his character and further establishes his relationship with Tony Stark.

10. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

With two Avengers, three Spider-Men, five villains and a two-and-a-half hour run-time, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” could have easily been a bloated, convoluted mess. While it was far from flawless, it was unquestionably satisfying, entertaining and impressively paid homage to previous Spider-Man films in a way that felt authentic and charming. It’s one thing to be self-referential to a studio’s previous productions like “Avengers: Endgame” was. It’s another to do so with movies that haven’t been revisited in years. One of Marvel’s greatest accomplishments.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

Box office: $1.893 billion

Why it matters: Peter loses even more family, and then literally everyone when the world forgets he exists at the end of the movie.

9. “Captain America: Civil War,” 2016

It may technically be Captain America’s movie, but “Civil War” was so loaded with superheroes that it feels more like an Avengers flick. The plot, centered around the Avengers being forced to act as a government agency rather than independently, raises deep philosophical questions about the group while driving a wedge between Captain America and Iron Man — the most important relationship in the MCU. Black Panther and Spider-Man are introduced seamlessly, and the action set-pieces are are among the best we’ve seen in a comic book movie.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%

Box office: $1.153 billion

Why it matters: Spider-Man and Black Panther are introduced and the Avengers break up.

8. “Iron Man,” 2008

The movie that started it all. Marvel was taking as massive chance launching the MCU with Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man with his career on life support. But the gamble paid off for everyone, as RDJ’s ridiculously charismatic take on the genius billionaire-playboy-philanthropist was so good that it revitalized his career and gave the studio the bedrock for the next 21 films. It’s not hyperbole to call it one of the most important roles in cinematic history, at least from a commercial standpoint.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Box office: $586.2 million

Why it matters: Iron Man is the single most important character in the MCU. No Iron Man, no MCU.

7. “Guardians of the Galaxy,” 2014

The biggest swing Marvel has taken, and it was a towering home run. No one had heard of the characters that make up the Guardians before this movie dropped, yet there is now an entire subset of fans who tune into these movies just to see them. “Guardians of the Galaxy” made Chris Pratt a bonafide leading man, gave us a proper introduction to Thanos, and gave us a talking tree and raccoon in Groot and Rocket that have become two of the best characters in the MCU.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

Box office: $773.3 million

Why it matters: Introduction of the Guardians as well as the concept of Infinity Stones.

6. “The Avengers,” 2012

We knew that Marvel could successfully create individual movies, but team-up films are at the heart of the MCU. Seeing them pull it off for the first time was truly astonishing, and launched this franchise into the stratosphere. Having Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye all on screen together was a joy to behold, with Joss Whedon’s free-flowing action perfectly stitching it all together perfectly and proving that a concept this ambitious could actually work.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%

Box office: $1.519 billion

Why it matters: Effectively launched The Avengers as a team.

5. “Black Panther,” 2018

Wakanda forever. Marvel’s first film with a predominantly black cast was a cultural phenomenon that was good enough to earn a Best Picture nomination while winning Oscars for Best Original Score, Best Costume Design and Best Production Design. Director Ryan Coogler crafted the unique origin story that “Black Panther” deserves, and Michael B. Jordan was incredible as Erik Killmonger, highlighting one of the deepest casts the MCU has ever seen.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%

Box office: $1.347 billion

Why it matters: Literally one of the most culturally significant films of all time, and Wakanda goes on to play a major role in Infinity War and beyond.

4. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” 2014

The “Captain America” franchise got a whole lot darker with this sequel, which sees Cap adjusting to modern day America and facing off with his best friend, Bucky Barnes, who he didn’t even know was still alive. The action sequences are incredible, they somehow got the legendary Robert Redford to play the villain, and the Cold War, “Three Days of the Condor” vibe they went for was spot-on.

Rotten tomatoes score: 90%

Box office: $714.3 million

Why it matters: Introduced Falcon and effectively disbanded SHIELD. Also, the first time we see Steve Rodgers no longer taking orders and doing his own thing as Captain America.

3. “Thor: Ragnarok,” 2017

“Ragnarok” might be the most fun Marvel movie of all. They finally figured Thor out and realized they could utilize Chris Hemsworth’s sense of humor, teamed him up with the Hulk, gave us more anti-hero Loki and sprinkled in a bunch of hilarious characters like Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster and a wise-cracking pile of rocks named Korg. Director Taika Waititi completely revitalized this franchise, to the point that I actually want more Thor movies.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

Box office: $854 million

Why it matters: Completely reboots Thor as a character.

2. “Avengers: Endgame,” 2019

Marvel’s conclusion to the Infinity Saga might not have been absolutely perfect, but it was pretty damn close. Mind-blowingly epic, self-referential and nostalgic, satisfying and cathartic — in short, it was three hours of everything you could possibly want from the movie that ends the MCU as we know it. They needed to nail the landing after “Infinity War” ended with a massive cliffhanger, and they did so in heart-wrenchingly emotional fashion. You can quibble with some plot decisions, but visually and emotionally, “Endgame” was exactly what the grand finale should have been.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Box office: $2.798 billion

Why it matters: Just about every storyline from the previous 21 films is concluded or advanced.

1. “Avengers: Infinity War,” 2018

Marvel was ridiculed for calling it “the most ambitious crossover event in history,” but that’s exactly what “Infinity War” was. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo masterfully brought nearly every MCU character together, namely the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, to fight against Thanos, the villain they had been teasing for six years, and nailed it all. The pacing was excellent, the action captivating and perhaps most impressive of all built Thanos into one of the most compelling characters in recent memory. This so easily could have collapsed under its own hubris. But just as Thanos had hoped, it was perfectly balanced — and the cliffhanger ending was one of the boldest choices we’ve seen in a major motion picture. The biggest superhero movie ever also turned out to be the best.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%

Box office: $2.048 billion

Why it matters: Effectively brought just about every character in the MCU into one film, most importantly Thanos.

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Jeremy Schneider may be reached at jschneider@njadvancemedia.com and followed on Twitter at @J_Schneider and on Instagram at @JeremyIsHungryAgain.

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