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Our official Marvel Cinematic Universe tier list — including ‘Shang-Chi’ and ‘Eternals’

We saw ‘Black Widow.’ So where does it rank on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s all-time tier list?

The Marvel Studios logo.
A photo of the Marvel Studios logo. We saw “Black Widow.” So where does it rank on the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s all-time tier list?
Marvel

“Black Widow” is here, and now we have 24 Marvel Cinematic Universe films and three Marvel television projects out.

With the release of “Black Widow,” I decided to rank the official Marvel Cinematic Universe films and television series. A list of 1-27 didn’t really work quite well because of the TV series and the films being separate projects. Plus, some films are too close to call when you decide to sit down and rank them. So, I decided to rank these simply based on tiers.

Tier 1 — Epic and legends

These films are a cut above the rest. They’re all-time epic Marvel Cinematic Universe films that have aged well and will stand the test of time.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)
  2. Iron Man” (2008)
  3. Avengers: Endgame” (2019)

There’s no question that these three movies define the MCU. “Iron Man” started it all, and the two final “Avengers” films put a cap on the first three phases of Marvel. You wouldn’t have such an epic response to the saga without these movies, and that’s why they’re a cut above the rest.

Tier 2 — Best by far

These are the top-tier MCU films that aren’t quite legendary, but still impact the saga in many ways. They’re the hit films you need to see before watching anything else.

  1. Captain America: Civil War” (2016)
  2. Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)
  3. Black Panther” (2018)
  4. Loki” (2021)
  5. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (2021)

These five films aren’t exactly the stories of legend — but they’re still the best out there. You’d be hard-pressed to find a fan who didn’t mention these projects as one of their favorite MCU ones to date. I was surprised to rank “Loki” among this group, but there’s no sign that this show isn’t one of the top-tier projects in the MCU thus far. I recently added “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” into this list. It’s a perfect Marvel solo film that ranks among the best in the franchise so far.

Tier 3 — Pure fun

This tier is made up of films that are simply fun. They’re the movies and television series that don’t matter much long term but are still fun to see and watch when they’re on TV for reruns.

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)
  2. Black Widow” — (2021)
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)
  4. Doctor Strange” (2016)
  5. WandaVision” (2021)
  6. “Eternals” (2021)
  7. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (2021)
  8. Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018)
  9. Ant-Man” (2015)
  10. Marvel’s The Avengers” (2012)
  11. Iron Man 2” (2010)
  12. Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)
  13. Spider-Man: Far From Home” (2019)
  14. Thor” (2011)

All of these films tell me one thing — fun. The “Guardians” movies are thrill rides layered with comedy. “Doctor Strange” is a cosmic, mystical fun tale that will leave your head spinning. The “Ant-Man” movies are comedies, too. “Iron Man 2” was meant to be more serious than it really is, and now it’s more of a comedy from how bad some of the scenes are. And “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” — despite its powerful message and theme — has some hiccups that make it more of a fun action show than anything else. Don’t forget about “WandaVision,” which is basically a sitcom show that’s got Marvel magic inside of it. I recently added “Eternals” into this list because the movie is pure fun to watch, even if it’s not entirely a Marvel movie in many ways.

Tier 4 — Necessary but flawed

Need a film to watch when you’re sick? Just want to watch something Marvel for background noise? These are the movies that might catch your attention because they have important Marvel details you need to watch.

  1. Captain Marvel” (2019)
  2. Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)
  3. The Incredible Hulk” (2008)
  4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014)

All of these movies have serious flaws — from dialogue to story direction to acting. But they are classic Marvel films you have to watch. They’re not as good as the films in the upper tiers, but they’re still good ones to watch when you’re sick or need some background noise. “Far From Home” could jump a tier with time. And “The Incredible Hulk” might drop a tier depending on the day. “Captain America” still feels out of place here, so maybe it will move in the future. But for now, these ones are flawed films that have a bit of fun, which makes them somewhat memorable.

Tier 5 — Mostly forgettable

These movies don’t age well at all. And if you don’t see lists like this one, you probably wouldn’t even remember they were in the MCU.

  1. Iron Man 3” (2013)
  2. Thor: The Dark World” (2013)
  3. Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)

I don’t know if any movie makes me fall asleep more than “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Seriously. I still — no matter how many times I’ve watched it — fall asleep in the scene where Hawkeye visits his home or something. Anyway. These three films can really be forgotten in the Marvel Cinematic Universe history. They didn’t impact the series too much (In “Iron Man 3,” Iron Man gives up his nanotechnology power only to have it back for Infinity War,” for example). And these films don’t really say anything too novel. I’ll give “Iron Man 3” a bit of a nudge because it does talk about post-traumatic stress disorder, which is an important mental health issue. But otherwise, these three are just ones you can skip in your own marathons.

TL;DR Marvel rankings:

Here’s a quick breakdown of the rankings:

Tier 1 — Epic and legends

  1. Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)
  2. Iron Man” (2008)
  3. Avengers: Endgame” (2019)

Tier 2 — Best by far

  1. Captain America: Civil War” (2016)
  2. Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)
  3. Black Panther” (2018)
  4. Loki” (2021)
  5. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (2021)

Tier 3 — Pure fun

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)
  2. Black Widow” — (2021)
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)
  4. Doctor Strange” (2016)
  5. WandaVision” (2021)
  6. “Eternals” (2021)
  7. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (2021)
  8. Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018)
  9. Ant-Man” (2015)
  10. Marvel’s The Avengers” (2012)
  11. Iron Man 2” (2010)
  12. Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)
  13. Spider-Man: Far From Home” (2019)
  14. Thor” (2011)

Tier 4 — Necessary but flawed

  1. Captain Marvel” (2019)
  2. Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)
  3. The Incredible Hulk” (2008)
  4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014)

Tier 5 — Mostly forgettable

  1. Iron Man 3” (2013)
  2. Thor: The Dark World” (2013)
  3. Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)

Previous Marvel rankings

Before the Marvel movie marathon, I decided to rank all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films up until “Avengers: Endgame.” You can see that list here, or read it below. My rankings changed significantly after watching the films all in a row, since many of the movies added context to others. And, during that marathon, I grew a huge appreciation for Black Widow, which added layers to future films.

Anyway, here are my old Marvel Cinematic Universe rankings that I created after the marathon.

Don’t agree with my list? Send me an email at hscribner@deseretnews.com or comment below with the changes you’d make.

Also, check out my review of “Black Widow,” which dropped in theaters and Disney+ on July 9.