It’s been four years since Thanos met his rightful death in the action-packed Avengers: Endgame. And while fans feared a total reboot, the MCU continued to set the stage for new and different stories to be told within the same continuity.
In fact, many of the MCU’s most popular superheroes have already returned to resume or close their story arcs. New characters have also been introduced in standalone films that we can expect to see in the franchise while we wait for a villain that can rival or surpass Thanos’ megalomania.
Ten feature films have been released since Endgame, which I consider to be the franchise’s best film to date. Some of the movies in the MCU phases that followed are disappointing, but some are also promising that the superhero genre hasn’t lost its appeal. Here’s my ranking of those all ten MCU movies from worst to best.
The Eternals are a superpower race created by eto the powerful Celestial Arishem. They’ve been living on Earth for thousands of years to protect humankind from a mutant superpower race called the Deviants, as ordered by their creator.
While the movie was visually stunning and probably one of the more star-studded MCU movies, Eternals became a victim of its own ambition and a letdown from Chloé Zhao. There were too many important characters introduced and, due to their immortality, too many backstories to follow. Ironically, it lacked the excitement you expect from an MCU movie with such a rich cast and lore to explore.
9. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Because it set off the MCU’s Phase Five, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania had a lot of expectations. It was the much-awaited journey into the quantum realm, which is vital in Ant-Man’s story arc and in Endgame’s time heist.
Quantumania was set almost completely in the quantum realm after Scott, Hope, Janet, Hank, and Cassie all get sucked into the subatomic dimension. And much like any Marvel movie not set on Earth, it needed a lot of world-building, but it often felt borrowed from other existing franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek. It was a CGI mess.
The best part of the movie was we got a deeper look into the motivations of Kang the Conqueror after he was introduced in Loki. While it was an enjoyable romp, Quantumania could have been more organized and charming in terms of storytelling.
8. Thor: Love and Thunder
Aside from the Avengers, Thor is the first MCU character to get more than a trilogy. Thor: Love and Thunder is the fourth movie in the saga, which marked the return of Jane and her slightly confusing storyline. Only this time, she gains Asgardian powers enchanted into Mjolnir and transforms into Mighty Thor.
It lacked Taika Waititi’s signature quirky sense of humor that made Ragnarok such a memorable departure from typical superhero flicks. But as far as MCU movies go, Thor: Love and Thunder is solid in visuals, pacing, and acting, especially from Natalie Portman as Mighty Thor.
7. Black Widow
The death of Natasha Romanoff is one of the most heartbreaking events in the MCU’s expansive history. And though she didn’t possess any superhuman abilities, Black Widow was as important as any Avenger, so her standalone film was highly-anticipated. The movie’s present timeline is set after the events of Captain America: Civil War and before Avengers: Infinity War.
Black Widow shows Natasha’s backstory as a product of the Red Room. It’s an evil Soviet-Russian organization that kidnaps young women like Natasha and trains them into assassins using mind control. The action sequences are praiseworthy, but finally getting closure for Black Widow after her unexpected death is its biggest allure.
6. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is Marvel’s tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman, who once ruled the fictional African kingdom. The studio chose not to recast the role of Black Panther, and the sequel centered on finding the next protector of Wakanda.
The movie handled the character’s death well, as much as it is heartbreaking to think that the emotions portrayed on screen are drawn from real life. Regardless, the performances were strong from both returning cast and newcomers to the Wakandan lore.
5. Spider-Man: Far From Home
Released after Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home is the final entry of Phase Three of the MCU. It follows our friendly neighborhood superhero coping with the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark, all while trying to fight off the Elementals during a class field trip in Europe.
What makes this a great entry is the lack of intergalactic supervillains trying to invade Earth for one reason or another. Instead, the bad guy is just a bitter and narcissistic former employee of Stark Industries who used Peter to get back at Tony. Following the events of Endgame, a bad guy like Mysterio, who doesn’t require the full force of the Avengers to be beaten, is actually just what we needed.
4. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Critics might not agree, but Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness deserves far more credit than it received. In the psychedelic film, we see Doctor Strange try to help America Chavez escape a demon who wants her ability to travel through the multiverse. He enlists Wanda Maximoff’s help, only to realize too late that she’s the villain in this story.
To me, these interconnected movies succeed when they stray from the common formula. Not only was it exciting to see Wanda’s full transformation into Scarlett Witch, but Sam Raimi’s Multiverse of Madness also introduced elements of grotesque horror that will make H.P. Lovecraft proud. It’s the most refreshing MCU entry since Endgame.
3. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings tells the story of a martial artist who must confront his complicated past and defeat the organization known as the Ten Rings. The blink-and-you-miss-it fight scenes are very well choreographed and perhaps the best since Endgame.
As is typical with movies centering on Asian characters, the MCU film involves complicated family drama. Still, it’s validating to see Asians represented in the mainstream superhero genre, particularly with themes tackling family and identity.
2. Spider-Man: No Way Home
Set immediately after the events of the sequel, Spider-Man: No Way Home deals with the aftermath of the superhero’s identity being revealed. Peter Parker asks Doctor Strange for help in erasing people’s memory, but the sorcery doesn’t go exactly as planned and opens a gate through the multiverse.
It’s the highest-grossing film of 2021 for a reason: No Way Home brought together the different versions of Peter Parker from previous franchises. That also meant all of Spider-Man’s enemies are banded against him. Maybe it’s because of the obvious fan service, but it’s the MCU’s best installment of the Spider-Man franchise to date.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
In case you’ve been skipping on all the MCU releases since Endgame, this is one movie you have to see. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 completes the trilogy, and James Gunn made sure to exit with a bang.
The movie finally unpacks Rocket’s mysterious backstory as a genetically modified organism and introduces his creator, who’s obsessed with the perfect world. Throughout the movie, the Guardians have to grapple with the emotional baggage they each carry while trying to save a dear friend. Whereas the Avengers literally had a civil war, the intergalactic team of superheroes has always been united, which made it that much harder to say goodbye to the group. But given the MCU’s history of bringing back characters—even those from a parallel universe—it’s not likely it’ll be the last we’ll see of the Guardians of the Galaxy.