The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been going strong since 2008's "Iron Man."
There have been 33 movies, eight TV series, and two specials to date, with many more in the works.
Here's how they all compare to each other, according to critics.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a huge box-office force ever since its first film, "Iron Man," debuted back in 2008.
Fifteen years and 32 more films later, the MCU has experienced its fair share of ups and downs, both critically and commercially.
We used Rotten Tomatoes scores to rank every single MCU project, from "Iron Man" to "The Marvels," which premieres on November 10.
2023's "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" has the distinction of being the lowest-rated film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The best part of "Quantumania," the third installment in the Paul Rudd-led "Ant-Man" series, was Jonathan Majors' introduction as the MCU's next big bad, Kang, audiences and critics agreed — although, Majors' time in the MCU might be short-lived as a result of his recent legal troubles.
While critics had a tougher time with the miniature film, the audience score of 82% shows that fans had a good time with Scott, Hope, Hank, Janet, and Cassie down in the Quantum Realm.
"The general color-drenched too-muchness of it all might be tolerable if the plot wasn't such a by-the-numbers slog, alternating hyperkinetic action sequences with draggy recitations of exposition," wrote Decider's John Serba.
"Eternals," released in 2021, wasn't a hit with critics or audiences.
"Eternals," directed by Oscar winner Chloé Zhao, attempted to introduce an entirely new team of superheroes, an alien race called the Eternals, to the MCU, and followed them from prehistoric times all the way through present day. Your mileage may vary on how successful she was — but "Eternals" did introduce Harry Styles to the MCU, so there's that.
"Zhao ultimately robs the artist's comic of its sweep by constantly turning a space opera into a repetitive character drama," wrote Ed Gonzalez for Slant Magazine.
"Secret Invasion," released in summer 2023, essentially flew under the radar due to its mediocrity.
"Secret Invasion" continues the story of the Skrulls, a few decades after we last saw them in "Captain Marvel," as they search for a new planet with the help of Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson.
But not even the all-star cast of Jackson, Emilia Clarke, Olivia Colman, Don Cheadle, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Cobie Smulders, Martin Freeman, and more, could save this show from getting torn apart by critics.
"If a series about Nick Fury doesn't feel urgent or crucial, then the MCU is losing the battle for our attention," wrote Melanie McFarland for Salon.
"The Marvels," the last Marvel movie of 2023, is getting lukewarm reviews.
"The Marvels," the long-awaited follow-up to 2019's "Captain Marvel," sees Brie Larson's Carol Danvers team up with Monica Rambeau, aka Photon (Teyonah Parris), and Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel (Imani Vellani) to take down a new threat.
"It might not have the overwhelming impact of an 'Endgame' or even a 'Guardians 3,' but this is the MCU back on fast, funny form," wrote Empire Magazine's Helen O'Hara.
The 2022 film "Thor: Love and Thunder" was seen as a disappointment compared to its predecessor, "Thor: Ragnarok."
The follow-up to smash hit "Thor: Ragnarok" and the first-ever fourth solo film for an MCU hero didn't live up to expectations, at least according to critics. But we did get to see Natalie Portman return to the MCU as her version of the Mighty Thor, a couple of screaming goats, and a jaw-dropping post-credits cameo.
"Though Chris Hemsworth, as usual, has a lot of fun in the title role, the film around him too often strains to provide excitement and laughs," wrote Wall Street Journal's Kyle Smith.
"The Incredible Hulk," the MCU's reboot of Hulk, was released in 2008.
Edward Norton took over from Eric Bana for "The Incredible Hulk," which was plagued with rumors of behind-the-scenes drama, reported by Collider, including that Norton rewrote much of the movie while it was shooting, and that there were many clashes between Norton, director Louis Leterrier, and Marvel Studios.
Those dueling visions led to a moderately received comic-book film.
"The climax is a bit of a yawn, but most of what precedes it is vigorous and sharp," wrote Tom Charity of CNN.
"Thor: The Dark World," released in 2013, was the lowest-rated movie in the MCU until "Eternals."
"Thor: The Dark World" — the 2013 sequel to the 2011 film — stars Chris Hemsworth as the titular Norse god, Tom Hiddleston as his mischievous brother Loki, and Natalie Portman as Thor's Earth-bound love interest Jane Foster. It wasn't as well-received as its predecessor, but it has its defenders. And now, it's been ranked better than "Love and Thunder."
"This feels like a really, really, expensive episode of 'Doctor Who.' In a good way," wrote Larushka Ivan-Zadeh for Metro.
"Iron Man 2" is the 2010 follow-up to the smash success "Iron Man."
In retrospect, "Iron Man 2" had an impossible job: to build upon what is still regarded one of the finest superhero films of all time. Perhaps that's why critics weren't too kind to "Iron Man 2," which focused on Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, being rude to everyone around him while covering up his own impending death. Oh, and Mickey Rourke is there playing Whiplash, a Russian villain who loves his bird.
"Casting the likes of Downey and Rourke and then imprisoning them in jointed refrigerators is resource-squandering of the highest order," wrote Dana Stevens for Slate.
The 2022 sequel "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" was filled with cameos from across the larger Marvel Universe.
After the events of the Disney+ miniseries "WandaVision," Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff has been taken over by the dark forces of the Scarlet Witch, putting her on a collision course with Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Stephen Strange as he works to protect a new teenaged friend, America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez), from Wanda's plans.
"It might be Marvel's multiverse, but 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness' is [director Sam] Raimi's plaything. And we wouldn't want it any other way," wrote Kristy Puchko for Mashable.
The sequel to "Marvel's The Avengers," 2015's "Avengers: Age of Ultron," was a mixed bag.
The Avengers team up once again in "Age of Ultron" to take down the nihilistic AI known as Ultron, designed as a "suit of armor around the world" by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, aka Iron Man and the Hulk, who is hell-bent on destroying the planet at all costs.
"The sharp, interpersonal dramedy that made the first movie such a delight is again present in flashes, but not infrequently it is drowned out by the noisy, inevitable need to Save the World," wrote Christopher Orr for The Atlantic.
Chris Hemsworth made his debut as Thor in the 2011 film of the same name.
Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston were both nearly unknowns when they were cast as Norse gods Thor and Loki — and this movie catapulted them both to the A-list almost immediately.
Both Hemsworth and Hiddleston are still involved in the MCU in 2023, with Hemsworth's Thor getting a fourth solo film (a first for the MCU) and Hiddleston's Loki getting a second season of his Disney+ series (also a first for the MCU). Seeing their chemistry as brothers in this first film explains why.
"The new Marvel Comics movie 'Thor,' directed by Kenneth Branagh, is equal parts trippy, tacky, and monumental, the blend surprisingly agreeable, a happy change from all those aggressively down-to-earth superhero flicks like 'Iron Man,'" wrote David Edelstein for Vulture.
The recent Disney+ series, "She-Hulk: Attorney at Law," is the lowest-rated MCU TV series to date.
Uncanny valley visual effects aside, "She-Hulk" was simply a lot of fun, led by the talented Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters, cousin of Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk), gifted lawyer, and reluctant superhero.
Plus, fans got to see the official reintroduction of Charlie Cox's Matt Murodck, or Daredevil, into the MCU. Can't wait for "Born Again."
"'She-Hulk: Attorney At Law' was a massive success. It had a little bit of a bobble on the dismount, but it stuck the landing all the same. Here's hoping we see way more of Jennifer Walters in the MCU to come," wrote IGN's Amelia Emberwing.
The final solo film for Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, "Iron Man 3," was released in 2013.
"Iron Man 3" focuses on Tony Stark dealing with his PTSD after the events of "Avengers" — aka his near-death experience flying a nuclear bomb through a wormhole in space. But the big twist of this movie, the bait-and-switch identity of the Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley, remains this movie's biggest legacy.
"A thrilling film and a somewhat satisfying conclusion to the 'Iron Man' trilogy," wrote Nicolás Delgadillo for Discussing Film.
"Captain Marvel," the first film in the MCU to focus on a female superhero, is tied with "Iron Man 3." It was released in 2019.
Brie Larson stars as Carol Danvers, a former US Air Force pilot who is exposed to a blast of cosmic energy in the '90s, experiences memory loss, and is taken in by an alien race called the Kree. As Carol tries to remember her past, she's introduced to a young(er) S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, a digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.
"The main strength is a core of female friendship: Carol Danvers is the only Marvel hero you could imagine getting hammered and belting out songs by No Doubt," wrote The Observer's Wendy Ide.
The second female-focused MCU movie, 2021's "Black Widow," also has a score of 79%.
Set between the events of "Captain America: Civil War" and "Avengers: Infinity War," and exactly a decade after her introduction as Natasha Romanoff in "Iron Man 2," Scarlett Johansson finally stars in her own solo film with "Black Widow."
The film also introduced actors Florence Pugh, David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz to the MCU, all three of whom we'd love to see again in the future — and, in the case of Pugh and Harbour, we'll see them in "Thunderbolts."
"In all the ways that matter to an MCU fan, 'Black Widow' the film meets or exceeds all expectations. It is a killer action flick, and a unique viewing experience... in that I loved it, and the fact that I loved it also makes me livid," wrote Salon's Melanie McFarland.
"Captain America: The First Avenger" was released in 2011, and it took viewers back in time to the 1940s.
Simply put, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, is the role that Chris Evans was born to play. Audiences see Evans first as a digitally altered scrawny kid from Brooklyn who, against all odds, is chosen to receive a "super soldier serum" and become Captain America due to his pure heart. With anyone else, it'd be unbearably cheesy, but Evans sells it.
"No clever messages here, just bang-on romance and action, with another fresh twist on 20th-century history woven in for the kids to dive into after the credits have rolled," wrote Ed Gibbs for The Sydney Morning Herald.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" was released in May 2023, and it currently has an 82%.
"Vol. 3's" 82% score makes it the lowest-rated "Guardians" movie, though it has a high 94% audience score.
The film serves as a swan song for this version of the Guardians, comprised of Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Groot (Vin Diesel), Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), and Kraglin (Sean Gunn), as well as director James Gunn in the MCU. He's now co-running DC Studios and will direct a Superman movie next year.
Richard Roeper called the film "a funny, big-hearted adventure" in the Chicago-Sun Times.
Paul Rudd joined the MCU in 2015's "Ant-Man."
Rudd plays Scott Lang, a white-collar criminal who is enlisted to take on the mantle of Ant-Man, a shrinking superhero who used to be Michael Douglas' Hank Pym. But, as Pym is too old to suit up, he and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) teach Lang how to control ants, shrink and grow at will, and how to break into Pym's lab to take down Darren Cross (Corey Stoll).
"Paul Rudd stars in a formulaic but consistently entertaining and likable Marvel summer blockbuster," wrote NME's Nick Levine.
"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" was equal parts tragic and joyful upon its release in November 2022.
After the tragic (and unexpected) death of Chadwick Boseman in 2020, the highly anticipated "Black Panther" sequel was rewritten to be a story of grief and mourning, while also setting up the future of Wakanda in the MCU for years to come. Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong'o, Letitia Wright, and Winston Duke all put in stellar performances, while Tenoch Huerta introduced viewers to the underwater king Namor with a bang.
"A thoughtful and mature exploration of communal grief in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' is a fitting tribute to the legacy of Chadwick Boseman," wrote Chicago Reader's Sheri Flanders.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," released in 2017, has an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes.
"GotG Vol. 2" delves into the true parentage of Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, as played by Chris Pratt. In addition to the rest of the stellar returning cast, Kurt Russell was added to play Peter's biological father, Ego the Living Planet, and Pom Klementieff joined the team as the empathic alien, Mantis.
"In Marvel lingo, 'Guardians 2' feels like a great six-issue arc, the kind of storytelling that used to be the backbone of superhero comics," wrote The Atlantic's David Sims.
2018's "Avengers: Infinity War" also has an 85%.
"Avengers: Infinity War" is the first part of the culmination of the first 10 years of the MCU, which concluded one year later in "Avengers Endgame." The film "Infinity War" follows Thanos, an alien who is dedicated to erasing half of the universe's population, as he scours space for the six Infinity Stones. Meanwhile, the Avengers stop at nothing to prevent him from getting all six with disastrous consequences.
"The conclusion of 'Infinity War' is so shocking because it doesn't feel like a cliffhanger, more like a drastic wiping clean of the slate before the whole cycle starts again, with whatever reversal of fortune or comprehensive reboot it may be," wrote Film Comment Magazine's Jonathan Romney.
The second Disney+ series was "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," which premiered in March 2021.
"Falcon" was the second MCU series to drop on Disney+, after "WandaVision," and the hype was high. While this series is charming thanks to the hilarious chemistry between stars Anthony Mackie (Falcon) and Sebastian Stan (the Winter Soldier), the series' two antagonists, Karli Morgenthau and John Walker brought down the material.
Glad Sam finally got the shield, though! Perhaps his second outing as Captain America, "Captain America: New World Order," will fare a bit better.
"It's far from a perfect show, but it had moments of emotion and connection that have often been lacking in the MCU as a whole," wrote Polygon's Tasha Robinson.
"Moon Knight," starred Oscar Isaac as a guy having a serious identity crisis. The series was released in March 2022.
"Moon Knight" focuses on Isaac's truly impressive performance as mercenary Marc Spector ... and museum gift shop employee Steven Grant ... and the super-powered avatar of the Egyptian god Khonshu.
Things might have gotten a bit confusing by the end, but episode five remains a high-mark in MCU acting, thanks to Isaac.
"Isaac's having fun and that fun is infectious whenever Steven is on screen. Accuracy is overvalued in acting, innit? I'd much prefer watching Steven Grant destroy a loo," wrote Esther Zuckerman for Thrillist.
The 2018 "Ant-Man" sequel, "Ant-Man and the Wasp," was ruled an improvement upon the original.
By adding the Wasp to the title of the film, Evangeline Lilly is the true first woman to play a titular superhero in the MCU, though she still shares top-billing with Paul Rudd as Ant-Man. In "Ant-Man and the Wasp," the two insect-themed heroes reunite to rescue Hope's mom, played by the radiant Michelle Pfeiffer, from the mysterious quantum realm after an accident decades prior.
"Its intent is limited to amusing and diverting for a couple of hours of high-summer fun. That it does," wrote Matthew Norman of the London Evening Standard.
On the TV front, the two-season series "Loki," starring Tom Hiddleston, also has an 87%
The first season of "Loki" premiered in June 2021, bringing back one of the most beloved MCU characters from the dead. Sure, this Loki is technically Loki at his most evil, right after the events of 2012's "The Avengers," but it's always nice to see Hiddleston don his golden horns.
However, "Loki" evolved into a genuinely moving story about self-love, destiny, and the capacity to change for good, when given the opportunity.
Season two returned in October 2023.
"The new Marvel series combines the inventiveness of 'WandaVision' with the buddy-comedy repartee missing from 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,'" wrote The Daily Beast's Nick Schager.
Benedict Cumberbatch's 2016 entry into the MCU, "Doctor Strange," has dazzling visuals meant to be seen on the big screen.
Cumberbatch joined the MCU to play Dr. Stephen Strange, a hot-shot surgeon who loses the use of his hands after a brutal car accident and seeks out sorcerers who can help him regain his strength.
As Richard Brody wrote in The New Yorker, the film "lives up to its title, in mostly good ways."
The MCU's first special presentation, "Werewolf by Night," was a big hit with critics, who praised the vintage monster movie vibes.
Gael García Bernal entered the MCU as Jack Russell, an apparent monster hunter who's actually hiding a secret: Every full moon, he turns into a full-on bloodthirsty werewolf. Shot entirely in black and white, "Werewolf by Night" successfully evoked the monster movies that Universal Pictures became famous for.
"'Werewolf By Night' is a charming tribute not only to the pulpy horror comics on which it's based but to the scary and silly classic cinema that a generation of film lovers grew up watching late at night on local television," wrote Dylan Routh for the Observer.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (2014) is the first film on this list to crack 90%.
If "Captain America: The First Avenger" was Marvel's take on a WWII drama, "Winter Soldier" is the MCU's version of a tense, political thriller as Cap uncovers multiple layers of conspiracy within the US government, and must go on the run from his presumed-dead best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), now brain-washed into the murderous assassin the Winter Soldier.
"'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' delivers the superhero movie goods, but it does so with a grin and a wink, and that seems more and more like the right way to approach these things," wrote Jason Bailey for Flavorwire.
The next Marvel film to share a 90% score is 2019's "Spider-Man: Far From Home."
Picking up a few months after the events of "Avengers: Endgame," Peter Parker/Spider-Man must figure out how to balance his life as a web-slinging superhero and a simple teenager with a crush on his friend MJ, played by a delightful Zendaya. Add in a truly unhinged Jake Gyllenhaal performance as Quentin Beck/Mysterio, and you have the makings of a solid Spidey film.
"The stakes this time turn out to be considerably lower, and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Teen is arguably just the guy to bring things down to Earth and reestablish a human scale," said NPR's Bob Mondello.
"Marvel's The Avengers," released in 2012, proved that Marvel was doing something that no other franchise could compete with (for the first time).
After four years of teasing out the six main Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye, and Hulk), they all met up on the big screen for the first time in "The Avengers." Under the watchful eye of Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, viewers saw Earth's mightiest heroes team up for the first time to take out Thor's brother Loki as he attempted to conquer the world on behalf of a mysterious purple alien.
"A mega-budget action extravaganza that succeeds on just about every level, and it's one you should certainly go and see as soon as possible," wrote Luke Holland for NME.
Another Marvel movie with a 91% score is "Winter Soldier's" 2016 sequel, "Captain America: Civil War."
Essentially an "Avengers" movie, "Captain America: Civil War" sees Captain America team up with his friends Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) to save his friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) from getting wrongfully convicted for a bombing at the United Nations.
Cap goes up against Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Vision (Paul Bettany), and War Machine (Don Cheadle) in order to save his friend.
Of course, this movie is also famous for introducing Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa, aka Black Panther, and Tom Holland as the MCU's version of Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man.
"It is one of the best movies to ever come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, balancing engaging action set pieces and witty dialogue with intelligent character studies and ethical debates," wrote Salon's Matthew Rozsa.
The first Marvel TV series on Disney+ was January 2021's "WandaVision."
After years of being side characters, Wanda Maximoff and Vision, who are played by Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, respectively, were finally able to step into the spotlight.
And how lucky we were to see it. "WandaVision" remains one of the weirdest projects the MCU has put out, as the first few episodes skip through decades of sitcom classics like "Bewitched," "Malcolm in the Middle," and "Modern Family."
Olsen and Bettany were both nominated for Emmys for their performances in "WandaVision," and we couldn't agree more with the honor.
Richard Roeper wrote for the Chicago-Sun Times, "If you're one of those Marvel Cinematic Universe fans who feel it's time for something truly unique and different: Meet 'WandaVision.'"
2014's "Guardians of the Galaxy" has a 92% score.
At the time, it was a huge swing for Marvel to entrust writer/director James Gunn with bringing one of the lesser-known superhero teams into the MCU — but, as we know, it was one of the smartest gambles Marvel ever made.
"Guardians," led by the ever-charming Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, combines hilarious jokes with a genuinely sweet story about found family: In this case, Peter finds Gamora, Drax, Groot, and Rocket.
"Blessed with a loose, anarchic B-picture soul that encourages you to enjoy yourself even when you're not quite sure what's going on, the scruffy 'Guardians' is irreverent in a way that can bring the first 'Star Wars' to mind," wrote Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times.
Tom Holland's first solo movie, 2017's "Spider-Man: Homecoming," also has a 92%.
"Spider-Man: Homecoming" was the third reboot of Spider-Man in 15 years, but somehow, once again, the powers that be managed to find a third actor who was just as qualified as his predecessors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield to bring Spidey to life. After his introduction in "Civil War," "Homecoming" focuses on Peter Parker's sweet bond with Tony Stark/Iron Man, and his realization that being a hero is about more than a cool suit.
"The youthful vibe of this character reset, with its sense of humor and its light touch, makes 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' one of the most enjoyable Marvel movies in years," wrote Chesapeake Family Magazine's Roxana Hadadi.
"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" introduced the MCU's first Asian superhero when it was released in 2021.
Simu Liu tweeted at Marvel back in 2018 asking if they were "gonna talk or what #ShangChi." Three years later, Liu debuted in his own solo film as Shang-Chi in "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." In it, Shang-Chi comes to accept his past as a member of his father's (played by the always wonderful Tony Leung) criminal organization, the Ten Rings, while protecting his mother's village from the attacks of a demon known as the Dweller-in-Darkness.
"It's a good movie. It's got a plausibly fearsome villain by way of Leung, a nice ensemble of heroic personalities, and a dose of actually-poignant family drama undergirding all the rest," wrote K. Austin Collins for Rolling Stone.
"Hawkeye," which came out in November 2021, is another Marvel project that scored 92%.
"Hawkeye," starring Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld as two of the most talented archers in the world, was a refreshing change of pace; the stakes weren't cosmic.
Instead it came down to Renner's Clint Barton and Steinfeld's Kate Bishop battling it out against a Russian mob with an affinity for tracksuits, while dodging Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, played by Vincent D'Onofrio, brought back from the Netflix Marvel series' limbo.
"The series was loosely inspired by the excellent Matt Fraction and David Aja run of 'Hawkeye' comics, and some of that fun makes its way into the show," wrote Vanity Fair's Sonia Saraiya.
"Thor: Ragnarok" (2017) breathed new life into the "Thor" franchise.
"Ragnarok" was one of the most impressive feats in MCU history — the first two "Thor" movies are among some of the lowest-rated MCU movies, while "Ragnarok" is in the top 10 of all Marvel movies, period.
This comes down to director Taika Waititi, who was able to infuse his signature style and tone into the MCU in this cosmic adventure that's also a straight-up comedy, following Thor on his journey to prevent the total destruction of his home world, Asgard.
"Beautifully filmed with serious kinetic energy by director Taika Waititi, with a crackling script, 'Thor: Ragnarok' is a heap of fun. Cue 'Immigrant Song,'" wrote Kristen Lopez for Culturess.
The most recent Spider-Man film, 2021's "Spider-Man: No Way Home," was the biggest movie of the year, box-office wise.
"Spider-Man: No Way Home's" charms are impossible to deny, even if the plot has more holes than Swiss cheese.
For Marvel movie fans, it's hard to imagine something more satisfying than seeing Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and Tobey Maguire together on screen, discussing their rogues' galleries, Tobey's weird web situation, or how with great power comes great responsibility.
"Throughout all of it, the weird and complex history of Spider-Man as a cinematic icon isn't a hindrance to the story; instead, it's an enhancement, using the quirks of the character's legacy as a source of illumination into why he has endured so long," wrote Liz Shannon Miller of Consequence.
For much of the last two decades, the first entry into the MCU, 2008's "Iron Man," was the best-reviewed Marvel movie.
The reason that pop culture is what it is today can be boiled down to the mega-success of this movie, which set up an entire cinematic universe, revived Robert Downey Jr.'s career, and boosted director Jon Favreau's status so high that he's now basically one of the auteurs of the entire "Star Wars" universe.
But this film is simple: Billionaire weapons manufacturer Tony Stark (Downey) is kidnapped by a group of terrorists, which leads him to discover his weapons are landing in the wrong hands. So, he builds a suit of armor and becomes a superhero.
"Led by Downey's career-resurrecting performance as billionaire weapons peddler Tony Stark, it proves just as indispensable to the movie's giddy escapist appeal as the seamless CGI effects and eye-popping pyrotechnics," wrote Craig Outhier of the Orange County Register.
"Avengers: Endgame," released in 2019, is tied with "Iron Man."
"Endgame," as a movie, is a magic trick. Somehow, this movie crams in 11 years of MCU story-telling, every major character from all of the films, travels back in time to essentially walk through the universe's greatest hits, has real stakes, and makes a three-hour movie fly by.
When the Avengers decide to try and undo Thanos' universe-shattering snap, the original crew from the 2012 movie (with a few notable additions like Karen Gillan's Nebula, Paul Rudd's Ant-Man, and Don Cheadle's War Machine), travel through Marvel history to find the Infinity Stones.
"Eleven years of Universe building, and this is the crescendo. It really pays off, I've never seen anything quite like it," said James Luxford on the BBC.
Perhaps surprisingly, "What If...?," the animated anthology series on Disney+, has one of the highest critics scores in the MCU.
"What If...?" is based on the popular Marvel comic series of the same name. Each episode explores what would've happened if one small (or huge) thing had changed in the MCU, like what if T'Challa had become Star-Lord instead of Peter Quill, or what if Peggy Carter had received the super soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers?
"For dedicated Marvel enthusiasts, on the other hand, 'What If...?' might feel inessential. But the prospect of speculative fan-fiction with a stamp of approval will be hard to resist," wrote The Guardian's Jack Seale.
"The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" was a much-needed jolt of holiday cheer when it was released in November 2022.
Marvel's second special presentation was this 44-minute holiday special focusing on the Guardians trying to give the still-mourning Peter Quill the perfect Christmas, with the help of his hero Kevin Bacon.
"Adept at taking B-level comic book characters and turning them into franchise hits, [director James] Gunn does a lot with a little here with Marvel's first-ever holiday special," wrote The Wrap's Karama Horne.
The best MCU film remains 2018's "Black Panther."
After Chadwick Boseman was introduced in "Captain America: Civil War" as Black Panther, fans were waiting with bated breath for his solo film — and they weren't disappointed. "Black Panther" is a riveting story, where the "villain" (a supremely cast Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger) has a very compelling point and even gets the hero, T'Challa, to change his mind.
Supported by all-stars like Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Daniel Kaluuya, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, and Sterling K. Brown, along with newer finds like Letitia Wright and Winston Duke, "Black Panther" is special. To date, it's the only Marvel movie to be nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards.
"'Black Panther' is a revelation, the first film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that truly feels like an of-the-moment masterwork that also happens to be a comic-book movie," wrote Roxana Hadadi of Chesapeake Family Magazine.
But 2022's Disney+ series "Ms. Marvel" officially has the highest critics score of any MCU project.
"Ms. Marvel" stars newcomer Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, a normal teenager who stans Captain Marvel (aka Carol Danvers) — and when she finds an otherworldly bangle connected to her family history, she's able to become more similar to her favorite heroes than she ever thought possible.
With a distinct, fun visual style and amazing supporting performances across the board, "Ms. Marvel" has established a high benchmark for the MCU Disney+ series.
"'Ms. Marvel' doesn't reinvent the superhero wheel. Instead, it dips it in gold and bedazzles it with eye-melting visuals," wrote Eric Francisco of Inverse.
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