Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is about to come full circle with the release of Avengers: End Game. After two decades of Marvel films exploring a range of characters and storylines lifted from the comics, Avengers: Endgame is set to tie up all the loose ends from the previous films and bring an end to this exciting chapter in the universe.
Ever since Iron Man smashed box office records in 2008, comic book films have become desired property, with 20 Marvel films released over the past decade. The likes of Captain America, Thor, Hulk, and Black Panther have all featured in their own film, while groups such as The Avengers and The Guardians Of The Galaxy have also been introduced, exciting superhero fans. It really is a great time for the superhero genre, but as is often the case with adaptations of famous properties, not every film has been as well received by critics as they have fans.
In what seems a common trend, the sequel films of each franchise is often the worst reviewed. Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World, and Avengers: Age Of Ultron were huge hits at the box office but failed to capture the imagination of critics. On the other side of the coin, the likes of Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok and The Avengers had critics ecstatic.
To truly find out which of the films are great and which are bad, the best place to go is Rotten Tomatoes. The review aggregate site calibrates every major critical review and creates an average, meaning people can clearly see the best and worst films from the Marvel Universe. Looking at all 20 films, it's quick to see that only a few have received terrible reviews, with the majority well-liked by critics. So even though this article picks out the 10 worst and 10 best Marvel flicks based on Rotten Tomatoes ratings, though the worst films really aren't that bad.
20 Worst: Thor: The Dark World (66%)
The first Thor is a great balance of action and comedy and was always going to be hard to follow up, hence the low score for the sequel. While it's great to see Chris Hemsworth's Thor and Tom Hiddleston's Loki sharing the screen once again with a multi-layered plot helping to set up the next allotment of Marvel films, it's still a rather tedious watch.
It's very much a paint-by-numbers production that keeps fans happy without offering anything new or groundbreaking.
As you can see from the score, 66% isn't a horrible rating, but when compared to some of the other Marvel films, is rather poor.
19 Best: Ant-Man And The Wasp (88%)
Ant-Man is not a character I thought would make an impact in the MCU but it seems the fans really dig Paul Rudd's take on the criminal turned hero. After a relatively low key first film the sequel ups the ante by introducing The Wasp and juggling a number of different storylines leading into Avengers: Infinite War.
Rudd is great as Ant-Man and ably supported by Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Micheal Pena, and the always reliable Walton Goggins. Even at two hours in length, this film never feels like it's going on too long and is another excellent entry into the MCU.
18 Worst: The Incredible Hulk (67%)
There have been a number of standalone Hulk films with different actors portraying the green beast and fans are yet to be presented with an engaging film that sticks close to what makes the character so great. It's certainly not an easy task to show the emotional turmoil Bruce Banner goes through when he turns into the Hulk, with this origin story trying hard to add to the legacy of the well-liked character.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work, with Edward Norton miscast as Banner/Hulk and some of the special effects rather tiresome compared to what we see on screens these days. Here's hoping Mark Ruffalo finally gets a crack at his own feature-length Hulk film.
17 Best: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (90%)
One of my favorite Marvel flicks, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the perfect balance of comic book storytelling, emotional character arcs, and explosive action.
Based on the classic Marvel story were the previously thought deceased Bucky Barnes returns as the brainwashed Winter Soldier, there's a dark tinge to this one as events begin to set up the Civil War storyline. Chris Evans is once again superb as Steve Rogers with great support from Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Sebastian Stan as Bucky, Anthony Mackie as Falcon, and Frank Grillo as the nefarious Brock Rumlow.
16 Worst: Iron Man 2 (73%)
When Iron Man 2 first hit cinemas I was one of the few who thought it was great. A few rewatches later and I realized the error of my ways. The film does introduce fans to Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow and Don Cheadle as War Machine (taking over from Terrance Howard) and has some decent set pieces, but the bad guys just aren't that impressive.
Sam Rockwell is great but his Justin Hammer comes off as annoying while Mickey Rourke's Ivan “Whiplash” Vanko is truly bizarre, with Rourke seemingly reading from a different script. Bad guys aside, Iron Man 2 isn't a total failure nor is it a cinematic masterpiece.
15 Best: Doctor Strange (89%)
How do you make a time-traveling magician with a cape and 90s facial hair accessible to a modern audience? Cast Benedict Cumberbatch as the dimension shaping wizard, throw in an engaging script with a couple of special-effects-powered set pieces and a supporting cast that includes Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and a menacing Mads Mikkelsen.
Doctor Strange is one of Marvel's lesser known characters in the wider world but this film helps bring him to life in a new medium that keeps you captivated until the very end.
14 Worst: Avengers: Age Of Ultron (75%)
Continuing to prove Marvel sequels never live up to the first outing, Avengers: Age Of Ultron finds itself placed as the fourth worst Marvel film released. It's not a bad film per se, more of an updated version of the first flick, with bigger set pieces, more over the top special effects, and too many characters trying to make a difference.
The storyline about Tony Stark's AI going AWOL and wanting to destroy all humans is rooted in reality, but Ultron is a fairly one-dimensional bad guy and doesn't offer anything of note. A solid entry into the Marvel universe but one that won't have you coming back.
13 Best: Guardians Of The Galaxy (91%)
Probably the funniest Marvel film, Guardians Of The Galaxy is a tremendous showcase for Chris Pratt as a leading man and demonstrates comic book movies don't have to be serious affairs about characters struggling with their powers (Superman) or brooding on what they've become (Batman).
Guardians is a fantastic thrill ride about a ragtag bunch of criminals – including a raccoon and a tree – who find themselves pitted against a big bad intent on destroying the world. James Gunn's script is wildly hilarious and is a great platform for a diverse ensemble cast (Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel) to flex their muscles as the universes most unlikely heroes.
12 Worst: Thor (77%)
Ok, so Thor is a really great film but when it comes to the top 20 Marvel flicks it, unfortunately, finds itself in the bottom half of the equation. The film helped establish Thor as an integral part of the MCU, thanks to Aussie Chris Hemsworth, who is fantastic as the Thunder God.
Tom Hiddleston is a revelation as Loki while Kenneth Branagh's direction is understated, allowing Hemsworth and Hiddleston to play off each other well as feuding brothers.
A great film to kick off the franchise.
11 Best: Captain America: Civil War (91%)
Integrating the Civil War storyline into Captain America was a brilliant idea and the payoff in this, the third film in the franchise, is spectacular. Opposed to the Hero Registration Act, old Cap finds himself pitted against fellow hero Iron Man, turning into a full-blown war as Team Iron Man (Iron Man, Black Panther, Vision, Black Widow, War Machine, and Spider-Man) goes up against Team Captain America (Captain America, Bucky Barnes, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and Ant-Man) in an exciting finale.
The introduction of new villain Helmut Zemo (the always great Daniel Bruhl) adds another dimension to this action-packed piece of celluloid while Tom Holland as a young Peter Parker/Spiderman provides some great laughs.
10 Worst: Captain America: First Avenger (80%)
Listing a film as bad when it received an 80% rating sounds ludicrous but as I've already pointed out, if it falls outside the top 10 then it falls in this category. Captain America: First Avenger is, in fact, a terrific introduction to the classic Marvel character, with Chris Evans making him his own.
As far as origin stories go there isn't anything new here but it's well written and directed and features Hugo Weaving going ham as bad guy Red Skull. In the words of Time Out's Tom Huddleston, Captain America: First Avenger is "Pacy and punchy, but not quite a knockout."
9 Best: Spider-Man: Homecoming (92%)
After The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2 fell flat, many thought it would be a good idea for Marvel to put the web-slinger in cotton wool, but just three years later they came out with Spider-Man: Homecoming, finally giving Peter Parker a decent on-screen showing.
Tom Holland is great as teenage Parker who has to deal with his new abilities as he progresses through high school, and any time you get to see Micheal Keaton on screen it's a win.
8 Worst: Iron Man 3 (80%)
I'm a big fan of Shane Black (screenwriter of Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) but even I have to admit his take on Iron Man isn't the greatest. Put in charge of writing and directing the third installment, Black's Iron Man 3 has some interesting ideas but never really takes off.
Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin is inspired casting while Guy Pearce nails it as the main baddie Aldrich Killian, but Robert Downey Jr. sleepwalks his way through another film.
There's some decent action and solid characterization but Iron Man 3 should not be awarded an 80% average in my view.
7 Best: The Avengers (92%)
After slowly building towards a fully-fledged Avengers film, Marvel didn't disappoint. The Avengers is a rip-roaring comic book flick that somehow manages to let every character shine, even Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye.
Although it does drag on for 140 minutes, the final CGI filled alien invasion in the heart of New York is an eye-popping and well-directed conclusion to this over the top superhero film.
One of my favorite Marvel films of all time.
6 Worst: Ant-Man (82%)
The reason this film works is thanks to the great Paul Rudd. His natural mix of charm and every man personality make him the ideal actor to play former criminal-turned-superhero Scott Lang, aka, Ant-Man.
This is like Honey, I Shrunk The Kids on steroids, with Ant-Man dealing with all manner of problems when navigating the world in miniature form. This one has a great ensemble cast and is much more enjoyable than the sequel, even though the critics don't agree.
5 Best: Thor: Ragnarok (92%)
After the disappointment of Thor: The Dark World Marvel took the franchise in a new direction by recruiting director Taika Waititi. The affable Kiwi ditched the seriousness of the previous film and went for a comedic angle, and it works brilliantly.
Thor: Ragnarok is laugh-out-loud funny and gives Chris Hemsworth room to flex his comedic timing. Even though the film involves Thor losing his hair and an eye it's still lots of fun, especially when the Hulk shows up. A truly fun summer blockbuster.
4 Worst: Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (84%)
Another Marvel film with a high rating that makes it onto the worst list is the second Guardians Of The Galaxy film. In this one, Peter Quill ends up meeting his dad, the amazing Kurt Russel, while the group has to put their personal issues aside to combat a new enemy intent on destroying the universe.
Personally, this one doesn't do it for me at all. It doesn't really offer anything new and goes on way too long. The great Kurt Russell is a bonus, but apart from his scenes, there's not much about this film that gets me excited.
3 Best: Iron Man (93%)
The original and still the best, Iron Man is the reason why Marvel has gone from nearly-bankrupt to dominating the box office this past decade. Robert Downey Jr. makes the character of Tony Stark his own, infusing him with a quick wit and likable personality.
This is a fantastic origin story that introduces the character to new audiences without leaving longtime fans bored or frustrated with its presentation. Jeff Bridges is great as Stark's second in command, Obadiah Stane, who goes off the rails, with Iron Man capturing the comic book feel in a thrilling action drama.
2 Worst: Avengers: Infinity War (85%)
Coming in at number 11 in the rating stakes, Avengers: Infinity War finds itself on the side of the worst Marvel films, although 85% points to a film that gets the job done. Much like Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, I find Avengers: Infinity War overblown and lacking any real personality.
I know I'm outnumbered as most people think it's fantastic, but there's just too many characters who don't get enough screen time in a film that somehow goes for a lumbering 149 minutes. Here's hoping Avengers: End Game can conclude the series in less than two hours.
1 Best: Black Panther (97%)
I'm not sure what's more impressive; a superhero movie with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 97% or a film that's steeped in diversity and showcases the talents of the community and gives them their own superhero to help inspire positive change.
Director Ryan Coogler hits all the right notes with a screenplay balancing heavy themes with great action and drama.
The cast is also perfect, with Chadwick Boseman, Micheal B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker bringing a sense of family to a film that is worthy of an Oscar win.