With Marvel’s newest movie “Infinity War” coming out in just a couple of days, and the comic book-based studio promising that it will be the biggest film yet, I thought it’d be a good time to rank the previous 18 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies by using math.
These movies are cash grabs but have turned themselves into event-movies that people have to watch because it’s the last gasp of pop culture’s “monoculture” which means the movie or TV show people talk about around the water cooler. I used a formula I modified from something “The Ringer” used to rank every superhero movie leading up to “Black Panther.”
But I’ve tweaked it to work a little better by streamlining some parts which should make it simpler. It contains six different components that I thought were valuable for grading these movies. It was also designed to make it easier for someone who has missed a couple movies to catch up with only the best or most important flicks. Here’s a breakdown of what the formula used:
- Fan Rating (FR): I sent a survey out to around 30 people I know that are either film buffs or Marvel-fanatics (The same group of fans also worked with the rewatchability, timelessness and IOP ratings). I asked them to rate each film on a scale of 1-10 based on how much they enjoyed it because they think differently than critics.
- Rewatchability (RWA): On a scale of 1-10 — with 1 being “absolutely not” and 10 being “absolutely yes” — would you be willing to watch this movie again?
- Timelessness(TLS): On a scale of 1-10 — with 1 being “blow it up and rebuild from scratch” and 10 being “it’s perfect” — do you think this movie needs to be remade?
- Importance to overarching plot (IOP): The way the MCU has become super successful financially is by serializing their movies so that you have to watch the next one for another one down the line to make sense. I understand that there will certain things tied into others in “Infinity War,” but some of these movies are mostly fat beside their post-credit scenes. So on a scale of 1-10, rate how important the movie was to the rest of the MCU and the upcoming “Infinity War.”
- Critical Success (CS): I used the Metacritic rating instead of Rotten Tomatoes because RT focuses on whether a film is “fresh” or “rotten” giving people skewed values. Metacritic provides the audience with the actual average score from a bunch of different film critics.
- Adjusted Box Office Results (ABOR): Since the first movie of the MCU, “Iron Man,” came out in 2008 and the most recent movie, “Black Panther,” came out in 2018. So I adjusted each box office gross for inflation to keep all the movies on level ground. However, the performance for MCU movies gets better as each year goes on because they became more important to the monoculture forcing more people to come out the theaters, so a lot more new ones will be at the top of the list.
I then ran the scores of those six numbers through a formula I created. I then ranked each movie based on its score. Now that all of the math mumbo-jumbo is out of the way, here are the rankings:
18. Incredible Hulk— 21.8— This movie didn’t stand a chance because the star, Edward Norton, was recast for the rest of the MCU movies, and the story basically has zero relevance to the rest of the movies.
17. Thor: The Dark World — 34.6 —This is a turd of a movie, and, luckily, its sequel, “Thor: Ragnarok.” basically undoes all the horrifying parts of this movie in the first 20 minutes.
16. Thor — 34.9 — The first Hemsworth MCU film, didn’t go well. But neither one of the previous movies were his fault. He just had zero to work with script-wise. I know Loki was a good villain an important for the first Avengers movie, but besides him and Thor, the movie is a dud.
15. Iron Man 2 — 37.8 — Despite making more money than the first one, this movie was unable to get out of its own way and let Downey shine as the troubled Stark. The villains were also horrible.
14. Doctor Strange — 39.7 — What’s funny DS landing here is that the critics liked this movie and did well at the box office. The issue was that most of the polled people were ambivalent about the film which led to mediocre scores in the four other areas.
13. Ant-Man — 41 — “Ant-Man” had the opposite problem of “Doctor Strange.” It did fine at the box office, but not as great as other MCU movies. It also doesn’t appear to be important to the expanded universe, but it scored really well in the fan rating, timelessness and rewatchability categories.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — 41.5 — This was the most polarizing movie for the people I polled. Some rated it super low while others thought it was great and hilarious but admitted it didn’t live up to the height of the first Guardians film.
11. Captain American: The First Avenger — 42.5 — Another polarizing film. To some, it’s a great period piece that happens to be about a superhero fighting Nazis (which is cool). Or it can be considered a movie about a flat and boring main character.
10. Iron Man 3 — 46.5 — This movie was buoyed by a huge box office (the fourth-highest of an MCU piece) that was, most likely, the result of coming right after the first Avengers movie, so there was a lot of goodwill for Marvel films.
9. Spider Man: Homecoming — 52.6 — This is where the chaff gets turned out. This was a delightful, good movie that performed well at the box office. It’s a fun high school comedy.
8. Avengers: Age of Ultron — 52.7 — Well, “Spider Man: Homecoming” should’ve signaled smooth sailing. But the Ultron movie did too well at the box office to be rated any lower despite the fact that it was rated as a below average film in most other categories.
7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier — 53.6 — Some hail this as a great political thriller/spy movie, which it is. If it has come out a couple years later, it would probably be higher on the list since MCU movies make so much now, but seven is a good spot for this one.
6. Iron Man — 54.2 — The fact that this movie isn’t higher is a tragedy. It was the highest rated movie across the board and birthed the entire MCU, but since it came out in 2008 before the MCU was a thing, it didn’t score high enough on the ABOR to get any higher than sixth.
5. Thor: Ragnarok — 57.6 — A truly funny movie that allows Chris Hemsworth be a funny and dynamic leading man. This movie saved the character by allowing him to be funny and do zany things in space.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy — 59.0 — The MCU movie that allowed people to see that directors and actors could use Marvel as a vehicle to make the kind of movie they want which spawned “Ant-Man” and the vibe for “Thor: Ragnarok.”
3. Captain America: Civil War — 62.2 — This is basically another Avengers film since most of the MCU characters collide in it (literally). The big airport battle is well-choreographed and introduces the lovable new version of Peter Parker/Spider Man.
2. Black Panther — 65.6 — Before I crunched the numbers, I thought it would be the top of the list because of how beloved and dominant this movie has been. It will be a shock if the Black Panther characters don’t factor heavily into Infinity War. But not even a movie this great could take down the runaway success of the top movie.
1. Avengers — 67.4 — This movie was number one at the box office, and Black Panther is still almost $350,000 behind when I wrote this. This movie introduced the concept of putting the entire gang together. Without it also being an above average film, the MCU might not be as big as it is. But don’t be shocked if “Infinity War” breaks its record.