Note: This piece was originally published in April of 2019, right before the release of Avengers: Endgame. It has been updated with all the Marvel movies that have come out since.
In a few days, Marvel Studios will finally pay off the agonizing cliffhanger of last summer’s Avengers: Infinity War with the culmination of 11 years of comic-to-screen storytelling. How will the hotly anticipated Endgame measure up to the 21 movies that have come before it, going all the way back to Iron Man in 2008? Conventional critical wisdom holds that the floor and the ceiling of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are not so far apart—that in devising a recipe for success, the company has managed to avoid any outright disasters, even as its principle of quality-without-risk also more or less negates the possibility of a true pop masterpiece of the genre. Still, as anyone who’s sat through both a boring Iron Man or Thor sequel and last winter’s Oscar-winning zeitgeist phenomenon Black Panther can surely attest, there is a range of quality within this franchise of franchises. Which is to say, while every MCU movie has been a hit, they are not all created equal. Below, The A.V. Club has offered its ranking, from worst to best, of every Marvel movie leading up to this week’s new one. Like the studio, we wouldn’t dream of spoiling our endgame. Okay, here’s one little hint: Ed Norton fans, this won’t be your day of vindication.