The fourth phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) turned out to be a mixed bag in terms of quality. It was also different in that the MCU now officially incorporated TV shows and as a result, we had plenty to watch and enjoy. Some of the films and TV shows were bonafide gems, others were hugely disappointing. As we prepare for Phase Five, let’s look back at Phase Four of the MCU and rank them. If anyone has a different list order, please feel free to drop a comment.
18. Ms. Marvel
Where to start with this MCU TV show? Not only does it turn Ms. Marvel into a poor person’s Green Lantern, it betrays her comic roots by making her a mutant. Then it commits the deadly sin by veering too much into dull Pakistani family drama that took up valuable screen time.
This is a contender for being the worst MCU film. It’s dull, plodding and pretentious. What’s worse is that it insults comic book legend Jack Kirby’s original vision of these superheroes by changing their origin and purpose. It ranks higher than Ms. Marvel only because its special effects and cinematography were better.
16. I Am Groot
Basically, it was a cute animated show. Actually it was a bunch of five-minute segments featuring Baby Groot doing silly antics. So, pretty much it was geared for kids and the young at heart, but otherwise, it’s harmless fluff for the rest of us to skip over or watch to kill a few minutes of time.
15. Moon Knight
Despite Oscar Isaac’s winning performance as the title character and some good fight scenes, the show was too uneven. It seemed as if the showrunners could not decide if Moon Knight was a psychological mystery, an Indiana Jones-type of adventure story or a downright fantasy. What we got was a narrative mess.
This show that first expanded on the concept of the multiverse is a perfect case for showing not telling. It did have some interesting concepts and the introduction of Kang was chilling, the show was weighed down by too many scenes of exposition that was not particularly engaging.
13. She-Hulk: Attorney At Law
Unlike other uneven MCU TV shows that fell apart at the end, this one stuck the landing hard. Unfortunately, many episodes of this supposed comedy were simply not funny. Still, Tatiana Maslany turned in an endearing performance as the title character while she went through the downside of being a superhero celebrity.
12. Black Widow
A film set during Phase Three starring a now-dead character was an unusual way to start the film side of Phase Four of the MCU. Some complained the film was unnecessary, but it cannot be denied that it was an exciting spy thriller with some memorable characters.
This could have been one of the greatest superhero TV shows due to onscreen buddy chemistry between Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld and presenting the physical and emotional toll Hawkeye suffered from the MCU films. But, the writing and directing was inconsistent, though some episodes were terrific.
10. Thor: Love and Thunder
While it is not as good as Thor: Ragnarok, the fourth Thor film was downright hysterical and enjoyable at times. However, it was hampered with its uneven tone that made too light of some sober themes like cancer and deity worship that were often overwhelmed by poorly timed slapstick scenes.
9. Werewolf By Night
After the uneven results of its MCU TV shows, Marvel Studios tried a new approach with a one-off TV special. It not only worked spectacularly, but the special expanded the MCU with more horror elements and intriguing new characters that must be brought back again.
8. What If…?
This animated series sometimes went wild with its exploration of the multiverse with interesting alternate MCU worlds that led to an epic showdown at the end of the season that teamed up several familiar heroes with new twists. Unlike Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Ultron featured in this series was truly terrifying.
7. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
Both funny and heartfelt, this holiday special from director James Gunn is everything a holiday special should be. Aside from presenting the usual heart-tugging and whimsical elements of a holiday special, it also served as an excellent way of preparing us for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3.
6. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
The second MCU TV show did a great job of examining the impact of the events from Avengers: Endgame on the world and several Captain America-related characters. What made the character moments so memorable were that they were so grounded and relatable to viewers, and touched on real-world issues.
5. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
This action fantasy film is a perfect example of taking an obscure character and turning him and his world into a popular sensation. The film impressed all of us with the stunning and exciting fight sequences and its eye-popping fantasy scenes were quite breathtaking and wondrous. It’s easy to see why its director was tapped to film the next Avengers film.
4. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The sequel to Black Panther proved to be a worthy followup to the original film, even without its main character. Director Ryan Coogler co-wrote this heartfelt and somber film that dwelled on the devastating aftermath from the loss of Black Panther as felt by his loved ones and his nation. Also, Namor was a brilliantly presented anti-hero/antagonist with a thought-provoking back story.
3. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
While the multiverse was not exactly mad in the second Doctor Strange film, the concepts of other realities was well explored with a visual relish by director Sam Raimi. Drawing from his horror film repertoire, Raimi infused the film with chilling horror elements and imagery, and fantastic (forgive the pun) references to other Marvel Comics properties and Marvel film universes.
The very first MCU TV show is still the best one to date. Elizabeth Olsen gave a genuine standout performance as the emotionally fragile Wanda Maximoff dealing with immense grief in an unusual way. The show quickly became must-see viewing as we pondered the mystery of what was going on with Wanda’s reality that was presented by amusing takes of American sitcoms through the decades. WandaVision also expanded the MCU in an organic, supernatural way that did not feel forced and teased us of what was to come.
1. Spider-Man: No Way Home
The third MCU Spider-Man film turned out to be one of the best MCU films ever as the film truly opened up and introduced audiences to the concept of the multiverse. Fans were elated over Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire reprising their roles as Spider-Man, as well as the return of classic Spider-Man villains like Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin (reprised by the actors who originated the roles: Al Molina and Willem Dafoe). What made the film truly stand out was its deeply emotional core as Spider-Man is forced to learn that with great power, comes great responsibility.