The First Four Phases Of The MCU, Ranked

The cast of Avengers: Endgame
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

It’s kind of hard for me to think back to 2008 when the first Iron Man movie came out, which jump started the MCU with all of its subsequent Marvel movies and TV shows. Back then, I wasn’t married, didn’t have a house, or children, and was still living with my dad. But, a lot can change in 14 years, and we’re now just finishing with Marvel Phase Four, which some members of our staff have undoubtedly had issues with.  

In fact, I have, too, as I’ve mostly gotten off the Marvel hype train as of late (Again, 14 years is a long time for any relationship. Especially one that doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon: See our upcoming Marvel movies list). It hasn’t been all bad for Phase 4, though, and we’ve even discussed some of the best things about Marvel’s Phase 4.

That said, I want to talk about all four phases, focusing on each phase’s highest highs, and lowest lows. So, without further ado, here is every phase of the MCU, ranked. 

Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) leaving Earth in Avengers: Age of Ultron

(Image credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

4. Phase 2

Okay, so listen. With only six films in Phase 2, those being Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man, I think it’s pretty clear why Phase 2 falls at the bottom of this list. 

First off, we had the extremely polarizing Iron Man 3, which some fans (including myself) have issues with when it came to that Mandarin bait and switch (which Shang-Chi thankfully cleaned up). You also arguably have the very worst Marvel movie (Well, until Thor: Love and Thunder came along) in Phase 2 with Thor: The Dark World. Finally, you have the not-as-good follow-up to the first Avengers movie, Age of Ultron, and that movie often gets forgotten.     

So, yeah, its lows are pretty low. But, its highs are also VERY high, as we got the first Russo brothers’ MCU film in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is still close to being my all-time favorite Marvel movie, the very enjoyable Ant-Man, as well as the surprise hit, Guardians of the Galaxy, which took some really D-Level Marvel characters and brought them to the big leagues. (With stunning results!) So, while Phase 2 had its high points, the low points make it feel pretty lopsided, overall. Oh, well. Not every phase can be the best. 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

3. Phase 4 

Much has already been said about Phase 4, which is the phase that just ended. One, is that it’s bloated, as it’s had both a plethora of movies AND TV shows. Of the movies, we had a whopping seven, which were Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals (my new favorite Marvel movie), the enjoyable Spider-Man: No Way Home, which I am still baffled didn’t get nominated for Best Picture, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.    

Of those, I despised Thor: Love and Thunder, was meh on Wakanda Forever, Doctor Strange, and Black Widow, liked Shang-Chi and Spider-Man, and LOVED Eternals. So, there were more misses than hits for me. TV-wise, we had EIGHT shows, and they were: WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, What If…? Hawkeye, Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. But, that’s not all, since we also got two specials: Werewolf by Night, and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.  

And, while I enjoyed Loki, WandaVision (for the most part), She-Hulk, and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, I found the others pretty blah, which is really the biggest problem I had with Phase 4. There was so much content, but a great deal of it was middling. There was quantity, but not always quality. Hopefully Phase 5 will be a lot better.  

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark at the end of Iron Man

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

2. Phase 1 

Phase 1 went on for a whopping four years, and only had six movies, but all of them (at least at the time) felt important and like they were building toward something great. As mentioned up top, we had Iron Man in 2008 with that game-changing post-credit scene, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and the seemingly impossible, The Avengers, which I used to think was better than anything Star Wars had ever done, but now I have to walk back, since Andor is now the best thing that Star Wars has ever done, and it's phenomenal (no, I’m not taking that back).   

While I wouldn’t say that ALL of those movies were good—in fact, The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man 2 are actually kind of bad–I would say that I’ve never been more excited about the prospects of the MCU than I was with Phase 1, when it was all so fresh and new. And yeah, that first Avengers movie STILL holds up. That said, it’s not even the best Avengers movie. That honor would go to a movie in… 

Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. in Infinity War

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

1. Phase 3  

Phase 3 had a seismic 11 films (the most of any phase), but guess what? They’re all good! Those films are: Captain America: Civil War (an absolute banger), Doctor Strange (Unique!), Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 (surprisingly somber), Spider-Man: Homecoming (Fun!), Thor: Ragnarok (Funny!), Black Panther (Groundbreaking!), Avengers: Infinity War (Shocking!), Ant-Man and the Wasp (a great sequel), Captain Marvel (Cool!), Avengers: Endgame (A years in the making event!), and Spider-Man: Far From Home (Enjoyable).   

In fact, I think the only reason why Phase 4 is often seen as a letdown (and “directionless” as I’ve often heard it called) is because Phase 3 was just so good. It’s almost not fair. Infinity War and Endgame were pretty much being built up to since the first Avengers movie, so the fact that they both paid off automatically makes Phase 3 a contender for the best phase of the MCU. But, the fact that all of the movies were either good or outstanding? Well, then it’s just no contest. Plus, there were no mediocre TV shows to hold it back, making Phase 3 the end all, be all best phase of the MCU.  

But, what do you think? Is Phase 3 also your favorite phase? Remember that you can watch all of the Marvel movies in order, anytime, regardless of your favorite MCU phase!  

Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.