Liam Hoofe ranks all four of Marvel’s phases so far…
The recent release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever marked the end of Marvel’s Phase Four, at least as far as the movies are concerned. The phase was the company’s quickest, starting and ending in less than 18 months, but it managed to pack in more than any of the phases that come before it.
The MCU has come a long way from the release of the first Iron Man movie all the way back in 2008. With 30 films, eight TV shows, and two Special Presentations under its belt, the franchise has never been far away from people’s pop culture conversations over the last 15 years.
With Phase Four now in the history books, now feels as good a time as ever to take a look back on the first four phases, reflect on what they have brought to the table, and rank them from worst to best.
The MCU had a pretty faultless record throughout its first three phases. For the most part, all of the movies felt as though they contributed to the bigger picture and there felt like there was plenty of storyline progression within each film.
Phase Four felt very much the opposite. Following on from the events of Phase Three was also going to be tricky, and while things got off to a good start with shows like WandaVision and Loki, it didn’t take long for the phase to begin to feel overstuffed and muddled.
The introduction of TV shows to the MCU in Phase Four made it feel like more of a chore to keep up with everything than ever before. The fact that many of these shows had an impact on the bigger storylines and you had to watch them to keep up with the films was incredibly irritating, especially given the rate they were churned out at.
On top of that, the phase also marked the franchise’s first real dips in quality. Movies like Eternals and Thor: Love and Thunder were hugely disappointing, while many of the TV shows, while fun, were instantly forgettable.
There were still plenty of highlights though, with Spider-Man: No Way Home, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings being able to hold their own with the best that the MCU has produced.
All being well, history will be kind to Phase Four, and many of the bigger storylines will pay off in the next two phases, but right now, it sits bottom of the pile.
Best Movie: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Worst Movie: Eternals
Best TV Show: WandaVision
Worst TV Show: She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
SEE ALSO: Ranking Marvel’s Phase Four Movies From Worst to Best
From the biggest phase in the MCU to the smallest. Phase One was where it all began. It offered a lean story that focused on the assembling of the original Avengers group, and it all culminated in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers in 2012.
There are only six movies in Phase One, and while there are some definite early misfires, many of the early films are fondly remembered by audiences. The original Iron Man is still considered one of the best superhero movies of all time, and while it is not as good as the ones that came after it, Captain America: The First Avenger is a blast.
The Ed Norton The Incredible Hulk movie is still one of the strangest movies in the MCU and is something that they are likely to retcon with the multiverse saga, and Iron Man 2 is Robert Downey Jr.’s weakest outing as Tony Stark but these feel like teething problems in hindsight.
The original Avengers movie provided us with some of the franchise’s most memorable moments, and while it might not seem as ambitious now as it was then, it is still a brilliant blockbuster movie.
Best Movie: The Avengers
Worst Movie: The Incredible Hulk
Following the success of the original Avengers movie, Phase Two was when the scope of the MCU really started to expand. The introduction of several new characters helped to pad out the Avengers and it delivered some of the best movies in MCU history.
Things kicked off with Iron Man 3 which is regarded by many as the best of the Iron Man trilogy. The film brought Stark’s central storyline to a close and also give us one of the most controversial moments in MCU history with Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin reveal.
Another hugely successful sequel was Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This is still widely regarded as one of the best MCU movies ever released and it was the first time that the franchise felt as though it was willing to really explore other genres and bigger issues. This was followed by another of the most respected films in the franchise in the shape of Guardians of the Galaxy.
In hindsight, this was a hugely significant movie for the MCU, as it branched out into space and also introduced us to new characters that popular audiences were not well acquainted with. It really highlighted the potential of the series and the worlds that it could explore.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is arguably the weakest Avengers movie, and Thor: The Dark World was a minor disappointment but neither are movies that would be described as bad. The phase closed with the introduction of Ant-Man in what was a troubled project that managed to pull itself together to provide a unique entry into the series at this point.
Best Movie: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Worst Movie: Thor: The Dark World
Did Marvel peak with Phase Three? It’s hard to imagine the studio ever putting together a phase as consistently enjoyable and as compelling as their third one. This really felt like a culmination of 12 years of storytelling, and the pay-off was one of the most epic blockbuster moments in cinema.
Black Panther, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, and Thor: Ragnarok could all make a case for being the greatest MCU movie of all time, and that’s without looking at the two Spider-Man movies.
The phase basically featured three Avengers movies, with Civil War bringing everyone together in epic fashion. The introduction of Black Panther and Spider-Man were both fantastic, and while Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel were quite generic origin stories, neither of them could be described as bad.
There have been few movies that have built up as much hype and then delivered on it in the way that Avengers: Endgame did. The final battle with Thanos and the emergence of every MCU character was one of the best blockbuster moments of all time, and it is difficult to imagine Marvel will ever top this.
That said, Avengers: Secret Wars has the potential to provide us with an even bigger moment. But for now, this is the greatest Phase Marvel has ever produced and serves as a reminder of just how impressive this level of world-building has been.
Best Movie: Captain America: Civil War
Worst Movie: Captain Marvel
How would you rank Marvel’s first four Phases? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…