The Ultimate Ranking Of All MARVEL COMICS Movies

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(UPDATE 8-31-15: Added Fantastic Four, Ant-Man, and Avengers: Age Of Ultron to the list)

Rank every single motion picture featuring a Marvel Comics character, and write something about each one to back up the placement? You’d have to be an idiot to even attempt such a thing!

Well, meet that idiot, ladies and gentlemen.

It took time, a boatload of research, and a lot of hemming and hawing, (and probably some deep-seeded masochistic tendencies) but I was finally able to lock down the order. So, my beloved Marvel zombies, it is my distinct  pleasure to present to you – the ultimate, definitive (in my opinion, anyway) rankings of ALL MARVEL COMICS MOVIES:

(Ed. Note -Before we dive headlong into this massive undertaking, I think it’s important to explain what isn’t going to appear on this countdown. My criteria for the rankings was simple – only feature-length, live-action movies featuring Marvel comic book characters released into theaters or direct-to-video were eligible. This eliminated the Roger Corman 1994 Fantastic Four movie from consideration because it was never actually given an official release, as well as all of the made-for-TV flicks like Hasselhoff’s Nick Fury: Agent Of SHIELD, Doctor Strange, Generation X, Spider-Man, Captain America, and all of the Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk stuff.

I also excluded the Captain America movie serials from the 1940s because I’ve never gotten the opportunity to see them, and they were never intended to be screened as a single, feature-length presentation, anyway. Also, some of you hardcore sticklers out there may call me out on the inclusion of the Kick-Ass movies on this countdown, and technically speaking, you’d be right to do so as Kick-Ass is a creator-owned IP that’s only published by Marvel. Still, that logo is on the issues, so I added them to make this list a solid 40 films. Oh, and one more thing – in the interest of full disclosure, there are one or two entries that are, shall we say “recycled” from reviews and features I’ve written in the past. So yes, I’ve plagiarized myself. But it’s okay, I forgive me.)

 

43.) Elektra (2005)

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Scraping the absolute bottom of the Marvel movie barrel is this colossal misfire from 20th Century Fox, who somehow thought a spin-off of the dreadful—and critically loathed—Daredevil adaptation (we’ll get to that soon) was a smart business decision. Elektra was completely ignored by average moviegoers and hardcore comic book fans alike upon its release in January 2005, grossing a paltry $12 million over the weekend, finishing with a $24 million domestic take on a $43 million production budget. The movie returned the most white bread, WASP-y actress in Hollywood at the time, Jennifer Garner to the role of the exotic, deadly Greek assassin, who was somehow resurrected after her impalement in Daredevil and became embroiled in a kidnapping plot involving ninjas and terrible super-powered villains that’s quite honestly too tedious and stupid to bother re-capping.


42.) Howard The Duck (1986)

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Howard the Duck was a subversive, satirical Marvel comic created by Steve Gerber in the ’70s. It was one of the first comics to contain meta-textual content, political commentary, and was oftentimes a send-up of the office politics going on at Marvel itself. The movie adaptation, however, is a schlocky Hollywood blockbuster about a wacky anthropomorphic duck who gets sucked through a vortex on his home planet and crash-lands on Earth, where he gets mixed up with a nerdy Tim Robbins, a big-haired Lea Thompson, and mad scientist Jeffrey Jones. Howard The Duck manages to be simultaneously creepy, unfunny, and pretty gross (It’s strongly implied that Lea Thompson’s character and Howard are doing it). When people talk about the transformation of George Lucas from benevolent, imaginative creator of timeless fantasy-adventure films to crass, money-grubbing, creatively bankrupt producer of empty spectacle, Howard The Duck is usually one of the first things cited as evidence.


41.) X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the absolute low point for 20th Century Fox’ X-Men franchise, and is one of the worst superhero movies ever made. Rushed into production with an absolute mess of a screenplay, hacked to smithereens in the editing room, and incompetently directed by Gavin Hood – the film completely botches an attempt to combine an adaptation of the Daniel Way-Steve Dillon Wolverine: Origins comic series with the cinematic continuity of the previous X-Men films. Among Origins‘ transgressions is a completely toothless, wussy Wolverine; a mangled timeline; the needless shoehorning in of dozens of extraneous mutant characters like The Blob, Deadpool (perfectly played by Ryan Reynolds, to be fair), Gambit, Emma Frost, and more; and a ludicrous final battle sequence on Three Mile Island between Wolverine and a surgically enhanced Deadpool, who could teleport and shoot lasers out of his eyes. Oh, and his mouth was sewn shut. Yes, really.


40.) Fantastic Four (2015)

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20th Century Fox’s disastrous fecal bomb of a Fantastic Four reboot became one of the biggest financial catastrophes in comic book history after it opened to a humiliating $25.6 million, and subsequently dropped off 69% the following weekend. It was also utterly annihilated by critics (the film currently sits at 9% on Rotten Tomatoes) for its bleak visuals, dour tone, claustrophobic bunker/lab sets, and a lack of chemistry among its young cast. The majority of the film’s issues can be traced back to the studio’s backing of controversial and erratic young director Josh Trank’s vision of a grim and gritty take on Marvel’s “First Family” that had more in common with a “David Cronenberg body horror movie” than the lighthearted, adventurous spectacle portrayed in the pages of the comic books.

Trank’s behavior on set and off was the subject of intense Internet scrutiny in the months and weeks leading up to the films release – he reportedly caused $100,000 worth of damage to the house he was renting during shooting thanks to his dogs, he didn’t get along with Invisible Woman actress Kate Mara (who apparently was forced on him by Fox), he was confrontational and moody, and he nearly came to blows with Mr. Fantastic actor Miles Teller on set. Eventually the Fox suits lost faith in Trank, slashed the budget, eliminated three key action scenes, and did a hasty reshoot of the film’s third act which delivered a rushed, out-of-nowhere CGI battle sequence with Dr. Doom (the second time this character had been mishandled on screen) and the worst blonde wig in cinema history.


39.) The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

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This movie is terrible. TERRIBLE. I eviscerated Amazing Spider-Man 2 in my full-length review, and it continues to make me angrier and angrier the more I think about it. Aside from the phenomenal scenes of Spider-Man swinging, wise-cracking, and saving people in spectacular fashion (which takes up about 8 minutes of a 2-plus hour film), this sequel to an unnecessary reboot is an unmitigated disaster in almost every way. It’s bloated, garish, boring, intelligence-insulting, and it just flat-out doesn’t work.

Jaime Foxx plays his Electro/Max Dillon role like a guy who has only ever watched two or three superhero movies from the ’90s, turning in an over-the-top, way too broad, cringe worthy villain caricature. Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn is an immediately unlikable asshole, Andrew Garfield’s Peter is still too cool, aloof, and smoldering to be an effective Peter Parker, and I just feel bad for Emma Stone for having to waste her effortless effervescence in these turd movies. This is the lowest-grossing Spider-Man movie of all time, and for good reason;  it’s so bad that it forced Sony to completely scrap their release slate, pushing back Amazing Spider-Man 3 to 2018. I guess their hope is that people will forget about this mess and actually want to see another Spider-Man movie by then.


38.) Man-Thing (2005)

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Honestly, Man-Thing isn’t too horrible for a Direct-To-Video movie (especially considering what we’ve come to expect from those movies these days), but it’s still populated by dull, faceless characters; and turned a bizarre and unique Marvel comics creation  into just another B-horror movie creature. The effects are surprisingly good for a straight-to-video flick in 2005, but beyond that, there really isn’t much to say about this very brief footnote in Marvel cinematic history.


37.) Captain America (1990)

capamerica1990

Before Chris Evans strapped on the shield and became the living embodiment of the star-spangled Avenger on-screen in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, the cheapie 21st Century Film Corporation put author J.D. Salinger’s kid Matt Salinger in a rubber Cap suit (complete with rubber ears!), and trotted him out in an embarrassingly cheap and shoddy direct-to-video adaptation. A WWII battle sequence following Cap’s (mostly faithful) origin in the first act showed some promise, but it’s obvious that the $10 million budget was chewed up after that and the remainder of the film is laughably bad.

The worst aspect of this movie for me was Captain America’s complete ineptitude when it came to fighting the Red Skull. Cap, of course, is supposed to be the greatest hand-to-hand fighter on the planet, yet he gets his ass handed to him by the Red Skull during their first meeting, barely getting a punch in. Oh, and did I mention the Red Skull is ITALIAN, and not German? Yeah, that should tell you all you need to know about this turkey. But hey, Ned Beatty’s in it, so it has that going for it.


36.) Ghost Rider (2006)

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This movie is the cinematic equivalent of lighting a bag of dog shit on fire, plopping it down on someone’s front stoop, ringing the doorbell and running away laughing. Director Mark Steven Johnson (who will appear again on this list soon) enlisted noted Marvel Comics superfan Nicolas Cage—who at this point, was just beginning his descent into madness and insolvency—to strap on the worst hairpiece in the history of film to portray Johnny Blaze, the motorcycle stuntman alter-ego of the demon with the flaming skull known as Ghost Rider.

Cage decided to essentially play Johnny as Elvis Presley, and along for the ride was a mumbly, wooden Eva Mendes; a bored Peter Fonda; a paycheck-cashing Sam Elliot; and American Beauty‘s Wes Bentley as the villain Blackheart, who looked like a proto-Edward Cullen from the Twilight franchise. Terrible dialogue, a nonsensical narrative involving an ancient scroll, inert action sequences with zero stakes, and shoddy CGI effects all colluded to send this fiery stinker to eternal cinematic damnation.


35.) The Punisher (1989)

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On paper, The Punisher seems like one of the easiest Marvel comics properties to adapt to the big screen. He has no superpowers, so you don’t need a massive budget for special effects, and the narrative is a relatively straightforward one — war veteran returns home, sees his family brutally gunned down in a park by the mob, and vows to take vengeance on all criminals using stealth, martial arts skills and enough guns to arm a third-world nation. Yet, somehow, studios and directors can’t seem to make a successful adaptation out of this basic premise.

The first attempt was this direct-to-video cheapie starring Rocky IV‘s Ivan Drago, Dolph Lundgren as a Punisher who likes to sit Indian style in grimy sewers completely naked and deliver cheap hooch to his hobo informants in a Radio Shack RC car. The flick also stars Louis Gossett, Jr, as a cop hunting the Punisher down, and eventually the storyline involves the Yakuza kidnapping the children of mob bosses, and the mafia turning to the Punisher to help rescue them. Yes, it’s as dumb as it sounds. Also the costume designer on the project thought it was a good idea to leave out the single most iconic element of the character — the skull on his chest. So to recap, skull on chest = too silly. Sitting naked in a sewer = acceptable.


34.) Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance (2011)

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I’m ranking the Ghost Rider sequel a couple notches above the original because it had better directors (The Crank tandem of Neveldine & Taylor) who brought a more kinetic action style to the film, Badass Supreme Idris Elba is in it , and by this time the career meltdown of Nic Cage was at peak levels, making his batshit Elvis impersonation quite entertaining to watch. (His hairpiece was much better this time around, too.) The sequence where some goons fire hundreds of bullets into Ghost Rider’s face and he spits them all back out like a hellish machine gun is also pretty badass. However, even with all of those elements in play, Spirit Of Vengeance is still a near-unwatchable nothing of a movie, with no one to care about and ugly, sparse locations. There is a scene in this film where Ghost Rider literally pisses fire. That happens. In a movie. I think we’re done here.


33.) Fantastic Four (2005)

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Marvel helped usher in the Silver Age of comics with The Fantastic Four #1 in November, 1961. “The First Family Of Comics” M.O. was high adventure, mind-blowing science, huge super-heroic spectacle, and encounters with bizarre creatures and beings from outer space and parallel dimensions. All of that sounds like it would make for a pretty insane summer blockbuster, right? Get Michael Chiklis to play a note-perfect Ben Grimm/The Thing and you’re on to box-office glory, right? Well, not if you’re 20th Century Fox, who saw the FF as a middling, moderately budgeted affair rushed into production to capitalize on the success of the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises (and to retain those pesky film rights to the IP).

Flatly lit, flatly shot, and just plain flatly executed by journeyman director Tim Story, The Fantastic Four is a  weightless bit of superhero fluff that fails in capturing the spirit of the comic book in almost every aspect, save one — the antagonistic but loving character dynamic between The Thing and Johnny Storm/The Human Torch, the latter perfectly realized by Chris Evans, years before taking on the Captain America role for Marvel Studios. Everything else in the movie is just lame, from Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba’s terrible chemistry as Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, to the brief, dull action sequences. But the ultimate atrocity perpetrated by this weak adaptation is the catastrophic mis-casting of Nip/Tuck‘s Julian McMahon as Doctor Doom, who reduces the most  fearsome villain in the entire Pantheon of Marvel baddies to a weaselly Business Tycoon constantly trying to get into Jessica Alba’s panties. Unforgivable.

Continue to Entries #32-21

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Jeff Carter

Jeff is the defining voice of his generation. Sadly, that generation exists only in an alternate dimension where George Lucas became supreme overlord of the Earth in 1979 and replaced every television broadcast and theatrical film on the planet with Star Wars and Godzilla movies. In this dimension, he’s just a guy from New England who likes writing snarky things about superheroes, monsters, and robots.

  • Sean F Gallagher

    I was with you right up until you put Guardians of the Galaxy above Spider-Man 2, Captain America: Winter Soldier, and The Avengers. It is a great fun movie with lots of entertainment value, but in no way does it compare to any of those other three movies. You are being blinded by chronal proximity combined with probably a certain amount of amazement that they were able to make such a good movie out of such obscure characters. I would honestly argue that it would be in a pretty tight battle for 4th/5th/6th place with Iron Man and X-Men 2.

    No way does it compare to the other three though.

    • Thanks for kicking things off here, Sean! “Chronal Proximity” ha! I like that! You may have a point there — the film is still in release, after all. I very well could be too easily swayed by my visceral and emotional reaction to it. I really do feel like GOTG is going to stand the test of time, though, and will be thought of as something truly special. Beyond the best character work in a Marvel film to date, there’s an intangible quality there — a spark and a soul the other films lack. But hey, this is just one dude’s list.

    • fryator

      I kind of agree with you, but, for the next couple months/years, I think what they did deserve top spot for now. As a comic book movie adaptation, it was, for me, the one that did that part better (even better than Dark Knight, etc…). As a movie per say, X2, Avengers, Winter Soldier might be better, but not by that much.
      Again, it was so much fun, it deserves at least their 5 minutes of fame for now.

      cheers.

  • I would slightly disagree with a few of these. I prefer Thor over Thor 2 and I liked First Class more than Days of Future Past. But, for the most part, I agree…and that doesn’t happen so often with me and other people. As for your number one, I would be hard pressed to choose between Guardians and Avengers, but the dancing Groot argument is rather hard to dispute. Seriously though, you did one hell of a job here. Fantastic. And here’s to hoping there’s a much better Howard the Duck in the near future. The little guy deserves it. See ya ’round the web.

    • Thanks, Kevyn! FC and DOFP are very close in my mind as well, but I gave the nod to DOFP because I think it expanded on the relationship triangle, and it added some great action stuff in the future sequences. Not to mention that killer, uber-fun Quicksilver set piece.

  • Milo

    Wow, any list that puts the 2003 crap fest known simply as “Hulk” over Spider-Man 3 and the Fantastic Four films from the 2000’s loses credibility!

    • Why? It’s a better made and more interesting film.

  • Markellus Ragans

    First off, this is a FANTASTIC list! I can pretty much agree with most of it, or at least can understand why it’s placed where it is. Although as I got to the end and saw that “The Avengers” was #2, I was stunned, shocked, & flabbergasted! Then my stomach dropped as I realized what #1 had to be. You, my friend, are crazy! I’m a fan of James Gunn, he made a really good movie, Joss Whedon pulled off a cinematic miracle while making a great movie. If the roles were reversed, could Gunn have woven together the plots, action beats, and satisfaction of “The Avengers”? Possibly, but doubtful. Could Whedon have made an popular space adventure about a rag tag group of misfits working together? Yup, and maybe even have it star Nathan Fillion.

    • Well, yes, you’re right, I most certainly *am* very crazy! Haha, but hey, in all seriousness, those two movies could be 1a and 1b…it’s that close in my mind. I just GOTG has a little more magic and soul…

  • Drevnibor

    A solid list, Jeff.
    I mostly agree with it, especially Guardians at #1 and Amazing Spidey 2 at #1.000.000.

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  • Martin

    #1. 2004 Punisher(I’m usually into action packed stuff, but I enjoy this movie a lot. Warzone is the only movie on your list that I gave up on finishing.)
    #2. The Incredible Hulk(definitely the best MCU movie)
    #3. Blade 2(Not much to say, but “Do you blush?” lol
    #4. Spiderman 2(Alfred Molina and Willem Dafoe should be #1 and #2 on everybody’s favorite supervillain portrayals.)
    #5. The Avengers
    #6. Spiderman
    #7. Blade
    #8. Iron Man

    I would move a few of the mcu movies to the back because CA:TFA, IM2 and IM3 sucked. Thor and Thor:TDW were watchable, but not that great.

    I haven’t watched GotG or X-men:DoFP yet. Everything else, I’ll agree on.

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  • ultronunlimited

    It´s a good list but I have a couple of disagreements. Iron Man 3 should be way lower in the list, like 10 positions or so. I think GotG was a quite good movie but still not great, so I don´t think it deserves that number 1. Also I don´t understand all the hate towards X-Men origins and Amazing Spiderman 2. Yeah, both of them left much to be desired, but, come on, at least if only for the technical aspect they should be above all direct-to-video movies. I´m not fan of them either, but having things as the 90´s Cap movie, the two Ghost Riders or the three Punishers that are real crap I don´t think they deserve that much hatred.

    • In my view, all the technical acumen in the world and visual splendor don’t make up for a compelling storyline and emotional investments into characters.If anything, you deserve a lower ranking if you can’t match your visuals with strong characters and narratives.

  • Dylan

    really grat list, i would of put sm2,avengers and Gotg as my top 3, however Gaurdians had really sloppy pacing.

    • Couldn’t disagree more! The excellent flow of that film and transition from scene to scene is one of its strong suits. Thanks for reading!

      • Dylan

        we can agree that the main baddie was crap. Rowen could of been amazing if he wasn;t so freaking bland and all “i’m evil for the sake of evil!” don’t get me wrong, SM2, Avengers, and GoTG are my top 3 and for em would put them all as number one. the cast in guardians was amazing, the story as fast pace was good enough for what it could of been, but my only issue was its face passing, it should of slowed down a bit, just a tiny bit. other then that and Ronan for being bland as crap. it was still probably the best movie along with CA2:WS of 2014. they still are my favorites. glad i;m not the only one who still see’s why Rami’s spider-man 1 and 2 being amazing adaptions to the spider-man mythos. I miss the real uncle Ben :c

        and I AGREE WITH YOU on both TASM 1 & 2. my theory is sony is sod esprate that they would even hire a bunch of hobo’s to do there “shared universe” I fear for what they will do with there “female lead superhero” please don;t be the next CATWOMAN!

        you are welcome,this was a great list. although Thomas Jane will always be frank castle to me, #DirtyLaundry cemented that.

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  • Lucas Tetrault

    I personally think you nailed the top 5 … good job there. Though if you dig deeper into your list – there are some that I would highly disagree with such as where you placed X-Men 3 etc.

    Either way – a fun list I had not seen done with such attention to detail – kudos.

  • donfrank

    Glad to see you read the indiewire article and copped all of their descriptions. Well played. Glad to see you changed up their order, at least. http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/from-howard-the-duck-to-the-winter-soldier-ranking-every-marvel-movie-20140403?page=2

    • Yes, because two websites out of the myriad thousands online couldn’t possibly have similar ideas. I can assure you, I never saw Indiewire’s list before compiling and writing my own, but after a cursory review of theirs, I think mine is far better and more thorough. I now realize you never even bothered to read any of my descriptons.Thanks for the baseless accusation of plagiarism, though. Have a lovely day.

  • _Monkey_Boy_

    Put X-Men: Days Of Future Past in the top 5, put Iron Man 3 in the bottom 3 and put The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a lot higher up – because that movie is NOT terrible, Iron Man 3 is!

    • StillCantBanMe

      Imagine that, the moron who looks like a fag has bad taste!

  • Dick Dastardley Diamond

    People who say iron man 3 sucked probably couldn’t write themselves out of an unlocked room with open windows.
    Just like any good series, like back to the future, I saw this as the perfect closing act, while preparing for the next big arc…
    While I enjoy mindless action , I prefer story and character development…. not Michael Bay crap.

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  • Your list is way out of whack for me. Your top five I can’t argue too much but thanks for putting in the time. It was a fun read even I disagree with a lot of it.