Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 Is Only the 7th Best Marvel Movie But That’s Still Saying Something

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is just in its second week in theatres, so we’re not quite ready to put the final word on its success. But, having recently seen it and been happy to go along for the ride, it’s notable that Vol. 2 doesn’t seem to be setting the world on fire like its predecessor did. Is it merely a question of novelty? Now that we’ve been introduced to the characters, is it impossible to recapture the magical moment of taking a talking raccoon in a live action movie seriously? Or is it more straightforward than that, that while the sequel is undoubtedly bigger and brighter, it’s simply not as great of a movie as the original.

We’ve gone back to our ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and decided to give it an update, scraping all our data points again to see what, if any changes have come up, and to see where Guardians Vol. 2 is likely to wind up in the pantheon of the MCU.

The ranking below is informed by multiple sources, including but not limited to, the Rotten Tomatoes critics scores and IMDb user rankings listed. An attached store (out of a possible 100) is also included as a way to show just how far critical and public opinion deviates from one movie to the next. This score is a weighted average of all of the factors taken into account.

15. The Incredible Hulk, 2008 (63/100)

Universal Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 67% | IMDb Score: 6.8

While never dull or incompetent, The Incredible Hulk is further argument that the more outlandish a superhero character, the better they’ll be in a supporting role, rather than in the lead. The Hulk is an absolute highlight in small doses in the Avengers movies but it’s challenging to make an unstoppable character relatable.

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14. Thor: The Dark World, 2013 (65/100)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 66% | IMDb Score: 7.1

Like with Hulk, Thor seems to be best suited for a supporting comedy role. Plus, Loki’s multiple fake-out deaths shine a bright light on the low stakes for fan favourite characters.

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13. Iron Man 2, 2010 (66/100)

Paramount Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 72% | IMDb Score: 7.0

While it can be argued that MCU movies follow a formula, Iron Man 2 did the least in following it. You could almost see the executives snapping their fingers impatiently waiting to be handed their money, thank you very much.

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12. Thor, 2011 (68/100)

Paramount Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 77% | IMDb Score: 7.0

While the movie did feature a few great fish-out-of-water comedy moments, Thor came during the swampy first “phase” of the MCU where the films started to feel like placeholders for the now-announced Avengers. I remember watching Thor and wishing more of it had taken place in the other realms because that’s surely where the character would shine. But considering I got my wish with The Dark World, I was probably wrong.

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11. Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011 (68/100)

Captain America: The First Avenger
Paramount Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 80% | IMDb Score: 6.9

There’s a reason that Steve Rogers has become such a stand-out character for the MCU. While not terribly memorable in its own right, Captain America: The First Avenger did everything it needed to do to lay the groundwork for why Rogers does what he does in the rest of the franchise. If you’re going to make a movie that’s essentially a commercial for the next one, this isn’t the worst way to do it.

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10. Iron Man 3, 2013 (70/100)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 79% | IMDb Score: 7.2

Iron Man 3 brought its title character right out of the shadow of its predecessor. Instead of simply going off and having his own new adventure, we got to see Tony Stark actually dealing with the consequences and magnitude of his decisions in The Avengers. Plus, the movie itself is sometimes fun and sometimes spectacular, and it included a plot twist that showed a willingness to defy comic book canon.

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9. Avengers: Age of Ultron, 2015 (71/100)

Walt Disney Pictures Motion Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 75% | IMDb Score: 7.5

While fans were more keen on Age of Ultron than critics, no one can argue that Joss Whedon had an unenviable task in trying to follow up The Avengers. Formulaic, if not a bit cluttered, the sequel hit all of its important points as an entertaining spectacle. The icing on the cake is James Spader’s Ultron, who stands as one of the best villains the MCU has offered to date.

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8. Ant-Man, 2015 (72/100)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 81% | IMDb Score: 7.4

While it wasn’t quite the surprise hit that Guardians of the Galaxy turned out to be, Ant-Man is still a darling of a movie. More than any other movie in the franchise, you get exactly what you came for with Ant-Man, an MCU movie starring Paul Rudd. Period.

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7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, 2017 (76/100)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 81% | IMDb Score: 8.1

I’m a little surprised to see this score as low as it did considering how much fun I had with it. It doubled down on everything that worked in the first movie and added more (depending on who you ask) emotional and/or manipulative elements to give it more heart.

6. Doctor Strange, 2016 (76/100)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 90% | IMDb Score: 8.0

In introducing a new genre branch to the MCU, Doctor Strange is Marvel’s biggest risk since Guardians of the Galaxy and once again, it paid off. From Cumberbatch’s electric performance to the incredible (to the point of being worth seeing in 3D) special effects, Doctor Strange is certainly deserving of being considered among the upper echelon of the MCU.

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5. Captain America: Civil War, 2016 (78/100)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 90% | IMDb Score: 8.0

At worst, Civil War can be accused of following the MCU formula to a tee. It’s explosive and entertaining, balancing the gravitas of a Winter Soldier with the quippy team fun of The Avengers. As an added bonus, it set the scene for important upcoming MCU entries with Black Panther and the scene-stealing Spider-man.

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4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 2014 (78/100)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 89% | IMDb Score: 7.8

With The Winter Soldier, Captain America bypassed Tony Stark as the king of the MCU. It’s sleek, stylish, and entertaining but also poses questions about the everlasting fight between security and privacy.

You can find our review of Winter Soldier here.

Aside from the addition of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the biggest change to this list is that, after audiences had a bit more time to digest Civil War, it and Winter Soldier have swapped the #4 and #5 spots.

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3. Iron Man, 2008 (79/100)

Paramount Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 94% | IMDb Score: 7.9

It’s not much of a stretch to suggest that if Iron Man wasn’t as good as it is, there wouldn’t be an MCU. At its time of inception, The Incredible Hulk was just some other movie from another studio. But when Iron Man delivered, blending incredible special effects with the impossibly charismatic Robert Downey Jr. as lone cowboy billionaire Tony Stark, who could blame the studios for wanting to do it again?

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2. Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014 (80/100)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 91% | IMDb Score: 8.1

In a cinematic universe populated by gods, monsters, and supermen, the story of a space-faring band of misfits, including a sentient tree and a talking raccoon, seemed a bit… weird when we first heard about it. Then when James Gunn, the guy who directed Slither and PG Porn was signed on, we knew it was either going to be amazing or terrible. Thankfully, the risks and quirks paid off.

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1. The Avengers, 2012 (80/100)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes: 92% | IMDb Score: 8.1

We didn’t know what to expect when the first phase of the MCU came to a close. We’d met all these characters but had no idea how it would work when all the pieces got mashed together. The result was one of the most spectacular spectacles that ever spectacled. It’s rightfully, if not unfairly, the standard by which all other superhero movies are measured.

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A few years back, there was a clearer divide between the “good” Marvel movies and the “pretty okay” ones. The gap between Iron Man 3 and Winter Soldier showed that there was an A-Class and a B-Class, and it was pretty clear which movies would fall where. But from 2015 to the present, this gap is now the place where these movies are made. They’re reliable and entertaining but they’re also not changing anybody’s mind about what a superhero movie is capable of.


Dylan Clark-Moore is a podcast creator and blogger at NetFlakes. You can find him on Letterboxd and Twitter.

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