Kudos to the brain trust that dreamt up the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Mirroring the path that Stan Lee and company laid in the early 1960s with the Fantastic Four, each Marvel Studios film starting with Iron Man in 2008 can be viewed as a standalone entity—but if you take a step back, they each form pieces to a complex puzzle. The MCU is Star Wars on HGH, and its strategy has set the tone for other studios to do the same, as with Fox's X-Men series and DC Comics' film and TV universes. In grand, but not untrue terms, the MCU has forever changed the way studios make movies.
However, instead of just chasing dollars, Marvel has been harnessing their power to make films that are lucrative and compelling; films that actually live up to the classic comics that inspired them. We’re decades removed from some truly terrible attempts at Captain America. More recently, with the help of advancements in technology, the MCU has made the Incredible Hulk look like a larger-than-life, skyscraper-destroying beast; they've had Iron Man cruising through the air blasting Black Sabbath; and they've made a Doctor Strange movie that makes you feel like you've eaten a bag of 'shrooms. Since 2008, we’ve been treated to 23 films that feel different while still belonging together. And they're only setting up the Universe (and us) for more in the future.
With the MCU's first three phases now in our rearview, it's high time we started arguing to see how these titanic movies stack up against each other. Consider it a civil war, and after the smoke cleared, this is what was left. Here’s a ranking of the best (and the worst) of the universe Marvel Studios built.