All 5 MCU trilogies ranked from worst to best

Multiple heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have enjoyed a trilogy of movies throughout the franchise, but which MCU trilogy is the best of them all?
Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans in The Avengers (2012) ©Marvel 2012
Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans in The Avengers (2012) ©Marvel 2012 /

There are no bigger franchises in cinema than that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A collection of 30+ movies that features some of the biggest superheroes to ever grace the pages of a comic book, it has set box office records (and then broke those records!), amassed a devoted legion of fans, and entertained millions of people all around the world; all while telling a single, cohesive story in the same shared universe.

But there are stories within the stories too, and we're not just talking about the Infinity and Multiverse Sagas! Within those 30+ movies are stories focused on specific characters, showcasing how heroes become legends; those are the MCU trilogies. Whether it's Spider-Man or Captain America, these trilogies are pivotal in highlighting who these characters are and why they are so important to the plot. A solo movie is a important piece of the shared universe puzzle, but a trilogy of movies allows the creative teams to fully explore those characters, making them all the more well-rounded by the time that the big Avengers movies come along.

All of the MCU's trilogies are a fun ride, but some shine brighter than others. With that in mind, let's take this opportunity to reflect on them (before some of them aren't trilogies anymore!) and figure out which one is the best of them all.

Thor, MCU
Chris Hemsworth in Thor (2011) © 2011 - Paramount Pictures /

Honorable mention: The Thor movies

Movies: Thor (2011), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

If this list had been written prior to 2022, the Thor trilogy would have been part of it; but the God of Thunder made MCU history as the first hero to receive a fourth standalone film. The Thor saga wasn't the first franchise-within-the-franchise to get a fourth movie (that honor goes to the Avengers movies) and it won't be the last (Captain America 4 and Spider-Man 4 are already in the works) but it was a monumental moment for the MCU as it proved how much Marvel Studios was investing in Chris Hemsworth's hero.

The Thor trilogy had its fair share of ups and downs. It started well with the straightforward (and criminally-underrated) Thor in 2011 that introduced us to the God of Thunder, the realm of Asgard, Natalie Portman's Jane Foster and Tom Hiddleston's Loki. The second film, however, is considered one of the MCU's most lackluster outings, with criticism directed towards its uninteresting villain. And then third brought the franchise into mainstream status, as Thor: Ragnarok received critical acclaim for its outlandish humor and ambitious storyline.

The ups and downs continued when the fourth outing came along as Thor: Love and Thunder was criticized for being too outlandish, with many feeling that it descended the saga into parody (even though it was enjoyable for the most part). The good news is that there is reportedly a fifth movie on the way to right those wrongs (and perhaps even end the Thor franchise on a high).

Ant-Man and The Wasp
Marvel Studios ANT-MAN AND THE WASP..L to R: The Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) ..Photo: Ben Rothstein..©Marvel Studios 2018 /

5. The Ant-Man trilogy

Movies: Ant-Man (2015), Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

The Ant-Man movies often get overlooked when it comes to picking out some of Marvel's most enjoyable movies. That's probably because the first two of them are extremely light-hearted and relatively low-stakes when compared to the rest of world-ending threats in the MCU, but that's also exactly why they are so enjoyable.

With a focus on family, Scott Lang's adventures with Hank Pym, Hope van Dyne, and Janet van Dyne are so full of heart that you can't help but smile when you're watching them. They are also so ridiculously fun and entertaining that they'll probably even have you shaking your head at how silly they are. And that's why they work; because we're not watching the Ant-Man and the Wasp movies for chilling villains or end-of-the-multiverse threats, we're watching them to remind us how fun and enjoyable superhero movies can be when they want to be. They are much-needed palette-cleansers after the more serious installments, and that's what they do best.

The third movie misunderstood that and that really harms the Ant-Man trilogy as a whole. People may not have taken the Ant-Man movies seriously enough, but they had their own identity that appealed to a wide variety of audiences. And they are also really solid heist movies. Quantumania, on the other hand, is just a typical larger-than-life MCU CGI-fest that strips the Ant-Man identity away from it. That likely robbed the Ant-Man saga of graduating beyond trilogy status, and that's a shame.

Iron Man, MCU
Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man (2008) © 2008 Paramount Pictures /

4. The Iron Man trilogy

Movies: Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Iron Man 3 (2013)

When Iron Man was first released in movie theaters, a trilogy wasn't a certainty much less the 33 movies that the franchise would spawn after it. But its overwhelming success led to a sequel pretty soon after that. A third and final film was released in 2013, and it was as much as a sequel to The Avengers as it was the previous two Iron Man movies.

Iron Man is arguably the most popular hero in the MCU saga, but he didn't have as smooth a run with his solo movies as some of his fellow Avengers. The first film is an incredible opener to the franchise, introducing us to Tony Stark and his brilliant mind while also setting the stage for the MCU itself to take form. Iron Man 2 didn't really make the most of that opportunity as it fumbles its villains and doesn't really add to the overall arc, making it easily one of the most skippable entries in the whole film series (although it's not as bad as history might tell you it is).

Iron Man 3 is a major improvement over it (and my personal favorite of the three) as it focuses on Tony's mental health after Iron Man's brush with death (and, well, aliens) in The Avengers. That means it needs the context of The Avengers to work, but it's still a great, highly-underrated movie.

Like the Thor movies, the Iron Man trilogy is a sequence of highs and lows, but the highs are more than worth it - as is Robert Downey Jr.'s electric performance.

(L-R): Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Dave Bautista as Drax, Karen Gillan as Nebula in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL. /

3. The Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy

Movies: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

James Gunn did the impossible with 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy as it turned a bunch of lesser-known outcasts and misfits into mainstream superheroes. The film's ensemble cast, killer soundtrack, and vague ties to the MCU franchise was more than enough to see it enjoy an unexpectedly incredible box office run, spawning a new subsection of the Infinity Saga in the process - one that would become pivotal towards its endgame.

The biggest thing that the Guardians movies have going for them is their charm. They are so endearing, so full of heart, and so darn lovable (like its eclectic line-up of heroes) that you just can't help but get pulled in to the adventures of Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Drax, Mantis, Nebula, and the beloved Groot. They are also so ridiculously witty, with their own unique tone helping set them apart from the rest of the movies in the wider franchise.

The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise starts on a high note and ends on an even higher (but emotional!) one. Even though the second movie isn't on the same level as the other two, it's still an extremely entertaining movie that deserves more credit. And all three of them are a reminder that the Guardians' story is one of the best that the MCU has ever told.

Spider-Man from Columbia Pictures' SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. Courtesy of Sony Pictures. ©2021 CTMG. All Rights Reserved. MARVEL and all related character names: © & ™ 2021 MARVEL /

2. The Spider-Man trilogy

Movies: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

The day that seemed like it would never come for MCU fans arrived in 2016 when Spider-Man debuted in Captain America: Civil War. At last, the webslinger had arrived in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that would only be the beginning of his journey, as he would go on to headline three movies of his own (thus far), starting with 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Of all the trilogies in the MCU, the Spider-Man trilogy is probably the one that tells the strongest story throughout. It's all about Peter Parker's journey from Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man to world-saving Avenger, his evolution from do-gooder to full-scale superhero. And it shows, with each installment seeing him get closer and closer to fulfilling his true potential.

In Homecoming, he's a local hero that has to prove himself on a larger stage when he gets involved in Avengers business. In Far From Home, he takes his heroics global, battling an evil in Europe that nobody else can see (or even believes is evil). And in No Way Home, he has to battle the Rogues Gallery of Spider-Man villains; all of whom aren't even this Spider-Man's villains.

Another Spider-Man trilogy is on the horizon in the MCU, exploring how Tom Holland's hero copes with adulthood now that the days of Homecoming and high school are over. That means that Spider-Man will always be able to remain on this list as the Homecoming trilogy will serve as a separate entity from the next one, but after this one, expectations are incredible high for the next chapter in Peter Parker's story.

Captain America, MCU
Chris Evans in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) © 2011 - Paramount Pictures /

1. The Captain America trilogy

Movies: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Captain America: Civil War (2016)

What is there to say about the Captain America trilogy? Yes, it features Captain America: The Winter Soldier; the movie that is quite possibly Marvel Studios' greatest ever standalone film. Yes, it features the game-changing Captain America: Civil War, adapting one of Marvel Comics' most iconic storylines and turning it into an all-out-but-complex Avengers showdown. And yes, it features one of the MCU's most underrated movies in Captain America: The First Avenger, which beautifully depicts the origin story of one of its greatest heroes.

On their own, the Captain America movies are three exquisite, triumphant, and heroic adventures, but together, they are nothing short of perfection. From the star-spangled origins of Steve Rogers in the 1940s to the thrilling action sequences of The Winter Soldier in 2014, Cap's trilogy tells an incredible story; focusing on a man desperate to stand up and do good for others who evolves into a man out of time, struggling to fit in in a world that he doesn't recognize.

It's heartbreaking to see him carry his life-changing love for Peggy Carter with him long after life seemingly pulled them apart, and equally emotional to watch him have to fight his lifelong best friend in the present day; as the man who was struggling in the modern day was confronted by the grief of the past that had been ripped away from him. It was a compelling character arc for Steve Rogers, and one that highlighted why Captain America is the heart of the MCU.

A fourth Captain America movie is on its way but it will focus on Sam Wilson's time with the shield, meaning that Steve Rogers' trilogy will live on as its own thing even when the franchise adds another installment. And what an incredible trilogy it is.

Next. Every MCU movie ranked from worst to best. Every MCU movie ranked from worst to best. dark