The top 5 highest-rated MCU movies on Rotten Tomatoes should be no surprise

Rotten Tomatoes released a ranking of every MCU films, and it won't surprise many fans to see which ones took the top spots.
Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. in The Avengers (2012) ©Marvel 2012
Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. in The Avengers (2012) ©Marvel 2012 /

Rotten Tomatoes put together a full list of movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe ranked by their critical score, and the top-rated films likely won't shock anyone. They are the movies that we show our friends to get them into the genre, the ones that made packed theaters burst into applause at midnight premieres.

It's no secret that Marvel is no longer unsinkable. What had been a guaranteed goldmine has now produced multiple films and streaming series that just didn't quite work. People got tired of seeing the same collection of tropes in new formations every year. But superhero fatigue can't be that strong when fans are still actively rewatching their favorites on a regular basis.

It doesn't seem like superheroes are actually the problem. Instead, many fans are frustrated by movies that ignore previous plot arcs, that feel rushed, and that refuse to add anything new to the Marvel universe (well, multiverse).

Of the top five MCU entries on Rotten Tomatoes' list, three come from Phase Three. This is no coincidence. This was the period in the company's history where it most felt like a shared world, where characters made cameo appearances in ways that felt natural, rather than tacked on. In short, this was a period where everything felt intentional, with each entry crafted to serve the overarching narrative.

Is it really any wonder that these are so beloved by critics and fans alike?

MJ (Zendaya) prepares to freefall with Spider-man in Columbia Pictures' SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. Courtesy of Sony Pictures. ©2021 CTMG. All Rights Reserved. MARVEL and all related character names: © & ™ 2021 MARVEL /

5. Spider-Man: No Way Home (93%)

Spider-Man: No Way Home is positioned in the middle of Phase Four, but it honestly feels like the culmination of the last two decades of superhero movies. With three iconic Spider-Man actors, all playing their own version of Peter Parker, along with beloved villains and plenty of multiversal shenanigans, this was a movie that had unbelievably high expectations.

"A bigger, bolder Spider-Man sequel, No Way Home expands the franchise's scope and stakes without losing sight of its humor and heart."

RT Critics' Consensus

Surprisingly, the film was able to meet or exceed expectations almost every time. While there were some out of character moments and unnecessary cameos, most of the plot points felt earned and provided closure to characters from the MCU and the Sony films.

In the wake of the critically and audience-beloved Into the Spider-Verse, it was impressive how well No Way Home managed to hold up. In fact, its audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes (98%) showed just how much people enjoyed the way that it all came together.

Like most of the most well-received Marvel movies, this film balanced utter tragedy with humor in ways that felt largely realistic and helped keep audiences going. Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man could discuss the death of Gwen Stacey, save M. J., and still crack jokes about how weird it was for Tobey Maguire's version to release webs from his body.

Most importantly, when the movie is over, things were fundamentally changed. Peter Parker grew as a character, and nobody (not even his closest loved ones) knows who he is. Those are the kinds of stakes that we hardly ever see in Marvel movies these days.

This film was the definition of fan service, but it never allowed that to overpower the story it was telling. And perhaps that's what makes it such an expected entry in the top five. No Way Home included reasonable connections to both the wider MCU and the multiverse while telling a cohesive story with elements fans loved.

Thor: Ragnarok
Marvel Studios' THOR: RAGNAROK..L to R: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)..Ph: Teaser Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017 /

4. Thor: Ragnarok (93%)

Thor: Ragnarok sits right in the middle of Phase Three, and it showed fans that Thor movies could be really enjoyable (despite the failure that was Thor: The Dark World). Because there were relatively low expectations for it, the colorful comedy was able to easily win fans over when it hit all of the best Marvel beats.

"Exciting, funny, and above all fun, Thor: Ragnarok is a colorful cosmic adventure that sets a new standard for its franchise -- and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe."

RT Critics' Consensus

As the Critics' Consensus states, this movie was (and still is) a lot of fun to watch. From the banter between Thor and Loki to the zany new characters introduced in the arena, Ragnarok brought in the kind of humor that had made Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers so well-liked.

While the audience score is a little lower than might be expected (87%), that tends to be a matter of hindsight. Like many of Phase Four's entries, Ragnarok suffers from later films' inconsistency with major events. The destruction of Asgard is largely ignored in later movies, and the slaughter of many of the Asgardians at the start of Infinity War undermined the hopeful tone of this film's finale.

Even so, it hit all of the same notes that the other top MCU films have with style. Seeing Thor and Hulk meet up again was a lot of fun, and it also helped show what two of the more unusual Avengers were up to while their fully-human counterparts were entangled in the political chaos of Captain America: Civil War.

It wasn't just that two Avengers (and Stephen Strange) were present, but that the movie contributed to both the Thor series's lore and the overall MCU. With the addition of Hela and Valkyrie, Asgard feels like a real place, rather than just a setting for sibling rivalry. Likewise, by both Thor and Loki reacting to Hulk based on their past encounters, the larger superhero universe feels more interconnected.

There are valid complaints to be made about this film, but most Marvel fans would be hard-pressed to not include it in, at worst, their top ten.

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

3. Iron Man (94%)

Iron Man is certainly the outlier in the top five MCU movies, but that doesn't make it unworthy. After all, none of the other films would even be here if not for the 2008 masterpiece. While there wasn't yet a collection of films to connect with and foreshadow, Marvel Studios (and Kevin Feige, in particular) knew where they wanted to go, which set everything in motion.

"Powered by Robert Downey Jr.'s vibrant charm, Iron Man turbo-charges the superhero genre with a deft intelligence and infectious sense of fun."

RT Critics' Consensus

Looking at the superhero genre as a whole in 2008, it might seem like Iron Man wasn't that important. After all, The Dark Knight made almost twice as much at the worldwide box office, and while both movies have the same critical score on Rotten Tomatoes, DC's epic has arguably had a bigger influence on the comic book adaptation genre.

However, Iron Man was the beginning of something remarkable, not just a standout film in its own right. The post-credit scene teased the idea of the Avengers, and it felt like it could exist in a wider universe, while the idea of The Dark Knight and other DC stories co-existing never quite worked. The fact that the audience score is 91% speaks to how highly the fans value it, more than 15 years later.

Despite being the only film in the top five that came from Phase One, Iron Man had many of the same traits that fans love in the Phase Three epics. Robert Downy Jr. is certainly deserving of credit for making Tony Stark such a charismatic character, but it's how the story is set up that makes it so successful all these years later.

The plot is not typical of the superhero genre, despite providing an origin story for its hero, because it covers a shockingly serious subject matter. Tony Stark is not a hero because his parents died or because he's inherently good, but because he saw firsthand the consequences of war profiteering and was unwilling to continue it.

There's still plenty of humor in this movie, most of which comes from Stark's charisma and arrogance, but it blended that with the genuine tragedies of the plot perfectly. The balance felt realistic but hopeful, which forced audiences to accept a billionaire in a super suit because it was a matter of necessity and response to personal and political needs.

It should be no surprise that, if Phase Three was the beloved fulfillment of Kevin Feige's dream, Iron Man is the best of that encapsulated in one film.

Marvel Studios' AVENGERS: ENDGAME..Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019 /

2. Avengers: Endgame (94%)

If you got into the MCU after 2019, it might be hard to understand just how important Endgame was. Not only was this the biggest movie the MCU ever put together and Part 2 of a shocking duology, but it was the conclusion of the years-long Infinity Saga, which fans couldn't get their hands on fast enough

"Exciting, entertaining, and emotionally impactful, Avengers: Endgame does whatever it takes to deliver a satisfying finale to Marvel's epic Infinity Saga."

RT Critics' Consensus

In this case, there were unreasonably high expectations, most of which were met through a steadfast determination to answer questions, provide characters with sufficient closure, and highlight just how expansive and impressive the MCU became. It's no wonder that this movie also earned a 90% audience score.

Whenever a new Marvel movie comes out, it ends up being compared to the best the franchise had to offer, and Endgame is, from a world-building perspective, the pinnacle. Every plot and character that was introduced in the first Three Phases built up to this, and it almost always felt natural instead of contrived.

It would have been easy for this movie to fail. The expectations were very high, and having so many characters often means that nobody gets enough time to have a worthwhile arc. However, because the overarching character arcs had been going on for eleven years, it was possible to give closure to the OG Avengers without feeling rushed.

In addition to the story itself, it felt as though everyone who worked on this film was an expert in their field. From the special effects to the music, from the actors' performances to the way each scene was shot, Endgame is a masterpiece of epic proportions.

When Endgame was first released, it was the highest-grossing movie of all time, and that popularity has hardly changed in the years since. There are plenty of Easter Eggs or callbacks to catch on second (or fiftieth) viewings, and the stakes remain high because of how much the MCU changed in the aftermath.

For many fans, Avengers: Endgame was the best example of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe can do when it brings its characters together, and it's no surprise that the critics agree.

Marvel Studios' BLACK PANTHER
Marvel Studios' BLACK PANTHER..L to R: Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)..Photo: Matt Kennedy..©Marvel Studios 2018 /

1. Black Panther (96%)

While movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Avengers: Endgame showed what Marvel could do when it zoomed out, Black Panther earns its place at the top of this listing because of how successfully it zoomed in, creating a breathtaking and realistic world in Wakanda that has high stakes despite showcasing a less-than-cosmic conflict.

"Black Panther elevates superhero cinema to thrilling new heights while telling one of the MCU's most absorbing stories -- and introducing some of its most fully realized characters."

RT Critics' Consensus

This movie meets fans of the superhero genre with its fight scenes and intriguing technology, but it also manages to be an art film and a social commentary. There's nothing wrong with a fun superhero movie for its own sake, but audiences couldn't help but feel that Black Panther is something more.

While the audience rating is criminally low (79%), it's highly possible that is because of review bombing by those who felt the film was too political. However, the reviews which take the movie as it is, rather than as they want it to be, overwhelmingly show that the secret to avoiding superhero fatigue is by creating stories that really matter.

Looking back on the traits that have made other Marvel movies stand out, Black Panther fits the bill. It fits in well with the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War, balances humor and tragedy, and ultimately proves that personal stakes are much more impactful than plots which are only concerned with saving the world from the newest monster of the week.

Black Panther was the first superhero movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. It is the first MCU movie to win an Academy Award (3 of them, to be exact). With this in mind, it's no wonder that it has such a high critical score. Its artistic quality alone earns it a top spot on most Marvel rankings.

For all the people who claim that superhero movies are pointless, Black Panther is proof that they can handle important, real-world issues, provide artistic depth, and break from the same tired formulas.

As the MCU fights to keep its place at the top, it would do well to remember its most triumphant moments and what put them there. Instead of rushing out content for content's sake, think about why these five movies were so well-received, and why fans continue watching them today.

Fans and critics alike want movies that exceed expectations like Thor: Ragnarok, which handle serious issues like Iron Man and Black Panther, and which provide closure and stakes like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Avengers: Endgame.

Superhero fatigue doesn't come from too many superhero movies. It comes from overcomplicated stories, inconsistent lore, and meaningless climaxes. The five best MCU movies knew how to manage that balance, and it's no wonder that fans and critics alike agree that they should stay at the top.

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