February 4, 2023
The Marvel Cinematic Universe - Ranking Phase 4

After the culmination of the fourth phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Annlyel offers her definitive ranking of the series. But will your favorite hit the top spot? Let’s find out. 

When Avengers: Endgame concluded three years ago it felt like maybe the magic of the Marvel Cinematic Universe had run its course. Spider-Man: Far from Home brought Phase 3 a.k.a the Infinity Saga to an official close and that was that. There were a lot of questions we all had. Who would inhabit the newest roster of Avengers?  Who would be the next big bad? And would the MCU still be worth investing in?

Kevin Feige and co. gained our immediate trust by beginning Phase 4 with WandaVision. This enthralling psychological mystery became an Emmy-nominated smash hit. And it reassured us that the MCU would get even more interesting moving forward. Not only was Phase 4 a collection of genre-bending installments that pushed the boundaries of what the MCU could be but it was also the most diverse phase by a mile. With so many different installments featuring BIPOC and women in lead roles, Phase 4 ensured audiences that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be one of the most inclusive, if not the most inclusive, franchises in entertainment.

It’s no surprise that because of these things, Phase 4 is my favorite phase in the MCU. And now that it’s reached its conclusion, it’s time to rank its eighteen installments. Enjoy!

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18. I Am Groot

The best thing about I Am Groot was its animation which was absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, despite the entertaining nature of the shorts, the fact that they were shorts makes it feel the least significant in Phase 4.

17. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law was enjoyable for its nine-week run as it took us into She-Hulk’s interesting world. The series was a full-blown comedy that never allowed itself to be taken too seriously. Which was perfect for the tone of the character. Tatiana Maslany became an instant fan favorite with her lovable personality as Bruce Banner’s cousin, Jennifer Walters. She was not only funny but it was nice to see a character who’s unapologetically into dating in the MCU. I mean, the fact that we literally saw She-Hulk hook up with Daredevil is an unforgettable MCU moment.

Unfortunately, despite the series’ perfect final two episodes, the series as a whole doesn’t feel like something I’ll be rewatching anytime soon and that is why it is so low on my list.

(L-R): Ginger Gonzaga as Nikki Ramos and Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer “Jen” Walters/She-Hulk in Marvel Studios’ She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

16. Ms. Marvel

While this series is undoubtedly one of the most solid installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe it felt definitely more geared toward children. It almost felt, at times, like watching a really expensive Disney Channel show. And that’s perfectly fine. Not everything has to be made for my particular tastes. And that’s why the MCU is so great. There’s something for everyone.

The thing that I loved the most about Kamala Khan’s introduction was the beautiful connection with her family. I know for a fact this solid foundation for her character will be a very important piece to her overarching narrative moving forward and I can’t wait to see how her story continues in The Marvels.

Ms Marvel
Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios’ MS. MARVEL, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

15. Moon Knight

Oscar Isaac plays a superhero in the MCU. That definitely wasn’t on my radar. Nor did I expect him to play a character I would grow to care about so deeply. But with great writing, Moon Knight became one of the most interesting characters in the MCU. Unfortunately, despite how interesting Moon Knight is and the world that he revolves in, the series had its hits and misses.

The first episode is still my favorite premiere episode of any of the Marvel series and its fourth and fifth episodes are some of the better MCU episodes of Phase 4. The finale, however, tanked the series, concluding in such an unflattering way that my appreciation for the series dropped substantially. I, however, am very excited about seeing Moon Knight again in the future.

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Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Gabor Kotschy. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

14. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

This series was really good in some areas with some standout moments and characters. Specifically John Walker and Isaiah Bradley. Walker was a character I despised for his first two episodes. But after a while I found him to be one of the most interesting characters in the entire MCU. And then Bradley’s introduction and role in the series helped paint a very personal picture for Sam Wilson which led to a beautiful heartwarming finale.

Despite its pros, its cons – the villains Karli Morgenthau and the Flag Smashers. And Sharon Carter/Power Broker – was a very weak point of the series. Hence why this series is so low on this list.

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Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) in Marvel Studios’ THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

13. Eternals

I will stand by my opinion that Eternals did not, by any stretch of the imagination, deserve a 47% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. For this film to garner such a rating makes me think the critics were taking a personal jab at Chloe Zhao because the movie is actually pretty good. It’s slow and a tad boring, and the chemistry between the actors sometimes feels a bit wooden, but its story is undeniably solid. Chloe Zhao took a group of characters who could’ve felt very lifeless and uninteresting and weaved a powerful story about humanity. Not to mention, this is one of the most visually striking films in all of the MCU.

It also provided audiences with a third act that was genuinely surprising, breaking the mold of what to expect from an MCU movie. I think people will regard this movie over the years more fondly as the story continues to evolve in the coming phases.

Eternals - Marvel Cinematic Universe
(L-R): Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), Gilgamesh (Don Lee), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Ikaris (Richard Madden), Ajak (Salma Hayek), Sersi (Gemma Chan), Sprite (Lia McHugh), Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) and Druig (Barry Keoghan) in Marvel Studios’ ETERNALS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

12. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

It’s been a while since we’ve gotten a chance to watch a story with the Guardians of the Galaxy helmed by James Gunn and this special did not disappoint. Not only did the special introduce us to Cosmo the Space Dog who instantly struck me as a lovable character and reveal a new version of Groot whose body is changing in totally unexpected ways but we got to see Mantis and Drax in the spotlight.

As someone who has always loved the dynamic between Mantis and Drax, it was really nice getting to follow them around in this special and laugh at their constantly hilarious antics. Plus, adding Kevin Bacon to the special was not only genius but perfect. The mark of a great holiday special is if it makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. And that’s exactly what this special makes me feel like whenever I watch it.

Pom Klementieff as Mantis in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

11. Hawkeye

Did I expect Hawkeye to have one of my favorite series in the MCU? No, I didn’t. This series ended up becoming not only something that’s really fun to watch during the holiday seasons but it was also an unexpected emotional rollercoaster ride. To lace the series with the reminder of Black Widow’s passing and how that affected Clint Barton and Yelena Belova was really beautiful to see. Also, you can’t beat a series that has a super cute Golden Retriever as one of the characters.

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Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop and Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye in Marvel Studios’ HAWKEYE. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

10. WandaVision

There are risks and then there are WandaVision risks. How did a series about a witch and a robot living in a suburban utopia based on classic sitcoms become a smash hit worth investing in? With the right cast of writers, directors, and actors. Every week was a jump back in time to a show we all knew and loved growing up, brilliantly woven into a mystery that only got darker and more intriguing as the weeks passed. By the time we reached that heartbreaking penultimate episode, it was clear that WandaVision was one of the most interesting, genre-bending series possibly ever made.

Its fight-fest finale kind of dampened opinions on the series, including my own. But how it set Wanda up as one of the most fascinating characters in the MCU is a testament to the series’ overall brilliance.

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A scene from Marvel Studios’ WANDAVISION exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

9. Werewolf by Night

This was the MCU’s very first one-hour special and it immediately revealed to all of us that this was a brilliant idea. Becoming Michael Giacchino’s directorial debut, Werewolf by Night is a homage to black-and-white monster movies that were part terrifying part thrilling. Everything about this special feels perfect. Its cast, the music, and the pacing of the storytelling. When it ended I was bummed because I had become so invested in Jack Russel, Man-Thing, and Elsa Bloodstone that I honestly wanted to keep following their stories. If we ever do see these characters again I will be very excited.

Gael García Bernal as Jack Russell in Marvel Studios’ WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

8. Thor: Love and Thunder

When I first watched this in July it was an instant favorite of mine. The story was not only fun, funny, and adventurous, but incredibly emotional and I loved it. However, as time has gone by I’ve realized that this movie is, indeed, flawed thanks to its excessively silly first half. Thor is a shell of the great character he had become in Infinity War and Endgame, cavorting around the film like a mindless, excuse my harsh words, buffoon for much of the film’s runtime. Taika Waititi, in the hopes to make an even funnier and zanier sequel to Thor: Ragnarok, lost an opportunity to make something really special.

Mighty Thor’s inclusion was great but she was barely able to really shine. Especially since Waititi chose to kill her in the film’s final moments. Valkyrie was once again forced to barely have any character development. And once again, the lack of Jamie Alexander’s Sif was just criminal. She’s one of the coolest female characters in the MCU and for some reason, she’s still getting sidelined.

We were robbed of a burgeoning romance between Valkyrie and Sif that could’ve potentially been a really fun side plot to a movie that focuses on love. It is the film’s second half, however, that redeems the movie’s cheesy first half, becoming a film that is not only worth watching but is one of the most emotional in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

(L-R): Natalie Portman as Mighty Thor and Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Marvel Studios’ THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

7. Black Widow

Was I expecting to enjoy Black Widow’s seemingly unnecessary prequel as much as I did? No. Ever since I saw it in IMAX last year I knew that not only was the wait worth it but that we were robbed of a Black Widow trilogy.

Scarlet Johannson’s final outing as the iconic Black Widow was one to remember with visceral action scenes that rivaled The Winter Soldier‘s for their brutality. Plus, it introduced the world to Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, a character who is hands down one of the best to be introduced in Phase 4. I can’t wait to see her again in Thunderbolts.

Black Widow Official Still
(L-R): Yelena (Florence Pugh), Alexei (David Harbour) and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Marvel Studios’ BLACK WIDOW, in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access. Photo by Jay Maidment. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

6. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

This movie literally begins with an action scene so it lets the audience know right off the bat they will not be bored with this installment. And while the film isn’t perfect what it manages to do with its characters on its rollicking multiverse horror adventure makes it one of the easiest films to rewatch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Plus, it gave us Scarlet Witch as a bonafide villain and it was awesome.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

5. What If…?

This series’ fourth episode, What If…Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands? is one of the main reasons why I have this series so high on my list. Not to mention all of the other fun concepts the series gave us on a weekly basis like T’Challa as Star-Lord, Captain Carter which was such a cool idea she was brought to live-action in Multiverse of Madness, and The Watcher. I loved this show every week and its final two episodes were absolutely phenomenal. I can’t wait for Season 2.

Doctor Strange Supreme, Captain Carter, and T’Challa in Marvel Studios’ WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights

4. Spider-Man: No Way Home

I’m not a Spider-Man fan. In fact, I never have been. That being said, this movie is beyond special. What it managed to do and how perfectly it accomplished its goal is something I don’t think I’m ever going to quite get over. This is the concluding arc Peter Parker deserved and needed in the MCU. It leaves Peter Parker in a position moving forward where we can see him truly begin to mature and become an even greater hero.

Spider-Man No Way Home - Marvel Cinematic Universe
Spider-Man perched atop a light in Columbia Pictures’ SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME.

3. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Not only was it about time we get a major Asian superhero in the MCU but for that film to be this good was a true delight. Simu Liu became an instant star after his portrayal of Shang-Chi, a controversial Marvel character whose story was handled so well in his feature film that he’s now one of my all-time favorite characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This movie is not only fun and utilizes its humor very well but it, unsurprisingly, has some of the best action scenes in the entire franchise. It’s such a well-received movie, in fact, that Daniel Destin Cretton got the job to direct Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. So yeah, this film is great with a capital G.

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(L-R): Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

2. Loki

It’s only fitting that Loki would not only have the best series in Phase 4 but one of the most enjoyable installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Loki has always been a fascinating character and this series did his character justice in so many ways.

Not only was it a perfect Loki show but the new characters were just as interesting. Owen Wilson’s lovable Mobius (we need him on a jet ski in Season 2), Sophia di Martino’s feisty Sylvie (I miss her so much), Wunmi Mosaku’s Hunter B-15, and who can forget Jonathan Majors’ debut as He Who Remains. This series was fantastic from start to finish and I am so relieved we’re getting closer and closer to Season 2.

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Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in Marvel Studios’ LOKI, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

1. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

They say to save the best for last. Well, that’s exactly what happened with Wakanda Forever. When the teaser dropped four months ago there was no doubt that this movie would live up to every ounce of hype that had surrounded it. What I did not expect was an experience so powerful, so moving, and so undeniably brilliant that I’ve been obsessed with this movie since it came out. I didn’t think I’d ever see a Marvel movie that could rival Infinity War in its all-out brilliance. But Wakanda Forever is close to gaining the crown. I’ve seen it twice now and I can confidently say Wakanda Forever is not only better than Black Panther but it is undoubtedly one of the greatest superhero movies ever made.

I’m so excited for literally every character’s evolving stories and where that leads in Phase 5.

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Letitia Wright as Shuri in Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER. Photo by Annette Brown. © 2022 MARVEL.

So, here’s my ranking of Phase 4. In two years’ time, I’ll be sharing my ranking of Phase 5. And considering the trajectory of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the last month it seems we are in for quite the ride.

You can explore the majority of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in its entirety on Disney Plus now.

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