It’s hard to believe, but we’ve already had 5 films and 5 television series released under Marvel Studios’ designated umbrella of Phase 4. These films have been such a staple of the culture zeitgeist for so long, it’s hard for any of us to imagine a cinematic world without it. We simply cannot fathom a time when the telegraphed plan wasn’t so easy to uncover, and the puzzle put together relatively easily if you were paying attention. Phase 4 has decidedly latched on to uncertainty and contained one-of stories that may or may not connect to a larger story. Anyone following Marvel Studios maybe thinks ‘what the hell are we even doing right now,’ and they wouldn’t be wrong. The path is long and winding, uncertain. And intentional or not, it has left more fans confused than assured.
That being said, I think it’s important to reexamine and rank what’s currently out in this phase. The MCU is already coming very close to meeting the known thresholds of previous phases. The addition of deeply connected television series as well as comments from Kevin Feige himself stating that this phase won’t focus on a big bad the way previous phases dealt with things like Thanos, makes it more uncertain than ever. Because of that, let’s rank and file every entry so far.
For the sake of inclusion, this list will weigh both films and television equally. Since the Disney+ entires are integral to the films and vise versa, there’s no point in differentiating the two. It will be an all inclusive ranking, and like many of these things, it is subjective. I’m not speaking or rankings with any kind of authority, just as someone who has watched everything Marvel Studios has to offer to date, and placing them where I see fit. I say that to say that if you hated “Eternals,” you’re neither right or wrong, just that I may have enjoyed it more than you did. I know you’re probably not going to read this disclaimer and just come at me for my ranking not matching yours, but I always try to include it just in case you actually read the ranking and not just assume I’m baseless because it’s not your personal rankings.
And no, Marvel didn’t pay me to put “Eternals” higher than you would. I can’t stress this enough: when I get Marvel money for writing, there will be signs.
Here are my personal Marvel Studios Phase 4 rankings for everything released so far from worst to best!
1 “Black Widow “
Here’s the challenge with these rankings and I guess I should get this out up front. I actually enjoyed “Black Widow” far more than than this ranking would lead you to believe, and I don’t harbor the hate for it that many other movie goers do. I will admit that it’s too little too late, and clearly feels like an afterthought rather than the launch point for a new phase. It is far more comprised of remnants of the previous phase than anything that signals the changing of the guard. It’s fine, but largely forgettable outside of Florence Pugh‘s introduction as Yelena. She essentially hijacks the film and is the reason it has any connection to the current phase. Otherwise “Black Widow” is a phase 1 MCU entry that falls victim to being actualized far too late in the bigger picture.
2 “Moon Knight “
I can already feel your Twitter fingers itching with hate comments. Yes, “Moon Knight” lands low on the list. Because for nothing else, it’s a big cosmic story with 0 implications on the larger MCU story. Sure, Oscar Issac‘s Moon Knight is sure to show up somewhere else in the future, but anything and everything that happens in this series really means nothing for other titles. Somehow, admitting that Egyptian gods exist and watch over humanity has no bearing on what is currently happening elsewhere or any other characters introduced so far. “Moon Knight” is both too contained and too big in scale for its own good, forcing it to fall rather low on the list. And to be clear, I enjoyed the hell out of the series.
I really enjoyed “Eternals” far more than the reviews and general consensus would have you believe. It’s only low on the list because other entries were so much better. But overall, I found “Eternals” to be a solid cosmic Phase 4 entry, that should’ve been a Disney+ series, culminating in a feature film. It does leave a lot to be desired, and raises far more questions than answers. And while it could exist on its own, I have a feeling that won’t be the case given the circumstances and cosmic consequences of how everything ended. It’s not that “Eternals” is bad, just that it’s not quite as good as other entries in the current phase.
4 “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier “
This series seems to be more of a victim of circumstance, lost in the shuffle of the larger cosmic entries of the current phase without the tried and true marketing that it is meant to be contained and unrelated to some of the previous entries. “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” isn’t bad. It actually has some pretty bold things to say about many of its characters and world they live in. But it does have a bit a of forgettability to it, in that the longer Phase 4 goes on, the less and less you remember about the series. The main takeaway from it all is that there’s a secret organization recruiting the bizarro versions of heroes, and that Sam Wilson will be the next Captain America. And yes, maybe a quick introduction to a possible Young Avenger, but at this point who knows if that’s actually what they’re planning to do.
5 “Marvel’s What If…?”
I think I enjoyed this series more than most. “Marvel’s What If..?” is the most MCU-like playground we’ve seen in a while; a no-holds-barred experimentation of what could happen if there wasn’t a corporate machine behind it. That’s not say it doesn’t fit the mold of Marvel Studios, but it is wholly different than anything like it before, and really prepares viewers for how dark and twisted this universe can be. Yes, that includes “Multiverse of Madness,” which would have been far more shocking and possibly less effective if “What If…?” hadn’t already existed. I will says that the series starts stronger than it ends, but it most certainly delivers on a lot of things I don’t think anyone thought we’d ever see. “Marvel’s What If…?” gave us Captain Carter, Starlord T’Challa, Infinity Gauntlet Ultron, Dark Strange, and quite possibly the best version of Thanos ever created.
6 “Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness “
Speaking of weird and dark, “Multiverse of Madness” lands right smack dab in the middle of this new phase. It has some misgivings and feel purposefully divisive, but like “What If…?” it takes risks and the franchise into new and strange (pun intended) places. This is what the phase needs, good and bad to really paint a picture of what’s to come. Marvel does seem to be pushing the limits of what they can and can’t do, and “Multiverse of Madness” most certainly goes there. It’s not the best marvel has to offer, but it’s still a solid film that Marvel could use more of.
After such a dark turn and heavy, heavy outings, “Hawkeye” is a much needed pallet cleanser. Though it wrestles with the aftermath of “Endgame,” it is significantly smaller in scale and scope, feeling like a contained, one-off story meant to deliver a lighthearted holiday special instead of a large stakes, deeply vital viewing. Also, I’ve been a diehard fan of Hailee Steinfeld since “True Grit” in 2010, so any series that can give me as much Steinfeld as anyone can handle while ALSO pairing her with Pugh’s Yelena? That’s a win in my book. While “Hawkeye” may fall into the forgettable category (unlike “Falcon and Winter Soldier“), this feels somewhat intentional. The series feels more like a holiday special than a deeply important and connected MCU entry, and solidifies as being exactly what it wants to be. We are bound to see all of these characters again, but as a quick little one off of joy, Christmas, and hot sauce in mac and cheese, it was the perfect gift at the right time.
Talk about a show I couldn’t care less about that turned out to be one of the better offerings from Disney+. I’ve never really been a fan of Loki as a character, so “Loki” the show was truly low on my list of things I wanted to check out. I’m glad I did, because it delivered on so many great things I wasn’t expecting. Not only was it different and weird and cosmic, but it also gave us phrases like ‘work your Loki,’ characters like Alligator Loki, Miss Minutes, and brilliantly unraveled a cosmic mystery while simultaneously adding more layers to a character we thought we knew. “Loki” once again finds depth in seemingly shallow places, and the series ends up ranking high on the list of this new phase. Bring on season 2!
9 “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”
I am admittedly putting “Shang-Chi” in the third spot despite only watching it once at its premiere. This is completely based upon how much I enjoyed it on a first watch, and despite it being available to stream I simply haven’t given it a second look. So, there’s a good chance that the Kaiju third act actually knocks it down the list if I was more diligent in my rewatching. But honestly, “Shang-Chi” filled me with so much joy and really filled the gap left behind by a raging pandemic. It was a worthy theatrical experience, and delivered on a number of unique elements I hope Marvel Studios continues as the phase moves forward.
10 “WandaVision “
I don’t care who knows, I absolutely adored “WandaVision.” Maybe it’s because it was released at the height of the pandemic when we had nothing else to watch or do. Or maybe it was because I actually listened to Kevin Feige when he told everyone “WandaVision” would be unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Or maybe, the series is just damn good, able to tell and off beat, channel surfing story that tackles loss and grief in ways I don’t think even Marvel knew they were capable of. Packed with great characters and unique mystery, “WandaVision” packs an emotional punch and a worthy payoff in it’s conclusion. Oh and we get Kathyrn Hahn absolutely chewing through scenery as Agatha Harkness. How can you hate a show that features one of the greatest theme songs of all time in “Agatha all Along?” That’s why she’s getting her own spinoff!
11 “Spider-Man: No Way Home “
I get it, “No Way Home” is the most fan service, nostalgia filled, money grabbing scheme released so far from the House of Mouse. You could probably go as far as to say that the film is pretty pandering, and you’d be right. Except for the fact that it does all of this expertly, and gives us one of the best Spiderman films to date. I actually had to stop myself from giving it a perfect score, because it gave me everything I could have ever wanted from such a highly anticipated film. It had action, worthy cameos and heart, doing a lot of things that would otherwise feel like a cheap ploy but instead adding depth and purpose to every choice. Hell, my only complaint is that Feige didn’t hold to his word by not releasing a trailer. Imagine watching the bridge scene for the first time with no prior knowledge of Doc Ock showing up? “No Way Home” is not only the best Phase 4 outing, but it makes a strong case to be one of the best Marvel films to date.