Marvel head Kevin Feige has revealed that MCU actors will no longer be held in multi-movie contracts moving forward. As the MCU was in its formative years, Feige turned heads with his massive contract offerings to actors — Samuel L. Jackson was signed on for nine Nick Fury appearances at once. But according to The Hollywood Reporter, those days of a long-standing franchise deal may not be the norm anymore.
When Chris Evans hopped onboard the MCU, it was for six outings as Captain America. Over time, he renegotiated that deal, but Evans has still spent a good portion of his career as Steve Rogers. Sebastian Stan, who plays Bucky Barnes, initially agreed to seven appearances. Tom Holland is nearing the end of his contract with three standalone Spider-Man movies under his belt, not to mention several additional supporting roles in crossover projects like Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.
Speaking with THR, Feige shared that the evolving state of the movie industry has shaped how actors now participate in the MCU. “That got a lot of attention way back when, with I think Scarlett, and [Chris] Hemsworth and Evans and Sam Jackson. It varies now. It varies, project to project, cast to cast,” said Feige. “Really, what we want are people that come in, are excited to be in the universe, are excited at the opportunity to do more things, as opposed to being locked into contractual obligations.”
Going off of Feige’s statement, it sounds like high-profile actors are much more willing to dip their toes into the MCU if there’s no mandatory commitment to six or seven movies. And with so many spinoffs, limited series, and sequels rounding out Phase Four’s lineup, it seems more feasible to have a rotating set of characters who can enter and exit the franchise on a project-by-project basis.
Every Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie, Ranked From Worst to Best
It started with Iron Man and it’s continued and expanded ever since. It’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with 24 movies and counting. But what’s the best and the worst? We ranked them all.
24. The Incredible Hulk
So disjointed, awkward, and ugly, you’d swear Marvel was caught totally by surprise when Iron Man became a smash and they rushed this into production. Loki has never committed a crime as bad as the casting of Tim Roth as the world’s ultimate soldier (who turns into a big bony turd monster). (Read more here.)
23. Thor: The Dark World
We almost got a Patty Jenkins’ Thor. Instead, we got this; a dreary chase for a mystical MacGuffin involving one of the most boring villains in the entire MCU. If there’s an upside here, it’s that without this movie cratering so badly, Marvel may not have been so willing to take a chance and mix things up so drastically with Thor: Ragnarok.(Read more here.)
21. Iron Man 2
Better than you remember, but still not that great. Sam Rockwell’s dancing can paper over a lot of cracks, but not all of them. Cut 15 minutes of Avengers table-setting from this and you might really have something. (Read more here.)
Ant-Man’s not terrible, but it’s hard to watch it and not see it as this miniaturized version of the embiggened Edgar Wright movie we should have gotten. That said, Michael Peña’s Luis may be the best non-super-powered character in the entire MCU. (Read more here.)
19. Ant-Man and the Wasp
Ant-Man and the Wasp works best when it leans into its smallness, with Paul Rudd joking with his co-stars, Michael Peña’s monologues, and a small-scale drama about a broken family trying to make itself whole again. (Read more here.)
18. Captain Marvel
Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers might be the most powerful hero in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, but her film itself lacked a little emotional oomph. Still, it’s kept entertaining by dual MVPs: Ben Mendelsohn as the resourceful Skrull Talos, and Samuel L. Jackson (and Sam Jackson’s shockingly good de-aging special effects) as the young Nick Fury. (Read more here.)
17. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Bizarro Iron Man 2: Worse than you remember, but still decent. The marketing way overplayed the conspiracy thriller angle, but Anthony Mackie’s Falcon is a great addition to the franchise, and Chris Evans is as sturdy and dependable as Captain America himself. That said, it still irks me that Nick Fury, the greatest spy the world has ever known, had no idea that everyone in SHIELD but him and his two buddies were totally evil. C’mon, dude. Open your eye. (Read more here.)
16. Black Widow
In 2021, Scarlett Johansson finally got her overdue solo adventure away from the Avengers and … wound up mostly playing straight woman to the other members of her wisecracking “family” of Russian superheroes, including David Harbour’s egomaniacal Red Guardian and Florence Pugh’s scene-stealing Yelena. As such, Black Widow isn’t quite the proper curtain call the character deserved. Still, it’s another solid Marvel blockbuster, with some impressive stunt sequences, and a very cool villain in the form of Taskmaster, who can mimic the fighting techniques of any opponent he meets.
15. Avengers: Infinity War
You can’t beat the sheer scope and ambition of this one (and the ending is one for the ages) but it still feels like there’s something missing here. If all you want from a Marvel movie is an action spectacular with some one-liners, I guess it fits the bill. If you come more for the characters and the camaraderie, and the quieter moments between the battles, this one ain’t your cup of tea. (Read more here.)
14. Iron Man 3
A good movie made slightly worse bya the Marvel Cinematic Universe around it. The whole movie builds to Tony Stark quitting his life as Iron Man and riding off into the sunset. Aaaaaand then he made like six more movies. Guy Pearce’s Killian is a disappointment, but all of Robert Downey Jr.’s exasperated interactions with a precocious kid are aces. (Read more here.)
A grand, cosmos-spanning epic that’s set mostly in … the smallest town in New Mexico? Thor has its issues, but it’s also the first Marvel movie where incredible casting and charismatic performances were able to overcome structural and screenplay issues, which soon became a Marvel trademark. (Read more here.)
12. Captain America: Civil War
The story doesn’t hold up to even a second of scrutiny, and the whole movie is designed to build to the big battle between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers at the airport. That said: ZOMFG THE BIG BATTLE AT THE AIRPORT IS SO FREAKING GREAT. (Read more here.)
11. Avengers: Age of Ultron
I still don’t understand the hate for this movie. Yes, it’s a step down from the first Avengers. Yes the stuff with Wanda and Pietro is a mess. But the final sequence, with the Avengers working together to save every last soul in Sokovia, is pure distilled Marvel. (Read more here.)
10. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Too long, with at least four (at least four!) too many post-credits scenes. But you can’t overlook the chutzpah it took to take Marvel’s jokiest franchise and make a sequel that ends on a huge downer. It’s the only Marvel movie that makes me cry and it also has jokes about alien god dongs. In my book, that’s a winning recipe. (Read more here.)
8. Spider-Man: Far From Home
Marvel’s second Spidey film, featuring Tom Holland as the Amazing Wall-Crawler, is just a small step down from the first, with plenty of romance, action, comedy, and pathos. Nobody says “with great power comes great responsibility” but Far From Home is as much about that idea as any Spidey movie ever — with Holland’s Peter Parker torn between his desire to romance MJ (a hilariously droll Zendaya) and his orders from Nick Fury (a hilariously annoyed Samuel L. Jackson) to stop a gang of elemental monsters.
7. Avengers: Endgame
A major step up from Infinity War and the second-best Avengers movie, loaded with gigantic setpieces, big laughs, and possibly more Easter eggs than any movie in the history of any cinematic universe. (Read more here.)
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
Coming at the midpoint of the MCU to date, the first Guardians helped Marvel loosen up and proved that the studio’s brand was strong enough to attract audiences to properties with little-to-know mainstream recognition. The Guardians were barely a footnote before James Gunn turned them into a huge surprise success. Also, the best Guardian is clearly and objectively Rocket, please do not argue, just accept this as fact. (Read more here.)
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming
One of the most rewatchable movies in the MCU has terrific characters, superb Spidey action, and a random street vendor asking Spider-Man to do a flip (and Spider-Man obliging). Are you not entertained?!? (Read more here.)
4. Captain America: The First Avenger
A little loose in its plotting (an entire war is basically crammed into a montage) but Chris Evans’ Captain America may be the most successful translation of a character in the entire MCU. This film took a hero that was eternally dogged by criticism that he was bland or old-fashioned, and made him a vital, charming, complicated man of simple human virtues. The MCU movie to put on when you need to feel inspired. (Read more here.)
3. Black Panther
While a lot of Marvel movies strain for intense connections with the wider universe, Black Panther shows the advantage of a more closed-off approach. At the end of the movie, when Black Panther opens Wakanda up to the rest of the world (and opens the characters up to appearances elsewhere) it’s supposed to be a happy ending. But if it means the inevitable sequel will be more diffuse and feature lots of cameos, maybe it’s not. (Read more here.)
2. The Avengers
Even after Infinity War, the first Avengers still feels like some impossible miracle. All the characters are perfectly balanced, the script is tight, and the final extended Battle of New York is truly one of the great action sequences of this century. (Read more here.)
1. Iron Man
The original has still never been topped. In hindsight, the fact that the movie had no obligations to a wider universe made it a better film, and the sequences where Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark tests his armor and then flies for the first time capture the thrill of super powers better than any movie in history, by Marvel or anyone else. (Read more here.)