The Marvel Cinematic Universe is chock-full of prime entertainment value. From the moment "Iron Man" propelled into theaters, Marvel Studios has been piling up one blockbuster after another. In fact, practically every MCU movie to date has been successful when you take the larger theatrical world into perspective. Even the off-beat "The Incredible Hulk" (which came out right on the heels of "Iron Man") and the pandemic-slammed "Black Widow" brought in well over a quarter of a billion dollars each at the box office (via The Numbers).
Other MCU flicks have been successful on a level that is orders of magnitude higher than Bruce Banner’s (Edward Norton) and Natasha Romanoff’s (Scarlett Johansson) single solo outings. This includes the massive $2.8 billion haul seen by "Avengers: Endgame" and the more recent $1.9 billion box office gross of "Spider-Man: No Way Home."
There’s no doubt that the MCU has spent well over a decade reigning supreme in the eyes of moviegoers. Even so, that doesn’t mean every movie Marvel Studios has produced has been a smash hit — especially once they end their theatrical run. Even with most of the Marvel films gathered under the prodigious streaming roof of Disney+, fans still opt to skip over certain films on a rewatch.
Every fan’s personal list of "best to worst" MCU films is a little different. Even so, there are some movies that predictably come in at the bottom of the list — a fact that often means they’re straight-up skipped, even during a marathon. Many fans have taken to Reddit to compare these bottom dwellers, and it turns out that they share quite a few titles in common.
So without further ado, here are a few of the unfortunate MCU films that fans seem set on designating to the dustbin of MCU history.
The Incredible Hulk
If you had to guess a movie that would top the list, most fans would choose "The Incredible Hulk." In fact, the original post on the above-linked Reddit thread literally adds this one as an afterthought, saying, "(And Hulk, technically, but I don’t count that one to begin with)."
The dismissive attitude is a common factor whenever Edward Norton’s Hulk is brought up in conversation, and it clearly resonates with many fans on the Reddit thread who reiterated their dislike for the semi-accepted MCU film.
There are just too many things going against "The Incredible Hulk" to give it much of a chance against the rest of Marvel’s robust pantheon of films. Top of the list is the fact that the movie arrived very early on in the larger MCU experience. This means there wasn’t much of an established MCU tone yet, and Norton’s moody performance certainly doesn’t help it line up with the other stories around it.
Add in the fact that it has about as much of a plotline as any Hulk-centric movie (read: none) and it’s all too easy to write this one off as that strange cousin you only have to see every few years and never have to openly acknowledge as a relative — let alone a friend.
Thor: The Dark World
The second "Thor" film has a well-established reputation as a subpar Marvel film. The movie goes nowhere fast. Sure, we learn about the Aether, and the story’s plotline even plays an important part in "Avengers: Endgame," but the actual movie itself just isn’t very good.
By this point in time, we already know who Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is. We’ve also seen him team up with the Avengers, and we know that he’s overcome a lot of his worst flaws. His important role in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" hasn’t come yet, and he’s a long way from facing his biggest challenges in "Thor: Ragnarok," "Avengers: Infinity War," and beyond.
But "Dark World"? It’s just there, filling up space. There are some Dark Elves who cause trouble, but they’re disposed of … and never show up again. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) plays a really important role … and then disappears for years (although not permanently, thanks to the fourth installment of the franchise).
No matter what way you slice it, there just isn’t much here to love. The story’s okay. It sets up Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to do some pretty cool stuff down the road. But actually watching it isn’t as rewarding as the many movies that surround it.
Iron Man 3
If you don’t count "The Incredible Hulk" (which a lot of fans don’t), most lists of the worst movies in the MCU end with one of two names: "Thor: The Dark World" or "Iron Man 3." And yes, it didn’t take long for both to show up on the Reddit thread.
The third installment of Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) franchise suffers from an overload of mundane stories, none of which are captivating or add up to much (it’s one of the few MCU movies that requires a few Google searches to remember what on earth even happened in it).
When fans do choose to suffer through a rewatch, "Iron Man 3" takes them on a not-so-harrowing adventure as Stark combats a strange combination of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and his Extremis army; the fake "Mandarin," Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley); and an inner struggle with PTSD following the Battle of New York in "The Avengers."
Any one of those three could have been interesting on its own. Together, though, we just get a hodgepodge mashup of different threats and responding heroics, none of which are compelling enough to come back for another viewing.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is another movie that fans were inclined to trash as they parsed through their least favorite MCU installments. In this case, the actual entertainment value of the film isn’t all that bad. James Gunn is at the helm, and the cast delivers another fine performance of MCU-caliber, action-packed, humorous entertainment.
Even so, the question has to be asked once again: What’s the point? We’re not saying that there’s zero story here. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) gets some good closure when it comes to his really strange, space-origin parentage. Mantis (Pom Klementieff) is added to the crew. Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) is alive and well — and cute as heck.
But again, we have to ask, what’s the point? In the same way that Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) threatens the entire universe, is stopped dead in his tracks, and is never heard from again, Ego (Kurt Russell) threatens the entire universe, is stopped dead in his tracks, and is never heard from again.
We get it. That’s what superheroes do. They stop threats — even galactic-sized ones — and eliminate them whenever possible. But the fact that these are one-off events lowers the stakes significantly. The fact that an antagonist as big as Ego is shoehorned into a very busy story and hardly gets his due just makes watching him that much less appealing.
We won’t break down every movie discussed by the fans — it’s a Reddit rabbit hole, after all. However, there are several other contenders for "most likely to skip" that are worth mentioning.
"Iron Man 2" and "Ant-Man and the Wasp" both made the list. These are low-hanging fruit too. After all, they’re the second installment in solo franchises with little to no universe-level stakes throughout. On top of that, Stark’s second film is very early in the franchise, and Scott Lang’s (Paul Rudd) solo sequel comes between "Infinity War" and "Endgame" — read: It’s Snap filler.
Other dark horse candidates that snuck in and out of the conversation included "Captain Marvel," "Doctor Strange," "Thor," and "Black Panther." An interesting connection there? They’re all origin stories. Apparently, when binging the MCU, most fans want to stick to the larger storylines with a multitude of characters.
While every fan clearly has their own personal lists, there is a certain level of disloyalty that comes with skipping any of these movies. After all, for most Marvelites, even the least of the MCU films is much easier to sit through than an infinite number of others. It’s a sentiment that was also reflected by fans — so much so, in fact, that the second-highest up-voted comment on the Reddit thread in question simply read, "I can’t skip one single movie. It would feel like a betrayal." ‘Nuff said.