Summary

  • Rewatching the lowest-rated MCU movies can be surprisingly enjoyable, offering a unique perspective on the franchise.
  • Misguided expectations play a significant role in why some films are poorly received, affecting audience and critic opinions differently.
  • Despite criticism, even the worst-rated MCU movies contain breathtaking scenes that deserve recognition and are worth revisiting.



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It’s an understatement to say I watch a lot of Marvel movies, but rewatching the five worst-reviewed projects from the MCU‘s 16-year run was a far more enjoyable marathon than I expected. I’m lucky enough to write about the movies and TV shows I love for a living, but it’s easy to get stuck in the rut of only focusing on what’s new and the “best” of what’s not. Time isn’t infinite, so that makes sense to a degree, but it’s a unique experience to revisit some of Marvel’s more divisive projects removed from their initial swarm or critical attention.


While it’s a given that there are many movies in the MCU, taking a long, intentional look back at the whole bunch drives home just how massive the franchise is. Even those who actively re-watch Marvel movies regularly can’t hope to revisit them all often, and I know I’ve fallen victim to sticking to the ones I remember most fondly. However, that’s something that should probably change. I found a lot to love watching the five “worst” movies of the MCU.

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The MCU’s 5 Lowest-Rated Movies, Explained


I didn’t just accidentally stumble into watching the MCU’s “worst” movies – it was very much on purpose, and looking up what they actually are on Rotten Tomatoes surprised me a bit before I even started watching. While some – like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – line up pretty well with my own personal opinions, that wasn’t the case top to bottom. Quantumania takes the bottom spot, and moving up from there in ascending order, the list includes Eternals, The Marvels, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Incredible Huk.

Lowest Rated MCU Movies

Critics Average

Audience Average

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

46%

82%

Eternals

47%

77%

The Marvels

62%

82%

Thor: Love and Thunder

63%

76%

The Incredible Hulk

67%

69%


It is interesting to note that the list is comprised entirely of post-Endgame projects, except for The Incredible Hulk. Also interesting is that, with the same exception, audiences seem to be far higher on these movies than critics. Regardless, while none of these numbers hit the highs Marvel Studios likely hoped for, a franchise as old as the MCU never dipping below 46% (and only dropping below 62% twice) is impressive in its own right.

Most Of MCU’s “Worst” Movies Were Victims Of Misguided Expectations

One of the big questions I had rewatching the MCU’s worst-reviewed movies is why they fell to the bottom in the eyes of critics. First, make no mistake – while these aren’t generally the projects I’d pick as my least favorite in the franchise, they each have at least a few undeniable flaws that distance them from the MCU’s best. However, the running theme seems to be that these five movies largely just didn’t meet common audience expectations in tone or content.


Knowing what I was getting into and managing expectations let me enjoy
Quantumania
for what it is instead of what I wanted it to be.

The most obvious example here is Ant-Man’s trilogy-closer. Scott Lang’s first two cinematic outings succeeded by marrying Paul Rudd’s every-man humor with relative small-stakes conflicts, reveling in the inherent humor and wonder in growing and shrinking around everyday objects. Taking that franchise and pivoting hard to a sci-fi/fantasy epic tasked with introducing Kang the Conqueror to the MCU just fundamentally removes what audiences already connected with in previous outings. However, knowing what I was getting into and managing expectations let me enjoy Quantumania for what it is instead of what I wanted it to be.


This is perhaps more true for Thor: Love and Thunder – at least for those who read the comics. Gorr’s story in the pages of Marvel Comics is a bloody, brutal, and personal affair that shakes the god of Thunder to his core, prompting truly deep introspection in the hero about the role of gods, worship, duty, death, and fear. Those simply aren’t present in Love and Thunder. Expecting the former and seeing something more akin to a children’s fairytale villain was jarring, but the latter still works in isolation.

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Misguided expectations are perhaps less of a concern for the other three movies, but it still rings true to a degree. Eternals came as audiences were desperate for a cross-narrative to unite the MCU, but the project is a slow-paced drama that plays in its own sandbox. The Incredible Hulk is a return to the straightforward action and dark visuals popularized before the MCU, which seemed jarring after Iron Man was bold, bright, and new just months earlier. Audiences may have expected The Marvels to follow up on Secret Invasion, but that’s just not the story it tells.


Even The Worst MCU Movies Have Breathtaking Scenes

Eternals may have an unsatisfying end to the Deviant plot line, and Quantumania may not make Kang as intimidating as he deserves, but there are still scenes in these “disappointing” movies that had my jaw on the floor. The MCU may have made the move less impactful by riffing on it in Thor: Ragnarok, but Bruce Banner dropping himself out of an aircraft as a human bomb to battle Abomination is the best kind of amazing. Thor, Jane, and Valkyrie confronting Gorr to the Shadow Realm is one of the most visually striking sequences in any Marvel movie.

It’s a shame that these wonderful scenes may not get the attention they deserve being housed in movies of a lower reputation


Eternals is absolutely filled with beautiful moments, taking advantage of the practical sets. Even Quantumania even has its moment of visual splendor as thousands of Scott Langs ebb and flow like an ant colony as the inside of Kang’s probability drive lets loose. The Marvels uses its body-swapping gimmick to deliver a fast, fun, and undeniably creative brawl early on. It’s a shame that these wonderful scenes may not get the attention they deserve being housed in movies of a lower reputation, but they’re no less worthy of revisiting.

I Hope Marvel Studios Doesn’t Take The Wrong Message From The Lowest-Rated MCU Movies

Marvel Studios old logo and intro Black Panther Ant-Man Black Widow

While Marvel Studios is clearly filled with passionate individuals who love the Marvel Universe, they do, of course, need to pivot and make changes based on what works and what doesn’t on release. Disney CEO Bob Iger has made clear the company’s plans to refocus on quality, but I hope that the MCU doesn’t learn the wrong lesson from its worst-rated movies.


Eternals‘ missteps don’t mean audiences don’t want slower, atmospheric movies; they just want a better-utilized villain. Quantumania doesn’t mean MCU movies shouldn’t get weird, but they can’t lose their heart. The Marvels shouldn’t discourage more female-led projects, and The Incredible Hulk isn’t a sign Bruce Banner can’t lead his own movie. Thor is still a beloved character, but he needs to more finely walk the line between slapstick humor and drama.

The MCU is massive, and its easy to overlook the movies deemed not so great. Moreover, it’s entirely reasonable for viewers to skip over the movies that just don’t work for them. However, if rewatching the MCU‘s five worst-rated movies has taught me anything, it’s that even a “bad” Marvel movie is still pretty good, and sometimes the critics’ opinions just don’t match my own. Next time you have a few free hours, hit play on a Marvel project you haven’t watched in a while. You might just be surprised with how much you enjoy it.


All MCU movies are available to stream on Disney+.

  • The Incredible Hulk

    The second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is The Incredible Hulk, which was released in 2008. The film introduced a new backstory for the Hulk to differentiate it from the 2003 movie, Hulk. Actor Edward Norton played the role of the green hulk, and his alter ego Bruce Banner. He is joined by actress Liv Tyler who plays his love interest, Dr. Elizabeth “Betty” Ross. Betty’s father, General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt), is hoping to recreate a World War II supersoldier program and, in the process, exposes Bruce to gamma radiation that transforms him into the Hulk. He flees to find a cure for himself but is eventually tracked down by Thunderbolt, who forms an alliance with Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth). After The Incredible Hulk, Mark Ruffalo took over the character for subsequent movies in the MCU.
     

    Director
    Louis Leterrier

    Release Date
    June 13, 2008

    Writers
    Zak Penn

    Runtime
    112 minutes

  • Thor Love and Thunder Poster depicting the primary cast over a waterfall

    Thor: Love and Thunder

    Thor: Love & Thunder is the fourth Thor film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and director Taika Waititi’s second outing with the character. The movie finds Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on a journey to find inner piece. But when Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) goes on a killing rampage against the gods, Thor is thrown back into the action. Tessa Thompson returns as Valkyrie, as does Waititi’s Korg. Natalie Portman also returns to the franchise for the first time in nine years as Jane Foster, who transforms into the Mighty Thor to wield Mjolnir.

    Release Date
    July 8, 2022

    Runtime
    118 minutes

  • The Marvels Movie Poster

    The Marvels

    The Marvels sees the long-awaited team-up of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) as the trio work together to find out how their powers have become inextricably linked. Acting as a sequel to both Captain Marvel (2019) and the Ms. Marvel television show, The Marvels is the 33rd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

    Director
    Nia DaCosta

    Release Date
    November 10, 2023

    Runtime
    105 Minutes

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp - Matt Ferguson

    Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania

    Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is a sequel to 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp and is part of the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jonathan Majors returns as a variant of He Who Remains from the Loki TV Series named Kang the Conqueror. In addition to returning cast members Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, and Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathryn Newton makes her MCU debut as Cassandra “Cassie” Lang, Scott’s daughter. When Cassie activates a signal to the Quantum Realm, she, Hope, Janet Van Dyne, Hank Pym, and Scott are pulled into the dimension, embarking on a chaotic journey the likes of which the Marvel Universe has never seen.

    Director
    Peyton Reed

    Release Date
    February 17, 2023

    Writers
    jeff loveness

    Runtime
    135 minutes

  • Eternals Movie Poster

    Eternals

    Eternals is the 25th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is part of its fourth phase. Over 500 years ago, when the ten Eternals complete the task given to them by the Celestial Arishem to wipe out the invasive alien species known as Deviants that roam the earth, the group decides to go their separate ways as they find themselves at odds with how to continue their interactions with humanity as they grow and learn. Blending into society, the Eternals continue to live their lives in the modern day until the Deviants emerge again. When one of the Eternals is supposedly slain by a deviant, events are set in motion that will reunite them once again to discover why the Deviants have returned and what the true intentions of the Celestial have been for all these millennia. 

    Director
    Chloé Zhao

    Release Date
    November 5, 2021

    Writers
    Matthew K. Firpo , Ryan Firpo , Jack Kirby

    Runtime
    157 minutes


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