Which MCU Franchise Is the Worst: The Numbers Tell All?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is home to several of the decade’s most critically acclaimed, audience approved, and high-box-office-earning films. From Iron Man to Guardians of the Galaxy, Disney has spawned multiple successful superhero franchises from Stan Lee’s iconic comic books. However, not all superhero movies have been created equal. 

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios | Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Avengers: Infinity War

No one will deny that the Avengers saga — despite the slight misstep, Age of Ultron — was an impressive narrative accomplishment and cinematic undertaking. Iron Man laid the foundation for the future of the MCU. Black Panther was one of the most important films to hit the silver screen, commenting on the preservation of identity, the west’s views of Africa, and more. 

Captain Marvel — the MCU’s first female-led superhero film — with the talented Brie Larson at the center was a major critical success, and an important step for equal representation in Hollywood. The list goes on and, on. But, what about the MCU installments that were a little bit less impressive? 

When push comes to shove, only one MCU franchise, only one superhero’s journey can be “the worst.” For the sake of this article, we will exclude the Incredible Hulk, as only one standalone film was made, and the original actor (Edward Norton) was later swapped out. When it comes down to it, one of the most pivotal trilogies in the Avengers inter-connected saga takes the honor. 

Why ‘Thor’ is the weakest MCU franchise

Taika Waitit’s Thor: Ragnarok was an enjoyable film (no one will deny such). Waititi took the God of Thunder, relinquished some of the sobriety inherent to the character, and spiced him up with a little bit of Hemsworth’s personality, making for a movie that currently boasts a 93% critics score and an 87% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. However, one great movie does not a great franchise make. 

Unfortunately, while Waititi revolutionized the God of Thunder, compensating for Alan Taylor’s misguided second installment, The Dark World, the previous two films make Thor’s journey one of the most critically condemned. 

The first Thor opened to both critical and audience success; however, the film does not hold its own against the likes of Black Panther or Endgame. With a 78% critic score, the film was just good enough. And, we should likely thank Kenneth Branagh for the movie’s winning attributes. 

Branagh was able to utilize his grasp on Shakesperean theatre to deliver an exciting look at the story originating in Norse mythology. His understanding of the classics is why this movie — about an Avenger from a different place with a different, more aged, sociocultural playground  — worked. However, many critics still condemned the film, calling it a “desolate vastation” and “adequate for an animated film for children.” Let’s just say, many felt it was no wondrous epic. And, the second one went over even worse. There’s a reason Marvel kept switching directors until landing on Waititi.

Thor: The Dark World sits at a 67% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, making it one of the worst-reviewed films in the entire MCU (the movie is tied with The Incredible Hulk when it comes to the distinguished “worst MCU film” honor). From a lost and misguided Jane Foster to a sloppy narrative, many critics deemed The Dark World the worst Marvel movie.

When taking into account Thor’s previous misfires, changing directors, failed narratives, weak characterizations in need of further development and transformation, it becomes the worst MCU franchise. Not to mention, the three films boast an average Rotten Tomatoes score (critical) of 79.3%, making it one, if not the weakest in the franchise by the numbers. However, Thor: Love and Thunder will likely change this.