All 5 MCU Movie Trilogies, Ranked

  • The MCU consists of five distinct trilogies, each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses.
  • A great MCU trilogy should be watchable on its own, maintaining a distinct tone and influence throughout.
  • The Iron Man trilogy may have started strong but is far from the best the MCU has to offer, struggling with maintaining a cohesive tone.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe could be looked at as one massive, single film series, but it's easy to forget that five distinct trilogies are nestled within the franchise's expansive filmography. These include the Ant-Man trilogy, the Captain America trilogy, the Tom Holland Spider-Man Homecoming trilogy, James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy, and the Iron Man trilogy. It's worth noting that other series within the MCU, such as the Avengers movies and the Thor quadrilogy, used to fit into this category, but have since exceeded three films.
The five trilogies of the MCU make for an interesting point of comparison to one another. Not only do they differ in the average quality of their individual entries, but some work better as cohesive stories that flow into one another, whereas others are more like pit stops along the wider catalog of all MCU films. Interestingly enough, most of these series aren't typically thought of as standalone movie franchises, usually getting lost in the noise of Marvel Studios' bigger picture in the public zeitgeist.
A great MCU trilogy should be watchable on its own, without excessive need for the context that shaped their arrival in the wider story. The best of these sub-franchises also maintain a distinct tone and influence throughout, usually helped by a singular creative vision acting as a throughline for all three entries. Even if the MCU's solo-film series may increase their numbers over time, as with the upcoming Spider-Man 4, they would do well to continue striving to adhere to these goals.
5 The Ant-Man Trilogy Never managed to sell audiences on the pint-sized hero Ever since the release of Paul Rudd's Ant-Man, the size-changing antics of the missing original Avengers member struggled to capture both audience and critical approval. While the echoes of Edgar Wright's influence on the first Ant-Man make it an enjoyable, if somewhat underwhelming origin story, each successive entry in Ant-Man's story is a harder sell than the last. By no fault of Paul Rudd's charming efforts as a leading man, the trilogy has become by far the weakest series of solo films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Ant-Man plays out like a fun heist story, setting up the down-on-his-luck underdog Scott Lang with the gruff retired hero Hank Pym in a lower-stakes espionage adventure. Ant-Man and the Wasp maintains some elements from the first film, such as the hilarious storytelling of Michael Peña's Luis, but lacks much of the charm of its progenitor, with more humor that falls flat and the introduction of forgettable new characters like Ghost. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was one of the worst box-office bombs of 2023, suddenly veering the series into the depths of fantasy sci-fi with sterile CGI sets.
The sure but gradual decline of each successive Ant-Man movie's success easily places it as the weakest completed trilogy in the MCU. The sharp turn of the franchise from a series of gadgetry-fueled action-comedy adventures to a universe-affecting fantasy film introducing a major Marvel big bad was far from graceful, individual failures of each entry notwithstanding. The cast of the Ant-Man films do their best to carry the weak material, but the series ultimately doesn't hold a candle to Marvel's more famous successes.
4 The Iron Man Trilogy Classic, but flawed As the critically-acclaimed very first film to breathe life into the Marvel Cinematic Universe project, one might expect the trilogy spawned from 2008's Iron Man to easily be the strongest trilogy neatly slotted into the overall franchise. But despite Robert Downey Jr.'s unparalleled success as a leading man, Iron Man's solo films strangely fill out his weaker appearances in the MCU, his performance truly excelling when balanced against his fellow heroes in the franchise's many cross-over films. However strong a start it may have had, the Iron Man trilogy is far from the best the MCU has to offer.
Iron Man quickly sold audiences on the Marvel Universe, a satisfying, gritty tale with one foot in reality and one foot in the realm of comic-book escapism. Iron Man 2 falls off quickly, presenting a fun, but mindless action movie with bombastic caricatures and blatant pro-military propaganda that feels more like one of Michael Bay's movies. Iron Man 3 is an underrated gem, telling a headier story of overcoming PTSD with a Tony Stark stripped of his resources, but the rug-pull of the Mandarin's identity and forgettable Extremis plotline make it a quiet place to end Iron Man's solo films.
Overall, Iron Man's trilogy of solo films feels incredibly confused. Even if Iron Man's hard rock soundtrack runs true through all three, the movies can't maintain a single tone to save their lives, and Iron Man's arc is better told in the Avengers films, where he basically acts as the main character anyway. Still, the jagged average quality of the films has some true spikes, and deserves credit for laying the foundation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so early on. Even if later trilogies worked better as cohesive stories, Iron Man's initial story made the MCU work.
3 The Spider-Man Homecoming Trilogy A great set of films that over-relies on the rest of the MCU Tom Holland quickly won over audiences as a fan favorite live-action Spider-Man, selling a spunky, high school Peter Parker that just wants to make a positive difference in his community. Needing to fill Sam Raimi's big shoes, Marvel moved forward with their own Spider-Man trilogy with remarkable success, likely helped by the then-recent failures of Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man duology. With each entry having the word "home" somewhere in its title, Spider-Man's MCU solo films maintain a clear identity through and through.
Spider-Man: Homecoming started things off right, presenting a street-level story of Peter Parker juggling his high school desires with his weighty heroic responsibilities without wasting time retelling an origin audiences are already well-familiar with. Spider-Man: Far From Home was perhaps a bit weaker, but changed things up with a fish-out-of-water story that ends with drastic consequences for Peter Parker. Finally, Spider-Man: No Way Home acted as a stunning conclusion for not only Tom Holland's Spider-Man, but previous webslinging continuities as well.
The Spider-Man Homecoming trilogy is very tonally consistent, each entry being a coming-of-age story that picks up precisely where the last left off regardless of the amount of in-universe time that passed. Admittedly, the films struggle with the overbearing presence of other heroes like Iron Man and Doctor Strange, Spider-Man's agency in his own stories reduced by his mentors' actions. Even if Tom Holland's Spider-Man is undermined by his support from other Avengers, the Homecoming trilogy is an evenly strong showing for the character, with every fan having their own favorite entry.
2 The Captain America Trilogy Three very different movies that nevertheless feel cohesive Steve Rogers' Captain America boasts some of the strongest solo films in each of the MCU's phases, thanks in no small part to Chris Evans' unrivaled charisma as the classically-heroic character. Spanning the ages of time periods, genres, and Steve's own personal journey, Captain America's films aren't just about him. Each one also develops the star-spangled superhero's relationship with Bucky, Peggy Carter, and the U.S. Government itself alongside his own character arc, making for a fascinating series of very different films about the same thing.
A diamond-in-the-rough of Phase 1, Captain America: The First Adventure is a fun period-piece action-adventure romp that tells a straightforward story with all the heart it can muster. Meanwhile, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a daring espionage film that stacks the odds against a solo Marvel hero like never before, forcing Cap to re-evaluate his place in the modern world. Obviously, Captain America: Civil War feels more like an Avengers movie, bringing in hordes of returning stars alongside the introduction of two major new characters, but never strays from focusing on the end of Rogers' arc.
Even if Captain America's MCU films couldn't be more different from one another in terms of plot and setting, all three maintain the same heart and themes thanks to the immovable anchor of Chris Evans' career-defining performance. The Avengers movies may give Captain America a better send-off than the third entry of his own trilogy, but his continuous struggle to do the right thing and stand by his friends in open defiance of the world around him never changes. Whether battling HYDRA, The Winter Soldier, or his own friends, Captain America's trilogy is the strongest of the solo heroes.
1 The Guardians Of The Galaxy Trilogy An unrivaled success almost separate from the MCU While Jon Watts may have directed every entry in the Spider-Man Homecoming trilogy, no single creative vision comes through stronger in any MCU trilogy than the voice James Gunn gives to the Guardians of the Galaxy. Taking a relatively unknown Marvel property and propelling its characters into superhero stardom, the 70s soundtrack, wickedly funny dialogue and eye-popping colorful visuals all culminate in a distinctly unique series. The trilogy exists almost in a vacuum apart from the MCU, barring Gamora's death in the Infinity Saga, which Gunn essentially openly mocks by way of Star-Lord's mouthpiece in the third entry.
Guardians of the Galaxy sets things off to a roaring start, bringing together the eclectic oddball cast of spacefaring rogues into a chaotic party that happens to save the galaxy itself. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 dives further into Star-Lord's backstory while introducing one of the MCU's strongest villains, keeping up the blend of comedy, style, and genuine emotional beats. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, fan-favorite Rocket Raccoon takes the spotlight, definitively closing out the story of the team in a bittersweet finale.
It's not just that the Guardians of the Galaxy series maintains the most consistent tone, quality, and singular creative direction of any MCU property. The series also balances its cast remarkably well, giving each member clear character examination and times to shine, while taking place in outer space far removed from the obligations of cameos from Marvel earthlings. The spectacle of the gorgeous CGI, tremendous fight scenes, and creative alien worlds is the cherry on top of easily the strongest, most cohesive trilogy the MCU has to offer.
Upcoming Marvel Movies Release Date Deadpool & Wolverine July 26, 2024 Captain America: Brave New World February 14, 2025 Thunderbolts* May 2, 2025 The Fantastic Four July 25, 2025 Blade November 7, 2025 Avengers: The Kang Dynasty May 1, 2026 Avengers: Secret Wars May 7, 2027


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