The comic book movie trilogy is a coveted run for a whiz-bang IP that allows fans to look at a character's arch as opposed to one movie at a time. Some trilogies like Captain America and Iron Man are foundational pieces of the Infinity Saga. Others are character-focused like the Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man.
With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 finally being released, the James Gunn trilogy will be the last in the Marvel Cinematic Universe until a potential part three to Doctor Strange or Black Panther releases.
Since neither of those projects is on the horizon, here's the official ranking of the MCU trilogies from The Direct team.
Honorable Mention: The Avengers
The Avengers run would unquestionably be near the top of this list had it been eligible for voting. While there will be franchises on this list with more than three movies, the Avengers franchise is different because of the Part 1/Part 2 nature of Infinity War and Endgame.
Because both of those classics were originally announced, produced, and delivered as a two-part event, it would be unfair to consider them alongside other three-movie trilogies.
Regardless, the story told in these three movies is one of the most important in comic book movie history. The Avengers created the modern crossover event on screen and will forever be revered. It is almost a ceremonious omission as the Avengers is the product of each of these other trilogies coming together.
Not even the biggest Ant-Man fans in the world would have guessed this trilogy to land high on this list. No other trio of movies in the MCU has been affected more by their placement in the timeline than Peyton Reed's Ant-Man trilogy.
Ant-Man was the first movie post-Avengers that introduced a new character on Earth that wasn't a part of the Avengers. This was a refreshing small story (rimshot) that slowed things down after Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it introduced one of the most beloved characters in the MCU, Scott Lang.
Then, Ant-Man and the Wasp unfortunately was set between Infinity War and Endgame, which managed to creep into the movie with the necessary groundwork of the Quantum Realm. While the sequel still has many redeeming qualities, it teeters between being an Infinity Saga tie-in and a follow-up to the original.
Then comes Quantumania, which had a different type of identity problem. The third of the trilogy largely acted more as a proper introduction to Kang the Conquerer than anything else. While those elements of the movie were pretty great, the uncertainty of that character has created a dark fog over what was already a bottom-tier MCU entry.
The Infinity Saga Thor trilogy is one of the most interesting on the list. It is a rare sight to see in blockbuster trilogies where the third entry is the best of the group.
Thor and Thor: The Dark World are perpetually found in the bottom 12 of MCU rankings across the board, while Thor: Ragnarok is hard to find outside the top 15. By any and all metrics, Ragnarok carries this franchise in a big way as the rebooted Thor shined brighter than any of Chris Hemsworth's previous appearances.
Much like the Ant-Man faithful, few Thor fans are going to get upset that this trilogy is not ranked higher on the list as there is only one game-breaker in the group.
4. Iron Man
Much like the Thor franchise, the Iron Man trilogy is largely carried by its most successful and beloved movie. Iron Man in 2008 changed comic books and blockbuster movies forever as Robert Downey Jr. made Tony Stark a household name.
It feels like this trilogy, more than anything, is a sign of the times as it is the only franchise in the MCU that has a sequel release with only one entry in between (Iron Man > The Incredible Hulk > Iron Man 2). For a franchise that is so embedded into the overall MCU narrative, Iron Man 3 is over just as Tony Stark's story had begun being told.
It is a blessing and a curse because after the Iron Man trilogy was over, Robert Downey Jr. took complete control of the Avengers franchise and managed to have a Lebronian second career continuing his run as the face of the MCU.
Spider-Man is one of the biggest IPs that has ever come across Hollywood's desk. The Jon Watts Homecoming trilogy is the lessons learned over 15 years of web-headed big-screen movies.
The arc of this Peter Parker is widely considered one of the brand's best. Something that makes this trilogy special is its ability to give Tom Holland's Spider-Man a great story while also incorporating some of the best fan service in the MCU. It is a true Endgame-level event.
This was the pairing that comic book fans have been dreaming of for 80 years. Marvel Studios had a proven track record of adapting comic book characters better than any other studio. Spider-Man had been the darling of the genre for more than a decade.
This trilogy is a love letter to one of the greatest superheroes of all time and a preview of what is possible with the X-Men in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
2. Captain America
For years, the Captain America trilogy was the only comic book trilogy ever made that could compete with Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. This trilogy has everything from the grounded solo origin story, the team-up sequel, and the crossover final act that spearheaded the greatest run in MCU history.
No franchise in the MCU benefits more from the world-building of the universe than Captain America. Every entry in the trilogy features characters and storylines that heavily contribute to and rely on other MCU films more and more. This is true all the way through Civil War, which many consider Avengers 2.5.
The Steve Rogers story across all Captain America and Avengers movies is the bar set in the Infinity Saga for character development. The Captain America trilogy cannot exist without the MCU, and the MCU could not exist the way it is without this trilogy.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise and trilogy is unlike any other in the MCU.
One of the few trilogies directed by one director, James Gunn was able to build a corner of the universe that stands on its own colorful and outrageous table while also being a major factor and contributor to the greater story in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
From the moment Chris Pratt's Star-Lord hits play on his Walkman in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, something about these movies grabbed the attention of audiences on a scale hitherto undreamt of. The comedy, music, chemistry, heart, and elite-level CGI (in the environment, effects, and characters) make this trilogy stand out among the rest.
The Spider-Man trilogy was able to capitalize on the icon that is Peter Parker, and the Captain America trilogy was able to take advantage of the greater MCU being built around it. All Guardians had to work with was a talking raccoon and tree that no one had ever heard of, a former WWE World heavyweight champion, the daughter of the big bad that had been on screen for three seconds, and the goofy kid from Parks and Rec.
With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 being one of the most satisfying and universally beloved final chapters in the MCU, this trilogy is able to compete with any other blockbuster trilogy to ever grace the big screen.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a stacked list of blockbuster franchises, filled with some of the best movie trilogies in cinematic history. Here is a recap of our list of the best MCU trilogies from best to worst:
- Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy
- Captain America trilogy
- Spider-Man trilogy
- Iron Man trilogy
- Thor trilogy
- Ant-Man trilogy