They can’t all be winners, and these are the worst MCU movies, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
Love it or hate it, Marvel Studios rules the box office, and Disney’s superhero division makes a claim for streaming dominance. It’s the behemoth of pop culture, and practically everyone has watched at least one of the films, comic fan or not.
These days, taking notes on all the films and shows is a prerequisite for each new entry into the sprawling MCU pantheon of heroes. No matter how good or bad it is, having the Marvel logo automatically gets audiences into theaters. Many times, the MCU films get free passes from both fans and critics alike simply because it’s Disney.
Despite legions of fans and billions of dollars earned, even Marvel Studios is capable of dud now and again, but which ones are the worst? Rotten Tomatoes reveals the MCU films that fell flat both with audiences and critics alike.
Critics and audiences don’t often see eye to eye on what makes for a great movie, there can be a deep chasm between the scores. To make things easier this list has averaged the two figures to show an overall cumulative percentage.
To kick things off, it’s the latest Marvel box office attraction, the Multiverse of Madness, the abbreviation of which, MOM, gives away the plot. In a movie more about Scarlet Witch and her children than Doctor Strange, it was appropriately released on Mother’s Day weekend.
Dear old MOM was captained by Spider-Man and Evil Dead director Sam Raimi. While many fans applauded his signature (and often campy) style, not everyone was as appreciative. The major complaint was the treatment of Wanda Maximoff being suddenly transformed into a villain in a story with more holes than a Connect Four board.
Here’s the thing about Marvel movies: they almost always score well with critics and audiences. MOM may have ranked 10th from the bottom, but it still averaged almost an 80 percent Fresh rating.
Remember when everyone loved Joss Whedon? The maligned director had risen to fame with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series and its spinoff, Angel, before helming the first Avengers movie. More so than his predecessors, Whedon embraced the action-comedy aspect, forever changing the MCU landscape with a more sitcom-style comedy approach to the superheroes. His follow-up Avengers film, Age of Ultron, was less inspired, though it still managed to earn over 80 percent Fresh with fans.
8. Iron Man 3
Lethal Weapon scribe Shane Black came on board to make Tony Stark an action hero sans high-tech armor. Robert Downey, Jr. charmed the audience with his trademark snarky comments, and he was given a sidekick for this one. Overall, the film was a hit with critics and audiences, but the sore spot remains due to the Mandarin.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings would later redeem the character with a much better Mandarin, but Iron Man 3 wasted a golden opportunity, which Marvel is prone to doing. Instead of playing the mastermind of the Ten Rings crime syndicate, Ben Kingsley portrayed struggling actor and bumbling idiot Trevor Slattery. Throwing away Kingsley’s talent on such a forgettable character is a cinematic sin of the highest order.
Like basically all of Marvel’s Phase One movies, fans had been waiting for generations to see Captain America get a proper film. He had been teased in Iron Man 2, and there was a deleted scene for The Incredible Hulk that featured Cap frozen in the Arctic. When the moment arrived for Chris Evans to raise the star-spangled shield, theaters were packed. Scrape away the hype and awe for Steve Rogers, and what are you left with? A mediocre story that didn’t offer anything new, at least according to critics.
The first of two Thor movies on this listicle, Chris Hemsworth’s debut as Marvel’s God of Thunder was slightly better received by critics than audiences. Still, those same reviewers lambasted the film as forgettable and uninspired. Director Kenneth Branaugh did get credit for creating a beautiful rendition of Asgard, complete with Thor’s old-school winged helmet.
5. Iron Man 2
Thor and Iron Man are the only characters featured in three different movies on today’s list. Then again, when you are the stars of a massive franchise, that tends to happen. At any rate, the bar was set exceedingly high for Iron Man 2. The movie’s predecessor, 2008’s Iron Man, launched the MCU with a superhero film that was surprisingly grounded. It rejuvenated RDJ’s career and made him an unlikely action megastar. Then came the sequel with Mickey Rourke, fresh off his Oscar win for The Wrestler, who helped create one of the most stereotypical Russian villains anyone has seen in years.
If this list was based strictly on critical ratings, Thor’s sequel would have challenged for the dubious first position. With a reported $150 million budget, the effects and costumes lagged behind many other Marvel projects. Kurse’s prosthetics looked particularly foamy, which would have been great for a comic con cosplay, but not so much for a major blockbuster.
The story itself was a by-the-numbers Marvel action-comedy with annoying supporting characters and worse dialog. What is interesting is that while the overall critical rating is 66 percent, the site’s Top Critics score, which narrows the field to only 68 opinions from cinema’s most respected reviewers, plummets to 51percent.
The Green Goliath can’t catch a break when it comes to the silver screen. Certainly, the fan-favorite stole the show in The Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok, but his two solo movies were less than impressive. Ang Lee’s The Hulk from 2003 roped in a paltry 62 percent Rotten with critics, while audiences scored it a measly 29 percent. In pre-Disney Marvel Studios’ hands, Edward Norton’s one and only MCU appearance raised the bar, but it was still one of the least memorable films in the franchise.
It was a long wait for audiences to see last year’s Eternals due to the pandemic. Once it arrived in theaters, critics were less than impressed. Chloe Zhao, who took home the Oscar for Best Director in 2021 for Nomadland, took a different approach to the superhero genre, viewing the characters in more of a mythical context and including references to Batman and Superman. Audiences enjoyed Eternals about as much as any other MCU entry, but critics blasted the heavy-handed “mankind is flawed beyond repair” message in a story that bordered on nonsensical at times.
At the top of the list (or bottom, in this case) is one of the most polarizing movies in all the MCU: Captain Marvel.
Critics didn’t particularly love the ‘90s nostalgia piece, but they didn’t hate it, either. The audiences were a different matter, and their disdain for Captain Marvel makes it the only Marvel movie with less than a 70 percent Fresh rating from the fans. However, that 45 percent Rotten from audiences is highly contested. People bombarded Rotten Tomatoes with negative reviews for weeks before the movie’s theatrical release. The site reportedly deleted some of the more hateful and offensive reviews, many of which were aimed at star Brie Larson, but it appears that most of those premature scores were factored into the Rotten rating. While technically Captain Marvel ranks last, that is not an accurate reflection of the reaction from fans who watched the movie.