Here’s to a new 2023 — looking back on all the amazing (or perhaps lackluster) Marvel Cinematic Universe outings created by The Walt Disney Company’s Marvel Studios (and ultimately, Kevin Feige).
The MCU’s 2022 at a glance
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s dramatic ending to Phase Three and the quest for every Infinity Stone, Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019) directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, saw audiences saying goodbye to Marvel heavyweights Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America. This led to the beginning of Phase Four beginning in 2021 with Disney+ Original WandaVision, starring Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch) and Paul Bettany (Vision).
In 2022, Phase Four officially came to a close with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) wrapping it up officially. Now, with Phase Five and Phase Six on the horizon, this year’s Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania (2023) will kick off the Multiverse Saga’s Secret Wars plot (for a comprehensive guide to what that will likely entail, check this out). Included in this 2023 line-up are much-anticipated titles (often teased at San Diego Comic Con’s Hall H) like Secret Invasion starring Samuel L. Jackson as Director Nick Fury, and Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, as well as The Marvels, a direct sequel to Captain Marvel (2019) starring Brie Larson as Carol Danvers and newcomer Iman Vellani (Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel), and James Gunn’s final Marvel movie (and the Guardians’ curtain call), Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 in May.
What counts as “everything” Marvel made?
Here, we’re going to focus on movies — mainline theatrical releases to be exact — as well as streaming platform Disney+ items — whether they be a TV show, or a Marvel Special Presentation mini-film.
And now, we will rank them all from worst to best, to have an even better overview of the year that’s just passed! Here’s everything Marvel made in 2022 ranked.
Everything Marvel made last year, ranked
9. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, August 18, 2022
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, stars Marvel Cinematic Universe newcomer Tatiana Maslany as lawyer (defense attorney) Jennifer Walters who gets turned into She-Hulk after an unprecedented accident involving her cousin Bruce Banner/the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Despite Charlie Cox’s Daredevil/Matt Murdock episode proving to be the strongest of the series, everything around it lets the promising premise down.
The comedy-driven lawyer show starts off encouraging, with an extremely bland middle section that seems written around CGI scenes (considering the way Marvel allegedly treats its VFX artists, perhaps this makes the most sense). She-Hulk begins to lose the plot towards the end, with a massive fourth wall break (and a bit of weird audience insult?) that belies the difficulty that the writing team had with this finale. Turning the entire MCU into joke is confusing to audiences, to say the least. Should we as the audience cry over Iron Man and King T’Challa’s MCU deaths — if it’s all created by a Kevin Feige AI robot designed to wring cash out of its audience, anyway?
8. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, May 6, 2022
Directed by Sam Raimi, this Doctor Strange feature has its fair share of fans. However on the whole, its somewhat chaotic (and not in necessarily a good way) plot feels overstretched and confusing. Additionally, despite it being called a “Multiverse of Madness”, there isn’t much “madness” from the Multiverse — apart from a few scenes of Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange tumbling through some kooky worlds, actual engagement with the sheer insanity of what the Multiverse could offer is lackluster.
As a result, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness gets 8th place on this list. It’s definitely not the worst thing to come out from Marvel (that distinction goes to another Marvel Phase Four film in fact), but compared to what else came out in 2022, perhaps not the most highly ranked.
7. Ms. Marvel, June 8, 2022
Ms. Marvel was the debut solo show of Marvel newcomer Iman Vellani as the eponymous Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan. It brings the audience to a multitude of locations — but perhaps its first few “small-town” high school moments and episodes are its best. After what’s arguably one of the MCU’s strongest television Disney+ starts, delving into the history of Kamala Khan’s Pakistani family and culture, as well as Kamala’s school-age superhero obsessions and quirkily adorable best friends, the show takes a bit of a sharp nose dive into messiness the moment Kamala gets to Pakistan.
The rather convoluted plot relating to the group of other-worldly Clandestines and the drama surrounding Najma (Nimra Bucha) and Kamala’s family’s past starts to weigh the series down towards the end. Nevertheless, there are fun moments and fun characters — and for that this show gets 7th place.
6. Thor: Love and Thunder, July 8, 2022
Now, Thor: Love and Thunder is a bit of a middling one on this list at 6th, purely because it was maybe a bit middling to begin with. Nothing can likely top the explosive shift in tone and concise, effective, and funny storytelling of Thor: Ragnarok (2017), also directed by New Zealander Taika Waititi.
Somehow, the jokes and pacing feel a little off (maybe it’s because Marvel Studios demanded that it be cut down to a rather short runtime) — it’s definitely still funny, and kooky, and most of all fun. And though Chris Hemsworth is the same lovable Thor Odinson, and Natalie Portman basically knocks it out of the park with Mighty Thor/Jane Foster, it maybe leaves something to be desired overall. It’s no Thor: The Dark World (2013), at least.
5. I Am Groot, August 10, 2022
There’s not much to say about I Am Groot, apart from perhaps that it’s cute.
Spanning approximately five minutes each, this series of shorts set in the Guardians of the Galaxy world and amidst those well-loved characters follows Groot (Vin Diesel) as he putters around Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and company’s spaceship. Undeniably weird (like much of the Guardians franchise), this series also delivers tons of quirky-adorable weirdness, and fun little stories. It’s particularly fun hearing little cameos from Guardians like Drax (Dave Bautista) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper). Overall, little tree shenanigans is a lovely time for all the family.
4. Moon Knight, March 30, 2022
Moon Knight was one rather innovative attempt at a superhero origin story!
Oscar Isaac (Marc Spector/Moon Knight) does his best English accent as one of his variant personalities, Steven Grant. The rather interesting thing that Egyptian director Mohamed Diab and Isaac manage to accomplish is that the audience genuinely start to see each personality of Marc Spector’s as a real, separate character.
Moon Knight cleverly plays with expectation and characterization, deliberately throwing the audience for a loop and keeping them guessing. It starts to turn into perhaps more typical Marvel fare as it ventures into “big CGI fight” territory, but the introduction of the Egyptian gods and the very interesting way they interact with humans raises a lot of questions — both for the characters and within the MCU’s story as a whole.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, November 25, 2022
This was a solid-as-heck, festive Marvel Special Presentation from James Gunn and the Guardians crew.
A heartwarming tale is told as Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) take center stage, in a heist to capture Kevin Bacon (acting as himself) as a Christmas gift for their buddy Peter Quill. Turns out, Mantis has a bit of a secret to reveal that redefines Quill’s world just a bit and makes the holiday a truly memorable one. Now, we’re totally prepared for the tears come Guardians 3 in May. No, that’s not a tear, my eyes are just itchy!
2. Werewolf by Night, October 7, 2022
This is yet another stellar festive Marvel Special Presentation!
A short that deliberately plays with old-school horror film tropes and delivers that spooky Halloween vibe in spades — and marks a successful departure from the Marvel formula. The black and white stylization helps to add to that amazingly well-curated atmosphere, and the story and MCU lore are both served rather expertly.
It’s definitely a triumph from Michael Giacchino, the composer-turned-director who absolutely kills it (maybe pun intended), showcasing Gael García Bernal as Jack Russell/Werewolf by Night and Laura Donnelly as Elsa Bloodstone to a fantastic degree. Because of that, Werewolf By Night earns 2nd place!
1. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, November 11, 2022
Now the top spot in this list perhaps may come as a surprise to some, as the Black Panther (2018) sequel was not as universally loved as the initial film. But the sheer amount of effort and love poured into the movie, as well as some of the strongest worldbuilding the MCU has seen in recent years with Tenoch Huerta Mejía’s Namor and Talokan, and some stellar character and acting moments that take this movie all the way to 1st place.
Directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever grapples with the very sudden loss of Chadwick Boseman’s King T’Challa in-universe, with current Wakandan Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), T’Challa’s mother and sister Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright), as well General Okoye (Danai Gurira) of the Dora Milaje, T’Challa’s lover and War Dog Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) dealing with various interpretations of grief. Newcomer Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) also takes a place in the film, and it’s worked in… alright, but it’s one of those “clearly Feige-mandated”, “larger MCU story” insertions that feels just a tiny bit out of place.
Overall, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had an eventful year in 2022 — with so many varying projects releasing (even sometimes what feels like simultaneously) — one cannot help but wonder if Marvel are spreading themselves thin. But if audiences keep showing up to theaters, and continue to tune into Disney+, we’re likely to see even more Marvel-themed works coming to our screens in the near future.
Will we see more insanity from Jonathan Majors’ Kang in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty inspired by the Marvel Comic world? Will John Krasinski as Reed Richards/Mister Fantastic join an MCU Fantastic Four? What happens when Armor Wars or Captain America: New World Order likely changes the course of the world? Or when Mahershala Ali’s Blade (finally) joins the fray? Only time (and Marvel shows) will truly tell.
What did you think of this ranking of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe releases from 2022? Share your thoughts in the comments below!