Ranked: All 21st Century Marvel Movies Outside The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Since we've had two releases from Marvel Studios this year, there's been plenty of talk about ranking the movies in the Marvel cinematic universe. But with 20th Century Fox's reboot of Fantastic Four hitting theaters this weekend (for better or worse), we thought it was a good time to rank all the Marvel movies that exist outside of the MCU, which include Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, all the X-Men films and more.

Check out all the other non-MCU Marvel movies ranked after the jump!

Before we begin, it should be noted that we only decided to rank movies based on Marvel Comics since the year 2000. That's when the original X-Men was released and became a box office hit, launching an onslaught of comic book movies, good and bad. And since then, what began as a trend has turned into a box office mainstay, paving the way for the unprecedented creation of the Marvel cinematic universe.

But again, this is about ranking all 25 of the 21st century Marvel movies outside of the MCU (including the new Fantastic Four). So working from the worst to the best, here's our ranking of Marvel movies from the likes of 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures, New Line Cinema and one from Artisan Entertainment.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance


Starting with the bottom, it might be worth noting that the bottom six movies on this list could be put in almost any order and it wouldn't really make a difference. But we begin with the incoherent Ghost Rider sequel. Nicolas Cage may throw himself into this wild role, but it's just a crazy mess. Ghost Rider isn't a character easily adapted to film, especially one that's PG-13, but that doesn't mean you have to include a scene that features him pissing fire.

Blade Trinity


This is what happens when you let David S. Goyer direct a movie after letting Guillermo del Toro direct the best film in the Blade franchise. You get this mess of an ensemble movie featuring a wise-cracking Ryan Reynolds (he's actually more of a smart-ass in this movie than he is as Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but we'll get to that later) spouting off the words "c*ck-juggling thunder c*nt" for no good reason whatsoever. I would say that Dracula has never been so lame, but Dracula Untold came out last year.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine


How is it that Ryan Reynolds has starred in two of the worst movies based on Marvel comics and one of the worst DC comics movies too? Thankfully it looks like he's about to redeem himself with Deadpool, a character introduced in this pitiful beginning to the standalone Wolverine franchise, and mishandled in the worst way possible. From awful special effects (those CG claws) to cheesy punchlines that rival the terrible dialogue in X-Men: The Last Stand, this movie is downright unbearable.

Fantastic Four (2015)

Fantastic Four early buzz

Fox's second attempt to launch a Fantastic Four franchise feels like a movie made by a distracted committee; its energy level is set at "mid-week corporate strategy meeting." Marvel's First Family is barely united in this outing. Under-funded VFX attempt to visualize extraordinary powers, and the approach to action has all the enthusiasm of a vegan sitting down to a steak dinner. Previous Fantastic Four films lobbed too-broad comedy bombs. This one recoils so far from warmth that Reed Richards would have to invent a new instrument to detect any genuine feeling as the team finally comes together. [text by Russ Fischer]

Fantastic Four (2005)


Speaking of not-so-fantastic comedy, here's one of two disasters featuring Marvel's first family as a superhero sitcom. Aside from how awful the script is, and the fact that Doctor Doom is like a dastardly game show host of a villain, perhaps the worst thing in this movie is the "comedy." It's not that a Fantastic Four movie shouldn't have laughs, but it should actually be funny. There's a scene in this movie where Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) plays a shaving cream prank on The Thing (Michael Chiklis). That's a real scene. And don't even get me started on the fact that Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd) is somehow going to build a machine that reverses the superpowers whose catalyst he doesn't really understand.

Ghost Rider


Well, it's not the worst movie in the Ghost Rider series, but the least moldy of two rotten apples still doesn't make a tasty treat. I'm not sure why anyone thought casting Nicolas Cage in the role of Johnny Blaze was a good idea, but here we are with this memory that can't be easily erased, even if the movie itself is entirely forgettable. While this movie is just one out of what seems like a hundred ill-considered movies Cage has made in the past eight years, what hurts the most is that it somehow did well enough to warrant a far worse, less coherent sequel.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer


At the very least, this movie is better than its predecessor, if only because of the presence of the Silver Surfer, but only in the same way that losing a foot is better than losing a hand. Neither are preferable but we'll take the lesser of two evils. The biggest problem that Rise of the Silver Surfer has is the impending arrival of Galactus, who finally shows up in the form of a boring, non-threatening cloud. Some sequences with the Silver Surfer are cool, but that's it. Otherwise this sequel is still a complete waste of time.



Daredevil was far from the best Marvel film at the time of its release, but that didn't stop 20th Century Fox from giving the weak supporting character of Elektra (who is a whiz at building an automated training system that hangs from her loft ceiling) a movie to call her own. [Note: This Elektra is weak; the character in comics is not.] Even though Jennifer Garner can kick some ass, it wasn't enough to make this spin-off work on a story level. If you go watch Elektra again, see if you can explain how there's any real resolution in the movie.

The Punisher


Frank Castle is known for being a ruthless vigilante, and while the dark tone of this movie was unlike almost any other Marvel movie at the time (Daredevil was too cheesy to actually feel like a dark movie), again the story left plenty to be desired. Thomas Jane was fine as the Punisher, succeeding at the tortured part of the anti-hero, but he didn't really have an intimidating villain to go up against, with John Travolta bringing nothing to the table.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2


It doesn't get much worse than being the Spider-Man movie that was so bad that it convinced Sony to share the webslinger with Marvel Studios and reboot the franchise again. While the film does have its defenders, you can't deny that this movie is just as campy as Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, lacks focus, and gives Spider-Man an overly complex backstory that doesn't really develop or evolve, even with the change of making Peter Parker's father an integral part of his origins. And don't even get me started on Electro and that "It's my birthday" nonsense.



This movie is bad enough that it had people worried about Ben Affleck playing the Dark Knight in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and he didn't even have anything to do with the quality of the movie. Affleck did his best to bring some grit to Matt Murdock, but the movie around him was trying to hard to be a darker Marvel movie that it just felt artificial, like a kid who pretends to like hardcore metal, but really enjoys Matchbox 20. Kudos to Colin Farrell for giving 110% as Bullseye though.

X-Men: The Last Stand


One of the most fun things about the X-Men movies is the large roster of mutants that we get to see. But the problem is that by the time we get to the third movie in the franchise, there are so many mutants that it's all too much. Most of them don't even get names, and some of them have powers that seem dumb without any character work to back them up. What the hell's up with the guy who shoots antlers out of his hands? Plus, Wolverine is turned into a walking punchline in this movie with no depth whatsoever, despite being the anchor of the entire franchise. And let's not forget the complete bastardization of the Dark Phoenix storyline.

The Amazing Spider-Man


The only thing that made this franchise reboot somewhat enjoyable and gave us hope for improvement was the stellar chemistry between Andrew Garfield, who was fantastic as Peter Parker, and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. Sadly, pretty much all of the Spider-Man stuff felt like a lame retread of what we already saw in Sam Raimi's adaptation from the previous decade and with a far less entertaining and interesting villain.


Spider-Man 3

This movie rightfully receives a lot of criticism for how it mishandles the signature character of Venom, but in the context of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man franchise there's a good chunk of the movie that still works. Peter Parker's arc is completed, albeit with a little too much theatricality (the jazz scenes) and too many villains. There are some redeeming qualities here, however, including some pretty damn impressive action sequences.



We're breaking the rules a bit with this inclusion since it came out in 1998, but since it launched a franchise that continued into the 2000s and was influenced by the comic book boom after the release of X-Men, it's worth including. What helps Blade stand out is that it doesn't have much in the vein of typical superhero tropes that we know today, and it was before a time when the vampire market wasn't over-saturated. Plus, you don't see too many comic book characters whipping around a sword, which makes Blade's fight scenes that much more fun.


marvelrank-hulkAng Lee's 2003 adaptation of The Incredible Hulk doesn't get talked about much, but it deserves some credits for some bold artistic direction, including being the only comic book movie to embrace the unique comic panel presentation of certain scenes. The film is weighed down by some silly things like monster dogs, but Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly do lend a commendable amount of humanity to the otherwise outrageous proceedings. And while this version of the Hulk is super green, as a visual effect, he doesn't look half-bad 12 years later.

The Wolverine


After the total disaster that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it would have been an impressive feat to make a Wolverine sequel that was worse. Thankfully, director James Mangold succeeded in improving the spin-off franchise by dragging the character away from the mutant ensemble formula and giving his a character arc and conflict that has some weight to it. By the end of the movie, things get a little out of hand as far as the villains are concerned, but there's a lot of quality entertainment here that Wolverine needed to redeem the series.

The Punisher: War Zone


Sparsely seen in its theatrical release and panned by some for being outlandish and poorly acted, this is one of those instances where a movie is self-aware enough to make the ridiculous nature of it work. There's no doubt that this movie is excessively violent and full of overblown performances, but that appears to be exactly the kind of movie Lexi Alexander set out to make. There are scenes from the movie lifted straight from the panels of the comic book, and it's a lot of insane, bloody fun.



I'll be the first to admit that the original X-Men hasn't aged very well, but you have to give credit where its due. In retrospect, this movie feels foreign compared to the X-Men movies that we love today. This one is crafted in a way where it's obviously been tailor made to include general audiences who know absolutely nothing about the X-Men, or even comics in general. But because of that, Bryan Singer has my respect for still churning out a solid movie that kicked off an entire subgenre of movies by making a niche sect of pop culture accessible to everyone.


Blade II

Even though the Blade franchise doesn't come up very often when we talk about comic book movies, if there's one movie that should stand as a prime example of a unique, original and exciting comic book flick, it's Blade II. Directed by Guillermo del Toro, the film brings some creative violence to the table and stellar creature work that we've come to expect from the filmmaker who would go on to bring us Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. If you only watch one movie from the Blade franchise, it should be this one.

X-Men: First Class


Taking us back to the groovy 1960s, this X-Men flick was unlike any that we'd seen before simply because it was set decades in the past. This refreshing setting and a new approach to some familiar characters made for one of the best prequels that has ever been made. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy bring plenty of charisma to each of their characters, each having their own strengths and flaws, regardless of their classification as hero or villain. Plus, the building of a young X-Men team is rather entertaining.



As the first new franchise to follow the success of X-Men, and the first big budget take on Spider-Man after a long development process, there was a lot of curiosity and pressure on the webslinger to deliver, and thankfully Sam Raimi delivered. Though Green Goblin's design gave off a bit of a Power Rangers vibe, Willem Dafoe made for a great comic book villain to counter Peter Parker's dorky superhero personality played very well by Tobey Maguire. Raimi knew how to direct a movie that felt fantastic and grounded at the same time, and that's no easy feat.

X-Men: Days of Future Past


The last time an X-Men movie brought one of the comic's most iconic storylines to life, it resulted in X-Men: The Last Stand. Thankfully, Days of Future Past was not that kind of disaster, and it was actually close to being the best X-Men movie ever. Though tons of changes were made to the comic book storyline, including sending Wolverine back in time, it actually works perfectly within the confines of the film universe and seamlessly allowed the franchise to reboot and continue without feeling forced or confusing. And let's not forget that it delivers some of the coolest action sequences in the entire X-Men series.

X2: X-Men United


After providing a proper introduction to the X-Men, the next film in the series really throws us into the mutant world, starting with our introduction to Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), one of the best opening sequences of any superhero movie. And from there it only gets better as an impending war between humans and mutants is brewing and comes to blend with Wolverine's journey to learn more about his past. This sequel is a better Wolverine movie than any of the spin-offs, and it has just the right amount of new X-Men without going into mutant overload.

Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out how incredible it was to experience the tease of the Phoenix storyline at the end of this movie without having any indication that storyline was on the way. It was basically a credits scene before credits scenes existed, and it was a tease that only longtime X-Men fans understood. It's just a shame X-Men: The Last Stand had to waste it.

Spider-Man 2


This isn't only the best Marvel movie from outside of the Marvel cinematic universe, but it's one of the best Marvel movies period, easily able to stand as an equal to Iron Man or Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Plus, having an actor like Alfred Molina as the singular villain Doc Ock made for an interesting confrontation, if only because of the similarities between him and Peter Parker.

What's great about this movie is that despite the fact it's a sequel, it works as a standalone movie just perfectly. You could watch Spider-Man 2 without having seen the origin story of Spider-Man and without knowing that there was a Spider-Man 3. In a world when one comic book movie leads to another, it's a nice reminder that one of the best ones didn't rely on the assumption that any plot holes or unanswered questions would be taken care of in later movies.


There's plenty more movies to add to this list with X-Men: Apocalypse coming next summer and a third and final Wolverine movie with Hugh Jackman coming in 2017. Plus, Deadpool arrives in February of 2016 (watch the first trailer) and Gambit, with Channing Tatum locked into the lead role, in October later that year.

But for now, that's it for our ranking of all the 21st century Marvel movies that exist outside of the Marvel cinematic universe. Surely you'll have your own ideas of what order these movies should be in, so feel free to sound off in the comments below.