15 Marvel Animated Movies That Are Actually Worth Watching

The Marvel Cinematic Universe may be getting all the recognition as the definitive onscreen adaptations of Marvel's classic comic book characters, but there have been some terrific animated Marvel films, some of which were made before Robert Downey, Jr. suited up as Iron Man in 2008. With a wide variety of animation styles, talented voice casts, and adaptations of beloved comic book storylines, there's something for everyone in the universe of animated Marvel movies.

While it's always a treat for Marvel fans when MCU films and TV shows reference one another, one of the advantages that many previous Marvel animated movies had over the current MCU model is that they were largely self-contained, making them easy for casual viewers to dive into and not have to worry about continuity. It seems that most future animated Marvel projects will be part of the larger MCU, but it's still worth checking out earlier iterations of your favorite heroes, which is why we've created this guide of 15 Marvel animated movies that are worth watching.

Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell (2016)

Who DOESN'T love good ol' fashioned Marvel team-up? In "Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell," Jade Jaws joins the Sorcerer Supreme to contain a horde of teens-turned-monsters who're taking over New York City on Halloween night. To get to the bottom of this bizarre mystery, Doctors Strange and Banner must travel to the Dream Dimension and confront Nightmare, who has some nefarious plans of his own. To make sure their physical forms remain safe in the real world, they hire as their bodyguards a terrifying lineup of the Howling Commandos that includes a zombified Jasper Sitwell, Vampire by Night, Man-Thing, Werewolf, and Minotaur.

Part of what makes any Marvel story so fun — whether it's a comic book, film, or TV show — is its connections to the wider Marvel Universe. While this is primarily a Hulk flick, the inclusion of Doctor Strange and the haunted heroes of the Howling Commandos makes "Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell" an absolute blast. Oh, and wait until you get a load of the way Iron Man's Hulkbuster armor is used here.

Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors (2018)

Being a superhero is tough enough, but it's even harder when you're a teenager with homework and strict parents. That's what Kamala Khan has to deal with in "Marvel Uprising: Secret Warriors." Being an Inhuman with the ability to shapeshift, Kamala idolizes Captain Marvel and has modeled herself after her by fighting crime in her spare time, much to her mother's frustration. However, when Hala the Accuser launches a scouting mission to recruit Inhumans for his Kree army, Kamala may have to break curfew to stop him. Joining her are fellow up-and-coming heroes Squirrel Girl, America Chavez, Patriot, and others.

There's something incredibly wholesome about watching young heroes aspire to the greatness of their more experienced counterparts. "Marvel Uprising: Secret Warriors" does a terrific job spotlighting lesser-known Marvel characters, and even features appearances from Captain America, Captain Marvel, and Quake (with "Agents of SHIELD" actress Chloe Bennet reprising her role here). While primarily aimed at child audiences, this animated movie also has plenty for older Marvel fans to enjoy.

Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United (2014)

There's always been a bit of a rivalry between Iron Man and Captain America — both on the page and the screen — but they've always respected each other and put aside their differences to work together when the world needed saving. In this animated movie, the Red Skull sends Taskmaster to steal some tech from Tony Stark and to kidnap Cap as part of a larger plan to take over the world. Iron Man must now rescue his frenemy and stop the Red Skull from carrying out his evil scheme.

"Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United" is carried by the wonderful chemistry between the two heroes as they continually compete to show up each other, which only makes the moments of them fighting together as a team all the more satisfying. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for a guest appearance from another Avenger. Hint: he's big, mean, and green!

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher (2014)

The Punisher has always been one of Marvel's most brutal and violent characters, and while Black Widow isn't quite as bleak as him, she has a backstory that's still quite dark and tragic. Bringing two of the more grounded and realistic Marvel characters together is a no-brainer, and the pairing works remarkably well in "Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher," as they both operate in moral gray areas. This movie features the two being ordered by S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury to prevent the terrorist organization Leviathan from selling stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. tech and weapons on the black market. It's a job that's a little too dirty for Captain America and Iron Man, and one that's best suited for a spy and a vigilante.

"Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher" is perfect for Marvel fans who want something a little more grim and gritty with action scenes that hit harder than the usual animated fare. While some bigger and more brightly colored heroes make guest appearances, this flick is more focused on the antiheroic side of Marvel.

The Invincible Iron Man (2007)

"The Invincible Iron Man" offers a different yet still riveting origin story for how billionaire industrialist Tony Stark became the crimson-and-gold Avenger. During the excavation of an ancient Chinese temple that accidentally results in the resurrection of the infamous Mandarin, Tony's best friend James "Rhodey" Rhodes is kidnapped by the Jade Dragons and held captive in China. When Tony arrives, he's critically injured and is barely saved by Rhodey's military medic background. Tony must utilize his genius intellect to forge a suit of armor to not only escape captivity but to take down the Mandarin and his henchmen, the Elementals.

This animated film is packed with great action scenes, stylish animation, and strong voice acting. While the changes to the Iron Man mythos may not sit well with purists, it stays faithful to what makes Tony Stark such a compelling character, namely how his arrogance clashes with his desire to be a true hero.

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008)

"Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow" serves up a fun "What If...?"-style take on the Avengers. In an alternate timeline, most of the Avengers have been killed in a brutal fight against Ultron, leaving Iron Man to take the heroes' superpowered children to a secret haven and raise them. The Avengers' offspring in this film include Black Widow and Captain America's son James Rogers, Giant-Man and Wasp's son Henry Pym Jr., Black Panther and Storm's son Azari, and Thor and Sif's daughter Torunn. When Iron Man is captured in his attempt to take down Ultron, the next generation of Avengers must now rise up and live up to the legacy of their parents to save the day.

Killing off most of the Avengers may seem like an unusually dark idea for an animated Marvel film, but it paves the way to set up the future of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. The younger team is a delight to watch as they struggle to fill in the massive shoes of their parents, perfectly blending humor and heart.

Thor: Tales of Asgard (2011)

"Thor: Tales of Asgard" is a wonderful romp through the early years of the legendary god of thunder and his quest to prove himself to his father Odin. The movie follows a young Thor and his half-brother Loki as they embark on an adventure with the Warriors Three to Jotunheim to claim the Sword of Surtur. While Thor is more than brave enough to endure the dangers he encounters on this journey, it's going to require more than courage for him to become a true hero as he will face difficult moral decisions that challenge his character.

It will always be fun watching Thor and Loki pair up and go on a wild expedition together. "Thor: Tales of Asgard" is not a direct prequel to the MCU "Thor" films, but it does a nice job chronicling his formative years as a powerful yet brash young man that is reminiscent of his character arc seen in the feature films.

Ultimate Avengers: The Movie (2006)

This modernized version of The Avengers follows Steve Rogers/Captain America's journey from legendary WWII hero to being trapped in ice during his final mission through his reawakening in the present era and subsequent recruitment into General Nick Fury's Project Avenger team. Cap isn't the only recruit, though: there's also Ant-Man, Wasp, Iron Man, Thor, and Black Widow, and they're going to need all the help they can get to prevent an invasion from the alien race known as the Chitauri. Each of these heroes has conflicting personalities that make team work hard to achieve. Will they be able to hold off on fighting each other long enough to fight the real enemy?

"Ultimate Avengers: The Movie" is based on the beloved "Ultimates" series created by writer Mark Millar and artist Bryan Hitch. This adaptation wisely omits some of the uncomfortable elements from the source material, making it more suitable for younger fans while still retaining much of the sharp wit and pulsing action that made the comic such a refreshing take on Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

Ultimate Avengers II: Rise of the Panther (2006)

In this sequel to "Ultimate Avengers: The Movie," the Chitauri return in another attempt to invade the Earth, this time by focusing their attacks on Wakanda. Joining the Chitauri in their battle is Herr Kleiser, an alien shapeshifter who once fought against Captain America back during WWII. Black Panther's father T'Chaka is killed in the assault, prompting him to seek the help of Cap and the other Avengers, who have a score to settle for the Chitauri's previous attack on the planet.

"Ultimate Avengers II: Rise of the Panther" is just as good as (if not better than) its predecessor. Black Panther makes a worthy addition to the animated Marvel universe, and the inclusion of Wakanda does a nice job of building out this world. The sequel ups the ante when it comes to action and humor, but also never skimps on the satisfying character interactions amid the explosions and jokes.

Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme (2007)

Before Doctor Strange would go on to be played by Academy Award-nominated actor Benedict Cumberbatch in big-budget blockbusters, the character was fairly unknown to those not familiar with the comics, so it's nice to see him get some love in his own animated film. In "Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme," Stephen Strange is a brilliant yet arrogant surgeon who, after experiencing an ominous vision while driving, gets into a car accident that renders his hands irreparably damaged, effectively ending Strange's medical career. However, he soon embarks on a journey to face his real fate: to become a powerful sorcerer and protect the world from a supernatural evil that threatens to tear into its reality.

"Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme" is a fairly faithful adaptation of the character's origin, and with a strong voice cast, great animation, and a solid plot, the movie is a must-watch for fans of the more magical side of Marvel.

Planet Hulk (2010)

"Planet Hulk" sees the Illuminati — a group of superheroes comprised of Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Mister Fantastic, and Black Bolt — who are tired of dealing with the Hulk's rampages and the damage they cause. Thus, they send him into space so that he may no longer endanger those who get in the way of his rage. The Hulk eventually lands on the planet Sakaar, whose inhabitants immediately force the green giant to participate in battles with other powerful beings for their entertainment. After proving his mettle in these brutal fights, it's believed that the Hulk is the one who will bring down Sakaar's tyrant leader, the Red King.

This animated movie is a stellar adaptation of the beloved storyline from the comics (which also served as a partial inspiration for "Thor: Ragnarok"). Hulk's portrayal here is surprisingly layered and is depicted as more than just a mindless beast destroying everything in his path. With awesome animation, an excellent score, and tons of smashing, "Planet Hulk" ranks among the best of the animated Marvel movies.

Iron Man: Rise of Technovore (2013)

"Iron Man: Rise of Technovore" is an awesome anime take on the crimson-and-gold Avenger. When War Machine is apparently killed by an enigmatic yet high-tech enemy, Iron Man vows to find out who killed his friend and avenge him. With help from Pepper Potts, Tony Stark learns that A.I.M.'s (Advanced Idea Mechanics) latest experiments involve fusing organic matter with advanced tech as part of a new weapon they're building. However, Iron Man's search for vengeance clashes with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., who need him for their own investigation into what A.I.M. is up to.

Japanese animation studio Madhouse Inc. produced this movie and gave it a style that sets it apart from other animated Marvel flicks. The stunning animation is a feast for the eyes, and multiple settings make the world more expansive, almost reminiscent of a James Bond film. Marvel fans will also thrill at the various other characters who drop in, including Hawkeye, Black Widow, the Punisher, and others.

Hulk Vs. (2009)

In this two-part movie, the Hulk takes on a duo of Marvel's most dangerous heroes: Thor the god of thunder, and the feral Wolverine. "Hulk Vs. Thor" sees the Asgardian god's crafty step-brother Loki join forces with the equally manipulative Enchantress to pit the Hulk against Thor during a time when Odin is in a deep regenerative sleep and Asgard's defenses are at their weakest. Meanwhile, in "Hulk Vs. Wolverine," the Hulk has been causing considerable damage in the wilderness of Canada, prompting the country's elusive government branch Department H to send Wolverine after ol' jade jaws and take him down.

Who could say no to the Hulk duking it out with Thor and Wolverine? Both parts feature splendid animation and a terrific score that perfectly captures what makes these characters so beloved among comic book fans. Did we forget to mention the nonstop action? When the fists, claws, and hammers start flying, you can bet you're in for a special superheroic treat.

Big Hero 6 (2014)

Taking place in the fictional San Fransokyo, "Big Hero 6" tells the story of the teenage robotics genius Hiro Hamada who, after a terrible accident takes his older brother's life, comes across his "nurse" robot project called Baymax. They form an adorable bond together and must join forces with other robotics nerds to form the super-team Big Hero 6 to track down a mysterious villain who's attempting to take over San Fransokyo using technology that Hiro invented himself.

This Academy Award-winning animated film may deviate quite a bit from the comic book source material and doesn't feature any Avengers. However, that still doesn't mean you should put off watching this excellent Disney interpretation of some of Marvel's more eccentric characters. There's a ton of humor and action to entertain audiences of all ages, and features plenty of heart without being too sappy. "Big Hero 6" was popular enough to be followed by a TV series as well as a Baymax-centered Disney+ spinoff series.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Inspired by the "Spider-Verse" storyline from the comics, "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" follows the young Miles Morales who deals with the usual problems that come with being an intelligent teenager until his life is turned upside down when he's bitten by a radioactive spider, giving him new superpowers. When the villainous Kingpin activates an experimental collider, alternate universe Spider-Men and Women appear in that universe and must find a way back home. Miles may only be a teenager, but with his new powers and countless lives in his hands, he must learn the responsibilities of a superhero.

It's sort of cheating to declare that "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" is, without a doubt, the best Marvel animated film, as it was produced by a major studio with a massive budget with an A-list voice cast. There's no other way around it, though, given the movie's jaw-dropping animation, wildly entertaining story, and a perfect mix of humor, heart, and action. It's nearly impossible to top, although the upcoming sequel has the best chance of doing that. With credentials like these, it's no wonder the film won the Oscar for "Best Animated Feature Film."